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Minus 10C Arctic blast predicted as Storm Arwen rages on

The Guardian - Sun, 28/11/2021 - 19:21

Expect more wintry conditions says Met Office, after three people killed and half a million households left without power

A minus 10C Arctic blast is forecast to follow the blizzards and close to 100mph winds of Storm Arwen which left half a million households temporarily without power at the weekend and killed three people.

A cold weather alert issued by the UK Health Security Agency will remain in place until Monday after swathes of the north of England, Scotland, Wales, the south-west and the Midlands were left without electricity. Gales caused transport disruption and damage to buildings, while heavy snow led to lorries getting stuck and ploughs being used in a number of areas. The Met Office said that as the storm was clearing towards Europe temperatures would drop to the coldest of the season so far.

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Storm Arwen: three people killed after winds of almost 100mph hit UK

The Guardian - Sat, 27/11/2021 - 17:57

Tens of thousands of homes left without power with yellow weather warnings still in place for many regions

Three people have died after being hit by falling trees as Storm Arwen brought winds of almost 100mph to parts of the UK overnight.

A headteacher in Northern Ireland died after a tree fell on his car, another man was hit by a falling tree in Cumbria, and a third died after his car was hit in Aberdeenshire.

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Northern Ireland is huge in TV, but post-Brexit reality is far less glitzy

The Guardian - Sat, 27/11/2021 - 17:00

Northern Ireland faces economic problems similar to those of rest of the UK, with some extras all of its own. Now what it has achieved is threatened by a looming trade war

Bars are full, restaurants are turning away customers who don’t have reservations and, judging by the people laden with bags, the Christmas shopping season is already under way. Belfast has known plenty of crises down the decades but this doesn’t feel like one of them.

Instead, on a Thursday evening in November, Northern Ireland’s capital has the air of any other big provincial UK city, with a thriving hospitality sector and plenty of money changing hands. Were it not for the accents, it could be Leeds or Manchester.

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‘We are sick of double speak’: French government intensifies attack on Johnson over Channel tragedy – as it happened

The Guardian - Fri, 26/11/2021 - 18:31

This live blog is now closed. You can read our latest stories on the Channel tragedy below

The French government has accused Boris Johnson of “double speak”. In a briefing, the French government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, said that the proposal in Johnson’s letter to Emmanuel Macron for France to take back people who successfully cross the Channel on small boats was “clearly not what we need to solve this problem”.

According to PA Media, Attal also said that the letter doesn’t correspond at all” with the discussions Johnson and Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday. Atta went on: “We are sick of double speak.”

What would be completely unacceptable, a stain on our country and a scandal would be to see in future those whose parents have died being placed in inappropriate institutions, in elderly care homes or mental health institutions.

That would be something that I think would bring shame to our country as well as an utterly inappropriate lifestyle for those to whom we should be giving the best possible care.

This is not a bill about a condition, it is not about dealing with Down’s syndrome, it is about people who deserve the same ability to demand the best health, education and care as the rest of our society.

It is not on our part an act of charity, it is an act of empowerment and the recognition that all members of our society must have a right to respect, independence and dignity. That is why I brought this bill forward.

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Boris Johnson’s plan for Irish Sea bridge rejected over £335bn cost

The Guardian - Fri, 26/11/2021 - 12:48

Project or alternative of a £209bn tunnel would be vastly expensive and fraught with complexities, study says

Boris Johnson’s proposal for a bridge or tunnel linking Scotland to Northern Ireland has been rejected by a feasibility study as vastly expensive – £335bn for the bridge or £209bn for the tunnel – and fraught with potential difficulties.

Released alongside a wider so-called union connectivity review, which called for investment in road, rail and domestic aviation to better connect the four UK nations, the fixed link report found either a bridge or tunnel would be at the very edge of what could be achieved with current technology.

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Criminalising Solidarity: The Case of Seán Binder

Rebel - Thu, 25/11/2021 - 15:09
Seán Binder, alongside 22 other humanitarians, faces criminal charges related to his life-saving work helping to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean. Declan Owens argues that Greece is attempting to criminalise solidarity.

In 2017 and 2018, Seán Binder, a 27-year-old Irish citizen, worked with the humanitarian organisation Emergency Response Centre International on the Greek island of Lesvos to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean.

Along with other 22 other humanitarians, including a Syrian refugee now based in Germany, Sarah Mardini, he faces criminal charges related to their lifesaving humanitarian work. Seán and Sarah face trial on four charges classified as “misdemeanours”: espionage; disclosure of state secrets; unlawful use of radio frequencies; and forgery.

In what can only be described as a political prosecution, Seán and Sarah were held in pre-trial detention for 107 days in 2018 while authorities investigated the “misdemeanours” and possible felony charges: facilitation of illegal entry; money laundering; and fraud.

If convicted on all misdemeanour and felony charges, they could face up to 25 years in prison.

The investigation continues and the two have not been formally indicted with any felonies. All charges are denied. On 18 November 2021, the trial was adjourned following an unconscionable 3-year ‘investigation’ and it was unclear when the trial would resume.

“If they are found guilty it could amount to criminalisation of search and rescue work,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders.  She said that “A guilty verdict for Ms. Mardini and Mr. Binder would be a dark day for Greece, and a dark day for human rights in Europe.” 

Her call for the charges to be dropped was endorsed by Ms. Siobhán Mullaly, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. Questions have been asked in Dáil Éireann about the case with Paul Murphy, TD for Dublin South-West, tweeting: “Saving lives is not a crime!”

Seán is a law student and member of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. We have offered Sean our full solidarity and have arranged with comrades in Greece and Turkey for legal observers to attend trial. We are under no doubt that the Greek state is seeking to produce a chilling effect on the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean by seeking to criminalise solidarity.

This was a theme in Haldane’s 2020 conference, ‘Hostile Environments’ where Seán outlined his experience. These attempts to criminalise solidarity have been exemplified by the approach of Fortress EU to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and of Fortress Britain towards migrants. In the latter case, the Tories have created what is proudly termed a ‘Hostile Environment’, the effects of which were on horrific display with the recent tragedy of over thirty people dying as they tried to cross the Channel from France to England. Haldane has long opposed these policies, as well as similar ones brought in by New Labour before them.

There is no doubt that the Greek Government are condemning further migrants to ‘death sentences’ in a situation where we anticipate many more climate migrants in the years to come due to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Indeed, this was a theme which we explored in our conference, as migrants can leave a hostile physical ‘environment’ in their homeland, only to face a hostile psychological ‘environment’ in their host country in what is meant to be a place of refuge. We feel that the issue of climate migration will only become a more common issue for our members and allied campaigns to engage with as we continue to show solidarity with migrants and refugees.

In the meantime, we will continue to support Seán Binder and other human rights defenders. As Seán rightly said before the hearing:

“I feel angry that the legal requirement to help people in distress at sea is being criminalised right now. I’m angry because there is not a shred of evidence against us. … I’m angry because we’ve had to wait three years now for this prosecution to take place and it’s very likely that the prosecution will not continue because the indictment is so poorly constructed.”

We also condemn the fact that the Greek court last week refused Ms. Mardini’s lawyer’s appeal to allow her to travel to Greece as an affront to the right to a fair trial.

The adjournment of this trial will exacerbate the stress for Seán and his fellow defendants in this Kafkaesque trial. We call upon the Greek authorities to drop all charges against all the defendants immediately.

We will continue to resist with human rights groups and campaigners the securitisation of borders, pushbacks and collective expulsion in Fortress EU and Fortress Britain, echoing the solidarity calls that ‘Refugees are welcome’ and ‘No-one is illegal’.

Declan Owens is a lawyer with the Ecojustice Legal Action Centre and Co-chair of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.

The post Criminalising Solidarity: The Case of Seán Binder appeared first on REBEL.

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The Anglo-Irish Treaty signed in London – archive, 1921

The Guardian - Wed, 24/11/2021 - 11:39

On 6 December 1921, the treaty ended the war of independence and provided for the establishment of the Irish Free State as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth. See how the Guardian reported events

7 December 1921

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UK should be neutral in a poll on Irish unification, says shadow minister

The Guardian - Wed, 24/11/2021 - 00:24

Labour’s Louise Haigh says people of Northern Ireland should choose their future without sway from Westminster

A British government should remain neutral on the question of a united Ireland in the event of a border poll, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary has said.

Louise Haigh said it would be for the people of Northern Ireland to decide such an issue, arguing this was mandated in the Good Friday agreement, which brought an end to the Troubles 23 years ago.

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All about Niamh

The Irish World - Tue, 23/11/2021 - 19:40

Galway singer-songwriter Niamh Regan spoke to David Hennessy ahead of her coming to London this week. Choice Music Prize-nominated Galway singer- songwriter Niamh Regan comes to London this month swiftly on the heels of her Irish tour. The London date and indeed her largely sold out Irish tour have been long time coming as Niamh […]

The post All about Niamh appeared first on The Irish World.

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Back in the room

The Irish World - Tue, 23/11/2021 - 18:53

Eleanor Tiernan spoke to David Hennessy ahead of the London Irish Centre’s forthcoming Irish Comedy Club. “I can’t wait,” comedian Eleanor Tiernan tells The Irish World of the forthcoming Irish Comedy Club at London Irish Centre. Eleanor headlines on Wednesday 24 November when she will be joined by Kevin O’Connell and Conor Drum while Ryan […]

The post Back in the room appeared first on The Irish World.

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Mind over matter

The Irish World - Tue, 23/11/2021 - 18:13

Blizzards frontman Bressie told David Hennessy about bringing his live podcast show to the UK, how he hit ‘rock bottom’ with his own mental health and when he was very close to going in midfield for Neasden Gaels. Mullingar’s Niall Breslin, or Bressie as he is better known, has worn many hats in his time. […]

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The Rogue to Redemption

The Irish World - Sun, 21/11/2021 - 14:28

Actor Aaron Monaghan told David Hennessy about the dark comedy Redemption of a Rogue, which deals with suicide and depression but seeks not to poke fun at such issues. Philip Docherty’s dark comedy Redemption of a Rogue centres around Jimmy Cullen, a character described as ‘tired of the living and breathing’ but has to return […]

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EU calls on Brexit minister to stop ‘political posturing’ over NI protocol

The Guardian - Sun, 21/11/2021 - 13:16

‘We cannot undo Brexit,’ says Maroš Šefčovič after David Frost says ‘more urgency’ required in negotiations

The EU has urged David Frost to end his “political posturing” over negotiations on the Northern Ireland protocol and accept that he cannot undo Brexit.

The European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič was commenting after Lord Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, called for an injection of “more urgency” into the talks aimed at solving the dispute over checks and controls on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

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The young loyalist who dared contemplate the idea of a ‘new’, united, Ireland

The Guardian - Sat, 20/11/2021 - 21:31

Activist Joel Keys says unionism would benefit from confronting, not avoiding, the things it finds most difficult

He was the teenage supermarket worker who shocked MPs examining loyalist anger in Northern Ireland by claiming that sometimes violence “was the only tool you have left”. Joel Keys left the committee chair, Tory MP Simon Hoare, “chilled and appalled” and he faced a media backlash.

Six months on Keys, now 20, has not disappeared into oblivion after his 15 minutes of fame. Nor has he abandoned his position on violence. He has ambitions to become a local politician representing young loyalist communities that he describes as “goldmines” left behind by unionist parties and education leaders.

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Brexit: Michael Gove ‘confident’ article 16 will not be triggered

The Guardian - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 18:00

Minister’s comments come as hopes grow Northern Ireland deal will be reached after ‘tone change’ in talks

The prospects for a deal with the EU over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland have been raised, as Michael Gove said the government was “confident” it would not need to trigger article 16 suspending the current deal.

The cabinet minister, who has special responsibilities for the union, suggested there were sufficient signs of progress after five weeks of talks that the government would not need to follow through on its recent threats.

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Deposit return scheme: Cloak and dagger policy risks betraying Ireland’s beautiful nature

An Phoblacht - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 17:56
A DEPOSIT RETURN SCHEME (DRS) for drinks containers was a centrepiece of the Taoiseach’s Programme for Government set out in June last year. A DRS for Ireland will see shoppers pay a small deposit on drinks containers which is subsequently redeemed when the packaging is returned. Done right, the scheme could be a game-changer for Ireland’s once pristine natural spaces.
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Horror at the Poland-Belarus Border

Rebel - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 13:29

“His name was Ahmad al-Hasan and he was 19. He wanted to continue his education, which he began in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. But his dreams will never come true.” Ahmad al-Hasan’s body was found in the Bug River in eastern Poland after he drowned while trying to cross over from Belarus” – Al Jazeera, 16 November 2021.

As the crisis between Belarus and Poland deepens the stories of human suffering continue to emerge from the border region. Belarus, Poland, the European Union (EU), NATO, Britain and the U.S. throw accusations at each other while the refugees continue to die. One of Trump’s legacies was his barbaric border policies which shocked the world and triggered mass anger. Today, we witness a similarly sickening and deadly game at Eastern European borders.

Last week a 14 year old boy froze to death. The death toll is rising as people are stuck in freezing winter conditions. It’s estimated that ten people have died so far. They are the victims of a sick geopolitical game underpinned by the racism of borders and national interests.

The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, does not want to let refugees stay in Belarus so his police drive them towards the Polish border. At the time of writing this piece, Belarus has only started providing temporary shelter for about 1,000 refugees who had been camping on its border with Poland.

In September 2021, Lukashenko had said that his government could further suspend cooperation with the European Union on migration as a response to “unfriendly actions” by the EU and its member states. The EU has accused Belarusian president of trying to destabilise the union by using migrants.

The ongoing tension between NATO and Russia resurfaced in the face of the current border crisis. Russia dispatched two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace in a show of support for its close ally.

The Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki refuses to let refugees in, claiming that Poland is facing a ‘hybrid war’ where migrants are used as living weapons. Polish forces at the border have used water cannons and tear gas to push back the refugees and detained hundreds of people who attempted to enter the country. Poland briefed NATO allies and they pledged their support to Mateusz’s government.

As reported by a local activist, the leading Law and Justice Party (PiS) have strengthened its alliance with the far-right forces in Poland. An annual Independence Day March (November 11) was initially banned by Warsaw’s Mayor. The ban was upheld by the courts but overturned when the government intervened to declare it as an official state event because PiS leaders wanted at all costs to avoid a defeat for the far-right. A minister said: “Today, in the face of the situation on the Polish border, demonstrating our patriotism has taken on special significance”. Soldiers took part in the march and military police acted as stewards – accompanied by fascist banners from the Polish National Radical Camp (ONR) and the Italian Forza Nuova. Despite the threat of the far-right, refugee solidarity among the Polish people is also strong. In October thousands marched in Warsaw and Krakow in support of refugees – the biggest demonstrations so far in solidarity with the people being brutalised on the border. Many people are involved in sending aid to the border area and providing legal support.

Permanent Crisis of European Borders

Neither the deaths nor the unfolding political crisis at Belarus – Poland border are a first in Europe.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis that started a decade ago, we have witnessed numerous similar tensions such as at Hungary – Serbia, Italy – Austria, Turkey – Greece, and France – UK (Calais Refugee Camp), and borders.

In 2015, Hungarian riot police had fired tear gas and water cannons to force migrants back from the Serbia-Hungary border. Serbia’s foreign ministry has protested over the firing of tear gas and water cannon into its territory

In 2017, Austria passed a racist asylum law and announced the building of border fences. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticised the plan, saying closing the Brenner Pass would go “shamelessly” against European law as well the continent’s past and future.

Also in 2017, the EU had threatened Austria, Hungary and Poland with legal action for breaching their legal obligations and refusing to accept refugee quotas. Today, the same EU is defending the Polish government for closing the border to freezing refugees.

In 2020, Greece and Turkey had a new border standoff over refugees pushed from both sides of the border. EU’s response to Turkey was not ambiguous: “We will not react to the pressure that Turkey is exerting on us. The EU and its Member States remain determined to effectively protect the EU’s external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated”. Meanwhile the EU kept its partnership with Turkey as part of the Realignment Agreement.

More recently, Bulgaria has announced that it is sending hundreds of soldiers to its southern frontiers to stop migrants from crossing from Turkey and Greece. And a new row has erupted between the UK and France over the handling of refugees attempting to cross the Channel to reach British shores. Last week, the French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, said, “France ‘needs no lesson from the British’ over Calais migrant crisis… the UK is using it as a ‘punching bag’ for British domestic policies.”

A European Union of Hypocrisy and Death

The so-called Schengen free travel zone was in chaos, too. In 2016 the EU Schengen scheme was on the brink after Amsterdam talks. Passport-free areas faced suspension for two years as senior diplomats said the refugee influx cannot continue. The EU was always ‘proud’ of freedom of movement, but seemingly not for refugees fleeing horrible conditions.

Looking back at the past ten years we can list many more crises that erupted within the EU and external EU borders. In each of these, the parties accused each other of not protecting the borders or stopping the flow of refugees.

During the same period we have witnessed the emergence of razor-wire border barriers, further militarisation of the EU borders, and anti-refugee EU policies. The exact number is not known but since 2011, more than 35,000 people have died while trying to reach Europe.

Guardian research in 2021 revealed that EU countries used brutal tactics to stop nearly 40,000 asylum seekers crossing borders. Nearly 2,000 refugee deaths were linked to illegal EU push-backs.

In October 2021, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Hungary broke EU law by making it a criminal offence to help asylum seekers and refugees to apply for asylum, but the continued criminalisation of search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean by EU states has been accompanied by rising refugee deaths.

Since 2011 the EU has constantly shifted its focus to border militarisation. In the Mediterranean the search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum was replaced with Frontex’s Operation Triton which was about border protection and pushback, not rescue of stranded refugees.

The European leaders shed tears for the refugee child Alan Kurdi but continued their border policies that put more lives at risk.

Refugees not to blame

The refugees are not the cause for the current crisis between the Poland/EU – Belarus/Russia camps. They are the victims of right-wing, racist policies of states on both sides that use them as a threat against each other. The Belarus and Polish governments have absolutely no interest in the safety and well being of people that escaped war zones and horrible conditions.
People are forced to move to Europe due to harsh conditions in refugee camps and the uncertainties they face. The global refugee numbers have reached more than 80 million. The vast majority of these are hosted in Asia, Middle-East, Africa and South America. Europe is not invaded by the ‘armies’ of refugees. Most are being hosted by Europe at all.

Furthermore, the wars and conflicts that European states have been involved in and the European arms deals with some of the most brutal regimes have been significant factors in rising global refugee numbers.

More than half of refugees are women and children. Many fall into the hands of human traffickers because they don’t have a safe-legal means to seek refuge. Desperate refugees facing closed borders and anti-refugee policies risk dangerous journeys.

We should demand the opening of borders to freezing refugees and denounce racist refugee policies. We should reject the hypocrisies of the EU and demand humanitarian care and human rights for refugees.

The enemy is not the desperate people outside the European borders. The enemy is racism and deadly borders that kill ordinary suffering people.

The Governments in the North and South are silent on the current humanitarian crisis. Our government must put pressure on the EU and Poland to open the borders and save lives.

Furthermore the unfolding crisis at the Belarus – Poland border is not the making of the refugees searching for safety but political, geographical and economic tensions between the EU-Russia and the states in opposing camps. The refugees are victims in a propaganda war between the European Union and Russian allies.

The Trial of Humanitarian Activists in Greece

Yesterday (18 November 2021) Kerry aid worker and humanitarian activist Sean Binder and his fellow activists Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos stood trial in Greece. The case was sent to a higher court. All three human rights defenders are accused of “people smuggling”, “money laundering”, “espionage” and “membership in a criminal organisation”, and if convicted, they may face up to 25 years in prison.

As described by Frontline Defenders, Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini, and Nassos Karakitsos are migrant rights defenders who worked with Emergency Response Center International (ERCI) between 2016 and 2018. The humanitarian work of the ERCI was extensive, and included supporting more than 1000 people to reach safety, organising workshops and swimming classes for children in Kara Tepe camp for migrants, and providing residents in Moria camp in Lesbos with medical assistance. ERCI was registered as a non-governmental organisation and regularly cooperated with Greek authorities, including with the Greek Coast Guard on rescue operations.

Sean Binder and his fellow activists have saved drowning refugees from the sea and provided support to people in need.

The European Union and the Irish Government are absolutely silent on this issue. Yet again we see utter hypocrisy at the highest order. The trial in Greece is a threat to all humanitarian activists. It is in contradiction with some of the most basic human and refugee rights. The Irish Government should put pressure on the EU and the Greek government to drop this politically motivated trial.

People everywhere should send their support and solidarity to the activists in trial @FrHumanitarians.

Saving lives is not a crime and refugees are not to blame for crises not of their own making.

Memet Uludaǧ will join Polish socialist Andrzej Żebrowski on a panel discussion hosted by Rebel on Facebook on Monday 22 November at 7pm.

The post Horror at the Poland-Belarus Border appeared first on REBEL.

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Irish former PM asked to apologise for ‘ghettoes’ claim

The Guardian - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 11:06

Bertie Ahern’s comments about loyalists criticised by DUP MP as ‘demeaning and degrading’

The former prime minister of Ireland and one of the architects of the 1998 peace accord in Northern Ireland has been urged to apologise after claiming loyalists in “ghettoes” did not have a clue about the Brexit protocol.

Bertie Ahern said people in “east Belfast and the ghettoes and the areas where you are likely to get trouble” had mischaracterised the special arrangements in the Brexit deal and saw it as pathway to a united Ireland.

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