Archive for the 'Northern Ireland' Category

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Trouble over bridged waters. Boris Johnson’s plan to link Scotland and Northern Ireland

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

While love can build a bridge, it’s far from clear that Boris Johnson can.  He planned one across the Thames, but that was scrapped.  Then he mooted one across the English Channel, to be shot down quickly.  Now he is shelling out public money to investigate the possibility of a bridge across the North Channel between Larne (half an hour from Belfast) and Portpatrick (50 lightyears from anywhere).  Is it going to be third time a charm for Boris Johnson?

The omens are not good.  The first reputed attempt to build a link from Northern Ireland to Scotland ended in its destruction after Finn McCool found that he had bitten off more than he could chew.  If giants should come to grief on such a project, what chance for mere mortals?

It’s not as though there is a compelling economic need.  It won’t by itself shorten the time to get even from Belfast to Glasgow and any infrastructure projects to address that would drastically increase the cost.  Most people would carry on catching the plane to Glasgow or London or wherever. For those who must drive, there are perfectly good ferry services.

At a mooted cost of £20 billion for the bridge, there would probably be more economic benefit giving each inhabitant of Northern Ireland and Galloway a lump sum of £10,000.  You’d have change left over too.

Perhaps the intention is not economic but to build a physical connection between Britain and Ireland that the Northern Irish can feel.  Boris Johnson wouldn’t be the first. Though he would not appreciate the comparison, Russia recently built a bridge across the Strait of Kerch to connect Crimea to Russia and the physical link to the conquered territory is certainly part of Russia’s motivation.  With Scotland continuing to flirt with independence, however, even this rationale looks to have shaky foundations.

I’m not an engineer so I’m not going to do more than list the apparently formidable difficulties of building such a bridge.  The lousy weather, the currents, the width of the channel, the need to have a bridge of sufficient height to allow shipping to pass under it, all these are normal considerations.  Abnormal considerations include the unusual depth of the channel and the fact that it has been used as a dumping ground for very large quantities of explosives and nuclear waste. To a non-expert, it sounds a daunting undertaking.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that this project simply isn’t going to happen.  So why is the government talking about it? The problem resembles that confronting Sherlock Holmes in the Speckled Band.  If a bell-cord does not ring a bell, it is just a rope. Similarly, if a feasibility study into a bridge is not going to result in a bridge, it is just an announcement.  Its purpose is simple: the government wants us to talk about it.

It serves two purposes.  First, the public can only talk about so many stories at any given time.  If they’re talking about bridges or trains, or even the Coronavirus, they’re not talking about Brexit.  The government wants to move the conversation on from the last few years. You can understand why. Construction projects are perfect for this, because everyone has views on the idea and the ideas behind them are easy to grasp.

In some ways the ridiculousness of the proposal actually assists in this aim, as all the many drawbacks are talking points.  Would the IRA seek to blow up the bridge by depth-charging the munitions dump? Would the disturbance caused by the bridge’s foundations lead to Dublin Bay prawns becoming radioactive?  All grist to the mill for those wanting to get the country talking about new things.

The second purpose is less noble.  The government’s entire election prospectus was built around getting Brexit done.  Its current claim is that it has done so (implausibly, given that the dismal grind of negotiating the ongoing relationship with the EU is going to consume this year, but let’s leave that to one side).  That leaves a vacuum at the heart of government, a vacuum that could last for five years. That needs to be filled with an impression of energy. The government is deep in debt, so eye-catching initiatives are going to have to be cheap in the main.  That means announcements rather than action.  

Announcements of infrastructure work well on this front too.  No one expects them to be fulfilled in the short term. In the meantime, they can imagine how the bridge would glitter, span the miles majestically and stretch like a silver thread out into the invisible mist.  It doesn’t have to be built to be politically effective as other populist heads of government long ago worked out. Donald Trump’s wall has served him well. Silvio Berlusconi twice announced building a bridge between Sicily and the tip of Italy.  In this context, being all fart and no follow-through is entirely harmless, even beneficial.

Expect more of this stuff.  The government needs to give an impression of energy.  That impression doesn’t need to be borne out by action.  Judging by Boris Johnson’s track record, it won’t be.

Alastair Meeks




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Northern Ireland Westminster Election 2019 – Review And Insight

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

First and foremost, congratulations to all 18 winning candidates and commiserations to all the losing ones.

I will be covering plenty of information including what next?, future prediction, etc. With all the focus on the word “Brexit”, was this election really about brexit and did some parties help other and dent others? find out below

First up we have the good old battle between D.U.P and the Alliance.

Belfast East (Alliance Party vs DUP)

DUP had a 8,500 majority going into this election from the previous election in 2017, although with the green party and S.F pulling out, Naomi Long was always going to close the gap. she was never going to win this time as most of Belfast East voted to leave and there are too many loyalists and die-hard loyalists still lingering around this part of the country. the DUP vote also dropped dramatically because they’re anti-gay, etc. The S.F and Green vote obviously went to Naomi Long (Alliance Party) but Gavin is a strong candidate and was always the most likely winner.

What Next? in terms of Brexit, there isn’t anything the Northern Ireland candidates can do as we all knew the conservatives were going to win handily. The word Brexit was just used to try and gain votes on both sides of the debate.

Future Prediction? It’s obviously too early to predict such a seat but if Naomi stays around for a few years and runs again, she could get her beloved seat back.

Belfast North (D.U.P vs Sinn Fein)

?This was by far the most exciting area and the whole of Northern Ireland and further afield in the U.K had eyes on this mouth-watering battle. Alliance were only running to prove that they were not sectarian and to give liberal and middle ground voters an alternative. Personally, I think Nuala McAllister (Alliance) has plenty of potential.

Did the S.D.L.P help S.F win this seat? Not really because if you added the S.D.L.P count on top of the S.F one from 2017, I think Nigel Dodds (D.U.P) was still ahead by around 40-50. How did S.F win this seat? well, there was 4,000 new voters registered in Belfast North and the Green vote was predicted to be around 1000. Therefore, the Green vote and the new voters got John Finucane over the line.

What next? Sinn Fein obviously don’t take up their seats at Westminster, therefore this won’t really mean a lot in terms of mainland although John Finucane will get Belfast North moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, Belfast North has the highest suicide rate in the U.K.

Future Prediction? As previously stated by myself and many others, this would be on a knife edge once again specially if the S.D.L.P & the Green party ran next time around. With the demographic changes in Belfast, It’s likely Belfast North will return a S.F M.P but D.U.P will bounce back.

Belfast South (One Horse Race – But For Who?)

When S.F and the Green Party submitted they would be absent from Belfast South, There was always going to be just one person who would win and that person was Claire Hanna (S.D.L.P). Did the S.F and the Green Party absence help Claire this time? Not really as she still would have won pretty comfortably (by about 7000-8000). the reason S.D.L.P didn’t return a Belfast South M.P last time was because the public wasn’t too keen or fond of the S.D.L.P / U.U.P partnership in 2016. Well done Claire, nothing much more to say.

What Next? I’m hopeful and almost certain Claire Hanna will get a few decent or good things done for the Belfast South Constituency.

Future Prediction? Claire Hanna should be around for a long time and will win again in the next general election, The Green Party vote will go up by 500+.

Belfast West (Forgone Conclusion For Sinn Fein)

This seat has been held by S.F for a couple of decades and it wasn’t going to change, There was more chance of Hitler coming back to life. S.F will continue their work for Belfast West.

What Next? S.F have got a fair amount done for Belfast West and will continue to do so.

Future Prediction? Sinn Fein will win by 10,000+ in the next general election.

East Antrim (Safe Seat But A Reduced Margin)

Sammy Wilson (D.U.P) has held this seat for quite a while and it would be crazy to think anyone else could have won this time round. What appears to be a very safe seat for the D.U.P is no longer as safe, Alliance are gaining ground.

What Next? Sammy will continued to be a nuisance in the House.

Future Prediction? D.U.P will win next time, simple as that.

East Londonderry / East Derry (D.U.P Win Again!)

Gregory Campbell has won again but with a reduced margin, it was ultra close for 2nd place between Alliance, S.F and the S.D.L.P with only around 200 separating the three parties.

What next? Gregory Campbell will continue to do good work for the people of East Londonderry.

Future Prediction? Alliance have a good chance of winning an Assembly Seat.

Fermanagh & South Tyrone (almost a dead heat between S.F and the U.U.P)

Fermanagh / South Tyrone is always the closest constituency by vote count, it never fails to get your adrenaline pumping. this area is simply breath taking and mouth watering. with Michelle Gildernew (S.F) and Tom Elliott going head to head, neck and neck, who would come out on top this time? One thing was for sure, Tom Elliott was going to ask for a re-count as he does every time. Sources were saying Michelle was 20-30 votes ahead just before the re-count and after the re-count S.F sealed the deal by just over 50 votes, what a great battle and unlucky Mr. Re-Count.

What Next? I don’t know too much about her and I’ve never rated Gildernew but I wish her well in her new challenge.

Future Prediction? Tom Elliot could win here next time and if I got a decent price, i’ll be playing for sure.

Foyle (Can the S.D.L.P regain their battleground from S.F?)

There was lots of parties contesting this part of the country, although it was meant to be a two horse race, there was only one winner really. Once Colum Eastwood (S.D.L.P) announced on Social Media and the News that he was standing in Foyle, I knew it would be a one horse race.

The only reasons S.F won here in 2017 is because Martin McGuinness passed away just a few months prior and they wanted to give a proper send off be electing his party. I didn’t expect Elisha McCallon (S.F) to get beat by so much but at the same time, I knew Eastwood would win. Congrats on getting your constituency back.

What Next? at this moment, Colum Eastwood is the best MP for Foyle and hopefully he can get stuck into his new job immediately.

Future Prediction? S.D.L.P should hold Foyle for at least another decade, S.F will increase their vote.

Lagan Valley (D.U.P Hold, Alliance Surge Continues)


Jeffrey Donaldson has been the M.P for Lagan Valley since the beginning of time (figure of speech) and it wasn’t going to be any different this time. Well done to Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance Party) for breaking the 10,000 barrier.What next? It’s hard to predict what will happen in this part of the world.

Future Prediction? Alliance should return at least one M.L.A from Lagan Valley.

Mid Ulster (Wasting Paper, Wasting Fuel – There can only be one Winner)

Francie Molloy (Sinn Fein) was re-elected to his beloved constituency (Mid Ulster).

What Next? He will continue to serve Mid Ulster and enjoy his nice wage.

Future Prediction? It’s not rocket science, Sinn Fein will hold this for at least another 15-20 years.

Newry & Armagh (Another Sinn Fein Safe Seat)

Mickey Brady (Sinn Fein) was re-elected as the M.P for Newry & Armagh, obviously.

What Next? Mickey Brady will continue his work in the Newry & Armagh Constituency.

Future Prediction? S.F will win this seat in the next election, S.D.L.P could get second.

North Antrim (The Paisley Stronghold)

Ian Paisley Junior (D.U.P) has took over from his passed away father (Ian Senior) by wining North Antrim again.

What Next? Ian Paisley Junior will probably continue being controversial.

Future Prediction? Ian Junior will only lose this seat if he passed away or retired.

North Down (Newly Elected M.P & Party But Who & Which?)

Sylvia Hermon has resigned and she was a former U.U.P member, they didn’t have a chance, almost 2,000 people voted for the N.I Conservatives and wasted their time and energy. Alex Easton (D.U.P) increased his vote at the previous General Election and was beat by around 2,000 votes. With S.F, S.D.L.P & The Green Party standing down this time, Stephen Farry (Alliance) was guaranteed their votes.

It was no surprise to see Stephen win by a 3,000 majority as North Down is the most liberal place in the country and has a lot of middle class citizens / families. Stephen Farry (Alliance) was elected to serve as the new M.P for North Down. Unlucky Alex Easton (D.U.P).

What Next? I Think Stephen Farry (Alliance) is the right M.P at this moment of time and I’m confident he will do well for North Down.

Future Prediction? We now know where the U.U.P stand in terms of the North Down Public, they have simply no chance and D.U.P will put a lot of work and effort into this constituency once again, If Alliance get some good things for North Down, They’ll probably be re-elected in a few years again.

South Antrim (D.U.P vs U.U.P)

Paul Girvan (D.U.P) was the favourite going into this contest. I expected him to win but not by almost 3,000. Danny Kinahan (U.U.P) has done well but he doesn’t represent the majority of the people.

What Next? Paul Girvan will try and do the best he can for South Antrim.

Future Prediction? Danny Kinahan will be trying to get this seat back in a few years time.

South Down: Chris Hazzard (S.F) vs Michael Savage (S.D.L.P)

With Margaret Ritchie announcing that she wouldn’t stand again, Up stepped Michael Savage, local S.D.L.P councillor and he didn’t disappoint. although he only lost by 2,000, he has done very well for his first time and I expect bigger things from him in the future. Chris Hazzard was re-elected as M.P for South Down.

What Next? Chris Hazzard (S.F) is pretty popular in his local constituency and he won’t fail to deliver again for another few years.

Future Prediction? Michael Savage (S.D.L.P) has some potential and they will be working very hard and targeting this seat in the future elections.

Strangford : Jim Shannon (D.U.P) Territory

Jim Shannon (D.U.P) was re-elected as the M.P for Strangford. There was no upsets this time and Alliance increased their vote immensely.

What Next? Jim Shannon (D.U.P) will continue where he left off and will try to make Strangford a better place all round.

Future Prediction? Worth playing alliance at a fair price. (20-1 or above).

Upper Bann (Bookies Won’t Make That Mistake Again)

Carla Lockhart (D.U.P) is a devoted young mother and passionate politician with a fair amount of potential. She was elected as the the M.P for Upper Bann with an 8,000 majority. The bookmakers priced her at 1-5 (should have been 1-50), they won’t make that mistake again.

What next? I actually like Carla and wish her well in her new role. I think she has what it takes. She has been a victim of trolling and social media abuse.

Future Prediction? she’ll be re-elected if she stays around, perhaps with an even bigger majority.

West Tyrone (Die Hard Sinn Fein Area)

It was no different this time and Orfhlaith Begley (Sinn Fein) was re-elected to West Tyrone. I wish her success for the next few years.

What Next? Orfhlaith will continue to serve as the Sinn Fein M.P for West Tyrone. She is very popular and well liked in that part of the world.

Future Prediction? S.F will win with an increased majority.

General Election Review

It was a great election all round and instead of two parties representing the Northern Irish people, We now have four out of the five main parties elected. It’s a shame Tom Elliott didn’t get a seat. It would have been nice to see all five parties elected but that’s life. There’s always next time.

The Green Machine



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ALMOST THREE YEARS! We Have Simply Had Enough! Get Back To Work!

Thursday, November 21st, 2019


A1 guest slot by The Green Machine
It’s been all three years (since January 2017) that the Northern Ireland government has been in their work place, why?

Well, first of all things haven’t been the same since the days of the Irish Chuckle Brothers (Martin McGuinness & Ian Paisley). It’s hard to believe that these two bitter rivals for around 30 years were very close friends in the end. They done more together than the public think. In 2014, Ian Paisley passed away the chuckle brother were sadly no longer.

Peter Robinson took over as leader of the D.U.P and he just didn’t have leadership skills require to do the job required. Peter wasn’t getting things easy in his personal (outside of politics) life as his wife Mary was caught having an affair with a younger guy. Peter Robinson didn’t last long and was eventually replaced by the Incumbent First Minister – Arlene Foster.

Arlene Foster, hate her or love her, is one of the top politicians in the country and is enriched with good leadership. Arlene & Martin were trying their best to get along but there was always a few obstacles, One being The I.R.A affected Arlene’s family during “The Troubles”. They got through it and the country seemed to be going in the right direction.

Martin McGuinness then passed away in January 2017 and that was the end of Stormont. There hasn’t been a Northern Irish government since that month. Again, I just don’t think Michelle O’Neill had the leadership skills required to do the job properly and I still don’t think she does. This could be down to inexperience as she hasn’t been working or been in her current role for a very long time.

Arlene & Michelle simply don’t see eye to eye. Arlene wanted to ban gay marriage / gay rights and Michelle wanted to approve it. Arlene wanted to abolish an Irish language act and again, Michelle wanted to approve that. There has been talks within the last couple of weeks to try and get Stormont back up and running but it probably won’t be the better side of the Election / Christmas!

The country is now in a worse position and that’s why S.F & D.U.P will probably lose seats at the December Election. Paramilitaries are basically allowed to do anything they wish and please and the is one many reasons why we need you guys back. The welfare system is practically finished and disabled / unable people are being harassed every couple of years. The suicide rate and homeless rates have increased dramatically.

Our message to every M.L.A and Politician in Northern Ireland is that you must and need to get back to work, not just the D.U.P and S.F, but all the parties and individuals matter (S.D.L.P, U.U.P, Alliance, Green Party, etc). my message to Julian Smith is that you should set a deadline and if they’re not back to work within the deadline, remove their healthy pay checks which THEY DON’T DESERVE!

WE DEMAND BETTER, WE DESERVE BETTER! WE’LL GET BETTER!

GreenMachine



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Seduced and abandoned. The DUP’s chances in the general election

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Even as a famous swordsman, Boris Johnson must be proud of the way that he has so comprehensively screwed the DUP. His Prime Ministership has not so much been a refutation of their strategy as a confutation of the DUP themselves.  

The DUP have for many years campaigned as unflinching unionists.  Though they choose to forget the fact now, they campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement as a sell-out. They are not ideologically Conservatives: they are free-spending cultural conservatives of the type of party that UKIP once aspired to be or, on their better days, as the Blue Labour movement once described.

It was perhaps not too much of a surprise that they should have campaigned for Brexit. Indeed, they acted as a conduit for funds for the Leave campaign that were used across mainland Britain, including a cover wraparound for the Metro. Who knows whether that aggressive pro-Brexit stance helped get Leave over the line?

With the benefit of hindsight, that looks to have been a terrible decision. The DUP did not take Northern Ireland with them – it voted decisively to Remain.  The resultant upheaval has done more to put Northern Ireland’s place in the union in question than any other development since the Troubles ended.

Worse, Theresa May came back with a deal that the DUP vehemently and successfully opposed on the basis that its backstop placed unacceptable constraints on Northern Ireland, only for Boris Johnson to come back with a deal that drives a wedge in the union down the Irish Sea. If implemented, Northern Ireland’s glidepath towards a united Ireland looks inexorable.

Meanwhile, the Northern Irish Assembly remains suspended. It resat for a day as the DUP sought to stop Westminster imposing gay marriage and abortion rights on the province, to no avail. The DUP now look those most dangerous of things for any political party: impotent and ineffectual. They are finding out the hard way that it is a short step from the “never never never never” of Ian Paisley to the “never never never never never” of King Lear.

The DUP now find themselves under attack from all sides. Unionists of all stripes decry them as having failed to stand up sufficiently for the union.  Leavers have fallen silent. Nationalists sense that the tide of history is flowing in their direction.

Opinion polling in Northern Ireland is sparse, largely carried out by the excellent Lucid Talk.  Its most recent poll, taken earlier this month, made grim reading for the DUP (with recorded changes from the last UK general election):

DUP 28% (-8%)

Sinn Fein 24% (-5%)

Alliance 16% (+8%)

SDLP 14% (+2%)

UUP 9% (-1%)

Lucid Talk are looking to produce an MRP-based poll in the final week. It should make for gripping reading.

At the last election, the DUP took 10 seats and Sinn Fein took 7, with the remaining seat taken by the remarkable independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, who is standing down this time. She will be much missed by many, though not by the Conservative and Labour leaders, both of whom felt the lash of her tongue at different times.

What might happen this time? Here are the 18 seats presented from a DUP betting perspective. Note that once you get down to the green part of the table, the DUP may not be in contention or even standing. 

Despite the DUP’s recent history of complete failure and despite the most recent polling, bettors are actually expecting the DUP to get through this election in reasonable shape. They are 5/6 (the bookies’ evens) or better to take 10 seats again, albeit a different 10 from those that they currently hold. Lady Sylvia’s surprise decision not to stand again has opened up a seat for them that they would not have been expecting and they are helped in Belfast North – which promises to be a battle royal – by the fact that their main opponents there, Sinn Fein, are also struggling to match their performance last time round.

The party on the rise, the Alliance party, suffer from exactly the same problem as the Lib Dems, their sister party in Great Britain: they are undoubtedly doing much better but it’s hard to tell exactly where. Like the Lib Dems, many of their prices are hard to square with electoral reality.  

They are short-priced in North Down and South Antrim, but they did not reach 10% of the vote in either constituency last time round. It’s more likely in both seats that the Alliance will siphon off enough votes from the UUP this time to let the DUP hold the seats. The Alliance in practice may be hoping to establish themselves with some good second places this time round.

Like their sister party, the Alliance party appeal particularly to younger urban voters, particularly those keen to put the province’s sectarian history behind them.  So you would particularly expect to find them in the nicer areas in and around Belfast. Those familiar with the TV series The Fall will have seen that middle class Belfast in the streets of south Belfast around the Malone Road is very comfortable indeed and the Ormeau Road has more than its fair share of hipsters. The SDLP will be hoping to retake Belfast South from the DUP, particularly since Sinn Fein have stood aside (they took 16% of the vote last time) but since Northern Ireland’s urban professionals are much more clustered than in England, the 5/1 on the Alliance in that constituency might represent value. It’s a wild seat where the winner has got more than a third of the vote in only one election since 2001.

Belfast East is the Alliance’s other big chance.  On paper, the 10% swing required is more than the 8% swing that polling suggests has taken place between the DUP and the Alliance, but again the concentration of younger urban professionals may mean that we can expect outperformance by the Alliance in such constituencies. I’d rather be betting on the Alliance at 15/8 than on the DUP at 2/5.

Elsewhere the SDLP can hope to take Foyle and perhaps South Down just by standing still. In such seats quite a few unionists already vote SDLP to try to keep out Sinn Fein.

At present, it looks as if the seats will show broad stasis at this election between unionists and nationalists, with a slow rise of the unaligned.  Like the fortune of Mike in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, the DUP’s power looks set to decline gradually then suddenly.  This, however, is the gradual stage.

Alastair Meeks




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Can anyone challenge the green and orange waves?

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

A guest slot by GreenMachine

A lot has happened since the 2017 election and the Northern Ireland Executive has been out of office for 3 years now, What will we see this in the election!?

First of all we’re going to start with the more obvious results.

Belfast West: S.F have held this seat since the 1980’s bar the 1992 election where the S.D.L.P won by several hundred votes. S.F regained control of Belfast West in 1997 (shortly after the Peace Process and have held it for 22 years and they will hold for at least another decade.

 PREDICTION = S.F will win with 60% + of the vote but their vote count might decrease specially if Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit) nominates himself to run.

West Tyrone: Here, we have another seat in which S.F have held for a long time, DUP should get to 10,000 + but it’ll be pretty straight forward to S.F and this will be their second easy win of the election!

PREDICTION = S.F will win very convincingly.

Newry & Armagh: Mickey Brady (S.F) is hugely popular and very well liked in this part of the country and there’s not too much to say other than he’ll be getting a very nice wage for at least another few years.

PREDICTION = Basically, It will be pointless for any other party to run / turn up. This is a foregone conclusion, S.F will steamroll this.

Mid Ulster: Francie Molloy has been around forever and is one of the most well liked politicians in the country and he seems to get better with every election.

PREDICTION = S.F with another easy win, No Contest.

East Antrim: Sammy Wilson has been an M.P for a very long time, he’s a senior and key member of the D.U.P and will storm home here once again.

PREDICTION = D.U.P to win very easily.

East Londonderry / East Derry: This is a D.U.P stronghold and I can’t see this going any other way.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will win this seat without doubt. S.F will finish second comfortably.

Lagan Valley: D.U.P have grown from strength to strength in Lagan Valley but I expect the growing is over, Alliance should do well this time around.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will hold this seat but will drop their vote count, Alliance should climb to second place and are worth £2-£3 at 20/1 with Paddy Power.

North Antrim: Ian Paisley Junior is a very controversial person. I’m not sure who the D.U.P will field this time but they will win.

PREDICTION = D.U.P with an easy hold.

Strangford: D.U.P seem to be getting stronger and stronger as the years go on in this beautiful part of the country, Alliance & U.U.P should increase their vote count.

PREDICTION = D.U.P will hold this seat, U.U.P & Alliance will fight for second place.

Upper Bann: D.U.P are the clear favourites but I don’t think they’re a 1-25 chance. Hate him or love him, John O’Dowd is one of the most prolific M.P’s in the country. I believe this will be closer than the betting suggest. The D.U.P, S.F & the U.U.P all have a genuine chance of gaining or winning.

PREDICTION = The D.U.P vote could swing to both Alliance & the U.U.P. This could give S.F a massive boost and they should close the gap dramatically. D.U.P will probably hold but I would play U.U.P & S.F at the very nice odds.

Hope your enjoying the article so far, now onto the much closer and interesting constituencies.

South Antrim: Alliance, the D.U.P and the U.U.P are all close in the betting but I don’t think Alliance are a true 3-1 shot, D.U.P should get over the line again

PREDICTION = The D.U.P @ 4-7 is a fair price.

North Down: Sylvia Hermon announced that she is stepping down, Happy retirement. The D.U.P & the U.U.P will probably fight it out. Powers betting is the D.U.P (1-3), Alliance (3-1) – not sure that’s right and the U.U.P (8-1). The majority of Sylvia Hermon’s votes will probably go to the U.U.P as she was a former member of that party. With Naomi Long winning the third and final European seat, the bookies are very tight with their odds and it probably won’t come to much or mean anything, Alliance will suffer more heavy defeats and green party should vastly improve their vote count here.

PREDICTION = There is betting on North Down with Powers and the D.U.P should achieve a gain here.

South Down: S.F & S.D.L.P will fight this out, The other parties have no chance. Chris Hazzard is a very good M.P and has done a fair amount for his constituencies.

PREDICTION = This will be close enough but Chris Hazzard should hold this with a 1000+ majority.

Belfast South: Claire Hanna (S.D.L.P), Paula Bradshaw (Alliance) & Emma Pengally (D.U.P) are among the top and most prestigious M.P’s in the country. Belfast South has always been a swings and roundabouts area in elections, The people change their vote and mind more than the weather and you just don’t know what’s going to happen this time around. In saying that, I don’t think Alliance are a true 7-2 shot and this will be between S.D.L.P and the D.U.P.

PREDICTION = With S.F and the Green Party absent, that’s almost 10,000 votes to go elsewhere, the majority of the green voters will vote for Claire and the S.F vote will be split. The green vote will probably take Claire Hanna over the line but I wouldn’t play at 2-9.

Belfast East: Naomi Long is returning from his short stay in Europe as an M.E.P and is running in her beloved colours of the Alliance Party. She has a huge fan base and following and is without doubt, one of the best M.P’s in the U.K (Not A Personal Opinion). She is a very passionate person and would try her best to help, Gavin Robinson won this seat in 2017 with a 8,500 majority meaning if Naomi was to win she’d need almost a 4,500 vote swing which to be honest I find it extremely difficult for this to happen.

PREDICTION = I think Gavin Robinson (D.U.P) will hold pretty handily in the end, 8-13 With Paddy Powers is very tempting indeed.

Belfast North: The moment of truth, the media can’t wait, I can’t wait and most importantly the voters and runners can’t wait, Nigel Dodds (D.U.P) couldn’t be anymore Pro – British and John Finucane (Sinn Fein) couldn’t be anymore Pro – Irish. This is not just a Nationalist vs Unionist election, this is a true battle, a true war and simply magnificent.

I expect Alliance to take some of the S.F vote and I’m hoping and expecting that Mal O’Hara (Green Party) will get to 1000+ votes – keep up the good work!

PREDICTION = This will probably be the closest battle in terms of vote count. I think Nigel Dodds will just get enough to get over the line, The prices (odds) with Powers are probably about right. This should be within 1000 votes either way. I wouldn’t lump on Dodds but I think he’s worth £15-£20.

Fermanagh & South Tyrone: The return and another series of Elliott vs Gildernew. You simply could not get much closer than this, excitement all around! Alliance will perhaps take some of the U.U.P vote but I think S.D.L.P voters will swing to S.F as S.D.L.P have no chance and would be a waste of a vote.

PREDICTION = I expect Gildernew to increase her vote and win by 1000+. I genuinely believe that 8-15 with Paddy Power is very generous.

Foyle: Wow, just WOW! You just can’t get any closer, Elisha won by around 150 votes last time out but in my opinion that was just a one off, this is a predominately S.D.L.P constituency / stronghold and I expect Colum Eastwood (S.D.L.P) to win this pretty handily with the help of the D.U.P voters who detest S.F.

PREDICTION = Colum Eastwood (S.D.L.P) will probably win with a 1000+ vote count. I think 4-6 with Powers is big value (NAP!)

GreenMachine



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The mood changes on Brexit but the devil will be in the detail

Friday, October 11th, 2019

A UK Brexit by the end of the year now 38% betting favourite

Judging by today’s front pages the prospect for a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU look better than ever. Certainly Johnson’s meeting with his Irish counterpart on the Wirral yesterday looks very promising but at the moment we do not know exactly what concessions have been made and whether that will be acceptable to the DUP.

A political problem of course is that there are two communities in Northern Ireland, but that only one of them the protestants, sends MPs to Westminster. Sinn Fein competes in elections and wins a clutch of seats which it never fills.

There’s also been the issue that Stormont has been suspended for nearly two years because of the failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree. One positive thing of the current situation over Brexit is that it might get the Parliament in Belfast functioning again.

A key part of the the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was that both communities should share power and that has not always been easy to achieve.

The DUP, which got just 36% of the Northern Irish vote at the last general election has always made its red line that this part of the UK should not be treated differently from other parts. How they will react to what was discussed yesterday day is is a big question though so it is going to be hard for them to oppose something that that has wide agreement elsewhere.

One thing we do know know is that the overall agreement has to be sanctioned by the House of Commons something that Theresa May struggled to achieve and failed three times.

I think we could now see see opponents of Brexit at Westminster seeking to ensure that the deal is agreed by a confirmatory referendum. It becomes harder to argue against that once we know exactly what is involved. 

The mood on the Brexit betting markets has changed but it is still only a 38% chance on the Betfair Exchange that the UK will leave the EU by the end of the year. Before yesterday it was about 30%.

Mike Smithson




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A general election could unlock a restoration at Stormont

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Brexit isn’t the only issue stoking the tensions in Ulster

Northern Ireland rarely gets much coverage from the mainland British press. Riots generate a fraction of the coverage that a similar one in England or Scotland (never mind London) would get; the recent Harland and Wolff closure was only of interest because of a ship that sank 107 years ago; its sporting competitions are, like its politics, a different world. Here be dragons.

For once, however, Northern Ireland can’t be entirely ignored by the GB political press, due to both the chance result of the 2017 general election that propelled the DUP into such a position of power, and to the intractable Brexit Backstop issue that might well have caused a great deal of trouble even if it didn’t threaten an existential point of identity for the Conservatives’ allies in government.

For all that, both the Con-DUP alliance and the Backstop are still seen through Westminster lenses. Northern Ireland is (or its representatives are) only important to the media because of their ability to make or break ministries.

Except of course there’s far more to it than that. Two stories that should have received far more attention from our Brexit-obsessed media are the rise in violence from dissident republican terrorists in recent months, and the open near-threat of more to come; and the continuing shut-down of Stormont.

It’s perhaps telling that while the British media and political class has gone into meltdown over a proposed 5-week shutdown of Westminster, Stormont has been shut down since January 2017 – so long ago that the breakdown came before the government triggered Article 50 and when the Tories still had a majority.

However, these two stories are not unrelated. Much time and energy has gone into arguing over whether the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), or whether a No Deal Brexit would do so. Curiously little attention has been paid to the fact that the Agreement isn’t actually working very well at the moment.

When the centrepiece of that Agreement – the Assembly – hasn’t sat for a quarter of a decade, it’s unsurprising that some feel that the Peace Process itself has failed and are resorting to the methods that the Process was designed to get away from. That absence is made all the more acute by the happenstance of the 2017 election, which magnified the Unionist voice at precisely the moment when the nationalists were muted.

Taking a logical approach, it’s easy to say that the nationalists muted themselves: they chose to vote for an abstentionist party at a time when Stormont was already not sitting, Sinn Fein chooses not to take their seats (what a difference it would make if they did – or if the SDLP sent 7 MPs rather than Sinn Fein), and so on. But this is of little practical benefit.

In truth, any permanent resolution at Stormont must involve an end to the current rules which effectively give both Sinn Fein and the DUP a veto on devolved government. That veto can’t be particularly troublesome for the DUP who were originally opposed to the N Ireland Assembly and who it’s hard to believe don’t still harbour some ambivalence, especially when the alternative is direct rule from Westminster which gives them both the close union that they prefer (other than on social issues, where N Irish legislation is still stuck somewhere in the middle of the last century), and also rule by a government they have a disproportionate but indirect hand in. Whether they’d rediscover the joys of devolution were Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister is another matter.

Or maybe not another matter. Both Brexit and the absence of devolution put the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under strain. That strain would be lessened were not the DUP occupying such a key role at Westminster, one which makes any attempt to revise the devolution settlement impossible (even if there were time and space for the government to devote to it) and which has placed the Backstop in such prominence – and if there is a general election within months then it’s likely that whatever the result, the DUP’s brief moment in the sunshine will indeed pass.

David Herdson




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Why they just don’t put up a hard border in Ireland

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

From Topping, who served there with the British Army during the Troubles

It was sobering listening to Simon Byrne, a bluff Northerner and current chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), this morning on the radio opining on the practicalities of policing a hard border should it be required. He feared a return to a paramilitary style of policing and how, with his 7,000 policemen, it would be impossible to fulfil such a remit.

At the height of Op Banner, the British military operation in Northern Ireland that ran from 1969 to 2007, there were around 40,000 forces throughout the Province consisting of 20,000 soldiers from the British army (plus personnel from other arms), 13,500 policemen from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the PSNI), and 7,500 soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). Tasks included supporting the police as they performed their duties as well as more specialist operations. This was at a time when the British army was 150,000 strong and, with the notable exception of the campaign to reclaim the Falkland Islands in 1982, and until Gulf War I in 1991, there were no other ongoing military engagements.

The British army is now 80,000 strong, the PSNI numbers 7,000, and the UDR is no more. Something like 70% of the army has never been on operations (in a combat situation as opposed to practising for one).

Supposing there were the political will (a huge if: my suspicion is there wouldn’t be), Her Majesty’s Forces would be unable to replicate Op Banner as the numbers are simply not there. At roughly half the strength and with many other commitments, the same and necessary level of manning would not be possible.

If, as Simon Byrne fears, we are about to return to paramilitary style policing in Northern Ireland then there would also need to be some tactical re-education. The British army went into the Middle East loudly proclaiming the superiority of its fighting forces and tactics based upon its Northern Ireland experiences. This supposed superiority was quickly shown to be illusory as the mode of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan little resembled the intelligence-led operations and peculiarities of patrolling a divided domestic community, where a typical outing comprised two police constables walking down the street, seemingly without a care in the world save for checking on tax discs, with typically 12 soldiers on satellite patrol in support plus air cover plus other units available.

Following two decades of essentially war fighting in hot climes there would need to be a return to a bygone and one had hoped obsolete era for the British army with a further tactical change to be able to undertake a domestic counter insurgency campaign of the type that might emerge once more in the six counties. A campaign that would also of course be conducted under the glare and scrutiny of thousands of mobile phones and perhaps in an even more antagonistic environment than last time.

Put up a border, some people cry; that will bring the Republic back to the negotiating table, they say. But aside from the many administrative, legal, and political considerations of such a strategy, its advocates ignore, perhaps deliberately perhaps through ignorance, its many and severe practical challenges.

Topping