Displaying items by tag: Northern Ireland
Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan has a $3.5tn price tag that could transform millions of Americans’ lives. The bipartisan senate infrastructure bill proposes $66bn of new spending on passenger and freight rail projects over the next decade as the Democrats undertake the most ambitious and transformative domestic policy agendas since the New Deal of the 1930s. It also focuses on a long list of social policies and programmes ranging from education to healthcare to housing to climate. With Republicans unified in opposition, Democrats are using a special budgetary process known as ‘reconciliation’ to avoid the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass the bill on a party-line vote. Boris Johnson’s Build Back Better plans to support economic growth through significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation, and will tackle the NHS backlog while capping social care costs for adults. Another aspect was for a Build Back Coronavirus recovery plan: see
The UK wants to change the Brexit process to allow goods to circulate more freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as current rules impose too many barriers to the sale of products. The EU have set out proposals that involve reduced checks on goods and medicines. The January post-Brexit arrangement, the Northern Ireland Protocol, was introduced to help prevent border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both sides agree in differing degrees that the protocol poses many difficulties. EU and UK talks to reach a better arrangement are likely to go on for several weeks.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is widely expected to become the next leader of the DUP in the extraordinary political drama which has consumed the party in recent months. This follows the resignation of Edwin Poots; his main challenge will be to restore stability following one of the most turbulent periods in the DUP’s history. He originally put his name forward to become leader after Arlene Foster was ousted following internal party unrest, but was defeated by just one vote in the DUP’s first ever leadership election last month. He will have to pick up the pieces and deal with many of the same challenges which faced his predecessor. He may be expected to take a harder line over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which unionists oppose.
The UK has accused France of the ‘offensive’ remark that Northern Ireland is not part of the UK. Since 2016 the two sides have been trying to work out how to deal with post-Brexit trade and Northern Ireland’s land border with the EU. The latest spat is centered on sausages. When Boris Johnson met Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit, he asked him to imagine if Toulouse sausages were barred from sale in Paris, which left Macron ‘astonished’. He told him Toulouse is part of the same territory, and inaccurately said, ‘Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom’. Johnson furiously replied, ‘Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country.’ After the testy exchange Johnson told the media, ‘Some of our friends seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory. I think they need to get that into their heads.’
The UK and the EU are in disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol; one sticking point is the export of sausages from the UK. Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, says there have been ‘numerous and fundamental gaps’ in the UK's implementation of the trade deal and the EU will act ‘firmly’ if the UK does not agree on deadlines for complying with its obligations. Environment secretary George Eustice claimed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the way the EU wants to implement it, make it impossible for UK producers to sell British sausages to Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson's spokesman said there was ‘no case whatsoever’ for blocking the sale of chilled meats. The UK has also accused the EU of failing to engage with its own proposals, especially with the issues pertaining to people in Northern Ireland.
Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019 after Westminster acted during the absence of devolution. Delays in implementing Northern Ireland's abortion laws have been a ‘deeply troubling exercise in finger-pointing’, a court has heard. Stormont is under pressure to establish a permanent, central abortion service; it has not happened yet and is being challenged in a high court judicial review. The Human Rights Commission is taking the case against the NI Executive, the Department of Health, and the NI secretary Brandon Lewis. Currently health trusts only operate a ‘skeleton service’ for medical abortions up to ten weeks of pregnancy. Women seeking a termination beyond that gestation travel to England. Arlene Foster’s party, which opposes abortion, said that abortion proposals were not going to be passed by the executive or the incoming leader, Edwin Poots.
An open letter from ‘Don’t Screen Us Out’ has been sent to Arlene Foster, Edwin Poots, and other leading politicians. It was written on behalf of people with Down’s syndrome and their families, who are asking for their parties to support a bill which has been introduced to the NI Assembly. The bill seeks to amend the current abortion regulations, to no longer allow unborn babies with a ‘serious foetal impairment’ to be aborted to term. This bill would not amend the law in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’. Currently NI abortion is legal up to birth if the foetus has Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, cleft lip, or club foot. This new bill proposes that non-fatal disabilities should not be grounds for abortion, and the current law is discriminatory against those with such disabilities. 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has said that if Brussels continues to insist on checks on goods arriving from UK’s mainland the Government could trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol (which gives power to suspend the protocol if its application creates economic, societal or environmental difficulties that persist, or divert trade). No 10 fears that unless it takes such action, Unionist violence could flare during July’s marching season in protest at a virtual barrier down the Irish Sea. Urging Brussels to 'stop the point-scoring and work with us', Lord Frost said the UK's 'European friends' do not appear to share our desire for 'free trade and friendly relations. From the unfortunate attempt to put a hard border on the island of Ireland for vaccine exports to threatening to cut off Jersey’s electricity or retaliating against our financial services, we haven't heard much enthusiasm to make things work.'
At the height of the recent riots in Northern Ireland, Leading The Way launched a social media campaign. ‘After seeing the riots in Belfast, we decided to reach out on social media to young people across the city with these messages of hope from Dr. Youssef, as well as offering a free Finding True Peace booklet.’ The scale of the response was surprising, unexpected - and a huge answer to many prayers! On Facebook, tens of thousands of young people watched the videos. Nearly 400 people visited the Finding True Peace website, which explains how Jesus provides the only hope to people who increasingly need to know the love of God in their lives. On YouTube, over 17,000 people watched the video. 30% were under 24 years of age, and from Northern Ireland. See
Arlene Foster announced her resignation as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and as NI first minister after an internal revolt. Mrs Foster said she would step down as DUP leader on 28 May, and as first minister at the end of June. Her decision came after she had to face a revolt among her party's representatives. Over twenty DUP NI assembly members and four MPs had signed a letter voicing no confidence in her leadership. She had become party leader in December 2015. Pray for the outworkings of Brexit and the Irish Sea border to be resolved amicably by her replacement. Pray for GB-NI trade difficulties to be diplomatically resolved, with restored trust in each other’s purposes and policies. Pray also for assembly members, worried about retaining their seats, to put loyalty in serving their country above their own political interests. See