Preserve Ireland wins Ideas for Change award

Preserve Ireland wins Ideas for Change award

On Wednesday evening, six young social entrepreneurs competed at STAND’s Ideas for Change event to win seed funding of €1,000, sponsored by Deloitte. Joanna O’Malley convinced the judges with a heart-felt presentation of her environmental initiative Preserve Ireland and took the Award home. A second prize, sponsored by Irish Aid, was awarded by the audience to candidate Sinéad Barry, for her project seeking to provide transport services to people living in Direct Provision in rural Ireland. Ideas for Change was the final step of the 2019 edition of STAND’s annual Ideas Collective, a summer camp for changemakers.

 

What is the Ideas Collective?

The Ideas Collective project is a “three-month social incubator”. “We take people who have an idea for change, and we give them the tools and the skills, the belief in themselves so they can go on and take action on a massive scale,” explained STAND’s CEO, John Logue,  

With the Ideas Collective initiative, STAND embraces ideas to address the challenges this generation is facing. During the summer, 19 students and recent graduates met over the course of three weekends and were coached by professional trainers to help them develop the skills and tools they need to make a difference. Various projects came to life during the summer, ranging from awareness campaigns, events and social enterprises and services.

The Ideas for Change event was the opportunity for some of the participants to pitch their project to a panel of judges and win seed funding allowing them to grow their project.

 

What were the 2019 Ideas for Change?

On Wednesday, six driven candidates pitched in front of our judges for the night: Claire Bergin, Deloitte’s Corporate Social Responsibility Senior Manager; Clodagh Kelly, founder of Swapsies and co-host of Climate Queens podcast; Jessie Dolliver, co-founder of the All Ireland Student Activist Network. 

Brian Mallen, the only male pitcher this year, spoke first. Through his four-minute-long pitch, Brian introduced us to “The Bridge”, aimed to offer an online platform and physical meetings spaces to allow all kinds of activists to connect with NGOs. As he told us prior to his speech, “I’m trying to build sustainable relationships between activists and NGOs.”

The next one to hit the spotlight was Joanna O’Malley. Before talking to the audience, she confided to us: “I was just having a shower and the idea popped into my head”. That’s how “Preserve Ireland” was born. This organisation aims to approach environmental issues with volunteering and education. Joanna wants to “work with perfect imperfect environmentalists” and has already hosted several clean-ups.

Our third concurrent was Kayley Curtis. “You don’t need to have a script as long as you have passion,” she said, smiling. Her “Revamped” project aims to encourage second-hand clothing. Her store would implement the retail techniques used by highstreets stores. For her, everything started from a conversation with a friend, before leading to more and more research, and eventually to the will to take action.

Then, Leia Mocan took the floor. “I’m not a very good speaker. I like to express myself through art” she told us. Her project is based on three pillars. First, she created a video animation which explains fast fashion. For the second pillar, she made an art performance called “stop wearing dead skin”. The third pillar is a campaign which should be launched pretty soon on social media with the #stopwearingdeadskin hashtag.

Sinéad Barry was next on the stage. Her still-without-a-name project is about organizing a network of drivers to give emergency, and maybe at some points recreational, lifts to migrants living in Direct Provision centers. “There’s a Direct Provision center not far from my house, that’s really difficult to get to when you don’t have a car. So I guess that’s how the idea gradually came into my head” she revealed to us. 

The last one to speak was Tanya Holliday. Going to many music festivals over the years, Tanya was mortified by the amount of waste generated by those events. Her project is about creating an eco-friendly festival pack that can be bought prior to the event and therefore reduce waste. “Even people that are very environmentally conscious go out the window at festivals, especially after a few drinks”. 

 

What did the candidates have to say about the Ideas Collective? 

When interviewed on their experiences with STAND’s Ideas Collective, the candidates were all unanimous to say that the program exceeded their expectations. 

In Kayley’s eyes, “it was a full experience! I got trainings I never thought I needed. There is such an amazing support network I never imagined I’d get. It has completely exceeded what I expected.”

For Brian, the program went “from getting a life coach to building emotional tools that I’m now using within the organisation and for events that I’m running. I also built amazing contacts,” he added. 

Tanya said she “expected to meet a lot of broad-minded people” and “it lived up to my expectations.”

It seems like very few of them expected such an experience when they walked in on the first day of the programme. Joanna confessed that “I didn’t have many expectations, but I had a great time!”, joined by Sinéad who admitted “I didn’t plan to enjoy it so much.”

 

Feeling inspired by all this? Join the Ideas Collective 2020! If you want to know more or want to save a spot in the next edition, contact mary@stand.ie and see how you can get involved.

 

The Ideas Collective is an initiative funded by Irish Aid. STAND would like to thank again Irish Aid as well as Deloitte for their continuous support.

 

If you want to support Preserve Ireland, don’t hesitate to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

Judges Choice winner Joanna O’Malley (Preserve Ireland) pictured with Suas CEO John Logue and Irish Aid’s Aine Doody

 

People’s Choice winner Sinead Barry pictured alongside Suas CEO John Logue

 

Judges for the evening (L-R): Clodagh Kelly (Swapsies), Jessie Dolliver (All Ireland Student Activist Network), Clare Bergin (Deloitte)

 

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Book or Play: Asking for it under review

Book or Play: Asking for it under review

The book: the origin of everything

Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It follows a teenage girl named Emma who is raped by a group of football players at a party in her hometown. 

One of the strengths of Asking For It is that the protagonist, Emma, is definitely not a “nice girl.” She’s unlikeable, arrogant and slut shames other women at the beginning of the book. This was an excellent choice on O’Neill’s part:in the end, the reader doesn’t feel sorry for Emma because she’s a lovely, likeable person, they feel bad because what happened to her should never ever happen to anyone.

In her small town in County Cork, Emma has significantly less power than her attackers. They’re stars of the local GAA team, and are held on a pedestal, seeming that nothing can touch them. The book has a lot of commentary on the patriarchy. Characters say things one would often see posted by anonymous accounts on Twitter under articles regarding assault. “Girls are all the same. Get wasted and get a bit slutty, then in the morning try and pretend it never happened because you regret it.” 

Emma’s attackers post images of the assault on a Facebook page called “Easy Emma.” Emma is completely unable to escape the situation, and it’s difficult and painful to read about because you want to help her. She doesn’t have a good support system at home or in school and it’s hard to watch her crumble.

O’Neill is an exceptional writer. There’s many moments and pieces of writing in this novel that will stay with the reader. Emma thinks, “My body is not my own anymore. They have stamped their names all over it.” This is such an incredibly powerful quote, one of several in the novel. It’s striking how real the teenagers sound in their way of acting and speaking. The events of this novel feel like they could happen in any town.

Asking For It should be required reading in secondary schools in Ireland as consent is such an important subject matter. This book is an essential read for young people in Ireland and across the world. It made O’Neill one of leading voices of feminism in Ireland.

 

The play: another immersive experience

The stage adaption of Louise O’Neill’s award-winning 2015 book Asking For It returned to the Gaiety Theatre during the month of October. This nauseatingly authentic play illustrates the life of the beautiful, queen bee Emma O’Donovan, whose life is torn up before her eyes after becoming the victim of a gang-rape and subsequent social media attack. This harrowing production artfully and poignantly depicted the all-too-common mentality victim-blaming prevalent of people in Ireland and beyond. 

The beginning of the play with its narration of Emma and her friends, going about their daily life, is a situation all too familiar for the majority of the audience, filling the viewer with even more dread about what we all know is to happen next. The characterisation of Emma as not so sympathetic an individual makes this even more striking. Despite the fact that we could go so far as to dislike her during the early part of the play, we nevertheless are filled with empathy for her when the aggression occurs.

The second half of the play is utterly disturbing and distressing. We see Emma and her life after the incident. She is a shell of her former self; a shadow. The difficulties caused to her parents by the situation also result in some fantastically moving and upsetting interactions that are sure to touch the viewer right where it hurts. During the final scene the room is filled with this deafening silence, and the tense emotion is absolutely tangible. There is almost an unwillingness to applaud at the end – how could one show appreciation for such an agonisingly excruciating event?

Aisling Kearns deserves chief credit for her captivating portrayal of complicated Emma. However, the energy and ultimate genuity afforded to the stage by each actor is a work of genius and has afforded thousands of audience members the invaluable opportunity to challenge the harmful attitude of rape-culture and to ask the question “Is anyone ever asking for it?”

 

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

 

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Planning access to Justice: Error 404

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According to Environmental Pillar’s immediate release, the Minister of Housing, TD Eoghan Murphy, is pressing for new planning rules outlined in the “Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019”. If these rules were to be implemented, it would be even more complicated for citizens or NGOs to bring a case to Court against poor planning decisions. It would lead to a more complex court process, and a rising of the costs of the legal procedure. If implemented, these changes would be in violation of EU law and the UN Aarhus Convention

Ireland’s leading environmental coalition said it  “is shocked at the Minister for Housing’s attempt […] that would make it near impossible to challenge planning decisions in the courts and hold public authorities and the Government to account.”

 

What would change?

The first change would impact procedure costs rules. Now, in compliance with article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, the procedures are required to be “not prohibitively expensive”. The rules make each party bear their own costs, but a successful plaintiff might be granted some extra costs. 

With the new bill, we would head to a cap of 5.000€ for individuals and of 10.000€ for groups. It would also limit the amount awarded to a successful litigant to 40.000€, which would make things harder for NGOs or citizens to seek legal representation as lawyers are often hired on a “no foal, no fee” basis for that kind of cases. Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice, has said in the past that the issue of costs has been a “great difficulty” for Ireland to comply with the Aarhus Convention.

The requirements for citizens to be able to bring a planning case to court would be getting stricter. Again, in compliance with article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, any citizens willing to tackle a bad planning decision need to show a “sufficient interest”. With the new Bill, it would depend on a “substantial interest”. The new rules would also require from the individual to be “directly affected, in a way which is peculiar or personal” and to have had “prior participation in planning process”. This would call for a far higher level of justification and the burden of the proof of these requirements would rest upon the individual. 

But under the new rules, the requirements for NGOs would be getting drastic too. From a condition of “12 months previous existence”, NGOs would have to exist for at least 3 years with the new regime. This prerequisite is already stern and rule out most of the recent (environmental) groups, but the bill goes further: NGOs would need a minimum of 100 affiliated members. The local groups that might meet the existence requirement would probably not meet this criteria. I guess it’s always easier to win a legal fight when your competitor cannot even access the battle field. 

 

How would it breach international law?  

This new Bill would be in breach of international law as it would not comply with the Aarhus Convention anymore. Ireland has been really late to comply with it in the first place, and now is about to set backward. The Convention has three clear objectives: ensuring citizens’ rights to access environmental information, to participate in environmental decisions and to timely access justice in environmental matters. How far from reached those objectives would be.

In regards toEU Law, it’s more debatable. The EU Directive 2011/92 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, guarantees access to justice in its 11th article. But this legislation gives member states some discretion power on how to implement access to justice. There’s a lot to bet that this discretion power will be a main – if not the only – argument of Minister Murphy when defending his Bill.

 

Official comment? 

Saying a few words on this morning’s “Today Sean O’Rouke”, Minister Murphy did not mention this Planning Bill. He has yet refused to comment on the breaking news, explained Niall Sargent, Editor of Green News, to us. 

The only explanations we could read so far are those written in an email Murphy has sent to the Oireachtas Committee for Housing, Planning and Local Government. While asking the committee for an “early pre-legislative scrutiny” to achieve an implementation by next Easter, he stated that “there is a need to safeguard the timely delivery of projects and value for public money while simultaneously maintaining the rights of citizens to challenge decisions that do not comply with European environmental law.”

If you’re a curious person, like me, you would try and find the Bill or at least a draft somewhere. Well I tell you; you’ll end up disappointed. Nor on the Ministry’s website, nor on the Oireachtas Committee tab, nowhere will you find something about this new Bill. “It’s difficult to be aware of this Bill if you have no links with the Committee” admitted Niall Sargent. The Environmental Pillar itself only saw the Heads of the Bill. “We need a more proactive information with the public.”

 

Any other comments?

Tony Lowes from Friends of Ireland explained this morning to Pat Kenny that “it’s a draconian Bill that is bad for environmental NGOs and community groups. Everything about it is regressive and it sets the clock back on access to justice rights.” Accordingly, Orla Hegarty explained that “the planning system is moving further away from being a citizen-friendly system, and back to being centralized.” According to her, instead of trying to poorly address the “court problem”, the Government should deal with the root of the problem and allow groups and citizens to raise their concerns earlier in the decision process.

The least we can say is that this new Bill has made voices rise all over the country. Various organisations have emphasised how this would be in violation of their rights to access justice. Several legal professionals also expressed how outrageous this new legislation is. “The reactions on social media are strong” said Niall Sargent. “Groups are really shocked.” Altogether, they will now try to raise awareness, especially – but not only – in the activist community. So, if you want to support the Environmental Pillar and other groups, a first step can be to talk about it and maybe even share this article.

 

Photo by Juan J. Martinez on Flickr

 

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30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

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Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why was there a wall? Why and how did it fall? What happened next? What about other walls in the world? These are the questions we’ll try to answer!

 

A bit of context: Why was there a wall in Berlin? 

In 1945, after the Second World War, Germany was partitioned. The UK, the USA, France and the USSR (former Soviet Union) each got a piece of Germany (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing). In 1949, the Allies (France, the UK and the USA) decided to unite their parts of Germany, which became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG – West Germany). The rest of Germany remained under Soviet power and was called the German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany). The border between the two Germanies was called the Iron curtain. At first, there was no physical representation of the border. It gradually became an impassable 8500km long barrier, going from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea.

Eventually, Berlin was partitioned too (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing), and in the same way the Allies united their parts, opposing the Soviets. At first, there was no physical border in Berlin, allowing East German to easily escape to West Germany, which was seen as more attractive because richer. The crossing started to be massive. In 1960, around 200,000 people left GDR to find refuge in West Berlin. Until 1961, almost 3,5 million Eastern Germans had fled to FRG. The Soviets couldn’t stand this affront any longer and wanted to stop the haemorrhage. 

Therefore, they came up with a plan to build a physical border, dividing Berlin. In one night only, from the 12th August 1961’s evening to the 13th August’s morning, the VoPos (Volkspolizei’s agents, police force from GDR) erected a wall with 2m high concrete panels and barbed wires. This was meant to last. The quickness was incredible. At 11:15pm Germans could cross the border easily. At 11:30pm it was impossible. There were actually very few violent scenes that night. People were just stunned. The wall was protected by a 500m no-man’s land and guarded by VoPo’s, ready to shoot on sight any agitator. From now on, if you wanted to cross the border, you could only do it by reporting to one of the 13 checkpoints. From the East to West Germany, you could only cross to the other sidel if you had a pass. From the West to the East, to travel by car, you needed a special authorization, that you were almost sure you wouldn’t get. The 2,5 millions of West Berliners got really isolated, as on an island among GDR. 

 

A historic day: Why and how did it fall?

In 1989, people who stayed in East Berlin started to protest more and more often. Eastern Germans were on the streets, demanding reforms. Eventually, the authorities implemented “new” travel regulations. But nowhere in those was actually written that the gate would open on the 9th of November. 

At a press conference that day, around 6pm, Guenter Schabowsky, an East German Politburo spokesman addressed the press about these new rules. But he hadn’t taken the time to properly read those. He let journalists understand (and then report) that “exit via border crossings” would be “possible for every citizens” effective, “immediately, right away.” His later complementary comment about how the permeability of the wall was not answered yet was not really listened to. At 7pm, Western radio announced that the Berlin Wall was open. Soon after the broadcast, German television shared the news as well, and people started to gather at the checkpoints, on both sides of the wall. 

Among the guards, was a feeling of uncertainty. After a few phone calls, they were reassured that the border was meant to stay closed on their watch. But soon, they would be outnumbered by the crowd. Refusing to resort to use violence in risk of it escalating, they decided around 9pm to let some people cross, to ease the thousands of people gathering at the gates. This solution lasted a couple of hours. Around 11:30pm, the barriers of Bornholmer Straße were lifted up. Others would soon follow. At this point, people were jumping on top of the wall, reunited and cheered. 

What’s really striking here is how important the timing was that day. At that time, due to the time difference, Western leaders were busy in some meetings, while Soviets leader were sleeping. Therefore, they didn’t get the chance to take action and consolidate the wall and the checkpoints. 

This is how the 9th of November became a historic day. To celebrate this day, a 7-day Festival was organised in Berlin.

 

Aftermath: What happened next?

The fall of the Wall continued the following days and weeks. The official dismantling began on the 13th July 1990 and was completed by 1992. This two-year gap is really in contrast with the one-night construction.

A couple of weeks after the fall, Helmut Kohl (West German Chancellor) launched a 10-point program to bring the two Germanies closer, maybe even to reunification. On the 3rd October 1990, the reunification became reality. This united country would be officially called the Federal Republic of Germany. This way, Germany was a successor state to smaller FRG, retaining all international commitments made by Western Germany. 

The reunification was not as simple as it seemed. The former East communist economy was difficult to get along with the Western economy. The Deutsche Mark was introduced to former GDR, but this was not a smooth transition. Unemployment rose in the Eastern regions as businesses and factories couldn’t keep up due to the introduction of a new currency. All those dreams of freedom and prosperity were at first crushed for East Germans.

 

Still divided: What about other walls in the world?

At the end of the Second World War, 7 border walls where to be found in the world. By the time the Berlin wall fell, 15 were counted. Nowadays, we’re beyond 70 walls. 

One of the most famous might be the Israel/West Bank wall, erected in 2002 after several Palestinian attacks. Called the “apartheid wall”, the 700km barrier was judged in breach of international law by the international Court of Justice in 2004.

We also often hear about the Indian/Bangladesh border wall. The 3200km brick wall was erected to “protect India from Muslim invaders”, with no consideration for the small towns it crosses. 

But very much closer to us, we can still witness a wall up in Belfast. The “Peace Wall” is presented as a protection, as a tool to keep peace in Belfast, preventing anymore rioting. Still, when you have a walk on each side of the wall, protection is not the first word that comes to your mind. Division. Separation. Disconnection. Those are words that fill your head. Just by the size of the houses, the existence or not of a garden attached to the house, the size of the windows, you can tell how different the daily life must be depending on what side you’re living in. 

Therefore, I must ask, protection or division? 

30 years ago, we were all waiting for the Berlin Wall to fall. This border was seen as an unbearable sign of division that the international community wanted down. But in the meantime, more and more walls were erected. Where is the coherence here?

This topic was obviously brought back in the spotlight by Trump and his wish to build a wall between the USA and Mexico. As if there were not already fences between those states. Migration and Brexit also added to the debate by questioning non-existing borders. But in the end, don’t you think that we benefit from sharing different cultures? 

 

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

 

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Confused about what Brexit actually means and how it will impact you? This month, STAND’s Brexit Series will help you understand how we got into this situation, what the proposed deal contains, where the negotiations are at now, and how a no-deal Brexit will impact Ireland, the UK and more widely the EU. If you’re new to the series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective, a view of the most crazy week, and what it means for Ireland.

Brexit will have various repercussions, including on education. To have a better understanding of how Brexit will impact students in Ireland we talked to USI Vice President for the Dublin Region, Craig McHugh, and with NUS-USI President based in Belfast, Robert Murtagh.

 

What’s the students’ Unions position on Brexit?

“Our position is that there’s no better deal than the deal we have currently within the European Union” states Murtagh. “Brexit is going to be bad for students. We don’t dress that up. We oppose it” completes his colleague from the South, Craig McHugh.

When talking about the latest negotiated deal, Murtagh affirms that “it’s cautious, it’s not overly optimistic, but it’s probably the best that we’re going to get.” In the end, both Unions were relieved they were “not looking at a no deal Brexit. A deal, whether it was good or not, was better than no deal.” 

This deal respects the Good Friday Agreement “as much as it can” because “Brexit is pretty much in conflict with the Good Friday Agreement” reminds McHugh. “I don’t think protecting the Good Friday Agreement is on the British Government agenda. I do think it’s on the agenda of the Irish Government and the European Union” indicates Murtagh.

 

What about mobility?

The first point of action for both the USI and NUS-USI is to guarantee mobility for students.  As McHugh sums it up, “Brexit is going to damage the livelihoods of students going to College in the Republic and who are from Northern Ireland or from the UK.” We’re talking here for example about Northern Irish students coming to Galway, Cork or Dublin but also of situations such as the Donegal/Derry connection, or the Dundalk/Newry border. “It’s that kind of relationships that will be seriously damaged for lecturing staff crossing the border and getting to work on a daily basis” says McHugh. To talk in numbers, about 5% of Dublin’s students are from the North. There are 12,500 students travelling between Ireland and the UK annually whose freedom of movement would be impacted by any kind of border. 

In light of the above, it seems clear that the border is a main concern for students of the Irish island. “We can’t imagine a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. That cannot happen” emphasizes Murtagh. The border issue “turns people away from viewing Ireland as a whole island. Economy is a whole island; education system is a whole island” affirms McHugh. “Borders really are not the solution here.”

From where we’re standing now, we don’t know what’s going to happen. There could be a new Government in the UK, and then a new deal. Yet, it seems unlikely that students’ rights would get less protection if the deal should be renegotiated. 

The USI met with the Department of Foreign Affairs which reinsured that both Northern Ireland and Ireland will work together to make sure that this mobility won’t be impacted. “We are happy with what we are getting from the Department. They are preparing in the right way and they’ve been listening to us” reveals McHugh.

 

What consequences for Irish students? 

According to McHugh, “Ireland is not investing enough in housing, in infrastructures, to deal with the Brexit consequences”, which will impact Irish students as well as international students.

The Brexit’s economic impact on Ireland will have repercussions on students as well: while politicians are addressing economic issues, they’re not focusing on the underfunding of education nor the rise of the cost of living. The focus on Brexit also makes it difficult to get new policies through such as allowing more to SUSI grants.

From a Northern perspective, “another concern is the increase of fees, which the Irish and British Government agreed not to accept. We have to make sure there’s no bureaucratic issues for students crossing the border that might lead them to having to pay more or to lose support that they have” points out Murtagh.

Also, there’s a big focus on the future of the Erasmus program. In the North, “we need commitment from the British Government for students in the UK to remain in that program long term, beyond 2020. We want to get the possibility to study abroad, to be part of the Erasmus program. But we won’t be entitled to the same support from the European Commission. So, the British Government needs to provide the same support” says Murtagh.

 

What about international students?

The number of international students is probably going to rise in the Republic as Ireland is an English-speaking country which remains within the European Union. Dublin is expected to appear more and more attractive, even though Ireland would have the most expensive fees and rents for students’ accommodations in the EU. Those international students will be at high risks to be exploited. “They’ll be exploited with the high fees, they can be discriminated against when renting a room, or they may be lied to about the rooms they are going to get” explains McHugh.  

The USI is also concerned about the rise of racism in Ireland. “Brexit should be a warning sign”. “We love to call ourselves and open country, but realistically we have one of the most racist way to dealing with refugees or people seeking asylum in this country through Direct Provision for example.”

 

Photo by Ed Everett on Flickr

 

Watch below our vox-pop about Brexit! Interviews of students from Belfast Queen’s University and Dublin City University.

The Impeachment Inquiry Against Donald Trump – What You Need to Know

The Impeachment Inquiry Against Donald Trump – What You Need to Know

There’s been a lot of talk about impeachment investigations against Donald Trump recently. But what does impeachment mean, and why is Trump being investigated?

 

What is impeachment?

Impeachment is when a president is removed from office. In the United States, the impeachment process begins with an investigation into the president’s behaviour. Based on what is found out, the inquiry will recommend whether or not the US Congress should have a vote on impeachment. 

First, the House of Representatives (the equivalent to the Dáil) will take a vote. If they vote to impeach the president, the Senate (the equivalent to the Seanad) will then hold a trial, followed by a vote as well. If the Senate also decides to impeach, then the president will be removed from office. 

According to the constitution of the United States, a president can be impeached due to treason, bribery or ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’. No president has ever been removed from office for impeachment, despite several attempts to do so.

 

Hasn’t there been talk of Donald Trump being impeached for a while now?

Yes, but this is the first time an impeachment inquiry has actually been launched. There was talk before about impeaching Trump due to allegations of collaboration between his 2016 election campaign and the Russian government. However, an investigation into Russian involvement in the US elections, known as the Mueller Report, found that Trump’s campaign had not collaborated with Russia, although there were links between members of the campaign team and the Russian government. The lack of concrete proof of wrongdoing led many politicians to not support the impeachment, although there are  a number of politicians who have been trying to impeach Trump since he was elected.

 

Why is there an attempt to impeach him now?

Allegations were made that, on a phone call, Trump pressured the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, in exchange for the US unfreezing military aid to Ukraine and allowing Zelensky to meet face to face with Trump. Trump alleges that Biden pressured the Ukraine to not investigate his son’s Ukrainian business dealings, although there is no evidence of this. Applying pressure to Zelensky to investigate Biden is seen as a big deal because Biden is running to be the US Democratic party’s presidential candidate, so he could end up running against President Trump in next year’s election. 

This situation is considered to be worse than the Russian collaboration allegations,  because there is clear evidence that the call actually occurred. Many Democrats who had not previously supported impeachment have now changed their minds. Trump has not denied that he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden, but has denied that he did so in exchange for military aid, which he claims was frozen for other reasons. 

This all led to the launching of an impeachment inquiry against Trump last month, and a vote last week in the House to formalise the inquiry and make its findings more public. As such, the inquiry will for the first time hold public hearings and publish the witness statements which were already made at the private hearings. 

It’s important to note that launching an investigation does not mean that there will definitely be a vote to impeach the president, but may signal trouble for Trump.

 

Is he going to be impeached?

The impeachment investigation hinges on whether Trump used his position as president to get a foreign country to interfere in US elections. So far, the witnesses that have testified for the impeachment investigation have been fairly damning against Trump’s actions. They have suggested that Trump did tell Ukraine that the launching of investigations against Joe Biden was in exchange for military aid, despite his denials. However, no one knows yet what the inquiry will actually conclude, as there are many more witnesses to be heard from. 

Even if it does conclude that Trump’s action was illegal, electoral incentives of US politicians will determine whether that actually leads to a vote on impeachment. If the Democrats think that they won’t win the vote to impeach Trump, they may not actually hold the vote, as some of them will worry that voting against Trump could lead them to lose their seats to Republicans in the next election.

If the impeachment gets to a vote, the outcome will depend on whether enough Democrats think it is worth that political risk to impeach Trump only a year before he leaves office and whether enough Republicans will turn against Trump. The Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives so a vote seems very likely to pass the House, but the Senate has a majority of Republicans so it would be difficult to secure enough votes there. 

Given the high support for Trump among Republicans it seems unlikely he will be impeached, although some Republican politicians have expressed worries about his conduct. The House had a vote on formalising the impeachment inquiry last week, and not one Republicans voted for it. This suggests that Republicans in the Senate are also unlikely to vote to impeach Trump and he may stay in office until at least the 2020 elections. What effect the impeachment investigation has on his chances of reelection remains to be seen.

 

 

Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr

 

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