DUBLIN — After the Republic of Ireland became the first country in Europe to reimpose a coronavirus-related lockdown, officials in Northern Ireland are saying instead that a more focused approach will be maintained for the British-controlled region. “If we are not going for a full lockdown then restrictions have to be targetted,” said Robin Swann, health minister in the northern administration. Northern Ireland last week added new local measures aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, including closing pubs and restaurants for one month. After tightening curbs several times in recent weeks, the Irish government on Monday ordered the imposition of a six-week stay-at-home lockdown.
DUBLIN — Faced with rising novel coronavirus infection numbers, Northern Ireland will require restaurants and pubs to close for four weeks, the region’s First Minister Arlene Foster said on Wednesday.”There are increasing numbers of people requiring acute care in our hospitals and sadly we learned yesterday of the death of seven people from Covid-19,” Foster said, referring to the disease sometimes caused by the virus. Hairdressers and salons must also close for one month, though restaurants and pubs can offer takeaway or delivery services. The restrictions come into force from Friday. Schools will close for two weeks and people have been asked to avoid “unnecessary travel” and “work from home unless unable to do so.” Responding to the announcement, industry body Hospitality Ulster warned Foster’s administration of “redundancies across the sector” unless an “emergency financial package” is put together for affected businessses.
DUBLIN — Northern Ireland confirmed an unprecedented 1,080 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, breaking not only the region’s previous highest daily tally, but also that of the bigger Irish Republic recorded at the height of the pandemic in April. “The situation is grave and getting more so,” said Robin Swann, the region’s health minister. Northern Ireland’s record was based on 6,447 tests, suggesting the virus is widespread. Almost one-third of the region’s roughly 18,000 cases have been diagnosed over the past week. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and has a population of 1.8 million, while the population of the Republic, usually referred to as Ireland, is a shade under 5 million. Ireland’s caseload topped 40,000 on Thursday after 506 new infections were reported, out of over 19,500 tests. Ireland’s daily record of 936 infections, recorded on April 23, was based on fewer than 5,000 tests.
GALWAY — Defence lawyers representing six people charged with terrorism in Northern Ireland told a Belfast court on Monday that a British security forces “agent provocateur” played a role in the suspects’ arrests. The six, who appeared on video from a nearby police station due to concerns about spread of the novel coronavirus, are accused of membership of the “New” Irish Republican Army (IRA) and of planning terrorist attacks. “Did an MI5 agent organize and finance these meetings?” one of the lawyers asked, referring to a British spy agency.
DUBLIN — The smiles and handshakes among leaders from the two parts of Ireland attending a meeting last week in Dublin were arguably the legacy of the late Nobel peace laureate John Hume, who died early Monday. Shortly after Hume’s death was announced, he was remembered by Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin as “one of the towering figures of Irish public life of the last century.” Martin last week hosted leaders from both sides of Northern Ireland’s ethnic and sectarian divide at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, a body set up in the wake of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, a peace deal which Hume helped negotiate. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that “without John Hume there would have been no Belfast or Good Friday Agreement,” referring to the 1998 deal, which was also endorsed by the European Union and the United States.
DUBLIN — Former Northern Ireland politician and Nobel laureate John Hume, who helped broker a peace deal in the region, has died at the age of 83. In a statement released early on Monday, Hume’s family said they were “deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness.” Hume, who co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble, who was head of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Leaders of the two biggest parties in Northern Ireland at the time, the men were awarded for their efforts to end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland via the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. Their partnership crossed the region’s ethnic and sectarian divide, with Hume’s SDLP campaigning for the non-violent unification of Northern Ireland with rest of Ireland and the UUP seeking to keep the region under British rule.
DUBLIN — Ireland’s government hosted Northern Ireland’s regional administration on Friday in the first sitting in over three years of the island’s North South Ministerial Council. Discussions centred on the novel coronavirus pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union, leaders said. Speaking at a lunchtime press conference in Dublin Castle, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said a “critical phase” lies ahead in talks between Britain and the EU, with failure threatening to stymie movement across the border between Ireland, an EU member-state, and Northern Ireland, which is British-ruled. “We don’t want to see trade barriers, either north-south, or east-west,” said Arlene Foster, first minister of Northern Ireland’s Belfast-based regional administration. Foster pushed for further discussions on handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 2,319 people and infected 32,000 across the island, according to official tallies.
DUBLIN — Leaders of Irish political party Sinn Féin were among hundreds who gathered in Belfast on Tuesday for the funeral of Bobby Storey, a senior figure in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who died nine days ago aged 64. After the funeral was criticised on social media for seeming to breaching rules meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Northern Ireland – which cap funeral attendances at 10 people – some of Sinn Féin’s political rivals took aim. Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said at a Tuesday press conference that “no person” is “above the regulations and guidance we have laid down on how we combat Covid-19.” Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) parliamentarian Gregory Campbell called for “police action,” claiming that Sinn Féin leaders “showed no respect” for the restrictions – which it previously said should be applied without exemption. A police spokeswoman later told The Belfast Telegraph newspaper that officers will review footage of the funeral. Though Sinn Féin shares control of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration with the DUP, the two parties are ideological rivals. The DUP – and Swann’s UUP – oppose Sinn Féin’s aim of ending British rule in Northern Ireland.
DUBLIN — People in Northern Ireland are more likely to identify with either Britain or Ireland since the 2016 British vote to leave the European Union, going by the latest annual Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. A majority of the region’s 1.8 million people view themselves as either “nationalist” or “unionist” in the latest survey, which saw 1,200 people canvassed in late 2019 and early 2020 by researchers from Ulster University and Queens University Belfast (QUB). In 2018, half of those surveyed eschewed identifying as either nationalist or unionist. Paula Devine of QUB said “it is striking that 2019 also saw a strengthening of unionist and nationalist identities and growing pressure on the so-called middle ground.”
DUBLIN — In 1987, at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, loyalist paramilitaries told Ireland’s Prime Minister Charles Haughey that British intelligence wanted him dead. Among the Irish government archives released today is a letter from the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force in which they claimed to Haughey that “in 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO [Northern Ireland Office] and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name,” the UVF said. “He asked us to execute you.” The UVF said they turned down the request, telling the Taoiseach (prime minister) that “We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused.”