A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the Week
The main commemorations for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement take place next week, with this week’s anniversary mostly overshadowed by Joe Biden’s brief visit. The main attraction is Queen’s University Belfast’s Agreement 25 Conference, which runs from Monday to Wednesday (April 17-19) and features a who’s who of people involved in the original negotiations and the current efforts to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland. Monday’s highlights include interventions from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Special Envoy George Mitchell, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr, and an afternoon session with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US President Bill Clinton and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Tuesday features a panel with all of the current Northern Irish party leaders with the notable exception of Jeffrey Donaldson (the DUP is represented by former junior minister Emma Little-Pengelly), as well as an address from US Ambassador Jane Hartley and thoughts from European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.
Wednesday will see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak return to Belfast for the second time in a week to deliver a keynote address at the conference and host a gala dinner to commemorate the anniversary. Sunak’s visit to injured PSNI detective John Caldwell on Wednesday and the discovery of pipe bombs following a republican parade on Easter Monday underscored the tense situation on the ground, while Biden urged the return of the devolved government that has been suspended for over a year. Speeches at the QUB conference are therefore likely to focus heavily on what was achieved by the Good Friday Agreement while cautioning against taking the gains for granted and encouraging today’s leaders to seize the opportunities made possible by the hard-won peace.
This week sees new Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf face legislative scrutiny in his first full week in government as he battles to divert the narrative from the ongoing scandal surrounding SNP party finances. On Tuesday (April 18), Yousaf appears in the Scottish Parliament as it returns from recess to make a statement on the new Scottish Government’s priorities as he attempts to develop a legislative agenda of his own. Whatever new policies he may wish to announce, Yousaf will likely be forced into publicly defending his recent decision to launch a legal challenge against the UK government’s block on his predecessor’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill. A statement by Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville on the legal challenge is reportedly expected shortly after.
When Yousaf appears in parliament again on Thursday (April 20) for First Minister’s Questions, opposition party attention will undoubtedly be fixed on the ongoing police investigation into SNP party finances and the actions of Peter Farrell, former SNP Chairman and husband of former party leader Nicola Sturgeon. Farrell, who was arrested and subsequently released by police in early April, lies at the centre of a probe by Police Scotland over the use of party donations between 2016 and 2019. The seizure of an £100,000 luxury motorhome purchased with SNP funds and parked in Farrell’s mother’s driveway has only added to the party’s woes, and Yousaf himself had to deny having any knowledge of the motorhome’s existence prior to becoming leader in March.
Double murderer Colin Pitchfork’s case is heard at a private parole hearing on Wednesday and Thursday (April 19 and 20) as pressure increases on Dominic Raab to intervene to prevent his release. Pitchfork was convicted in 1988 of murdering and raping two 15-year-old girl and was initially granted parole in 2021, only to be recalled to prison after approaching women near his bail hostel. South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa has called for a meeting with the Justice Secretary and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss his constituents’ concerns over Pitchfork’s potential release. Raab introduced legislation last month which would hand ministers the power to overrule parole board decisions, with the Bill awaiting a first debate in the House of Commons.
The trial in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation case against Fox finally gets underway on Monday (April 17) in Delaware following months of revelations from pre-trial proceedings in the blockbuster case. Dominion filed the case in March 2021 in the wake of the presidential election that saw Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, arguing Fox knowingly endorsed, repeated and broadcast verifiably false claims about the voting machine company, accusing it of rigging the election result in favour of Biden. Since then, a series of extraordinary depositions and filings have emerged as the case has headed toward this week’s trial, including host Tucker Carlson describing Trump as a ‘demonic force’ and someone he hated ‘passionately’.
Carlson is likely to testify during the trial, alongside other Fox hosts including Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, and Laura Ingraham, while Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and CEO Lachlan Murdoch are also expected to take the stand. Fox’s legal team have argued ahead of the trial that they are protected from such a lawsuit under the First Amendment, though these arguments have so far failed to impress the judge overseeing the case. Indeed, there appears to be growing consensus that the trial will be an uphill battle for Fox, with many agreeing with Dominion, which has argued that ‘if this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.’
In Japan, G7 foreign ministers continue their three-day meeting on Monday and Tuesday (April 17-18) ahead of the leaders’ summit in Hiroshima next month. Responding to Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine will once again likely be the focus of much of their discussions, though North Korea’s recent missile tests, tensions over Taiwan and the furore over Emmanuel Macron’s comments on the matter, and the increasingly brutal actions of the military junta in Myanmar are all also expected to be addressed given the location of the meeting.
With Russia facing fresh condemnation over a video appearing to show a Russian soldier beheading a Ukrainian captive, there is likely to be yet more outrage when a court in Moscow rules on Monday in the high-profile case of journalist and Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is charged with treason after criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Prosecutors are seeking a 25-year sentence against Kara-Murza, who delivered a blistering statement at his last hearing, published in The Washington Post, refusing to ask for an acquittal.
The same court will then hear on Tuesday an appeal from Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention until at least the end of May on espionage charges that few if any believe have any merit. Tuesday’s hearing, which follows a declaration earlier this week from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Gershkovich has formally been designated as ‘wrongfully detained’, may be the first public appearance from Gershkovich since he was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg on March 29.