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Sinn Fein becomes Ireland’s second-largest parliamentary party

Sinn Fein on Tuesday became Ireland’s second-largest parliamentary party after winning the popular vote in the election at the weekend – shattering the political landscape and thrusting the one-time fringe party with historic links to paramilitaries into a probable role in the next government. With counting completed in the early hours of Tuesday Sinn Fein…

Sinn Fein becomes Ireland’s second-largest parliamentary party

Sinn Fein on Tuesday became Ireland’s second-largest parliamentary party after winning the popular vote in the election at the weekend – shattering the political landscape and thrusting the one-time fringe party with historic links to paramilitaries into a probable role in the next government.
With counting completed in the early hours of Tuesday Sinn Fein had taken 37 of the 160 seats in the next Dail – Ireland’s lower house of Parliament – after a turnout of 62.9 percent in Saturday’s election.
Centre-right party Fianna Fail was only one ahead on 38, while Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party took 35, a result likely to mean his departure from office.
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If a new government is to be formed when the Dail sits on 20 February it will have to include multiple parties.
Negotiations have already begun, with Sinn Fein arguing for a central role in power after winning 24.5 percent of first preferences in Ireland’s single transferable vote system – the largest of any party.
End of duopoly
The breakthrough for the nationalist Sinn Fein party that was once shunned because of its links to Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitaries, has broken the stranglehold of two-party politics in Ireland.
Former leader Gerry Adams and other party representatives were even banned from television and radio in the United Kingdom as violence raged over British rule in Northern Ireland over 30 years to 1998.
But with two decades of peace and a new leader under Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s left-wing policies on tackling crises in housing and health found favour with voters.

Proud to lead. On this day two years ago I was Elected President of @sinnfeinireland This weekend we made history – all of us, together. pic.twitter.com/CWVxZkhLBG
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) February 10, 2020

McDonald said the two main parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – were “in a state of denial” and had not listened to the voice of the people.
On a walkabout in Dublin on Monday she said she had begun talks with smaller left-wing parties to try to “test” whether it was possible to form a government without the two centre-right parties.
“I may well be the next taoiseach (prime minister),” she said before chatting to supporters and market traders.
“Sinn Fein won the election, we won the popular vote … I’m very clear that people who came out and voted for Sinn Fein have voted for Sinn Fein to be in government,” she added.

Varadkar acknowledged the shift to “a three-party system” on Sunday and said talks between the parties could be protracted and difficult.
His Fine Gael party took 20.9 percent, while rivals Fianna Fail took 22.2 percent. 
“The Irish political system has to react to it and probably accept that Sinn Fein will be part of the next government,” Eoin O’Malley, associate professor at Dublin City University, told AFP news agency.
Appeal to young
Tuesday’s result was all the more striking because Sinn Fein ran with just 42 candidates.
Analysts suggest the party may have been taken by surprise by its surge in popularity, and would probably have emerged as the largest party if it had put forward a larger slate.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have ruled out any deal with Sinn Fein because of its past associations under Adams, who has long denied allegations he had a leadership role in the IRA.
The armed group fought a decades-long campaign against unionist counterparts and British security forces  in Northern Ireland that saw more than 3,000 killed on all sides. 

McDonald’s policies on tackling wealth inequality and housing shortages appear to have appealed to younger voters among the European Union member state’s 3.3 million-strong electorate.
Some 32 percent of voters aged 18-24 and 25-34 backed the party, according to an exit poll on Saturday.
In a sign of the sea change in Irish politics, Varadkar himself was beaten to the first seat in his constituency by a Sinn Fein candidate on Sunday.
He took the second of four seats but it was a sharp blow on a long night for a man facing the electorate for the first time as prime minister.
Varadkar – young, openly gay and mixed-race – has been seen as the face of a new, more progressive Ireland after referendums overturning strict abortion laws and same-sex marriage.
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Minnesota becomes battleground as Trump ‘law and order’ message takes hold

President Trump has put Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden on the defensive in Minnesota, an unlikely battleground that hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1972. It’s a rare opportunity for Mr. Trump to expand the electoral map and potentially capture Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to offset a potential loss in Michigan or Wisconsin,…

Minnesota becomes battleground as Trump ‘law and order’ message takes hold

President Trump has put Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden on the defensive in Minnesota, an unlikely battleground that hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1972.

It’s a rare opportunity for Mr. Trump to expand the electoral map and potentially capture Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to offset a potential loss in Michigan or Wisconsin, two states that he narrowly won in 2016.

Mr. Trump came close to winning Minnesota four years ago. He lost the state to Hillary Clinton by a little more than 1.5 percentage points. This time, his law-and-order message has been amplified by months of unrest and riots in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody.

The president’s momentum prompted Mr. Biden’s team to spend millions of dollars on advertising in the state.

“President Trump has tapped into an organic enthusiasm from Minnesotans who are tired of career politicians’ lip service with no results, and we see an opportunity to win Minnesota with voters who want four more years of the president’s ‘America First’ agenda,” said Samantha Zager, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign.

The polling in Minnesota is mixed. Several polls show Mr. Biden with a solid lead, and the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in the state puts Mr. Biden ahead by 5.8 percentage points.

A recent Emerson poll, however, shows the president outperforming his 2016 exit polls for men and women, and among younger voters and voters without a college degree.

He also racked up endorsements from six Democratic mayors in Minnesota.

Since the death of Floyd on Memorial Day, the state has been plagued by Black Lives Matter protests that sometimes devolve into riots at night. It took the National Guard to stop the torching and looting of businesses in Minneapolis, and the president repeatedly threatened to send in troops to halt the chaos.

The riots across the state resulted in roughly $500 million in damage and the deaths of at least two people.

The Trump campaign thinks the president’s law-and-order message is resonating in Minnesota because of the unrest.

But critics argue that Mr. Trump turned a blind eye to the protests against racial injustice that have energized Black voters and the Democratic base.

Democratic Party strategist Antjuan Seawright said the law-and-order message is made up of “coded words” to rally what he called Mr. Trump’s racist supporters.

“It is definitely going to tickle the hearts and minds and ears of the Republican base that supports Donald Trump,” Mr. Seawright said.

He predicted that the president’s messaging would backfire and he would lose Minnesota as well as Rust Belt states such as Michigan and Wisconsin that put him over the top in 2016.

“From the time Donald Trump has taken office, the mood and temperature of the country have changed,” Mr. Seawright said. “Things are shifting, and voters are starting to see through the smog.”

However, former Minnesota Sen. Amy Koch, a Republican in the Twin Cities metro region, said she is hearing from voters who are frustrated with the unrest and the doom and gloom rhetoric about COVID-19 from Democratic politicians.

Minnesota voters recognize what happened to Floyd was wrong, she said, but they do not approve of the violence and rioting.

She said first lady Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, where she called for a peaceful change instead of violence and anger, was the right tone to win over Minnesota voters.

“It is that message that I think could really resonate here,” said Ms. Koch, the state’s first female Senate majority leader. “There is this need for some hope.”

In 2016, Mr. Trump was hurt at the polls in Minnesota by anti-Trump Republicans such as Ms. Koch. Many voted for Evan McMullin, who led a “Never Trump” movement and garnered about 1.8% of the vote, which was more than Mrs. Clinton’s margin of victory.

Where those votes go this year remains to be seen.

Mr. Trump barely campaigned in Minnesota in 2016. He made his only appearance on the Sunday before the election.

This time, Mr. Trump is lavishing money and attention on Minnesotans and last month visited the Twin Cities and Mankato. His family members also have been campaigning in the state, as has Vice President Mike Pence, who recently visited Duluth.

Mr. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, also have jetted into the state.

During a cross-state tour this month, Ms. Harris said they would not take Minnesota voters for granted.

“We need to earn the vote of every Minnesotan, and we will do that based what clearly is our plan to be relevant to Minnesota families,” she said in an interview with KARE-TV in Minneapolis.

The president and Mr. Biden will both campaign in the state on Friday.

Mr. Trump will host an event in Bemidji. Mr. Biden, who would be making his first campaign visit to the state, promised to be there Friday but did not provide details.

Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, has visited the state on his behalf.

Both campaigns have begun airing ads there this month and have reserved millions of dollars in airtime, according to reports. Mr. Trump is looking to spend $14 million on advertising in Minnesota ahead of Nov. 3, and Mr. Biden has reserved roughly one-third of that amount.

“If Democrats were not worried about losing their grip on Minnesota, then Biden wouldn’t be visiting there and they wouldn’t be going up on air there. They’d be spending those resources in Georgia and Texas,” said Donald Trump Jr., a top surrogate for his father’s campaign. “All you have to do is look at how Biden and Democrats are treating Minnesota to know that this state is in play.”

If Mr. Trump wins the state, it will be the first time Minnesota has backed a Republican since the 49-state landslide of Richard Nixon in 1972. It voted twice against Ronald Reagan and was the only state to prefer Walter Mondale in Reagan’s 1984 victory.

Javier Morillo, a Democratic Party strategist in St. Paul, said his state is purple but most of the population is concentrated in urban areas, which leans heavily Democratic.

He predicted a victory for Mr. Biden because Mrs. Clinton was able to win the state in 2016 despite lower than expected Democratic turnout, which he said will not happen this November.

“This time around, it is a different ballgame. Democrats are very energized by four years of Donald Trump, so I think our turnout goals are going to be high and are going to be met,” he told The Washington Times.

A poll completed in August by the Trafalgar Group showed the president and Mr. Biden in a tie.

More recent polls by KSTP/SurveyUSA and Public Policy Polling showed Mr. Biden with a 9-point and 8-point lead, respectively. Both leads are larger than what polls gave Mrs. Clinton in September 2016.

Still, Trump fans see an opportunity for the president’s message to break through.

“It’s law and order,” said Republican Party strategist Corey Lewandowski, one of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign managers and co-author of the 2017 book “Let Trump Be Trump.”

He thinks the message to end violence and unrest is resonating across swing states such as Minnesota and in his home state of New Hampshire, where Mr. Trump lost to Mrs. Clinton in 2016 by less than 0.5 percentage points.

“He is going to win by a larger electoral margin than he did in 2016,” Mr. Lewandowski said. “Everybody deserves a safe environment to have a home in, to have a business in, to worship in, and have your kids go to school.”

⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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Hanna becomes hurricane as it heads toward virus-weary Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — Tropical Storm Hanna was upgraded to a hurricane Saturday, moving toward the Texas coast and threatening to bring heavy rain, storm surge and possible tornadoes to a part of the country trying to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases. The storm, which is the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane…

Hanna becomes hurricane as it heads toward virus-weary Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — Tropical Storm Hanna was upgraded to a hurricane Saturday, moving toward the Texas coast and threatening to bring heavy rain, storm surge and possible tornadoes to a part of the country trying to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.

The storm, which is the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to make landfall Saturday afternoon or evening south of Corpus Christi, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was centered about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east-southeast of Corpus Christi and was moving west at 9 mph (15 kph).

Many parts of Texas, including the area where Hanna is expected to come ashore, have been dealing with a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but local officials said they were prepared for whatever the storm may bring.

“And don’t feel like since we’ve been fighting COVID for five months, that we’re out of energy or we’re out of gas. We’re not,” Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said Friday. “We can do these two things together and we’re going to win both of them.”

Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, where health officials made headlines when they revealed that 60 infants tested positive for COVID-19 from July 1 to July 16.

Farther south in Cameron County, which borders Mexico, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, the county’s top elected official, said he was awaiting word Friday of whether hotels would be used to house recovering COVID-19 patients in order to free up hospital beds.

“If there’s any benefit to be gained from this, it’s that people have to stay at home for a weekend,” Treviño said.

Officials reminded residents to wear masks if they needed to get supplies before the storm arrives or if they have to shelter with neighbors because of flooding.

The main hazard from Hanna was expected to be flash flooding, Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said Friday. Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night – with isolated totals of 18 inches (46 centimeters) – in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Coastal states scrambled this spring to adjust emergency hurricane plans to account for the virus, and Hanna loomed as the first big test.

South Texas officials’ plans for any possible rescues, shelters and monitoring of the storm will have the pandemic in mind. Gov. Greg Abbott said various resources to respond to the storm were on standby across the state, including search-and-rescue teams and aircraft.

Treviño said shelters would keep families socially distanced if any need to evacuate their homes.

In the Mexican city of Matamoros, located across the border from Brownsville, volunteers worried whether the tropical storm would affect a makeshift migrant camp near the Rio Grande where about 1,300 asylum seekers, including newborn babies and elderly residents, are waiting under the U.S. immigration policy informally known as “Remain in Mexico.”

Erin Hughes, a volunteer at the camp who is a civil engineer from Philadelphia, said tropical storms pose a devastating threat since the camp is located on a floodplain, and that she and others were monitoring the river’s water level.

As of Saturday morning, there was a storm surge warning in effect for a stretch of coast south of Corpus Christi from Baffin Bay to Port Mansfield. Storm surge up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) was forecast for that area. People were advised to protect life and property from high water.

Tornadoes were also possible Saturday for parts of the lower to middle Texas coastal plain, forecasters said Friday. A hurricane warning remained in effect for Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay, which is north of Corpus Christi, and a tropical storm warning was in effect from Port Mansfield south to Barra el Mezquital, Mexico, and from Mesquite Bay north to High Island, Texas.

Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night – with isolated totals of 18 inches (46 centimeters) – in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gonzalo was still on track to move across the southern Windward Islands on Saturday afternoon or evening. Gonzalo was moving west near 18 mph (30 kph) with maximum sustained winds at 40 mph (65 kph), the National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning.

Gonzalo is forecast to bring 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 centimeters) of rain, with isolated totals of 5 inches (13 centimeters). A tropical storm warning was in effect for Tobago and Grenada and its dependencies. The storm was expected to dissipate by Sunday night or Monday, forecasters said.

Gonzalo and Hanna broke the record for the earliest seventh and eighth Atlantic named storms, respectively, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The previous records were Gert on July 24, 2005, and Harvey on Aug. 3, 2005, Klotzbach said.

Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard and Fay also set records for being the earliest named Atlantic storm for their alphabetic order.

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Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado in Austin contributed to this report.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

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