Friday, September 30, 2005

Integrity query a right cheek

Robin Livingstone:

The biggest – some say the only – defeat suffered by Ian Paisley during his political career came in 1977 when the Official Unionist Party used its loaf for once and put some clear blue water between it and the doughty doctor.

Convinced that the UWC strike could be made to work again and keen to associate himself with a great loyalist victory the way he had failed to in 1974, Paisley called the Prods out in protest at what he said was the unwillingness of the Labour government of the day to take on the IRA.

The organisation of what was to become known as 'Paisley's Strike' was undertaken by the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC), a loose coalition of the UWC, the DUP and certain of the loyal orders. That's organisation in the loosest sense of the term – the words 'booze-up' and brewery spring to mind. Some union bloke smoking a Park Drive and wearing horn-rimmed specs assured Paisley that he could bring Ballylumford out with the click of his fingers; unfortunately he forgot to tell the workers who remained ignorant of their central role up to the very last minute.

The Orange Order – led by Rev Martin Smyth – and the OUP – led by Harry West – figured out very early on that the whole thing was a shambles and got offside. Later, in a fit of pique, Paisley lacerated UDA leader Andy Tyrie, but somebody quickly reminded him that it was the fellas with the masks and pickaxe handles who had won the day in 1974 and the DUP sued for peace with the loyalist paramilitary group. Consquently Andy's men were on the street applying the kind of gentle persuasion they're known for when the strike began.

It was announced that the strike would begin on May 3 and Paisley declared: "I am only remaining in public life to see this thing through, and if it fails then my voice will no longer be heard." It started badly and went downhill from there. Violent intimidation was rife and the UDA clashed with the RUC and British army, but after an initial series of confused and sporadic walk-outs and stoppages, it was clear that the economic and social life of the North was continuing as normal. As the inevitability of failure hit home, Paisley's bluster and bravado turned to damage limitation. "Whatever happens out there is no responsibility of mine," said Paisley as the violence continued and the six counties continued to work. "If the British army and Mr Mason bring about circumstances in which this happens, that is their business."

There was one final, desperate attempt to get the Ballylumford workers out. On the fourth day of the strike Paisley was driven to Larne to address the power workers personally. On the way down, a colleague in the car with him said Paisley told him: "I'm finished if this doesn't work."

It didn't. Ballylumford stayed open and the strike staggered on embarrassingly into the ninth day, although hardly anybody noticed. Asked to make good on his promise to go away if the strike failed, Paisley denied that it had been a damp squib and said he was going nowhere. Meanwhile, Martin Smyth and Harry West sat back and thanked their lucky stars.

A couple of things occur. Reg Empey's first act of any note as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party was to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ian Paisley when the DUP leader made his infamous unquenchable fire speech ahead of the Springfield Orange parade. It was a decision that disappointed a lot of people – myself included – who know Sir Reg to be an astute and capable politician. Getting in frame with Ian Paisley is a bad idea at any time, but getting in frame with Ian Paisley when the Orange drums are pounding is bound to end in tears. The UUP has since been trying without much success to clear up the mess left by the collision of the party's traditional law and order stance with its DUP lite reaction to the recent riots. Why Sir Reg wanted to join in a fight picked by his number one political rival and fought on his terms is anybody's guess.

Secondly, it's a bit rich for the DUP to call into question the integrity of Rev Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid when the party's leader, himself a man of the cloth, reneged on his promise to jack it in if his attempt to close the place down failed. There are a lot of things on which Ian Paisley can speak with authority: the Reformation, for one; evangelical revivals, for another. But when he starts to talk about integrity, we're entitled to wonder where his was when the 1977 strike collapsed.

IRA move has turned everything upside down

Unionism lying in utter disarray

Birmingham six apology appeal

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ireland moves up in competitiveness rankings

Ireland On-Line:

Ireland has moved up four places in the international competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Ireland is now ranked 26 out of 117 economies ranked by the WEF.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin welcomed the improvement.

However, Mr Martin said: "In the context of the forthcoming Partnership talks there is still a concern about the pace of growth in labour costs. Wage moderation combined with improved productivity will be critical to maintain cost competitiveness.

The Minister also noted that Ireland scored well on companies’ capacity to absorb technology.

Ireland up four places in WEF rankings

Ireland improves competitiveness ranking

DUP exposed as political pygmies

Brian Feeney:

So far so predictable. Once again the leaders of unionism have positioned themselves where they are happiest – isolated, beleaguered and looking stupid. Everyone knew that's where they would seek refuge. While the Irish and British governments, the US and the world's media all take as read that the IRA has disposed of its arsenal and ceded control of the republican movement to Sinn Féin, only the DUP pretends to believe it hasn't happened. They are the flat-earthers of politics.

The really tedious aspect is the credibility local journalists lend to the nonsense the DUP churns out. The DUP expects people to believe that General de Chastelain, Tauno Nieminen and Andrew Sens travelled half-way round the world to meet up with Fr Alex Reid and the Rev Harold Good for the sole purpose of constructing an elaborate con trick to dupe the DUP in the full knowledge that whatever they said the DUP would reject. Does the DUP seriously expect anyone to believe that?

Yet instead of treating them with ridicule, local journalists indulge the DUP's bare-faced political dishonesty and cowardice with real questions. In response they receive a torrent of incoherent half-truth and non sequiturs. Typical is the non-issue of whether all IRA weapons have been disposed of. How would anyone, including the IRA, ever know? There's absolutely no doubt that years from now rusty revolvers and rifles will be uncovered in hedges and ditches. So what? They are no longer part of an IRA arsenal. The DUP knows full well that arsenal had been rendered unusable which is what the Irish and British governments wanted and are satisfied has happened.

Even more important for the purposes of the exercise, that is what the republican leadership wanted.

For some years now they have been anxious to unburden themselves of the IRA's weaponry. The breakthrough in the 2002 Dail elections demonstrated that the continued existence of the IRA as a fully armed guerrilla army was a hindrance rather than a help to republican political ambitions. The decision to get rid of the weapons was not to please the DUP but because, for the first time in history, holding weapons was no longer a way of advancing republicans' goals.

In fact, since last Christmas convincing the IRA to stand down as a military organisation rather than just getting rid of weapons became republicans' priority. The principle of decommissioning had been accepted by the movement years ago.

Sinn Féin is now free from the encumbrance of an IRA which has been redundant as a military force since 1997.

Sinn Féin can now participate fully in Irish political life north and south of the border. It remains to be seen how long it will take the unionist community to catch up with this reality. At present they seem unable to raise their eyes above their own wee dunghill which they elect the risible DUP to crow from the top of.

As Gerry Adams addressed himself to the British and Irish governments, American supporters and unionists, the DUP's leaders resolutely confined their response to their own voters, the only people in the universe who could possibly believe their nonsense. Never were they more exposed for the political pygmies they are, preying on the fears of an electorate they have gulled for years. Their press conference on Monday can be summed up in the phrase. 'Stop the world, I want to get off'.

The political task for the British administration is to find a way to lure the DUP from their hideyhole and persuade them to sit around a table with Sinn Féin.

What the British cannot be allowed to slide away from in the meantime is the disarmament of loyalist paramilitary groups.

Like unionist politicians, British ministers here have never exerted any pressure on the UVF and UDA to disarm and disband.

True, it was rather difficult since the Stevens report revealed that the security forces acted as accomplices of both organisations in murder and therefore members of both UVF and UDA could testify to the nefarious activities of RUC Special Branch and MI5 over the years. So there's no reason to be confident of an end to the British ambivalence towards loyalist paramilitaries which remains unchanged after 35 years.

DUP now needs to bite the IRA bullet

Hypocrisy must stop

They haven’t gone away, you know

Transforming politics on the island

O’Hagan case handover call

What will DUP do to save the peace process?

A good day for peace

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

General John de Chastelain will not see loyalists decommission if "he lives to be 208", a prominent loyalist has said

BBC News:

The general said he was satisfied the IRA had given up all its weapons, and said he hoped loyalists would as well.

Sammy Duddy, a member of the Ulster Political Research Group - which advises the UDA, said loyalists would not follow the IRA's lead.

"The general has no chance of seeing that achieved. Should he live to be 208, he'll never see it," he said.

"He's living in cloud-cuckoo-land if he thinks the loyalists are going to decommission and do what the IRA's doing.

Of course, the British and Irish governments - along with the media - will ignore the ongoing violence from the British colonial population in the Six Counties as they try to think up more excuses to isolate Sinn Fein.

Rioting subsides after five days


Ciarán Barnes:

Decommissioning chief General John de Chastelain will today announce that the IRA has put its arms beyond use.

The announcement that the general and two independent witnesses have seen the disposal of the weapons will change the political landscape. It will clear the way for the British and Irish governments to restore devolved government.

Pressure will now mount on the Democratic Unionist Party to enter talks with Sinn Féin to get the political institutions and cross-Border bodies up and running.

General John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, is expected to give a news conference today with two independent witnesses saying that he is satisfied that the process has been carried out and completed.

The clergymen who witnessed the process were the Catholic priest Alex Reid and Harold Good, former president of the Methodist Church of Ireland.

Statements are also expected today from the IRA, the British and Irish governments, and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Speaking at an Irish unification rally in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Adams urged republicans and unionists to work together.

“I believe that the IRA in the near future is going to honour its commitment to put its weapons beyond use.

“Such an announcement will have a huge impact on the political process.

“I know it will be difficult for many republicans. There will be some who are concerned about the future.

“But I believe that we need to face up to this opportunity in a positive mood,” he said.

Mr Adams told the rally that the move would be a huge sea change not just for republicans but for the entire island.

The west Belfast MP added: “When the IRA delivers, when our opponents and our enemies no longer have the IRA to use as an excuse, what are they going to do?”

Mr Adams’ comments received a warm response from foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern and secretary of state Peter Hain.

Mr Ahern said he was confident the IRA would fully decommission its arsenal.

He said the focus would now shift on loyalist paramilitaries and predicted the DUP and other unionist parties would not be “dancing in the aisles” at news of IRA decommissioning.

Mr Hain warned that any decommissioning move must be credible enough to convince unionists.

He said that, once unionists knew decommissioning was credible, moves could be made towards restoring devolved government in the North.

However, DUP leader Ian Paisley accused the British government of making a “secret deal” with the IRA that excluded the need for an arms witness acceptable to unionists.

He said the IRA “called the shots” on decommissioning by refusing to allow photographic evidence of weapons and explosives being destroyed.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey welcomed news of IRA decommissioning but said time would be needed to assess the validity of any such move.

In other words, the unionists will continue to refuse to deal with Sinn Fein.

Disarming is a brave but dangerous move

IRA move means no more excuses

Monday, September 26, 2005

A clip with a hurley isn’t going to stop a loyalist pogrom

Robin Livingstone:

Can’t say I’m over the moon about the IRA getting rid of its weapons. Not because I want them to go back to shooting elderly UDR milkmen up country lanes, or because I think it’s a good idea for them to resume lobbing barrackbusters into PSNI stations or anything.

No, it’s a purely selfish concern – more a self-preservation instinct than anything else. Perhaps I should explain...

The last major loyalist pogrom in the North took place in August 1969 – I should know, my Beano collection and my Matchbox cars went up in the flames.

What happened was that a huge crowd of baying Prods came flooding down our street burning houses as they went. Think of the mob with flaming torches in the Frankenstein movie making their way up the mountain to the castle and you’ve got the picture.

The loyalists burnt what they wanted to burn for the simple reasons that there was nobody there to stop them. Well, there were people there, of course, but they didn’t have any guns and that lot weren’t likely to be deterred by a stern ticking-off or even a clip with a hurley.

If there’d been somebody at the bottom of my street with a machine gun, though, we’d have been alright. One volley over their heads and they’d have been back up to the Shankill quicker than you can say educational underachievement/weak community infrastructure.

Next day the place looked like the village in Saving Private Ryan, but even as the houses smouldered, amid the sullen anger you got a sense that this would never be allowed to happen again.

And it hasn’t. Well, up to now anyway because the tidal wave of petrol bombers has so far been held back by a dike built of hard experience and eastern European materials.

Certainly there have been regular leaks in the form of peaceline confrontations, but there’s a reason why the restive sectarian hordes don’t raze the terrifyingly vulnerable Short Strand or why the Orangemen in bowlers and their supporters in baseball hats don’t pour over the Springfield Road into the little terrace streets: some bloke would step out and let off a burst on full automatic and they’d have to leg it pronto.

I don’t mind admitting that if the people who burned Belfast last week made it as far as my street, in the sure and certain knowledge that Trevor would be otherwise engaged, I would be very grateful for the assistance of P O’Neill and Comrade Kalashnikov.

True, angry loyalists are not likely to make it as far as my gaff so I can afford to be fairly sanguine about this dumping arms business, but you can bet your last Northern Bank fiver that some people in the Short Strand, north Belfast and Portadown are tugging anxiously at their shirt collars at the prospect of the IRA giving up their gear.

Maybe the Irps are in for a bit of an Indian summer.

Report is joke says McCord

The high cost of Protestant hatred

Worst violence in decades

IMC slavishly toes the British line

A campaigning Belfast priest was targeted for assassination by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) with the full knowledge of RUC Special Branch

Ciarán Barnes:

An extract from UDA and British army double agent Brian Nelson’s diaries reveal that Fr Des Wilson was to be the subject of a loyalist murder bid in the late 1980s.

Nelson was asked by a leading loyalist from the upper Shankill in west Belfast to gather information on the priest, however, his Special Branch handlers warned him not to become involved.

Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Fr Wilson said he had no idea loyalists were intent on killing him two decades ago.

He said Special Branch never warned him that his life was under threat and accused detectives of a dereliction of their duty.

Fr Wilson said: “This is news to me, but in truth I am not surprised.

“The police never warned me I was being singled out for murder, they derelicted their duty.

“If they had approached me I would have simply taken reasonable precautions, but it would not have prevented me from what I was doing.

“I knew what I was doing upset the people in power, including Special Branch.”

Fr Wilson was involved in developing social and economic initiatives to combat deprivation in Belfast. His work often brought him into contact with members of the loyalist community.

“I could talk to them and while I knew some were enlightened and shared the same views on education and community development, at the same time I knew they could not prevent me or would not prevent me from being shot.”

Nelson’s diaries came to light in the early 1990s after his cover was blown. He was relocated to England by the British army and is reported to have died there in 2003.

And people wonder why the indigenous Irish Catholic population of the Six Counties does not trust the British.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Is DUP up to the job?

Robin Livingstone:

So just what do the UUP and the DUP talk to the UVF and the UDA about when the North and West Belfast Parades Forum convenes? It's a fair question, but we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for an answer.

I seem to remember that when the IMC issued its first report, it recommended sanctions against any groups that were proved to be consorting with paramilitaries. Of course, those words were aimed at community groups with Shinners on the board, but when the UUP and the DUP have tea and buns with loyalist paramilitaries to discuss a parade and the upshot is that the place is wrecked, you wonder what the difference is.

The DUP is fairly elastic about when it's going to sit down and talk to Sinn Féin – according to who's speaking at the time it's either never or when hell freezes over. And yet even as they're refusing to get together with Sinn Féin to hammer out a solution, the DUP is happy to rub shoulders with men who are killing each other over drugs, trying to kill Catholics in their beds and stabbing teenagers in the back.

If the result of the largest unionist party refusing to talk to the largest nationalist party was political stagnation and the continuation of direct rule, well, you mightn't like it, but it wouldn't be so bad. But the fact is that this chronic hypocrisy leads to sectarian murder and mayhem, both of which we've seen in abundance in recent weeks and months.

It's only five months since the DUP practically obliterated the UUP in the Westminster elections. And when the votes were counted and crowing began, the DUP had nothing, not a word, to say about educational underachievement, poor social infrastructure, joblessness or hopelessness.

Far from it. They stuck their chests out, waved their Ulster flags and loudly proclaimed that unionism was reinvigorated, newly confident, that it wouldn't be pushed around any more and the days of unionist leaders being an easy touch were over. The IRA statement was the DUP's first big test.

It was always going to be the case that the British would have to respond, but given the great game that the DUP talked back in May, loyalists had every right to expect that the London response would be at worst niggardly, at best non-existent. In the event, even republicans were surprised by the speed and scope of what happened next: the dismantling of security bases in Divis and South Armagh, the halving of troop levels and the dissolution of the home units of the RIR. If that had happened on David Trimble's watch more hills would have to have been marched up, more red berets donned and more shotgun licences waved in the air.

It's no wonder, then, that the DUP changed its traditional response to street riots in the wake of the Springfield parade madness. Rather than urge the cutting of water, power and heat and the deployment of the SAS, the DUP called for a financial package and blamed the violence on everyone except the Orange Order and the paramilitaries. Not surprising that they would do that really, because if the ordinary people of the Shankill and the Albertbridge were to sit down and think about it for a second, they could only blame the DUP for the pickle that unionism and loyalism is in at present.

The DUP's only achievement as the leading unionist party has been to lead the Protestant people from Trimbleite apprehension to Paisleyite despair. Perhaps the real reason that the party prefers sitting in draughty Orange halls with paramilitary drug-dealers and killers to facing down republicans in a democratic open forum is that it knows, deep down, that it's just not up to the job.

It's later than the unionists think

Adams criticises Hain

Little ink devoted to loyalist rampage

Sinn Fein Claims SDLP Excludes

Nearly 150 warned of threat to lives in loyalist feud

Violence pays

King Fought Off Smear Campaign

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bubonic plague tested off coast of Scotland

BBC News:

Scotland was used as a testing ground for weapons containing bubonic plague, according to secret defence papers which have been made public.

A fishing boat crew from Fleetwood in England was accidentally exposed during testing and then covertly monitored.

The exposure happened during MoD tests of biological weapons in 1952.

Pontoons containing live monkeys and guinea pigs were moored off the coast of Lewis and clouds of bubonic plague were exploded above them.

But a trawler unwittingly steamed into the danger zone and Ministry of Defence ships shadowed the craft for weeks to monitor any emergency calls about the health of the crew.

All documents about the affair, apart from a sanitised Admiralty report, were ordered to be destroyed and the incident remained secret until now.

The tests were part of a biological weapons research programme based at Porton Down in Wiltshire conducted between the second world war and the mid-1950s.

However, islanders said the tests were an open secret locally at the time.

Trawler crew exposed to deadly plague test

Revealed: how naval intelligence tested lethal 'plague bombs' off Scotland

ECB president praises Ireland


The president of the ECB, Jean Claude Trichet, has highlighted Ireland as an example of how countries can succeed within the euro area.

Speaking to The Irish Times, he also said that the present oil-price increases were less likely than previous rises to damage economic prospects, and expressed confidence that Britain would join the euro zone in the future.

When asked why growth was slow in Europe despite the introduction of the euro, Trichet said that economic reform was holding back Europe's economy and pointed to Ireland as an exception.

"There is an overwhelming consensus of academic institutions that the call for structural reform - made not just by us but also by the commission, IMF, OECD and others - is not matched by delivery. Those who have been doing these reforms have been magnificent performers. I quote Ireland," he said.

Trichet sees eurozone growth at 1.9pc

ECB chief praises Ireland as model for growth

Trichet urges reform from Germany, others-pap

Basra attack echoes SAS actions in North

Jarlath Kearney:

Sinister covert operations by British forces in Iraq are “reminscent of the activities of the SAS" in the North, a leading human rights campaigner said last night.

Paul O'Connor, of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), demanded that the British government “break the cycle of abuse" imposed by its forces.

He also questioned the “sheepish" decision by large sections of the media to “report the MOD line as established fact".

Mr O'Connor was speaking to Daily Ireland after further details emerged about an incident in Basra on Monday afternoon involving undercover British operatives.

The incident drew parallels with the March 1988 attack on the funeral of IRA volunteer Caoimhghin Mac Bradaigh.

During that incident, two armed and undercover army intelligence operatives drove directly at the cortege in west Belfast. After firing a shot, both soldiers were subsequently captured, beaten and shot dead by the IRA.

In Monday's incident, both undercover soldiers are reported to have opened fire after being stopped and challenged by Iraqi police. An Iraqi policeman was shot dead, but the undercover soldiers were overpowered and held in an Iraqi jail.

However, a major British Army operation then commenced to break the men out of prison. The operation involved the perimeter wall of the jail being destroyed by a British tank. During the assault, British forces came under sustained attacks from local people using petrol bombs and rocks. Nevertheless, both British covert operatives were successfully recovered.

Many commentators have noted the similarity between the activities of British forces in Iraq in recent years with British actions in Ireland over the past three decades.

Speaking last September after the British government's controversial decision not to establish a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, former secretary of state Paul Murphy alluded to the similar activities.

During a BBC interview, Mr Murphy commented: “Many of the operational techniques that would be discussed in the inquiry would be used currently in the war against terror."

Mr Murphy subsequently left the Northern Ireland Office in May and became chairperson of the British government's intelligence and security committee.

It has also been widely reported that Brigadier Gordon Kerr is now stationed with British forces in Iraq. Brigadier Kerr played a key role in the activities of covert British activities in the North as the commanding officer of the Force Research Unit/Joint Services Group.

Referring to the recent actions of British forces, Paul O'Connor said: “It is not at all suprising and is in fact for many people reminscent of the activities of the SAS here when they engaged in shoot-to-kill missions.”

“Distressing as it is to see the human rights violations repeated in Iraq, it is equally distressing to see the media follow sheepishly behind the MOD line, so you have broadcasters like the BBC reporting a number of highly contested aspects of this affair as established fact," Mr O'Connor said.

“We have the situation where all British soldiers in Iraq are keenly aware that in their ranks were convicted murderers – Fisher and Wright – one of whom had since been promoted," Mr O'Connor added.

A fortnight ago, the PFC organised a meeting in London addressed by lawyer Phil Shiner who is representing more than 50 families of Iraqi citizens killed by British forces. Mr Shiner outlined systematic abuse – up to and including murder – practised by British soldiers in Iraq, specifically mentioning the ordering of prisoners to cut off the fingers of other prisoners.

Mr O'Connor said: “We have to break this cycle of abuse."

British troops in pitched battle in Basra

British “Pseudo-Gang” Terrorists Exposed in Basra

Belfast, Basra, Baghdad… new labours for a new American century?

Similarities Between Iraq and Northern Ireland

‘Getting Away With Murder – From the Bogside to Basra’

Fear is based on a conspiracy theory

Brian Feeney:

In 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon. Their exploits attracted the biggest live TV audience in history.

Nevertheless, there are some nutters, almost exclusively in the US as you'd expect, who believe the moon landing never happened – that it was all a studio mock-up.

Aldrin in particular has been plagued by these nuts.

In 2002, Bart Sibrel, a publicity-seeking conspiracy theorist, confronted Aldrin shouting "liar, coward, thief", demanding he swear on the Bible that he'd never been to the moon. The 72-year-old Aldrin produced a beautiful, textbook left hook to silence Sibrel. His attempts to prosecute Aldrin were dismissed.

Sibrel should try his luck here. Unionists are likely to vote for him in large numbers. Why not? They've been voting for his political equivalent here for decades.

Since it was established in the 1970s the DUP's prospectus has been based on a gigantic, fearsome conspiracy theory and the party has prospered as a result. It's a classic, the sort of conspiracy theory which has fooled gullible people through the ages.

The DUP version which developed out of the Paisleyite conspiracy theory of the 1960s essentially claims "'Ulster' is in danger' and repeats that ad nauseam.

"'Ulster' is in danger" from a powerful, malevolent alliance – Washington, London, Dublin, the IRA, the EU, the Pope (whoever he may be for the time being), the UN, Martians, MI5 and the CIA. They're all 'agin the unionist people'.

The conspiracy takes various forms. Last week it took the shape of the chief constable, the Parades Commission, Peter Hain, the PSNI – individually and collectively – and of course 'the meedja'.

They were all agin the unionist people. Somehow they all knew to act in concert at the same time. That's the power of dark forces you see. At all times in the decades-long conspiracy, unionists are up against tremendous odds, a necessary but not a sufficient requirement of conspiracy theorists.

The NIO is agin unionists because it gives more money to Catholics. Protestants are worse off and are being discriminated against in jobs and investment. As you can see, conspiracy theorists present what is at bottom a political fraud, a lie.

Protestants are not worse off.

They are not discriminated against. Catholics do not get more money. No matter. The power of the conspiracy theory has always been that it provides a simple explanation for complex problems.

It always offers a slogan, a mantra to explain poverty, depression, frustration. It also, more dangerously, identifies an enemy to blame. Paisley himself has been adept at manipulating the fears of unionist voters over the years. There's always a crisis, a threat.

It's always doomsday, the last ditch.

None of it is true of course. 'Ulster' is not in danger. Less so now than ever. All elements of nationalism and the Irish government have agreed the future of the north lies in the hands of its voters.

Ah no, protest the Paisleyites. It's a trick to lure us in. Things have never been worse. We'll never talk to Fenians because you can't trust them. We'd be tricked into selling the pass. Sir Max Hastings in the Guardian last week addressed this fraudulent political diet the Paisleyites feed their naive supporters.

He concluded that: "Unionists' transfer of allegiance to Paisley and his kind represents a rejection of rational politics. No constituency which gives its political support to such a leader as Paisley possesses a plausible vision of its own future."

So this week as the IRA completes the decommissioning of its main arsenal, the DUP will deny it happened as they deny any decommissioning has ever happened. They must do so because their fraudulent conspiracy theory requires a bogeyman, and the ultimate DUP bogeyman is the IRA. Can anyone begin to explain why London, Dublin and Washington all accept the IRA's bona fides and General de Chastelain's testimony and are satisfied the IRA's weaponry will be gone next month if it isn't true?

Dead simple. They're all part of a conspiracy agin the unionist people. This is a time therefore when the unionist people must be more vigilant than ever.

It would be interesting to know how many DUP voters agree with Sibrel. Does Paisley make any more sense?

Unionists labels PSNI ‘scum’ after march riot

Fitt found his feet at Thatcher’s heel

Days Of Unionist Domination 'Gone Forever' - Says McGuinness

Hain challenges loyalist groups

Loyalist 'Low Lifes' Tormenting People - Says Durkan

Lack of leadership is as criminal as rioting

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

SF excluded from SDLP conference

BBC News:

The SDLP has excluded Sinn Fein from a conference to discuss its new campaign to promote all-Ireland cooperation.

The party is holding the conference on its North South Makes Sense campaign at Stormont on Thursday.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan invited what he described as "democratic parties from the south" to the event to discuss "the need for all-Ireland cooperation".

He said Sinn Fein was not invited because it was a rival party which did not involve them in its events.

Mr Durkan said the campaign was aimed at delivering benefits for everyone on the island.

Except, apparently, for anyone who votes for Sinn Fein.

North counting cost of riots

Carissa Casey:

When the full cost of last week's riots is counted, the North may find its coffers are a little less full than in recent years.

After decades of generous public spending, the North's budget - due next month - is expected to show the first slowdown in public spending growth in decades. With public expenditure accounting for 67 per cent of the North's GDP, any change in spending is inevitably significant.

Indeed, according to some sources, it demonstrates the first attempt by the British exchequer to wean the North off its dependency on the public coffers. This comes after a year of slackening economic activity and weakening consumer confidence in the face of political uncertainty.

The two bright spots on the economic horizon - a small recovery in the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) and increasing numbers of foreign tourists over the last few years - are both likely to have been damaged by last week's riots.

The level of FDI in the North has floundered in a difficult market since its peak of stg£530 million in 1997/1998.

Last year, the level recovered slightly to stg£195 million.

But Invest Northern Ireland, which is responsible for attracting FDI, has been embroiled in controversy since the summer, amid claims that it spent its entire stg£150 million budget for the 2005/2006 period in the first two months of the financial year.

Invest Northern Ireland denied the overspending, but admitted some activities have had to be scaled back.

According to a spokesman, pressures on public funding have generally increased and the agency's budget is now focused on “those projects and programmes that add most value to Northern Ireland's economy and that demonstrate a significant degree of innovation'‘.

Media coverage of rioters back on the streets of Belfast will do little to help the North's image as a good place to do business. “Should the events of the past few days prove to be short-lived, they are not expected to have a significant impact on economic development in the long term,” said the Invest Northern Ireland spokesman.

The tourism sector is also trying to calm fears of negative repercussions from last week's events. Last year, more than two million tourists visited the North, spending stg£406 million.

According to Malachy Finnegan of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, indications for this year were “very good'‘.

While there was not much movement in terms of visitor numbers, revenue growth was ahead of the previous year and he remained reasonably upbeat on the prospects for the rest of the year.

However, the overall economic picture is not encouraging. The Economic Outlook for Northern Ireland, published by First Trust Bank last week, makes for depressing reading, especially since it was written before the riots.

It forecasts slower economic growth and a rise in unemployment. According to the writer, Michael Smyth of the School of Economics at the University of Ulster, the recent rioting is only likely to make a bad situation worse.

Smyth believes the outlook for the North's economy is less favourable than for years. “As economic growth in Britain falters and growth of public expenditure becomes more constrained, it is inevitable that the level of economic activity will be affected,” he said.

However, the region will benefit from a planned stg£16 billion investment in infrastructure under the British government's investment strategy for Northern Ireland. But according to Smyth, much of this investment will simply bring infrastructure up to a level it needs to be at anyway.

Smyth is not alone in his pessimism. In June, a business confidence survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed a sharp fall in confidence in the North's economy among local businesses.

However, it is unlikely the British government will be deterred from its plans to tighten spending across the board.

Government spending in the North exceeds locally-collected revenue by some stg£6 billion each year.

The North's 11 government departments face increasing budget scrutiny, and civil service numbers are to be cut.

Householders will probably feel the pinch from higher rates. Perhaps this unpleasant dose of fiscal reality carries a political message - it may be time for the North's politicians to start running their own affairs.

Unionist lie will come back to bite

Loyalists cruise nationalist areas looking for Catholics

This is real deprivation

Monday, September 19, 2005

Edinburgh's ethnic advice centre to double in size as city demand grows

Joanna Vallely:

AN ADVICE centre for the Capital's ethnic minority communities has doubled in size after seeing a big rise in demand for its services.

Staff at the city's Pakistani Advice Centre explain to new arrivals in the country how the Scottish system works when it comes to health, housing, education and other vital concerns.

They can also help overcome language and cultural barriers by acting as middlemen for immigrants dealing with the local authorities. The centre was opened by members of the city-based Pakistan Society in 1999 to help those who had just arrived in the Capital.

The centre's reputation has also meant immigrants from countries other than Pakistan and the Scots-born children of former clients are now turning to it for help.

In order to cope, the centre has found new premises at 137 Buccleuch Street, just a few doors from its present base.

Nearly 30,000 living in Edinburgh were registered as being born overseas in the latest 2001 census - 6.5 per cent of the city's population. That census showed Pakistanis made up the second largest group of immigrants in Scotland.

Since new laws were passed last year, all successful applicants for British citizenship have to take part in a citizenship ceremony.

The Pakistani Advice Centre is the first port of call for many of these city residents, acting as a citizens' advice bureau. Staff stress that although the centre is dedicated to helping the immigrant community, its services are open to all.

The centre provides resources like youth clubs, women's groups and sports clubs and holds computer classes in a dedicated computer training room.

It also houses a racial incident reporting centre and staff liaise with police on the victim's behalf and assist both parties with any language difficulties.

Councillor Shami Khan, a founder member of the centre, said most of the people using it were Pakistani, but Indians, Bangladeshis, Chinese and Scots also used its services.

He said: "Word of mouth has made demand for our services grow.

"Many who came at the start were asylum seekers and now they are fully-fledged citizens they continue to use our services."

Mohammed Shaffi, director of the Advice Centre and the Pakistan Society in Edinburgh, said the new building offered huge advantages.

"There is much more room as we now have around 1200 sq ft instead of 600 sq ft and we finally have disabled access toilets and a private meeting room we didn't have before."

The centre is also looking for funding to recruit more staff to help its two part-time advisors.

Ijaz Nazir, an executive member on the advice centre board and this year's recipient of the Good Citizenship Award, said the centre played a vital role in helping members of the ethnic minority community.

"There are men and women who came from Pakistan to marry here and maybe don't speak that much English so they don't know where to turn if something happens to them."

Of course, if the British government would just relocate the British colonists in the north of Ireland to Scotland then there would not be any need for these "ethnic advice centres" since the colonists - being of British ancestry - already speak English and are already familiar with British culture.

North heartland's unionism belongs in a trailer park

Tom McGurk:

Last Saturday night the unionists of Belfast treated us to an evening of truly surreal proportions. Outside City Hall, thousands waving Union Jacks were part of a live BBC broadcast of the last night of the proms. They sang lustily. Donegal Square echoed to Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.

Meanwhile, not a mile away in North Belfast others had also hoisted the Union Jack and were aiming automatic gunfire and blast bombs at their Queen's soldiers. Imperial sunsets are inevitably bizarre but who could have scripted this one?

To readers of this column, the loyalist riots in Belfast will have come as no surprise. The endemic political and social crisis in the loyalist heartlands is something we were considering long before it finally made last week's headlines. Here is a community in self-destruction mode. A community whose leaders seem utterly incapable of understanding the new political realities in the North.

The imposition of equality of citizenship on the old colony makes for painful learning; unionism is fast running out of people to blame for its own collapse into sectarian anarchy.

As the smoke cleared across North Belfast, the bombast of rhetoric about law and order and paramilitarism and arms and violence we have been hearing for years from political unionism emerged in a whole new subtext.

In the face of the attempted murder of police officers, widespread anarchy, robbery, intimidation, arson, looting and carjacking, not a single unionist political leader could bring himself to utter a single word of condemnation. The Orange Order press conference that followed the riots left one gasping at a display of utter hypocrisy.

For many years, some of us have known about the deeply dysfunctional political and sectarian psychosis at the heart of loyalism. Perhaps the only consolation to emerge from last weekend's performance is that the rest of the world now knows it as well. And, as has been his wont for years, the moment the reality of Paisleyism's panaceas emerged in its true colours on the streets, the Big Man was nowhere to be seen or heard.

It is important to understand just how different this riot was from the traditional Belfast riot scenarios in order to understand the dimensions of the crisis that unionism is now facing.

Days before the march erupted on the Springfield road, a source in Belfast told me the bush telegraph was indicating that loyalist paramilitaries would use the parade ban to provoke a major confrontation. Their preparations were already well advanced and their rationale was two-fold.

First, under increasing pressure in their own communities due to sustained criminality they needed a device to reemerge as “protectors'‘ in those communities. Second, and most remarkably, they are seemingly deeply disturbed by the notion of IRA weapons decommissioning.

Over and beyond the wider politics of the North, the self-defence role of the IRA in Catholic communities has been understood for many decades. Such was the implicit sectarian nature of partition, the lives of front-line Catholic communities - particularly in Belfast - have always been held hostage to fortune by loyalism. Any perceived change in the wider political status of the Catholic community and they were liable to get it in the neck. It was precisely this historical, Pavlovian response in 1969 that induced the birth of the Provisional IRA.

Last weekend was, at one level, an exploration by loyalist paramilitarism into new post-IRA ghetto politics. Would the PSNI be able to protect nationalist areas, and, equally, might a sustained attack shake or undermine the new IRA position?

The PSNI also was well aware of the new subtext and perhaps this goes some way to explaining the Orange leaders' accusations of heavy-handed police tactics. Importantly, given the reality of ghetto politics in the North, the fact that the PSNI was so effective in a post-IRA ghetto confrontation is one of the few consolations to come out of the battlefield.

What was also singularly different about this riot was the careful planning and the extent to which violently anti-social elements in the loyalist communities used it as a cover for their own criminality. The widespread incidents of armed robbery, the removal of a cash machine, the looting of shops and even the targeting of carefully selected business premises - perhaps with a view to subsequent loyalist paramilitary business - suggests that this wasn't just a spontaneous reaction to a march ban.

Perhaps the most significant implication for unionism in the long run was the signals from their heartlands last weekend that the paramilitary gangsterism now dominant in these communities had eclipsed elected political representatives.

Now the unionist political obsession with an IRA on ceasefire over the last decade, to the exclusion of any consideration of the threat of loyalist paramilitarism, has exploded in their faces. Who couldn't argue now that loyalist paramilitaries actually represent the greatest threat to their own communities?

In the face of this eruption of sectarian fury and civil anarchy, the DUP and UUP now look like players without a plot. From the beginnings of the peace process, their agenda was to resist any attempt at fundamental change in the hope that, sooner or later, the republican agenda would collapse under the weight of its paramilitarism.

Now, to their utter dismay, that hasn't happened and with IRA decommissioning. about to utterly change the face of Northern politics, political unionism is up the creek without a paddle. They can, of course, continue to refuse to come on board politically, but perhaps some may even consider the consequences of that decision, given the social crisis their own communities face.

With its vicious sectarianism, its educational and financial failure and its dysfunctional inability to seek an objective critique of its crisis, heartland unionism is now most reminiscent of an American white-trash trailer-park. Loyalism is now synonymous with poverty, dysfunctionality and social breakdown.

Somebody has to do something to save these people from the hellish logic of their own prejudices. It clearly isn't going to be political unionism as currently constituted.

Onward Christian soldiers

Anger over BBC Drumcree film

Why isn't this shown on the BBC?

Shadowy group linked to collusion and murder

Truth must come out

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dodd’s double standards

Ciarán Barnes:

Democratic Unionist Party MP, Nigel Dodds, has been taken to task over comments he made following nationalist rioting in Ardoyne in comparison to the comments he made in the wake of this week’s loyalist violence.

After serious trouble in Ardoyne following a July 12 Orange Order parade Mr Dodds described rioters as “deplorable”.

He said: “The scenes of intense violence which has left so many police officers and members of the press injured are a scandal and a disgrace.

Mr Dodds also said the throwing of blast bombs by the Continuity IRA “clearly demonstrates premeditated, organised violence on the part of republican paramilitaries”.

During the riot in Ardoyne nine explosive devices were thrown at the PSNI along with scores of petrol bombs.

Recent loyalist violence saw paramilitaries open fire on the PSNI, throw hundreds of blast, pipe and petrol bombs and hijack scores of vehicles.

Although condemning the violence Mr Dodds did not make specific reference to loyalist paramilitaries.

The North Belfast MP said: “Having endured so much at the hands of republicans over a very sustained period, the community does not deserve to have this type of violence inflicted upon it from within.

“I would urge people not to become involved in street violence since it is leaving in its wake a trail of destruction, putting local people in fear and setting back the regeneration of the area.”

North Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McCleneghan said Mr Dodds’ comments highlighted unionist double standards.

She said: “It is time that all unionist political leaders, Ian Paisley, Reg Empey, Nigel Dodds, began to show leadership on the issue of loyalist violence.

“The public message seems to be that there is an acceptable level of loyalist violence, particularly if it is only nationalists and working class Protestant communities that are suffering.”

Loyalist warning

An awful display

SDLP condemns Orangemen over latest Garvaghy move

Scottish nationalists demand apology over oil lies

Douglas Fraser:

AN apology was demanded yesterday for "30 years of lies" about Scotland's potential if it had sole access to North Sea oil revenues, with a claim that reserves at current prices are worth £1.5 trillion(£1500bn).

The call came from the Scottish National Party after a secret Whitehall dossier was published, showing Labour ministers were told in 1975 that Scotland could have become one of the strongest economies in Europe, yet said the nationalist strategy could not work.

A top economist told ministers the extent of the oil revenue boom was "in large measure disguised from the Scottish public" in official projections.

Kenny MacAskill, SNP deputy leader at Holyrood, said the document showed Scotland had been denied its "rightful wealth", which could have transformed it in the same way as Canadian provinces and Arab sheikhdoms.

"They knew for 30 years that Scotland was sitting on a bountiful presence that would have transformed our economy for the better," he said.

Jim Mather, SNP enterprise spokesman, said the Scottish Office had "tried to prove that a godsend was a curse. Since oil was discovered they have talked it down, telling us it would soon run out."

Showing just how much Scotland has lost

Can SNP capitalise on a gift in Labour heartland?

Westminster’s guilty secret

Oil revenue would solve a lot of problems

Oil gets blood pumping in chamber

Wir Jack can be a slippery customer over the oil question

Labour’s state of abject denial about oil

Fuel crisis? Here’s how we could easily be billionaires

The barrel loads of lies must stop now

‘Selfishness’ and Scottish oil

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gene makes redheads more sensitive to the cold

Audrey Gillan:

Not only are they more likely to burn when the mercury rises, but they also feel the most pain when it drops.

Researchers at Louisville University in Kentucky have discovered that people with ginger hair are more sensitive than most. A study released yesterday shows that the presence of a ginger gene means many redheads need extra doses of anaesthetic during surgery because they suffer pain more acutely.

Scientists compared the pain tolerance of 60 ginger-haired volunteers with 60 brunettes. The redheads began to feel pain at around 6C (43F), unlike the volunteers with dark hair, who did not really begin to flinch until the temperature got down to freezing.

Researchers think that the ginger gene, known as MC1R, may cause the temperature-detecting gene to become over-activated, making redheads more sensitive to the cold. It is hoped that this research can be used to develop better pain-relieving drugs and anaesthetics.

Daniel Sessler, the director of the university's outcomes research institute and department of anaesthesiology, said the study had confirmed anecdotal evidence that redheads were more sensitive to certain types of pain.

"After a previous study we received more than 100 communications from redheads who claimed that anaesthesia often failed or that unusually high doses of local anaesthetics were required to achieve adequate analgesia," he said. "It suggested that the redhead gene may have some role in the pain pathway. That redheads are subject to sunburn and skin cancer must be linked to the difference in pain sensitivity."

Vanessa Collingridge, a red-headed television presenter and author, said: "I am like a reptile because I am so cold-blooded. I have caught hypothermia twice while filming in Scotland - and that was during the summer. Redheads are known for having lower pain thresholds and my midwife even warned me when I was giving birth to my son Archie. I usually need a double dose of anaesthetic when I go to the dentist."

Simon Cheetham of Red and Proud, a website that claims to represent redheads, welcomed the research, but said it shattered the myth of the tough, ginger Scottish male.

"The stereotype of a Celt is a wild, kilted man with red hair who takes no notice of the temperature," he said. "In fact most redheads don't really like extremes of temperature."

Why the big chill makes redheads blue

Are redheads harder to knock out before surgery?

Loyalist deprivation claim refuted

Ciarán Barnes:

Official statistics have blown a hole in unionist claims that weak community infrastructure and a lack of funding are contributory factors behind recent loyalist rioting.

Nationalist politicians have accused unionists of using the deprivation claims as an excuse for the three days of loyalist violence, which has resulted in 63 arrests.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey yesterday said recent loyalist rioting was “much more deep-seated than many are prepared to accept”.

He claimed that loyalist communities were “now suffering more deprivation, more educational underachievement and greater unemployment than ever before”.

Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Diane Dodds accused the British government of neglecting those areas where the violence had been most intense.

Reports commissioned by the Department for Social Development, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and other government agencies reveal that Catholic areas suffer greater deprivation than their Protestant neighbours.

The department’s research was carried out last year by Deloitte MCS. It found that Catholics are much more likely than Protestants to live in areas with weak community infrastructure.

Catholics make up 57 per cent of the population of such areas even though they account for just 44 per cent of the North’s population.

Protestants comprise 41 per cent of residents in areas with weak infrastructure but make up 53 per cent of the North’s overall population.

British government statistics have consistently demonstrated that Catholics, particularly Catholic women, are at least twice as likely as Protestants to suffer unemployment.

That statistic remains virtually unchanged despite three decades of various anti-discrimination laws.

According to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Catholic children are also more likely to have jobless parents, gain no qualifications, suffer long-term unemployment and earn less.

These findings cast serious doubt on unionist claims that social and economic problems contribute to loyalist violence, especially when the findings are combined with the Noble Index of Deprivation, which confirms that the majority of deprived areas in the North are Catholic.

Alban Maginness of the SDLP questioned the response of unionist political representatives to deprivation in loyalist areas.

“If they are so deprived and unionists are aware of this, what have they done about it and why has it not been raised and tackled before as a matter of urgency?

“This is an issue used as an excuse to cover the very serious violence that has taken place recently.”

Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Féin said disadvantage had to be tackled on the basis of need.

“Any other approach, particularly based on religious or sectarian criteria, would be a serious mistake and can only compound inequality,” said the Foyle assembly member.

Despite nationalist doubts, Belfast North Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Fred Cobain maintained that underfunding and weak community infrastructure were contributory factors behind loyalist violence.

He admitted that nationalists faced the same problems as unionists but said nothing was being done to help the people he represented.

“It’s the British government’s fault. They have ignored the issues facing working-class loyalist communities and tried to tackle the symptoms rather than the causes.

“There is not enough funding, no employment and education strategies and, when you combine this with concessions to republicans such as the release of Seán Kelly, Protestants feel disenchanted.

“Of course, nationalists suffer from a lack of funding and resources. What I’m saying is that unionists have the same problems too,” said Mr Cobain.


Census Population Stats - Cath 44 per cent, Protestants 53 per cent

Equality Commission Employment Stats - Cath 41 per cent, Protestants 58 per cent

DSD Weak Community Infrastructure - Cath 57 per cent, Protestants 41 per cent.

Noble Index of Deprivation - Two thirds of those in top 20 deprived wards in North are Catholic.

Source: ‘Indicators of Social Need for NI’, OFMDFM, September 2004

Destroying Ulster, not loving it

Loyalist electoral experiment has failed

Mob rule in Belfast

Lisa's body may be dumped in water

Government too slow to act against loyalists, says Durkan

DUP launches verbal attack on US envoy

Police stand back while roadblocks cause chaos

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sectarian hurricane rips through Belfast

Jarlath Kearney:

Ireland’s second city was yesterday recovering from a vicious hurricane of highly organised political and sectarian violence which exploded during the last 72 hours – ostensibly because of a re-routed Orange Order march.

While Belfast (or most of it) still stands, the peace process must now weather the long-term implications of the strategic storm currently being whipped up in the wider unionist community.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Sir Reg Empey claimed the widespread disorder in Belfast city and Co Antrim during the weekend was “a throwback to the 1970s”.

“Not since then have I seen such behaviour,” Sir Reg commented.

The UUP leader was talking after unionist gunfire was exchanged with the PSNI and British army; after unionist mobs invaded nationalist areas in the Grosvenor Road, in Ligoniel, in Ahoghill village and elsewhere; after unionist attacks on Catholic churches, homes and businesses; after a savage anti-Catholic assault that left a man fighting for his life in hospital; after orchestrated Orange Order street protests; after unionist political and civic leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder with paramilitaries; after Belfast was swamped by a torrential sectarian downpour.

Of course if Sir Reg had asked – and more importantly listened to – any republican, nationalist or Catholic in Co Antrim recently, then he would have better understood the comtemptuous import of his comment. In comparing the weekend’s violence with three decades ago, instead of setting it in the context of the last three months or the last three weeks, Sir Reg demonstrated a striking lack of affinity with those terrorised Catholic communities.

Sir Reg also commented yesterday that the orchestrated violence from within the unionist community was, in part, a by-product of the recent activities of republicans and the British government.

“There has been a build up of resentment that... republicans are seen to influence government by threatening force and getting rewarded for their efforts,” Sir Reg claimed.

In a final catch-all Sir Reg said while there could be no excuse for violence, “everybody has to take some of the blame” and the job now is to “analyse what went wrong”.

“Why did communities that are normally peaceful and law-abiding erupt in such an astonishing way?” Sir Reg questioned.

In the context of the virtual pogrom against the entire Catholic community over recent months, Sir Reg’s argument that the unionist communities which erupted “are normally peaceful and law-abiding”, will not be universally accepted.

Moreover, the violence emanating from the unionist community has actually intensified – not abated – since the IRA publicly announced an end to its armed campaign on July 28.

It is also notable that the UUP leader yesterday described the disposition of republicans as “threatening”, particularly when recent republican actions include ending the IRA’s armed campaign, completing the process of putting arms beyond use and committing to the peaceful pursuit of Irish unity.

However, it is clear that such a reactionary mentality within the unionist political leadership also feeds into a wider base sectarianism which pervades large sections of the unionist community.

Such sectarianism is starkly evidenced by the continued refusal of leading unionists to engage politically with the Sinn Féin leadership despite – or more likely because of – the latter’s position as the largest pro-Good Friday Agreement party in the North.

The weekend’s unionist violence was preceded last Thursday by assurances in Belfast from Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern that the Irish govenment is serious about defending the rights of its citizens in the North.

Those comments came just hours after President Mary McAleese publicly embraced the most senior UDA/UFF member in south Belfast.

During his meeting with SDLP members from across the North last Thursday, Dermot Ahern heard first-hand accounts of “escalating” unionist and loyalist violence.

In the wake of the weekend’s onslaught, Ballymena councillor Declan O’Loan, who had met Mr Ahern, commented: “The events of yesterday (Saturday) and last night call into question the entire behaviour of the unionist political sector. There needs to be a thorough government response to that.”

During a separate meeting with a senior Sinn Féin delegation last Thursday, Mr Ahern heard significant concern about the failure by both the Irish and British governments to address unionist violence.

Assembly member Gerry Kelly, who met Mr Ahern, said yesterday that both the Democratic Unionist Party and the UUP need to demonstrate “leadership which is compatible with the peace process”.

“We have unionist leaders creating a vacuum by refusing to talk to other political representatives such as Sinn Féin. Ian Paisley, who is now the head man in unionism, needs to do something about this,” Mr Kelly said.

The DUP leader Ian Paisley echoed Sir Reg Empey’s line. Mr Paisley attributed difficulties in the unionist community to the actions of republicans and the British government.

“I am convinced that a shoddy deal between the goverment and the IRA is now in place and there will soon be an attempt to make people believe that the IRA is peaceful and democratic and that they have given up all their arms. We will have none of it,” Mr Paisley said.

Reg Empey claimed yesterday that the British government “knew on Friday that there was going to be serious violence coming from paramilitary elements”.

“The police knew this also,” Mr Empey added.

Given that both the DUP and UUP openly sit on various committees and forums with leading paramilitaries, both parties now have a finger on the pulse of all elements of unionism.

However, both parties are concurrently refusing to recognise the democratic imperative of respecting Sinn Féin’s substantial mandate, through, for instance, direct dialogue or shared government in the North.

That is the societal context within which the current anti-Catholic sectarian campaign is festering.

While there is no question of Ian Paisley or Reg Empey engaging in violence, both the DUP and UUP alluded in advance to the prospect of serious disturbances over the weekend.

It is significant that both parties jointly voiced such predictions to the British government, the PSNI and the media beforehand.

The historic role of elements within the British government – such as the NIO, army intelligence and PSNI/RUC Special Branch – in strategically fomenting the activities of unionist paramilitaries is well documented.

Given that role, it is perhaps even more instructive that unionist paramilitary activity has incrementally intensified over the last three months.

With unionist political parties now predicting an almighty deluge against the final implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, could it be that there are just as many rainmakers within unionist civic, political and policing circles – such as the NIO and Special Branch – as there are within the knuckle-dragging ranks of unionist paramilitarism?

Police arrest 63 after violence

What will emerge out of the ashes?

Leaders keeping unionists in fear

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ireland ranks 8th in economic freedom


Ireland ranks 8th in the world for economic freedom, according to the annual Economic Freedom of the World Report.

The report, published in this country by the Open Republic Institute ginger group, measures economic freedom under five criteria: size of government, legal structure and protection of property rights, access to sound money, international exchange and regulation.

The less government and regulation, and the more international trade and capital flows, the "freer" the economy is rated, according to a report in the Irish Independent.

Hong Kong retained the highest rating for economic freedom, closely followed by Singapore. Based on 2003 data, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States tied for third, while Britain Canada, and Ireland ranked 6th, 7th, and 8th.

The rankings of other large economies were Germany, 19th; Japan, 30th; France, 38th; Italy, 54th; India, 66th; China, 86th.

Ireland scored a total of 7.9 out of a possible 10 for economic freedom, which was a slight increase on its 2002 score.

However, the institute says it has lost 3.5pc of its economic freedom since 1995.

There's Power In Economic Liberty

British need to get serious on loyalists

Daily Ireland:

Caleb Finnegan (22 months) was left with severe head injuries after loyalists tried to hijack his mother's car in Belfast and threw a rock through the window hitting him in the head

We hate to say we told you so, but... we told you so. Our repeated assertion that virtually the entire security apparatus of the British state is directed against republicans – from intelligence to military bases to spy towers – was illustrated with shocking clarity at the weekend when a wave of loyalist violence washed across the North with the PSNI and the British army neither prepared for it nor able to deal effectively with it.

GAA fans travelling to Croke Park for the big match yesterday report seeing helicopters over the bases that remain there. No similar sight will have been witnessed in loyalist North and West Belfast, North Antrim, Larne or Carrickfergus where the UDA and the UVF’s writ runs and where roaming herds of paramilitary thugs maintain the ability to bring ordinary life to a halt.

That the Orange Order and loyalist paramilitaries are acting in close harmony on the issue of contentious parades has been evident for some time, but when the Chief Constable of the PSNI says it, when he adds that members of the Orange Order attacked his officers, and when he lays the blame for the orgy of violence squarely at the door of the Orange Order, then such unambiguous words demand action. At the very least, that means that the Parades Commission is now required to factor into its determinations the indisputable fact that the Orange Order is not just capable of provoking violence by insisting on marching where it is not wanted, but it is likely to become engaged in that violence itself. That should have profound implications when it comes to Parades Commission rulings on future marches not just on the Springfield Road, but anywhere else that parades bring strife.

For its part, it is essential that the British government does nothing to suggest that this latest round of carefully orchestrated violence does not give its instigators what they want. Quite simply, those who organised the violence want the British government to intervene in contentious parades the way it did when it forced through the parade at Drumcree in 1996 and 1997, beating Catholics off their own streets in the process.

That this madness should take place at a time of great hope and promise is no coincidence. The IRA has ordered its volunteers to dump arms and it’s believed that a comprehensive process of decommissioning is in train, with the British response having been swift and significant. Protracted bleating by unionist politicians about the removal of spy towers and the dismantling of local units of the RIR has had little effect as the British government for once seems capable of seeing the wider picture. But had loyalist mobs succeeded in their attempts at the weekend to enter Catholic districts – in the Short Strand and on the Grosvenor Road, for instance – an armed republican response would almost certainly have ensued, much to the delight of unionists, and much to the detriment of the peace process. Which is why the British state needs to get serious about loyalist violence.

More evidence that the only way to bring peace to the north of Ireland is to remove the British colonial vermin as soon as possible.

Riots Rage in Belfast With 60 Now Injured

Belfast Riots: Desperate Acts

Loyalist streets in the grip of violence spawned by resentment and bloody feud

Springfield siege

Hain accuses loyalist paramilitaries of breaking ceasefire

Leaders must 'back forces of law'

Petrol bombers and roadblocks take Belfast back to darkest days

This is the real threat to peace

Too little loyalist leadership

PSNI ignores incitement to race hatred

Monday, September 12, 2005

British prosperity on par with the poorest US states

Fraser Nelson:

GREAT BRITAIN's steady slide down the world prosperity league tables has left it on a par with the poorest American states and cities, according to new research by the US Statistics Bureau, an official federal agency. Its findings will be seen as a fresh blow to Chancellor Gordon Brown's claim that his model for the British economy is succeeding and comes as 170 national leaders meet in New York this week to discuss poverty.

Britain would be considered the fifth-poorest state in the United States and the average citizen of central London earns significantly less than his counterparts in comparatively deprived American cities such as Detroit and New Orleans, the research reveals. While the worst US poverty remains more acute than the worst British poverty, partly because of more generous welfare provision in Britain, those on the second-lowest rung of the prosperity ladder are far better-off than their British counterparts - and would be considered middle class in the UK.

In its latest poverty report, the US Statistics Bureau gives a breakdown of incomes across all social groups, states and cities in America - allowing a full comparison with equivalent figures in Britain. If New Orleans were to be in Britain, it would be by far its richest city as ranked by disposable income after tax and benefits. The average income in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina was the equivalent of £19,980 (E29,570, $36,763) in 2003 - far higher than in inner London, Britain's richest area, where average incomes are £16,430. If each of the 50 US states were an individual country, 45 of them would be richer than Britain in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per head.

UK GDP was $26,800 per person last year; Alabama's was $28,007 and Louisiana's $29,516 per person. In 2003, the UK average disposable income (after tax and benefits) was £12,610 a year, lower than in any American state and on a par with the poorer suburbs of its poorer cities.

In Mississippi, which comes bottom of almost all US wealth tables, the average citizen took home the equivalent of £15,600 in 2003. This is meagre by American standards and almost half that of Connecticut's average income of £28,500. But average income in Mississippi towers over that of even well-to-do English areas such as Buckinghamshire, where disposable income was £14,800 in 2003, Hampshire (£13,060) and Kent (£12,903).

The poorest UK area is Tees Valley & Durham, which includes Tony Blair's parliamentary constituency of Sedgefield. Average income there was £10,743 in 2003, almost half that in New Orleans. Neither the British or American figures take into account social housing or state-provided services such as education (there is less social housing in AmericaÊthough school education is free as in Britain). But the US poverty line is drawn at a higher level than in Britain, due to higher average incomes.

Another measure of poverty, ownership of consumer durables, throws up equally startling results. Among those formally categorised as impoverished in America, 36% own a dishwasher, 73% cable or satellite television, 75% a car or truck and 75% have air conditioning. A recent UK government analysis of Britain's 12m poorest people, or the "bottom quintile" - by no means all of whom live below the poverty line - showed that only 22% have a dishwasher and just 25% have cable television.

But an income survey of the poorest 20% in both countries show Britain's welfare provision kicking in. In Britain, this group had an income after tax and benefits of £8,890 over 2003-04 - against £6,815 in the US. But when divided into five income groups, the second-lowest in America earn 33% more than their British counterparts with average incomes of £17,424 against £13,100 in Britain.

This gulf becomes more marked up the salary scale. The middle fifth in US are 68% better-off than the middle fifth in the UK (£29,520 against £17,470) and the richest fifth of Americans take home twice the £35,000 of the UK counterparts. Much of the difference is accounted for by the lower cost of living in the United States.

All the figures have been adjusted to take account of the International Monetary Fund purchasing power parity measure. The income figures are based on average household earnings divided by population.

Initiatives in the UK have not stopped the weekly incomes of the poorest 10% falling, in real terms, two years in a row.

So much for "Great" Britain.

Britain could soon be Europe's sick man again

The PSNI has been criticized after it described loyalist rush-hour protests that have brought areas of Belfast to a standstill as "harmless"

Ciarán Barnes:

A group of loyalist protesters yesterday prevented a young mother from getting home to give oxygen for her sick 13-month-old daughter. She said the protests could have tragic consequences.

Nationalist politicians last night rubbished PSNI claims that the protests were harmless. They called for action to be taken against those involved.

Loyalists are unhappy at a Parades Commission decision to restrict an Orange Order march that is due to pass through the predominantly nationalist Springfield Road area in west Belfast this afternoon.

Orangemen have been instructed to go onto the Springfield Road via the former Mackies factory site rather than their proposed route along Workman Avenue.

Angry at the Parades Commission's refusal to reverse this decision, loyalists have been planning a mass demonstration on the road today.

They have also staged several illegal rush-hour road blocks since Wednesday. These have seriously disrupted traffic but the PSNI has failed to do anything about the situation.

When asked why officers had taken no action against the protesters, a PSNI spokeswoman said yesterday: "There has been no breach of the peace. The protests have been peaceful.

"They are white-line protests involving women and children that are harmless in effect.

"To go in and make arrests would inflame the situation."

However, a 19-year-old woman who was stopped yesterday from taking her sick child home said last night that lives were being put at risk.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, was travelling in a car that was stopped at north Belfast's Ligoniel Road at 4pm yesterday. She said: "My 13-month-old daughter is on oxygen for an illness and I wanted to get her home because her supply was running out.

"I explained this to the people protesting but they wouldn't let me through. One man said: 'If we are not allowed to march down your road, you will not be allowed up our road.'

"A woman also claimed that they would burn our car if we didn't turn around.

"My daughter was becoming very distressed and I had to turn around and go to my mother's home instead but it was a very frightening experience."

On Wednesday evening, two nationalist community workers were attacked on the Springfield Road by loyalists involved in a roadblock.

Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley said the PSNI's "harmless" comments reflect its double standards and tolerance of the loyalist protests.

He said: "There has been massive disruption in Belfast as people are prevented from getting to work and keeping hospital appointments, while children have also been kept from school."

The SDLP's Margaret Walsh insisted the roadblocks were not harmless.

She said: "People have a right to protest, but protests can be carried out in a way that doesn't stop others going to work, school and hospital."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Duncan McCausland, said he feared disorder at today's main loyalist protest on the Springfield Road.

He said: "I am concerned that tomorrow may bring some disorder, but I am also hopeful that common sense will prevail."

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey have been putting pressure on Secretary of State Peter Hain.

The minister's refusal to move has led Mr Paisley to warn this "could be the spark which kindles a fire there would be no putting out".

An eleventh hour request for the Parades' Commission to make a U-turn on their decision on the parade by the two leaders was turned down last night.

Sean Paul O'Hare, spokesman for the Springfield Road Residents' Association, said: "We feel that this is another move that will create more tension. We are calling for all sides to adhere to the Parades' Commission decision."

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True oil wealth hidden to stop Scottish independence

Douglas Fraser:

LABOUR ministers were warned in a secret Whitehall dossier 30 years ago of the powerful case for Scotland becoming independent with booming oil revenues, but the information was kept confidential by Harold Wilson's government to keep nationalism at bay.

The dossier, most of which was written by a leading government economist in 1974 and 1975, sets out how Scotland would have had one of the strongest currencies in Europe, attracting international capital into its banks in the same way as Switzerland.

It argued Scotland could quickly become one of Europe's strongest economies with "embarrassingly" large tax surpluses.

The balance-of-payments deficit that dogged Britain at the time would be "swamped" in Scotland by oil revenue and would "transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic surplus".

The assessment demonstrates that the official Whitehall projections for oil tax revenue by 1980, six years after the document, were exceeded nearly 40 times over.

It shows officials advising ministers about how to "take the wind out of SNP sails", but they warned ministers to stop making any economic case against Scotland splitting from the UK, once oil revenues started flowing. The document refers to how the extent of the North Sea boom was being "disguised" by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The dossier details how a split of England and Scotland and a separate Scottish currency would force England into serious economic difficulties comparable to the 1930s slump, as it would have to import oil. It warned of an English backlash, and the possible use of force to ensure a share of the North Sea fields.

Released to the SNP under freedom of information legislation, it states that the scale of Scottish surpluses would be "embarrassing . . . and its currency would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kroner". The SNP said it had cost Scotland £200bn.

The key part of the dossier was prepared when Edward Heath's Tory government was about to lose power in 1974. Much of it was written by Gavin McCrone, one of Scotland's leading economists, who was working for the then Scottish Office. The following year – with Labour concerned by the SNP surge in the two elections of 1974, using the slogan "it's Scotland's oil" – Dr McCrone's projections for independence were circulated to a tight circle of Labour ministers and officials throughout Whitehall. Willie Ross was Scottish secretary.

Dr McCrone argued that if Scotland were independent with its own currency, it could expect to see incomes rise from a figure then clearly below English levels, probably surpassing its southern neighbour, with sustained growth for at least a decade and an end to "stop-go" cycles.

However, industrial manufacturing, then the backbone of the Scottish economy, would find it hard to compete. The suggested answer was that Scotland should use its surpluses to lend heavily to England and its other European neighbours. With proper management, "this situation could last for a very long time into the future".

When the paper was written, the UK was one year into the European Economic Community, later to become the European Union, and Dr McCrone's analysis pointed out that an independent Scotland would have equal access to all its markets. Whereas Scotland without oil would be ignored by large EEC countries, oil would give it considerable bargaining clout.

Kenny MacAskill, SNP deputy Holyrood leader, claimed the dossier countered arguments used at the time that "Scotland's too wee, the oil would run out and that it's not our oil".

He said: "A whole array of myths and lies have been exposed. This means that the Scottish Office and British government . . . knew the North Sea wasn't going to be dry as a bone by the 1980s, and that it would have transformed Scotland economically, socially and politically."

He argued Scotland had missed out on £200bn of revenue as a result of the secrecy of the 1970s. With oil prices at record highs and Treasury revenues from it soaring, the Lothian MSP added: "The North Sea is half full and not half empty, and oil is back on the Scottish political agenda."

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