Polls open in Ireland for Brexit-dominated vote

A woman walks past a polling station as voting for the European Parliament elections got underway, in west Belfast, northern Ireland on May 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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Polls open in Ireland for Brexit-dominated vote

  • Most of Ireland’s mainstream parties have campaigned heavily to cement the nation’s place in the future of the European project
  • The results of the vote are expected on Monday

DUBLIN: Voters in Ireland began casting ballots Friday in European elections that are being overshadowed by neighboring Britain’s failure to leave the bloc nearly three years after the seismic Brexit vote.
After months of political paralysis in London and amid concerns about economic disruption, most of Ireland’s mainstream parties have campaigned heavily to cement the nation’s place in the future of the European project.
The candidates for the European Parliament have also pledged to dampen the economic shock predicted to radiate into Ireland if and when its closest trading partner leaves the European Union.
Two Irish MEPs will be elected to new seats, created in anticipation of Britain’s 73 lawmakers retiring from their posts.
However, they will be unable to take up their positions until Britain finalizes its split with the EU.
The results of the vote are expected on Monday.
Later on Friday the Czech Republic kicks off its two-day voting process, a day after residents cast their votes in Britain and also in the Netherlands where the Labour party scored a surprise victory to win most seats in the elections.
Other members of the 28-nation EU will vote on Saturday or Sunday.
Ireland is also voting Friday in a referendum to reform its constitutional laws on divorce in the latest drive to modernize the once staunchly Catholic nation.
At present couples must live separately for four out of five years before they may be granted a divorce, a hangover condition from the 1995 referendum which legalized the dissolution of marriage.
If the provision is repealed, the Irish government has signaled it will bring forth legislation shortening the requirement to two out of the previous three years.
The latest vote follows a landslide referendum last May which saw Ireland vote 66 percent in favor of repealing its constitutional ban on abortions.
In October voters also lifted a rarely enforced constitutional ban on blasphemy.
The referendum result is expected to be announced on Saturday.


Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

Philip Neville Arps, left, appears for sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

  • Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A Christchurch businessman who shared a video of worshippers being slaughtered at a New Zealand mosque was sentenced on Tuesday to 21 months in prison.
Philip Arps had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the video, which was livestreamed on Facebook by a gunman on March 15 as he began killing 51 people at two mosques.
Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and had shown no empathy toward the victims.
The judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had, in effect, committed a hate crime. The judge said Arps had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” the judge said.
O’Driscoll said Arps had sent the video to 30 associates. The judge said Arps also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an Internet meme, although there was no evidence he’d shared the meme.
Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count.
In other cases, at least five other people were also charged with illegally sharing the shooting video. An 18-year-old was jailed in March while the others weren’t kept in custody. The teen is accused of sharing the video and an image of the Al Noor mosque with the words “target acquired.” He is next due to appear in court on July 31.
The judge said Arps had argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams told the judge that Arps should not be sent to prison.
“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr. Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.
After the hearing, Williams said Arps had filed an appeal against his sentence at the High Court, but declined to comment further.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, last week pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in the mosque shooting case. His trial has been scheduled for next May.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep Internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks. New Zealand has also tightened its gun laws and banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons since the attack.