Edwin Poots on his priorities in agriculture and the environment


Unionist leaders have difficulty with a shared society never mind entering into a debate about a United Ireland !!


Sinn Féin leader in the North of Ireland and leader of the DUP Arlene Foster

Brexit: New year, new deal and what it means for NI – BBC News

It breaks all the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and Shame Féin signing for anything less at Stormont is deceitful 



Five anti-Irish language protesters outside Stormont as talks to restore devolution are back underway


ANTI-Irish language protestors made their opinions known as the small group stood outside Stormont today.

It comes as talks to restore devolution were back underway, aimed at breaking almost three years of political deadlock in the North of Ireland.

Seven anti-Irish protesters outside Stormont
A sign placed by the protesters Credit: Pacemaker Press
 Sinn Fein insists agreement to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland can be reached in the short term.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy made the comment following the first roundtable discussion of the new year after the talks were paused for the festive period.

He sees “no need” to draw the talks out until the January 13 deadline.

The latest process, which was initiated in the wake of the general election, was paused over the festive period after a pre-Christmas deal failed to materialise.

The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein held separate meetings with Mr Smith, before a roundtable with the other Stormont parties and the Irish Government.

He added: “We think agreement can be reached in short order, we don’t see any need to run this down to the wire to January 13 in some kind of dramatic way.”

He added that some of the issues where agreement remains to be reached, with the language provision – a major stumbling block previously – being one of them.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy
A handful of protesters outside Stormont protesting against the Irish Language Act
Ten years from now Ireland will be United and strong weither Unionists or Loyalists like it or not

The Battle for Belfast: How Remainers are pulling together to oust the DUP

In three key seats, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance are hoping the Remain vote will help them remove senior DUP figures from their seats

(L – R) The Alliance Party’s Naomi Long, the SDLP’s Claire Hannah and Sinn Féin’s John Finucane (PA)

As the North of  Ireland heads to the polls on Thursday, the DUP are in a curious position.

In 2017, they propped up the Conservative government, proclaiming the great influence their 10 MPs would have at Westminster, and how they could shape the course of their desired Brexit – despite 56 per cent of people in Northern Ireland voting to Remain. After rejecting Theresa May’s deal (too soft), then Boris Johnson’s deal (hard, but with an unacceptable Irish Sea border), they returned to Belfast, with their tails between their legs.

In this election, again they’re asking voters to give them a mandate to go and influence the Westminster government – without so much as a hint of irony. The truth is they won’t be hugely punished.

Politics in the North of Ireland  remains deeply tribal, and many unionists will still back their biggest party for fear of splitting the vote and handing a victory to what they see as the other side. The DUP are also attempting to distance themselves from Boris Johnson’s “betrayal” over the unpopular Brexit deal.

So while Sinn Fein will take a fistful of seats along the border, the DUP will still romp home in many of its safe constituencies.

But in some seats, Remainers are giving them a run for their money. As many as 60 per cent of voters in Belfast wanted to remain in the EU, yet aside from Sinn Fein in West Belfast, the other three seats in the city are held by the DUP. This week, the pro-Remain parties of Northern Ireland hope to change that.

For 20 years, North Belfast has been the seat of Nigel Dodds, DUP grandee and their leader at Westminster. He is being challenged here by Sinn Fein’s John Finucane – the current Lord Mayor of Belfast and the son of solicitor Pat, who was murdered by loyalist gunmen in his family home in 1989.

“I grew up in North Belfast and it was pretty much as safe a unionist seat as you could get,” he tells The Independent. “But I think that’s different now because society has moved on, and there’s a regressive brand of politics that they want to leave behind. People want to remove those very loud Brexiteer voices who are not representative.”

Sinn Féin’s North Belfast candidate John Finucane

Mr Dodds has a majority of 2,081, but with the SDLP and Greens not running against Sinn Fein, this seat is in a virtual dead heat. Mr Finucane is working hard to win over people who wouldn’t normally vote for his party. As Irish republicans, Sinn Fein abstain from taking their seats in the House of Commons (seven at the last election), but he believes this position has never been easier to justify, given the chaos that has played out at Westminster.

“The Brexit project is very much an English nationalist project, and they’re entitled to have that,” he explains. “There is a momentum that will be forcing this through no matter how much damage it will cause here in Belfast or across Northern Ireland.

“For those who backed Remain, or have come around to backing Remain since 2016, protection for them has come from Dublin, Brussels, Washington DC, and protection is never going to come from the green benches of Westminster.”

Mr Finucane describes Mr Dodds as the “arch-Brexiteer” of The North of Ireland, having been part of the Vote Leave campaign. “People see this as a real opportunity to send a powerful message beyond Belfast that we rejected, and continue to reject, Brexit.”

In South Belfast, the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly (with a majority of 1,996) is under threat from a nationalist who would take up her seat in Westminster. The SDLP’s Claire Hanna says people are feeling “disenfranchised and unheard” in the Brexit debate, and she wants to change that.

“There are some crazy things being said in Westminster about Ireland and Brexit, and there’s nobody there to correct them,” she says. “There are many people who may have voted Sinn Fein in the past, but who now see a situation where we have votes coming down to a handful of MPs, and that protecting Ireland’s interests should come ahead of party ideology.”

Indeed both Sinn Fein and the Greens have stood aside in this seat to aide Ms Hanna’s fight against the DUP, who she says have left the North of Ireland in an “unequivocally worse position” than when they entered the confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives in 2017.

“They had an incredible amount of power and influence, and they had the opportunity to use it to positive effect for people in the North of Ireland and they chose not to.”

The DUP have dug themselves into a Brexit-shaped hole, first by backing it in spite of the ever-increasing Remain consensus in the North of Ireland, then by rejecting Theresa May’s deal in favour of a harder one, then by rejecting Boris Johnson’s harder deal once they saw it would be damaging to the union.

“They have yet to articulate a form of Brexit that matches both their red lines and the red lines of the people who live here and don’t want a hard border,” says Ms Hanna. “Perhaps it’s dawning on them that you can have a hard Brexit or you can have the union but you can’t have both.”

Claire Hannah, the SDLP candidate for South Belfast (PA)

Arguably the SDLP’s strongest asset, Ms Hanna – a Stormont MLA who has even been endorsed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – looks poised to take this seat and ensure her party’s return to Westminster. Nevertheless, she is well aware that the North of Ireland MPs cannot reroute Brexit alone.

“We’ve got to roll with the punches in terms of what is on the table after the election,” she admits. “If there happens to be a majority of parties other than the Conservatives, then a People’s Vote is our preferred next step.”

But it’s not just nationalists like Sinn Fein and the SDLP who are lining up to take on the DUP – this extends to all the pro-Remain parties, including the Alliance Party. Neither nationalist nor unionist, Alliance is a centre-ground party, increasingly representative of the other constituency in the North of Ireland, who are not committed either way on the constitutional question.

The slow but steady growth of Alliance was evident in local council elections earlier this year, as well as the election of party leader Naomi Long as one of the region’s three MEPs. She is taking on the DUP’s Gavin Robinson in East Belfast (with a majority of 8,474), a seat which she previously held from 2010 to 2015, because she says the unionist party is pursuing an agenda which is not supported in the constituency.

“What we’ve had from the DUP is a very extreme Brexit stance,” says Ms Long, pointing out that the party has lurched to the right as the process has gone on. “Even some of those in East Belfast who would have voted Leave feel they’re not being listened to at Westminster.”

While nationalists and “Others” in the North of Ireland have largely backed Remain, a Lucid Talk poll released in recent days showed that only 38 per cent of unionists now back Leave, with 41 per cent in favour of Remain. Support for Boris Johnson’s deal is in single digits across all communities. And it seems the DUP have already got the message. Brexit doesn’t feature at all in the party’s election broadcast, campaign literature, or their official website. Ms Long says this “speaks volumes about how wrong they have got this, and how little they want to be held to account for their decision.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (PA)

Alliance must draw cross-party support to take East Belfast, but the party is not in favour of pacts. So while Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Greens have stood aside to give Ms Long a clear run here, Alliance have not exactly returned the favour. In fact, they are the only party running in all 18 of Northern Ireland’s constituencies – and with a 50-50 gender quota at that.

“We are standing to be MPs for five years, and our manifesto is broader than just Brexit,” says Ms Long. “So I think it’s important that we stand and give people that choice.”

Like the SDLP, Alliance are in favour of a second referendum – with Remain on the ballot. While this stance has been criticised as one which ignores the wishes of Leave voters, Ms Long argues that’s not the case.

“I’ve never patronised people who voted Leave,” she says, “but what they were promised in 2016 was a kind of unicorn Brexit which would be all things to all people, and what we’re now getting is a lame donkey Brexit under Boris Johnson, and I think given that choice, some people may decide that they would prefer to keep things as they are.

“They should have the opportunity to change their mind just as the prime minister himself has done on numerous occasions on this issue.”

As election day approaches, it seems likely that the SDLP will take South Belfast, although it will be a harder fight for Alliance in East Belfast. But if there’s only one Northern Ireland seat to keep your eye on, it’s Dodds v Finucane in North Belfast. A win for Sinn Fein here would be a major victory, and its loss would be devastating for the DUP.

As with so many seats across the UK, the success of pro-Remain candidates in Northern Ireland will lie entirely in people’s willingness to vote tactically; to send a message to the DUP, and elect more voices who will reflect the pro-EU majority.

With many thanks to: The Independent and Ben Kelly for the original story@BenKellyTweets

The incumbent Stormont parties should commit to not draw MLA salaries or expenses if the Assembly remains shut – Tóibín


Foster’s Rich Gaelic Heritage

Arlene Foster, Leader of the DUP, has a family tree dominated by two august Irish surnamesDoonan and Kelly.

Arlene Foster, Leader of the DUP, has a rich and ancient Gaelic heritage with a family tree dominated by two august Irish surnamesDoonan and Kelly. Her more distant ancestors, who spoke Gaelic, would have considered themselves part of the Ó Dúnáin and Ó Ceallagh clans, not Doonans or Kellys. Her family tree also demonstrates how the overwhelming majority of her ancestors lived and died in the Barony of Clankelly in Fermanagh.

A scion of Gaelic nobility: Arlene Foster who is desended from Gaelic nobility, namely ‘Erenagh’ or hereditary stewards who protected the lands of the Catholic Church

They were appointed by the local Catholic bishop and spoke Gaelic.
The Irish language act has amounted to an impasse which continues to be a stumbling block to the reinstatement of the Northern Executive and Assembly at Stormont. To her credit, Foster has shown leadership on the issue. At the launch of the DUP’s Westminster general election manifesto she declared: “The Irish language has been made a key block by Sinn Féin. I would regret that because I do think there is a way forward through those issues, because there are those in Northern Ireland who love the Irish language.”

Letting bygones be bygones: the British Crown dispossessed Arlene Foster’s ancestors of their religion and language

While she was not in favour of ‘a full-blown costly Irish language act which would bring about discrimination against those of us who don’t speak the Irish language’ she did say that there ‘is a way forward – I absolutely believe there is a way forward – but there has to be a willingness on all sides to find that way forward’.

The Ó Dúnáin Connection

Arlene’s Doonan connection is fascinating. Doonan or Ó Dúnáin is a rare name in Ireland. According to the leading authority on Irish names, The Surnames of Ireland, by Edward MacLysaght, the Doonans of Fermanagh were ‘Erenagh’, or hereditary stewards and guardians of Roman Catholic church lands. In old Irish they were known as ‘airchinnech’. The translation is ‘head of an ecclesiastical settlement’.

Hereditary stewards and guardians were nominated by the local Catholic Bishop.

The Plantation of Ulster in 1609 saw the Doonans completely dispossessed by the English.

The Roman Catholic church was taken over and the congregation was denied the right to worship.

The Doonans never recovered their earlier status, yet the family still survives in Fermanagh as Arlene’s family tree demonstrates. Further research is required to pinpoint when the Ó Dúnáin branch in Foster’s family tree converted to Protestantism.

The Ó Ceallagh Connection

A class act: Arlene Foster is descended from the Ó Dúnáin and Ó Ceallagh clans

According to MacLysaght, the surname Kelly (Ó Ceallagh) is the second most populous name in Ireland. It is not certain where the name hails, however the most probable suggestion is that is comes the word ceallach, meaning ‘strife’ in the Irish language.

The Barony of Clankelly (from the Irish: Clann Cheallaigh meaning ‘Clan Kelly’) is in Co. Fermanagh. Clankelly takes its name from Cellach, son of Tuathal, a king of the Ui Chremthainn who was killed in 731. The ruling family of Clann Cheallaigh in the late medieval period bore the surname MacDomhnaill – from Domhnall, a grandson of Cellach, whose death is recorded in the year 791.

Further research is also required to pinpoint when the Ó Ceallagh line in Foster’s family tree converted to Protestantism.

Arlene Foster’s Family Tree.

A rich heritage: Arlene Foster’s Family Tree. This graph can be enlarged on most devices.

Whilst the documented evidence traces the roots of the Kelly branch of Arlene’s family back to the early 19th century, the surnames involved establish that the roots indeed go much deeper and their respective links to the history and culture of Gaelic Ireland is well documented.

Her grandparents on her father’s side were Nathaniel Kelly (born 1881), a farmer, and Alice Jane Doonan. They married in 1924 in St. Mark’s Church of Ireland Parish of Aghadrumsee and lived in Derawilt, County Fermanagh. This townland is in the Civil parish of Clones and the Barony of Clankelly.

Her great grandparents were John Kelly (6 May 1851) and Alice Doonan who were married in the Church of Ireland Parish of Clones on 18 May 1873. The marriage confirms that John’s father was also a John Kelly while Alice was the daughter of Nathaniel Doonan of Drummans, Clones, County Fermanagh.

Burying the past after three centuries: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley playing with swords in 2008 at the opening of the Boyne Heritage Centre. It was built in the Republic on the site of the Battle of the Boyne (1690) and has become a place of pilgrimage for members of the Loyal Orange Institution.

Her great-great grandfather was yet another John Kelly who married Sarah Ferguson on 4 December 1846 in St. Mark’s Church of Ireland Parish Aghadrumsee. This marriage record did not note the father’s names only to say that both were deceased. However, it confirmed that John Kelly was living in the townland of Drummaw in the civil parish of Galloon, also in the Barony of Clankelly. The townland is not far from Derawilt where the family ultimately moved. The land in Derawilt came into the possession of the Kelly family in 1892 when John Kelly took over the 47-acre plot from a John Richardson. He bought the land outright under the Land Act Purchase in 1908.

Great-great-grandmother Alice Doonan was born circa 1843 to Nathaniel Doonan and Eleanor. Eleanor’s maiden name is unknown. Her father, Nathaniel, was born in 1812 to James Doonan and Jane Moore. Sadly, her mother, Eleanor, died prematurely in 1849 and Nathaniel married again, to Jane Forster in 1850 and went onto have a second family. One of his sons from this marriage, John Doonan, was the father of Alice Jane Doonan (mother of John William Kelly, Arlene’s father).

While Arlene Foster may not speak Irish herself, it is surely lurking in her DNA. Perhaps she can now navigate her way through the Irish language act impasse at Stormont and make her ancestors proud of her nonetheless.

Speaking the same language?

With many thanks to the: Village Magazine and Joseph de Burca for the original story