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

“My cautious assessment is that there is a strong majority now for abortion in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest.” File photograph: iStockPhoto

No reason why vote could not be held in late February or early March next year

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first general election campaign speech in London on April 20th. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Theresa May undermines British democracy by announcing a vote with no real choice

A Sinn Féin leadership change to Mary Lou McDonald is likely to significantly improve the party’s  position. Photograph: Alan Betson

Noel Whelan: new leaders of FG or SF only things likely to shake up Dáil make-up

The fact  the British government and various EU institutions have acknowledged their responsibility to protect the Belfast Agreement in the Brexit talks is welcome, but it is now time to focus on how that can best be done

We should insist on bilateral talks on Brexit’s implications for the agreement

A protester in London holds an effigy of Britain’s prime minister Theresa May during an anti-Brexit demonstration in London, England. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Irish frustration must be channelled towards getting the best outcome in EU negotiations

DUP leader Arlene Foster signs a book of condolence for her late former colleague Martin McGuinness at Stormont on Wednesday. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Noel Whelan: Definitive view of the IRA leader turned politician still to be formed

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks at a St Patrick’s Day breakfast at the Naval Observatory  in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2017.  Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Little substance to announcement 1,265 days after convention’s recommendation

In recent times, mainstream southern politics dared not to speak of Irish unity for fear that to do so would unsettle unionism at delicate moments in the peace process. Illustration: Getty

Frank debate about unity should be pursued without fear of spooking unionists

Fine Gael argues that in order to comply with European law, and avoid  fines, we must at a minimum provide for a charge on the excessive use of water. Photograph: iStock

The Dáil is not free to do as it chooses on water – it has to comply with European law

‘Enda Kenny will be clinging to office for another eight or 10 weeks but will have no power.’ Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

Fine Gael Ministers will be absorbed by the leadership race and not focused on their jobs

 “It is difficult to see how whoever succeeds Enda Kenny could do a worse job of it than he did this week.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Enda Kenny’s rickety relationships all took a hit over his handling of the McCabe scandal

Former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.

DUP leader’s Irish language comments exposed the arrogance alleged by Sinn Féin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with British prime minister Theresa May in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

British prime minister’s talk of a ‘frictionless’ Border has already been exposed as a fantasy

Not a single Bill initiated by the Opposition has come close to being enacted by the current Dáil and Seanad

Arguably the only substantial piece of new legislation passed by the Dáil was the Act to tackle the housing and homelessness crisi(...)

EU chief Brexit negotiator  Michel Barnier: It is significant  that there is no express provision in article 50 allowing for  countries actually bordering an  exiting member state to be directly involved in the negotiations. Photograph:  François Lenoir/Reuters/File

Direct input from Dublin is essential as article 50 framework has deep flaws

Theresa May: So far the British prime minister has been unable to decide or communicate what kind of post-Brexit relationship Britain should have with the EU. Photograph: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

It is foolish to wait and see what the UK will do before deciding what is best for Ireland

Nigel Farage: just because the idea that Ireland could leave the European Union came out of his mouth doesn’t mean it is necessarily wrong. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

Brexit means our main trading partners, the UK and US, will be outside the EU

‘The Dáil parties and Independent groupings, having lined up in Government and Opposition, are frozen in position for fear that any sudden movement may cause the whole thing to come to an end.’

Politicians and officials speak of unease pending Brexit and the Trump presidency

Claire Foy playing Queen Elizabeth and Matt Smith as Prince Philip in The Crown

The books, movies, podcasts and programmes to get you through the downtime

‘Gerry Adams got himself into his current political difficulty because he was engaged in political handling.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Adams got caught out while trying to manage the fallout of Austin Stack’s fight for answers

Austin Stack (left) and Oliver Stack, sons of prison officer Brian Stack, in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The precedents that illustrate the Sinn Féin leader’s loose relationship with the truth are stacked high and can only damage his c(...)

A Right2Water  demonstration in Dublin. Unfounded concerns about privatisation “contributed to the creation of a climate of uncertainty and mistrust”, concludes an expert group. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Experts were given impossible, highly politicised task, making for timid report

Minister for Transport Shane Ross: struggling under the intense scrutiny and weighty responsibility that go with Cabinet membership. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister’s animated spat contrasts with low-energy departmental performance

Donald Trump and  sons Eric  and  Donald Jr attend a “Celebrity Apprentice All Stars” press conference in 2012. The property mogul became a reality TV megastar in 2004 as the ringmaster of “The Apprentice”. Photograph:  Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Above all else, Donald Trump’s shock victory comes down to his massive celebrity

US president-elect Donald Trump – “vulgar, abusive, anti-immigrant, misogynistic and narcissistic, and he has been elected despite this”. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

We can deal with incoming US president without abandoning our self-respect

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Not clear how ‘all-island forum’ without unionist involvement is supposed to help calm impact of Brexit

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly: her outburst in the Dáil   “undermines the separation between politics and the judiciary”. Photograph: Fergal Phillips

TDs such as Daly and Paul Murphy have same access to redress as all other citizens

Watching the Donald Trump campaign disintegrate is both compelling and disturbing. Photograph: George Frey/Getty Images

Even if defeated, the candidate has ability to damage the US political system even further

Prime Time editors decided they couldn’t and shouldn’t stage a head-to-head budget night-debate between Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath, above, and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. Photograph: Alan Betson

The party wants to negotiate the budget in private and act as Opposition on TV

Perhaps the most significant item to watch out for in the budget is whether Katherine Zappone gets her way on childcare. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

It is clear budget will not be transformative moment in Irish social or economic policy

‘This week we have again seen the political potency of water charges.’

Latest move to abolish charges for good took some members of the party by surprise

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy. The assault on the C&AG  was  done with all necessary courtesy but there is no hiding however that what NAMA is saying is that the C&AG is not fit for the purpose of assessing NAMA: Frank Miller / THE IRISH TIMES

If watchdog not fit to oversee Nama then somebody or something else will have to

What is Stephen Donnelly up to? He was the driving force behind setting up the new party. He benefited the most - not least from the high profile opportunity of participating in a leaders debate during the election campaign . Picture: Oisin McHugh FusionShooters.

He may well be rewarded for supporting the Government as an independent

Tim Cook’s claim that the European Commission’s findings are ‘total political crap’, and Michael O’Leary’s suggestion that Ireland should tell the commission to ‘F*** off’ are not helping the political situation in Ireland. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

A frank and honest communication of the case for an appeal is needed but unlikely

 Leo Varadkar TD with Fine Gael Dublin Bay South candidate Kate O’Connell in Dublin, as  the party announced their plans to abolish the USC by 2020. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The next 10 weeks will be the first test of ‘new politics’ following its summer slumber

‘Shane Ross should have fully informed himself of his legal and administrative options and the limitations before he left for Rio.’ Above,  Ross watching Michael Conlan’s bout. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

‘Gubu does not do justice to the events surrounding the Olympic Council of Ireland this week’

A man holds an "I Love Trump" sign along the perimeter walls of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

There will be no clarity on the actual state of the race until after the early September Labour weekend

Theresa May chairs her first Cabinet meeting. There were audible gasps in newsrooms and chancelleries all over the world when May appointed Boris Johnston as her foreign secretary. It seemed entirely illogical. Johnson was politically a busted flush. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty Images

She has decided the Brexiteers should be beside her taking the flak for their overselling the benefits of leaving the EU

Enda Kenny’s decision to reappoint Senator James Reilly as deputy leader of Fine Gael is one of a number of moves that undermined his position in recent weeks. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Fine Gael would be wise to learn from recent party upheaval in British politics

 Independent Alliance member John Halligan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

A short-lived but decisive Government is preferable to one that survives by doing little

Enda Kenny leaves  the EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Real engagement vital North and South at each and every stage of Brexit process

David Cameron gambled on this referendum uniting his party and enabling Britain to move beyond the European question. Photograph: Getty Images

Brexit: Fertile ground laid for Leave over years of politicians blaming Brussels

‘Whatever the Government Independents do, it seems likely that sufficient Fianna Fáil deputies will exercise their “free vote” in opposition to the Mick Wallace Bill, thereby ensuring that it is defeated.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

No precedent for freedom to oppose legislation which AG says is unconstitutional

Noel Whelan: “The most significant impact of a vote for Brexit would be further dramatic political and economic instability within the EU at what is already a vulnerable time.”

Irish government would be remiss if not making known risks of Brexit for State

File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

With seven weeks to go before summer recess we are unlikely to see any substantial Bills passed

Brendan Howlin, above. “The new Labour party leader is also an effective parliamentary performer and a shrewd tactician.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Real test of party’s leadership will be the next election - whenever that comes

The bullet-riddled minibus which had been transporting the 11 Protestant workers who were gunned down as they lined up alongside the vehicle

Nobody has ever been brought to justice for the Kingsmill killings and the families of the dead have run a long campaign to have t(...)

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader  Micheál Martin. File photograph: Maxpix/Julien Behal

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have set a slow pace for the new parliament

Taoiseach Enda Kenny stands in Government Buildings with members of the new Cabinet. Photograph: Merrion Street

‘One wonders why the Government’s media handlers felt the need to engage in this “put the wimmin” up front manoeuvre’

‘Adams has enjoyed an unchallenged tenure at the top of the Sinn Féin of a duration once seen only in newly established African democracies.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Replacing him is a challenging prospect – but his recent gaffes have been a liability

Lynn Ruane, President of Trinity College Students Union with her daughters Jaelynne and Jordanne. “She will be one of the most interesting politicians in the new Oireachtas, irrespective of how long it lasts.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

The most dramatic shift in the line up of the 43 senators on the vocational panels was the Sinn Féin breakthrough

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. “In reality Fianna Fáil will have Enda Kenny’s new government by the proverbials in both the Dáil and the Seanad.” Photograph: Maxpix

The new government will not have working majority in the Seanad if Taoiseach true to the new politics

The former Dún Laoghaire TD Barry Andrews,  who now leads the team at the development aid charity Goal.

A realisation that all is not lost may help the newly elected to focus on the general political good

From left: Independent TDs Boxer Moran Seán Canney, Shane Ross and Micheal Fitzmaurice pictured at government buildings. The suggestion that some of the Independents could be part of a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil dominated government is creative.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Suggestion that some Independents could be part of FG-FF dominated government is creative

People gather for the Easter Rising centenary commemorations  in Smithfield, Dublin. File photograph: Maxwells/PA Wire

Events were dignified, inclusive and reflected the complexity of the Easter Rising

There has been much talk about how either a Fine Gael-only or a Fianna Fáil-only government could happen provided it was allowed rule by the other party. Photographs: The Irish Times

Unstable minority administration would serve only FG and FF and not the country

Maurice Manning: The Manning group’s report has since sat untouched on some shelf in Government Buildings. Setting it up was a cynical exercise in winding down the clock on reform.  Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Precedents do not augur well for real reform

“The issue of whether Enda Kenny’s continued leadership of Fine Gael assists or hinders the prospects of the two parties being in government is a relevant personnel question.” Photograph: Reuters

If negotiations are to succeed then Fine Gael can not rule out Mícheál Martin becoming Taoiseach first

Noel Whelan: The day the election was called was pregnant with damaging scenes and sounds for the Government campaign. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

It is now clear that Fine Gael’s campaign was fixed on a disastrous course

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