More ambitious emissions targets emerge as climate crisis worsens

It is being reported that Boris Johnson will announce more radical Climate Change commitments later this week that will “set the UK on course to cut carbon emissions by 78% by the year 2035.” US President Joe Biden along with his climate envoy John Kerry will on Thursday host a virtual summit of 40 world leaders to discuss the climate crisis and seek new commitments to help fulfil the 2015 Paris Agreement. The US are expected to announce their emissions …

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Cross-party Climate Change Bill introduced at Assembly

Earlier today Clare Bailey MLA introduced the cross-party Climate Change Bill to the Assembly. The Bill drafted by Climate Coalition NI proposes to : Set a Net Zero target of 2045 Establish a Climate Office Create the role of an independent Climate Commissioner The Bill starts off in a very positive position having the support of a number of parties in the chamber. The co-sponsors of the Bill are John Blair (Alliance Party) Clare Bailey (Green Party) Trevor Lunn (Independent) …

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Assembly to divide on abortion again

In the coming days Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey is to bring a proposal to the Executive to commission abortion services in the north. Individual health trusts have set up temporary early medical abortion pathways. However nothing has yet been commissioned by the Department of Health itself.  Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald said “Legislation was passed in March 2019, following a widespread public campaign where we heard the real experiences and real lives of women and their families. “Women in the north …

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Catalan independence parties win majority of votes

The Catalan elections took place at the weekend and it proved to be both a good day for the pro-independence parties as well as the Socialists who are in power in Madrid. The election was called after the Catalan President Quim Torra was disqualified from holding office after he refused to remove a banner in support of imprisoned and exiled Catalan leaders. The independence bloc took 51% of the vote (up 3.5% on 2017) and retain the majority of seats …

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An A-Z of whats to come in 2021

A is for Angela After 16 years in office Angela Merkel stands down as German Chancellor when her term ends in September 2021. The pandemic has certainly helped the CDU/CSU bounce back in German opinion polls. However the CDU has yet to decide who its leader will be going into the federal election and there is no great enthusiasm for the three candidates that have thrown their hats in the ring. The poll should see the SPD relegated to third …

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Blue sky thinking on political reform long overdue at Assembly

Sam McBride writes in the News Letter this week about potential political reform at Stormont and believes that the “idea that a voluntary coalition would automatically mean Sinn Féin’s exclusion from government is outdated.” Of course that all depends on whose bums are on Stormont seats and what mechanisms govern the legislature. However as recent elections show there are some changes to voting patterns and the political environment in the north that add credibility to that argument. The north is …

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Causeway Coast and Glens Council ratepayers ‘may face 15% hike in rates’

According to press reports today Causeway Coast and Glens Council is ‘facing financial meltdown’ and ratepayers in the area may face a increase in their rates of over 15%. Independent Councillor Padraig McShane told the Irish News that he received a copy of minutes from a meeting held last month by senior staff. Its claimed that the documents suggest that the council was £75million in debt and “suggested a 15 per cent increase in rates would be needed next year …

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Election battlegrounds #GE19 : Foyle

Whilst exchanges were civil when Elisha McCallion and Colum Eastwood ran into each other on the canvass in Derry recently the battle of Foyle will be one of the most hard fought contests of this election. Elisha McCallion won the seat from former SDLP Leader Mark Durkan in 2017 in a result that took many political watchers by surprise. South Down was expected to fall to Sinn Féin but Foyle seemed at least another election away. The gap was just …

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Election battlegrounds #GE19 : South Down

South Down was held by the Ulster Unionists until Eddie McGrady snatched the seat for the SDLP in 1987 defeating Enoch Powell. The writing had been on the wall for the UUP in 1983 and 1986 when they held the seat by slim majorities of just 548 and 1,842. Since then, the SDLP had fairly comfortable majorities for 30 years. In 2017 however Chris Hazzard took the seat for Sinn Féin defeating sitting MP Margaret Ritchie. Hazzard’s majority of 2,446 …

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SDLP to stand aside in North Belfast, East Belfast and North Down

The SDLP has announced that it will stand aside in 3 constituencies in the interest of electing pro-remain candidates from other parties. Deputy leader Nichola Mallon said the SDLP “must also seek to weaken those who have cast the interests of Northern Ireland aside for five minutes of influence with a Tory Government that has been bad for our communities”. and that meant “removing pro-Brexit, Pro-Boris DUP MPs where possible”. In the last Westminster election the SDLP secured the following …

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Election battlegrounds #GE19 : South Antrim

South Antrim has been a tug-o-war constituency pulling between the Ulster Unionists and the DUP since the by-election held here in 2000. William McCrea won this seat for the DUP for the first time in 2000 from the UUP by less than 1,000 votes, lost it to David Burnside in 2001 by just over 1,000 votes and then won it back comfortably in 2005. In 2010 Reg Empey again came close for the UUP but it wasn’t until 2015 that …

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Socialist-Podemos government in Spain looks more likely but talks remain difficult

In Madrid tonight talks are continuing between the left wing Podemos party and the centre left Socialist party (PSOE) on forming what would be the first coalition government in Spain’s recent history. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias stated today that they will not accept “decorative” cabinet posts in exchange for support for the acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez: “Respect our voters and do not offer to us being a mere decoration in your government, because we will not accept it. This …

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Who are the new Independent councillors? #LE19

#LE19 saw the election of 24 Independent councillors, an increase of 9 and an increase that no-one saw coming. So who are the new Independents bloc?   Antrim & Newtownabbey 1 (+1) Michael Stewart gained a seat in Ballyclare at the expense of the TUV and was elected on the first count just behind the UUP’s Danny Kinahan. A second Independent David Arthurs gained 457 votes in Ballyclare. Independents received 143 votes in Ballyclare in 2014.   North Down and …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Portadown

Portadown is a 6 seater that returned 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 SF and 1 UKIP in 2014. The DUP had 2.3 quotas, the UUP 1.3, SF 1.1, the SDLP  0.6 of a quota, UKIP and TUV about half a quota each. In total the Unionist parties have about 5 quotas and nationalists  about 1.8 so there is certainly potential for a nationalist gain here. Portadown Orangeman David Jones was elected on the UKIP label in 2014 and is now …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Newry

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is one district where the SDLP will be fighting hard to hold their seats. Sinn Féin are confident that the tallysheets from recent electoral outings in the underlying constituencies (South Down and Newry & Armagh) will help them increase their seats from 14 to the 17-21 range. In Newry there are nine candidates chasing six seats. In 2014 the SDLP stood too many candidates and Sinn Féin too few. Hence this time around the SDLP …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Botanic

Botanic DEA in the centre of Belfast is a real ‘Group of Death’ and with over 2500 new voters coming onto the register since 2014 it adds some extra unpredictability to this competition.  In 2014 there were 4 unionist candidates that garnered 1.9 quotas between them and the Sinn Féin and the SDLP picked up just short of 1.9 quotas. The parties most confident of taking a seat here are those standing 2 candidates. That is Alliance (Emmet McDonough-Brown and …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Castlereagh South

This 7 seater has an interesting mix with Sinn Féin on verge of a breakthrough, 2 former Alliance candidates running on Independent and DUP tickets and Alliance keen to get their 2 seats back and the SDLP to hold their two. In 2014 Alliance, DUP and the SDLP all had around 1.8 quotas. the UUP 0.88 quotas. As Chris has already alluded to this was one of the Alliance Party’s best performing DEAs in 2014 but will be one of …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Ormiston

Lying to the far east of Belfast City Ormiston is a 7 seater and in 2014 Alliance were the top dogs here taking 27% of the vote to the DUP’s 26%. However both parties made big mistakes last time out when they both ran 4 candidates and ended up with just 2 seats apiece. The Alliance’s third candidate Ross McMullan was eliminated on the tenth count in 2014 when he was just 56 votes behind the Greens’ Ross Brown. Brown …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Carntogher

In 2014 Sinn Féin won a bigger percentage of the total seats in Mid Ulster than in any other council area (18 seats out of 40). This time around the party are standing 20 candidates and are targeting new seats in Dungannon and Carntogher to add to their total.   Carntogher was its best performing DEA here in terms of first preferences. The party received 61% of the vote in an area that includes Maghera, Swatragh, Gulladuff, Upperlands and Tamlaght …

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Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Ballyarnett

This Derry DEA is a six seater that in 2014 resulted in the SDLP beating Sinn Féin in first preferences but not in terms of seats – Sinn Féin’s 3 candidates took 3 seats and the SDLP took 2 after standing 4 candidates. This time the SDLP are running Angela Dobbins, Rory Farrell and Brian Tierney, Sinn Féin are putting forward Sandra Duffy, Caoimhe McKnight, Neil McLaughlin and Aileen Mellon. This is also the sitting MP Elisha McCallion’s old stomping ground from …

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