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

Has it been necessary for the Taoiseach to leave huge swathes of the unionist population convinced Dublin is on manoeuvres for Irish unity? Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Taoiseach’s use of the threat of Border violence post-Brexit is not beyond reproach

 DUP leader Arlene Foster: The ultimate response would be restoring Stormont over the DUP’s head – and deliciously, the firmest way to do that has been a long-term DUP demand. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Restarting Stormont without them would put squeeze on DUP

Could Northern Ireland become Ireland’s Gibraltar for EU citizenship purposes? Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Nationalists and possibly unionists will have to find a niche somewhere between resident and emigrant

DUP leader Arlene Foster: The absurd over-reaction to her remarks, made off-the-cuff in response to a reporter’s question, indicates the extent of nationalist paranoia that the DUP is leading the British government by the nose

The DUP knows the limits of its influence are about to be exposed as deadline nears

UK prime minister Theresa May: selling a sea border looks hopeless now, inseparable from “dividing our country in two”, to quote Ms May after the disastrous Salzburg summit. Photograph: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

Unionists see even mildest version of sea border as constitutional slippery slope

In 2011,  Northern Ireland’s public transport operator introduced English/Irish bilingual destination signs on buses serving west Belfast, along with timetables and other information.

Approach taken by Belfast’s new cross-city bus system could be sign of things to come

John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project speaking at a campaign event in Belfast as several major international companies operating in the North called for same-sex marriage to be introduced. Photograph: PA

Call for extension of same-sex marriage law from multinationals is unprecedented

Unionists are nervous about a Border poll – even one they would win – because the agreement says one can be held no more than every seven years. This has been interpreted by nationalists as meaning once a poll occurs, it must reoccur every seven years, creating an inexorable countdown to unity. Photograph: Getty Images

Newton Emerson: Inaccurate commercial opinion polls pose threat to stability

Jacob Rees-Mogg was widely rebuked for a 2016 clip of him proposing to ‘continue historic arrangements . . . just as we had during the Troubles to have people inspected’. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

In the Troubles, Unionists found checkpoints as reassuring as nationalists found them intimidating

 DUP Leader Arlene Foster has declined an invitation to meet the pope at Dublin Castle. She will not be sending a representative and has not explained why. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

DUP leader’s weak position has robbed her of a chance to reach out to nationalists

A counter protest by loyalists  at an anti-internment march in Belfast city centre, which passed off peacefully. Past conflict continues to feed present anger but could that alone restart conflict?  Photograph: Mark Marlow/PA

Newton Emerson: Outside observers believe Northern Ireland is on the brink

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.

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

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

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

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: An SDLP-Fianna Fáil merger has become like fusion power – a tiresomely familiar promise to solve all the world’s ills that never seems to get any closer. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil appears to have missed boat for any merger with SDLP in the North

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The symbolic all-Ireland posturing of SF’s 2011 campaign will heighten tensions in 2018

“Exercising single-market rights across the EU raises the question that will come to haunt Dublin: to what extent can Irish passport holders in Northern Ireland continue to be second-class Irish citizens?”

Preserving EU democratic rights will be toughest nut to crack in Brexit talks

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: positively and expansively infers the meeting can help London and Dublin work together to restore devolution. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Underused intergovernmental forum can help address Stormont’s deadlocked issues

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with  other leaders  at the British-Irish Council  meeting in Guernsey on June 22nd. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

EU interests are part of the Council’s remit and it is an ideal forum to discuss them

Stormont has had a 12-month crisis and talks cycle for four of the past five years. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Sinn Féin transforms from cynical wrecker of Stormont to genuine advocate of its return

The Medical Alliance for a No Vote campaigning at the Dáil in March. ‘Enabling conscientious objection to abortion for medical professionals is not considered controversial in Britain and Ireland – but it should be.’ File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Conscientious objection amounts to saying ‘We don’t serve your sort around here, love’

Pro-choice supporters wear robes inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale in Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The social policy border down the Irish Sea is understood to work in both directions

Pro-abortion protesters hold placards during a demonstration calling for abortion to be legalised in Northern Ireland, outside Belfast city hall in Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition to terminations was considered rare point of cross-community agreement in North

Border Force  staff check passports at Gatwick Airport. It is the law enforcement command within the Home Office responsible for the security of the UK border by enforcing immigration and customs controls on people and goods entering the UK. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty

Border Force has gradually been building a security check between Ireland and UK

Democratic Unionist Party MP Sammy Wilson: his comments are part of the DUP’s panic over Brexit. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty

Sammy Wilson’s attack on Coveney is a diversion from common travel area for goods

DUP leader Arlene Foster: “Allowing her Brexiteers off the leash might have seemed like a harmless way to occupy the bored and potentially restless.” Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Party publicly panicking as UK plan for EU customs partnership falls apart

Bertie Ahern: will his achievements be eclipsed by his shortcomings? Photograph: David Sleator

The former taoiseach resigned 10 years ago this weekend. We assess his legacy

DUP leader Arlene Foster with deputy leader Nigel Dodds: What if the DUP has decided the whole notion of cultural nationalists saving the union is nonsense? 	Photograph: David Young/PA

Is Arlene Foster seeking to keep NI as exclusively British for as long as she can?

Sinn Féin’s electoral politics: under the Belfast Agreement the party could win every seat in the Dáil and still not circumvent the unionist veto. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Unionists looking at Dublin do not just want republicans kept out of power

If Stormont cannot get its act together, the British and Irish governments should consider discussing arrangements regardless.  Photograph:  Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A sustainable administration must look to east-west and north-south partnerships

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair at Queen’s University on Tuesday, “signalling they were not there to cry over the agreement’s corpse”. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Belfast Agreement anniversary celebration a useful reminder of bigger picture

In her Easter oration, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald “delivered boilerplate full of the usual platitudes on welcoming unionists into a united Ireland”. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Plea to ‘think the unthinkable’ but no original thoughts so far

 Jim Allister: he has been trying to raise the alarm about some “small print” in  the EU-UK draft Withdrawal Agreement

Text contains provision to add six areas of North-South co-operation to 12 in Belfast Agreement

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: Everything in his Dáil statement during leader’s questions was a perfectly reasonable and scrupulously correct, apart from the reference to a budget, which was an extraordinary mistake. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tánaiste overstated role it gives Dublin in affairs of the North, with predictable consequences

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

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

Arlene Foster: in her persistence in her denial of a deal with Sinn Féin she has all the gravitas of an angry rabbit in the headlights

DUP leader’s strangulated denials of the deal that never was have descended into farce

DUP leader Arlene Foster: DUP has focused on technical aspects of the Border, missing the point the EU’s tactics have relegated this topic to mere quibbling. Photograph:  Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Newton Emerson: Party looks impotent on its constituents’ defining concern

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  addresses the media with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney  after the collapse of the latest Northern talks. A  pointed comparison must be made between their approach and that of Bertie Ahern. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

Former leaders Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair showed how co-operation should work

DUP leader Arlene Foster with deputy leader Nigel Dodds: Republicans who imagine Ms Foster pitted against Mr Dodds are like unionists who hoped for rows between Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Newton Emerson: Talk of DUP Stormont and Westminster divide is too simplistic

 DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at Stormont earlier this month.  This week the party held its first official meeting with campaigners for same-sex marriage. It praised the meeting as “useful”  but it did not alter its opposition one iota.  File photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

‘Backward’ Republic of Ireland becoming more progressive than conservative North

Belfast’s Westlink dual carriageway. “A motorway between Belfast and Derry might have a weak financial case but as a way to knit Northern Ireland together it would have been unsurpassed.”

Unionists missed chance for positive change with Belfast-Derry motorway

 DUP leader Arlene Foster: her  tone matters because nationalists have taken an allergic dislike to her. That may be unfair but it is a fact, on which the future of devolution depends. Photograph: PA

Power seeping away from a DUP leader who seems incapable of rapprochement

Karen Bradley, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is, like her predecessor James Brokenshire, one of prime minister Theresa May’s home office proteges.  Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

New Secretary of State could push for talks chaired by UK and Irish governments

Tánaiste  Simon Coveney: has been clear that London and Dublin cannot enforce workable reforms over the DUP and Sinn Féin’s head. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Powersharing rules must ensure a party walkout does not bring down Stormont

The British and Irish governments are presenting Stormont talks and BIIGC meetings as competing rather than complementary approaches. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Unless London and Dublin can work together, there’s little hope of DUP-Sinn Féin deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney. “Dublin’s summit plan is a unilateral demand, in breach of protocol and precedent.” Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Government could kill Stormont by twisting Belfast Agreement to suit its Brexit needs

 Sinn Féin  welcomed publication of a  letter  signed by 200 northern nationalists that cited a  “sense of abandonment” over Brexit, the Stormont impasse, and the  DUP-Tory Westminster deal. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Open letter signed by 200 northern nationalists suggests party has lost the initiative

The DUP is defending its shrinking laager with increasing stridency. It moves forward with little victories, yet is turning a ratchet against the very future of the union with every disregard it shows to its Irish constituents. Photograph: Pacemaker

Party that is all tactics and no strategy has ultimately put the union at risk

Border Communities against Brexit sign on the outskirts of Newry. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Risk of civil disobedience could make the Border problem quietly disappear

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams at the party’s ardfheis in Dublin last weekend. Shortly after the attack in 1983, Adams said Charlie Armstrong was a “perfectly legitimate” target.  Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Sinn Féin leader bought peace by setting stage for next conflict

‘Northern Ireland could not mirror Hong Kong and become a link between the EU and the UK.’ Photograph: Getty Images

It is laughable to suggest Northern Ireland can function like Hong Kong after UK’s exit

Sinn Féin’s president Gerry Adams and leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill: party has bent the old Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil order out of shape, creating a grand coalition against it. Photograph: Peter Morrisson/Reuters

As most popular party among under-35s in Republic, SF is also main opposition

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