My time was spent following the last week of campaigning in the 8th Amendment referendum as well as voting and the results. My thoughts on that here. Normal service on the Weekly Review to resume next week ...
A week that started with a brutal massacre of Palestinian protestors and ended with most Irish minds focused on Friday's 8th Amendment Referendum...
Gaza and Jerusalem
In last week's review I focused on the impact that Donald Trump's foreign policy was having on global events. There, the focus was mostly on the Iran deal and his potential meeting with Kim Jong Un. There was quite a lot of speculation on how both those scenarios could develop and the causes behind Trump's erratic foreign policy.
Unfortunately, Monday was a bleak and tragic example of the impact Donald Trump's foreign policy can have. While many in Washington and Israel celebrated the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem, sixty Palestinian protestors were killed in Gaza as protests to commemorate seventy years since the Nakba reached their culmination.
The Israeli Defence Force must have been given explicit instructions that the use of lethal force was acceptable (given the number of deaths, maybe even encouraged).
Trump has unequivocally backed Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government in recent months I genuinely believe Israel would not have allowed such a brutal massacre of protestors under any other US regime.
There was almost no chance of the United States publicly criticizing Israel's response or not vetoing any United Nation diplomatic actions against them.
I believe Europe must take the lead in any future peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Ireland could play a crucial given our history of conflict and reconciliation. However before talks can genuinely resume, Israel needs to be shown that it doesn't have carte blanche to act with impunity against Palestine.
The week in Irish politics was dominated by a number of 8th Amendment Referendum debates across television and radio. The most controversial was the Claire Byrne debate on RTE. It was criticised for allowing the audience to cheer and boo and play a major role in the debate.
I watched it and I have to say that some of this criticism seems more linked to the fact that the No side had the better outing with Maria Steen the best performer on the night.
Mary Lou McDonald was good for the Yes but arguments for Yes contain a number of different strands that don't themselves to the formation of a clear, coherent argument.
Two polls released this week do show Yes with a strong lead but I am still convinced it will be a very tight affair as I put forward in my predictions a few weeks ago. In both polls Yes had 56% though I see a lot more potential downside to this figure with minimal potential uplift.
I'll be writing up a full review of the referendum next weekend as results come in. I still expect Yes to get over the line but a No vote wouldn't shock me based on the number of undecided voters in both of the polls.
There was also a potentially seismic political parties poll released the Sunday Times that put Sinn Fein on 24% , ahead of Fianna Fail on 23%. For now I am treating this as an outlier as the other poll released gave Fianna Fail a 9% lead over Sinn Fein. However, if Sinn Fein's performance as the second largest party is repeated in many more polls over the coming months I think Micheal Martin's leadership will come under more direct sustained pressure...
Donald Trump took centre stage in a week of high drama that confirmed to me he is the master of his own destiny when it comes to foreign policy, though he is easily influenced.
Donald Trump’s foreign policy dominated last week with major decisions that ran directly in the face of recent conventional wisdom in American foreign policy.
His decision to withdraw American from the JcPOA (my thoughts here) combined with the announcement later in the week that his tête-à-tête with Kim Jong-Un is set for Singapore on June 12th.
These decisions show that while Trump is influenced by those around him, he ultimately believes he can do what he wants and pays little heed to foreign policy precedent.
In the run up to the November midterms this gung-ho approach may allow him to close the expected gap between the number of seats the Democrats return and may even allow the Republicans to retain the house…
Another week with a lot of Brexit headlines but little tangible progress to go with it. It’s a disconcerting situation that continues to drag on with little visibility on how the situation will resolve itself.
Unfortunately, May’s leadership reminds me of a caterpillar that has been attacked and infected by a parasitic wasp. She still appears to be in control, but her decision making is driven by a select number of pro-Brexit MPs.
Fortunately for May, and unlike the poor caterpillars, she could yet play a decisive role in the final Brexit negotiations. However, to do so she would need to show real leadership and innovation and possibly find allies across the chamber.
Tony O’Brien finally resigned last week after the pressure built and Sinn Fein had tabled a Motion of No Confidence that Fianna Fail announced they would support.
It looks like the scandal may rumble on for a while yet, and the devastation it has caused to Irish women and their families will last lifetimes, but the chances of it taking down the government or even the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, seem low unless some new evidence or communications emerge.
May 6th; Good Local Elections for Theresa May but the Conservatives should be cautious and another Irish Health Scandal…
The Local Elections last week didn’t produce a very clear narrative and all parties are scrambling for their own spin. The general consensus seems to be that Labour mis-managed expectations and the Conservatives did the opposite, therefore when results weren’t as clear cut it looked more like a success for the Tories. I’ve included the key results below;
I don’t see it exactly like that. It’s clear former UKIP voters will mostly vote Conservatives over Labour or Liberal Democrats as the UKIP vote and party collapses. However, we have already seen a cycle of tis impact in the General Election in 2017.
At the moment, Labour and the Conservatives are very close in the polls albeit with the Tories currently enjoying a slight lead.
The votes on the major amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill could have much more serious impacts on the British electoral landscape and could lead to major fissures in Labour, the Conservatives, the Conservatives-DUP supply and confidence deal as well as Scottish politics.
Until we can get a clearer indication of the dates and numbers for each side on those votes, I’m holding off on many articles on British politics for now.
Unfortunately, there is another scandal in the Irish Health Service as many women were given the all clear for cervical cancer checks where this wasn’t actually the case.
The Health Service Executive Director Tony O’Brien is coming under massive pressure to resign immediately, even tough he only has four months left on his contract.
Sinn Fein have tabled a motion of no confidence in him for the coming week, but it may be not pass if Fianna Fail abstain.
This is a horrible, tragic scandal but the political fallout for the main parties may not be significant as it does appear as if the government were blindsided. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that Fianna Fail currently have the appetite for an election, regardless of the upcoming referendum.
One final note this week on Irish politics is that a Sunday Independent poll gave 57% to 43% (excluding undecided voters) support repealing the Eighth Amendment.
With undecided voters the results are much closer with 45% in favour, 34% against, with a considerable 18pc undecided and 4pc who did not express an opinion.
This will be a very interesting few weeks with nothing yet decided…