Wednesday. 2/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Sebastian Stephenson

Making the papers

The harp-embossed Irish passport has become keenly coveted by some citizens of the UK ever since Brexit hit, as having one gives its possessor the right to live and work anywhere in the EU. Many Brits have suddenly discovered the benefits of having a granny from Galway or a dad from Dublin. And now the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Justice has decided that another group of people should be put on the path to owning this desirable document: undocumented workers in Ireland.

The department has announced a scheme that will allow anyone who has lived in the country for four or more years to apply for residency – and follow the path to full citizenship. The news signals an about-turn in the nation’s often insular attitude towards migration and an estimated 17,000 people will now be able to get the documentation needed to legally seek employment, access state services and begin pursuing that passport. The catch? They need to act quickly: the programme is only open for six months, until 31 July. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (pictured) calls it a “once in a generation scheme”.

Ireland is not in the practice of having tight border controls but this change is heartening and will be transformational for many people who have spent lives in the shadows, where they can be exploited for cheap labour and denied services. Having a passport is a statement of belonging and Ireland is to be commended for saying to so many people on the social periphery, “We are going to give you the chance to be one of us, to enjoy the benefits of being Irish and of being a European.” It’s a considered and compassionate move.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Armenia & Turkey

Flight path

Flights between Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, and Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, are taking off today after a two-year hiatus. Direct travel between the estranged neighbours was put on hold following renewed violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia has long disputed the territory with Azerbaijan and when tensions mounted in 2020, the Turkish government threw its weight behind the latter, its historical ally. And disagreements run even further back. “The political situation between Armenia and Turkey has long been tense because of Ankara’s refusal to recognise the Armenian genocide at the beginning of the 20th century,” Sajjan Gohel, a security expert at the London School of Economics, tells The Monocle Minute. Some hope that the flights could be a key step in re-establishing an official bond after almost 30 years. “The fact that the two countries have begun the process of mending ties is hugely positive,” says Gohel. “But it’s too premature to say whether there will be lasting improvements to their often tense diplomatic relationship.”

For more on this story, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’.

Image: Alamy

Environment / China

Clearing the air

Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing yesterday were a breath of fresh air. For the first time, officials banned fireworks across the city, resulting in the cleanest Lunar New Year air-quality measurements since monitoring began nine years ago. It’s quite the respite for a capital that only in November shut roads and halted outdoor activities over concerns about pollution.

Could this fireworks ban spark some broader change in China? Unfortunately, this year’s decision had a lot to do with getting a handle on air quality ahead of the Winter Olympics, which kick off on Friday and run until 20 February. But being able to see – and breathe in – the success of such an initiative should prompt officials to take up more far-reaching environmental reforms in the future that go beyond snuffing out bangers.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Kazakhstan

On display

Kazakhstan hopes to present its inaugural Venice Biennale pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition, which begins on 23 April. The news was announced yesterday at the Museum of Arts in Almaty and comes just weeks after extensive protests against the government (pictured) led to hundreds of deaths. It is not the first time that Kazakhstan has made plans to exhibit: in 2019, a proposed pavilion was scrapped amid apparent belt-tightening just two months before the Biennale was due to begin. Though the question on commentators’ lips in 2019 was, “Will this go ahead?”, they might now be asking, “Should it?” The pavilion is being curated by Almaty-based artist collective ORTA and will focus on a fairly uncontroversial avant garde artist who died in 1967. Whether any comment on the recent unrest would have even been allowed is unlikely; the entry is backed by the Kazakhstan Culture Ministry.

Image: Globo Filmes

Film / Brazil

Good for a laugh

Brazilians certainly love to chuckle. Comedy is one of the most popular film genres in the politically polarised nation and the most profitable, as hits such as 2019’s My Mom is a Character 3, by late comedian Paulo Gustavo, show (see the February issue of Monocle, which features a special report on humour). This week Tô Ryca! 2 (I’m Rich! 2) (pictured), a sequel to a successful 2016 release, debuts on 700 screens around the country. The film stars Samantha Schmütz as Selminha, who after escaping poverty following an unexpected inheritance in the first film, sees her fortunes reversed. As in many countries, Brazil’s box office has been quieter than usual during the pandemic, and Brazilian films – which accounted for a dismal 1.3 per cent of local box office sales in 2021 – were hardest hit. Industry figures are banking on Tô Ryca! 2 repeating the success of the original, even if – spoiler alert – Selminha doesn’t quite have the same luck.

Image: Mirandi Babitz

M24 / Monocle On Culture

LA women

In December, we lost two of the West Coast’s literary greats: Eve Babitz and Joan Didion. Robert Bound is joined by Lili Anolik, author of Hollywood’s Eve, and David Ulin, books editor of Alta Journal to discuss the imprint that Didion and Babitz left on the Los Angeles literary scene and how they expanded what women’s writing was and could be.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sits down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant.

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