UK govt should focus on domestic issues

The Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein's victory on Saturday in the elections in Northern Ireland, which dealt a historic election defeat to pro-UK unionists, looks set to be the harbinger of a new era for Northern Ireland, one that spells more political uncertainty and trouble for the United Kingdom and its embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Once the political wing of the pro-unity paramilitary Irish Republican Army and the long-time advocate for the reunification of Ireland, Sinn Fein won enough seats in the devolved legislature to nominate its leader Michelle O'Neill as first minister, effectively the devolved parliament's prime minister.

Although Sinn Fein's victory may not immediately bring about a referendum on a united Ireland, it certainly gives a shot in the arm to realizing the party's long-established political goal.

For Johnson, the political earthquake in Northern Island has added to his many headaches. Not only did the Conservative Party suffer huge losses in recent local elections but he faces growing calls for his resignation, not only from the opposition but even from members of his own party, over the Partygate scandal and his lying to Parliament, having recently been fined by the police for breaking his own COVID-19 lockdown rules by attending a birthday party for him in Downing Street in June 2020.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has also been under criticism for its lax and inefficient anti-pandemic performance. In February, the government announced the United Kingdom would co-exist with the deadly virus, leading to a sharp spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. To date, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the UK is nearly 180,000.

Yet rather than concentrating on addressing the mounting problems at home, Johnson and his government have tried to divert the public's attention by hyping up external issues. From jumping on the United States' Indo-Pacific bandwagon to advocating NATO's global expansion and playing a vanguard role in the US-led sanctions against Russia.

The UK government has also been blatantly interfering in China's internal affairs in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and even Taiwan. By doing so, the Johnson government hopes to present the image of a "global Britain" to foster nationalist sentiment at home in an attempt to insulate itself from the charges of domestic critics, who accuse it of acting deceitfully, dishonorably and disreputably.

Fuelling the public's patriotic passions with the mistaken impression that Britannia still rules the waves only encourages the Johnson government to escalate its overseas follies. Instead of trying to create problems for others, it would better serve the UK people, itself and the world by focusing on addressing the many acute problems and issues at home.