Portrait of the Week: hate crimes, surprise knighthoods and flaming rickshaws

Home The Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into effect in Scotland, making it a crime to communicate or behave in a manner ‘that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening or abusive’, with the intention of stirring up hatred based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex. The Scottish government offered online training to 500 Police Scotland ‘Hate Crime Champions’. The author J.K. Rowling named ten people who call themselves women that she called men. Police Scotland said complaints had been received about her, but that but no action would be taken. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said: ‘We should not be criminalising

Is Sinn Fein really on the march?

In the visceral two horse race which is Northern Irish politics, it is the green horse which is out in front after last Thursday’s local council elections.  Sinn Fein, as at Stormont, is now the largest party across Northern Ireland’s local authorities. A lot has changed since the 1980s, when, during the IRA’s campaign of murder and mutilation across the Province, unionists would walk out of council meetings rather than sit with Sinn Fein councillors.  The stain of terrorism which will forever be part of Sinn Fein does not seem to be a deterrent to the nationalist electorate in Northern Ireland. Many will say that Sinn Fein is a political

The DUP has a right to be difficult over the Northern Ireland Protocol

It’s easy to take an unsympathetic view of the Democratic Unionist Party. For many, its politicians are caricatures of the dour Ulsterman come to life; flinty types with an antediluvian outlook. An unfortunate reminder – for a certain type of Englishman – of all that ‘Irish stuff’ they would rather not have to deal with.  The back and forth over the Northern Ireland Protocol has seen this sentiment ratcheted up. Jeffrey Donaldson’s standpoint – no return to devolution without his party’s tests being met – is engendering incredible frustration among government ministers and a press tired of having to surrender column inches to this intractable tale.  One-time Brexit hardman Steve

Sinn Fein’s victory doesn’t mean the end of the Union

No amount of extra counting later today can undo the seismic shift that has taken place in Northern Ireland’s politics. The first preference votes in Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly elections are in and Sinn Fein are the clear winners on 29 per cent. Sinn Fein – once the political appendage of a terrorist organisation that wrought 30 years of havoc and misery – is set to win the most seats in Stormont. It will then be able to nominate the first ever Republican First Minister. Before Unionists panic though, it’s worth examining the facts. On total votes cast, there will likely be a Unionist majority hidden by the byzantine calculus

When will the DUP realise the truth about the Tory Brexit strategy?

Are the Tories serious about getting rid of the troublesome Northern Ireland Protocol? The latest extension to the so-called grace period – the third in recent months – means that plans for post-Brexit checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland have been suspended again. But this isn’t the good news you might think it is for unionists in Northern Ireland. In the short term, of course, it avoids a repeat of ‘sausage wars’ and megaphone diplomacy around the Protocol’s Article 16 (which allows Britain or the EU to take unilateral action in certain circumstances). This can only be good news. Yet for nervous unionists there is a disturbing lack of security about what might happen when this grace

I’m calling my removal from office ‘the great betrayal’

I’ve always maintained I go to Fermanagh for sanity, and after the past few months, I need a return to sanity more than ever. Fermanagh is by far the least populated of Northern Ireland’s six counties and it’s beautiful. I grew up here in the countryside, playing in fields, and now live near Brookebrough in the east of the county. From the sanctuary of Fermanagh I think about the fact that the new DUP leader and his team will now have to negotiate with Sinn Fein to get the first minister nominated again. Once I resigned, it meant that the deputy first minister was also out: for both ministers to

Can Jeffrey Donaldson halt the DUP’s civil war?

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the Lagan Valley MP, has triumphed in the one-horse race to replace Edwin Poots as leader of the DUP, getting the top job at the second time of asking. Nobody else came forward to instigate a leadership election, meaning that his appointment will be rubber stamped when the party’s electoral college meets this Saturday. Respected at Westminster, Donaldson seems a more plausible fit for high office than the gauche Poots, though both men are remarkably similar; Donaldson, like Poots, is a committed Christian and is a prominent Orangeman. History is never far away from the politics of Northern Ireland. Donaldson’s win coincides with the centenary of the

Edwin Poots’s resignation could cause a crisis in Northern Ireland

The end of Edwin Poots’s 21-day spell as leader of the DUP sums up the ordeal of being a unionist leader. Elected as a hard-line replacement for Arlene Foster, he has departed now after being seen to have given too much away to Sinn Fein over the Irish language. Who will replace him? The early candidate appears to be Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the party’s Westminster leader who was defeated by Poots in last month’s contest. His supporters are championing him as a stabilising influence in a party which has ripped itself apart, with others suggesting that he should be elected without a contest. Poots’s election was a last roll of

How long will Edwin Poots’s DUP reign last?

New DUP leader Edwin Poots has wasted little time consigning the Arlene Foster era to history. Poots’ shake-up of his Stormont ministerial team has resulted in Foster’s loyalists being shown the door, in favour of what the Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister drily termed ‘Poots’ posts’. Poots’ appointment of Paul Givan, his fellow Lagan Valley MLA, as first minister of Northern Ireland, is perhaps his most controversial, though not unexpected, move. Givan, who like Poots is a creationist, is one of the more verbose figures in the DUP hinterland. During his previous spell as communities minister – at the height of the renewable heating crisis, which did for devolution

Why should Dr Christian Jessen’s fans pay his legal bill?

Wasn’t the whole point of crowdfunding supposed to be about enabling community and artistic projects to take place? That was how I remember it being sold to us, at any rate. But no, I got it wrong. It turns out that the real point of it is to help celebrities pay their legal bills.  Dr Christian Jessen, who appears on a Channel 4 show called Embarrassing Bodies, has been ordered by a Belfast court to pay £125,000 in libel damages to former Northern Irish first minister Arlene Foster for tweeting the false allegation that she was having an extra-marital affair. It is believed that legal costs could add a further

The DUP has been broken by Brexit

Are we witnessing the end of the DUP as the dominant unionist party in Northern Ireland? Tumultuous events in Belfast in recent days suggest as much. The DUP gathered on Thursday night to ratify the appointment of Edwin Poots and Paula Bradley as the party’s new leader and deputy leader. A dull rubber-stamping it was not; the meeting turned into the most public display of discord and factionalism in the party’s 50-year history. Rather than listen to Poots make his acceptance speech, Jeffrey Donaldson, the MP Gavin Robinson and both Nigel and Diane Dodds stood up and left. Dissatisfaction with how Arlene Foster was treated was given as the reason for

Could Sinn Fein become the largest party in Northern Ireland?

In 2022, a year after its centenary, there is the chance that Northern Ireland could end up with a nationalist, republican, Sinn Fein First Minister. The latest survey of popular opinion in the province, polled by LucidTalk, currently has Sinn Fein as the largest party on 25 per cent, nine points clear of the DUP who have slumped to 16 per cent – from around 30 per cent at the 2019 Westminster election. Meanwhile, there has been a slight upswing in the performance of the Ulster Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice. The middle ground Alliance party are on the same level as the DUP, while the moderate SDLP appear to

Will the DUP’s Edwin Poots win his war on the Northern Ireland protocol?

What to make of the triumph of Edwin Poots, the new leader of the Democratic Unionist party, who defeated the party’s Westminster leader Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17 in its first ever leadership election? Poots’ victory marks for some the definitive end of the party’s moderate turn instituted by Peter Robinson in 2008. Those not au fait with the intricacies of the DUP may find the suggestion of moderation risible. But Robinson – and indeed his own successor, Arlene Foster – recognised that for unionism to succeed, a more open approach was needed. While the execution of that strategy was often lacking, the intent was there. For many within

Edwin Poots’s narrow leadership win is a sign of DUP divisions

Edwin Poots is the new leader of the DUP. He defeated Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17. The closeness of the race, the DUP’s first ever leadership contest, is a sign of how deeply divided the party is. While Poots is the new DUP leader, he will not be First Minister. He has been clear that he will leave that job to a party colleague. Donaldson, like Arlene Foster, has come to the DUP from the Ulster Unionist Party. In party terms, he is a more moderate figure. Poots, though, was born into the DUP and is a more hardline social conservative. He will likely concentrate on winning back

Who would want to replace Arlene Foster?

Arlene Foster has announced that she will be standing down as DUP leader on the 28 May and First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June, bowing to the inevitable after the arithmetic suggested that 80 per cent of her Stormont and Westminster colleagues were set against her leadership continuing.  This will be welcomed by those who in recent days orchestrated manoeuvres against her; Foster staging a defiant last stand had the potential to turn the leadership election poisonous very quickly, which was the last thing the embattled party needs. Who would honestly want to replace Foster now, such is the troubling in-tray she is handing over to her successor?

It’s remarkable that Arlene Foster lasted this long

Arlene Foster’s spell as leader of the Democratic Unionist party is over. Today, Foster announced that she is stepping down as party leader on 28 May, and resigning her position as First Minister by the end of June. Her resignation came after a letter, signed by three quarters of the party’s MLAs alongside some MPs, was submitted to its chair Lord Morrow calling for her departure. In what is the most dramatic case of unionist infighting since Foster herself helped destabilise David Trimble’s leadership of the Ulster Unionists in the early 2000s, moves are also afoot to remove her erstwhile deputy Nigel Dodds. Several of her most senior advisers, including the party’s chief

Metro’s inglorious twelfth

Oh dear. Britain’s most read newspaper Metro caused something of an overnight storm with the first edition of its front page. Splashing on the easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday, its headline read ‘The Glorious Twelfth’ underneath a dramatic shot of projectiles being thrown at the peace wall in Belfast titled ‘Bad Old Days are Back’ ‘The twelfth’ of course has some powerful resonance in Northern Ireland, to celebrate the triumph of the Glorious Revolution and victory of the Protestants of King William III over the Catholic King James II at the subsequent Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Every 12 July the Orange Order marches its members through streets across the country

Election 2019: how the Tories plan to break Labour’s ‘red wall’

Of all those fighting this general election, the Conservatives are the only ones who need a majority. Labour just needs enough seats to club together with the SNP in order to form a government. The nationalists aim to win almost every seat in Scotland and then call a new independence referendum. The Liberal Democrats would like (at the very least) to double their count of 19 MPs, and stand a good chance of doing so. As for the Tories, they cannot rely on the DUP or anyone else to get over the line. Nothing less than an overall majority will do. In theory, this is not so hard: Boris Johnson

James Forsyth

General election 2019: can Boris Johnson succeed where Theresa May failed?

This general election isn’t the most important in a generation, it is the most significant in the lifetime of anyone born since 1945. It will decide whether Brexit happens, whether Britain has the most left-wing prime minister in its history, whether the Scottish Nationalists are able to secure a second independence referendum and whether Britain’s two–party system can survive. Boris Johnson has taken a risk. A winter poll at a time of unprecedented electoral volatility is dangerous and he has no safety net. The Tories have to win outright to govern: they have no potential partners anymore. The Liberal Democrats’ position on Brexit is irreconcilable with the Tory one; the