Friday, April 29, 2005

Scotland population grows largely due to Eastern European immigrants

Stephen McGinty:

According to new figures published by the General Register Office (GRO) for Scotland, 27,200 more people arrived in Scotland than departed from it between July 2003 and July 2004. This swelled the nation’s population to 5,078,400.

Taking into account births and deaths, the total increase in the Scottish population was about 21,000, almost ten times the previous year’s increase of just 2,600.

The reason for the steep rise is not officially known, but is thought to be the result of an influx of immigrants from the new EU member states such as Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The figures were welcomed by the Executive, although ministers remain concerned by long-term predictions that Scotland’s population will drop below five million in 2009.

The increase in the Scottish population is a result of three key factors: birth, deaths and migration.

Between mid-2003 and mid-2004 the total number of births rose by 3.4 per cent to 53,576 while the deaths dropped by 1.3 per cent to 57,588.

In the same year 61,900 re-located to Scotland from other parts of the UK, while 46,400 people left Scotland for elsewhere in Britain.

During the same period 36,300 people, including an estimated 2,300 asylum seekers, came to Scotland from overseas, in comparison 24,600 Scots moved abroad. As a result of higher immigration figures compared with migration, Scotland’s population received a net gain of 27,200 people.

Duncan Macniven, the registrar-general for Scotland, denied the increase was a statistical blip, but said any further increases were highly unlikely to be of such a size.

He admitted he could not fully explain the rise. "We have the statistics but what we don’t have is why there were more births, why people stayed in Scotland and why many more people made Scotland their new home. I would say that the immigration into Scotland was clearly the principal factor."

Professor Robert Wright, author of Scotland’s Demographic Challenge, who holds the chair in economics at the University of Stirling, said: "I am afraid that I think it is a one-off blip. Immigration policy is a reserved power ... being set in London."

He believes the cause of the increase in net immigration is as a result of the entry of ten countries into the EU in 2004. These countries were Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

He said: "All these countries have, on average, much lower material standards of living than Scotland. In this sense, Scotland has benefited from a large stock of people who were waiting to move in order to improve their personal economic circumstances."

The SNP called into question the figures and said they provided false comfort against what it described as "Scotland’s population time-bomb".

Jim Mather, the party’s enterprise and economy spokesman, said: "This report provides false optimism. While it shows around 26,000 people coming to Scotland, this is merely a one-off surge as a result of the EU enlargement in 2004. Official estimates confirm that these numbers will not be sustained and cannot solve Scotland’s population crisis."

It is truly amazing that no one in Britain seems to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of British colonists in the north of Ireland who could easily help with the Scottish population decline if they were only relocated to Scotland. What makes it so ironic is that most of these colonists are of Scottish ancestry.

Bono and hypocrisy: letter from Ireland

Patrice Lucid:

Bono's disillusionment with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin comes too little, too late, for me. In castigating Mr Martin, Bono joins a long list of hypocrites who sanctimoniously preach on the world stage while never looking in the back yard. Had Bono cared to look in Canada's back yard, he would have seen the abominable treatment of indigenous people at the hands of the Canadian government which, not contented with having taken everything from the native people, continues to come back for more.

Indeed, if Canada was to be judged by the living standards on the reservations, it would drop from fifth position on the world developmental index to 49th.

It should come as no surprise then that a country which has broken every promise it has ever made to its native people, and instead makes them live like dogs in their own land, should ever have the integrity to live up to international developmental aid agreements.

Of course, indigenous people did not feature in Bono's thinking while he wined and dined Mr Martin, giving a key note address at the Liberal Party Convention and even adding Ottawa to his tour diary as a special favour to his friend Mr Martin. It never occurred to Bono that somewhere down the line his convention expenses were being picked up by the wholesale mining and logging of indigenous lands.

So whatever disappointment Bono feels, it comes nowhere close to the disappointment which I'm sure the First Nations people feel because of Bono's lack of support for them.

At the end of the day the only thing that Bono really cares about is Bono.

Good Friday Agreement hasn't reduced ethnic polarization

Daily Ireland:

Polarisation between Catholics and Protestants in the North has not significantly reduced since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement seven years ago, a seminar revealed yesterday.

Held in Belfast, the seminar highlighted results from a study of attitudes and values among the two communities across the island.

The study showed that the two communities were as polarised on questions of identity and constitutional politics as when the Agreement was signed. It also disclosed that increased secularisation has weakened the role of religion as a marker of identity in Northern Ireland.

The seminar, entitled ‘Religious Affiliation and Identity in the Republic of Ireland and Northern IreIand’, was organised by Queen’s researchers with ARK – the Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive.

The GFA was based on two foolish notions: first, that you could make British colonialism acceptable to the indigenous Irish population and secondly, that you could make the British colonists stop abusing the indigenous Irish. No self-respecting indigenous people would ever accept the rule of foreign occupiers. At the same time, from the viewpoint of British colonists, what would be the point of having a colony if you couldn't abuse the natives? The only way to end the problems of the north of Ireland is for the British to dismantle their colony and return their colonists to Britain where they belong.

David Trimble and the Catholic vote

Irish Voice:

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble finds himself in the battle for his political life on May 5 against a Democratic Unionist candidate who is favored by bookmakers to replace him.

Last time out it was a close run thing with approximately 2,000 Catholic votes for Trimble making the difference in the end and ensuring his re-election.

This time there is no certainty at all that those Catholic votes will go Trimble’s way. If he loses Trimble can only bemoan the fact that his inability to reach out to moderate Catholics over the past few years may cost him dear.

Before the last Westminster election in 2001 Trimble was largely a sympathetic figure in the Nationalist community, an Ulster Unionist leader who had tried to break the mold.

These days, however, he is seen as someone who broke every promise he made to moderate Catholics, instead allowing the hardliners in his own party to push him to the extreme on every occasion.

If Trimble had stood up for the Good Friday Agreement he had signed on for, there seems little doubt that many more Catholics would now vote for him. The fact that he didn’t may end his political career.

Trimble will probably be able to find a few SDLP voters who will be foolish enough to vote for him. The question is whether there are enough of those voters to allow Trimble to keep his parliamentary seat.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Is Sinn Fein too sympathetic to the McCartney family?

Dan McGinn:

GERRY Adams was harangued in a republican area of Belfast while canvassing in the UK general election because of his stance on the murder of father-of-two Robert McCartney, it was claimed yesterday.

Sources said the Sinn Fein president and former Belfast mayor Alex Maskey faced criticism from some people in the south of the city for supporting the McCartney family's demand for justice.

The confrontation took place in the Markets area, near the street where the 33-year-old forklift driver was brutally stabbed and beaten.

A man who claimed to have witnessed the events said: "Gerry Adams and Alex Maskey were confronted and barracked by several people about the stand they have taken.

"It was hot and heavy. The exchange of views was frank."

A party spokesman refused to comment on the reports of the confrontation.

Catherine McCartney responded cautiously to the reports. She said: "If people are criticising Sinn Fein for supporting the family, I have to say we have some criticism of how the party handled this too. They did not act quickly enough, decisively enough or efficiently against members.

Catherine McCartney really does live in a world of her own. Sinn Fein are being criticized for being too sympathetic to her family and yet she seems to think that Nationalists are siding with her family and against Sinn Fein. It is about time that Catherine McCartney and her sisters realize that they blew it big time with their pro-British/anti-Sinn Fein trip to the United States.

Related news:

Gerry Adams 'Harangued over Mccartney Murder'

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Scottish population grows due to immigration

BBC News:

Scotland's population has seen its largest inward migration in more than 50 years, according to latest figures.

Statistics from the Registrar General for Scotland suggested the population had risen for the second year running.

There were 5,078,400 people living in Scotland in June 2004 - an increase of 21,000 on the previous year and a rise of 23,600 on 2002.

The country gained 26,000 people through migration - the largest rise since current records began in 1952.

About 61,900 people came to Scotland from the rest of the UK, with 41,600 people heading in the opposite direction.

An estimated 36,300 people, including asylum seekers, came to Scotland from overseas, while 24,600 went overseas from Scotland.

The number of births rose by 3.4%, but there were still 4,000 more deaths than births.

The figures also took into account a reduction of 1,000 due to changes in the armed forces and prison populations.

Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire were the council areas with the highest population rises, while Aberdeen City, Dundee and Inverclyde recorded the largest drops.

Scotland faces the fastest-falling population in Europe.

It is expected that the country's population will dip below five million by 2017.

First Minister Jack McConnell said earlier this year that the country's falling population was the "single biggest challenge facing Scotland in the 21st century".

Mr McConnell launched the Fresh Talent project last year after outlining the challenges posed by the ageing population.

It is aimed at boosting Scotland's dwindling population by attracting 8,000 new people each year until 2009.

If the British colonists living in the north of Ireland were just repatriated back to Britain then the problems of both the Six Counties and Scotland could be solved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

DNA shows Scottish hero Somerled's Viking roots

Ian Johnston:

A HISTORIC Celtic hero credited with driving the Vikings out of western Scotland was actually descended from a Norseman, according to research by a leading DNA expert.

According to traditional genealogies, Somerled, who is said to have died in 1164 after ousting the Vikings from Argyll, Kintyre and the Western Isles, was descended from an ancient royal line going back to when the Scots were living in Ireland.

But Bryan Sykes, an Oxford University professor of human genetics who set up a company called Oxford Ancestors to research people’s DNA past, has discovered that Somerled’s Y-chromosome - which is inherited through the male line - is of Norse origin.

Prof Sykes’ studies of three Scottish clans have also led to the conclusion that some 500,000 people alive today are descended from Somerled - a number only bettered by Genghis Khan, who, among historical figures studied to date, has an estimated 16 million living descendants.

The MacDonald, MacDougall and MacAllister clans all claim descent from Somerled and Prof Sykes found that between 25 and 45 per cent of them shared the same Y-chromosome, of a kind normally found in Norway but rare in Scotland and Ireland.

By analysing the rate of mutation in DNA samples from clan members, Prof Sykes was able to show that the Y-chromosome came from a common ancestor who lived roughly 1,000 years ago.

He then tested five chiefs from the clans and discovered they all shared the same chromosome, which convinced him that the common ancestor must be Somerled, Lord of the Isles, in keeping with clan histories.

However, the analysis threw into doubt Somerled’s own origins. Prof Sykes told The Scotsman: "In the traditional genealogy, Somerled is a great Celtic hero who drives the Norse from Scotland, but his Y- chromosome is definitely Norse. The genealogies trace him back to a long line of Irish kings. But that’s not what the Y-chromosome says.

"He is certainly of Norse Viking paternal origin."

It is open to question whether Somerled, who made driving the Vikings from western Scotland his "cause célèbre", would have known the truth.

But Prof Sykes said: "I think it is something you would want to keep quiet."

The fact that clan chiefs still share the same basic Y-chromosome after some 87 generations shows that high-status women in the MacDonald, MacDougall and MacAllister clans were extremely faithful.

However, the large number of people alive today with the same Y-chromosome means the men in the family did not share this virtue to the same extent.

Maggie Macdonald, archivist of the Museum of the Isles on Skye, said Somerled was traditionally viewed as a Celtic hero.

But she added: "Maybe at that time it was more important who it was said you were descended from than who you were actually descended from.

"People may well have known his great-great-grandfather was a Viking.

"But it could have been that his great-great-grandmother had relations with someone who wasn’t her husband - it could be Somerled wouldn’t have known and thought he was this great Celtic hero."

So much for this great "Celtic" hero of Scotland.

Irish universities should be in top tier of OECD

John Kennedy:

A team of EU and US assessors has endorsed quality-assurance procedures in Irish universities as “unparalleled in any other country in Europe or indeed in the US and Canada” in a report published yesterday by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is aiming to steer the universities to the top tier of OECD countries.

The chairman of the HEA Michael Kelly said this was a significant vote of confidence in Irish universities by the first external independent review of the effectiveness of their quality-assurance procedures.

The assessment team included assessors from the European Universities Association and from North America.

Great news!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stealing money in the north of Ireland

Brian Feeney:

Just over a week ago a well-organised gang relieved a Brinks van of a sum more than £1 million.

We don't know exactly how much. It could have been a lot more than a million but it certainly wasn't less. Perhaps Brinks don't know either, or perhaps the police are trying to confuse the robbers or make them count it themselves.

The UDA did it of course.

How do we know? Apply the exact mirror image of the official reasons given for pointing the finger at the IRA for the Northern Bank job and there's no other conclusion you can reach.

There would need to be a lot of men involved, all of whom kept stumm before and after – men to take the hostage; to hold the hostage for eight hours; to drive cars both to and from Creighton's garage and Annadale; men to keep look-out, never mind stashing the loot.

The hostage was taken from a loyalist area, Belvoir, and held near a UDA stronghold, Annadale.

You can't say the UDA's fingerprints were all over this robbery, because the UDA knows just as well as the IRA not to leave any fingerprints, or any other material either that could provide forensic evidence.

There the similarities with the IRA's Northern Bank heist end.

There were no police raids on loyalist districts, no futile, provocative searches of the homes of senior UDA figures.

Can we perhaps anticipate police teams digging up fields around Groomsport or dredging duck ponds near Kircubbin?

Any chance of a press conference by the chief constable to tell us who he's pointing the finger at?

Of course not.

None of that.

Not even, it seems, evidence of the strangely nebulous mobile phone traffic available with the Northern robbery. Why the difference in response from the authorities?

Okay, the Northern job was 20 times bigger than the Brinks job – so we're led to believe anyway.

So is that why?

You're allowed to steal, say, £1.2 million, without drawing down the wrath of both governments and the police, but not £26 million.

Well, would you be allowed £10 million? What's the cut-off point? It's important to know for future reference you see.

Would £7 million be the tipping point?

Paramilitary gangs would naturally be anxious to know so that they don't place their entire organisations in jeopardy by being too successful, or, in colloquial terms, 'tearing the backside out of it'.

There may be other reasons for the furious political and security reaction to the IRA robbery and the absence of response to the UDA one.

First, the UDA have no votes. Not even their own members voted for their candidates when they stood for the now defunct UDP party. Therefore there are no political consequences, whereas with republicans their electoral support gives them a right to be ministers in any northern administration.

Perhaps more important, however, is that to acknowledge the robbery was the work of the UDA is to admit that all the cosy chats NIO officials and our proconsul have had with their favourite illegal organisation's inner council don't amount to a hill of beans.

That the robbery took place in the fiefdom of Jackie McDonald, the occasional golfing partner of Martin McAleese – the president's husband – is the cruellest cut of all. After all, isn't Jackie McDonald supposed to represent the future of the UDA – cleaned up, not killing Catholics, committed to community work as they promised last November when they met our proconsul?

The robbery prompts a couple of obvious questions.

Either Jackie McDonald did know about the robbery or he didn't.

One of those propositions must be true.

If Jackie McDonald didn't know about what's going on in his own back yard, what use is he to the NIO?

If he did know about the robbery but was unable to stop it going ahead or didn't want to stop it, then he's leading the NIO up the garden path.

The true state of affairs is a matter of great importance, since the NIO seems determined to give the UDA – an illegal organisation remember – something around £50 million to redevelop the districts they have spent the last 35 years destroying. You couldn't make it up.

Interestingly, the same global news media that made such a fuss over the possibility of the IRA's involvement in the Northern Bank heist seems happy to ignore the possibility that the UDA was involved in the Brinks robbery.

DUP wants rebuff for republicans

BBC News:

The government must press on with moves to form a devolved government in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein, the Democratic Unionists have said.

The party's election manifesto calls for a "clear message to be sent to republicans" that the political process will no longer wait for them.

It says if a voluntary coalition could not be set up, direct rule from Westminster should be more accountable.

The manifesto did not say when it would consider Sinn Fein fit to share power.

Earlier this month, UKUP leader Bob McCartney said he had been assured by the DUP leadership that it would take a generation before it would consider government with republicans.

Speaking at the manifesto launch, DUP leader Ian Paisley portrayed the election as the ultimate battle between Sinn Fein and his party.

"The only way that IRA/Sinn Fein can be defeated is if the DUP is declared by the majority of voters to be Northern Ireland's largest party and the authentic voice of Northern Ireland," he said.

He called for the electorate to deliver the "ultimate rebuff" to republicans saying it was "now or never".

"This can become Ulster's finest hour. May God define the right."

So as far as Paisley is concerned this election is all about telling Nationalist voters that their votes will be ignored if they go to Sinn Fein. I guess this is what the British mean when they talk about "democracy".

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Scots did not come from Ireland

David Steele:

THE belief that the Scots are descendants of Irish settlers who crossed from Antrim in the sixth century is being dismissed as a myth by an eminent archaeologist.

In a detailed research paper published by Glasgow University yesterday, Ewan Campbell argues the claimed migrations of the Irish into Argyll can be attributed to "a set of elite origin myths, finding no support in archaeological evidence".

For many years Dr Campbell has been concerned that the received truth that Scots kings were descended from Irish invaders was not the truth at all.

He has concluded any migration between the west coast of Scotland and north east Ireland was in the opposite direction to that previously thought.

The doubts were planted in his mind when he took part in a excavation at the royal fort at Dunadd in Argyll in the 1970s. The dig uncovered strong evidence that this was the inauguration site of the early Scottish kings but gave little indication of any Irish influence.

At this time, the kingdom of the Scots - Dalriada, consisting of Argyll and some of the west coast islands - was a centre of civilisation and trade.

Dr Campbell said: "Looking at the site made us wonder, how did it start? It made us look at the original legends. If they were true you would expect to see Irish types of settlements and artefacts. When we looked for evidence of the Irish origin, there was none.

Dr Campbell said of the accepted belief: "This apparently incorrect account was done by medieval spin doctors for political reasons - to further the claims to the Scottish throne of descendants of Kenneth MacAlpine. It was an early example of an Orwellian rewrite of history."

More on the so-called Irish invasion of Scotland:

The foundation myths of Scotland state that the Scottish Gaels originated from the Dal Riata tribe in Antrim, north-east Ireland. Around AD 500, or so the story goes, Fergus Mor mac Eirc supposedly established a new Dal Riata in Argyll because of dynastic competition at home (Foster, 1996: 13). According to this view, they displaced a previous British or Pictish community from Argyll - a process which eventually ended with the takeover of the entire Pictish kingdom in the 9th century to create the united kingdom of Alba that became Scotland.

Leslie Alcock (1970) examined the archaeological evidence in detail and concluded that there was very little to support the idea that there was a 4th/5th century invasion from Ireland. Similarly, Foster finds no archaeological evidence for this migration. However, she concludes that distribution of artefacts and similarities in monument construction show close links between Antrim and Kintyre from the Neolithic onwards. The evidence also supports an extensive Gaelic-speaking presence during this period along Britain's western coast, including Cornwall, Devon, Dyfed, Anglesey and south-west Scotland.

Very litle archaeology had taken place in Argyll and Antrim prior to Alcock's review, but this was no longer the case by the end of the 20th century. Nevertheless, Campbell (2001) could summarise the current state of knowledge in the following words:

'There is ... no evidence of a change in the normal settlement type at any point in the 1st millennium AD and no basis for suggesting any significant population movement between Antrim and Argyll in the 1st millennium AD. At best, the evidence shows a shared cultural region from the Iron Age, with some subsequent divergence in the later 1st millennium AD. Any cultural influences could be argued as likely to have been going from Scotland to Ireland rather than vice versa.'

Campbell (2001) goes on to examine evidence for an 'elite takeover', similar to the Norman invasion of England. Using comparative dating of brooches as an example, again he finds no support for the notion of dominant arrivals from Ireland. If anything, the influence is (yet again) in the opposite direction.

Wormald (1996: 142-3), referring to an earlier article of his, states:

'I have recently argued that Bede and Alfred provided the ideological charter of a new English kingdom by adapting the Israelite model to Anglo-Saxon experience of the Britons and the Vikings (1994). And, yes, I now venture the same proposal for the Scots, their compeers in ninth century statecraft.'

Campbell (2001) unpicks the written evidence and arrives at a similar conclusion. The Irish Annals of Tighernach provides the following entry for around 500 AD (cited in Campbell, 2001):

`Feargus mor mac earca cum gente dalriada partem britania tenuit et ibi mortus est' - `Fergus Mor, mac Erc, with the nation of Dal Riada, took (or held) part of Britain, and died there'.

But the names Dalriada, Feargus and Earca are Middle Irish. If they had been written at the time, they would have been in the Old Irish forms: Dalriata, Fergus and Erca. This entry could not have been made before the 10th century. In fact, the Annals appear to contain a number of insertions from the 10th century. Campbell cites a similar modification in the Senchus Fer nAlban (History of the Men of Scotland) - thought to have been originally composed in the 7th century and amended in the 10th century. This states `Erc, moreover had twelve sons .i. six of them took possession of Alba' and goes on to list the Dalriadan kings from Fergus Mor to the middle of the 7th century. But there is no reference to a migration so Campbell concludes that it refers to a Royal takeover, not an invasion. Tellingly, the use of the word Alba betrays its 10th century origins as it was not a term used before then for Scotland.

Bannerman (1974) compared the explanation for the Irish in Britain provided by Bede. This was quite different, ascribing their presence to an invader from Ireland called Reuda - hence Dalreuda. Bannerman suggested that this older tradition had been replaced by the Fergus Mor version in the 10th century for 'political reasons'. Campbell agrees: 'These sources, and some other later material, are clearly origin legends of a type common to most peoples of the period, constructed to show the descent of a ruling dynasty from a powerful, mythical or religious figure. Such genealogies, could be, and often were, manipulated to suit the political climate of the times ...'

I think that it is safe to say that we can relegate the so-called Irish invasion of Scotland to the realm of fairy tales.

Ulster Unionists want a radical change to the power-sharing formula in the north of Ireland

BBC News:

The alteration to the Good Friday agreement would see them form a voluntary coalition government with the nationalist SDLP.

But speaking at his party's manifesto launch leader David Trimble said he could not consider going into government with Sinn Fein.

In other words, Trimble believes that Unionists should have a veto over Nationalist votes.

Related news:

Unionists 'Must Look To Future Without SF'

Amnesty urges boycott

Amnesty International today called on all judges in the UK to decline appointments to sit on any inquiry set up under the recently-enacted Inquiries Act - including a planned inquiry into allegations of security force collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The campaigning organisation also called for the repeal of the act.

The Amnesty call came days after a similar request to judges from Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine who wrote individually to every senior judge in England, Scotland and Wales earlier this week.

Amnesty UK campaigns director Stephen Bowen said: "By holding an inquiry into the Finucane case under the Inquiries Act 2005, the UK Government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of its agents."

He claimed : "Any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham."

Mr Finucane was gunned down in front of his family in their North Belfast home in 1989 by members of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association.

In the years since there have been repeated claims of security force collusion with the killers and retired Canadian judge Peter Cory told the Government in a report published last year there was enough suspicion of collusion to merit a public inquiry.

The Finucane murder was one of a series Judge Cory examined, and recommended public inquiries be held because of collusion suspicions.

The first inquiry to be set up, that into the murder of Co Armagh Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson by loyalist bombers in 1999, held its opening session on Tuesday.

Amnesty complains the Inquiries Act means the British government would control any inquiry held under its terms and a final report would be published at the British government's discretion.

They say also that crucial evidence could be omitted from publication at the British government's instigation - using the excuse it was in the public interest.

Mr Bowen said the Act, rushed through Parliament on the last day before it was dissolved for the election, "undermines the rule of law, the separation of powers and human rights protection".

He added: "It cannot be the foundation for an effective, independent, impartial or thorough judicial inquiry into allegations of serious human rights violations."

Both Judge Cory and Lord Saville who conducted the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, came out against the terms of the Inquiry's Bill when it was before Parliament and said they would not sit on an inquiry set up under its terms.

Related news:

Amnesty concerns over Finucane inquiry

UK: Amnesty International urges judiciary not to partake in inquiry sham

Durkan makes silly claim

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has claimed that success for his party in the upcoming Westminster election in the North would force the IRA to disband.

I don't know if it would force the IRA to disband but it would almost certainly cause Hell to freeze over.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Scotland's depopulation time bomb

Craig Hoy:

Scotland is facing a "depopulation time bomb", the SNP has warned.

The warning comes as nationalist leader Alex Salmond mounts a renewed push to make the case for an independent Scotland.

The party's economics spokesman, Jim Mather, says he is in possession of new figures of official population projections for Scotland up to 2073.

According to the forecasts, which come from the Government Actuary Department, Scotland’s population will fall from five million in 2004 to just 3.6 million in 2073 - a drop of 27 per cent.

Over the same period, the UK's population will increase by 11 per cent - while according to EU figures, Ireland's population will have already risen 36 per cent by 2050.

Related news:

Why is Scotland's population shrinking and ageing? - A new research initiative

£300,000 study launched to seek answers to Scotland’s looming population crisis

Why is Scotland's population shrinking and ageing?

Scottish invite to Ulster teachers

Monday, April 18, 2005

The genetic distinctiveness of the Irish race

Emmeline Hill:

Men with Gaelic surnames coming from the west of Ireland are descendants of the oldest inhabitants of Europe. In a recent study, scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, created a new genetic map of the people of Ireland. By comparing this map to European genetic maps they have shown that the Irish are one of the last remnants of the pre-Neolithic hunters and gatherers who were living throughout Europe over 10,000 years ago, before the invention of agriculture. The Irish really ARE different.

Surnames in Ireland have been passed from father to son for almost 1,000 years. The surname system in Ireland is thought to exist as one of the oldest applications of the hereditary surname system in the world. In Ireland this system was not introduced but rather it is thought that toponymics (names derived from place names) and nicknames were adopted. For example, the name O'Callaghan comes from the Irish O'Ceallachain, a diminutive of ceallach, which was taken to mean 'frequenter of churches.'

Traditionally, newly married women have taken up residence in the homeland of their husband, meaning that family names have remained in the area of the particular clans or septs for generations. Surnames, except in the infrequent case of non-paternity, are therefore an indication of family history, and on a larger scale, of population history.

In developing the new genetic map, the scientists studied the DNA of 221 men from all over the country. The DNA was separated into groups of people with names coming from the same area. For example, names that originated in Ulster, such as Gallagher and O'Reilly, were grouped together. Names from Munster (e.g. Hogan, Meagher, Ryan); Leinster (e.g. Conlan, Phelan, Rafter); and Connaught (e.g. Conway, Flynn, McHugh, Ruane) were all grouped accordingly and were considered to be Gaelic Irish. Also names of English (e.g. Harrison, Hill, Jacob, Moore) Scottish (e.g. Hamilton, Johnston, Knox), Norman (e.g. Barry, Bryan, MacNicholas) and Norse (e.g. Doyle) descent were grouped separately. These were considered to be non-Gaelic Irish. By separating the DNA as such, they could study the genes that were present in a particular region of Ireland over 1,000 years ago, when the surname system was adopted.

In Issue 88 of INSIDE IRELAND, the article "Who are we? - It's in the Genes" outlined the basic science behind genetic studies of populations. Each cell in our body contains a signature of our past. Modern technology allows us to look directly at the amount of variation in the genes in these cells. Variation accumulates over time through a random process of mutation. Mutations occur at a constant rate. Therefore, the more different two people are genetically, the longer they have been separated.

Using modern technologies to look at the differences between genes in the different peoples of Ireland, the scientists in Trinity College studied the genes on the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is the male-specific sex chromosome that is passed from father to son in the same way that surnames are passed from father to son.

By performing a number of genetic tests the scientists were able to identify a particular genetic pattern in the Y chromosome of the Irish. An ancient genetic marker, known as haplogroup 1, was found in most Irish men. Scientists think that most of the population of Western Europe carried this gene over 10,000 years ago. Over time however, through the movement and mixing of peoples, this gene was diluted. Now it is found in relatively fewer people throughout Europe.

The greatest movement and migration of peoples in Europe has been the movement of farmers from the south-east of the continent after the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. The farmers moved with their new technologies north-west into Europe, probably displacing the local hunter-gatherer populations that were living there at the time. In this way the haplogroup 1 genes in Europe were diluted, the farmers introducing new and different genes.

This resulted in the formation of a gradient of haplogroup 1 genes throughout the continent, the lowest frequency of these ancient genes being found in Turkey, and the highest frequency in Ireland, with intermediate frequencies in continental populations. In Ireland 78.1% of all men have the haplogroup 1 gene.

In Ireland men with Gaelic names have higher frequencies of this ancient marker than men with non-Gaelic names. For example, men in Ireland with surnames of English origin have 62% haplogroup 1 genes; men with Scottish names have 52.9% and men with Norman and Norse names have 83%. In Leinster, 73.3% of men with Gaelic surnames have this gene, in Munster, 94.6% and in Ulster 81.1%.

The most striking finding was that in Connaught, the westernmost point of Europe, almost all men (98.3%) carry this particular gene. This means that the people of Connaught have been relatively isolated, genetically, from the movements of people that shaped the genetic makeup of the rest of the continent. By comparison, in the east of the country there has been a lot more mixing of genes coming from foreign sources.

The prevalence of ancient genes in Ireland suggests that the Irish have largely maintained their pre-Neolithic genetic heritage. There has been little genetic influence from outside the country since the first people came to Ireland almost 9,000 years ago.

By looking at the amount of variation (the number of mutations that have accumulated over time) in the haplogroup 1 genes of these men it was possible for the scientists to estimate a date for the origin of the bulk of these genes in the country. They estimated that most of the genetic variation in Ireland has accumulated over the past 4,200 years following a rapid growth of the population at this time. This is the time of the Early Bronze Age in Ireland.

The Early Bronze Age in Ireland, among other things, saw the appearance of megalithic tombs. Newgrange in Co. Meath is the best known example. The scale and magnanimity of these structures suggest that the creators belonged to a large, highly socially evolved society.

The scientists have shown most of the genes present in Ireland today came from the people who were living at the time of Newgrange. These people were the descendants of the ancient hunter-gatherers of Europe.

Research paper:

Y-chromosome variation and Irish origins

Y are Irish, Welsh and Basques so similar?

Rhodri Clark:

NEARLY 500 years after the Act of Union, genetic research shows that the people of Wales remain markedly different from the English.

Geneticist Prof Steve Jones says the Welsh and the Irish are among the most homogenous people in the world.

He and colleagues at University College, London, have spent years creating a genetic map of the Y chromosome, which is passed by males from generation to generation.

The results show that the Welsh are related to the Basques of northern Spain and southern France and to native Americans. All are descended from the Kets people of western Siberia.

Prof Jones, who was born in Aberystwyth, said the Y chromosomes showed a marked difference between males on the Welsh and English side of the border.

"This shows that in the Dark Ages, when the Anglo-Saxons turned up, there was the most horrible massacre on the English side. They killed everybody and replaced them.

"The Welsh Y chromosome is similar to that of the Basques. In the male line, at least, the Welsh and the Basques are survivors or relics of a period before huge numbers of farmers filled Europe from the Middle East.

"There has been much less interbreeding in Wales than you might expect. Wales and Ireland have the most homogenous group of males of anywhere in the world, from the research that's been done so far."

Surprisingly perhaps, the genetics show that the Welsh are not related to the Cornish, despite the similarity of their languages.

"The Cornish are in effect Anglo-Saxons who for a time used a language that was hanging around."

The genes of Scottish males also betrayed considerable inter-mixing with outsiders.

Prof Jones, who recently published a book called Y - The Descent of Man, said genetics provided more reliable clues to the distant past than language did.

He said the Y chromosome common among Welsh males was an ancient one.

"Most native Americans have the same one. They came from Siberia much later, over the Bering Strait."

The Kets themselves have not held out as well as the Welsh have. They came into contact with Russians in the 17th Century and have largely become assimilated, especially during the Soviet era.

Related news:

Genes link Celts to Basques

English and Welsh are races apart

Full employment to constrain Irish economic growth to 6%

Ireland On-line:

The Irish economy is now growing broadly in line with its potential, although growth over the next few years is likely to be constrained to 6% as a result of full employment, according to the Bank of Ireland Global Markets Economic Outlook, published today.

Related news:

Bank of Ireland; robust consumer spending to boost Irish economy

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Norsemen of Scotland

Neil Macphail:

An Oxford University scientist has traced the Y-chromosome, which determines maleness, of the founder of Clan Donald - the great Somerled of Argyll, who was born around 1100 and drove out the Viking invaders.

Geneticist Bryan Sykes says this microscopic fragment of the fearsome fighter still lives on in the DNA of half a million clansmen throughout the world. Indeed Professor Sykes says the Y-chromosome of the Gaelic warrior, who it seems had Norse blood himself, is so prevalent it could be among the most successful in the world.

Prof. Sykes and his team made the discovery almost by accident while they were researching genetic links between the Scots and the Vikings and looking for Norse Y-chromosomes.

He and researcher Jayne Nicholson had taken thousands of DNA samples from men in the Highlands and Western Isles, and spotted a group that stood out.

They were at first puzzled, then Miss Nicholson looked at the donors' names. These revealed that among the men with the identical Y-chromosomes were MacDonalds, MacAlisters and MacDougalls.

Prof. Sykes said: "There didn't seem all that much in it until Jayne said quietly that these clans were related.

"The possibility that this Y-chromosome was inherited from the common ancestor of the MacDonalds, MacDougalls and MacAlisters was incredibly exciting.

They wrote to dozens of those clansmen throughout Scotland, enclosing a sampling brush for them to collect DNA from inside their cheeks. In the samples of those who replied, they found a single common Y-chromosome. To be double sure this was Somerled's, Prof Sykes embarked on a sensitive piece of research involving the living chiefs of the Clan Donald and their septs.

He said: "I wanted to see if the clan chiefs still alive, whose recorded genealogies descend from Somerled, also shared the same chromosome. This was a delicate task. We might find one or more of the chiefs did not have it - meaning one of their paternal ancestors might have been adopted, or had not been the biological father of his heir.

He approached Lord Godfrey Macdonald, Sir Ian Macdonald of Sleat, Ranald MacDonald of Clan Ranald, William McAlester of Loup and Ranald MacDonnell of Glengary, enclosing a DNA brush.

The result was conclusive: 'They all shared the same chromosome. There was now no dought we had identified the legacy of Somerled.'

Now the only one whose lineage is in doubt is Somerled himself. Tradition says he descended from the ancient Irish kings - but Prof. Sykes says the chromosome proves his Norse ancestry.

More on Scotland's Viking ancestry:

Viking gene blamed for women's cancer

MS Linked To Influx Of Scottish Settlers

Donegal Has High Levels Of Multiple Sclerosis

Money laundering probe police raid UUP offices

Breaking News:

Ulster Unionist Party offices were raided today as part of a continuing police investigation into money laundering.

The party office inside the Castlereagh Borough Council office was visited.

A party spokesman said computer equipment and paper files were removed.

The home of Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland - also a member of castlereagh Council - was also raided by the police, party sources said.

A Police Service spokesman said: “As part of our investigation into money laundering police have carried out a number of searches in east Belfast and Castlereagh.

“Two Production Orders have been executed under the Proceeds of Crime Act in the Castlereagh and North Down areas.”

There have been a series of raids and arrests in east Belfast and its outskirts in the past fortnight as part of the police money laundering investigation.

Former Ulster Defence Association “godfather”, Jim Gray, 47, was the first to be arrested – just days after he was ousted as one of six so-called ruling “brigadiers”.

The flamboyant loyalist has been accused of possessing and concealing criminal property.

His girlfriend, 34-year-old Sharon Moss, has also been charged with 16 counts of money laundering.

A prominent Belfast estate agent, Philip Johnston, 39, – who runs a chain of six branches – was also charged of involvement in money laundering by the same team of detectives who charged Gray.

Too funny for words!

Related news:

Police raid on UUP man's offices

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Scotland offers to take rejected migrants

Peter Hetherington:

Ministers in Scotland are challenging the UK government's new immigration policy by pressing the home secretary to offer potential newcomers a home in their country if they fail criteria for entering England.

The Guardian has learned that the first minister, Jack McConnell, has held talks with Charles Clarke in an attempt to modify a proposed entry system so that prospective immigrants, who run the risk of being excluded by tough UK entry rules, will be given extra points for moving to Scotland.

In an interview with today's Society Guardian, Mr McConnell reveals that the home secretary is "open to the suggestion" of what amounts to a twin-track immigration system for the UK.

"He's very clear we can look at this option," the first minister says. "I kind of understand there is a different perspective on this south of the border ... Scotland is different on this ... we are prepared to take a lead, and the political argument, and promote Scotland on that basis ... there have been some initial discussions and there'll be more after the election."

Extolling the virtues of being given extra points for entering Scotland, under a new system which will grade applications according to the skills they can offer, the first minister adds: "We don't need to break up the UK immigration system and run it ourselves in order to benefit from an improved policy ...

"My job as first minister is to argue for that ... with colleagues in Whitehall and make it successful, but also to make the argument in Scotland that although people are nervous about immigration [they] need to realise it's in their economic and social interest for this to happen."

Although the home secretary recently announced plans to curb economic immigration by low-skilled workers outside the EU, the Scottish executive fears the proposed measures will undermine an initiative designed to bring 8,000 immigrants to Scotland annually.

The initiative, known as Fresh Talent, is seen by ministers in Scotland's Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition as a way of reversing a sharp population decline - on some estimates the most rapid in Europe.

In five years' time, population is projected to fall below the symbolic 5 million level. Mr McConnell says reversing this represents the "single biggest challenge facing Scotland".

Already the Scottish executive has established a relocation advisory service in Glasgow, which is helping to promote visa permits in Scotland. And this summer a new system will kick in, allowing overseas graduates in Scottish universities two extra years to stay in Scotland as a prelude to a longer work permit.

Mr McConnell says this represents his executive's "first big initiative" on the immigration front.

Only 2% of Scotland's population - around 100,000 - are from ethnic minorities. This compared with 9% in England and 29% in London.

Instead of using immigrants to deal with Scotland's population decline, it would make more sense to repatriate the unionists from the north of Ireland to Scotland. Since most unionists are descended from Scots and have relatives in Scotland they would be much easier to assimilate into Scottish society than immigrants.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

DUP man says 'Irish' should be dropped from Lions title

Ireland On-Line:

A DUP councillor from Belfast has complained about the inclusion of the word 'Irish' in the name of the British and Irish Lions rugby team.

Nelson McCausland said he had written to the rugby authorities to express his unease at what he described as "political correctness run amok".

He said the team had for decades been known as the British Lions, but the name appeared to have changed in recent years to include the word 'Irish'.

He said the team was drawn from the British Isles and should be known only as the British Lions, despite the fact that 11 of this year's squad are Irishmen.

Just when you thought that the British colonists in the Six Counties couldn't get any pettier they somehow manage to find a way to reach even new lows.

Irish economy will remain strong

Business World:

Delegates at the IAPF conference were told today that growth in the Irish economy over the next decade should continue to outpace the Eurozone and OECD area.

Dermot O'Brien, economist with NCB Stockbrokers told delegates at the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) Annual Investment Conference in Dublin Castle, that strong underlying fundamentals should ensure that growth in the economy will remain sufficiently strong to withstand the impact of elevated oil prices and higher interest rates.

O'Brien said that the rate of increase in Irish residential property prices should ease to 5% or 6% in 2005 but he saw no likelihood of a property crash even if interest rates were to increase by a couple of percentage points.

The NCB economist also told the IAPF conference that he expected growth in Irish GDP this year of around 6% rising to 6.5% next year, helped by the impact of maturing SSIA savings.

"Because of Ireland's unique demographics and economic structure, growth is likely to remain strong for the remainder of the decade working out at perhaps 5 to 5.5% per annum," stated O'Brien.

The economist's medium outlook was that Ireland had the capacity to continue to generate impressive growth rates of 4 to 4.5% in the following ten years. Moreover, he argued that Ireland's economic performance was being underpinned by continued growth in population.

Related news:

Irish consumers not living beyond means

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Decolonization of Northern Ireland

Here is an interesting proposal for an united Ireland from an email that I received recently:

The Decolonization of Northern Ireland

Monday, April 11, 2005

Davy Stockbrokers amends Irish growth forecasts upwards


There are no signs of a slow down in the growth of the Irish economy. Davy Stockbrokers has raised its growth forecasts for the Irish economy for the next two years mainly because it sees no indications of a dip in housing activity.

A report released today from economists Robbie Kelleher and Rossa White predicts that gross national product will expand by 5% this year and next year, compared with their previous forecasts of 4.2%.


McCartney sister takes a "bite" out of President Bush

Irish Voice:

Catherine McCartney certainly knows how to bite the hand that recently fed her and her sisters. On St. Patrick’s Day President Bush opened his door to the sisters and closed it to Sinn Fein after the tragic murder of their brother Robert in a Belfast bar. The sisters’ campaign to see justice done has had a huge impact in Europe and the U.S., and deservedly so.

Despite Bush’s generous gesture it appears Catherine, a lecturer in history and politics in Belfast, formed less than a stellar opinion of Bush during their visit to the White House.

In an interview with The Village, a weekly magazine in Ireland, Catherine was outspoken about the American president. “On a personal level I find it very, very difficult to put ‘Bush’ and ‘justice’ in the same sentence. But I was trying to work around that,” she said.

“That man, as you know, doesn’t even have a clue as to where Ireland is on the map, but it was getting to the ones behind him…people who have an impact. Not Bush himself.”

Hmm. That hardly seems fair. Bush has been to Ireland twice since his presidency began and has certainly had several discussions on the Irish peace process with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

McCartney is revealing the bias that seems such a part of the animosity that people in Ireland have to Bush — but it is surprising given how much he has done for the McCartney campaign that she voiced it so publicly. It is hardly likely there will be a White House invite next year.

It seems that Catherine McCartney hates American Republicans just as much as she hates Irish ones.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Vikings in Scotland


Marauding warriors with horned helmets who slaughtered monks and carried off treasures are at the heart of the popular image of the Viking invasions of the British Isles.

However, a new study gives a more wholesome picture of the invasion, revealing how the far north was colonised by Viking families looking for somewhere new to set up home, especially those from the western seaboard of Norway where fertile land was in short supply.

Viking exploits are thought to have started with the sacking of the monastery at Lindisfarne, around AD 793. Evidence of how Vikings came to dominate coastlines stretching from Shetland and Orkney to the Hebrides comes from a study disclosing the genetic contribution of Viking women.

It is published in the journal Heredity by Dr Sara Goodacre, from the University of East Anglia, with colleagues in Oxford and Reykjavik.

The team surveyed 500 members of modern North Atlantic populations and combined the data with earlier studies.

The study showed the presence of two forms of Viking DNA: one - the Y chromosome - that is passed only from father to son, and another - mitochondrial DNA - that is only passed down female lineages.

The team discovered that the Viking settlements set up closer to their homeland, such as those on Shetland and Orkney, seem to have involved similar numbers of men and women.

Because the overall number of Vikings was lower in Orkney, the team suggests that there was a greater subsequent influx of people from the mainland to dilute the Viking blood.

The study also showed that the Viking genetic signature from the frontiers of their empire, such as the Scottish Western Isles, the Isle of Skye and Iceland was strongly male biased.

The pattern matched what one would expect of colonisation, said Dr Goodacre. More secure settlements close to colonial strongholds seem to have been founded by families, while more distant ones fit the popular image of male invaders who took local wives.

The work backs archaeological, place name and linguistic evidence that suggests complete Norse cultural dominance of Shetland and Orkney during the Viking period.

So much for claims that the Scots are a "Celtic" people.

Related news:

Revealed: The softer, caring side of the marauding Viking

Few obstacles to Irish economic growth

Business World:

Goodbody's chief economist, Dermot O'Leary, has painted a largely optimistic picture of short-to-medium term growth in the Irish economy, forecasting 6% GDP and 5.4% GNP growth this year.

The Q2 2005 Irish Economic Commentary also forecast a major consumer spending boom ahead, helped in large part by the up-coming SSIA windfall with a total of E14.5bn due to be released from the scheme over the course of 12 months starting in May 2006.
This will provide an unprecedented windfall for the Irish consumer and should act as a catalyst for a fall in the current excessively high savings ratios. After a relatively muted period of consumption growth over the past three years (2.9% average since 2002), we expect the Irish consumer to lead the positive economic story over the forecasting horizon.

For next year, O'Leary said he expects GDP and GNP growth to exceed 6% as Ireland's unique demographics among the 15 EU member states point to continued expansion.

The Irish population is forecast to grow by 23% over the next 20 years (reaching about 5.6m), relative to less than 3% in the EU-15. This is underpinned by strong immigration growth rate projections, as well as Ireland having the highest birth rate in the EU.

Related news:

Employment growth driving economy - AIB

Karol Wojtyla was no friend of the indigenous Irish of the Six Counties

Danny Morrison:

The loyalist prisoners in Crumlin Road all cheered and whooped with joy and we were convinced that a Catholic had been killed overnight. We had no radio in our cell but quickly learnt that the news had announced the death of Pope John Paul, who had been pope for just 33 days.

His successor, Karol Wojtyla, was elected shortly afterwards and took the name Pope John Paul II.

Various historical and political repercussions have been attributed to John Paul II’s papacy, not least that his visit to his homeland, Poland, in 1979 — when millions turned out to hear him and got a sense of their real strength — provided the impetus to the Solidarity trade union movement and the eventual downfall of communism.

That same year, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich announced that the Pope would be visiting Ireland from Saturday, September 29 until Monday, October 1. The Holy See said that the various details of the visit had yet to be determined, and there was great speculation about the reaction of unionists and possible disturbances if the Pope came North. For Northern nationalists, who felt deserted and beleaguered, it would have been spiritually galvanising and on a par with John Paul’s visit to the beleaguered Poles under communist rule.

At the time, I was firmly convinced that neither the British nor Irish governments, nor sections of the Catholic hierarchy, wanted him to visit the North. Firstly, this was a state whose proud badge was “No pope here”. A visit would have presented a security nightmare given the likelihood of Paisley-led protests — Ian Paisley had only recently topped the poll in the first European elections — and the possibility of riots or worse. Loyalist protesters would have exposed themselves as narrow-minded bigots at a time when the thrust of both British and Irish government propaganda was to hold the republican movement responsible for all violence.

Were the Pope to have stood on the soil of the Six Counties, how could he have remained silent about the reality of life there? On the one hand, he could certainly have spoken about the ferocity of the IRA campaign. But, on the other hand, he would have had to address the violence of the state and thus embarrass the British government.

He would have had to speak about the torture of those held in interrogation centres; the sectarian loyalist assassination campaign against Catholics for being Catholic as well as nationalist; the beatings in the H-blocks; and about Armagh prison, where women were locked up 24 hours a day, deprived of exercise, visits, letters, toilets.

Even Cardinal Ó Fiaich had described the H-blocks as “one of the great obstacles to peace in our community”.

On August 27, an IRA bomb killed Lord Louis Mountbatten and three others in Sligo Bay. A few hours later, the IRA killed 18 British soldiers in two landmine explosions near Warrenpoint. Even though Lord Mountbatten had been killed by the IRA in the South, it was announced that the Pope would not now be visiting the North because of “the upsurge in IRA attacks”. A Northern visit that should have been undertaken for pastoral reasons was cancelled for political reasons.

Two weeks later, there was speculation from sources in Rome that the Pope would make “a major speech on terrorism and injustice”. Closer to home, Bishop Cahal Daly said that “the Pope may ask the IRA to put away its guns”. It was easy to see what way the wind was blowing.

There was massive disappointment in the North among the faithful. But people — including many republican supporters — began frantically raising funds and organising buses to go to Drogheda in Co Louth to hear the Pope. I was amazed and a bit disturbed at the zealotry. Perhaps if I had been the Catholic I once was, I would have been able to empathise but I saw only the politics of this visit and expected the play of propaganda and the same things we had been used to hearing before. I remember how deserted our streets were the day he came to Drogheda.

I listened to his speech on television.

Pope John Paul II on his knees begged republicans “to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace. You may claim to seek justice,” he told us. “I, too, believe in justice and seek justice… Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish.”

I waited for some analysis — however superficial — of the causes of violence, about the inequalities caused by partition. He referred to Oliver Plunkett’s head but not to the people who cut it off.

He addressed the politicians. He started off with a token pretence to equivalence of treatment: “To all who bear political responsibility for the affairs of Ireland, I want to speak with the same urgency and intensity with which I have spoken to the men of violence.” But it was only advice he wanted to give them: “Do not cause or condone or tolerate conditions which give excuse or pretext to men of violence.”
Bishop Cahal Daly’s fingerprints were all over the speech, and an opportunity was squandered to put pressure on the British government to resolve the prison crises and encourage republicans to view an alternative to armed struggle.

In June 1981, after the deaths of the first four hunger strikers, Cardinal Ó Fiaich went to Margaret Thatcher and appealed to her to make some changes in the prison regime to resolve the hunger strike. She said it would be wrong to give any concessions to the prisoners and fulsomely quoted the Pope’s 1979 speech on the “men of violence” to justify her position. Subsequently, British governments were to quote Cardinal Cahal Daly’s stance in refusing to meet with the Sinn Féin president and MP for west Belfast, Gerry Adams, as part justification for their refusal to talk to Sinn Féin.

“Men of violence” was a phrase coined by Brian Faulkner when he introduced internment in 1971. After direct rule in 1972, it was used extensively by British secretaries of state and prime ministers. It was a phrase that had pro-British and anti-republican connotations. By no stretch of the imagination was the Pope’s use of this phrase simple naivety or coincidental.

And so, despite the Falls curfew, internment and Bloody Sunday, the British men of violence were allowed off the hook and were not asked to account for the children, women and men they had killed, for the prisoners they had tortured. Papal excoriation was for one side only — the weakest side, the oppressed.

Yet an obvious disparity between the Pope’s criticism of the IRA and the reality of the wider nature of the conflict came at the youth Mass on the Sunday. Two teenage victims of British and loyalist violence were introduced to the Pope. He warmly greeted 19-year-old Richard Moore, who had been blinded when he was 11 by a British army rubber bullet, and 16-year-old Damien Irwin, who had lost a leg when loyalists bombed the route of an Easter parade in Belfast in 1977. But their details and the causes of their suffering were never included in any speeches the Pope made because to have done so would have been to raise questions about the nature of the conflict and why he had condemned only one side.

John Paul II also urged adherence to traditional Catholic moral values and denounced abortion, divorce, contraception, sexual promiscuity and drugs — thus calling into line the changing and changed morality of most Irish Catholics.

However, it was typically his denunciation of the armed struggle that was given most prominence. And so we had discriminating editorials like that in The Irish Times, which called on the IRA to say: “The Pope was right. There is another way” — but did not make the same call to the 400,000 Irish women on the pill.

Two days after the Pope left Ireland, loyalist gunmen burst into the home of 42-year-old Sadie Larmour, just off west Belfast’s Falls Road, at around tea time and shot her twice. Her sister and her 78-year-old mother were also fired on but escaped injury.

Sadie Larmour died 15 minutes later. When her death was announced on the radio, loyalist prisoners in Crumlin Road jail cheered and whooped with joy.

Hopefully the next Pope will be better than the one that just died.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Former head of Police Federation to contest election for DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party is believed to have chosen a former head of the North's Police Federation as one of its candidate for the upcoming British election.

Jimmy Spratt is expected to contest the May 5 election in South Belfast, where he will be seeking to replace Ulster Unionist MP Martin Smith.

A controversial figure, Mr Spratt once called for the resignation of the Police Ombudsman over her damning report into the police investigation of the Omagh bombing.

Related news:

Spratt to stand for DUP

Former head of Police Federation to contest election for DUP

Election campaigns heat up with parties trading barbs

Paisley rules out power-sharing with SF

Truth and justice for the victims of British terrorism

Daily Ireland:

Relatives of people murdered as a result of collusion between British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the North of Ireland are to meet Irish President Mary McAleese later this week.

Organised by the justice group An Fhírinne, the meeting will give relatives an opportunity to tell the president their individual stories.

Among the group will be Belfast man Billy Campbell, whose 21-year-old son Gary was gunned down by the Ulster Volunteer Force in November 1990.

The father of one was watching television in his New Lodge home in the north of the city when two men burst into the living room and shot him twice in the chest. The victim’s partner and young child were both in the house at the time.

Weeks after his murder, the UVF falsely claimed the young man had been a member of the IRA.

Three weeks after the murder, the gun used to murder Gary Campbell was also used to kill Raymond Robinson at business premises close to the Antrim Road. Again, the UVF falsely claimed the dead man had been in the IRA.

A former UVF commander from Mount Vernon in north Belfast is understood to have been a member of the hit squad that murdered Gary Campbell.

The former commander is believed to have been involved in almost a dozen sectarian murders across the district in the 1980s and early 1990s. The loyalist killer is widely believed to have been an RUC Special Branch agent at the time that Gary was murdered.

Billy Campbell, Gary’s father, said: “Gary had only been in that house for a few weeks before he was killed. The man who lived there before him was also called Campbell and was always getting hassle from the army and police. I think they believed this man still lived in that house when they went there that night. I believe that Gary was killed by men who were supplied with information from the security forces.

“The car used by the gang to kill Gary was never found. That is very strange. I never heard of the getaway car not being found before. What were its movements before and after Gary was killed? That is just one of the questions that remains unanswered.”

Billy Campbell said the pain of his family’s loss was still evident, even today.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. I remember it as clear as the day it happened. I spoke to him shortly before he was killed and he said he was coming around to my house to watch the football. The first I knew he had been shot was when a neighbour came to my house to tell me.

“My brother Sammy, his wife Colette and another man were killed when a British army Saracen ran them down in 1975. When I went to the Mater hospital to see about Gary, the same doctor that cared for Sammy came to me and said the exact same thing to me in the exact same place almost 15 years later and I knew my son had died.”

The grieving father said it was vital that the truth be revealed of the circumstances leading to his son’s death.

“Most of these people are forgotten victims, remembered only by family members. But, for us, it’s very important to highlight the cases again and demand explanations for the circumstances leading up to them. With the help of local organisers like Seán Kelly, people are able come together in An Fhírinne and campaign. I have been to London and Brussels and I hope to explain my circumstances to the president of Ireland. Four people in my immediate area were the victims of collusion. Throughout the New Lodge, there have been between 80 and 90 people impacted as a result of collusion.

“It’s not just about my son. Everybody involved in this campaign needs answers. Many people don’t want to drag up the past because it is a painful thing. But there are others who do need answers. All we are asking for is truth and justice. For many, they don’t want big showdowns in courts. All they need is the British government to acknowledge that it had a part to play in the murder of innocent people. Simple truth and justice, that’s all we ask.”

Unfortunately, the world media is unlikely to give these people the same level of coverage that they gave to the McCartney sisters.

Orange Order Protestant minister does Pope jokes

Daily Ireland:

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is facing calls to expel one of its most high-profile ministers after he admitted doing impressions of the Pope while the ailing Pontiff was critically ill.

The Co Antrim-based Rev Stephen Dickinson, who serves as the Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order, also told anti-Catholic jokes at the gospel rally in Drumbo Presbyterian Church Hall near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Rev Dickinson compered the event, which was attended by several senior DUP figures including Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson. According to witnesses the minister launched into an impression of the Pope suffering from Parkinson’s disease towards the end of proceedings.

Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Rev Dickinson confirmed he had “taken the mickey” out of the Pope and the Catholic faith but did not intend to cause any offence.

However, Sinn Féin and the SDLP has called on him to resign following his ill-timed remarks. Sinn Féin Lisburn councillor Paul Butler said: “It’s disgraceful that a religious figure can come out with comments like this while the Pope was clearly very ill.” SDLP Assemblywoman for the Lisburn area, Patricia Lewsley, echoed this view. “If Rev Dickinson doesn’t resign the Presbyterian Church should do the right thing and kick him out."

Once again British unionism shows its ability to be disgusting.

Ireland should see GDP growth of over 5% in 2005

Business World:

While there will be challenges to the Irish economy, including labour shortages and pensions shortfalls, GDP should still reach 5.5% this year, according to Friends First Quarterly Economic review.

Jim Power, Chief Economist at Friends First, said the Government must ensure that the Irish economy continues to develop and exploit its growth potential into the medium-term. He said the Government should examine a number of areas including a proper migration policy to attract skilled workers for a jobs market nearing saturation, while also bringing the pensions issue to the top of the policy agenda to ensure that the 'retiring poor' do not threaten Ireland's economic future.

He went on to say that the housing market continues to be buoyant, and is no closer to a sharp setback today than five years ago.

The labour market continues to perform very strongly and total employment should increase by at least 50,000 in 2005, equivalent to a growth rate of around 2.7%. The unemployment rate looks set to reach 4% later this year, the lowest in the Eurozone, the review said.

More good news about the Irish economy:

Irish GDP will grow at 6% this year and 6.5% over the following two years, AIB Global Treasury has forecast.

In its latest Quarterly Outlook on the Irish economy, the AIB Capital Markets division delivers a highly upbeat assessment of growth prospects underpinned by the significant rise in population and employment growth.

The economy remains close to full employment, says AIB, with the unemployment rate projected to fall to 4% by 2006.

Things just keep getting better and better for the Irish economy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Racism in British-ruled "Ulster"

Daily Ireland:

In 2002 the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) published a report entitled Race and Racism in Northern Ireland: A Review of the Research Evidence.

This report stated that the issue of ‘race relations' in the North had emerged from almost complete obscurity to one of considerable legislative and political concern during the post-ceasefires period.

Many of the attacks on ethnic minorities in the North, particularly against the Chinese community, have been orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries who have close links with far right groups such as Combat 18 and the White Nationalist Party.
The attacks include verbal abuse, pipe bombs, arson, white supremacist leaflets nailed to doors, swastikas and racist graffiti on walls. But many go unreported.
One Belfast estate agent, who had ten tenants forced out of their homes within 12 months, claimed he had been approached by loyalist paramilitaries warning him not to rent houses to “Chinese, Blacks or Asians".

The British National Party (BNP) is attempting to capitalise on the situation and has announced it is to field candidates in the 2005 Belfast council elections.

The question is why does so much of the mainstream media focus on the Provisional IRA and yet ignore the racist violence being perpetrated by British loyalists?

Sinn Fein's Gaeltacht victory

Irish Examiner:

SINN FÉIN yesterday won its first seat in elections to the Gaeltacht authority.

Party candidate Gráinne Mhic Géidigh took a seat in the Údarás na Gaeltachta poll for the Donegal area.

Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin described the victory as a historic breakthrough for the party.

“Sinn Féin stood in this election on our agenda for change in relation to the role of Údarás na Gaeltachta, rebuilding the peace process and campaigning for Irish reunification,” he said.

“Sinn Féin will use our mandate for change and our priorities on the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta will be job creation, reform of Údarás na Gaeltachta to make it relevant, accountable and democratic and an integrated strategic plan, which would look at all the language needs of the Gaeltachtaí.”

Well done Gráinne Mhic Géidigh!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Ireland lowest eurozone jobless in March 2005

Business World:

Ireland, with 4.3%, had the lowest rate of unemployment in the eurozone where the average edged up to 8.9% in March, EU statistics office, Eurostat said today.

Eurozone seasonally-adjusted unemployment stood at 8.9% in February 2005, compared to 8.8% in January, Eurostat said.

It was 8.9% in February 2004. The EU25 unemployment rate was 8.9% in February 2005, unchanged compared to January. It was 9.0% in February 2004.

In February 2005, the lowest rates were registered in Ireland (4.3%), Luxembourg (4.4%), Austria (4.6%), the United Kingdom (4.6% in December 2004) and the Netherlands (4.7% in December 2004). Unemployment rates were highest in Poland (18.1%), Slovakia (16.2%), Greece (10.5% in September 2004) and Spain (10.3%).

In February 2005, the unemployment rate for under-25s was 18.5% in the eurozone and 18.8% in the EU25. In February 2004 it was 18.0% and 18.8% respectively. The lowest rates for under-25s were observed in Denmark (7.4% in January 2005), the Netherlands (7.4% in December 2004) and Ireland (7.9%), and the highest in Poland (37.6%), Slovakia (28.8%), Greece (26.3% in September 2004) and Italy (24.0% in December 2004).

Related news:

Eurozone February unemployment stable at 8.8 per cent

Euro zone jobless rate edges higher