Pádraig Belton

The abortion referendum is Ireland’s Brexit moment

Is the abortion referendum going to be Ireland’s Brexit moment? Despite the financial crisis, a clerical scandal and a vote on gay marriage, the country had managed to steer itself relatively harmoniously along. Yet just as the EU referendum brought to the surface deep tensions across Britain, this week’s vote is in danger of doing the

Northern Ireland’s political deadlock is starting to bite

Brexit is proving such a distraction that few seem to have noticed the creeping start to direct rule in Northern Ireland. While much of the coverage in the newspapers focused on the EU withdrawal bill, the Northern Ireland Budget Act – which shifts Stormont’s most important power, the task of setting Northern Ireland’s budget, to London –

An Irish Sea border would damage British-Irish relations

Dublin and London had been fairly tight since December 1993 and the Downing Street Declaration—until yesterday morning. The Times led with ‘Irish want sea border with UK after Brexit’. The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson rushed breathlessly on to the Today programme to say there was ‘no way’ his party would accept it. The notion isn’t new.  The idea

How to write the perfect break-up letter

Yesterday, Sir Tim Barrow placed into Donald Tusk’s hands the letter giving notice the UK will begin divorce proceedings with the EU. This missive now takes its place among the great relationship-ending letters of history. Today, Downing Street has said that European leaders appreciated the ‘warm, constructive’ tone of the Article 50 letter. But what makes

James Brokenshire is out of his depth as Northern Ireland Secretary

There is a saying that whoever the Prime Minister hates, they appoint as Northern Ireland Secretary. James Brokenshire, Theresa May’s unlucky pick for the job, had three options yesterday: a new election, direct rule, or a fudge. When the clock struck 4pm, three weeks after Northern Ireland’s election, there was only one option: it was always going to

Brexit, Ireland and the Trump question

We all have our roles.  In the world order which we inhabit, Ireland has one chief international responsibility: each St Patrick’s Day, its Taoiseach (prime minister) sets off to the Oval Office bearing a bowl of shamrocks. Ireland’s current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has been in the job since March 2011.  In Ireland’s last elections, last

Northern Ireland’s political crisis could cause Brexit problems

And so there we have it. Shortly after midday in Stormont, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill declined to nominate a replacement for Martin McGuinness, causing the collapse of the power-sharing executive after five months shy of a decade.  At 5pm, authority to hold elections passes, under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, to Secretary of State for

There may be trouble ahead for Northern Ireland

It now seems obvious that Northern Ireland’s power sharing executive has fallen. Because of the way the country’s devolved government is set up, when deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness fell on his sword (or semtex) yesterday, the First Minister – Arlene Foster – goes as well. So the two-headed monster tumbles down and Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State

Apple’s Irish tax bill is bad news for free-market liberals

So the European Commission has today released its much-delayed iTax. This time, it’s not an Apple innovation but a ruling ordering Ireland to claw back €13bn in back tax from Apple – a record penalty and one that the company and Ireland have both vowed to appeal. The Commission announced its decision in a typically terse ruling, in