Archive for the 'Northern Ireland' Category

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The Brexit Irish issue: Moggsy’s plan slammed by Ex-British Army officer who served there

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

The CON MP ” fundamentally misunderstands” Ireland’s history

There are several interesting elements of The Moggster’s latest contribution to the Brexit debate. First, he has shown that he understands that the land border in Northern Ireland is a critical issue in the Brexit negotiations. Secondly, he has shown, by harking back to the Troubles with such breezy insouciance, that he fundamentally misunderstands the history of the island of Ireland. And thirdly, in telling us that no checks on the border would leave the UK “in as bad a situation as we are already in”, he has shown that he believes that the existing system of travel between the UK and Ireland is awful, which is an extraordinary comment for a British politician to make.

At present, provisions of the Common Travel Area (CTA) allow an EU citizen to fly to Dublin, cross the land border into Northern Ireland and from there cross to the UK mainland with only a small chance of any passport checks. And this worries Jacob Rees-Mogg who calls it “a great loophole in the way people can get into the UK”.

The CTA, dating back nearly a century, and only formally enshrined in 2011, facilitates freedom of movement for British and Irish citizens between the UK, Ireland, and the Crown Dependences (Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man). While not legally binding, its various iterations have established a commitment to a joint approach on visa issues including towards third countries. Having withstood various challenges to its provisions, the CTA was and, following the more recent Anglo-Irish and Belfast Agreements, remains now an integral component of the peace process. Amongst other provisions, it removes the need for the type of border infrastructure in Northern Ireland, the absence of which, everyone with the exception it seems of Rees-Mogg, appreciates, is such an important element of modern life in Ireland.

So does the CTA mean there are no border controls between Ireland and the UK? Yes and no. If you travel to Ireland by air or sea as a UK citizen, you will be asked to produce identity documents when you get there. This need not be a passport, given CTA-mandated freedom of movement, but a document confirming eligibility to gain entry to the country. A passport, for example (there is in fact a choice of documents). The UK, meanwhile, carries out random checks on those arriving from Ireland in much the same way as they do for travellers coming off the Eurostar at St. Pancras.

The land border crossing, however, is a different matter. There are currently no controls on any of the many land border crossing points between the two countries Ireland and the UK. Rees-Mogg, in his speech, advocated the reintroduction of some kind of system in order, as he put it, to “keep an eye” on those using the land border. Quite what he believes this measure will be, short of a hard border yet sufficient to “have people inspected” goodness only knows. What the reintroduction of any kind of border infrastructure would have has been well-rehearsed on PB, not to say the subject of the odd thread header.

But more telling than his evident ignorance of or disregard for recent Irish history, is what his speech tells us about how he views British sovereignty. Never mind Brexit and trade deals, Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to think that the CTA, the system agreed between the UK and Ireland Governments nearly a hundred years ago which has been an integral part of the peace process since its inception, was and is a sovereignty concession too far.

A guest slot by Topping

 

 



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Lucian Fletcher on the latest Northern Ireland assembly poll

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Arlene Foster’s personal ratings fall through the floor, but the DUP will bank on fear of a Sinn Fein First Minister to keep their position as lead party in Northern Ireland Assembly

The first LucidTalk opinion poll ahead of the 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election has been published and one of the most obvious headlines is just how few people are planning on switching their first preference votes, despite the calamitous collapse of the Stormont Executive.

The DUP is down to 26%, just three points lower than they received in 2016. Sinn Fein is at 25%, up one.

This poll will be immediately pounced upon by the DUP and will adorn leaflets all over Northern Ireland as they seek to hammer home their message: “Vote DUP or the Shinners get First Minister”.

In fact, leaving aside the joint nature of the OFMDFM, the current boundaries make it highly unlikely that Sinn Fein will get more seats than the DUP unless they are well ahead in vote share.

The main Opposition parties UUP, SDLP and Alliance are all seeing a small uptick in their poll positions but not to anything like the extent that they would have hoped for, given the reasons for this election.

The leadership approval ratings are interesting. Arlene Foster, former First Minister, is at 22%. The most popular leader is Alliance chief Naomi Long, at 52%. All other party leaders enjoy ratings in the 40s. That the DUP remain as the lead party suggests that the St Andrews amendment over the nomination of First Minister is acting as a firewall for DUP support.

Respected unionist political commentator Alex Kane has also suggested that this race for the First Minister being so ‘close’ on this poll could shift some voters to both the DUP and Sinn Fein. There are more polls to come before the election, which could give some indication as to how far this descends to the usual orange/green headcount.

There is more analysis to be done in terms of transfers. Indications are being hinted at by LucidTalk that there is evidence that some people are more willing to vote tactically against the Executive, rather than along community lines. If the Greens and Alliance rack up decent totals in their weaker areas, so all their transfers are at full value, this could help UUP and SDLP. That final seat in most constituencies might end up being swung for one of the smaller parties. But without a move away from the DUP to UUP to a much greater extent than this poll suggests, the damage done to the DUP will be little more than a flesh wound.

I would suggest that the UUP and SDLP will be quietly devastated by this poll. The mud is being flung at the Executive, the DUP in particular, and is sticking, but most voters are so tribal that they just don’t care. The over-riding feeling is to beat the other side. Corruption is not seen as being quite so bad, as long it’s on ‘our side’.

One staunch unionist told me last week that the money thrown at ‘community halls’ by the DUP’s Paul Givan was well-deserved because ‘the Shinners gave loads to the GAA before’. This mindset is really difficult to grasp from Great Britain. We find it shocking. But this cynical self-interest or ‘cute hoorism’ is something that people in Ireland (both in NI and the Republic) really understand.

So what are my thoughts on the politics from this poll?

I think the DUP would end up somewhere around the 30 (key Petition of Concern number) mark, SF a few back, UUP and SDLP both losing seats with the SDLP worst off. Alliance will probably hold on to their 8 and others will lap up a few.

As I say, it might all look a little better for the SDLP and UUP once transfers are taken into account, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.Both the UUP and SDLP have internal discontent issues. An election in these circumstances which produces nothing tangible for them could be disastrous.

Lucian Fletcher

Lucian Fletcher is a long standing contributor to PB who lives in Northern Ireland.



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NEW PB/Polling Matters podcast: May trouncing Corbyn in the polls and why we shouldn’t take the Northern Ireland peace process for granted

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

This week’s podcast is split into two parts.

On the first part of the show, Keiran is joined by Nicholas Whyte to discuss the upcoming elections in Northern Ireland and the potential impact of Brexit on the province. Nicholas is an expert in politics and elections in Northern Ireland and a visiting professor at Ulster University and has a blunt warning for anyone that is complacent about the peace process there.

On the second half of the show, Keiran is joined by Leo Barasi to discuss the latest Polling Matters / Opinium survey looking at how the two main party leaders (Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn) are perceived. You can see the headline figures above. The survey poses 6 statements to respondents about the party leaders and asks whether they agree or disagree with them. The scores above indicate the ‘net agree’ score achieved, meaning the score you get when you subtract the percentage that disagree from the percentage that agree. Respondents were able to say ‘neither’ or ‘don’t know’ but those scores are not included in the net figure – which is standard practice in such surveys. The survey was conducted over the weekend – which it should be said was not a great one for May given the Trump headlines.

Podcast

Follow today’s podcast guests
@keiranpedley
@nwbrux
@leobarasi