By Lowri Pitcher
Despite only being a month into the new year, 2020 has proven to be a busy year thus far. From Donald Trump’s impeachment, the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the assassination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani to the wide-spread devastation caused by bushfires in Australia; Gair Rhydd politics is breaking down some of the biggest stories to have hit the headlines over the last month.
On January 3, Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad International Airport. Soleimani, often considered to be the second most powerful person in Iran, behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people.” according to US President Donald Trump.
On January 4, President Trump announced that the US had targeted “52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago)” and would retaliate if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets. In a retaliatory measure, on January 8, Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles at two military bases hosting US and allied troops in Iraq but no casualties were reported. This came shortly after Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the commitments set out in the 2015 Nuclear Deal.
Dominic Raab, UK Foreign Secretary backed the U.S airstrike but warned against an escalation in tensions from both Iran and the US.
In the country’s worst fire season on record, over 27 million acres of land has been burnt in Australia. The fires, which started last year, escalated greatly in the New Year and have since been reported in each of Australia’s six states. It is estimated that over 1.2 billion animals have been killed, in addition to 29 deaths and 2,500 destroyed homes.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison came under heavy criticism due to his response to the fires. Morrison was criticized for spending time in Hawaii while the fires were growing. He was also criticized for not doing enough to reduce the country’s emission levels. Currently, Australia is the world’s second-largest coal exporter and numerous citizens are seeking more ambitious climate change targets than the nation’s current commitment to reducing its 2005 emissions levels by 26% before 2030.
In response to further criticism that he had not acted quickly enough in his immediate response to the outbreak, Morrison stated that he wanted to create a “legal framework that would allow the Commonwealth to declare a national state of emergency” before the next summer bushfire season.
The Northern Ireland Assembly officially reconvened on Saturday, January 11, 2020 for the first time since January 2017 (except a one-day session in late 2019 to discuss abortion legislation, which ended abruptly).
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (which formed a confidence of supply agreement with the Conservative party in Westminster from 2017-2019), Arlene Foster, was elected first minister. Upon her election, she claimed that the past three years had “focused too much on derision and division” and it was now “time for Northern Ireland to get moving forward again.”
Part of the deal which led to the reconvening of Stormont included a plan to create two new “language commissioners” in order to put Irish on a legal par with English while protecting Ulster British culture. In addition to the language issue, politicians in Stormont were in disagreement over the institution’s petition of concern policy. Therefore, in the draft deal, commitments have been made to reform and reduce the use of the policy.