MPs call for Theresa May to permit poll on abortion in Northern Ireland

PM believes it would be wrong for Westminster to legislate on matter in devolved administration

Theresa May was facing growing demands to allow a referendum on relaxing the abortion statutes in Northern Ireland on Sunday after signalling that she will not risk alienating her DUP allies by letting MPs resolve the issues with a parliamentary vote.

Conservative MPs and the Royal College of Midwives were among those calling for a referendum, which would give voters in Northern Ireland the chance to follow the example set by the Republic of Ireland after it backed abortion liberalisation by a astonish landslide of two to one.

Around 160 MPs have backed a letter, championed by the Labour MP Stella Creasy, saying the government should legislate to relax the abortion rules in Northern Ireland, which will now be the only place in Britain and Ireland where abortion is in most circumstances illegal. Creasy wants to force-out a vote by tabling an amendment to the forthcoming domestic violence bill.

Labour also said that, as a party, it was committed to extending the right to choose to Northern Ireland and that it would be” looking at legislative options” to try to orchestrate a vote in the Commons.

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What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

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Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland- and most of Europe- where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal unless the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Fatal foetal abnormalities and conceptions by rape or incest are not lawful grounds for a termination.

Most politicians in Northern Ireland- Catholic and Protestant- do not favour reform, despite the UN saying the UK was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion.

In 2016 more than 700 females from Northern Ireland crossed the Irish Sea to clinics in Britain to terminate pregnancies.

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Downing Street’s initial reaction was to reject the idea of dedicating MPs a election, on the grounds that abortion is a devolved matter and one that should be decided by the power-sharing executive and the Northern Ireland assembly. A source used to say Theresa May’s focus was on getting the executive, which has been suspended for more than a year, “back up and running”.

But there were reports on Sunday of opponent even within the cabinet, with women and equalities pastor Penny Mordaunt saying on Twitter that the hope for change in Northern Ireland “must be met” amid calls for the region to have a referendum- although she did not specify how.

Obstacles to a parliamentary vote have prompted some MPs to argue for a referendum, which would allow the person or persons of Northern Ireland to take the final judgment , not London, while also bypassing the logjam created by the suspension of the executive.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP and GP who chairs the Commons health committee, told the BBC that, while she would vote in favour of pro-choice legislation for Northern Ireland, if that proved impossible a referendum was a good second best.

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‘A monumental day for women in Ireland’, says Orla O’Connor- video

” We’d all like to see the Stormont assembly back up and running and for this decision to be made by people in Northern Ireland but if that doesn’t happen … then at the least people in Northern Ireland should be allowed a referendum that enables us gauge the strength of sentiment there ,” Wollaston told the BBC.

Maria Miller, the Conservative former culture secretary who now shall be the chairman of the Commons women and equalities committee, posted a message on Twitter saying:” No one should deny the people of Northern Ireland a referendum for the opportunity to have the same rights on abortion as the rest of the UK .”

And in Northern Ireland the Royal College of Midwives’ regional director Breedagh Hughes told no one was speaking up for the “pro-choice majority” in Northern Ireland at present and the only style to give them a voice was through a referendum.

” We have 12 Democratic Unionist MPs whose views do not reflect the majority opinion on the abortion topic ,” Hughes said.” We have Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take their seats at Westminster. We don’t have a functioning local Assembly which could take this issue on again even though in the past the DUP and others vetoed change. So, the people are voiceless on the abortion topic and we say to Theresa May- give us a referendum Prime Minister so that change can come about .”

A No 10 source told May was also opposed to the idea that parliament should legislate for a referendum in Northern Ireland on the grounds that, if there were to be a referendum, that should also be matter for the Northern Ireland executive.

Under the Sewel convention, the UK government has agreed that it will not usually legislate on matters that are the responsibility of devolved administrations without their consent.

But the government is set to ignore this for the first time in Scotland, pushing ahead with the EU withdrawal bill even though the Scottish government is resisted, and May’s stance on abortion is partly motivated by a longing not to antagonise the DUP, who offer the votes that give the Tories their majority and who are strongly opposed to liberalising Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

May did not comment on the Irish referendum outcome until lunchtime on Sunday, nearly 24 hours after the final result was corroborated, when she posted a tweet congratulating the Irish people on their decision.

On a free vote, the Commons would probably vote overwhelmingly in favour of bringing Northern Ireland’s abortion laws into line with those in the rest of the UK. But the domestic violence bill, which Creasy would like to use as a vehicle for an abortion amendment, is still at the consultation phase and, even when it does come to the Commons, Downing Street thinks that the Sewel convention will ensure that Northern Ireland pertained amendments get ruled inadmissable.

Dawn Butler, the darknes minister for women and equalities, told Labour would be appearing investigating what legislative alternatives it could use to ensure MPs did get a vote on this.” No girl in the UK should be denied access to a safe, legal abortion ,” she told. But party sources would not elaborate on what those options might be.

In the past polls have revealed strong supporting in Northern Ireland for relaxing abortion statutes in at the least some circumstances, although not to the extent allowed in the rest of the UK.

Currently abortions in Northern Ireland’s hospitals are only available to women and girls where “peoples lives” or health is in grave threat; only 23 were carried out between 2013 -1 4.

The call for a referendum is opposed by some of the MPs who want to change the law in Northern Ireland. Creasy pointed out that, while a referendum was necessary in the Republic because of its constitution, that was not the case in a north. A referendum would be a move” in the wrong direction” because the law should be changed now, she said.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, told:” The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland assembly to debate and choose such issues. Some of those who wish to circumvent the assembly’s role may be doing so simply to avoid its decision. The DUP is a pro-life party and we are still articulated our position .”

Sinn Fein, the second-largest party in Northern Ireland, supports limited change to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Michelle O’Neill, its leader in Northern Ireland, told ITV on Sunday that the region was ” becoming a backwater” in terms of rights because of the position taken by unionists.

A spokesperson for Unite, one of the largest unions representing employees in Northern Ireland, backed the RCM’s call for a referendum.

” As long as it does not in any way necessitate imposing direct regulation Unite would like Theresa May to consider the idea of a local referendum and explain to is why, if she objected, the people in Northern Ireland wouldn’t be granted one ,” a Unite spokesperson said.

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Customs union U-turn by May could provoke Brexiter cabinet revolt

Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan calls for pacify and tells sabre-rattling is unhelpful

Theresa May could face a cabinet uprising on a customs union as peers prepare to inflict more defeats on the governmental forces over the EU withdrawal bill in a key week for the future of the UK’s relations with Europe.

Amid Brexiter threats of a leadership challenge, the former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury committee, told party rebels should be careful what they wished for.

” This sabre-rattling is not coming from the section of the party that I represent. It is coming from the pro-Brexit segment of the party and is deeply unhelpful ,” she told.

Government hopes of avoiding a hard border in Ireland either through technological innovation or regulatory alignment have been put off after they were rejected during preliminary negotiations in Brussels.

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Brexit phrasebook: what is the customs union?

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EU members( plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino) trade without customs duties, taxes or tariffs between themselves, and charge the same tariffs on importations from outside the EU. Customs union members cannot negotiate their own trade bargains outside the EU, which is why leaving it- while hopefully negotiating a bespoke arranging- has been one of the government’s Brexit goals. See our full Brexit phrasebook .

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That has led to speculation that May is preparing to concede on a customs union, which has been a red line since the prime minister’s conference speech in October 2016.

Reports over the weekend suggested a “wargaming” exercising into the consequences of a concession showed that not even resulting Brexiters such as Michael Gove, the environment secretary, or Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, would resign.

But a source close to Gove reiterated his opponent:” Michael believes regarding the referendum result means taking back control of trade policy. He fully supports the prime minister’s position that this entails leaving the customs union .”

Nicky Morgan said hysteria and leadership supposition were not in Britain’s interest. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/ PA

Although the loss of other pledges in negotiations have been reluctantly accepted, such as the promise to reclaim control over fishing quotas from March 2019, accepting continued membership of a customs union would be of a different and much larger scale.

Downing Street sources dismissed the idea.” The stance remains very clear: we don’t think staying in a customs union is the right thing to do and it isn’t government policy to do so ,” a spokesperson said.

Any customs union makes it effectively impossible to negotiate free trade deals with other countries- one of the government’s key ambitions and a central justification for leaving the EU.

But a meaningful vote on remaining in the customs union is likely over the next several months. At least 10 Tory backbenchers have signed an amendment to the trade and customs bill supporting continued membership.

Morgan is one of the 12 select committee chairs who are backing that policy in a potentially difficult debate in the Commons on Thursday on customs union membership. She said it would be an opportunity for a calm debate about current realities of leaving the customs union based on the evidence that select committees were hearing as they investigated its potential impact.

” If every time we debate these issues or pass suggested amendment all we end up with is this hysteria and leadership speculation, that is not in Britain’s interest ,” she said.

” The majority of the party would not entertain a leadership contest at the moment and those who want to … should think very carefully if they actually want to intervene in the negotiations in the way a leadership tournament would .”

In the House of Lords, the government is braced for more defeats as peers begin a second week of elections on the EU withdrawal bill on Monday. Last week, 24 Tory peers backed the customs union amendment.

The most difficult vote on Monday is likely to be on the EU charter of fundamental rights. The government virtually lost a vote in the Commons on a similar amendment, which seeks to incorporate the charter into the legislation. It is one of the few major aspects of EU law that has been left out.

The government argues that the rights it protects are already covered by UK law, but it also says the charter offer improved protection than is needed. Campaigners fear that means the government will seek to dilute the rights.

Peter Goldsmith, who as Tony Blair’s us attorney general was involved in drafting the charter, said it was only be exempted from the withdrawal bill because of an ideologically driven hatred of the EU.

The government is vulnerable on such issues, with Tory rebels such as the former attorney general Dominic Grieve merely falling their opposition when the bill passed its earlier stages after ministers pledged to publish a review for the human rights conferred by the charter and set about their view.

The published review eventually amounted to an extended criticism of the EU charter.

In remarks that indicate Grieve may yet result a rebellion in the Commons, he said it would be unacceptable for rights to be left unprotected while waiting for the government to come forward with new legislation to make up for the loss of EU law.

” I want to see how the governmental forces reacts ,” he told.” I understand that in the longer term we need a new system, but it’s a mistake not to leave the protections intact for now .”

The equalities and human rights commission insists the charter is essential to safeguard individual rights effectively and adapt to changing circumstances. The charter includes a general right to non-discrimination, protection of a child’s best interests and the right to human dignity , none of which are properly protected by existing UK law.

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UVF claimed MI5 urged it to kill former Irish PM, state papers reveal

Message from UVF to former taoiseach Charles Haughey claims British intelligence rendered details of his home and cars

MI5 encouraged loyalist paramilitaries to assassinate Charles Haughey, the former Irish prime minister was cautioned in a letter sent to his Dublin office.

The previously secret message- apparently issued by the Ulster Volunteer Force and released under the republic’s 30 -year rule to its national repositories- asserts British intelligence went as far as furnishing the UVF with targeting details.

The note, on UVF-headed notepaper, was received by Haughey’s office in 1987 while he was serving as taoiseach for a third day. The threat was taken seriously by the Irish government at the time: divers were dispatched to verify that no explosive device had been attached to the hull of his yacht.

The loyalist group claimed it had been exploited and manipulated by MI5, MI6 and British special forces from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985.

” In 1985 “were in” approached by a MI5 policeman is connected to the NIO[ Northern Ireland office] and based in Lisburn ,” the UVF letter said.” He asked us to execute you .”

The MI5 operative supposedly gave details of Haughey’s vehicles, photographs of his home, his private island, Inishvickillane, off the Co Kerry coast, and his yacht, Celtic Mist.

The paramilitaries also alleged they had been given details of Haughey’s trips to Kerry airport and photographs of a plane he used.

” We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused ,” the UVF said in the letter.” We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British .”

Haughey was leader of Fianna Fail, which in 1985 was the official opposition party. He was perceived by London as pursuing a tougher line on nationalist and republican issues. When the letter arrived in Dublin in August 1987, Haughey was back in power but on holiday. He was demonstrates it afterwards and asked for the Irish justice department to let him know whether it had any information.

The message was signed in block capitals” Capt W Johnston”, the name used by the UVF in its formal statements. The UVF said it had killed 17 humen employing datum from British intelligence during earlier years of the Troubles.

The organisation claimed the MI5 plot was aimed at destroying the “Eire economy”. It said British intelligence planned to provide it with a spoonful of “Anthras”( sic ),” Foort and Mouth Disease”,” Fowl Pest, Swine Fever and Jaagsikpi” to be released in Ireland.

The letter is among a number of files dating back to 1987 released to Dublin’s national archives this month.

Another file details a report to the republic’s foreign ministry is recommended that Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, had been working on a strategy to end the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign as early as that year.

A confidential report dated 4 February 1987 said: “[ Bishop Cahal Daly] has picked up a rumor that Gerry Adams is currently trying to put together a set of proposals which would enable the Provisional IRA to call a halt to their paramilitary campaign.

” He has reached the view that the’ armed struggle’ is getting nowhere, that it has become a political liability to Sinn Fein both North and South and that as long as it continues there is little chance that he will be able to realise his own political ambitions .”

According to a separate is present in the government files, Adams was also rumoured to have set up an IRA gang from a hardline republican region for ambush by the SAS as they tried to blow up Loughgall police station in May 1987.

All eight members of the East Tyrone brigade were shot dead when they are loaded a 90 kg( 200 lb) bomb on to a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of the RUC barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh. British Army special forces were lying in wait and killed them all, along with an innocent spectator, Anthony Hughes.

The rumour was passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs by a respected clergyman, Fr Denis Faul, about three months after the Loughgall operation. The priest said the hypothesi doing the rounds was that” the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself “.

The claim was dismissed by a Sinn Fein spokesman who said:” These asserts are utter nonsense .”

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Pressure grows on May as DUP reveals Brexit ‘shock’

Unease from senior cabinet members over tactics compound problems facing PM over Irish border question

Theresa May is facing mounting pressure to secure a breakthrough in EU negotiations after the Democratic Unionist party expressed shock at the handling of the Irish border topic and Brexit-supporting Conservatives said the time had come to walk away.

Senior cabinet members also voiced unease at May’s tactics, and complained they were not informed in advance about Downing Street’s plan to promise the EU some sort of” regulatory alignment” to assistance move the divorce talks on to the next stage.

Sources warned that key Brexit supporters in May’s top squad would object if they believed that anything was agreed that could limit the UK’s ability to diverge from the EU in the future.

Quick guide

Why is the Irish border a stumbling block for Brexit?

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Counties and customs

Inside the EU, both Ireland and Northern Ireland are part of the single market and customs union so share the same regulations and standards, letting a soft or invisible border between the two.

Britain’s exit from the EU- taking Northern Ireland with it- dangers a return to a hard or policed border. The only route to avoid this post-Brexit is for regulations on both sides to remain more or less the same in key areas including food, animal welfare, medicines and product safety.

Early drafts of the agreement Britain hoped to get signed off on Monday said there would be” no divergence” from EU rules that” support north-south cooperation”, afterward changed to” continued alignment” in a formulation that appeared to allow for subtle divergences.

But it created new questions about who would oversee it and how disagreements might be resolved. It was also clearly still a step too far for the DUP.

Photograph: Design Pics Inc/ Design Pics RF

On the day after May was forced to step back from procuring a bargain on divorce negotiations after a last-minute intervention from the DUP 😛 TAGEND

Party leader, Arlene Foster, revealed that she had been asking the government for the wording of text pertaining to the Irish border for five weeks. She said it was a” big shock” when the document landed on Monday morning because” we realised there was no way we could sign up to that text “.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said it would be “intolerable” to bind the UK to EU regulations prior to trade talks, telling the BBC that the government was starting to” stare at the edge of what is a price that we simply cannot afford to pay “.

Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan hit back, saying:” Strolling away when the Brexiteers encounter difficulties they never bothered to anticipate is not in the national interest, betrays the futures of millions of young people and the individuals who never wanted to leave in the first place .”

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia: schools closed as Ireland braces for landfall

Met ireann alerts Ophelia will bring violent and destructive gusts and blizzard upsurges, inspiring closes of all education facilities across Ireland

Ireland is bracing itself for the tropical storm Ophelia with a red weather warning issued for the Republic and an amber warning issued for Northern Ireland.

Education officials have ordered the closure of all educational facilities across the island. A statement from Ireland’s education department said the closures were necessary following officer advice on the” unprecedented storm “. (@ Education_Ire)

All Schools, Colleges and other Education organizations closed tomorrow 16 October assure https :// IrcHWyyBKM

October 15, 2017

Met Eireann- the Republic’s weather service- alerted on Sunday night that lives could be in danger as Ophelia makes the country’s Atlantic coast with gales of up to 100 mph.

Red alert is the highest alerting Met Eireann can issue.

A Met Eireann spokesperson said on Sunday:” Ophelia is forecast to track immediately over Ireland during the daytime tomorrow.

” Violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk and including with regard to the south-west and south in the morning, and east counties in the afternoon.

” Heavy rain and blizzard upsurges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is potential danger to lives .”

The eye of the blizzard was around 300 km off the south-west coast of Ireland at 5am, moving at 70 kmh, are planned to bring” strong winds to Ireland and the UK” on Monday, according to US hurricane forecasters. They added that Ophelia had been downgraded from a hurricane to a “post-tropical cyclone” overnight.

Owain Wyn Evans (@ OwainWynEvans)

Eyes to the south west

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World Cup qualifying: 10 talking points from this weeks action

Its time for Gareth Southgate to fell Joe Hart, Aaron Hughes exemplifies Northern Irelands ambition and Ben Woodburn has once again proved himself for Wales

1) Time for Southgate to be ruthless and drop Hart

Before video games against Malta and Slovakia Gareth Southgate indicated no other goalkeeper had” staked a strong enough claim” to take over from Joe Hart. It seems a strange statement given the fine form and obvious talent of Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford. It is an oddity of the goalkeeping position that, while mistakes are always highlighted, it generally takes a run of howlers to lose your place. Sustained middling form, or the mild uncertainty that Hart has emanated for more than a year doesn’t seem to be enough. Southgate missed a chance in the current violate to demonstrate a little ruthlessness and address this. In the event Hart failed to get a hand on the first shooting on target across the two games, Stanislav Lobotka’s goal at Wembley poked past a starfish-pose-by-numbers England keeper. Tournament games come down to fine details, just as a goalie at the top of his powers can disguise many failings.” Showing faith in your human” is one thing. Right now Hart looks like the last outpost of the undroppable celebrity player culture that blighted successive England squads. Barney Ronay

* Match report: England 2 Slovakia 1
* FA tells it can back up Dele Alli over one-finger salute
* Southgate kudoes Rashford and Manchester United

2) Veteran Hughes embodies Northern Ireland’s determination

In the case of Northern Ireland statistics do tell an accurate tale of their remarkable achievement in finishing second in Group C and, in all likelihood, procuring a place in the World Cup play-offs. A record five consecutive wins, over 10 hours without confessing a aim, seven clean sheets in eight qualifiers- the finest defensive return in Europe- and beating the Czech Republic for the first time at Windsor Park on Monday with merely 28% possession; 72% possession countings for nothing when you do not difficulty Michael McGovern once in the Northern Ireland goal. It again underlines Michael O’Neill’s outstanding organisation that the defensive record may proceed with an injury-hit back-line against the Czechs and San Marino. The is a lack of Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart heightened responsibility on the 37 -year-old Aaron Hughes in the double-header. A veteran who received his first international call-up almost 20 years ago excelled. His central defensive partner Jonny Evans reflected:” He was my human of the match against the Czechs but he’s not get my champagne. He dragged me through the game. I was feeling it in the last half hour and here’s this guy who’s 37 operating past me to push out and clear the box. He inspired me to get through video games. He’s a great role model .” Andy Hunter

* Match report: Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic
* Evans says Manchester City interest spurred him on to improve

3) Woodburn again presents he is the real deal for Wales

Well, “hes been gone” and did it again. Ben Woodburn, the 17 -year-old Liverpool prodigy, scored the winning objective on his international debut on Saturday. In Moldova on Tuesday he provided a jet-heeled assist to give Wales a crucial breakthrough. The accuracy of his control while operating Vitalie Bordian ragged down the left flank was an indication of the player’s pedigree, as was his cross that zipped along the six-yard line. Hal Robson-Kanu foresaw the ball, adjusted his body and threw his head at it, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. Up until that phase, Moldova had defended deep and defended well, but fortune favours the brave and Chris Coleman went for it. In the first half his Wales team were stodgy. But in the second they came out with clear instructions to press higher. Fifteen minutes later and Woodburn came on. Ultimately with just over 20 minutes remaining Coleman paired Sam Vokes with Robson-Kanu and the pressure became relentless. It was a deserved outcome even if it took a moment of individual class to unlock it. Second place is now Wales’ to lose. Paul MacInnes

* Match report: Moldova 0-2 Wales

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Wales’s Gareth Bale: ‘It’s all about research results now’- video

4) Ireland must hope Hogan can have a striking impact

In a route the Republic of Ireland’s defeat by Serbia was more deflating for their fans than the abomination in Georgia had been three days previously. Because against Serbia Ireland played close to the best that they can play but still were not good enough. They have scored two objectives in four home matches and Martin O’Neill told afterwards that he wished he could call on someone such as a young Robbie Keane. If such a player were to appear again, it would have little to do with the developmental efforts of O’Neill’s employers. As it happens, O’Neill’s striking options may be enhanced in time for next month’s showdown with Wales: the Aston Villa forward Scott Hogan, having proclaimed for the country of his forefathers at the age of 25, could be parachuted straight into the Ireland team. A short-term fix to a deep-rooted problem? Paul Doyle

* Match report: Republic of Ireland 0 Serbia 1

5) Syria’s incredible run may not be over yet

Sometimes football’s impact renders terms unnecessary and that was certainly the case when a Syrian television commentator broke down in tears after witnessing his country secure an Asian play-off place with an unlikely late equaliser in Iran. The Syria team’s story is a complex one and perhaps not your standard feelgood affair; you may query whether they represent a regime or a nation but it certainly does no harm to admires the sporting accomplishment of a squad that has been forced to play its home games in Malaysia and was given scant hope at the outset.


The giant striker Omar Al Somah, scorer of that equaliser, had only this month returned from self-imposed international exile; he plays his football in Saudi Arabia and so does the gifted forward Omar Khribin, who is one of his continent’s most exciting players and can seriously trouble Australia in next month’s two-legged tie-in. More than anything, Syria are a proper team- tough, technically adept and wonderfully coached by Ayman Hakeem. The natural tendency is to suppose they have reached their limit but nobody who watched a few cases of their qualifiers will be in much doubt that they have a chance of beating Australia. The prospect of an intercontinental play-off against the US after that would be quite another matter; for now it is enough to savour what they have done so far. Nick Ames

* Syria reaching World Cup play-off with Australia after late equaliser
* Socceroos must face Syria after Saudi Arabia take finals spot
* Socceroos lose game of inches as scrutiny falls on Postecoglou

6) Is David Silva Spain’s greatest ever player?

David Silva scored the pick of Spain’s eight goals against Liechtenstein on Tuesday night, curling a left-footed free-kick beyond the reach of Peter Jehle as Spain recorded their highest ever victory away from home. The Manchester City midfielder, who is not a regular penalty taker for our own countries, has scored 33 objectives for our own countries* and sits fourth in the top goalscorer records for Spain’s national squad behind three strikers: Fernando Torres( 38 ), Raul( 44) and David Villa( 59 ), an astounding return for a footballer renowned more for his creative nous than goalscoring prowess. Although there are no records available for the number of assistances Silva has provided on the international stage, it is almost certainly even more mind-boggling considering Spain’s pre-eminence between 2006 and 2012 and the fact that he has notched up 66 in 223 Premier League appearances since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2010. Aged 31, he could yet overtake Torres and perhaps even Raul in the scoring charts and, devoted his country’s successes during his pomp, is arguably a contender for the commendation of Spain’s greatest player of any epoch.*( spotter’s badge @giveittosilva) Barry Glendenning

7) Time for out-of-date Hampden to find its roaring again

A fascinating subplot to Scotland’s crucial meeting with Slovakia next month relates to match venue. Hampden Park, once a venue afforded iconic status as Scotland conquered all before them, is now widely regarded as a relic the country can easily do without. The Scottish FA is known to be considering the abandonment of Hampden after it is used as a Euro 2020 venue. Three sides of the stadium are out of date, access is poor and acoustics similarly. The visit of Malta on Monday, while barely a marquee occasion, was against a horrendously flat backdrop. Such a scenario has become common. Conservatives will vehemently object to a Hampden exit. Players, too, might want to retain the appeal of their own nationals stadium rather than stimulating routine visits to Celtic Park, Ibrox, Tynecastle or Easter Road. The significance of the Slovakia tie entails a gripping atmosphere is to be hoped for. In its absence, a wider debate will ensue. Ewan Murray

* Match report: Scotland 2 Malta 0
* Strachan not astonished reversal of fortune

8) Salah takes Egypt to the verge of World Cup return

It has been a long, hard road back to football relevance for Egypt but they are tantalisingly close to a first World Cup appearance since 1990 and the identity of their inspiration is little astonish. Mohamed Salah has made a vibrant start to the season with Liverpool but, like the rest of his team-mates, was subdued during the course of its 1-0 defeat in Uganda last Thursday; that needed to be put right when the sides met again in Alexandria and he duly scored the win, his 30 th international aim in just 55 caps, six minutes in. But for the visiting goalkeeper Denis Onyango, Salah would have scored a couple more; “the worlds biggest” painting is that a home victory over Republic of the Congo next month, coupled with anything bar a Uganda win over Ghana, will volume them a place in Russia with a game to spare.

That is one of several tempting scenarios in a thrilling situate of African qualifiers that should, in many cases, go to the wire. Salah’s club-mate, Sadio Mane, appeared to have set Senegal in the driving seat of a wide-open Group D with a late aim in Burkina Faso, but the Stallions hit back to draw and are the best bet for a new African presence at next year’s tournament. Ivory Coast could hardly have expected the 2-1 home defeat to Gabon, three days after beating the same opponents 3-0 away, that has abruptly tightened up Group C. If Salah and Egypt keep their heads, they should at last banish such concerns to the past. NA

Mohamed Salah scored his 30 th objective in 55 caps for Egypt as they beat Uganda in Alexandria. Photo: Khaled Elfiqi/ EPA

9) Chile slowing up and in danger of crashing out

Chile’s hopes of a World Cup place hang by a thread and , not for the first time, the suppose occurs that a wonderful generation of players is collectively slowing up. If a 3-0 home defeat to Paraguay, perhaps not aided by the insulting deadline-day lunacy around Alexis Sanchez, was problematic then losing to an already-eliminated Bolivia on Tuesday night may have been a fatal jolt. They can describe comfort from the fact that Argentina and a dazzlingly in-form Peru play one another next, which entails a play-off place should not be impossible; the wider point is that a lot of the old energy is lack and that should be no astonish. Chile have played 51 full internationals since their elimination by Brazil at the 2014 World Cup; the Peruvians, to give one example, have played 40 in that time and perhaps a phenomenally successful core of footballers that have been together for a decade are starting to burn out. Sanchez is 28 and Arturo Vidal 30; there are plenty older than them and only two of the squad that vied this month were under 25. Under previous managers Marcelo Bielsa and Jorge Sampaoli they played at a ferocious tempo and that cannot be sustained eternally. There were a few signs of wear at the Confederations Cup, a tournament they should still have won, and with a younger generation slow in coming through you fear Chile is a possibility reaching the end of their natural cycle. NA

10) Iceland demonstrate they are no flash in the pan

Iceland stimulated plenty of friends following their qualification for France 2016 and their unlikely subsequent foray into the quarter-finals of the same tournament, but their progress- or absence of it- afterwards was always going to be interesting. Despite the deviation of co-manager Lars Lagerback after their adventures in France, the squad he left behind has maintained its excellent progress and sits joint top of what is arguably the toughest European qualification group for next year’s World Cup, behind Croatia on aim difference. With Turkey and Ukraine inhaling down the necks of both countries, Group I remains tight as a drum and Iceland may not qualify. Nevertheless, the fact that they are in an excellent position to win the group with two matches to go proves that a squad who would, as recently as four years ago, been considered cannon fodder are a genuine force to be reckoned with and should be treated as such for some time to come. BG

* Football, fire and ice: the inside story of Iceland’s remarkable rise

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Leigh Griffiths hit by missiles during Celtics win over Linfield in Belfast

Brendan Rodgers expressed concern after Leigh Griffiths appeared to be struck by objects, including a glass bottle, during the course of its match at Windsor Park

Brendan Rodgers expressed concern for Leigh Griffiths safety after the Celtic striker had weapons thrown at him during the 2-0 Champions League qualifying win over Linfield at Windsor Park.

The Scottish champs had refused their ticket apportioning for the first leg of the second qualifier in Belfast due to security dreads but there were around 300 Celtic fans in the Kop stand, which was set aside for them in a half-full stadium.

A missile was aimed at Griffiths after he had put in the opener for Scott Sinclair from a corner. Griffiths was pictured holding up a glass bottle and the striker was subsequently booked by Alejandro Hernndez for taking his time at a corner when more objects came his style a decision Rodgers called strange after the match.

Griffiths was soon replaced by Moussa Dembl with Jonny Hayes coming on for his debut in place of James Forrest. Hayes also had rockets launched at him when he took over corner-kick duties. There was more bad feeling at the end of the match when Griffiths came back on to tie a Celtic scarf to a goalpost.

Asked about concerns over Griffiths, Rodgers told: I didnt quite ensure what it actually was but, if that is the case[ a glass bottle ], then of course there is always a worry.

I didnt see or havent hear anything as of yet as to what was hurled on. I could only see it from the dug-out, the Celtic manager added.

It was maybe a bottle of some sort but anything, whether its a coin or a bottle or whatever, shouldnt happen. Players go on to the field and it should be a safe surrounding for them.

Sinclair headed the visitors ahead in the 17 th minute and the midfielder Tom Rogic induced it 2-0 five minutes later. The match ended 2-0, with Celtic obvious favourites to progress to the third qualifying round. They could travel to the Republic of Ireland, after being paired with Dundalk or Rosenborg in Fridays draw.

Linfield will most likely face a Uefa investigation but their manager, David Healy, who supposed his part-time side were excellent considering the quality of opposition we were playing against, claimed not to have seen any missiles thrown.

I dont think it was always going to happen. I guess a lot of people in the media were making a big deal out of it, Healy said.

Linfield as a club have stimulated giant strides over the years to try to cut that hollering and abuse out but you get that in Old Firm games, you get that in Manchester derbies, you are always going to get a ferocious atmosphere.

A police statement said one arrest had been stimulated but praised the vast majority of fans who behaved impeccably. The return leg will take place at Celtic Park next Wednesday.

Champions League third qualifying round draw

League road : FCSB v Viktoria Plzen

Nice v Ajax

Dynamo Kyiv v Young Boys

AEK Athens v CSKA Moscow

Club Brugge v Istanbul Basaksehir

Champions road :

Slavia Prague v BATE Borisov or Alashkert

Spartaks Jurmala or Astana v IFK Mariehamn or Legia Warszawa

Zrinjski or Maribor v Hafnarfjrdur or Vkingur

Zilina or FC Copenhagen v Malmo or Vardar

Linfield or Celtic v Dundalk or Rosenborg

Hapoel Beer Sheva or Honved v Zalgiris Vilnius or Ludogorets

Viitorul v APOEL or Dudelange

Hibernians or Salzburg v Rijeka or The New Saints

Qarabag or Samtredia v Sheriff or Kukesi

Partizan Belgrade or Buducnost Podgorica v Olympiakos

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