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First Minister Michelle O'Neill during an interview with PA Media, on the day Ms O’Neill became Northern Ireland's first nationalist First Minister. Saturday February 3, 2024

PA Images via Reuters Connect

Northern Ireland names first Sinn Fein leader

After two long years, Northern Ireland once again has a functioning government – and in a historic move, it has named Michelle O’Neill as the first-ever First Minister from Sinn Fein. The party, which served as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, won a majority of seats in the 2022 election.

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The Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A breakthrough in Northern Ireland?

The Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest pro-UK party, says it has cut a deal that allows the government to function after two years of political paralysis – but the EU, whose Brexit deal is at stake, is watching closely.
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Luisa Vieira

25 years later, is Brexit unraveling Northern Ireland’s delicate peace?

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended decades of bloody violence in Northern Ireland, as paramilitary groups agreed to disarm. The agreement was such a watershed that US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Belfast and the Republic of Ireland this week to mark its 25th anniversary.

But the stability of the 1.8-million-strong country has been thrown into question as a result of Brexit-induced bedlam.

Indeed, post-Brexit negotiations over trade and border arrangements have sparked some violence and raised fears of broader destabilization, prompting Britain's MI5 intelligence agency to recently raise the domestic terror threat level in Northern Ireland from “substantial” to “severe.”

Twenty-five years after the landmark accord — also known as the Belfast Agreement — how stable is the situation in Northern Ireland, and how has Brexit threatened the status quo?

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Gang members wait to be taken to their cell after 2000 gang members were transferred to the Terrorism Confinement Center, in Tecoluca, El Salvador. Handout distributed March 15, 2023.

Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: El Salvador’s lingering state of emergency, Northern Ireland on alert, Alibaba’s breakup, Greek election matters

El Salvador’s state of emergency one year later

This week marks one year since El Salvador’s bullish millennial president, Nayib Bukele, introduced a state of emergency, enabling his government to deal with the scourge of gang violence that has long made his country one of the world’s most dangerous.

Quick recap: To crack down on the country’s 70,000 gang members, Bukele’s government denied alleged criminals the right to know why they were detained and access to legal counsel. The arrest blitz has seen nearly 2% of the adult population locked up.

Despite these draconian measures and Bukele’s efforts to circumvent a one-term limit, he enjoys a staggering 91% approval rating.

Bukele has also sought to distinguish himself as an anti-corruption warrior, which resonates with an electorate disillusioned by years of corrupt politicians (Bukele’s three predecessors have all been charged with corruption. One is in prison; two are on the run.)

Externally, relations with the Biden administration have been icy under Bukele, with San Salvador refusing to back a US-sponsored UN resolution condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.

What matters most to Salvadorans is the dropping crime rate, which is why Bukele will likely cruise to reelection next year.

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India's G-20 agenda overshadowed by Ukraine war
- YouTube

India's G-20 agenda overshadowed by Ukraine war

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics from Delhi, India.

What was the outcome of the foreign ministers meeting of the G-20 countries here the other day?

Well, the Indians are trying to get the G-20 to focus on food security, energy security, to be the voice of the Global South in a complicated global situation. But of course, the meeting was dominated by the controversy over Russia's war with Ukraine. And while the Indonesian chairmanship last year managed to get the agreement on the text on that particular issue, this time the Russians, followed by the Chinese, are distinctly not. And the end result was there was no agreement. The Indians, anyhow, issued a communique noting that the Russians and the Chinese did not object and tried to focus the meeting as much as they could on issues that they considered important, rightly so, for the Global South in terms of the effect of the conflict.

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Northern Ireland trade deal ends Brexit but not UK's economic woes
Can UK overcome economic challenges post-Northern Ireland trade deal? | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Northern Ireland trade deal ends Brexit but not UK's economic woes

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Will the UK finally move past Brexit now that a Northern Ireland trade deal has been resolved?

Oh, it's only been, what, six years. My God. And Brexit finally concluded now that Prime Minister Sunak has taken on his own Conservative Party and said, "No, we're just going to finally move on this." And people are sick of the economic challenges, that's, in part, why Truss got washed out so quickly as former PM, and it's also why he had the space to get this done. It means that you're not worried about the so-called hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and therefore, between the UK and the EU, and it means that the Brits can move on. But moving on, of course, still means that they no longer have integration with the world's largest common market, and that means that their performance economically will continue to drag below all of the rest of Europe and the United States, and that's really unfortunate. It's a massive own goal.

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A mock customs post is set up with protesters from border communities between Ireland and Northern Ireland against Brexit.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: End of Brexit? No, US-India tech alliance, Czechs checking China

Are the EU and UK close to a post-Brexit deal?

For a fleeting moment, it seemed like Brexit wrangling could finally end. But no. After reports claimed that the EU and UK were close to clinching a deal on trade rules for Northern Ireland, Brussels announced that, despite some progress, several issues remain intractable. (Really sorry you still have to hear about Brexit, but the Northern Ireland Protocol, you might recall, is the arrangement that Boris Johnson reached with the EU to avoid creating a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, a part of the UK.) One big sticking point is that Downing Street, along with the pro-UK DUP Party in Northern Ireland, wants to limit the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing trade-related disputes. Another is the failure to agree on a practical border system that would avoid rigorous checks by customs. With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak facing mounting pressure from Tory Brexiteers not to give an inch to Brussels, we’re watching to see how he navigates a major political test that threatens to further split his Conservative Party.

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A woman looks out of a window displaying a campaign banner of Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ramla, Israel.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Elections loom in Israel & Northern Ireland, Elon Musk rules Twitterverse

Round 5 in Israel: Can Bibi make a comeback?

Israelis are doing the voting thing all over again on Nov. 1 in the country’s fifth general election since 2019. To recap, the current government crumbled in June, a year after PM Yair Lapid successfully brought together an ideologically diverse coalition to oust former longtime leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Still, current polls suggest that Israel’s melting pot – which includes Jews (secular to ultra-Orthodox), Muslims, Christians, and Druze – remains as divided as ever. Importantly, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party is slated to win the most seats (as it did in the previous four elections) but (for now) is just shy of mustering enough support to cross the 61-seat threshold needed to form a government. One big change in this cycle is the momentum of three far-right parties that Bibi has courted to serve in his government. Together, the three could win up to 14 seats, suggesting that their extremist anti-Arab, anti-LGBTQ brand could become a more potent force within Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Lapid on Thursday signed a historic maritime deal with Lebanon, but Bibi says he might ditch it if he takes over, though many say this is just pre-election posturing.

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