Irish political crisis comes to a head

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
Updated 27 November 2017

Irish political crisis comes to a head

DUBLIN: Ireland could face new elections when a political crisis comes to a head next week, bringing instability to Dublin just after it started flexing its muscles in Brexit negotiations.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is resisting calls by the country’s second largest party, Fianna Fail, for his deputy to resign over a long-running police whistleblowing scandal.
Fianna Fail has tabled a motion of no confidence in Frances Fitzgerald in Parliament on Tuesday — and if it goes ahead, the minority Fine Gael government could fall.
After talks with Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin on Friday, Varadkar said they aimed to resolve the crisis.
“I don’t want there to be a general election. I don’t think Micheal Martin wants one either,” he said.
But he repeated again on Saturday that he believed his deputy had “done nothing wrong” in a controversy which relates to her time as justice minister between 2014 and 2016.
Fitzgerald faces questions about what she knew about the smearing of police whistleblower Maurice McCabe, a row that has already caused the resignation of two police chiefs and a justice minister.
The scandal also contributed to the departure of former Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who was replaced by Varadkar in June.
The stand-off comes as Ireland seeks guarantees from London over the border with British-controlled Northern Ireland after it leaves the EU.
EU leaders — including Varadkar — will decide at a summit in December whether enough progress has been made to move Brexit talks to the next stage.
Varadkar wants commitments that the border will remain completely open, warning any new controls risk endangering the peace process, as well as hitting the economy on both sides.
Analysts suggest that neither of the two main Irish parties want a new election so soon after the February 2016 vote, when Fine Gael was forced to seek the support of Fianna Fail to govern. But the positions of both sides have become entrenched.
“The main players walked themselves into a corner,” said David Farrell, a politics professor at University College Dublin, adding the situation was mostly an “accident of circumstances.”
Michael Marsh, from Trinity College Dublin, said the whistleblowing row “certainly will not be the issue on the doorsteps, given a housing crisis, Brexit and economic recovery.”
But he said Martin was “being pushed by some of those behind him,” and perhaps did not want to lose ground to Sinn Fein, the third largest party which has also tabled a no-confidence motion.
Opinion polls suggest a new election — which both parties have suggested could come next month — would deliver a similar result as last time.
But a new deal between the main parties might be more difficult given the current circumstances.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.