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The tackiest night in Irish television is upon us once more. 

Every year, we send an act to some European capital to sing and dance onstage alongside the rest of the EU in the hopes of taking home the trophy and hosting the same thing the following year in our capital. 

We've won the thing a record-breaking seven times (and three years back-to-back which is INSANE) and although the last few years have seen our luck dissipate, we still enjoy a good Eurovision party every May.

This year, however, isn't like any other.

The 64th edition of the competition is set to take place this Saturday in Tel Aviv, Israel.  

Image result for eurovision

So what exactly is the boycott and why is it happening?  

It centers on Israel's alleged human rights abuses towards the Palestinian people, with Gaza-based Palestinian Artists Association has since accused Israel of using the event to “perpetuate oppression, promote injustice or whitewash a brutal apartheid regime”.

There has been a petition signed by many famous faces who say that by letting Israel host the Eurovision, we are supporting the violation of Palestinian human rights.

Among those who have signed it are band Wolf Alice, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters while a counter-letter has been penned by Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Marina Abramovic, and Scooter Braun.

The letter states that ''Spirit of togetherness is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.''

The crux of the whole thing boils down to the fact that those who are for the competition to go ahead are saying that they are so because the contest is not supposed to be political in any way and they are not performing for politicians.

Instead, they are for putting on a show for the people, the audience, for entertainment and unity.

It will be broadcast by both RTE and BBC and both stations have issued statements to this effect. 

RTE said, ''As a long-running non-political, entertainment event, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is designed to bring audiences and countries together. RTÉ is confident that the European Broadcasting Union and the host broadcaster will take all necessary steps to safeguard the non-political character of the event throughout the organization of the competition.''

BBC meanwhile echoed a similar sentiment.

They said, ''The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons. Because of this, we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.”

The irony here is why their point might be seen as acceptable where the host country is involved in minor conflict or political unease when it comes to the case in Israel, it's not the same.

Rory Cowen of Mrs. Browns' Boys' has been vocal on social media and tv in his support for the contest taking place in Tel Aviv and he tweeted, ''We were there in Russia, in Turkey, in Azerbaijan, in the UK, etc. We went to perform in many countries that were involved in conflicts. It would be discriminatory to single out just one not to go to'' to which he received a reply saying, ''Israel is not involved in a conflict. The Israeli regime is involved in the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people. Quite a different thing altogether.''

Ireland's entrant Sarah McTernan is getting ready to take to the stage for tomorrow nights second semi-final.

The Clare native, who will sing 22, had to hit back at the massive backlash she has gotten for going to Tel Aviv.

She said, ''Everybody has their opinion on the issue, which is totally fine, but we’re about the music, and about spreading the love and the music, and that’s what Eurovision is about. We’re here, and we’re loving it.''

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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There is a really strong for-against that appears to be happening in the media.

Madonna, who is set to perform at the live final this Saturday, is determined to perform despite the loud callings for a boycott.

The numbers are low for fans travelling from Ireland to Tel Aviv – Diarmuid Furlong, president of Ireland’s Eurovision Fan Club confirmed that there would only be 30.

And overall, there will only be 5,000 or so foreign fans in Tel Aviv, much less than hoped for by organisers…these figures speak for themselves.

What will you be doing this Saturday – tuning in or blocking it out?

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With Brexit seemingly a permanent fixture on every TV channel and newspaper, gender and race disparity as prominent as ever and climate change on everyone's minds; the European Union elections have never been more important.

To coincide with the upcoming election, the EU has launched the 'This Time I'm Voting' campaign to encourage citizens to vote this time around.

Member states nominate direct candidates for the European Parliament through proportional representation. but with numerous EU parliamentarians represented on Twitter, it's hugely convenient to have debates online and exhange views.

The #ThisTimeImVoting campaign explains EU issues and elaborates on the ways in which every vote affects the living conditions of EU citizens.

This #EUelections2019 campaign is being introduced in 25 relevant languages to reach as many people as possible.

Factually-correct information is available on Twitter for first-time voters and EU election experts alike.

A large aspect of the public election conversation is happening via Twitter, which is why the site is showing support by introducing a special emoji for the #ThisTimeImVoting campaign.

The elections for local and EU seats as well as the divorce referendum take place on May 24, make sure you're there.

Every vote counts, so don't forget to make your mark on Europe. 

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Women for Election CEO Ciairín de Buis has called on women to run in elections this coming May, and for parties to encourage female candidates.

There have been more Seáns and Johns than elected to Dáil Éireann that women overall, according to  data analysis of all elected TDs since 1918

Yesterday saw a crowded audience gather in the Royal College of Physicians on Kildare Street to hear a panel discussion organised by Women for Election, titled; “Will 2019 be Ireland's Year of #MoreWomen?” 

The panel was chaired by journalist Alison O'Connor, and included Lisa Chambers TD (Fianna Fáil), TD (Green Party), Senator Alice-Mary Higgins (Independent), Cllr Madeleine Johansson (People Before Profit) and Kate O'Connell TD (Fine Gael).

The event asked politicians about the chance of more women running and winning elections this year, and how parties are taking action to help improve gender balances in the political sphere.

In our last local elections in 2014, only 21 percent of electives were female councillors, compared to 16 percent in 2009.

There has undoubtedly been a swell in political activism in Ireland over the last few years, especially due to the Repeal movement, and the panel were discussing whether this energy would make it to the polls and ballots.

Women for Election CEO Ciairín de Buis commented; “2019 has at least two elections, possibly more. Last year we held a series of training events in Dublin, Cork and Galway covering communication strategies, campaigning and canvassing."

He continued; I’ve met dozens of women who are running in the locals and Europeans this year. We’ve also worked with women and their campaign team who are preparing for the next General Election, whenever that may be.”  

22 percent of TDs are women currently, a historic high, but still too low.

De Buis continued; “The appetite for more women to enter politics is there and I, and Women for Election, want to help any woman thinking about running to have the courage and confidence to put her name on the ballot, either with a party nomination or as an independent.”  

Green Party leader and TD Eamon Ryan mentions the praise-worthy work of former Green Party TD and former Minister of State Mary White’s role in the establishment of gender quotas for party candidate lists. 

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell refers to the centennial celebration of certain women securing the right to vote, noting that this has added to the conversation around women's role in politics in Ireland.

“The celebration of 100 years since some women first achieved the right to vote has focused the mind on our incomplete democracy,” says Deputy O’Connell. 

“Whilst mindful of the progress we have made in terms of female representation it is still shocking that 78% of those in Dáil Éireann are men.

"Leaders must now act by example. The time for acceptance of anything less than an equal male to female ratio is nigh on over." she concluded.

Non-for-profit Women for Election will be hosting training throughout 2019 for women, as well as hopefully organising an online course.

Feature image: www.womenforelection.ie 

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Not many of our peers can say that we have read the full Irish Constitution, and yet it’s the most important political document in a country’s legislature.

Following the removal of the article regarding blasphemy, and of course the 8th Amendment, it’s time to turn back to the Irish Constitution, and examine what is left to be done to bring this document straight into the 21st century.

To start, the sexism, elitism and reductionist standards are alien to modern life, and the Irish people deserve a legal document which accurately represents all of its citizens.

In case we have forgotten from secondary school political history classes, Bunreacht na hÉireann was drafted way back in 1937, by the hugely conservative Éamon de Valera, who perfectly represented the conservative Catholic Church-state environment of the era.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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By writing a new Constitution, de Valera embarked upon a very risky political strategy considering Irish political life at the time was hugely volatile. It replaced the Irish Free State Constitution of 1922, and therefore erased Article 3 which guaranteed “discrimination without distinction of sex.

He revitalised his dream of Catholic women serving good, Catholic men in the home. Religious leaders also had a far-too-big input into the Constitution, including men who are now recognised as protecting child abusers.

Now, of course the entire religious community of Ireland weren't involved in abuse scandals, but it's important to note that a large group of them were, and were protected for years to the detriment of abuse survivors.

The Constitution has caused many a controversy, among them is the X case, where a young woman who was raped was denied the right to travel to the UK for an abortion. This was changed officially in 1992, as the 14th Amendment.

The right to divorce was only ratified in the mid-1990s, and even then partners had to be officially separated for four years. An annulment was next to impossible to get, even for those who were stuck in situations of abuse.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The protection for the life of the unborn still causes turbulence, seeing as it dramatically impedes female healthcare even outside of reproduction.

The legislation repealing the 8th has yet to come into practice, and is showing no sign of entering the healthcare system anytime soon despite it's valuable victory which took in 66 per cent of votes.

The right for members of the LGBQ+ community to marry was only passed in 2015. You cannot run for President until you turn 35, which would have ruled out some of Ireland’s major political candidates in the 1930s.

As recently as 2015, a shocking 73.1 per cent of the population voted against reducing the age to 21. Irish law appears to believe that age brings wisdom, rather than actual experience.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Many members of Irish society struggle with the union of the Catholic religion with the Constitution. It’s completely saturated with it. The opening lines to this day read:

“In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The oath sworn by the President of Ireland is “under almighty God.”

Article 44 on religion enshrines freedom of worship, but also notes that “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.”

So there’s not much room for expansion there, to say the least.

I mean, seriously? Four million inhabitants on the island, and the Constitution fails to separate Church and State, fails to acknowledge that there is another religion besides Catholicism, and other nuanced beliefs and practices.

Ireland is a diverse place, an Emerald Isle of nationalities and cultures, yet this piece of paper essentially only benefits elite, Catholic men in upper class positions. Like Éamon De Valera. Who had ZERO LAW EXPERIENCE.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Éamon De Valera cast a shadow over Irish women when he drafted it by ignoring pleas from Irish women’s councils to aid in writing the charter.

One of the most intensely problematic, not to mention out-dated articles is 41.2 the infamous ‘women’s place in the home’ section of the Constitution. By now there are zero doubts as to the sexism surrounding the enshrined words.

It reads as follows:

In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

This essentially claims that women are needed to carry out their housework duties and care for children so that the real work (by men) can be carried out elsewhere, i.e. running the damn country. The duties of the home are elevated far above labour outside of domesticity.

Image: Oireachtas

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says that the issue of Article 41.2 is primarily one of gender equality, and it’s next to impossible to disagree with him. The article limits the role of women entirely, and completely rejects the notion of men as carers and fathers, which is also unfair.

Men must take responsibility as carers of those who are vulnerable in society, not simply children. The elderly, disabled people, sick relatives and friends are all part of this category, which places most of the burden on women alone for their seemingly ‘nurturing qualities’.

The contention surrounding the article is whether or not to replace it with an alternative, or just delete it altogether. We’re thinking… DELETE.

The emotional and difficult referendum on the 8th amendment has had a clear impact on Irish society, especially on Irish women, who have recognised the inequality which still plagues our country, such as sexual assault and violence, discrimination and unequal pay.

The Constitution Bill (38th Amendment) must make its way through both houses of the Oireachtas before the Irish people can have their say on Article 41.2 via a referendum.

Independent TD Clare Daly said in response to Charlie Flanagan that she “feels like laughing, to think that you see yourself as a champion of gender equality given some of the decisions of your government.”

Image: Oireachtas

Another Independent representative Mick Wallace added his own negative comments to the pile:

“I find it interesting that you speak of gender equality in the workplace when the greatest barrier to that equality is the cost of childcare and your government has done bugger all about it.”

Ireland has the second highest-price of childcare in the OECD, meaning that it is still mostly women who struggle to return to work following pregnancy as the costs of childcare make the situation impossible.

Orla O’Connor, acting Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, later added that Article 41.2 “has not supported the home and family, and in our opinion has diminished the position of women” in Irish society.

Dr Laura Cahillane of the University of Limerick’s school of law described the Article as “an embarrassment”, as well as “effectively useless in law”.

A Constitution is meant to embody the moral and legal aspirations of an entire country and it’s individual citizens, we shouldn’t forget this. Women have the most to gain from changes to the Constitution.

All of the civic service committee members which Éamon de Valera employed in order to help him draft the document were men.

Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid as well as the head of the Supreme Court were two major influences, both male. Only three women were TDs during this time, and none of them said a word during the Dáil debate on the matter.

Essentially, we aren’t part of this document, and this document isn’t part of us. We make up half of this population, and yet not a single word of the parchment portrays the female experience.

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President Michael D Higgins has said in a statement that he will run for a second term in the Áras.

Previously, the figure head had said on the night of his election in 2011 that he would not seek another term in the position.

However, in recent years he has changed his mind and it was widely speculated that he would seek re-election.

Last autumn, the president said he would set out his intentions by September 2018, on seeking a second-term.

Nevertheless in recent weeks, he signalled that he would make his position known this month. 

A statement issued today stated:

“President Michael D. Higgins wishes to confirm that he will be offering himself as an independent candidate, under Article 12.4.4 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann, when the Ministerial Order for a Presidential Election is made later in the year.

“The Government has been informed of this decision.

“The President’s programme of official duties and engagements continues.”

Would you re-elect Michael D Higgins? 

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he supports President Donald Trump's criticism from the press. 

The remarks were reportedly made at a private lunch held in New York on Monday. 

The event, hosted by Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden, was for young Irish workers across various sectors in New York City.

According to The Times,  when asked what he thought of Trump's attack on the US press, Leo said that the media was not interested in the truth but only in getting a story.

He was particularly scathing of political journalists, who he claimed were more interested in gossip rather than what the Government is actually doing. 

Reportedly a heated exchange followed as other members pointed out that the media had unearthed the Weinstein sexual assault allegations among other controversies. 

Social media had a strong reaction to Leo's comments, as some agreed with the Taoiseach while others were outraged that he had sided with Trump. 

Some were quick to jump to his defence, saying, ''you can criticise the media while supporting free speech. Taoiseach's points taken out of context imo.''

Others were not so understanding, stating that the whole episode was a ''strange, unsettling criticism of the media by our Taoiseach.'' 

According to RTE News, NUJ Irish General Secretary Seamus Dooley said it was ''bizarre'' that the Taoiseach would side with such a divisive political figure. 

Leo later said that his comments were ''taken out of context.''  

A spokesperson said that the Taoiseach "believes that a free, fair and balanced press is a cornerstone of our democracy".

Judging by the furore on Twitter, it seems like Leo might have a bit more explaining to do…

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It looks like Cynthia Nixon could be the latest to celebrity to turn her attention to politics as reports suggest the actress is emerging as a possible candidate in next year's election for New York governor.

The former Sex and the City star has been involved in the city's political scene for some time now and according to Entertainment Weekly, both the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal have reported that liberal groups are urging the 51-year-old to consider running for office.

With a sizable presence in New York political circles, Cynthia, who is an outspoken advocate for public school, is more than qualified for the position.

“She’s an out-of-the-box candidate with progressive credentials who would excite people,” Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a public-education advocacy group, told the Journal.

Fans will remember Cynthia for her Sex and the City character, Miranda Hobbes – a straight-talking lawyer with extremely cynical views on relationships and men.

And to be honest, Miranda would probably make a pretty great governor too.

Although her candidacy is yet to be confirmed, the actress turned political activist has yet to dismiss the speculation, leading some to believe that there may be some truth behind the rumours.

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Today marks Enda Kenny's final day as Taoiseach – a postilion he has held for the last six years.

The outgoing Fine Gael leader will chair his final cabinet meeting this morning where the agenda is likely to be rounded off with a formal resignation from Mr Kenny.

At 2:00pm this afternoon, the Dáil will resume and it is thought that he will tell TDs and the nation that he is stepping down.

It is likely that Enda Kenny will then give a short farewell speech before travelling to Aras an Uachtarán where he will hand in his resignation to President Higgins.

Fellow party leaders will be given an opportunity to speak in reply to Mr Kenny and the Dáil is expected to adjourn until tomorrow afternoon when attentions will turn to the election of his successor and the announcement of Leo Varadkar's new Cabinet.

It is expected that many of the current ministers will remain in place, however, some may change jobs.

So, what's next for Mr Kenny?

Now aged 66, he is not expected to run the the next election, but according to The Irish Independent, one source revealed 'He would like to remain close to the political action,"

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Enda Kenny has officially announced that he will step down as leader of Fine Gael from midnight tonight.

After months of uncertainty surrounding the party’s leadership, Mr Kenny made the long-awaited announcement during the weekly meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators this evening.

A new leader will be announced on Friday, June 2.

As it stands, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar are deemed to be the two front-runners.

In a statement, Enda Kenny revealed he will “retire as leader from midnight tonight 17th May 2017”.

“I will continue to carry out my duties as party leader in an acting capacity, until my successor is elected through the Fine Gael leadership election process.”

“I want to assure people that throughout this internal process, I will continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities as Taoiseach in full.’’

Kenny received a standing ovation from his colleagues and was described as “very emotional” by those present. 

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After the absolute disaster that was the Pepsi/Kendall Jenner ad, most companies would probably shy away from inserting politics into their campaigns.

However, Heineken is stepping up to show us exactly how it is done. 

The beer brand's latest ad put two people of opposing political beliefs through a variety of situations, before revealing to the other what they have said about issues they hold close to their heart. 

There are three pairings chosen for the ad experiment. 

The first pair sit on opposite ends of the feminism debate, with the male counterpart believing that feminism is an excuse to engage in 'man hating' and 'misandry.'

The female in this situation is staunchly feminist and believes there is still work to be done to improve women's rights. 

The second pairing is made up of two men who have opposing opinions on climate change. 

One guy thinks that climate change is a minimal issues, which should have less of a focus in society.

His experiment partner feels that climate change is seriously important. 

In the final pair, a man and woman have opposing views on a very personal issue. 

'You're a man, be a man, or you're a female, be a female,' he says.

The woman in this situation is transgender.

All of the couples are made to do team building exercises, and share quite a few details about their lives.

In the end, the pairings opposing beliefs are revealed, to initially awkward but ultimately heartwarming results. 

Check it our for yourself: 

 

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A British woman is being praised for standing up to a supporter of the English Defence League during a gathering of the organisation in Birmingham, after a powerful photo of her emerged online. 

The English Defence League is a far-right street protest movement in the UK which opposes the spread of Islam and Sharia.

The powerful photo shows a woman, identified by media outlets as Saffiyah Khan, smiling directly at a man wearing the symbol of the EDL on his shirt.

According to The Guardian, it later emerged that she was defending another woman who was being shouted at by EDL demonstrators.

The controversial far-right group responded to the incident in a statement on their official Facebook page.

They claimed that Saffiyah "broke through police" and "started shouting during a minute's silence that we were holding for the victims of terror attacks"

Howver, Twitter uses were quick to show support for Saffiyah's actions. 

Speaking to The Telegraph, Saffiyah said she wasn't intimidated by the situation and thanked those who have supported her so far.

"I wasn't scared in the slightest… I knew they were trying to provoke me, but I wasn't going to be provoked."

''I didn't realise how many people would be so supportive, so it was worth it."

Saffiyah and Saira Zafar, the woman she defended, officially met for the first time on Monday and the two Brummie girls hugged it out. 

Oh, and while we have you; don't forget to have your say in the inaugural SHEmazing Awards this May! It's time to vote, and you can do it right here!

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If there is one thing celebrities shouldn’t really get involved in –  its politics.

However that’s what happened to the Rude Boy singer this evening, when she accidently sent a tweet about the Middle East conflict.

RiRi tweeted the hashtag #freepalestine shortly after the proposed cease fire in the conflict fell through.

One source said that the tweet was a complete accident and RiRi didn’t realise she had even sent the controversial message “…until she started hearing from her fans.”

The source says Rihanna was reading about the Middle East conflict online when she clicked a link by accident.

Apparently Rihanna is neither pro-Palestine or pro-Israel … “she is pro-peace,” saying, “She doesn’t want innocent people dying.”

Hmmm, makes sense but Rihanna definitely needs to be more careful with what she tweets in future.

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