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.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

More Show less

Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

More Show less

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

More Show less

80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

More Show less

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Does alcohol help bring the world together?

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal