First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the daily media broadcast at Stormont. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Voter behaviour is forcing two big parties to get their act together against the virus

Boris Johnson claims the European Commission has threatened a ‘food blockade’ of Northern Ireland, which is clearly incorrect in the sense of physically preventing goods arriving from Britain. Photograph:  Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images

Both the EU and UK are cynically using Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip

First Minister Arlene Foster: The North could be largely locked out of the UK’s new industrial policy and find logic points  to co-ordination with the Republic.  Photograph:  William Cherry/Presseye

Boris Johnson’s government will always choose its vision of Brexit over North’s place in union

“The real objection to the interconnector is aesthetic, often from people whose house in the countryside has interrupted the view already.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Media pandering to tinfoil hat nonsense delaying new North-South interconnector

Phil Hogan: it would be a mistake to think unionists or the UK government were enjoying his troubles and now his departure. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

EU trade commissioner had shown he was able to see the issue on an Irish and British scale

(L to R) Kylie McComb, Kathleen Malone, and Ruben Hughes protest  in Belfast over grading  by algorithm on Monday. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Ditching exams at 16 could let Northern Ireland transform its faltering school system

Queen’s University Belfast: Northern Ireland students need three As at A-level to do law at Queen’s University Belfast, while applicants from Britain need only three Bs.

A policy designed to help young people get into university has had the opposite effect

John Hume entered politics in the 1960s with the intention of building a nationalist parliamentary opposition, reforming Stormont from the inside along Westminster lines – something unionists today would welcome unreservedly. Videograb: PA

The North-South Ministerial Council is where he hoped the future would be built

schools

Middle-classes guard ‘their’ grammar schools, but a third of children leave school with few or no qualifications

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald arrives at Dublin’s Convention Centre for a Dáil session. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

It is in everyone’s interests to clean up the ‘republican movement’

Orangeman Randy Davidson celebrating the Twelfth at home, where he is isolating. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Organisation does not organise bonfires, put up flags or run flute bands but has struggled to disassociate itself from these pract(...)

The warming relationship between DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and her Sinn Féin opposite number Michelle O’Neill is back to frosty formality. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/PA

North’s parties are tired of constantly second-guessing shadowy forces behind Sinn Féin

It is unfortunate that a role was never found for Ian Marshall at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Bloomberg

Government’s omission is merely an understandable outworking of politics

Having two cities in separate jurisdictions creates problems and opportunities for business. Photograph: iStock

Forget well-meaning waffle, could the North and South administrations work together?

Clare Bailey, leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, with her southern counterpart, Eamon Ryan, centre, and Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy, left. Photograph: Tom Honan.

Their support will be crucial in getting the deal over the line with party members

The statue of Edward Carson outside Stormont. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

None of the city’s handful of landmark statues is now thought worth fighting over

In practice, almost every grocery item arriving into Northern Ireland from Britain is in the care of a handful of high-street names and is routed through one of just half a dozen warehouses.

Hard line on checks at odds with EU commitment to peace process

Riot police take part in a crowd dispersal operation in Hong Kong on Wednesday.  Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Assertive diplomacy with China would be more use than talk of extending nationality

Jeffrey Donaldson: as recently as last November he said Johnson’s deal would 'destabilise Northern Ireland'. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty

The unionist party has performed a reverse ferret worthy of Boris Johnson himself

First Minister Arlene Foster (R) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont on May 7th. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

SF-DUP truce at Stormont will come under pressure as pandemic measures are eased

Green Party leader  Eamon Ryan outside  Leinster House, with Stephen Matthews TD, Senator  Pauline  O’Reilly and Senator Pippa Hackett. If the party joins  a new Irish government their duality will come under scrutiny from within and without, North and South. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Newton Emerson: Greens make up significant part of new unaligned bloc in North

Brussels must share some of the blame for letting the dispute arise and get out of hand. Photograph:  John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Row over facility to help police sea border splits along green and orange lines

The draft framework deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael  mostly repeats Irish government commitments in the Belfast Agreement and more recent deals to re-establish Stormont. Photograph: iStock

FF-FG ambivalence makes prospect of meaningful regional autonomy possible

A policewoman speaks to sunbathers in Greenwich Park in London. No model foresaw that England’s 39 police forces would corrode authority with inconsistent enforcement. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Lifting lockdowns will be contentious. What role should behavioural science play?

The M1 motorway Border area between Dundalk and Newry. The New Decade, New Approach deal promised  £75m over three years from the Republic for a cross-Border dual carriageway. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Stormont parties may soon want Dublin to put a bit more of its money where its mouth is

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at a media briefing on Covid-19 at Stormont. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Different approaches to testing North and Republic will cause political tension

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at the Stormont daily press update to the Covid-19 crisis on Monday. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye/PA

There is unprecedented public appetite for leadership of First and Deputy First Minister

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photograph: Alan Lewis/Photopress

Coronavirus: It makes you wonder how bad things could get if everyone really fell out

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster cancelled her trip to the United States for St Patrick’s Day, as did Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

New-found politeness in politics could be RHI report’s main achievement

Sinn Féin  president Mary Lou McDonald. ‘The party will settle on its own term for the State, or qualify its use of the official term, then wait for inflation to catch up with  everyone else.’  Photograph: Tom Honan

Twenty years of governing without saying Northern Ireland shows party is not about to change

Some are asking why Garda Commissioner Drew Harris confirmed the 2015 report when asked by a journalist, instead of saying ‘no comment’. His northern counterpart tried that and only made matters worse. File photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Report saying army council has influence over Sinn Féin came about as way to prevent collapse of Stormont

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald addressing a party meeting in Belfast. Photograph: Sinn Féin/PA Wire

The Republic has perhaps one more electoral cycle to normalise Mary Lou McDonald’s party

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said an Irish government must ‘plan for constitutional change’. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Unification is still why everyone in Mary Lou McDonald’s party gets up in the morning

 Sinn Féin supporters celebrating after the   elections in Dublin.  It is easy to see a narrative taking hold in the Republic where rather than Sinn Féin being rewarded for moving away from violence, rivals and critics are seen to be punished for daring to mention it. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Newton Emerson: Party’s new southern supporters unaware of what they have let over the threshold

Sinn Féin’s relationship with the IRA raises serious questions North and South, one of which is whether Provisional IRA membership should still be an offence. Legalisation might help sort out the political from the criminal, which will take on a new urgency if Sinn Féin is included in a sovereign government. Photograph: Alan Lewis/Photopress

The party's record in power in the North is characterised by caution

DUP leader Arlene Foster. ‘Rather than unionism losing a constitutional argument and fading away, the DUP might foresee itself as leading a permanent ethnic minority bloc.’ Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Ulster Scots win in Stormont deal could be considered preparation for defeat

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald: Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour are campaigning on the insistence they will not share power with a party that takes orders from the IRA. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

SF has no incentive to take hard decisions until it is in power both sides of Border

UK  prime minister Boris Johnson and secretary of state for Northern Ireland Julian Smith  are greeted by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill  at Stormont on Monday. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Opposing parties can find common cause if they can get past cargo-cult mentality

Men of the Royal Irish Constabulary under inspection in Derry city in 1913. The RIC existed across the whole of pre-partition Ireland, which makes it part of what some call ‘shared history’. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

Attempts to respect a shared history, while well intentioned, can be aggressive

Arlene Foster. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Leadership changes could loom for both parties as centrist trajectories appear not to be working

 A Unison union member dressed as Santa protests at the state of the Northern Ireland health service, amid talk between political leaders at Stormont. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Sinn Féin and the DUP are ending their grandstanding in a new political era

Nigel Dodds   lost his Belfast North seat to Sinn Féin’s John Finucan. Photograph: PA

The Democrat Unionist Party lost one-sixth of its voters and Sinn Féin almost a quarter

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photograph: Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry/PA Wire

SDLP MPs could conceivably be asked to help Labour into Downing Street

No prizes for guessing what the DUP and Sinn Féin will ask for in return for a devolution deal. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

DUP and Sinn Féin seem to have inability to take tough devolved spending decisions

Hands Across the Divide sculpture in Derry: the involvement of unionists in a unity debate, while desirable, cannot be a precondition. Photograph: Getty

Reconciliation is plainly envisaged in the Belfast Agreement as preceding unity

A Stormont deal by Easter is entering the realms of plausibility, yet for that very reason there will be carte blanche to extend the deadline again. Photograph:  Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Postponing Stormont elections has proved counter productive in fixing the impasse

From the beginning to the end of holding the balance of power at Westminster, Arlene Foster’s party kept its channels and options open with Jeremy Corbyn’s party. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP

Setting its face against a Corbyn government feels like one more corner the DUP is backing itself into

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, centre,  flanked by candidate John Finucane and party vice president Michelle O’Neill in Belfast on Monday. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

Emerging three-party system must be set against uncompromising acts of aggression

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds is the party’s Westminster leader, its driving force on Brexit and the defender of Arlene Foster’s leadership. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

DUP faces election threat as it is blamed for bringing disaster on union and devolution

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: he said he wanted an end to the Northern Assembly’s designation system where members must declare themselves ‘unionist’, ‘nationalist’ or ‘other’

Focus should be less on changing rules and more on driving new dynamics between parties

The DUP has a culture where decisions are decreed from the top with no serious consultation inside the party, let alone beyond it. Photograph: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

The party has laid no groundwork to brace its voters for inevitable compromise

DUP leader Arlene Foster has been christened “two borders Foster” by the Ulster Unionist Party. How much longer will her authority last?  Photograph: David Young/PA

Target of unionist veto over regulatory alignment would never go undetected

Robin Swann returned to the broad-church approach but suddenly this has run out of time. Photograph: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

Allowing the DUP to claim to speak for every unionist has led to disaster

British prime minister Boris Johnson arrives at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

MPs return to parliament 2½ weeks earlier than planned but nothing else has changed

Nobody has ever proposed that Stormont has a veto over anything – British government proposals admit its role would ultimately be consultative. Photograph: Eric Luke

EU concedes backstop needs democratic oversight and Stormont is no threat

‘People often look at the mess the DUP has made of Brexit and ask why the party did not see it coming, but it is much worse than that: the DUP saw it all coming and made a mess of it anyway.’

The party is marginalised at Westminster and its rivals in Northern Ireland are circling

US vice-president Mike Pence with Taoiseach  Leo Varadkar  after their talks at Famleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. For Pence to mention Boris Johnson and sincerity in the same sentence, on Tuesday of all days, was beyond parody. Photograph:  Paul Faith/Getty Images

Newton Emerson: Taoiseach's comments imply he is not really open to considering alternatives

Anti-Brexit protester in a Boris Johnson, mask pretends to dig a grave outside Downing Street: A backstop referendum is considered unwise in official circles because it would turn into a proxy Border poll. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A backstop referendum is considered unwise in official circles because it would turn into a proxy Border poll

A police road block close to the scene where an explosive device was detonated in  Co Fermanagh on Monday. Photograph: PA Wire

How frequently does violence have to occur before the Troubles have restarted?

DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s leader in the House of Commons, Nigel Dodds, on Downing Street. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty

It must be presumed the DUP will lose its kingmaker role at Westminster

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald during Féile an Phobail’s leaders’ debate, at St Mary’s University College, Belfast.  Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Will nationalists accept Varadkar’s argument that unification requires constitutional change?

At the MacGill summer school, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said moderate unionists would look at rising British nationalism and consider a united Ireland. Photograph: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

Enough on the table for common position on departure without anyone losing face

If a language Act is imposed by Westminster, as seems increasingly possible, would that not solve everything? Photograph: Getty Images

It is only seven months since Northern Ireland last had a more liberal abortion regime than the Republic

Stormont in Belfast: Northern Ireland is careening towards direct rule regardless of the wishes of the British or Irish governments. Photograph:  Paul Faith

Without Stormont, civil servants will be unable to manage complexities of Brexit

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photograph: Tom Honan

Abortion and same-sex marriage not do-or-die issues for unionist electorate

One pertinent effect of having a second chamber might be people remaining in Stormont after Sinn Féin or the DUP walk out. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Having another body such as proposed civic forum could increase sustainability of institutions

Collapse of Stormont means the North-South Ministerial Council has not met for three years. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Varadkar is pushing Brexit risk to Belfast Agreement way too far

An IRA mural in west Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Amateurish images combine tired grievances with trite sloganeering

 Boris Johnson: the DUP has had enough dealings with him  to know exactly how flaky and treacherous he is. Photograph: EPA/Andy Rain

Party’s real decision is where to position itself in relation to frontrunner’s Brexit strategy

Liam Cunningham in Game of Thrones which is filmed in the North. ‘For Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage remains unlawful, a rather obvious disaster is now waiting to happen.’ Photograph: HBO

Successful film industry at risk of being drawn into America’s social battlegrounds

Alliance leader Naomi Long says her European victory was in large part driven by a public wish to see devolution restored. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Party’s growth creates problems for restoration of an Assembly that cannot accommodate it

Keeping the Conservatives in power at the expense of the backstop is not something most other Stormont parties will be able to stomach, menacing what hopes there are of restoring devolution in the short to medium term. Boris Johnson in particular seems guaranteed to antagonise nationalists. Photograph: Reuters

Renewing pact with hard Brexit leader would see it blamed for ensuring chaos in North

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and David Lidington, the UK’s de facto deputy prime minister. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Common Travel Area agreement will take on a life of its own

Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Arlene Foster at the Conservative Party conference in late 2017. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Talks structure raises prospect that DUP and Sinn Féin red lines could be blurred

The DUP, led by Arlene Foster, have long stood by their beliefs by blocking same-sex marriage and abortion legislation in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Unionism must rediscover respect for individualism rather than forcing its beliefs on others

Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster shake hands at a rally for journalist Lyra McKee in Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Michelle O’Neill could yet find the perfect counterpart in Arlene Foster

Border Poll

Sinn Féin’s pursuit of united Ireland may backfire and further galvanise unionism

All the DUP has left to own is its mistake of backing Brexit in the first place. This is not something it can confess on the doorsteps as it campaigns for council elections on May 2nd and a likely European election on May 23rd. Photograph: Getty Images

Party has backed itself into a corner by refusing to own a softer version of Brexit

Assimilating new peoples through military service is one of the oldest tricks of statecraft. Full Nato membership, alongside UK allies, would create armed forces unionists might be interested in joining. Photograph: AP

Newton Emerson: Being in Nato would trump Commonwealth membership

“Northern Ireland has emerged to obstruct Brexit agendas across the political spectrum.” Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

British people still take the union seriously and feel bound to honour it

Nigel Dodds: he says he is “very, very confident” Stormont can be restored “in the short to medium term”. Photograph: Getty Images

Newton Emerson: Northern Ireland is being nudged towards a point of no return

‘The British government wants an amnesty for its former soldiers because pursuing them for Troubles-era crimes is politically unacceptable in Britain.’ Photograph: William L Rukeyser/Getty Images

Fears of a British-unionist plot on this matter misrepresent what is actually going on

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Mark Durkan. By selecting the former SDLP leader as a candidate, he has demonstrated an appreciation of nationalist frustration with politics in Belfast and London. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Choosing former SDLP leader for European election reflects view Brexit will not lead to united Ireland

Northern secretary Karen Bradley is currently consulting Stormont parties on imposing a budget from Westminster, the third since powersharing collapsed. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Northern Ireland is continuing to suffer as a result of its bizarre political limbo

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly commissioned a poll in which 500 people in the Republic were told Northern Ireland requires no subsidy and then asked if they would like to see a united Ireland, to which 73 per cent said yes.

Southerners can be as bad as the British when it comes to grasping North’s new reality

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson MP, continues to demand the backstop be scrapped, forcing the party to deny a split. Photograph: Getty Images

The DUP's Brexit hardball has gone flat

‘It is safe to assume the Border is already lined with hidden cameras.’

Avoiding a painful Brexit now depends on implementing technological solutions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar can use Ireland’s influence with assertiveness in the US. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Irish-American political clout may be a factor in any proposed US-UK trade deals

  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with  DUP leader  Arlene Foster. The DUP is now afraid the British government or the House of Commons will ditch the all-UK backstop, leaving the Northern Ireland one in place and deepening the potential sea border. That gives the DUP and Dublin a powerful shared interest in getting the withdrawal agreement through largely unaltered. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

DUP and Dublin have powerful shared interest in getting withdrawal agreement through

A guarantee against a hard Border has been demanded to ‘protect the Belfast Agreement in all its parts’, although no part of the agreement requires it.

Provision has poisoned relations and muddied understanding of Belfast Agreement

Peadar Tóibín has said that while his new party will be ‘100% pro-life’, it is discussing free votes on a range of abortion issues. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

An implausible bolt from the blue, former Sinn Féin TD seems to be finding own niche

The biogas scheme was mainly implemented under Sinn Féin ministers, but DUP ministers were also involved. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Looming over efforts to reboot Stormont is a scandal uncannily similar to RHI, but worse

Alfredo “Freddie” Scappaticci in 1987: Stakeknife was the code-name for a British army agent inside the IRA, identified as Scappaticci. Scappaticci denies the claims. Photograph: Pacemaker Press

High-profile trials may expose British security’s management of paramilitaries

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald called for a Border poll as part of the Government’s no-deal Brexit planning.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Mary Lou McDonald’s party is not acting as if historic goal of Irish unification is in sight

 A lorry passes a sign  near the Border. The backstop deal ensuring a frictionless border is jeopardising by a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

Varadkar and Coveney have sought credit for success but they are equally exposed to failure

Then home secretary John Reid and minister for justice Michael McDowell at Dún Laoghaire Ferry Terminal in 2007, where they inspected co-operation arrangements for immigration between Ireland and the UK under Common Travel Area. Photograph: Frank Miller

A Common Travel Area treaty may have to be negotiated. And that’s not the worst of it

DUP leader Arlene Foster. “There has been much comment on the DUP forsaking its image as the party of business but that was always an affectation with little evidence of voter appeal.” Photograph: Tom Honan

Electoral hit unlikely given North’s polarised politics

An estimated one-third of unionists voted Remain, almost all of whom are certain to still be unionists. Many will be open to a workable Brexit compromise. Photograph: Getty Images

Business community must make a case for the withdrawal agreement and backstop

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn: both their parties are implying they want to leave the EU in its entirety but might have to stay in the customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Photograph: John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images

The appeal of a UK-wide customs union with EU may only became apparent after Brexit

Sorcha McAnespy flanked by Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly. Photograph: Fianna Fáil/PA

Sorcha McAnespy episode was an attempt to set the tone of party’s northward expansion

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