Displaying items by tag: Ireland
Leo Varadkar, the Irish deputy prime minister and the leader of Fine Gael, says that while the views of unionists must be ‘acknowledged and respected, ‘no one group can have a veto on Ireland's future’. He told delegates at a virtual Fine Gael conference on 15 June that he wanted to see the party establish a branch north of the border. ‘We should be proud to say unification is something we aspire to, It should be part of our mission as a party to work towards it.’ He also said there was a growing middle ground in Northern Ireland, and Fine Gael should reach out towards it. However, he said unification must not be the ‘annexation’ of Northern Ireland. ‘It means a new state in which almost a million people are British. Like the new South Africa, a rainbow nation, not just orange and green.’
Large numbers of Irish trucks have begun transporting goods via ferries to France, to avoid delays on the more traditional route to continental Europe via Britain, which withdrew from EU trading rules on 1 January. Ireland's transport minister said that France may now require rapid Covid tests from Irish truck drivers operating on this route. The new measures would target the more infectious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in England but now widespread in Ireland. The PCR Covid test can take several days. However, a much quicker antigen test can give results in minutes. Whichever test the French decide on, the truckers will have to manage it and ensure they do it without disrupting supply chains. (France’s demand for Covid tests from British drivers in December caused significant delays and disruption.)
The leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green party have struck a deal to form a coalition government in Ireland four months after a general election scrambled the political landscape. The proposed coalition, which still needs to be ratified by grassroots members, would bridge a century of rivalry between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and inject urgency into Ireland’s response to the climate crisis. It will also need to steer new laws, including one for a €6.5bn (£5.8bn) coronavirus support package, through a fragmented parliament.
Two major business groups have written to the governments in Dublin and Belfast to urge coordination in the recovery from coronavirus. The CBI and its Irish equivalent, Ibec, said that an economic reboot will need ‘the highest level of cooperation, coordination and joined-up thinking’. They highlighted the importance of integrated supply chains across the border and Irish Sea, stopping short of requesting a synchronised exit from the lockdown. There have been political differences at Stormont on the level to which an all-island approach should be taken to coronavirus. The two groups say that it is in everyone's interests to have experts on both sides of the border regularly communicating on their respective plans for economic revival and recovery, including all-island business and cross-border employment. They add, ‘It would be helpful and worthwhile for parallel conversations to take place between the two islands, with the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish council providing appropriate formal frameworks for such discussions’.
Ireland needs to form a new government after election results showed Fianna Fáil winning 38 seats, Sinn Féin 37, and Fine Gael 35. The numbers indicate that negotiations to establish a government could be prolonged. The prospect of the left-wing, nationalist Sinn Fein entering Ireland’s government looks likely. This could make some people uncomfortable when they recall all the ‘Troubles’ of the past. In a world of fragmenting politics with Ireland’s Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, onlookers say it was only a matter of time before Sinn Fein found a route to power. Before the election, both the other parties had ruled out forging a coalition with Sinn Fein, citing its tax policies and IRA past as deterrents. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she would ask the EU to support Irish reunification if she was part of the next government.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Ireland will hold a general election on Saturday 8 February. It is unusual for Ireland to hold elections on a Saturday; they are usually on a Thursday or Friday. As a result of the decision, the Irish parliament - or Dáil - will be dissolved. Varadkar has been leading a minority government for two years since taking over from former Prime Minister Enda Kenny in 2017. Finian McGrath, the Dublin Bay North TD and minister for disability issues, has said he will not seek re-election. But he is far from retiring and will remain involved in political activism. He said, ‘I hope to spend time encouraging some of the 13 percent of Ireland’s population who have some form of disability to get involved in politics at a local or national level.’
On 23 October 39 migrants, including one teenager, were found frozen to death in a refrigerated container (temperature -25C) on an Essex industrial estate. The truck carrying the container entered the UK from Dublin four days earlier. The driver, from Northern Ireland, was arrested on suspicion of murder, even though he may have been the one who alerted the authorities. Local MP Jackie Doyle-Price said, ‘Putting 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil. The best way to honour their memory is to bring the perpetrators to justice.’ The cab was registered in Bulgaria under a company owned by an Irish woman, with possible links to a smuggling route and to Irish Republican gangs. Pray for the victims to be quickly identified and families sensitively alerted, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. See also the next article.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin wants the Government to admit that a no-deal Brexit is now the expected outcome, and to be transparent with the Irish public about its plans. He told RTÉ radio’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show, ‘The issue is too important to be left until 31 October. The public needs to know now what plans are in place, what kind of checks will be required in the event of a no-deal Brexit.’ Mr Martin said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the state of readiness for a no-deal Brexit, especially for ports where he feared there would be disruption to the transport of goods, both outward and inward. He added, ‘Politics is not about playing games in an arena, it is about people’s lives.’
Kevin Meagher, a former special advisor to Northern Ireland’s Labour party, has said that Boris Johnson is trying to ‘look down the barrel of the European Commission to see if there is any wiggle room for him’ as he tries to negotiate a backstop which only applies to Northern Ireland and avoids a hard border between the UK and EU. Let us pray for an answer that only God can bring about. May there be a frictionless open border agreed upon by every British, Irish and European politician.
Young people in Northern Ireland have grown up with a unique ability to identity as British, Irish, or both, thanks to the peace agreement that ended decades of conflict. But after Brexit, some people think the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could again become a scene of violence, and there is uncertainty about what rights Irish and British passport holders will have. Pray for the questions around people’s identities and citizenships to be resolved. Pray for peace to cover all areas threatened with fear and violence. To watch a short documentary about the north/south divide issues discussed by young people, click the ‘More’ button.