Brexit

Fintan O'Toole to speak at Sydney 'ideas' festival

Award-winning Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole will appear at Antidote, Sydney’s leading festival of ideas, joining a panel discussion on national identity.

The veteran columnist, author and political commentator has written for The Irish Times for over three decades, with a career-long focus on strong opposition to political corruption in Ireland and abroad.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

The prolific writer , who penned a bestselling book on Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union entitled Heroic Failure: Brexit And The Politics Of Pain, will bring valuable insight about Boris Johnson’s elevation to prime ministership to the Sydney Opera House.

The State We’re In panel event will see global thinkers discuss the trials and tribulations of a world and political atmosphere obsessed with national borders.

O’Toole is sure to stir up bold conversation, having described the current political landscape a trial run for fascism’s return in a 2018 article read by millions the world over and nominated for a European Press Prize.

Antidote is one of the Opera House’s flagship contemporary festivals, presenting innovative ideas about contemporary culture on stage and through online content.

This year’s event will run from August 31 to September 1, offering seekers of change the chance to come together in an iconic location.

Read More: The State We’re in - Antidote Festival

Cool Irish reaction to Boris Johnson's victory

There has been mixed reaction from Ireland's politicians as Boris Johnson was announced as Britain’s new Conservative Party leader.

There has been widespread concern among some Irish politicians over how Mr Johnson's leadership will affect Ireland and the situation regarding the Irish border and Brexit.

Mr Johnson, who will become Britain’s Prime Minister later today, has recently compared solving the border issue with the moon landing, and in a BBC interview in 2018 compared it with the border between Camden and Westminster in London.

Government politicians were quick to welcome the new prime minister in waiting, making it clear they were happy to work with Mr Johnson, but Brexit remained the key priority in each message.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar posted on social media: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his election as party leader. Look forward to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Later, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, first retweeted Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, who had written about reworking "the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with #EUCO guidelines", before writing his own post.

"Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming leader of the UK Conservative Party - we will work constructively with him and his Govt to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit," Mr Coveney said.

However, opposition politicians took a different stance.

Sinn Féin Brexit spokesman David Cullinane says it came as no surprise that Boris Johnson will become prime minister, but called on the Irish Government to hold steadfast in Brexit negotiations.

"We'd be very concerned that Boris is not going to make any serious effort to reach any kind of accommodation with the European Union," he said.

"He seems to believe the Irish government and the European Commission is going to blink on these matters, I don't think there's any appetite for any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, but it remains to be seen what will happen.

"The chances of a no-deal Brexit have been increasing, because it was quite obvious that while there is no appetite in the House of Commons for no deal, there's no sense what they're in favour of," Mr Cullinane added.

"Boris has been talking up a hard crash, in some respects encouraging a hard crash, that would be a disaster for Britain, a disaster for Ireland, I don't see any good in that for anybody, but again - that's outside our control, what we can do is that we hold the Irish government to account and they hold firm."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said that the elevation of Boris Johnson to leader of the Tory Party and thus prime minister of the United Kingdom presents a "clear and present danger to Ireland" and "brings the prospect of no-deal and the imposition of a north-south border much closer".

He called Mr Johnson a "genuine danger" because of his "callous disregard for the impact of no-deal on Ireland, his allegiance to Donald Trump, his disgraceful comments about UK soldiers' actions on Bloody Sunday and his extreme right-wing views on just about every issue".

He added that Mr Coveney needed to tell Boris Johnson "in the clearest possible terms that a hard border between the north and south of this country is simply not an option".

Likewise, Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said: "With 100 days until Brexit, it is time now for all politicians in Ireland to hold our nerve and be steadfast in defending our vital interests."

Theresa May set to step aside as British PM

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is under pressure to set out when she will quit Number 10 after a Cabinet revolt over her Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister will meet the leader of backbench Conservatives, Graham Brady, today (Friday) to discuss her future after her authority was left in tatters following the backlash against her "new Brexit deal".

Senior ministers set out their concerns in "frank" talks with the beleaguered premier as Downing Street delayed publication of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) which sets out her Brexit plan in law.

The Prime Minister's private meeting with Mr Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, could be the moment that Mrs May sets the date for her exit from Downing Street.

A 1922 Committee source told Press Association they expected June 10 to be the day Mrs May chooses.

"Hopefully what will happen is she will stand down as Tory leader I think on or before June 10, and she will hopefully remain as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as a new Tory leader is elected," they said.

"My feeling is that she will stay until June 10."

The source said a new leader would ideally be in place by the end of the European summer to get a Brexit deal through parliament before October 31, the date currently set for the UK's exit from the EU.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

In Ireland, there are increasing fears that Mrs May’s departure will increase the chances of a hard Brexit, especially if she is replaced by a committed Brexiteer like Boris Johnson.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has ruled-out any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which maps-out Britain's exit from the European Union, if Theresa May is replaced as British Prime Minister.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Coveney said: "It's not up for renegotiation, even if there is a new British prime minister...the personality might change here, but the facts don't."

He described Mrs May as "a decent person" but strongly criticised Conservative MPs at Westminster - branding them as "impossible" on the issue of Brexit.

High salaries 'attracting emigrants home' claims Minister

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys says the salary levels on offer in Ireland are attracting emigrants home.

“Our economy is good,” she told the Irish Echo during her recent visit to Australia. “The wages back home are attracting people back to Ireland. For that reason, there are more people coming back to Ireland than leaving right now.”

A large number of expat nurses sent a strong message of solidarity with their striking colleagues in Ireland during the recent industrial action. Protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth featured banners with a clear message for the Irish government: “Give us a reason to come home”.

Did the minister have a message for those nurses?

“The HSE always welcomes nurses back and has established a ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign to support nurses to make the move back,” she said.

“There are a range of incentives to encourage Irish nurses who currently live abroad to consider returning home and joining the Irish health service. Those incentives include up to €1500 in vouched removal relocation expenses including the cost of flights, nursing registration costs and a funded postgraduate education.”

The Government could not say how many nurses had taken advantage of the Bring Them Home incentives, but according to figures published under a Freedom of Information request, fewer than 150 nurses returned under the scheme in 2017.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

The minister spoke at a number of events about the important role the diaspora has to play in Ireland’s future. She also opened the new Irish Support Agency offices at The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. One way to engage Irish citizens abroad is to allow them to vote in elections. Does she personally support extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens abroad?

“This is something that the Government has looked at and we’re going to bring forward a referendum [on whether Irish citizens abroad can vote in presidential elections] and leave that decision to the people.”

Ireland is one of the few western democracies which does not allow its citizens abroad to vote.

Meanwhile, Australia is very much part of the Irish government’s plans to explore new markets to diffuse the impact of Brexit, according to Minister Humphreys.

“Diversifying our markets is part of our Brexit strategy,” she told the Irish Echo. “We consider Australia to be a very good opportunity. I know its a long distance but the world is a small place now. There are many opportunities for Irish companies here.”

She also said that Ireland provides excellent opportunities for Australian companies.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

“They see Ireland as a gateway into the European Union. Ireland will be the only English language country left in the European Union when the UK leaves.”

The Minister said the fintech sector is particularly active. A number of Australian enterprises, including Macquarie Bank, are seeking licences to operate in Ireland.

“We welcome that,” she said. “Their corporate governance structures are very similar to ours. They’re happy that our government regulation is strong and we have a stable country. So they know, when they business with us, we do what it says on the tin.”

Ms Humphreys led an eight-day trade and investment mission, covering Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and Singapore. Seventy-one Enterprise Ireland client companies participated in 24 business events and pre-arranged meetings with potential business partners including Telstra, Optus, ANZ Bank, CBA, Cochlear, BT Financial, NAB Bank, Deloitte, Macquarie Bank, Stone and Chalk, and Amazon Web Services.

The minister confirmed plans to open new Enterprise Ireland offices in Melbourne as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy. She would not be drawn on whether the absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane would be addressed. Perth has an honorary consul.

“We will continue to expand our representation through Global Ireland so whether its our agencies opening new offices or the diplomatic service, we’re always looking to increase our presence all over the world,” the Minister added.