Displaying items by tag: Northern Ireland

Former first minister Arlene Foster has spoken out against those who say that religion and politics should never mix. When speaking at the St Patrick Centre to a live audience, she discussed her own faith as well as her political career. Expressing her frustration she said, ‘Christianity doesn’t call you to be neutral. It calls you to be salt and light about what you believe in. It does annoy me when people say you have to take religion out of politics and leave it at the door, or like it only happens at the weekend. It is part of who you are. Your Christianity and your faith is something that is with you all the time. You can’t just leave it at home on Sunday night and go out without it on Monday.’

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 04 November 2021 22:13

Northern Ireland: DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

After Arlene Foster stood down from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), her replacement only lasted three weeks. Then Sir Jeffrey Donaldson took over the leadership at a significant moment for NI, as it has come to terms with the effects of Covid and battled the repercussions of Brexit. There have been significant changes on things like abortion and same sex marriage. Although the Church spoke out against changing legislation, Donaldson is concerned over the diminishing church voice. He said that church leaders now find it difficult to speak out in public to give a faith-based perspective on social issues and are not being salt and light in our society. He also believes prayer is the most important thing that the church has available to it: ‘I often encourage Christians to intercede and to give prayerful support to those of us who are involved as Christians in the political process’. 

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 28 October 2021 21:52

Northern Ireland hostage over 'fish wars'

France is threatening to block any UK-EU deal over the Northern Ireland Protocol unless the row over post-Brexit fishing licences is resolved in Paris’s favour. With presidential elections next year, he cannot afford to sell out his fishermen, as many hail from a stronghold of his rival Marine Le Pen. Macron has trodden this path before. In 2019, he blocked extending Brexit negotiations, risking a no deal to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. In 2020 he threatened to veto any Brexit trade deal that did not satisfy French fishermen, ratcheting up pressure on London. Judging by the negative reactions of the British fishing industry to the trade deal, the tactic worked. Now he is threatening extremely delicate negotiations over the NI Protocol. There is a greater risk now of the UK triggering Article 16 of the protocol than any time before. France also threatened to block the UK from joining the EU’s research programme. See

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 21 October 2021 20:42

USA / UK: ‘Build Back Better’

Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan has a $3.5tn price tag that could transform millions of Americans’ lives. The bipartisan senate infrastructure bill proposes $66bn of new spending on passenger and freight rail projects over the next decade as the Democrats undertake the most ambitious and transformative domestic policy agendas since the New Deal of the 1930s. It also focuses on a long list of social policies and programmes ranging from education to healthcare to housing to climate. With Republicans unified in opposition, Democrats are using a special budgetary process known as ‘reconciliation’ to avoid the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass the bill on a party-line vote. Boris Johnson’s Build Back Better plans to support economic growth through significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation, and will tackle the NHS backlog while capping social care costs for adults. Another aspect was for a Build Back Coronavirus recovery plan: see

Published in Worldwide
Friday, 15 October 2021 10:08

Brexit: Northern Ireland checks on British goods

The UK wants to change the Brexit process to allow goods to circulate more freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as current rules impose too many barriers to the sale of products. The EU have set out proposals that involve reduced checks on goods and medicines. The January post-Brexit arrangement, the Northern Ireland Protocol, was introduced to help prevent border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both sides agree in differing degrees that the protocol poses many difficulties. EU and UK talks to reach a better arrangement are likely to go on for several weeks.

Published in British Isles

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is widely expected to become the next leader of the DUP in the extraordinary political drama which has consumed the party in recent months. This follows the resignation of Edwin Poots; his main challenge will be to restore stability following one of the most turbulent periods in the DUP’s history. He originally put his name forward to become leader after Arlene Foster was ousted following internal party unrest, but was defeated by just one vote in the DUP’s first ever leadership election last month. He will have to pick up the pieces and deal with many of the same challenges which faced his predecessor. He may be expected to take a harder line over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which unionists oppose.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 17 June 2021 21:45

EU - UK sausage spat sizzles at summit

The UK has accused France of the ‘offensive’ remark that Northern Ireland is not part of the UK. Since 2016 the two sides have been trying to work out how to deal with post-Brexit trade and Northern Ireland’s land border with the EU. The latest spat is centered on sausages. When Boris Johnson met Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit, he asked him to imagine if Toulouse sausages were barred from sale in Paris, which left Macron ‘astonished’. He told him Toulouse is part of the same territory, and inaccurately said, ‘Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom’. Johnson furiously replied, ‘Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country.’ After the testy exchange Johnson told the media, ‘Some of our friends seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory. I think they need to get that into their heads.’

Published in Europe
Friday, 11 June 2021 09:37

UK and EU fighting over sausages

The UK and the EU are in disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol; one sticking point is the export of sausages from the UK. Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, says there have been ‘numerous and fundamental gaps’ in the UK's implementation of the trade deal and the EU will act ‘firmly’ if the UK does not agree on deadlines for complying with its obligations. Environment secretary George Eustice claimed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the way the EU wants to implement it, make it impossible for UK producers to sell British sausages to Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson's spokesman said there was ‘no case whatsoever’ for blocking the sale of chilled meats. The UK has also accused the EU of failing to engage with its own proposals, especially with the issues pertaining to people in Northern Ireland.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 27 May 2021 23:20

Northern Ireland abortion laws

Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019 after Westminster acted during the absence of devolution. Delays in implementing Northern Ireland's abortion laws have been a ‘deeply troubling exercise in finger-pointing’, a court has heard. Stormont is under pressure to establish a permanent, central abortion service; it has not happened yet and is being challenged in a high court judicial review. The Human Rights Commission is taking the case against the NI Executive, the Department of Health, and the NI secretary Brandon Lewis. Currently health trusts only operate a ‘skeleton service’ for medical abortions up to ten weeks of pregnancy. Women seeking a termination beyond that gestation travel to England. Arlene Foster’s party, which opposes abortion, said that abortion proposals were not going to be passed by the executive or the incoming leader, Edwin Poots.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 27 May 2021 22:13

Northern Ireland abortion discrimination

An open letter from ‘Don’t Screen Us Out’ has been sent to Arlene Foster, Edwin Poots, and other leading politicians. It was written on behalf of people with Down’s syndrome and their families, who are asking for their parties to support a bill which has been introduced to the NI Assembly. The bill seeks to amend the current abortion regulations, to no longer allow unborn babies with a ‘serious foetal impairment’ to be aborted to term. This bill would not amend the law in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’. Currently NI abortion is legal up to birth if the foetus has Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, cleft lip, or club foot. This new bill proposes that non-fatal disabilities should not be grounds for abortion, and the current law is discriminatory against those with such disabilities. 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted.

Published in British Isles
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