The pill: there is no clinical reason why women should still require a prescription for oral or transdermal contraceptives. Prescriptions should not be necessary to get the pill

Contraceptives must be made available over the counter at pharmacists

Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson plays the Fool but wants to be Nuncle. This may be clever, but it is also intolerable. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images Boris Johnson more dangerous than Enoch Powell

What we are witnessing is a man who until very recently held one of the great offices of state claiming jester’s privilege

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: his  actions do not indicate  he gets the gravity of the crisis, despite the fact it disproportionately impacts people of his generation. Photograph: Tom Honan Una Mullally: Housing crisis will collapse in on top of Fine Gael

Eoghan Murphy is an ineffectual Minister playing with fantasy house figures

Ireland has the most stringent rules on treaty approval in some ways and some of the weakest in others. Ireland must rethink how it approves EU treaties

EU is certain to amend its treaties again and Brexit may be ideal moment to do so

Leader of the Labour Party Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES What Labour’s red lines for coalition should be

‘Let’s stop the posturing, learn from our mistakes and deliver some real benefits for our people’

The Irish Hockey following their reception at City Hall. The fabulous women who mesmerised us all on both sides of the Border are from Coleraine and Cork, from Belfast and Dublin, from Derry and Larne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne Fintan O’Toole: Ireland, land of a 32-county hockey team and a 26-county rail system

There are very real ways in which there is no such singular place as Ireland

A major economic issue for Ireland:   the “Pope’s Children” – those born around the time of the first pope’s visit – are the most single Irish generation ever. Photograph: Getty Images David McWilliams: The rise of the singleton has transformed Ireland

The reason for one of the biggest societal changes since the last pope’s visit has gone largely undocumented

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has more in common with the hardline Free Presbyterians that Ian Paisley founded than its own far more relaxed, progressive mother church in Scotland. Why is Presbyterian Church in Ireland marching into the dark?

Presbyterians are dominated by male conservatives hung up on homosexuality

Bishop of Stockholm Anders Arborelius, Sweden’s first cardinal, says young people in the country are open and curious about Catholicism. Breda O’Brien: Maybe Ireland is not secular enough yet

Dazed and bewildered Irish Catholics should look to France and Sweden

Nollaig and Vera: Like many young couples they would have watched the ‘Late Late Show’ on Saturday nights on their first television as the parameters of what could be discussed broadened. Homage to my parents on their 50th wedding anniversary

Diarmaid Ferriter: For all the changes in Ireland the continuities are also striking

The Pfizer plant in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork: In the past, big regional multinational closures have  dealt heavy blows. However, foreign direct investment is  a huge part of a region’s development.  Photograph:  Michael Mac Sweeney/ Provision Dublin’s housing crisis brings silver lining for the regions

Soaring rental costs in the capital leading more tech firms to locate outside Dublin

Mabella Market in Freetown, Sierra Leone: Many Sierra Leoneans put themselves at great risk – and often paid with their lives – to treat the sick, clean hospital wards, bury the dead and mobilise a public response. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons Ruadhán Mac Cormaic: How we failed Sierra Leone in Ebola crisis

‘Getting to Zero’ starkly reveals local valour in face of West’s superficial aid

Even those in the Independent Alliance acknowledge Shane Ross is politically toxic outside of his own Dublin Rathdown bailiwick.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins Shane Ross must accept he cannot be both insider and outsider

In this uncomfortable tug of war between old and new Ross, it’s difficult to see who benefits

In 2016, only 12% of 25-29-year-olds in Ireland owned their house. State needs to help young workers to access housing

Situation will remain bleak for homebuyers unless action is taken by the Government

Stepaside Garda station. Reopening it may be a small price to pay in order to safeguard our democracy. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien Shane Ross is helping to fight against fascism

John McManus: Minister and Independents are a bulwark against strong-man politics

Minister for Health Simon Harris at the publication of the Sláintecare implementation strategy: the plan will involve a significant cultural change in healthcare delivery in Ireland. Photograph: Aoife Moore/PA  Do not hold your breath for Sláintecare

Delays encountered in setting up hospital groups in 2013 show how difficult change will be

The response of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris to the eruption of the CervicalCheck controversy has been coloured by Michael Noonan’s fate during the Hepatitis C scandal.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne Attacks on cancer-screening programme threaten the lives of thousands of women

Opportunistic politicians, the media and medical negligence solicitors putting scheme at risk

A Plymouth Brethren chapel and congregation. A sort of urban Amish, they eschewed television, radio and cinema, in addition to observing the more familiar Old Testament strictures against drinking, dancing and licentiousness. Newton Emerson: I can imagine being in a united Ireland but not of it

With an end to the union, every unionist would have to redefine what their identity means

The #MeToo movement might have brought the scale of rape and sexual violence to “society’s” attention, but most women were unsurprised. Photograph: Getty Images ‘Honest belief’ defence should no longer be allowed in rape cases

Reform of rape legislation needed to change outdated law

A Cotswolds village nestling in an idyllic land of well-run medieval inns and converted mills. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images Kathy Sheridan: Welcome to this little England, this sedated isle

A courteous, predictable and genteel version of England exists in the dreams of many who voted for Brexit

 Coombe hospital: the bishops have no say in any maternity hospital in the State. None are run by the church. Photograph: Barry Cronin Church ethics permeate private not public hospitals

Controversy about ethical codes overstates church influence in healthcare

Abuses of vulnerable people are more likely to occur out of public sight, and institutions are not immune to ill-treatment of people in their care. Photograph: Getty Images Ireland has not ratified a protocol to prevent torture in places of detention

Ratification would signal to the world that we are serious about protecting the most vulnerable from ill-treatment

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.  “Now that the boom keeps getting boomier and the property market is in full-on freak-out mode, it is time for our political leaders, as the great man famously put it, to ‘start throwing white elephants and red herrings at each other’.” File photograph:  David Sleator/The Irish Times Fintan O'Toole: Bertie is back and Ross is in The Thick of It

‘Granny grant’ a symptom of political culture that refuses to build decent public services

Protesters with green handkerchiefs, emblem of the fight for the legalisation of abortion in Argentina, seek the separation of church and the state, in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Maria Paulina Rodriguez Argentina’s abortion debate mirrors Ireland in every respect bar one

Unable to travel from Argentina for an abortion, 3,000 women have died since 1983

Pope Francis waves to a crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square  in the Vatican. File photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images Pope must admit Vatican disregard for abused on Irish visit

Saying sorry it happened, sorry you were hurt, does not cut it any more

It is nonsensical that the temporary accommodation needs of visiting tourists are being prioritised over the long-term needs of others in the city. Photograph: Cyril Byrne Una Mullally: Dublin will fail unless housing crisis is tackled

The council is prioritising developments for visitors to capital, not its inhabitants

Loyalist protesters demonstrating against restrictions on flying Britain’s union flag from Belfast City Hall in central Belfast in January 2013. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton Unionists didn’t know how good they had it before Brexit

North’s culture war blinded unionism to truth: the union was secure

Staff trying to remove debris of a seaside house after it was destroyed by high waves on Yugawara Beach, Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo,  on July  29th, as Typhoon Jongdari made landfall in central Japan. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA Maybe this is the summer we all start to believe in global warming

About two-thirds of the 190 major weather events since 2004 were found to have been exacerbated by human-induced climate change

What we’ve ended up with after 16 years is a tendering process in which there is just a single bidder which has no experience at all of building this kind of infrastructure. Photograph: Karl Hussey/Fennell Photography Fintan O'Toole: The big hold up for rural broadband is ideology

Using the 1950s State electricity model would be a sin against the new orthodoxy

Skyline of Johannesburg with Ellis park stadium, Gauteng Province, South Africa. Africa Rising: US may be a powerful country, but it is on the decline

Four of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world in 2017 were in Africa

Sophie Toscan du Plantier: Gsoc report does little to establish where the full truth lies in the contested allegations. Gsoc has failed and is not fit for purpose

O’Farrell and Toscan du Plantier inquiries prove Gsoc cannot deliver accountability

Éamon de Valera: in 1966 the then minister for education Donogh O’Malley said it was ‘impossible to conceive of anybody voting against de Valera except those who want to witness another attempt at a fascist dictatorship’. Photograph:  Colman Doyle Diarmaid Ferriter: An election will be good for the integrity of the presidency

Michael D Higgins has to do something without precedent; separate the office from the candidate as a sitting president

Grandparents are a vital cog without which many families could not function or would really struggle. Cliff Taylor: Ross’s grandparent payment is bonkers

Independent Alliance idea must be killed off before time is wasted looking at it

Pope Francis reaches to hug prominent US archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick back in 2015:  McCarrick has resigned following allegations of sexual abuse. Photograph: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post Breda O’Brien: Church must embrace accountability on sex abuse

Church and aid bodies wield corruptible power over vulnerable adults and youth

US president Donald Trump is surrounded by people who, like him, have bought deeply into Islamophobic ideology and propaganda. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster World View: Islamophobia is a clear and present danger

Paul Gillespie: Linking Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is commonplace in analysis

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: he retains a touch for the public mood but sometimes acts rashly.  Photograph: Tom Honan Varadkar has shown he can do the job but he has not transformed the Government

Mary Lou McDonald and Micheál Martin have squandered some hard-won political capital

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 Noel Whelan: Anglo-Irish relations hit a new low

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

Progress is like pulling teeth and with some evidence of a latent desire to keep rotting teeth in place. The recent decision by UCD to flatly reject a ruling of the Workplace Relations Commission on age discrimination against a female academic of long-standing is an example. Photograph: Alan Betson Gender equality in third level remains a distant hope

Latest figures show some improvement but discrimination deeply rooted

With all due respect to David Kitt’s elegy about the “sadness of so many creative/artistic/bright people being forced to leave the city”, the people being hit hardest by the city’s housing crisis are not members of the “creative community” but the poorest people with the fewest options. Photograph:  Brenda Fitzsimons Winner-takes-all urbanism brought Dublin a housing crisis

Dublin needs affordable housing and an increase in the minimum wage – not another poetry pop-up space

President Michael D Higgins acknowledges the crowd at Croke Park last weekend. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho Higgins’s campaign will be a careful balancing act

Stephen Collins: President must balance decorum of office against campaigning

Arlene Foster has been dragged to a GAA match but that is hardly a talks issue. She  continues to blame the Stormont deadlock entirely on republicans. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho Newton Emerson: Stormont waiting for the DUP to change

The party has had six months to lay the groundwork for a second attempt to revive the assembly yet nothing is evident

Angela Merkel and  Donald Trump at a Nato  summit  in Brussels on  July 11th.  Many are asking why has Germany become the president’s public enemy number one? Photograph: Bloomberg Derek Scally: What if Trump is right about Germany?

The US has not invented new problems but has pointed out inconsistencies in Germany’s trade, foreign and defence policies

Out of the single market and customs union, every British lorry will have to be checked at French ports for tariffs and standards, bringing cross-Channel traffic to a standstill. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) A no-deal Brexit will not happen. Here’s why

Even MPs who would not save the country might opt to save themselves

 Peter Robinson  is saying to unionists don’t fail to make preparations because of the mistaken assumption that a particular outcome – in this case a Border poll – won’t happen.  Photograph: North West Newspix Peter Robinson right to warn of unionism sleepwalking toward Irish unity

Refusing to acknowledge Border poll threat plays into Sinn Féin’s hands

 Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. “This outcome is a vindication for Amnesty but the case and its outcome provide a clear indication that certain provisions of the Electoral Act are deeply flawed, and raise serious concerns about how the law is applied to civil society by the statutory regulator.” File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times Outcome on Amnesty case highlights flaws in Electoral Act

Law being used to shut down organisations holding politics to account

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