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Message from the Editor: Campaigning in the rain

Rishi Sunak gets things started on a damp day in London while races are well under way in Ireland and the US

To widespread surprise, Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun this week for the UK general election. It was an inauspiciously damp start in a rain-sodden  Downing Street to a six-week  campaign that will culminate in the country’s first July election since 1945. With opinion polls indicating an all but insurmountable lead for Labour, the prime minister will need to effect the most remarkable turnaround in British political history if he is to remain in office.

All eyes, therefore, are on the man who most expect will be moving into Downing Street on July 5th. This weekend, our London Correspondent Mark Paul profiles Keir Starmer’s “green army”, the three strategists with strong Irish links who are at the centre of Labour’s push for power.

“If Labour wins the election as expected, Britain’s next government could end up as its most green-tinged in living memory, with conspicuous Irish links at almost every political level,” writes Mark. You can follow the twists and turns of the campaign with him as he traverses the country over the next six weeks, while  our team in Belfast, Freya McClements and Seanín Graham, will be following the contest for Northern Ireland’s 18 Westminster seats.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Washington Correspondent Keith Duggan is also on the campaign trail, as the battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump intensifies. With his trial in New York drawing to a close, Trump still leads in the key battleground states and received a further fillip this week with the news that Nikki Haley, his former rival for the Republican nomination, will vote for him in November. You can follow Keith’s coverage from across the US over the next six months as he reports on this most consequential of elections. Meanwhile, our new weekly essay slot is occupied this week by Richard Ford, the Pulitzer-winning novelist behind the Frank Bascombe novels (and many others), who finds little to excite him in a contest between “these old doozies”, Biden and Trump. “I wish I didn’t think Biden’s going to lose,” Ford writes. “I’ll be joyous if I’m wrong. But there are signs.”


If you’re in Ireland, it won’t have escaped your attention that we’re in the middle of an election campaign of our own. Less than two weeks from polling day in the local and European elections, you’ll find extensive coverage of the issues, the candidates and the state-of-play on the site this weekend. One of those issues is immigration, and yesterday our Crime and Security Correspondent reported that gardaí are becoming increasingly concerned that violent criminals are taking part in anti-immigration protests. Two security sources tell him that they are particularly worried that candidates and people providing services to asylum seekers will be targeted in a serious attack before the June 7th elections. Other election-themed pieces I’d recommend are Kathy Sheridan’s account of her travels with three celebrity candidates, this fine examination by Joe Humphreys of the psychology of election portraiture, and Pat Leahy’s rebuttal of Bertie Ahern’s view that it’s “stupid” for Limerick to elect its mayor.

The other major domestic issue of the day – of the decade, arguably – is housing. Days after the publication of the much-anticipated Housing Commission report, which amounted to a comprehensive indictment of State policy, Harry McGee explains what’s in it while Cliff Taylor delivers a scathing verdict on the Government’s box-ticking response.

Two education-themed features are well worth your time. The first is Carl O’Brien’s revealing interview with the most influential man in Irish education, who is no fan of the Leaving Cert. The second, part of our Common Ground series, is Mark Hennessy’s in-depth look at two Belfast primary schools – one on the Falls Road, the other on the Shankill – that struggle with similar legacies of intergenerational poverty and trauma.

In our World section, be sure to read Daniel McLaughlin’s fascinating story from Kyiv on the 20-year-old Irish man who flies strike drones for Ukraine, and Derek Scally on German introspection on the 75th anniversary of its Basic Law. In the week that Ireland announced that it would formally recognise the state of Palestine, Jack Horgan-Jones has the inside story on how it all came about.

There is lots to read in our recently-expanded weekend opinion section. One I’d recommend is Clare Moriarty’s perceptive analysis of Ireland’s dysfunctional childcare system. “Even if you think a private market is the best way to handle childcare, this idea collapses when supply is so limited that parents have no freedom of choice,” she writes.

Elsewhere, Róisín Lanigan tells us that Cicero and Marcus Aurelius are having a moment, thanks to a renewed interest in stoicism on TikTok and YouTube. Rugby fans might wince as they read about Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s first tattoo and how he went too far. If you’re interested in meeting an author this summer, discovering new music acts or seeing an old favourite, Ticket has a comprehensive run-down on the best summer festivals and gigs.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic