Varadkar faces heat over constitution comments

Leo Varadkar Image copyright PA
Image caption Leo Varadkar said the Good Friday Agreement got "very strong cross border support"

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's view, expressed to the BBC Spotlight programme, that he "wouldn't like us to get to the point whereby we are changing the constitutional position here in Northern Ireland on a 50% plus one basis" has caused a backlash from northern nationalists.

Sinn Fein's senior negotiator Conor Murphy has insisted that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement is "absolutely clear" that "if a simple majority vote in favour of reunification, both governments are then obliged to legislate for it".

Mr Murphy has argued that there's "an onus on the Irish government to plan for unity, to become a persuader for unity, to build the maximum agreement and to secure and win a referendum on unity.

"As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement", the Sinn Fein politician continued, "the taoiseach should be seeking to defend the agreement in all its parts, not seeking to undermine it."

Image caption Mark Durkan tweeted his response to the Taoiseach's comments

The former SDLP leader and deputy first minister Mark Durkan, who was a key negotiator on the agreement nearly two decades ago, has been equally exercised.

Read full article Varadkar faces heat over constitution comments

Conservative conference: Being mistaken for the prime minister

Theresa May sitting at desk singing papers Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May will address the Conservative conference on Wednesday

I'm used to being mistaken for someone else.

One of the by products of being an occasional face on people's TV screens is that sometimes, when you are at the supermarket, another shopper will assume you must be a neighbour or an old acquaintance.

Read full article Conservative conference: Being mistaken for the prime minister

Is Stormont stalemate coming to an end?

Count staff empty a ballot box Image copyright PA
Image caption 2017 - a seemingly unending sequence of talks and elections

It's been more than eight months since the late Martin McGuinness tendered his resignation as deputy first minister.

Since then, Northern Ireland has been stuck in an apparently never-ending sequence of talks and elections, with so many "crucial weeks" and missed deadlines that political anoraks, let alone the general public, could be forgiven for losing interest.

Read full article Is Stormont stalemate coming to an end?

DUP-Tory deal: 'Not a penny' without NI devolution

The deal was signed in Downing St by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson signed the deal in front of their party leaders in June

"Not a penny" of the £1bn negotiated as part of the DUP-Tory deal will be released unless Stormont is restored, a Civil Service source has told the BBC.

The £1bn in extra public spending for Northern Ireland was agreed in June, in exchange for the DUP's support for the minority Conservative government.

Read full article DUP-Tory deal: 'Not a penny' without NI devolution

Is Gerry Adams setting out his retirement plans?

Gerry Adams Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gerry Adams has said he will seek re-election as party leader in November before outlining his 'future intentions'

Gerry Adams became president of Sinn Féin in 1983 - it's extraordinary that 34 years later we are still waiting to hear when the 68-year-old politician might step down.

Having survived a number of attempts on his life during the Troubles, Mr Adams has proved equally adroit as a political survivor.

Read full article Is Gerry Adams setting out his retirement plans?

Brexit paper: No Irish border tariffs for small firms

An Irish soldier guards a customs post on the southern side of the border at Swanlinbar, County Cavan, in the mid 1970s Image copyright PA Images
Image caption An Irish soldier guards a customs post on the southern side of the border at Swanlinbar, County Cavan, in the mid-1970s

If the vote for Brexit represented UK voters symbolically pulling up the drawbridge to Europe, then the 310-mile land border which divides Ireland always represented a headache.

It has hundreds of crossing points and the removal of the fortified border checkpoints which used to monitor north south traffic is seen as one of the lasting achievements of the peace process.

Read full article Brexit paper: No Irish border tariffs for small firms

Stormont's Catch 22 and eBikes with no batteries

Stephen Nolan
Image caption Stephen Nolan - thankfully not "half broadcaster, half bicycle"

The saga of BBC presenter Stephen Nolan and the eBikes has undeniable comic potential.

As my esteemed colleague considered whether he should get a battery-assisted cycle, the thoughts of Sgt Pluck from Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman came into my head.

Read full article Stormont's Catch 22 and eBikes with no batteries

Border friction as UK/Irish joint approach unravels?

The Irish border Image copyright PA
Image caption The operation of the Irish border is one of the most sensitive Brexit issues

For months, it's been the joint mantra from both Dublin and London - that after Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should be as "seamless and frictionless as possible".

That phrase hinted both at an ideal flexible arrangement in the future and an ideal shared approach from both the UK and Irish governments, together stressing to the EU the paramount importance of doing nothing that might constitute any kind of risk to the political progress made over recent decades.

Read full article Border friction as UK/Irish joint approach unravels?

What caused the Stormont stalemate?

Sinn Fein delegation are pictured giving a press conference inside Stormont and a DUP delegation outside the building. Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption It was announced on Monday that talks had failed to restore a power-sharing executive

So a pause in the talks and no progress likely before September.

Was that a consequence of the DUP Conservative deal, as Sinn Féin argued?

Read full article What caused the Stormont stalemate?

Sticking points as Stormont deadline looms

Signing DUP-Tory deal Image copyright Reuters

So the cheque is in the post after the DUP agreed to back Theresa May's minority government in Commons votes.

As a result, Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1bn during the next two years as part of the deal, but what could prevent the Stormont parties setting up a power-sharing executive to spend the money?

RHI inquiry

Image copyright tchara
Image caption The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is approximately £490m over budget

Read full article Sticking points as Stormont deadline looms