Sinn Fein declares Brexit a ‘clear and imminent threat’ to Ireland

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, right, and the party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill. The president of Sinn Féin said: ‘The reality is that Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are not compatible.’ (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Sinn Fein declares Brexit a ‘clear and imminent threat’ to Ireland

LONDON: Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald warned Thursday that Brexit was “a clear and imminent threat” to the island of Ireland and was incompatible with Northern Ireland’s two decades-old peace accord.
“The reality is that Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are not compatible,” the Irish republican leader said, referencing the landmark 1998 accord which devolved government to the British province and ended several decades of deadly violence.
“Brexit, whether it is hard or soft, represents a clear and imminent threat to the economic, social and the political functioning of Ireland in its totality,” she added.
McDonald, speaking to reporters during her first visit to Britain since taking over from veteran Republican leader Gerry Adams earlier this month, criticized recent comments by several British lawmakers suggesting the agreement should be revisited.
Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for more than a year after Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pulled out of a joint executive amid political disagreements.
Months of talks, including with British Prime Minister Theresa May this week, have so far failed to bridge their differences.
McDonald said those now coming out against the Good Friday Agreement were pursuing “their own interests” of a hard Brexit at all costs.
“That’s a deeply shocking and, in our view, deeply deeply irresponsible position for anybody to take,” she said.
McDonald warned the re-introduction of any kind of border on the Irish island must be avoided.
“There cannot be a border on the island of Ireland,” she said.
“To impose such a measure would be catastrophic in terms of our commerce, in terms of our access to services... in terms of how people live their day to day lives.”
McDonald said Northern Ireland instead should receive special designation within any future relationship agreement Britain strikes with the EU — something May has repeatedly ruled out.


Relief as Maldives strongman concedes defeat

Updated 28 min 37 sec ago
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Relief as Maldives strongman concedes defeat

  • The Maldivian people have decided what they want,” President Abdulla Yameen said
  • He said he would hand over power when his term ends on November 17 and ensure a smooth transition

COLOMBO: The strongman leader of the Maldives on Monday conceded defeat in the presidential election, easing fears of a fresh political crisis in the archipelago at the center of a battle for influence between India and China.
“The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday,” President Abdulla Yameen said in a televised address to the Indian Ocean nation a day after the joint opposition candidate unexpectedly triumphed.
“Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.
He said he would hand over power when his term ends on November 17 and ensure a smooth transition in the 1,200-island nation, popular with foreign tourists for its white sands and blue lagoons.
Solih’s victory was a major surprise, with Yameen’s main political rivals either in prison or in exile, media coverage of the opposition sparse and monitors and the opposition predicting vote-rigging.
There had been concerns Yameen might not accept the result given what happened after the last election in 2013.
The Supreme Court annulled that result after Yameen trailed former president Mohamed Nasheed — giving Yameen time to forge alliances and win a second round of voting that was postponed twice.
Results released by the electoral commission showed Yameen on 41.7 percent of the vote, well behind Solih on 58.3 percent — the only other name on ballot papers.
The final official result will take up to a week to be published.
Yameen stayed quiet overnight after the outcome became clear. But signs grew Monday that he would throw in the towel, with a foreign ministry statement saying Solih had won and state media showing him claiming victory.
Nearly 90 percent of the 262,000 electorate turned out to vote, with some waiting in line for more than five hours.
Celebrations broke out across the archipelago on Sunday night, with opposition supporters waving yellow flags of Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and dancing in the streets.
On Monday the situation was calm.
The US State Department, which had warned of “appropriate measures” if the vote was not free and fair, had called on Yameen to “respect the will of the people.”
Regional superpower India said the result marked “the triumph of democratic forces.” But China was yet to comment, with Monday being a public holiday there.
Beijing loaned Yameen’s government hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects like the new “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” from the airport to the capital Male, which opened in August.
The loans stoked fears among Western countries and India about China’s growing influence under its “Belt and Road Initiative” stretching from Asia into Africa and Europe.
Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but struggled for visibility. The local media was fearful of falling foul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.
In February Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency, alarming the international community, in what was seen as an attempt to block a push by his opponents in parliament to impeach him.
A crackdown saw former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — Yameen’s half-brother — jailed along with the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court justice.
Independent international monitors were barred from Sunday’s election and only a handful of foreign media were allowed in to cover the poll.
The government had used “vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to intimidate and imprison critics,” some of whom had been assaulted and even murdered, according to Human Rights Watch.
Solih pledged on Twitter before the election that he would open investigations into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing since 2014, and the fatal stabbing of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017.
He promised also to repeal anti-defamation legislation and “ensure press freedom.”
Foreign monitors said Yameen’s supporters failed to carry out any large-scale fraud thanks to intense international and local scrutiny from civil society groups.
“In the face of massive pressure, they had to abandon their plans,” Rohana Hettiarachchi of the Asian Network for Free Elections told AFP.