The party recently deposed its leader, Arlene Foster, and is squabbling over how to prepare for elections to the Northern Irish Assembly in May 2022. That has opened the door to something once thought inconceivable: that Sinn Fein could emerge as the largest party, with the right to appoint the first minister.
With Sinn Fein’s vestigial links to the paramilitary Irish Republican Army and bedrock commitment to Irish unification, an Assembly led by the party could prove far more destabilizing to Northern Ireland’s delicate power-sharing arrangements than the post-Brexit trading rules, which are difficult to explain, let alone use as a rallying cry.
But Sinn Fein’s leaders say that, with a growing Catholic population and the fallout from Brexit, momentum is on their side. The unionist parties supported Brexit, while they opposed it. They view the campaign against the protocol as a futile effort that only lays bare the costs of leaving the European Union.
“You have a very stark choice,” Michelle O’Neill, the party’s leader and the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, said in an interview. “Do you want to be part of inward-looking Brexit Britain or outward-looking inclusive Ireland?”
Monica McWilliams, an academic and former politician who was involved in the 1998 peace negotiations, said, “Loyalist threats, or violent actions, against a border down the Irish Sea may no longer be seen as a domestic problem.”
But the greater challenge, she said, is reassuring unionists and loyalists at a time when politics and demographics are moving so clearly against them. While there is little appetite in the Irish Republic for a near-term referendum on unification, Sinn Fein is within striking distance of being in power on both sides of the border — a development that would put unification squarely on the agenda.
In Sandy Row, the sense of a community in retreat was palpable.
Paul McCann, 46, a shopkeeper and lifelong resident, noted how real-estate developers were buying up blocks on the edge of the neighborhood to build hotels and upscale apartments. The city, he said, wants to demolish the Boyne Bridge — a predecessor of which William of Orange is said to have crossed on his way to that fateful battle with James II — to create a transportation hub.
“They’re trying to whitewash our history,” Mr. McCann said. “They’re making our loyalist communities smaller and smaller.”
For Gordon Johnston, a 28-year-old community organizer, it’s a matter of fairness: loyalists accepted the argument that reimposing a hard border between the north and south of Ireland could provoke violence. The same principle should apply to Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
When reports began to emerge on Wednesday night that the murderous leader of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram was dead, many Nigerians dismissed them immediately.
Over the years, the Nigerian military had announced the killing of that leader, Abubakar Shekau, several times before. And then he would show up online weeks later, taunting his supposed killers in video diatribes.
“If you have killed us, why are we still alive?” he asked in 2018, after the Nigerian military claimed to have “broken the heart and the soul” of Boko Haram, a group that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.
But this time feels different. It wasn’t the military announcing they had killed him. In fact, for hours on Wednesday night and on Thursday, the military was silent.
the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok Girls, 276 schoolgirls who were abducted from their dormitories at night and who Mr. Shekau later vowed he would “sell in the market.”
over 100 are missing or remain in captivity, along with many other less famous, but often even younger victims.
Bunu Bukar, secretary of the Hunters’ Association in Borno State, who has played a key role in demobilizing Boko Haram fighters and is in contact with past and present members of the group. He said that 200 heavily armed ISWAP members descended on Mr. Shekau’s hide-out in Sambisa forest.
“When Shekau discovered that these people are very powerful and he also realized that it’s not Nigerian army, it’s ISWAP — he just planned to use explosive devices,” Mr. Bukar said. “He wore them all and confronted them directly. When the explosion came, Shekau was in pieces. And they also lost at least 40 fighters — ISWAP fighters.”
wrote Ahmad Salkida, the Nigerian journalist often credited with — and sometimes criticized for — having stellar sources inside Boko Haram.
In Maiduguri, people gathered in small groups to talk about the news, but most assigned it no greater status than another rumor. Likely a false alarm.
How do we fight disinformation? Join Times tech reporters as they untangle the roots of disinformation and how to combat it. Plus we speak to special guest comedian Sarah Silverman. R.S.V.P. to this subscriber-exclusive event. But Mr. Shekau and his group would have an indelible effect on Mr. Hamza, who had to flee Maiduguri for two years, and his family.“I lost a brother, a cousin and an uncle killed by Boko Haram,” he said. “Thousands of innocent people killed or displaced, especially women and children. How can God forgive such a heartless person?”For many, particularly those connected with the country’s armed forces, if Mr. Shekau was dead, it was not necessarily a positive development overall. It could mean that ISWAP, already powerful, posed much more of a threat to Maiduguri and other garrison cities, some said.If it really happened, “Shekau’s death is not an end to Boko Haram. It is only the beginning of another chapter in the group,” said Audu Bulama Bukarti, an expert on extremist groups in Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.Warfare between the factions has killed hundreds of their members previously, he said, and if that continued, they would be weakened.“It will be two violent groups eating up themselves and that will be positive news for Nigeria,” he said. On the other hand, if the two factions teamed up, he said: “It will open an even deadlier chapter for security forces.”It would also make it harder to win the battle of ideas, he said, as ISWAP tends to be more benign to civilians.“Where Shekau alienated civilians with his capricious and often massive and violent seizures of cattle and grain, ISWAP has substituted a fairer, cash-based taxation of trade and agricultural production,” wrote the analyst Vincent Foucher in a recent report for the International Crisis Group.
Those who have suffered at Mr. Shekau’s hands almost hoped he had not been killed in the way it was reported on Thursday, feeling it was too easy a way out for him.
“I would have wished that he was caught alive, released to the military authorities and taken round the city of Maiduguri,” Mr. Hamza said. “We would surely have skinned him alive.”
Usman Alkali contributed reporting.
LONDON — Sober, cerebral and with the poise of the top-shelf lawyer he once was, Keir Starmer promised competence rather than charisma when he became leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party last year, following its crushing general election defeat in 2019.
But his panicky response to last week’s poor local election results and a clumsy reshuffle of his top team have left his party in turmoil, diminishing his authority and raising doubts about whether Labour has a credible path back to power.
Mr. Starmer found himself embroiled in fierce recriminations over local election results that, with smoother communication, could have been explained away as disappointing, but instead pointed to a deeper crisis.
“The one thing Keir Starmer was supposed to be was competent,” said Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “The election results were not good but they weren’t as bad as some people liked to present them. He completely messed up his reaction, and that highlights concerns about his ability to communicate.”
under its last leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter.
claims Mr. Johnson broke electoral rules over the financing of a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.
But Britons apparently ignored those goings on in Westminster, and with the country now emerging from Covid-19 restrictions seemed to reward politicians who controlled health policies. The ruling Scottish National Party in Scotland performed strongly, as did the governing Labour Party in Wales.
In England, Mr. Johnson was forgiven for his chaotic early handling of the pandemic and rewarded for the country’s highly successful vaccination roll out.
Not all is lost for Mr. Starmer, particularly when the entirety of last week’s results are taken into account. According to a BBC analysis projecting the local voting into a national vote share, Labour was seven points behind the Conservatives, hardly a good result but progress on the 12-point deficit recorded in the 2019 general election.
With no credible challenger waiting in the wings, Mr. Starmer is unlikely to face any immediate threat to his leadership. Nonetheless, the speed with which critics attacked his reshuffle raises pressure on Mr. Starmer to at least identify a message that can appeal to two very different groups of Britons — the old working class stalwarts and the more youthful, liberal and better educated city dwellers.
“Under Starmer it has been two steps forward and one step back,” said Mr. Fielding, “and he hasn’t addressed the problem of how you win back the red wall without losing metropolitan liberal voters.”
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain scored a striking political victory on Friday when his Conservative Party snatched a bellwether parliamentary seat from the opposition Labour Party, which had held it since the constituency’s creation in the 1970s.
In a by-election in Hartlepool, in the northeast of England, the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, easily defeated her rivals, consolidating Mr. Johnson’s earlier successes in winning over voters in working-class areas that had traditionally sided mainly with Labour.
Better still for the prime minister, the vote on Thursday came after days of publicity over claims that he broke electoral rules over the financing of an expensive refurbishment of his apartment.
That appeared to have counted for little with voters in Hartlepool, an economically struggling coastal town, when the results were announced Friday morning after an overnight count.
after a successful vaccination program for which Mr. Johnson has been able to claim credit.
Though not unexpected, the outcome underscored the extent to which Mr. Johnson is rewriting Britain’s electoral map and dealt a blow to Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader. Mr. Starmer took over from Jeremy Corbyn last year after Labour’s defeat in the December 2019 general election, its worst performance in more than 80 years.
That landslide election victory for the Conservatives in 2019 followed the crisis over Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Mr. Johnson scored well in many traditional working-class communities with his appeal to voters to give him the power to “get Brexit done.”
Though Britain has now completed its European Union withdrawal, and the issue is fading somewhat, the new Conservative victory suggests that Mr. Johnson remains popular in areas — like Hartlepool — that voted for Brexit in a 2016 referendum.
Collectively known as the “red wall,” because they were once heartlands of the Labour Party, these areas are being targeted by Mr. Johnson who has promised to “level up” by bringing prosperity to the north and middle of England, and to areas that feel forgotten.
Elections also took place on Thursday in Scotland and those could present a bigger threat to Mr. Johnson. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the pro-independence Scottish National Party, is hoping for a strong performance that she can use to justify her call for a new referendum on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom.
Facebook wanted Mr. Clegg to help repair its relationships with regulators, political leaders and the media after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data improperly pulled from Facebook was used to create voter profiles. Mr. Clegg’s international experience and comfort in five languages — English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch — appealed to the American-centric company.
Friends said Mr. Clegg had initially been reluctant to join Facebook, one of the world’s most polarizing corporations. But he wanted to be back at the center of important political and policy debates. In a memo outlining how he envisioned the role, he argued that it was unsustainable for a private company like Facebook, rather than democratically elected governments, to have so much power, especially on speech-related issues.
“My advice was strongly to go for it,” said Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, whom Mr. Clegg spoke with before taking the job, “because you’re going to be part of one of the most powerful companies in the world at a moment of enormous change in the world, and when technology is at the heart of that change.”
Inside Facebook, where Mr. Zuckerberg leans on a group of friends and early employees for counsel, Mr. Clegg earned the trust of his new boss. At the company’s headquarters, where proximity to Mr. Zuckerberg is power, Mr. Clegg’s desk was placed nearby. He orchestrated a trip through Europe with Mr. Zuckerberg, meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels and President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris.
Since Mr. Clegg’s arrival, Facebook has shifted some of its policy positions. It now appears more accepting of regulation and higher taxes. He overcame reluctance from Mr. Zuckerberg and others in the company to ban political ads in the weeks before Election Day last year. And he was the main internal supporter for recently announced product changes that give users more control over what posts they see in their Facebook feeds.
“He has a track record of knowing what it’s like to work inside a cabinet that needs to make decisions quickly and move at the speed of a country, or in this case a platform,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, who worked with Mr. Clegg on the user-control changes.