EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dundalk
In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result, there was shock and dismay across Irish nationalism, which feared the return of a hard border and a more nationalistic UK moving further from the rest of Europe.
That feeling lingers, although it appears to have been somewhat lessened by the Irish Government’s robust stance in the Brexit negotiations, and the willingness of the EU to endorse that stance, putting the issue of the Irish border at or near the top of the talks process.
In the referendum, unionism voted largely to leave the EU, but there was sizable pro-remain unionist vote. But, just as there is a unity across nationalism to Brexit, so there is emerging a unified unionist front in opposition to the ‘backstop’ option which Mr Barnier articulated again yesterday.
That option – which only comes into play if the UK and the EU cannot agree on other solutions to avoiding a hard border, such as the use of technology or the entire UK remaining in a customs union – would involve regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland and customs checks between Northern Ireland and GB.
Last week DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds characterised such a stance as “almost the annexation of Northern Ireland”.
Although there are unionists who are fervently pro-EU, almost none of them have come out to support of the EU’s suggestion of an Irish Sea goods border.
Unionism increasingly united against EU stance
Yesterday the liberal UUP MLA Steve Aiken, who backed the remain side, used the same word as he denounced the EU’s stance.
Two months ago Lord Empey, one of David Trimble’s key negotiators during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement, wrote to Mr Barnier to express “deep concerns” about an EU approach which he said “undermines the Belfast Agreement and the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland”.
In a pan-European negotiation about trade, security and constitutional principle, Northern Ireland is in some ways an insignificant area.
But with the Irish border an issue of emblematic significance to both sides, it has become critical to the talks.
Unionist unease will not stop Brussels endorsing the stance of one of its members, Ireland.
But the fierce unionist-nationalist split in Northern Ireland means that the EU stance is in effect almost indistinguishable with the stance of Irish nationalism – from the Irish Government to Sinn Féin and the SDLP.
That is undsurprising, given that Mr Barnier is representing Dublin, and the other EU members, in these talks.
But in adopting a stance which is that of one side of the political divide in Northern Ireland, it makes it more difficult for the EU to present its solution as a neutral attempt to save the Good Friday Agreement or even peace itself.
With many thanks to: E News for the origional story.
STEVENSON TO APPEAR IN COURT NEXT MONTH OVER ALLEGED INCIDENT
A DUP politician is facing a sex charge, the Sunday World can reveal.
Ian Stevenson (48), a councillor with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, will appear in court next month on an allegation of sexual assault. The former Ballymoney mayor, who has served the area for more than 20 years, was charged by police after a complaint was made against him in 2017.
The alleged offence relates to an incident involving a woman in the Belfast area in April of last year. Court documents state he is accused of “intentionally touching” the alleged female victim, “with the circumstances being that the touching was sexual, that she did not consent to the touching and you did not reasonably believe that she so consented”.
He will appear before Laganside Magistrates Court on May 17. It can be revealed that Mr Stevenson has stepped aside from his duties with a number of local groups whilst he faces the serious allegation. It is not yet clear whether he will also stand down from his council role, which includes serving on the council’s Leisure and Development Committee.
On Friday the Sunday World called to speak to Mr Stevenson at his Ballymoney home. However, he declined to speak to our reporter about the upcoming court case. He also refused to confirm whether he would be carrying on with council duties whilst facing the serious charge, replaying ” no comment” to questions.
We contacted the DUP by email last night, but we received no replay. Councillor Stevenson, named after DUP founder Ian Paisley, ruffled feathers in 2012 when he attended an All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Final at Croke Park.
It was after discovering his Protestant grandfather hurled for Co. Antrim based Loughgiel Shamrocks in the 1920s. His attendance at the St Patrick’s Day Dublin match – which saw the Shamrocks beat off Coolderry – made history as he donned a GAA top and vowed to stand for the Soldier’s Song – the Republic’s national anthem. He said at the time: “Whatever country I am in I will respect their national anthem just the same I would exspect that a nationalist in Northern Ireland would stand for ‘God Save The Queen’, though they strongly object to it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I am confident in my own identity and belief that I should be able to respect others, even though I strongly disagree with them, so long as those beliefs are peaceful and are peacefully held.
His attendance came shortly after then party leader Peter Robinson attended his first GAA game. But the DUP chief made his arrival after ‘The Soldier’s Song’ was played. In 2011, during his time in office as Ballymoney mayor, Mr Stevenson also cleared the council chamber’s drinks cabinet of alcoholic tipples. Gin, whiskey and other spirts were replaced by non-alcoholic drinks, with the DUP man telling local press:”I think if you are in other places you respect the wishes of the host so I don’t see why it’s an issue really. It was just something I was personally happy with that’s all. Just last year he was forced to apologise after posting a photo-shopped image of a terrorist flag erected outside Downing Street. The image included kerbstones at No 10 painted red, white and blue and the UVF and Northern Ireland flags erected outside.
With many thanks to: The Sunday World and Patricia Devlin for the exclusive origional story.
Follow these links to find out more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-43940716
These two letters appeared in The Irish News yesterday-Wednesday 11/4/2018
ON the 20th anniversary of its signing, the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is under attack from various quarters. Brexit threatens its very foundations. Political unionism, as it has done from the time of the agreement was completed, seeks to undermine it at every possible opportunity. Some others, well intentioned but, I suggest, very mistaken, suggest that the requirement for cross-community support embodied in the ‘weighted majority’ provision of the agreement should be abandoned so as to restore ‘normal politics’ in the north. Clearly the agreement has not delivered what it promised. At its heart was the recoginition that there are two fundamentally different politicial identities in the north; one nationalist/republican wishes to see the partition of the country in 1920 reversed and replaced by a united and secular 32-county republic; the other unionists who see their future as continuing to be to be linked to England. The GFA specifically recognised the existence of these two blocs.
In its provisions it sought to provide a framework in which nationalists/republicans and unionist could co-exist peacefully within the existing six-county state until a majority of its people decided that a united Ireland should be re-created. In the meantime, the two communities were to be accorded ‘parity of esteem’, their separate political ‘identities’ treated equally. Certain defined and major consequences should have followed from this commitment to parity of esteem given in the agreement by the British government. Among these consequences was that no longer should symbols of the British state, including in particular the Union flag, have been given the exclusive priority over Irish nationalism they had enjoyed in the northern state since partition.
That commitment to equal status between nationalism/republicanism and unionism and to faithful implementation by the British government to the obligations flowing from it were of the essence of the parity of esteem provision and of the overall compromise embodied in it. The British government has openly reneged on the promise of parity of esteem between nationalists/republicans and unionists. At every step of the way since signing of the GFA it has continued to try to relegate the Irish identity to a position of inferiority.The Union flag is flaunted on government buildings, ignoring the rights of the now almost equal in numbers nationalist population.
The demands of political unionism continue to be given preference, including in relation to the provision of an Irish language act which the British government had committed to in the St Andrews Agreement 12 years ago. Like all agreements, the GFA is only as good as the intentions and behaviour of the parties to it. Like other agreements, it requires for its effectiveness that there should be sanctions against those who breach it. That has been the critical weakness which has left the GFA in the perilous state it now finds itself in.
Bad faith on the part of unionist parties who always opposed the agreement and also on the part of a British government which has itself both broken the agreement and refused to sanction unionists for their breaches. As co-guarantor of the GFA, successive Irish governments cannot escape their share of the blame either. The GFA deserves to survive. If honoured, both to the letter and spirit, it provides the pathway to peace and reconciliation among the people of Ireland. The question is, who of us is prepared to do that?
With many thanks to: Patrick Fahy Omagh, Co Tyrone.
In DUP’s case silence is not golden but our eyes still see
‘Silence is golden, but my eyes still see’
SUCH is the refrain popularised by the 1960s band The Tremelores, albeit on the back of the original version of the song by the Four Seasons in 1964. Some of us can even remember that far back.
I was reminded of the song recently when I was pondering how come the DUP Brexiteers were so quiet, relaxed even, when on March 19 Michel Barnier and David Davis jointly announced outline agreement on the Brexit transition arrangement.
Now, instead of falling stright off a cliff edge next March, the UK can gradually slide into the sea, not even getting its feet wet until December 2020. And, of course, the draft agreement contains the now infamous ‘backstop’ on the Irish border – Option 3 as it is known. Unless and until someone comes up with something better than north/south regulatory alignment, then the backstop applies.
This is the same backstop by the way that the UK signed up to last December and which Mrs May promptly rubbished a few weeks ago when the EU dared to put it into draft legal text. Now we’re told the UK only agreed to a backstop, just not the one they agreed to last year.
In that case, what kind of backstop do they envisage then? I know. We should ask the DUP because they must surely have the answer, given their near prone reaction to the inclusion of Option 3 in the transition deal.
Does the DUP know something the rest of us don’t? They support the Tory hard Brexit line by enthusiastically embracing the leaving of the customs union and the single market, yet they claim to be in favour of a soft border. Really? Maybe they could tell us how to bring that about.
Ian Paisley jnr doesn’t seem to want one when he tweets: “We’re warning the Irish Republic, don’t get in our way in trying to force us to have a different type of Brexit to the rest of the UK” (March 23). Get in whose way?
Not Northern Ireland’s way surely because we voted by a sizeable majority to remain in the EU. Oh, he must mean the DUP’s way then. I wonder by what right he deigns to threaten a sovereign state that is intent only on looking after the best economic interests of its people and safeguarding the GFA for the preservation of peace here?
In truth, by action if not by word, the DUP would love to see a hard border again. In their case, silence is not golden, but our eyes still see.
The DUP has yet to explain why it used the Cambridge Analytica-linked firm AggregrateIQ in last year’s assembly election and its Brexit campaign for the EU referendum.
Mark Zuckerberg has said it was a mistake to rely on Cambridge Analytica (CA) to delete tens of millions of Facebook users’ data as he apologised for the “major breach of trust”.
The site’s founder said the political consultancy had provided formal assurances that information harvested from 50 million profiles had been destroyed after Facebook first learned of the breach in 2015.
Mr Zuckerberg said he was now open to Facebook being regulated and accepted that malign actors were trying to use the site for political ends.
The site has been rocked in recent days by the row involving CA, who are accused of using the data to help Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign target political ads on the platform.
The company has denied using Facebook data in its work on the campaign.
The scandal has prompted calls from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for Mr Zuckerberg to answer to them in person for the breach.
The billionaire told CNN he would be happy to appear before US Congress “if it’s the right thing to do”.
“This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened,” he told CNN.
In Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate the DUP’s use of Cambridge Analytica-linked firm AggregrateIQ in last year’s assembly election and its Brexit campaign for the EU referendum.
The DUP paid almost £33,000 during the EU referendum campaign to Canadian data analytics firm AggregrateIQ.
The company received more than £4.6m from Brexit campaign groups – more than any other company in the 2016 referendum.
It was also paid around £12,000 by the DUP as part of its Stormont election campaign last year.
AggregrateIQ is thought to have ‘micro-targeted’ voters with political advertising on social media using their personal data.
It has been linked to a similar firm, Cambridge Analytica. The DUP has declined to explain what it paid AggregateIQ to do, but insisted its campaigns “meet all legal and regulatory conditions”.
On Wednesday Mr Zuckerberg made his first public statement since the controversy erupted – via a Facebook post.
Journalists at The Guardian had told Facebook in 2015 that Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University professor, had shared data from an app he had developed with CA, he said.
15 hours ago
I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we’ve already taken and our next steps to address this important issue.
We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.
Here’s a timeline of the events:
In 2007, we launched the Facebook Platform with the vision that more apps should be social. Your calendar should be able to show your friends’ birthdays, your maps should show where your friends live, and your address book should show their pictures. To do this, we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them.
In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.
In 2014, to prevent abusive apps, we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for data about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from us before they could request any sensitive data from people. These actions would prevent any app like Kogan’s from being able to access so much data today.
In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.
Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We’re also working with regulators as they investigate what happened.
This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.
In this case, we already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people’s information in this way. But there’s more we need to do and I’ll outline those steps here:
First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.
Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in — to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we’ll have more changes to share in the next few days.
Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.
Beyond the steps we had already taken in 2014, I believe these are the next steps we must take to continue to secure our platform.
I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.
I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we’d like, but I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.
Facebook immediately banned Dr Kogan’s app and demanded that he and CA delete the data, for which they provided “certifications” that they had, the boss said.
Last week the company was alerted by The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that CA may not have deleted the data as they had said and the firm was banned from Facebook.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m used to when people legally certify that they are going to do something, that they do it. But I think this was clearly a mistake in retrospect,” Mr Zuckerberg told CNN.
Prof Kogan is alleged to have surveyed more than 270,000 Facebook users through an app he created.
Facebook’s settings at the time allowed app developers to access the personal data of not just the people who used their app, but of all of their friends as well.
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook has already taken the most important steps to prevent such a situation from happening again.
He told the broadcaster the site would be reviewing thousands of apps in an “intensive process”.
(Facebook) had very few ways of discovering abuse or enforcing on abuse when it was discovered
Whistleblower Sandy Parakilas
Facebook will ban developers who do not agree to an audit, and an app’s developer will no longer have access to data from people who have not used that app in three months.
He said he was confident Facebook could “get in front” of the problem.
“This isn’t rocket science. There’s a lot of hard work we have to do to make it harder for nation states like Russia to do election interference,” he said.
Mr Zuckerberg’s apology came after a former employee of the company told MPs that Facebook had a “wild west” approach to looking after its users’ data and had “little detection” of any violations of its policies.
Whistleblower Sandy Parakilas, who worked in policy compliance and data protection for Facebook between 2011 and 2012, claimed the company “had very few ways of discovering abuse or enforcing on abuse when it was discovered”.
Facebook shares have slid by more than 7.6% since the first allegations were reported at the weekend by the Observer, and the firm received a backlash online – with a number of users reporting that they were deleting their accounts, including the co-founder of WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook in 2014.
The company is also facing legal action from some of its own shareholders, who claim the company made “materially false and misleading statements regarding the company’s business, operational and compliance policies”.
A Statement from the Board of Directors | CA Commercial
The Board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent…
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CA chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that CA had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.
Downing Street confirmed on Wednesday that the Government employed CA parent company SCL for a contract with the Ministry of Defence, but said this had ended before the recent allegations came to light.
“We are looking across Government to see if there were any other contracts,” said a spokesman. “As the Prime Minister said, we are not aware of any current contracts.”
The Conservative Party said it had been approached by CA with a pitch for work during David Cameron’s leadership, but said this was rejected.
“The Conservative Party has never employed Cambridge Analytica or its parent company, nor used their services,” a Tory spokesman said.
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.
MAJOR changes to proposed electoral constituencies will leave thousands of nationalists without representation, Sinn Féin has claimed.
MICHELLE O’NEILL – Sinn Féin’s leader in the North of Ireland: FIFTY years on from ‘One Man-One Vote’ the nationalist community again faces an appailling denial of equal representation under proposals to redraw electoral boundaries.
The new boundaries will disfigure and distort the electoral map. Represtation will be denied to thousands of nationalist voters and leave several constituencies without any nationalist representative at an assembly level. The proposals have emanated from a Boundary Commission review established in 2016 to reduce the number of constituencies from 18 to 17 in a fair and equitable way.
The commission initially produced a plan which achieved these objectives, but they were heavily criticised by the DUP because it stood to lose out electorally. The DUP submitted how it would like the new boundary map to look. This DUP proposal sought to maximise the number of DUP elected representatives and minimise the number of nationalists by manipulating (gerrymandering) electoral boundaries.
Then the DUP entered a pact to keep Theresa May’s government in power. Just six months after that deal was signed, the Boundary Commission produced new proposals. Sinn Féin warned the DUP would attempt to insert this issue into their negotiations with the Tories. It came as little surprise – the new proposals were virtually indistinguishable from the DUP’s. The Boundary Commission denies any deliberate gerrymander at the behest of the DUP and stress their independence.
Nevertheless, they do admit to radically altering their plan, as well as applying the controversial Rule 7. This rule is only available in the North of Ireland and gives the commission scope to go beyond the usual electorate quotas in any constituency. The Boundary Commission origionally ruled out its use, but changed this approach after the DUP argued for its implementation. The commission’s revised report overturned every key decision which underpinned their origional proposals, with-out offering any reasonable explaination why.
These changes are unjustifiable and must be overturned. Votes should be equal. Political representation should reflect the population in any given constituency. Instead these proposals effectively deny representation to thousands of nationalist voters. The use of Rule 7, the ‘gerrymander rule’, has allowed this to happen.
When the northern state was created, it was deliberately gerrymandered to try and guarantee a perpetual unionist majority. The last assembly election finally ended unionism’s majority status for the first time since 1921. Demographic changes also indicate a nationalist voting majority by 2022, the year these boundary changes take effect.
It seems the DUP would prefer to re-gerrymander constituencies to hold onto unionist control as long as they can. That is what their submission sought to achieve. The Boundary Commission’s revised proposals effectively produce the same result. It is not too late to change this. The commission is consulting on the revised proposals until March 26th.
My party has also made a detailed submission setting out a number of proposals which represent a fair and equitable approach to boundary reform. If, as the commission stresses, they have not been unduly influenced by any malign intention from the DUP, then we expect our proposals to be reflected in their final revised boundaries.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Michelle O’Neill Sinn Féin’s leader in the north. For the original story.
THE CATHOLIC/NATIONALIST/REPUBLICAN COMMUNITY NEED OUR VOICES TO BE HEARD – IT’S ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VOTES FOR THE NATIONALIST COMMUNITY SINCE 1921. WE ONLY HAVE UNTIL MARCH 26th TO REGISTER YOUR OBJECTIONS:
FROM THE REDDIT APP
Sinn Féin claims boundary changes would leave thousands of nationalists without representation
daithidb65 • Mar 13, 2018, 1:48 PMGerrymandering alive and well
windyfish • Mar 13, 2018, 6:54 AM
Gets in there before someone makes the « just like their Westminster MPs » comment
Iownthat • Mar 13, 2018, 8:12 AM
Them not going to London represents my disdain for the the union. They are representing me.
TFFTN • Mar 13, 2018, 7:14 AM
Now thousands of SF voters will be denied the chance to see their representatives continue to sit and do nothing!
VigiIance • Mar 13, 2018, 6:59 AM
Was thinking exactly that.
Sinn Fein have no right to complain about no representation when they don’t even take their seats lol.
I don’t see any seat changes from the last Westminster election arising from these boundary changes, Stormont is a bit harder to predict.
Edit – actually there will be a consolidation of Silvia Herman’s seat, if it doesn’t swing DUP it will be a 1 seat loss for the DUP at Westminster.
aodhmacsuibhne • Mar 13, 2018, 8:02 AM
Sinn Fein have no right to complain about no representation when they don’t even take their seats lol.
This is bullshit and you must know it, you can’t honestly believe that surely to god. Just because you don’t like the form of representation someone votes for doesn’t mean a free pass to deprive them of it.
Squattle69 • Mar 13, 2018, 8:07 AM
Hermons not gonna have that seat for much longer.
Bloodshart-Hero • Mar 13, 2018, 7:43 AM
Thank God they’re finally saying something about this. The blatantly gerrymandered borders proposed by the DUP and adopted pell-mell by the Border’s Commission harkened back to the days of Unionist government oppression that I thought were long behind us.
Here’s a cool Belfast wallpaper for your smartphone if anyone is interested.
Ship looks like it’s airborne from Crawfordsburn this morning
Follow this link to find out the complete breakdown of how the Boundarie changes effects the nationalist communities in the north: https://bangordub.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/faha-why-the-boundary-review-needs-to-be-challenged/