Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election on 8 June; parliament approved the move. With the DUP and UUP set for talks over a potential unionist unity pact in certain constituencies, the UUP said it will not be running candidates in three constituencies: North Belfast, West Belfast and Foyle. There has been speculation that other parties – Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Green Party – could form an anti-Brexit alliance. Elsewhere, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, announced a new deadline for inter-party talks at Stormont castle to restore a power-sharing Executive: that’s 29 June. On Saturday, Northern Slant Editor Connor Daly posted the blog: May’s mission is clear. What’s our strategy?
DUP and former Health Minister Jim Wells described same-sex marriage as a “red line” issue in the Stormont talks. The Belfast Telegraph reported he claimed that he and other MLAs would split from the DUP if it agrees to it. He said the DUP would also block Sinn Féin’s proposal for a civil forum; a similar forum in the Republic of Ireland led to last year’s successful referendum on same-sex marriage. The DUP has repeatedly used the petition of concern at the Assembly to block same-sex marriage legislation.
In the Republic of Ireland, the Citizens’ Assembly – a body which advises the government on constitutional change – voted to replace or amend the part of the state’s Constitution which strictly limits the availability of abortion. Currently, abortion is only legal if the mother’s life is at risk. According to media reports, 91 members participated in the secret ballot; 44% voted to repeal or delete Article 40.3.3, and 56% voted in favour of replacing or amending it. The Citizens’ Assembly will discuss further the recommendations it will make to legislators.
At the time of writing, voting is underway in France in the election to choose the country’s next president. High security presence at polls follows a deadly attack on Paris police three days ago. Eleven candidates have put themselves forward for the presidency; the two with the most votes will go to a run-off round on Sunday 7 May. General consensus has it that four candidates stand a realistic chance of winning: François Fillon (conservative), Marine Le Pen (far-right), Emmanuel Macron (liberal centrists) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far-left). Northern Slant’s Kerry Corbett recently posted her take on the contest: All eyes on France.
Thousands of people took to the streets in the UK and across the world for a March for Science, celebrating science amid fears that research is under threat in a “post-truth” age. It took place on Earth Day, which promotes environmental protection. Organisers said the growth of fake news and misinformation made it important to highlight science’s “vital role”.