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News diary 21-27 October: Northern Ireland Assembly sits for first time in two years and ISIS bride case heard

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

The Northern Ireland Assembly sits on Monday for the first time since January 2017 after a recall petition was triggered last week.

After months of deadlock at Stormont (pictured) and multiple rounds of fruitless cross-party talks, Speaker Robin Newton summoned MLAs to discuss the election of a new Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the appointment of ministers.

With a deadline looming that would force the legalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage, MLAs are also set to debate a motion which asserts the primacy of the Assembly in the introduction of such legislation. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be hoping to shake off blackface and ethics scandals as voters go to the polls to decide whether to hand him another four-year term. 

The latest polling has Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives slightly ahead of Trudeau’s Liberals, while the left-wing NDP will be hoping to gain seats by bringing disillusioned Liberals on board. 

Fresh from their successful conclusion of an agreement with the UK last week, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker appear before the European Parliament on Tuesday to deliver an update to MEPs on the new deal.

The agenda in Strasbourg also features a review of the Juncker commission, whose Brexit swansong comes after the President’s term was extended for a month amid confirmation struggles for incoming Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. 

Depending on whether a deal to restore an Executive in Northern Ireland has passed by Monday, abortion may effectively become decriminalised in the country.

While the government is only required to introduce any statutory obligation by 31 March 2020, recent guidance has indicated that no criminal charges will be brought against women who have an abortion or against those who aid one before then.

The move has rattled the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who have been having to focus attention on Brexit developments. 

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission sits in London to consider the case of Isis bride Shamima Begum. Begum fled the UK in 2015 to join the Islamic State group in Syria, and is challenging the February decision by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid to strip her of her UK citizenship.

Javid’s successor at the Home Office Priti Patel has maintained the government’s firm stance in the case, saying there is ‘no way’ Begum will be permitted to return to the UK. The hearing is expected to conclude on Friday. 

Boris Johnson faces what is only his second-ever PMQs on Wednesday, after two prorogations, his party’s conference and the Queen’s Speech debate have kept him from regular appearances at the despatch box since taking office.

Whichever way the Withdrawal Agreement vote goes on Saturday, expect questions to focus on next steps for Brexit – including whether Johnson will take Nigel Farage’s advice and request an extension after all if parliament hasn’t approved the deal. 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to discuss the impact of Facebook on the financial services and housing sectors, likely focusing on Facebook’s Libra project.

The hearing follows the announcement earlier this month that some of the biggest names attached to the cryptocurrency – including PayPal, Visa, Mastercard and eBay – have pulled out of the project amid concerns from regulators over financial stability and money laundering. 

Johnson makes his long-awaited debut before the influential Liaison Committee on Thursday.

The Prime Minister’s first planned appearance was curtailed by the unlawful prorogation of Parliament in September and committee chair Sarah Wollaston subsequently accused Johnson of running from scrutiny by failing to comply with a request to attend in early October.

This session would appear to come at a much more agreeable juncture for the Prime Minister after the dramatic agreement of a new Brexit deal last week. 

NATO Defence ministers hold a two-day meeting in Brussels, with tensions high between Turkey and the other 28 members over Ankara’ incursion into northern Syria.

The meeting comes as a ceasefire in the area is scheduled to take hold; a five-day suspension of Turkish operations to facilitate a pullout of Syrian Kurdish fighters expires early in the week, with a permanent ceasefire due to follow. 

A deadline arrives for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce the formation of a new government.

A 17 September election resulted in a deadlock between the incumbent’s Likud Party and the Blue and White Alliance led by Benny Gantz. Netanyahu is expected to form a coalition with right wing minority parties. 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford appears before the Welsh Assembly’s cross-party scrutiny committee on Friday. If the Withdrawal Agreement is still surviving by then, Drakeford will face questions on the implications for Wales, amid concerns over the effects of customs checks between Welsh ports and Northern Ireland. Drakeford said the deal would do ‘untold damage to the Welsh economy’. 

Friday also marks the release of the latest instalment in the Call of Duty video game franchise. Modern Warfare is the 16th Call of Duty entry and promises gamers ‘morally complex stories’ as its campaign mode unfolds. The series is estimated to have made more than $17bn since its 2003 debut, making it one of the highest-grossing entertainment franchises of all time. 

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland meets in Edinburgh on Saturday for the first in a series of six planned sittings. The Assembly is tasked with finding consensus on the future of Scotland and producing a report which will be debated in the Scottish Parliament after the final sitting next April.

Unionist parties have called for a boycott because of the timing of its announcement, and although co-convener David Martin has denied the Assembly will serve as a vehicle for planning a second referendum, the First Minister’s speech to SNP conference suggests the question of Scottish independence will need to be at the forefront of citizens’ discussions. 

The Rugby World Cup nears its climax as the first semi-final takes place in Yokohama. The game sees England or Australia taking on defending champions New Zealand or Ireland for a place in the final on 2 November. The second semi-final is played on Sunday where Wales or France play hosts Japan or two-time winners South Africa. 

Presidential and legislative elections are held in Argentina on Sunday. Incumbent President Mauricio Macri is seeking re-election against left-wing Peronist challenger Alberto Fernandez.

Macri faces an uphill struggle, having failed to fix the struggling economy and suffering a surprising 16-point defeat in the August primary, meaning the likelihood of a late comeback victory appears slim. 

The end of the week also marks the end of the Vatican’s Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as religious leaders meet to discuss the Amazon rainforest.

The meeting, which aims to shed light on the ecological destruction of the world’s largest rainforest and which has angered the right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has seen numerous leaders of indigenous communities call for the protection of their homeland, saying ‘if we don’t do anything for the planet, we will all disappear’. 

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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