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

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy at Stormont. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Sinn Féin and DUP supporters would have no option but to accept a new accord

Catalan protesters: Sinn Féin is pointing to Spain and unwittingly reminding everyone of how passive the UK is towards its constituent parts.  Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Making comparisons with Spanish situation only serves to show how accommodating UK is

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster: Existing arguments over a Border poll are due to ambiguity in the agreement, so adding further doubt only makes matters worse. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Unpicking Belfast Agreement’s mechanism for referendum risks causing more uncertainty

A mock customs post set up by anti-Brexit campaigners at Ravensdale, Co Louth. The tale of the Border dog is an anti-Brexit version of “Yes Minister’s” “Eurosausage” – an EU scare story made up or exaggerated to cause popular outrage. Photograph: PA

Leo Varadkar playing dangerous game by saying Ireland has no Plan B for Border

Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

All vetoes do is let both sides block each other, frustrating any possible consensus

Britain’s  opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges  applause  after a speech on the final day of the Labour  conference in Brighton, September 27th, 2017. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Newton Emerson: Corbyn's rise means the UK may have to relearn some harsh lessons

Arlene Foster: Ulster Scots is not a prize to compare with Irish. It is a load of nonsense and everyone knows it. Photograph: Eric Luke Staff

Newton Emerson: Stalemate and wasted energy may delay powersharing until spring

Demonstrators celebrate the Catalan national day in Barcelona on Monday. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

SF is backing Catalonia’s separatists while trying to force unionists into a united Ireland

Minister for Foreign Affairs  Simon Coveney with  Northern  Secretary James Brokenshire at Iveagh House in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Row over Simon Coveney statement shows the fine line both governments tread

Ian Paisley: he told Bertie Ahern he was a proud Ulsterman and a proud Irishman in that order, adding he did not need the English telling him what to do. Photograph: Getty Images

An independent North is not possible, but that the idea persists is revealing

Sinn Féin’s leader in the North Michelle O’Neill. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Northern unionists are ready to do a deal, but SF is engaged in a dangerous self-indulgence

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe at the unveiling of the Public Services Card last year. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

UK-Irish identification likely alternative to policing already overwhelmed borders

A car on fire in the North Queen Street area of Belfast, close to the site of a contentious bonfire. A refusal to tackle dangerous loyalist bonfires has undermined faith in the rule of law. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PSNI longer offers itself up as target for rioters but must clarify its strategy

‘After a year of exploring technological Border solutions, the Government has suddenly lost faith in this approach.’ Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

There is a significant risk that paramilitary funding will evade new customs measures

Sinn Féin national chair Declan Kearney pitched his proposal in the North’s main unionist newspaper. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Newton Emerson: Sinn Féin chairman’s call for Bill in ‘Belfast Telegraph’ worth considering

Simon Coveney  is entitled to express frustration with the UK’s appalling ill-preparedness for Brexit. Once again the real problem with his remarks was their futile, ill-timed stirring of the pot

Minister blundering in with doom-laden pronouncements on Brexit was unhelpful

DUP leader Arlene Foster. The DUP routes all candidate donations via the party, as does Sinn Féin. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Results from any further transparency likely to disappoint conspiracy theorists

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Stormont stand-off is based on a misrepresentation of the party’s position

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. “There is an extent to which Adams is always still voiced by an actor.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Lurid headlines in London about DUP-Tory deal contrast with realism in North

London visit: Theresa May looked at Leo Varadkar like he was the star of her own personal rom-com. Photograph:  Philip Toscano/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Opinion: Belfast Agreement requires the British government to act with impartiality

 Arlene Foster and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, arrive at 10 Downing Street for talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Unionist violence will no longer be compartmentalised following a DUP-Tory deal

Protesters  march against the Conservative  alliance with the DUP over the weekend. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The deal would have implications for Brexit, Stormont and Northern Irish society

 Leo Varadkar: he has gone through the motions of advocating a united Ireland, yet says Sinn Féin is “the greatest threat to our democracy” and restoring devolution to Stormont is his immediate priority.  Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Leo Varadkar’s centre-right economic views essential to securing a united Ireland

Rathfriland, Co Down: in a unionist town, nobody is particularly welcome.

Simply beating Sinn Féin may expose lack of policy to expand unionist appeal

 UK Labour Party  leader: Anti-imperialist, anti-racist analysis is the bedrock of the British far-left’s worldview. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

Notion of NI as former British colony was laid to rest with the Belfast Agreement

Hong Kong: the city  is rated one of the least corrupt places on earth, with a lower risk of commercial bribery than Norway. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency serves as a model for Minister’s campaign centrepiece

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. ‘Sinn Féin is so focused on getting into office in Dublin that the party may even retire its leader at Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s behest.’ Photograph: Stephen Hamilton/Press Eye

Sinn Féin’s desire to enter a coalition in the South gives FF and FG leverage over the party

The Irish flag flies atop the GPO in Dublin to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

EU stance erases the question of whether Irish unity would mean an entirely new state

 The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Since the late 1990s there have been five official reports  in the North that have advised cutting the number of acute hospitals from 15 to four

Nuns and DUP ministers may be the last people on the island who concur with each other

British prime minister Theresa May. Photograph: Getty Images

Theresa May’s move may throw a spanner into talks on forming a devolved government

Belfast, 1989: “High unemployment was hardly unique to Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s but it combined with the Troubles to create a grim sense of inevitability – it felt like there would always be few jobs and even fewer prospects.” File photograph: Getty Images

British government wants to use Brexit to substitute migrant workers with the unemployed

 Brexit has raised new questions and the collapse of Stormont  means no answers. Photograph: Getty Images

‘If there were fewer powers and fewer people wielding them, would there be less arguing?’

Unlike  Martin McGuinness, the vast bulk of the population got through the Troubles by simply ignoring them. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Extent to which most got through Northern conflict by ignoring it is bizarre to recall

If the majority evaporates, the Border becomes unsustainable. Nationalists will want it gone and unionists will see no point to it. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Challenge would be how to treat demands of British minority once motion passed

Sinn Féin leader  Gerry Adams: what a transformation has already occurred in his personal fortunes. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Unionism has provoked nationalism into a thrilling tribal slap-down

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said joint authority  was “the only acceptable position for the nationalist community if, post-election, an Executive cannot be formed”.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

This codology is powerful enough delusion to undermine support for Stormont

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams speaks to media outside the Sinn Fein offices on Falls Road in Belfast on Friday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Arlene Foster’s success at raising the republican vote has changed the landscape

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill with Gerry Adams. The DUP likes to portray Adams as a bogeyman pulling O’Neill’s strings – an electoral scare-tactic that works because it is obviously true. Photograph: Getty Images

How will Sinn Féin keep ‘disrespect’ row alive with no Executive to be disrespected in?

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Arlene Foster: Both women have had strikingly similar executive careers, marked by unusually long and mediocre tenures in a single, safe department. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Sinn Féin’s demand that Arlene Foster leave compels DUP to consider ‘dual leadership’

 Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt. Photograph: Alan Betson

UUP’s eccentric leadership no match for cynical rule changes given to SF and DUP

Generational change: Sinn Féin’s    Michelle O’Neill and   Gerry Adams. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Stormont’s veto system has worked so far, but the next generation will expect more

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Northern leader Michelle O’Neill were impressively vague this week about Sinn Féin’s campaign for EU special status. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Pragmatism from party is connected to its prospects south of the Border

Sinn Féin’s new Northern leader Michelle O’Neill with the party’s president Gerry Adams: Last Saturday, Mr Adams told a Sinn Féin conference that Brexit is a “hostile action” that would “destroy the Good Friday Agreement”. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Taking North out of EU does not breach Belfast Agreement and it is highly irresponsible to claim otherwise

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