Sinn Fein eyes milestone election victory in push for Irish unity

Sinn Fein eyes milestone election victory in push for Irish unity
1 / 2
An Ireland flag flutters beside an old prison door that is affixed to the side of a house as a memorial to Republican prisoners, in the nationalist Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr. 29, 2022. (Reuters)
Sinn Fein eyes milestone election victory in push for Irish unity
2 / 2
A man carries a plank of wood past a picture of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on the loyalist Shankill Road in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr. 29, 2022. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 03 May 2022

Sinn Fein eyes milestone election victory in push for Irish unity

Sinn Fein eyes milestone election victory in push for Irish unity
  • An Irish nationalist party coming out on top for the first time in the British-run province would represent a historic moment
  • Sinn Fein is led by a younger generation of politicians with fewer links to the IRA and Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’

BELFAST: Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA, is on course to become the biggest party in Northern Ireland’s government after Thursday’s election, a milestone in its quest for a united Ireland.
The one-time political pariah has an 8-point advantage ahead of the May 5 election for the Northern Ireland Assembly, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
An Irish nationalist party coming out on top for the first time in the British-run province would represent a historic shift 24 years after the Good Friday peace accord ended three decades of sectarian bloodshed. It also moves Sinn Fein closer to becoming the lead party in government on both sides of the Irish border.
Though a referendum that could result in unity with the neighboring Republic of Ireland is likely to be years away, Sinn Fein senses growing momentum.
“We are in a decade of opportunity, a decade of opportunity to bring about that change,” Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill told Reuters at its ‘Time For Real Change’ election manifesto launch.
“I’m less fixated about dates (for a referendum) and more concerned about the planning, the work needs to happen and the constitutional change conversation must be had.”
Sinn Fein is led by a younger generation of politicians with fewer links to the IRA and Northern Ireland’s “Troubles” when 3,600 people were killed. They want the government in Dublin to start planning for the possibility of a border poll.
A pre-election canvass in the patchwork constituency of north Belfast suggests breaking away from Britain is not at the top of voters’ minds.
While Sinn Fein campaigners are greeted by some houses flying Irish tricolors and another with a sign reading ‘céad míle fáilte’ — the Irish for welcome — the rocketing cost of living and a struggling health service are the chief concerns.
“Sinn Fein has run quite a nuanced campaign which is a pitch to the persuadables and middle ground,” Chris Donnelly, a political commentator and former Sinn Fein candidate said of the party’s restrained push on the doorstep for a united Ireland.
Irish unity takes up just one page in the 17-page manifesto.
It is a similar case in the Republic of Ireland where an even wider Sinn Fein lead in opinion polls ahead of national elections in three years time is not a signal that Irish unity is top of the agenda.
Sinn Fein shocked the political establishment there in 2020 by securing more votes than any other party, forcing Ireland’s two dominant center-right parties to join forces for the first time to keep their left wing rivals out of power.
An exit poll showed a years-long housing crisis and problems in the health service were the most important issues for 60 percent of those who cast their vote. Pollsters did not consider it worthwhile including Irish unity as one of the 10 options in the exit poll.
Pro-British parties are nevertheless using Sinn Fein’s push to withdraw Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales to galvanize support.
“I think unionists are very concerned about what a Sinn Fein victory would mean in terms of their divisive border poll plans,” Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the biggest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), told Reuters.
A collapse in support over the last 18 months for the DUP is the main reason why it is poised to lose the office of Northern Ireland first minister to Sinn Fein under a structure where the main nationalist and unionist rivals are obliged to share power.
Unionists captured less than half of the seats for the first time at the last election in 2017 and polls suggest that anger over post-Brexit checks introduced between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is set to spilt that share more widely among unionist parties this time around.
Monday’s poll showed that the cross-community Alliance Party could catch the DUP, an unthinkable prospect five years ago.
While Brexit also gave the debate about a United Ireland a boost after a majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union, the requirement to share power with unionist rivals will limit what Sinn Fein can actually do about it.
It is also solely up to the British government under the terms of the 1998 peace deal to call a referendum if they believe a “yes” majority looks likely. Opinion polls have consistently shown most voters in Northern Ireland favor the status quo.
Still, analysts believe a Sinn Fein victory on Thursday could be a watershed moment.
“It would be significant where a party committed to the change of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to a United Ireland became the largest representative party,” said Donnelly, the political commentator.


Biden says ‘no’ to US sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

Biden says ‘no’ to US sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
Updated 24 sec ago

Biden says ‘no’ to US sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

Biden says ‘no’ to US sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
  • Ukraine’s leaders have said that the F-16s are at the top of their latest weapons wish list
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden said Monday he will not be sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help its war against Russian invaders.
“No,” he said when asked by reporters at the White House if he was in favor of sending the jets, which Ukraine’s leaders have said are at the top of their latest weapons wish list.

Herders in Ethiopia forced to give up their nomadic existence

Herders in Ethiopia forced to give up their nomadic existence
Updated 31 min 55 sec ago

Herders in Ethiopia forced to give up their nomadic existence

Herders in Ethiopia forced to give up their nomadic existence
  • Drought has plunged 12 million people into ‘acute food insecurity’ in Ethiopia, UN says

KELAFO: Mohammed Hassan Gureh has made up his mind: He’s going to sell the last of his goats and leave his village to find a new life.

Like many herders in the east of Ethiopia, he has been forced to give up his nomadic existence after seeing his livestock decimated by drought.

The 32-year-old says he can no longer bear seeing his animals die. Out of a herd of 250 goats, only 35 are left.

And in his village of El Gel, in a corner of the Somali region of Ethiopia not far from the border with Somalia, two-thirds of the animals have been wiped out.

Gureh, like other nomadic herders across the Horn of Africa, has been waiting desperately for more than two years for rains that have not come.

The last five rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have failed, triggering the worst drought in four decades in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. And the next rainy season, from March to May, is also expected to be below average.

According to the UN, drought has plunged 12 million people into “acute food insecurity” in Ethiopia alone, where a deadly conflict has also ravaged the north of the country.

More than 4.5 million livestock have died since 2021 and another 30 million “weakened and emaciated” animals are at risk, the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said in a January 18 report.

Gureh waited and prayed, but he has had to face the grim reality. “There is no sign of improvement. I think the drought will continue and get worse over time.” So he has decided to sell his goats before it is too late.

With the small amount of money he’ll make from a sale, he plans to leave El Gel and head to the nearby town of K’elafo, hoping he will finally be able to support his wife, his four children, his blind father and his crippled mother.

His plans are vague: He will probably try to eke out a living as a small-time trader selling charcoal, firewood or incense.

“I also want to start adult education and develop my skills in order to find employment opportunities,” he says.

“It’s a very difficult decision to move from a life as a goatherd to a new way of life that I don’t know ... But I have no other option.”


Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers
Updated 55 min 56 sec ago

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers
  • Fartun Abdirashid, wife of Abdiqadir Mumin, head of the Daesh group, was sentenced on Monday at a military court

MOGADISHU: A military tribunal in Somalia has sentenced the wife of the head of a terrorist organization linked to Daesh to eight years in prison for passing on information and organizing financial transactions for the group, a military official said on Monday.

Fartun Abdirashid, wife of Abdiqadir Mumin, head of the Daesh group, was sentenced on Monday at a military court.

She has been under custody since her arrest in March last year in the capital, Mogadishu.

Abdirashid was accused of frequently transferring $100 to $200 to the group’s members, the public prosecutor’s office said.

She had a working relationship with Bilal Al-Sudaani, a senior Daesh official who was killed on Wednesday in a US raid in Somalia’s northern Bari region.

Mumin, a former Al-Shabab cleric, pledged his allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2015.

Daesh holds a smaller footprint in Somalia compared to the Al-Shabab terrorist group that has carried out numerous attacks in the country.

Somalia’s forces are carrying out an offensive against Al-Shabab that has been described at the most significant in more than a decade.

The first US Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s distracted donors to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she calls “the ultimate failure of the international community.”


Young Palestinians and Israelis invited to Japan by Foreign Ministry

File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
Updated 30 January 2023

Young Palestinians and Israelis invited to Japan by Foreign Ministry

File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
  • Four Israelis and four Palestinians were invited to Japan as part of Japan’s efforts to realize a “two-state solution”

TOKYO: Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting a group of Palestinians and Israelis as part of the 2022 Israeli-Palestinian Joint Youth Invitation Program.

Four Israelis and four Palestinians were invited to Japan as part of Japan’s efforts to realize a “two-state solution” by establishing a future “Palestinian state” alongside Israel.

The program with the youths “aims to provide a forum for building mutual trust and deepen understanding of Japan’s efforts toward peace in the Middle East, foreign policy, economy and culture.”

The invitation program is now in its 23rd year and more than 220 people have been invited from Israel and Palestine.

During their stay, the delegation will visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, exchange opinions with the students, and tour Tokyo and local cities, including Kyoto and Hiroshima.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan. Click here to read it.


Three injured in knife attack near EU Brussels headquarters

Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2023

Three injured in knife attack near EU Brussels headquarters

Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
  • The suspected attacker was known to police for “psychiatric problems,” a source close to the investigation said

BRUSSELS: Three people were injured, one seriously, in a knife attack Monday in a metro station near the European Union headquarters in Brussels, officials said, adding that the attacker had been arrested.
Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said the man was speedily detained due to coordinated police action at the Schuman metro station.
Police said one of the injured was in “critical condition.”
The suspected attacker was known to police for “psychiatric problems,” a source close to the investigation said.
The attack took place at rush hour around 6:00 pm.
European Union chief Charles Michel, a former Belgian prime minister, thanked the police in a tweet and said his thoughts were with the victims.
An AFP journalist at the site said a woman told people not to enter the station, saying there was a man inside armed with a knife as police rushed in.
Traffic was interrupted on the line.