GZERO Media logo

Ireland's vote could shape the UK's future

Ireland's vote could shape the UK's future

On Saturday, voters in the Irish Republic will cast ballots in an election that could boost momentum toward an eventual break-up of the UK.

That's because the lasting story of this vote may well be the fast-rising popularity of the Sinn Fein party. Sinn Fein has capitalized on public anger over a healthcare crisis and housing shortage to rapidly expand its popularity in pre-election polls, but it is also now promising Irish voters a referendum on reunification of the Republic of Ireland (an EU member) with Northern Ireland (still part of the UK) within five years.


Saturday's election will be hotly contested, and the outcome is hard to predict. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's minority government and his party, Fine Gael, have seen their poll numbers drop. Opposition party Fianna Fáil is likely to win the most seats, but Sinn Fein is now mounting a major challenge thanks to popular promises to address the health and housing questions. The party says it will tax the wealthy and large companies in order to raise the revenue needed to hire more doctors, build more homes, and lower the pension age.

Sinn Fein's supporters say the party offers a sharp break from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which have dominated Ireland's politics since the country won independence from Britain in 1921. While Varadkar's Fine Gael can claim to have lifted Ireland from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, Sinn Fein says they accomplished this with austerity policies that hit Ireland's working class especially hard.

Sinn Fein's detractors warn that the fresh faces now leading the party are a front for darker political forces. This is still, they say, the party that began as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the paramilitary group that waged war to push Britain out of Northern Ireland until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Younger voters are crucial for tomorrow's result. Sinn Fein's recent polling surge comes mainly from those old enough to remember the austerity of the past decade but too young to remember the IRA.

Sinn Fein won't be able to form a government, at least not this year. Even if it does well on Saturday, it hasn't put forward enough candidates to win a majority of seats. And both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil insist they won't invite Sinn Fein to join a coalition government because, they say, it would ruin Ireland's economy and because the party remains tainted by its history.

If Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael win the most seats, they could exclude Sinn Fein by inviting Labour and the Green Party to form a coalition government. But it's possible that Sinn Fein will win too many seats to be ignored. Even if it merely becomes the lead opposition party, its pledge to hold a reunification referendum will elevate that issue into Ireland's mainstream political dialogue.

Bottom line: Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to keep the UK in the European Union. Brexit has already provoked calls for a new vote on Scotland's independence. If tomorrow's vote boosts Sein Fein's role in Ireland's political future, demand for Irish reunification will grow louder.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

More Show less

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

More Show less

In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream