Irish government on verge of collapse ahead of EU Brexit summit

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar forged a three-year “confidence and supply” agreement with other parties that allowed Varadkar’s Fine Gael to form a minority government 18 months ago. (Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Irish government on verge of collapse ahead of EU Brexit summit

DUBLIN: The Irish government was on the verge of collapse on Thursday after the party whose votes Prime Minister Leo Varadkar depends on to pass legislation said it would seek to remove the deputy prime minister in a breach of their cooperation agreement.
The crisis comes three weeks ahead of a EU summit in which the Irish government has an effective veto on whether Britain’s talks on leaving the bloc progress as it determines if EU concerns about the future of the Irish border have been met.
In a row that escalated rapidly, the opposition Fianna Fail party said it would put a motion of no confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Frances Fitzgerald before parliament on Tuesday over her handling of a legal case involving a police whistleblower.
That would break the three-year “confidence and supply” agreement that allowed Varadkar’s Fine Gael party to form a minority government 18 months ago.
Fianna Fail initially indicated it might withdraw its threat if Fitzgerald resigned but Fine Gael members of parliament passed a unanimous motion of support in Fitzgerald at an emergency meeting on Thursday evening.
Asked after Fine Gael’s statement whether the country was headed for an election, a senior Fianna Fail source replied: “Straight toward one.”
The source declined to be named as the party’s frontbench was due to hold an emergency meeting early on Friday to decide its next move.
“This is ... dangerous politically at a time when the country does not need an election,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael told national Irish broadcaster RTE, in an apparent reference to the Brexit talks he had earlier described as a “historic moment” for the island of Ireland.
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the UK’s only land frontier with the bloc after its departure, is one of three issues Brussels wants broadly solved before it decides next month on whether to move the talks onto a second phase about trade, as Britain wants.
Coveney told parliament on Thursday that the government was not yet ready to allow the talks to move on to the trade issues at the Dec. 14-15 summit and needed more clarity from London.
A breakdown of the government’s cooperation deal, which has worked relatively smoothly up until now between two parties that differ little on policy but have been bitter foes for decades, would likely lead to an election in December or January.
The Fianna Fail move comes after Fitzgerald admitted she was made aware of an attempt to discredit a police whistleblower in a 2015 email, but failed to act. Fine Gael say she adhered to due process.
Since Varadkar’s appointment as Fine Gael leader in May, his party has narrowly led Fianna Fail in opinion polls that suggest both parties would increase their support but still struggle to form anything but another minority government.


Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

Updated 24 May 2018
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Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

TUTICORIN, India: A protester shot during demonstrations against a copper plant in southern India died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, the 13th victim killed by police fire.
A curfew remained in pockets of Tuticorin city in Tamil Nadu state where police used live ammunition to disperse protesters this week, provoking international outrage and demands for an immediate investigation.
Calls for the copper smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to be closed had been building in recent months, with residents complaining it was polluting their city.
The resistance came to a head Tuesday when police stopped a crowd of thousands from protesting outside the factory.
Cars and buildings were set ablaze and rocks hurled at police, who responded with live fire. Eleven demonstrators were shot dead and many people injured in the melee, including 20 police.
Another protester died Wednesday when he was struck by rubber bullets in a second day of protests.
The latest victim died in hospital Thursday, two days after being injured, doctors said.
“He was brought in a critical condition with bullet injuries and died today,” a doctor at the local hospital said.
The chief minister of Tamil Nadu has ordered an inquiry but defended the actions of police, which the state’s opposition leader called “mass murder.”
“The police have a duty during protests to maintain law and order, but lethal force can only be used if there is an imminent threat to life,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
“Tamil Nadu authorities need to carry out a prompt and credible investigation to determine if police used excessive force.”
Internet services have been blocked across the city for five days. Police justified the blackout to stop the spread of information that could incite further violence as they search for those behind Tuesday’s arson attacks.
Environmentalists and locals say the factory contaminates water and air, claims its owners deny.
The company has sought to renew the license of the temporarily non-operational plant and hopes to double its production capacity.
But a state court Wednesday ordered that it cease any further construction at the new site.
The ruling came just hours after Tamil Nadu’s pollution board ordered the existing plant be shut and its power supply cut until a verdict is made on its licensing application.