“‘Ireland can count on us – and that isn’t based on any other conditions,’ German chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and it would be hard to devise a more unambiguous message of support.” Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images Stephen Collins: Soft Brexit looking more likely

Trying to use Border to block progress on wider issues would have risked own goal

In 2015, researchers reported that access to a user’s Facebook footprint allowed them more insight into their personality than their close friends and family Are tech companies threatening freedom of thought and democracy?

The key question is where to draw the line between legitimate influence and unlawful manipulation

Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, a private company which appropriated and exploited about 50 million Facebook user profiles and – by its own words – nano-targeted enough unsuspecting voters to elect Donald Trump. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters Kathy Sheridan: Hijacking of US electorate has gone under the radar

Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook to get Donald Trump elected

Data breach: Facebook says Cambridge Analytica obtained and used user-profile information improperly. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: Irish regulator has questions to answer

Data Protection Commissioner slow to enforce European privacy judgment

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher: If as a society we are sincere about our compassion for women we need to be sincere in respecting and trusting the decisions women make. This is why I believe we should repeal the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons Why I was persuaded abortion up to 12 weeks should be allowed

Billy Kelleher: Evidence to Oireachtas committee highlighted difficulty of legislating for abortion in rape or incest cases

German chancellor Angela Merkel . “It’s a good sign that Merkel, scarcely a week into her fourth term, will welcome Varadkar with full military honours for a working lunch.” Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images Brexit break-up with UK means Varadkar needs to woo Merkel

Taoiseach’s inaugural official visit to Berlin a chance to explore growing EU reform debate

An ultrasound image of a five-month-old foetus. Repeal of Eighth would desensitise Ireland’s culture of care

My son’s brief life was a lesson in the value of our constitutional protection

Donald Trump and Leo Varadkar: the Taoiseach speaks for a country that is being forced to think deeply about its place in the world. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Fintan O’Toole: No, Taoiseach, Irish values are not American values

Leo Varadkar’s sycophantic US speech was a travesty of Irish culture and history

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue in New York. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Irish America does not represent modern-day Ireland

Una Mullally: Varadkar’s St Patrick’s Day parading was in spite of diaspora’s dogmatism

‘The emergence of a new phase of pan-nationalism is predicated on a weakening of the union in ‘the North’ because of Brexit. The two issues are unconnected for most unionists.’ United Ireland campaign is based on a delusion

Unionists who voted for Remain were not voting for Irish unity in the event of Brexit

United States Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, holds up a pint of Guinness as he proposes a toast during the Friends of Ireland luncheon at the United States Capitol March 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. . The Taoiseach is visiting as part of the traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images) As Irish America celebrates it should spare a thought for more recent arrivals

Many Americans see immigration of today as somehow less legitimate than immigration of the past

Getting  a leg up: What is good for the individual is not always good for the collective. Photograph: Getty David McWilliams: In Ireland, the old get richer and the young grow poorer

Inheriting wealth is not meritocratic, but in Ireland it’s still the quickest way to get rich

Irish-language protesters outside the Education Authority  in Belfast last year, protesting against the withdrawal of funding from Irish-medium youth providers. File photograph:  Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker We must listen to civic unionism’s concerns about Irish language Act

State intervention may only deepen divide and it could prove counterproductive

“Flawed as it is, at least the stopwatch approach is measurable. And given that broadcasters, with a few exceptions, are sometimes already failing to be fair regarding the manner of questioning, how will removing the stopwatch help?” Equal time will not guarantee fairness in Eighth debates

Independent group should rapidly adjudicate claims of bias in abortion discussions

US president Donald Trump at a St Patrick’s Day reception at the White House on Thursday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters How worried should we be about Trump’s comments on Irish tax rates?

Attracting foreign investment to Ireland looks set to become more difficult

US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump host Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the White House: relating his involvement in a planning issue on behalf of Donald Trump was bonkers. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst Pat Leahy: Leo Varadkar’s wind farm storm will blow over

Taoiseach has lost any domestic benefit of US trip and revealed weakness yet again

Going into the economic crisis, Ireland shared many characteristics with the south on debt and bailouts, even though its export-led growth model is more northern. Where does Ireland fit in Europe now?

Worldview: Crash begot regional approaches to deeper integration of EU

The most recent poll conducted for this newspaper, in January, found a “clear majority of voters” (56 per cent) backing repeal of the Eighth Amendment.  Photograph:  Mark Stedman Repeal campaign should not dodge the 12-week issue

The proposed limit on abortion would bring Ireland into line with most of Europe

From my perch at Bear, I would never have imagined what the next decade would hold. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) Maureen Mitchell: Bear Sterns and me

In March of 2008, I was a Senior Managing Director at Bear, a firm where I had worked tirelessly for a decade

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Sinn Féin must end abstentionism to achieve a united Ireland

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

 National College of Ireland  brought a deep commitment to creating a learning zone for the local community Let’s not make the same mistake again in the Docklands

The last available site should be used for a second campus for National College of Ireland

Luigi Di Maio, leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement: can  he navigate a path from chaos? Photograph: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg Europe’s populists face their first major test in Italy

Five Star Movement is about to assume responsibility for a stagnant yet chaotic nation

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley: she  announced that the British government would consider “different arrangements” to devolution until an executive is restored.  Photograph: EPA/Andy Rain The Belfast Agreement is fading, not with a bang but with a whimper

Bradley’s Commons statement unilaterally puts the agreement up for casual renegotiation

A  Polish right-wing activist arrives at Keleti station on Wednesday to join a pro-Orban march. “By pumping up and co-opting Polish national fervour, PiS frames any criticism of its reform agenda as attack on itself as a broadside against national honour.” Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters Is Poland still a legitimate subscriber to the European project?

High Court judgment will force EU to face a decision it has ducked for years

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at a Belfast Agreement 20th-anniversary event held at the Library of Congress in Washington, on Wednesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire Stephen Collins: It is no surprise unionists suspect a conspiracy

Taoiseach and Ministers have not taken enough account of how approach is perceived in North

Stormy Daniels at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles recently. Evangelical Christian supporters of Donald Trump are unlikely to be too happy about allegations. Photograph: Matt Sayles/AP Stormy Daniels could be final straw for Trump faithful

Evangelical pulpit-thumping fanboys unlikely to be too impressed

 Marchers  in  Dublin  campaigning  for the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution to be retained. Photograph:  Caroline Quinn/PA Wire Supreme Court has given us a clear choice in abortion referendum

Do we want politicians to be able to legislate for abortion on demand?

Military personnel  remove a police car and other vehicles from a public car park  as they continue investigations into the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal  in Salisbury. Photograph:  Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images Unlikely that Vladimir Putin behind Skripal poisoning

Attack would have been counterproductive for Russia and jeopardise future spy swaps

America v China: How trade wars become real wars

As the two countries slide towards confrontation over trade, territory and ideology, so the sense of grievance on both sides is likely to increase

Steve Bannon, former adviser to president Donald Trump, and  Marine Le Pen, president of  France’s far-right party Front National (FN),  giving a joint press conference during the FN party annual congress on March 10th in Lille. Photograph:  Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images Fintan O'Toole: The populism of the far right is utterly phoney

We need to take the reactionary threat seriously without taking seriously the grandiose self-image of the reactionaries

Students from Gaelscoil Cois Feabhail Choir, Movill, Co Donegal, at Government Buildings for the launch of Bliain na Gaeilge last December: A vision for Project Ireland 2040 should be that by 2040 at least one-quarter of the children in Ireland would attend a Gaelscoil and speak our native language day to day. Photograph: Alan Betson: More Gaelscoileanna must be opened to breathe life into Irish

ESRI finds 23% of parents would choose a local Gaelscoil for children if available

Former president Mary McAleese addressing  a Voices of Faith conference in Rome on March 8th. Photograph: Patsy McGarry Unequal treatment of women the greatest challenge for the Catholic Church

It is hard to point to anything Archbishop Martin has done to change the church’s attitude to women

The dialogue to date between technology and political authority in Europe has too often been superficial and lacking in mutual understanding. Photograph: iStock Tension between AI and personal rights a growing problem

‘Right to explanation’ would boost rights but might slow technological advances

Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain. “In pop culture terms, what was interesting about the 1990s was how subculture and edginess became completely mainstreamed.” Photograph: Time Life Pictures/DMI/Getty Images What were the shiny, grimy 90s really about?

Latter stages of 2010s are stuck in 1990s scattershot but edgy cultural collage

Brexit has also changed the calculation for Ireland by increasing the importance of attempts to demonstrate Irish commitment to the EU in all its aspects.   Photograph: iStock/Getty Moves are afoot to review Irish neutrality

Fine Gael MEPs look for a new definition of what it means in practice

“Leo Varadkar comes from a generation that places an enormous premium on being connected and being in touch, that is locked in the feedback loop of approval.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill Fintan O’Toole: The problem isn’t the SCU. It’s Leo Varadkar

The Taoiseach prefers strategic communications to communicating a strategy

 Students checking the CAO first round offers. The great Irish CAO hysteria may be misplaced given the ongoing democratisation of knowledge. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times David McWilliams: Third-level education is yesterday’s idea

Education is no longer about credentials. It’s about attitude and willingness to keep learning

The Promo and Destock store, a French kosher grocery store in Créteil, south of Paris, after it was destroyed in an arson attack. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images Anti-Semitism is on the march across Europe

World View: Front National’s rebranding masks an alarming rise in anti-Jewish sentiment

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged that the proposal for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks would be a step too far for many people, while Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he would oppose it. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg. Pat Leahy: Eighth retainers find unusual allies in Taoiseach and Tánaiste

Comments undermine claim Government proposal represents middle ground

At the height of the recent bad weather, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted a photo of himself visiting Holles Street hospital. Varadkar’s spin strategy undermines his leadership

Diarmaid Ferriter: Taoiseach should learn from Blair on the dangers of the ‘constant campaign’

Cars line up to cross into the US at the US-Canada border. The US-Canada border was rolled out again recently by Theresa May as one the ideas the UK was examining. Photograph: Getty Images Cliff Taylor: After Brexit – the danger of a ‘Boris Border’

UK trying to fudge definition of a hard border as it seeks a way out of a trap of its own making

The Repeal the Eighth march in Dublin on Thursday, International Women’s Day. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw Breda O’Brien: Feminist oppressors rejoice at denial of rights to unborn

Supreme Court ruling is a tragedy but one the people can overcome

‘State institutions have been slow to put in place the necessary policies and structures to protect victims of child abuse.’ File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto Garda’s dysfunction is harming child sexual abuse victims

State bodies’ slow progress in implementing child protection reforms is deeply disturbing

Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal attends a hearing at the Moscow District Military Court in Moscow on August 9, 2006. Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent whose mysterious collapse in England sparked concerns of a possible poisoning by Moscow, has been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010.  Russia OUTYURI SENATOROV/AFP/Getty Images Brian Boyd: Current bout of Russophobia rings hollow

The suspected poisioning of Sergei Skripal exposes the hypocritical moral grandstanding of the West when it comes to Russian malfeasance

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 Noel Whelan: Strategic Communications Unit a good idea badly executed

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

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