Nominee president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen: on Tuesday afternoon she was a political unknown outside of Germany but, by Wednesday morning, she was at the centre of a paparazzi scrum. Photograph: Thierry Monasse

Member states balancing criteria of scale, power, geography and gender admirably

President Donald Trump  at a rally in Orlando, Florida, to kick off his re-election campaign. Photograph: Erin Schaff/the New York Times

US president made big promises during 2016 election, and in the main he kept them

Mary Lou McDonald: the Sinn Féin  leader will be deeply concerned by  the party’s  poor performance in both the European and local elections. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Loss of 78 council seats dramatically depletes the party’s officer corps on the ground

Conservative leadership candidate Dominic Raab on the Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/BBC/PA Wire

Tory leadership contender is accused of distorting truth of meeting with Coveney

The Greens are, in the main, down-to-earth, decent politicians who are interested in achieving their objective in office yet genuinely have no interest in the trappings of power.   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Atmosphere will be more productive now Sinn Féin's noisy cough has been softened

Seamus Mallon suggests a united Ireland could be achieved on a “parallel consent” principle with consent from parties representing both traditions. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Former SDLP leader Seamus Mallon’s latest proposal is provocative but instructive

Frances Fitzgerald: Fine Gael voters and many non-Fine Gael voters see her as having been badly treated when she was forced to resign from Cabinet in December 2017. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fianna Fáil appear set to regain foothold in Dublin with Barry Andrews

‘One thing the report on the cost overrun at the national children’s hospital makes clear is that ‘red flags’ were missed from the outset.’

PwC review of the tendering process cannot be the last word on what went wrong

‘Talking about potential scenarios would not only have exacerbated tensions in the Border area but would have provide fodder for the DUP and others to make mischief.’ Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Ministers know that sometimes it is more dangerous to answer a question than to avoid it

DUP leader Arlene Foster

Reporters who should know better have wasted time on a possible U-turn by the party

 New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern: on a different planet from Theresa May in terms of leadership style. Photograph: Mark Coote/Bloomberg

NZ leader strikes right note over shootings as UK PM drips Brexit bitterness

A copy of the  Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday pictured in 2010. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire/File

Noel Whelan: PPS heavily restricted by legality of evidence it could rely on in court

 That responsibility for Northern Ireland has been left in the hands of Karen Bradley at this crucial moment is truly reckless. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Remarks hurt chances of successfully prosecuting security forces personnel for murder

What happened to Angela Kerins five years ago was nasty. The Supreme Court is set to declare it was unconstitutional. Photograph:  Collins Courts

Court ruling protects us from our politicians acting like schoolyard bullies

Independent MPs and former Tory party members, Heidi Allen (left), Anna Soubry (centre) and Sarah Wollaston. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

The mood in Britain has to favour the successful emergence of a new political entity

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe. Photograph: Tom Honan

Scandal touches on increasingly sensitive fault lines in agreement with Fianna Fáil

Theresa May in Belfast on Tuesday.  One was left wondering why the British prime Minister bothered boarding a flight to Belfast at all.  Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Pool via Bloomberg

The British Conservative party needs to get over itself, and sort out the mess of its own making

British prime minister Theresa May “has contravened the spirit of the Belfast Agreement, and in so doing has imperilled our peace”. Photograph: PA Wire

Ireland now knows that the British prime minister is not to be trusted

‘Mary Lou McDonald   failed to mention that Markievicz was among those TDs who left Sinn Féin in 1926 because of its refusal to change its hardline stance on the issue of taking the oath of allegiance.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mary Lou McDonald’s centenary rhetoric fails of take account of historical reality

No Brexit is the result which suits Ireland most. It has been the fervent but silent objective of Irish diplomats and politicians all along

Signs are that the process is going in direction preferred by the Irish Government

If the UK exits without a deal at the end of March it would be physically, administratively and politically impossible for the Irish Government to put in place any type of monitoring on the Border. Photograph: Getty Images

UK parliamentary manoeuvres will rapidly bring Brexit question to a head

The Trump re-election campaign slogans are ‘Keeping America Great’ and ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The EU is facing further threats in the European Parliament elections next May

Anti-Brexit campaigners  outside the Houses of Parliament in  London on December 17th. Photograph: Getty Images

For Ireland, Brexit is like being tethered to a climber who is panicking before a fall

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May in Brussels: Sane centrist voices in Westminster should focus on getting parliamentary majority for withdrawing the article 50 letter of application. Photograph: John Thys

UK is racing chaotically towards March’s exit deadline. Time is needed to find a solution

Leinster House. Micheál Martin has offered the Taoiseach  immunity against a general election until after Brexit

Ireland’s electoral timeline now in abeyance pending outcome of current British crisis

Mary Lou McDonald on the screen at the Sinn Féin Ardfheis earlier in 2018: Unlike Fine Gael which gained from the generational shift which Leo Varadkar represented, there has been no Mary Lou bounce for Sinn Féin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Testy exchanges with colleagues and media are hallmarks of general SF impotence

Women munition workers stacking a reserve of shell castings during WWI. Photograph:  Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

WWI’s vast loss of men deprived women under 30 in UK of vote until 1928

 Europe delivered for Ireland in spades. The personal commitment of Europe’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was particularly significant. He had original empathy for the Irish predicament. Photograph:  Reuters

Agreement would have been astonishing political and diplomatic achievement for Ireland

Former HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien gave some insight into the failings of the health system. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Former HSE chief gave his views on so much more than Simon Harris’s competence

DUP MP Sammy Wilson. His exchanges exposed the chasm between the DUP view of Brexit and that of most other politicians and commentators. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Sammy Wilson’s Westminster performance underlines how the party is now isolated

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and British prime minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting in Brussels. Photograph: Taoiseach Government/PA Wire

Brexit threatens North’s peace with potential for Border to become a targeted zone

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: in 2016, he and his party membership settled for confidence and supply out of genuine national motives. Photograph: North West Newspix

Confidence and supply deal works and, apart from dramatics, neither party wants election

Brexit is a challenge to test any charismatic, brilliant leader. May is neither

President Michael D Higgins at the official launch of his re-election campaign. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

No-frills launch reflects advantages the incumbent enjoys in presidential election race

The National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Tom Honan

The show is now a compulsory pilgrimage for all office-holders and political wannabes

US president Donald Trump: We can now avoid the need for the Irish president to receive him. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Circumnavigation of tricky issues no longer necessary as US president’s trip called off

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Economic and social background is not a useful guide to ministerial ability

 Minister for Communications Denis Naughten:  under pressure on two  fronts over the lack of rural broadband and the closure of post offices. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Issues such as lack of broadband and post office closures will shape next government

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has approached the issue of a merger with the SDLP with his trademark caution. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Mooted FF-SDLP merger among potential changes for parties as tectonic plates shift

Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney hold their press conference on the street after the British failed to provide a room following a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London last month. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Recent meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference shows up divisions

President Michael D Higgins with two former presidents, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, at Áras an Uachtaráin in 2013. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The presidency is a critical role that balances soft power and expert political knowledge

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photograph: Kim Haughton/EPA

Silly season and hypersensitivity turn offhand comments into front-page news

File image of  President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. File photograph:

Micheál Martin’s support for Michael D Higgins achieves several objectives

Seán Lemass and the president Eamon de Valera in 1969. When he became taoiseach, Lemass immediately hit the ground running having the effect, as de Valera’s described it, of sending “a breath of fresh air throughout the country” Photograph: Paddy Whelan/The Irish Times

Fine Gael reportly considering co-opting 1965 slogan ‘Let Lemass Lead On’

A successful Border poll in Northern Ireland would be only the beginning of a process of constitutional reframing which could take five or 10 years. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Some think Irish unity is as simple as winning referendum in Northern Ireland

Child benefit is arguably one of most socially regressive payments made out of public funds. Photograph: iStock

Regina Doherty should have stuck to her guns on potential cut for higher earners

Yes campaigners  at Dublin Castle  on May 26th. Turnout from younger voters, especially among  females, was best measured by a political Richter scale. Photograph: Getty Images

This referendum campaign will have a profound influence on public affairs

UK minister for immigration Caroline Nokes:  demonstrated a complete lack of basic understanding about  issues relating to the Border and immigration issues on the island of Ireland.

Caroline Nokes’s car-crash Belfast Agreement answers expose Brexit ill-preparedness

My Yes view is also shaped by the reality that the Eighth Amendment has not prevented Irish abortions – it has merely exported them to Britain. Photograph: Getty Images

I have found reassurances about my decision to support repeal over recent weeks

Given the contorted state of British cabinet politics and the delusions which persist among many British commentators and voters about Brexit, a collapse in talks now rather than in October would be the lesser of two evils. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Derailment may provoke change in UK politics needed to bring realism to talks

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan (right) with Senator Catherine Noone, handing out Vote Yes leaflets to commuters outside Pearse Street Station in Dublin. Photograph: Laura Paterson/PA Wire

Eighth Amendment has forced isolation and travel on thousands of pregnant Irish women

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has clearly decided he wants to be remembered for doing part of the Minister for Justice’s job, rather than doing anything substantial in his own department.  Photograph: Alan Betson

The underlying realities reiterated in last week’s ‘Irish Times’ poll militate against a general election

The HMT Empire Windrush brought migrants from the Caribbean to Britain in what became a wave of postwar immigration from commonwealth countries. Photograph: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images

New laws require immigrants to produce documentation to establish their status

Good Friday agreement: ill health has deprived us of the eloquence of John Hume (centre) in recent years, but the importance of his advocacy endures. Photograph: Alan Betson

Good Friday 1998 was a day when politics achieved what was presumed impossible

“The fact that the Constitution gives the first decision on whether a referendum will be held to our TDs and Senators is just another way in which ours is a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy.” File photograph: Alan Betson/Irish Times

Noel Whelan: Oireachtas has constitutional duty to decide on referendums for citizens

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Noel Whelan: The party needs to hurry up and take its seats in Westminster

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  after the launch of Project Ireland 2040. He  has realised belatedly  the SCU  controversy threatens not only to sap much political energy but to slowly erode his reputation for authenticity

A strategic State approach to communications cannot be seen to benefit any political party

John Major. As British prime minister he put in the hours for peace in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

Former prime minister was the last senior Conservative politician to truly care about the island

Fianna Fáil strategists express confidence that they will be able to restrain the Varadkar impact when an election actually comes. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Noel Whelan: Polls point to need for continuing confidence and supply arrangements

Parliament buildings in Belfast.  Photograph: Reuters

Party leadership only cares about language as a means to score a political win in North

The joint report which marked the end of the first phase of Brexit negotiations committed Britain and the EU 27 to ensure Irish citizens in Northern Ireland would “continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland”.

Position of Irish citizens in North raises legal, diplomatic and political issues

‘Abortion and rape are part of the real-life context in which the current debate about repeal of the Eighth Amendment takes place.’ File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Politicians who oppose the 12 weeks proposal must outline a realistic alternative

Leo Varadkar: whatever about his views on abortion, it seems the Taoiseach  has changed his views on the merits of allowing free votes

Noel Whelan: TDs and Senators will have to stand by their decisions in abortion debate

Graffiti artist Maser’s Repeal the Eighth: will we need to insert text giving the Oireachtas the power to legislate for abortion provision? Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

Provision for Oireachtas to make laws about abortion could curb possible challenges

‘Those killed in the Troubles were not Catholic or Protestant victims – they were human lives destroyed.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Sinn Féin MP’s gaffe underlines the need to do more to help the victims of the Troubles

Mary Lou McDonald:  Everyone knows the leadership handover to her is a foregone conclusion. Photograph: Getty Images

Adams has been the unopposed candidate for the Sinn Féin leadership for 34 years

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (c) and Tánaiste Simon Coveney with Helen McEntee during a Brexit press conference at Government Buildings earlier this month. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fine Gael has been buoyed by the generational change in its leadership

Nine million people in Britain are always or often lonely. One in 10 older people often go a month without seeing family, friends or neighbours. Image: iStock

Ireland should set up a cross-party Oireachtas-led commission on loneliness

Members of the Pro-Life Campaign during a silent gathering outside Leinster House where the Oireachtas committee on abortion was sitting. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Media has important role to play in providing access to evidence in abortion debate

Simon Coveney: his  remarks were clearly framed within the context of the Good Friday Agreement

The Government has a constitutional prerogative to support Irish unity

Government has gambled a lot on EU solidarity and UK concessions over next seven days

The rural post office is  a one-stop shop for confidential guidance about public services, postal needs or help with various financial transactions. Photograph:  Getty Images

Postmasters have shown an unrivalled capacity to adapt and compete

Lisa Chambers’ statement implied that our national capacity to address such threats was somehow undermined by the Taoiseach tweeting a picture in which the membership of Committee F was identifiable. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Suggesting Committee F picture is security breach is ludicrous – you can easily Google it

John Halligan:   rural colleagues are rightly furious at how he has managed to leave the Independent Alliance open to even more ridicule. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fantasies about North Korea reveal dangerous self-delusion

The Irish Government will insist on a say in how Westminster governs Northern Ireland if no Executive is re-established at Stormont. The Belfast Agreement entitles it to such a say. Photograph: Getty Images

We are about to see first public divergence by governments on North since Belfast Agreement

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and RTÉ broadcaster David McCullagh at the National Library for the launch of ‘De Valera: Volume I: Rise (1882–1932)’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Taoiseach notes thin line between politicians’ great strengths and biggest weaknesses

The ineffectual politicians in ‘The Thick of It’ look almost competent compared with Theresa May. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The mantra ‘There will be no hard Border’ is not enough to magic the prospect away

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: “He is neither an ideologue nor a risk-taker. He is unapologetically moderate and incremental.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Moderation and incremental approach to budget balanced with political generosity.

‘International pay-TV companies  have made massive monies on the back of free Irish-made content.’  File photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Irish channels have every right to charge international cable firms for retransmission

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Mr Varadkar has announced plans for seven referendums. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The plans are nothing but a weak Government trying to prove it has vision and durability

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faced questions for an hour when the Dáil returned this week from its lengthy recess. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Government’s claim to be able to legislate will stand or fall on progress of alcohol Bill

Hillary Clinton has revealed she considered  including a universal basic income as a central policy plank in her 2016 election campaign. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s revelation that she considered such a proposal shows its potency

Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Féin’s annual ‘think-in’ this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Micheál Martin’s ruling out of a government with the party is due to political necessity

‘Silly-season syndrome is the only thing which could explain how, after 2.8m people have already taken up the public service card, it has suddenly become a supposedly massive political issue.’

Data-protection watchdog should know better than to fan the flames of the controversy

President Michael D Higgins. His election to a second term or replacement by a rival will exert influence on when the next general election will be held. Photograph: Leonardo Munoz/EPA

Eighth Amendment vote and presidential election will both influence timing of the poll

One of the British government’s Brexit position papers  published in London this week. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland now only a bystander in crucial discussions about future of the country

John McNamee, dressed as a customs officer, joined other members of Border Communities Against Brexit in setting up a mock customs post near Newry in April. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

DUP claims about frictionless post-Brexit Border have been exposed as fantasy

Former British prime minister David Cameron during the Brexit referendum campaign. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit books and a documentary on Macron may provide sustenance in the off-season

‘In Leo Varadkar’s first month, Fianna Fáil has for understandable political reasons sought to hobble the new Taoiseach.’ File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Taoiseach is open and decisive, but has not yet proved he is a leader of substance

'Vincent Browne on TV3 showed a genuine commitment to diversity.’ Photograph: Brian McEvoy

The journalist leaves a trail of memorable moments as he prepares to sign off for good

Solidarity/People Before Profit  TDs Mick Barry, Bríd Smith, Paul Murphy and Gino Kenny.

Factionalism has long relegated fractious hard left to margins of Irish politics

Shane Ross: at the Minister’s insistence, the Dáil spent hours debating the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill this week. Photograph: Alan Betson

Passage of important legislation has had to play second fiddle to Shane Ross’s pet project

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The battle between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has been recast by the change in leadership in the former. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

New dynamic emerges between parties but not over Whelan appointment

New Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reshuffled his Cabinet.

Contrary to media commentary, the Taoiseach may have overdone it in terms of changes

Leo Varadkar reached the highest political office in our system just 10 years after he first entered parliament. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

New Fine Gael leader’s quietness makes his meteoric ascent all the more remarkable

The Conservatives have depicted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as odd and dysfunctional. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Labour Party manifesto was more centrist, more costed and more popular

The documents published by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney contain much that is vague and aspirational. However, they are worthy of close scrutiny for hints of where either man would take us as taoiseach. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg.

Noel Whelan: Coveney and Varadkar promises ring hollow against Dáil logjam

In October 2013,  when the results of the Seanad abolition referendum was announced, Kenny promised  he would reform the Upper House. He didn’t mean it, and  did everything possible to avoid doing so

Former FG leader on several occasions showed a determination to stay in power

Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar: party leadership contests are personality contests rather than competitions about policy. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Party campaigns are personality contests rather than competitions about policy

‘There are 12 weeks of Dáil sittings between now and the summer. These will be dominated by the Fine Gael leadership contest and a Cabinet reshuffle. We can expect even less focus on law-making this term.’

It was said the ‘new politics’ needs ‘bedding down’, but our politicians are almost asleep

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