Northern Ireland First Minister Resigns
It’s been a week of shocking retirements from three time All Ireland champion Pádraic Maher to the GOAT of American football Tom Brady. However, the most shocking resignation came on Thursday: Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan.
The move is thought to be part of the DUP’s response to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed by both sides and designed to prevent a hard border.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to protect the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which sought to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Therefore, goods can be traded freely between the two countries. As a result Northern Ireland, despite leaving the EU as part of Brexit, must comply with EU custom laws.
The DUP believe the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol provide a threat to the country’s place within the UK. The party have been threatening to quit Stormont since 6 September.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson says he hopes Givan’s resignation may provide the leverage that the UK needs to break the impasse in ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU.
Givan’s resignation means Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill has lost her position as Deputy First Minister.
The move comes after the DUP’s Agricultural Minister Edwin Poots ordered the stoppage of checks on agricultural foods at Northern Ireland’s ports. This decision was criticized by the Irish government as a “breach of international law”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, “the Protocol is part of an international treaty agreed and ratified by the UK and EU, to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.”
The Toaiseach continued, “I would urge the DUP to return to full engagement with all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and avoid any action that could damage peace and stability in Northern Ireland.”
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he is in contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
“There are of course ongoing discussions on the implementation of the Protocol between the EU and UK, where the Commission have put forward proposals directly addressing the concerns raised by Unionist representatives, including significantly reducing checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” said a statement from Mr. Coveney’s office.
“No positive agenda is served by undermining the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and the resignation of the First Minister of course has wider implications for the Northern Ireland Executive and its important work. ”
The DUP was the only party not to sign the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The party actively tried to protest against it in the aftermath of its signing.
Stormont has already lost a First Minister in the wake of Brexit fallout. Givan’s predecessor Arlene Foster was ousted following rising Unionist tension over an Irish Sea border just eight months ago.
Partgate and Golfgate Updates
Even before the Northern Ireland Executive was on the verge of collapse, it was been a tumultuous week for politics in both the UK and Ireland.
Downing Street was left spinning after the Sue Gray report found 16 events were held during the Covid-19 lockdown, with 12 currently being investigated by the Met Police.
The events, which took place between May 2020 and April 2021, were held at 10 Downing Street of the Cabinet Office, with the exception of one at the Department of Education.
The drinks at the garden of Downing Street on 20 May 2020 is among the events being investigated. Less than a month later a birthday event was held for Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Cabinet Room.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Mr. Johnson should “do the decent thing and resign” before calling the prime minister a “man without shame” hiding behind a police investigation.
And from Partygate to Golfgate, the four defendants appearing before the Irish court for a breach of Covid-19 restrictions in October 2020 have been found not guilty.
The defendants include a current Independent TD, a former Fianna Fáil senator and the owners of the venue where the event was held.
The golf event was followed by a dinner attended by 80 people which the judge said abided to Covid-19 regulations in place at the time.
Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary resigned after his attendance at the dinner.
Ireland Remembers Ann Lovett on Anniversary
Also this week Ireland remembered Ann Lovett on the 38th anniversary of her death. Ann was 15 years old when she died after giving birth to her stillborn son, Patrick, in a grotto in her hometown of Granard, Co. Longford.
The story became national news soon after, especially given the implementation of the eighth amendment, protecting the right to life of the unborn, just four months before. Ann’s story would play a vital role in repealing this very amendment 35 years later.
2018 also marked the first time Ann’s boyfriend spoke publicly about their relationship. Rosita Boland of The Irish Times was named journalist of the year after her interview with Ricky O’Donnell. Though it is still unknown if Mr. O’Donnell was the father of Patrick, his interview tells the story of the schoolgirl and the wider circumstances surrounding her death.
Since Ann’s death her family, and the community of Granard, have grieved in private. Just months after Ann’s death her younger sister Patricia, aged 14, died by suicide. Her family closed the doors to their pub, The Copper Pot, and never spoke to the media. The only remaining daughter of the Lovett’s, Louise, is now the chief executive of Longford Women’s Link which helps women in the “pursuit of justice and equality.”
Waterford Singer Performs at Carnegie Hall
In the Big Apple, Irish-born singer Jessie-Ellen Doherty will perform at Carnegie Hall as part of the High School Honors Performance Series on Sunday 6 February.
Jessie, who was born in Co. Waterford, attends Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida. Around 400 people were selected for the honor from over 10,000 auditions worldwide.
Speaking after she was selected as a finalist, the 17-year-old said, ““I am still in shock! I can’t believe that I will be singing on the same stage that so many of my heroes have performed – it’s a complete dream come true!”
Jessie is no stranger to the stage, having studied music for 6 years, previously at LaVilla School of the Arts where she majored in Voice. She specializes in Musical Theatre at her current school. She has been cast in performances of “Sweeney Todd” and “Bonnie & Clyde”. Before the pandemic, the Doherty family would return to their homeland, each year, where Jessie would perform at the Spraoi Festival in Waterford.
As well as Ireland and the United States, Jessie has performed on stages in the Middle East. So, it is safe to say Jessie is well equipped to answer the old saying, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
Katie Taylor Fight Will Make History at MSG
And, about 20 blocks south of Carnegie Hall…Madison Square Garden is set to host Katie Taylor in a historic boxing bout on April 30. Taylor, who won a gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics, went professional in 2016.
The event will see Taylor, the undisputed lightweight champion, face seven-division world titlist Amanda Serrano in MSG’s first ever women’s boxing headliner.
The two boxers are currently placed at the top of ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings. The fight is set to be the biggest female boxing event in history.
Tom Brady Officially Retires
Another titan of sport, Tom Brady made headlines this week when he confirmed his rumored retirement from the NFL.
Brady is considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He has won seven Lombardi trophies, the most championships won by a single player, along with five Super Bowl MVPs. He led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title last year and NFC South championship this season.
Despite rumors of his NFL career coming to an end, Brady denied any confirmed plans of retirement right up until Tuesday when he made the announcement on Instagram.
“My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs,” Brady said in his statement. “When you’re in it every day, you really don’t think about any kind of ending. As I sit here now, however, I think of all the great players and coaches I was privileged to play with and against — the competition was fierce and deep, JUST HOW WE LIKE IT. But the friendships and relationships are just as fierce and deep. I will remember and cherish these memories and re-visit them often. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”
Brady went on to thank his teammates, coaches and colleagues at the Bucs, notably absent from his statement was any mention of the New England Patriots, the team he played with for 20 out of his 22 seasons.
Brady, whose father is of Irish descent, has always been adament that he did not want a farewell season.
Ireland Favorites in Six Nations Opener
And back on the emerald isle, Ireland takes on Wales in the opening round of the Six Nations. The match will take place at a fully packed Aviva Stadium at 9.15am (EST).
Pundits predict Irish eyes will be smiling after the bout, with the boys in green current favorites to reach the finals.♦