Brown O’Connor Communications Weekly Look Ahead - Week Commencing 8 July 2019


Forward Look

  • The Northern Ireland Office has brought forward legislation to extend its legal power to delay the requirement to hold a fresh Assembly election until 21 October 2019, with a further extension possible until 13 January 2020. MPs will debate the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) 2019 Bill on Monday 8 July. The bill also includes an obligation on the Secretary of State to publish a progress report on efforts to restore an Executive in NI on or before 21 October, which must be laid before Parliament.

  • Labour MP Conor McGinn, originally from South Armagh, has criticised the government and has said this is an attempt to block any amendments being inserted which would change abortion and same-sex marriage laws in Northern Ireland. The Electoral Commission also criticised the decision, saying it was “very concerned” and that voters’ rights must be “properly considered”. The government has said it is a “sensible contingency plan” in the absence of a devolved administration.

  • Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has expressed frustration at the slow pace of political talks at Stormont, saying they have gone into “go-slow” mode. The talks aimed at restoring the NI Assembly continued this week but are expected to pause next week for the annual 12 July celebrations.

  • Responses to a public consultation on government proposals to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are expected to be published on Friday 5 July. The Stormont parties viewed the document on an embargoed basis on Thursday afternoon. It is a summary of responses to the proposed legacy plan, rather than a statement of government policy.

  • Jeremy Hunt has said he would decide by the end of September whether there is a “realistic chance” of reaching a new Brexit deal with the EU. The Tory leadership candidate said he would deliver a provisional “no-deal Brexit budget” in early September and then give the EU three weeks.

  • Centre-left Italian politician David Sassoli has been elected as the President of the European Parliament. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been nominated as President of the European Commission. Christine Lagarde has been nominated as the head of the European Central Bank and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has been nominated as European Council President.

  • Theresa May has ordered a review into devolution which will recommend how to improve inter-governmental relations to protect the Union. Lord Dunlop will review how Whitehall interacts with devolution and one issue he is examining is whether Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should continue to have separate Cabinet ministers.

  • The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will meet on Wednesday 10 July to discuss historical institutional abuse.

  • Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will give the annual James Connolly Lecture at Féile an Phobail on 5 August.

  • The Local Government Awards Northern Ireland were launched this week. The awards will recognise brilliance across 9 different categories from local councils in Northern Ireland.

  • The Derry Chamber Annual President’s Dinner will take place on 11 October at the Everglades Hotel, Derry, hosted by Claire McCollum and Neil Delamere.

  • The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and the Integrated Education Fund have been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

  • US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Ireland in early September.

Other stories this week

  • Conservative Party leadership hustings took place on Tuesday 2 July at the Culloden Hotel. Candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt fielded questions from Northern Ireland Conservative Party members.

  • Former Economy Minister Simon Hamilton was announced as the new Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber of Commerce. The DUP will choose a replacement to be co-opted into the Strangford constituency in the coming weeks.

  • The Alternative Arrangements Commission came to Belfast this week to present its interim report on the Irish border to business leaders and other local stakeholders.

  • Maire Hendron signed in as an MLA this week, replacing Alliance leader Naomi Long as MLA for East Belfast.

  • Latest income stats from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency say average household disposable income in NI is £480 per week, an increase of 3% from the previous year.

  • The European Parliament sat for the first time since the May elections on Tuesday 2 July.

  • The Department of Finance, Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities held an Innovation Lab on town centre regeneration this week. It discussed issues surrounding business rates, the urban environment and town planning.

  • The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee held two sessions this week, one on welfare reform and one on tourism.

  • Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned there would be a £90 billion hit to the Treasury if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. A cross-party attempt by MPs to try and block a no-deal Brexit by cutting off spending to government departments was rejected this week by Speaker John Bercow.

  • Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt has called Northern Ireland’s abortion laws “appalling” and has said that she expects the government to take action to amend them if a court rules that they are incompatible with human rights rules.

  • Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald reshuffled her party’s Dáil front bench team. Former President Gerry Adams has been made Spokesperson for Irish Unity and Seán Crowe is now Spokesperson for Brexit.

  • £2 million is to be made available for 10 projects under the latest round of the Small Business Research Initiative Challenge Fund from the Department for the Economy and Department of Finance.

  • Brendan McAllister has been appointed the Interim Advocate for Victims and Survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse. The Interim Advocate will operate until the Statutory Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of Historical Childhood Abuse has been appointed, in line with the recommendation in the Hart Inquiry report.

Upcoming key political and business events

  • 8 July, Queen’s University Association London Summer Drinks Reception, London

  • 8 July, 4th Annual Sir George Quigley Memorial Lecture, Angela McGowan, Dublin City University

  • 10 July, Votes for Citizens Abroad Campaign Launch, Dublin

  • 12 July, Oireachtas Summer Recess begins