N.Ireland talks falter as DUP calls on London to step in

Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Arlene Foster (C) speaks to the media with her deputy leader Nigel Dodds (L) along side at the Parliament Buildings on the Stormont Estate in Belfast. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018

N.Ireland talks falter as DUP calls on London to step in

BELFAST: There is no prospect of Northern Ireland’s main parties agreeing to restore devolved government, the leader of the largest unionist party said on Wednesday, calling on Britain to take further financial control of the region.
The British province has been without a devolved executive for over a year since Irish nationalists   withdrew from the compulsory power-sharing government with their arch-rivals, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The two parties, representing mainly Catholic proponents of a united Ireland and mostly Protestant supporters of continued rule by Britain, have failed to meet a number of deadlines and were told last month by the British and Irish governments that they had one last opportunity to reach a deal.
“In our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a statement, two days after the British and Irish prime ministers said they were hopeful the stalemate would end soon.
“It is now incumbent upon Her Majesty’s Government to set a budget. Important decisions impacting on everyone in Northern Ireland have been sitting in limbo for too long.”
Foster’s colleague Simon Hamilton told reporters that a deal was “impossible” at this time but that the DUP wanted to pick the talks up again at a future date.
The British government, which is overseeing the talks alongside the Irish government, has already had to take steps toward ruling the region directly from London for the first time in a decade, setting a budget late last year that runs until the end of March.
Many fear direct rule would further destabilize a delicate balance between nationalists and unionists who, until last year, had run the province since 2007 under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord which ended three decades of violence.
The absence of an executive has also limited Belfast’s say in Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, which are set to have a bigger impact on Northern Ireland than on any other part of the United Kingdom.
The DUP and Sinn Fein have failed to reach agreement on a number of issues, in particular additional rights for Irish-language speakers which Foster highlighted as the chief reason why they had “reached an impasse.”
“Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain our goal but we will not accept a one-sided deal,” said Foster, who as recently as Friday noted that the parties had made progress in the talks.
Foster’s statement was unfortunate given the progress that had been made, Sinn Fein finance spokesman in the Irish Republic, Pearse Doherty, told the Newstalk radio station.


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.