Friday, October 28, 2005

Unionists in denial about decades of injustice

Jim Gibney:

The main conclusion for northern nationalists arising from the recent debate sparked by Fr Reid's Nazi/unionist comparison is unionist denial about their role and responsibility for creating the conditions which led to almost 30 years of war.

Unionist politicians are in denial about the decades of injustice they inflicted on the nationalist people of the six counties.

There was not a single unionist at a political, religious or business level prepared to accept their part in this conflict which caused huge loss of life and left a generation of people scarred. Unionists do not have a case to answer when their actions are compared to the magnitude of the Holocaust.

But unionists must deal with the reality that their Orange one-party state generated and perpetuated racist and sectarian attitudes similar to the type of hatred and prejudice that led to the Holocaust.

Their state systematically discriminated against an entire community simply because that community's nationalist identity was different and could be presented as a threat.

It is more accurate to compare what unionist leaders did here with what whites did in South Africa.

The unionist's state was every bit as immoral as the state set up by the whites. Both relied on a system of apartheid.

In the 1950s the South African parliament introduced laws to deprive blacks and coloureds of political and economic power.

In the north the unionists relied on the Special Powers Act, a system of political and economic privilege for unionists and Protestants which ghettoised and rendered nationalists powerless.

Underpinning both states was a supremacist ideology, which treated blacks in South Africa and Catholics here as less than full human beings with inalienable rights.

Lord Brookeborough, prime minister from 1943-63 set the standard. He refused to employ Catholics and publicly encouraged other employers to follow his example.

He achieved unionist's stated aim of creating a 'Protestant state for a Protestant people'.

The government was unionist and Protestant; the judiciary, unionist and Protestant; the civil service, unionist and Protestant; the police, unionist and Protestant.

The employment practices of the state's flagship industries, Harland and Wolfe, Shorts, Sirocco, Mackies, rewarded generations of loyal citizens with employment and prosperity while discriminating against Catholics.

Unionist political leaders used different devices to ensure unionist political domination.

The first unionist government very quickly abolished PR for elections and replaced it with a first-past-the- post system.

Unionist majority rule resulted.

Unionist politicians gerrymandered Stormont and local government constituencies turning unionist political minorities into political majorities such as Derry City Council.

To vote you had to be a householder or own a business. Unionists allocated houses and denied them to Catholics.

Many unionist business people had more than one vote.

The umbrella organisation that held it all together was the anti-Catholic Orange Order supported by the Unionist Party, the RUC and the 'B' Specials.

The ethos of the state was British and Orange. July 12, the highlight of the Orange Order's marching season was a public holiday.

BBC and UTV broadcast live Belfast's Orange march.

All things Irish were illegal, discriminated against or ignored. Display of the Irish tricolour led to arrest. The Irish language was not recognised. Parents regularly had difficulties or were refused the right to register their child's name in Irish. Gaelic games were treated as if they were foreign.

Add into this mix a significant strain of fundamental Protestantism which views Catholics as heretics.

At his most inflammatory Ian Paisley declared the Pope the "anti-Christ" and said Catholics "breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin". The DUP's Sammy Wilson described those who voted for Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Austin as "sub-human".

At its base and most extreme level the dehumanising of Catholics led to random sectarian violence.

Reduced to non-people it was easy for loyalists to put a bullet in a Catholic's head or slit their throat as the Shankill butchers did.

Minds filled with hatred, fear and prejudice thought it logical and legitimate.

Such bigotry also found a home among educated middle-class unionists.

Unionist political leaders have to recognise their part in creating the circumstances that led to this conflict. Unless they do they will not find their role in helping to solve it.

Loyalist working class lost cause for UUP

Boy, 13, 'targeted Catholic school'

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ireland is the most fertile country in the EU with each woman having an average of nearly two babies

The state also had the fastest-growing population in the bloc last year after Cyprus, according to a Eurostat demographics study.

The EU statistics think-tank said the total number of people in the state in 2004 jumped by 20% compared with 25.4% in Cyprus and 16.2% in Spain.

The highest fertility rates were found in Ireland with each woman having 1.99 children during her lifetime compared with 1.90 for France and 1.80 for Finland.

The lowest EU fertility rates were found in Slovenia (1.22), followed by the Czech Republic and Poland (both 1.23), Latvia (1.24) and Slovakia (1.25).

The overall rate across the EU’s 25 states increased from 1.48 in 2003 to 1.50 in 2004 while the corresponding rate for the US in 2004 was 2.07.

Now if we could just get rid of all those nasty British colonists in the Six Counties, then we would have more space for all these new Irish babies.

The Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, urges all-Ireland economic strategy


Speaking to at an economic conference in Templepatrick, Co. Antrim on the theme on cross border economic co-operation, the Minister said he hoped conditions will soon exist when the Northern executive and Assembly will be fully restored, in turn leading to resumption of the work of the North/South Ministerial Council.

"When the Council resumes its work, it is clear that its agenda will be a full one, including the taking forward of all-island economic co-operation," he said.

The Minister did note that some of the underlying macro features of the Northern Ireland economy were troubling, notwithstanding the success of certain sectors of the economy.

"The Secretary of State himself, Peter Hain, pointed out in a recent speech that public spending in Northern Ireland accounts for over 60% of GDP and that is, per head, nearly a third higher than the UK average and far higher than equivalent advanced economies across the world.

"For the record, the equivalent figure in the South is almost 34%. That statistic alone, I feel, underlines the scale of the challenge facing Northern politicians when they return to Stormont over the next while," the Minister said.

We need a Northern Irish Thatcher...

False dawn

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loyalist Michael Stone has sparked controversy by declaring that the Islamic extremists who bombed London were not "mass murderers"

Stephen Breen:

Although 52 people lost their lives in the underground and bus blasts on July 7, Stone refused to label the suicide bombers as evil.

The killer-turned-artist, who was in London at the time of the blasts, told Sunday Life the suicide bombers were "noble" men.

Said Stone: "These men were not criminals - they paid the ultimate sacrifice for an ideology which they believed very strongly in.

"I'm aware the relatives of those who died in the blasts might not be too happy with my views, but I am just trying to understand the motivation behind their actions.

"I condemn the fact they did not target a military, political or economic target and the fact innocent people lost their lives, but I can't see them as mass murderers."

The former UFF hitman will outline his controversial views in a special television programme next Thursday. Along with members of Hamas, the Afghan mujahedeen and others, Stone was interviewed by BBC's Horizon for a programme about terrorist psychology.

But it is Stone's shock views on the London bombers which are set to cause the most controversy.

He admitted that the programme makers were "stunned" by his views about the bombings in the capital.

Added Stone: "They filmed me for about five hours at a secret location but they couldn't believe it when I outlined my views on the London bombings.

"These people are from London and were completely stunned by my opinions, but I stand by them.

"The English public might not be too happy with the views but I stand by them. The suicide bombers are not like serial killers."

Leading loyalist on murder charge

Row over victims’ chief

New guidelines for CRJ

Interpretation of republican heritage runs like fault line in Southern politics

Monday, October 24, 2005

Iraqis support attacks on British troops

Sean Rayment:

Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.

The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

It demonstrates for the first time the true strength of anti-Western feeling in Iraq after more than two and a half years of bloody occupation.

The nationwide survey also suggests that the coalition has lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, which Tony Blair and George W Bush believed was fundamental to creating a safe and secure country.

The results come as it was disclosed yesterday that Lt Col Nick Henderson, the commanding officer of the Coldstream Guards in Basra, in charge of security for the region, has resigned from the Army. He recently voiced concerns over a lack of armoured vehicles for his men, another of whom was killed in a bomb attack in Basra last week.

The secret poll appears to contradict claims made by Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, who only days ago congratulated British soldiers for "supporting the Iraqi people in building a new and better Iraq".

Andrew Robathan, a former member of the SAS and the Tory shadow defence minister, said last night that the poll clearly showed a complete failure of Government policy.

He said: "This clearly states that the Government's hearts-and-minds policy has been disastrous. The coalition is now part of the problem and not the solution.

"I am not advocating a pull-out but if British soldiers are putting their lives on the line for a cause which is not supported by the Iraqi people then we have to ask the question, 'what are we doing there?' "

The Sunday Telegraph disclosed last month that a plan for an early withdrawal of British troops had been shelved because of the failing security situation, sparking claims that Iraq was rapidly becoming "Britain's own Vietnam".

I always thought that the north of Ireland was Britain's Vietnam.

British forces arrest nine Iraqis as poll shows hostility to troops

Iraqis 'back attacks on troops'

Huge majority of Iraqis want coalition to go

The "two nations" of Britain

The Business:

Wealth-Creating Britain, which takes up only 16% of the British landmass, nevertheless generates 42% of Britain’s economic annual output with 35% of the population. Wealth-Creating Britain is the country’s California (without the sunshine but with more than just Hollywood culture): it is where the private sector generates most of the country’s wealth, where most folk work for the private sector, a bulwark of the new knowledge industries, a key region of the global economy and a magnet for capital, migrants and university graduates from around the world. London is now the undisputed economic and cultural capital of Europe, the City of London the most powerful global financial centre in the world. Like California, Wealth-Creating Britain has problems, including a crumbling infrastructure, terrible state schools and serious pockets of poverty; but like California (and unlike Dependency Britain) it is also being driven by a dynamic market economy. Without Wealth-Creating Britain, the United Kingdom would not qualify for membership of the G7 or OECD, the two leading clubs of the world’s richest nations. If London were an independent country, its gross domestic product (GDP) per person would be the fifth-highest in the world, almost as high America’s and beaten only by special cases Luxembourg, (oil-rich) Norway and Switzerland. The average person in Wealth-Creating Britain generates £36,717 of gross value added (a good measure of economic output) per head compared with a pathetic £9,525 in Cornwall and £10,524 in the Scottish Highlands.

Total government spending in Wealth-Creating Britain comes to only 32% of GDP, below even low tax-and-spend countries such as Ireland (34%), America (36%), Switzerland (36%) and Australia (35.5%), despite the fact that those are all usually considered to be low tax-and-spend economies. Indeed, according to a new report from London brokers Williams de Broë, if it were an independent country, the South-East of England would boast the ­second-lowest public expenditure burden in the OECD (after South Korea, where government spending is a mere 27.7% of GDP), while Dependency Britain Wales approaches Swedish levels of state spending (57% of GDP), as does the North-East of England (56%), which means these parts of Britain are essentially socialist economies. But über-Dependency Britain Northern Ireland exceeds them all: public spending has now reached a fantastical 64% of GDP in Northern Ireland, the kind of number associated with a miserable People’s Republic of the 1970s. By contrast the size of the state in Scotland (50% of GDP) and the North-West of England (47%) is more in the European social democratic mainstream – though there are pockets in both where the size of the state approaches Soviet proportions, such as Ayrshire, where government accounts for over 70% of GDP.

Scotland is a pretty good case study in how not to run a country, which probably explains why the rest of the world ignores the socialist excesses of its recently devolved parliament in Edinburgh. Last year the state employed 28.4% of the Scottish workforce, according to unpublished ONS Labour Force Survey data; on top of that 17% of Scots were either unemployed or claiming incapacity benefit – in other words almost 50% of the potential Scottish labour force depends on the state for its income. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and once such an industrial powerhouse it was known as “Second City of the Empire”, is now the undisputed capital of Dependency Britain. More than 50% of Glaswegian households have no earned income, the highest ratio in Britain and a new high watermark for the dependency culture. According to some estimates, state-financed health spending per head in Glasgow is now higher than any other city in the world. Sadly the avalanche of money is not generating healthy lifestyles: the latest available figures from the World Health Organisation and Britain’s Office for National Statistics show that Glasgow’s average male life expectancy (68.7) is lower than Bulgaria and Bosnia (both 69 years), China (70 years) and Libya (71 years). Parts of the east-end of Glasgow have a lower life expectancy than Iran or Iraq. A similar story can be told in the rest of Dependency Britain: a boy born in Norfolk (part of Wealth-Creating Britain) can expect to live to 80, higher than any country in the world; but Liverpool’s male life expectancy (73) is closer to that of El Salvador (68) than that of leafy Elmbridge (79).

Scotland's economy at risk from growing grey army

Poor prognosis for the ‘English patient’

Brown to cut forecasts after weak growth

Friday, October 21, 2005

Comparing like with like is just not fair

Des Wilson:

How in the name of goodness could anybody in his right senses say our unionist regime was like the Nazis?

I mean, dammit, just think about it for a moment. How could anybody? Sure think what those Nazis really did and you'll see.


Created a state in which one party and one party only could rule

They isolated one section of the people, blamed them for all their troubles and publicly and officially condemned them

They put this isolated section out of jobs and professions, hindered their education, made as many of them as they could live together in places where they could not interfere with the power of the regime

They kept power away from these people and made them obey laws they were forbidden to have any part in making

They made regular attacks or pogroms against the disfavoured minority and attacked their business places and drove them out, often taking over their premises

They drove people out of their homes

They ran campaigns against gay people

They ran campaigns against Travelling people

They held mass rallies with banners and war symbols and outriders and uniforms to show who was boss

They believed and taught that they belonged to a superior race and that other races and cultures were inferior

They inducted children into their political organisations with the promise of political and employment rewards

They believed they should have a vast empire and in it they should be rulers over subject peoples

They systematically humiliated their opponents, especially the scapegoated community by violent public speeches which roused many of the rest of the people

They systematically convinced decent people, including highly civilised German people, that they should take part in all this

Now, for goodness sake, how can you possibly compare our unionist friends to that? Good heavens, man, what are you thinking of? Yes, we all know you were ambushed, we all know it was a set-up, we all know the television cameras were there to witness one more blow against a reasoned peace settlement, but really, the unionists being like the Nazis? Have a sense of proportion, man, don't let your impatience get the better of you.

I mean, those notices around Belfast's walls saying 'Irish Go Home' and 'Fenians Out' cannot in any way be compared with what the Nazis put on their walls like 'Jews Out' and all that stuff. Like, we have only had hundreds of them and you really need millions to make a case. (In this instance it is not just the thought that counts, it's the numbers.) And that man – our unionist friends elected him – Seewrong or something, sure he was only one person when he said out loud that Catholics should be burned along with their priests. I mean if two million people had said it, then of course you might have a case too. But one?

You simply must also learn, dear good friend, that true things said by republicans or democrats or suchlike just once are evil and will be remembered forever in the church halls and episcopal and political drawing rooms but false things said by our preaching friends like the late Mr Seewrong or various present reverends will be treated as if they did not happen. Once you understand that you understand everything. Knowing it will come in useful as the campaign against you continues into the far future.

Nothing quite like making peace for making enemies.

By the way, could anybody remind us which of the close friends and colleagues of the late Adolf Hitler were invited to, and entertained in, the mansions of prominent unionist leaders just shortly before the Second World War? Ribbentrop was it, or Goering, or both? Can't remember now because we decently tend to forget things like that. Quite a bit of coming and going between the Nazis and our unionist friends in those times, what?

But as the man said, not a word about the pre-war.

And by the way, just suppose the hecklers got their way and brought a case to court alleging incitement arising out of the Fitzroy ambush, have you thought what that could mean? It could mean that for the first time since the unionists took power in the North and abused it, human rights people could discuss in open court all the abuses of the regime. Just think of that. Talk about good coming out of evil!

Letter: Comparison with the Nazis

Sir - I have no problem with Fr Reid's comparison of Ulster Protestants to Nazis when I take as my starting point the modern historical event called the Plantation of Ulster.

The more recent Nazi Plantation of Poland was a mirror image of those earlier events in Irish Catholic Ulster. Catholic Poles were likewise driven from their ancestral lands and replaced with settlers from the Nazi Reich.

The Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger coined the term siedlungspolitik (settlement policy) to indicate a practical dimension to the concept of Lebensraum [expansion]. Siedlungspolitik and Plantation are synonyms. The Nazi analogy is therefore entirely apposite.

Fr Reid further riposted to those baiting him that Ulster Catholics "had been treated like animals". It is a matter of record that a major Plantation beneficiary, a man named Blennerhasset, wrote to Britain inviting settlers to come to Ulster, where, in addition to free land, they could indulge in the sport of "shooting woodkerne", who were of course the unfortunate native Ulster Catholic refugees hiding in the hills and forests.

These attitudes and practices continued to the present day through the Penal Laws and the regular anti-Catholic pogroms of the 19th and 20th Centuries. In 1849, when millions if Irish were starving to death, the great Protestant historian Thomas Carlyle referred to the Catholic Irish as "deceptive human swine". Need I say more?

William Sharkey,
Alton, Hampshire,

Media's war against republicans far from over

Patronizing report

Maria McCourt:

The latest report of the Independent Monitoring Commission says exactly what everyone expected it to — that the IRA has done just what it said it would do. Nearly. With the patronising tone so beloved of the men who draw up these reports, the commission says the IRA’s move away from violence is showing “encouraging signs”.

There are a few of the usual meaningless attempts to affect insider knowledge by reference to some incidents whispered out of the side of the mouth of some spook in a back room. Having rejected the commission in the past as a convenient conduit for untrustworthy British intelligence, we are not going to turn round now and welcome its latest guardedly positive report.

Instead, we reiterate our contention that it is unsustainable that political progress on this island should effectively be in the hands of a number of elderly men in suits who are making life-and-death rulings on the basis of secret briefings, most of them from the agents of the British state in Ireland.

Of course, yesterday’s statement is far from the end of the matter. There is another hoop for republicans to jump through in the shape of another commission report in January. Justice minister Michael McDowell says that report “will provide a greater test over a longer period of the extent to which the Provisional movement has abandoned criminality in all its forms”. Presumably the report after that will provide an even greater test, and the one after that…

The decision to restore moneys payable to Sinn Féin MPs is the reversal of a decision that should never have been made in the first place. Republicans in the North have long since learned to stop saying “thanks, guv” for something that is theirs in the first place.

Can Adams Fundraise?

Former SF Leader Wants Name Cleared

Mbeki says unionists need not fear change

Unionist-dominated councils to face Equality Commission probes

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Scotland's population has been projected to rise over the next 15 years before falling below five million

BBC News:

Figures published by the registrar general predict a population falling below five million in 2036 - 19 years later than previously thought.

Registrar General Duncan Macniven said more births, fewer deaths and immigration were behind the rise.

However, he said figures suggest Scotland would become an ageing nation.

The figures showed Scotland's population would be expected to peak at 5.1million in 2019 and then slowly declining, reaching 4.86 million by 2044.

The number of people of working age has been predicted to fall by 7% from 3.18 million in 2004 to 2.96 million in 2031.

The number of people of pensionable age has been expected to rise by 35% from 0.97 million in 2004 to 1.31 million in 2031.

Mr Macniven said that, despite the figures, Scotland was not facing a population crisis.

"Scotland's population is predicted to rise over the next 15 years thanks to slightly more births, slightly fewer deaths and more people coming to Scotland than leaving," he said.

"But we will still be an ageing nation because our birth rate has declined since the 1980s and our population is likely to fall from 2020, while the rest of the UK is on a rising trend."

First Minister Jack McConnell said the figures dispelled the notion that there was "a brain drain" in Scotland.

He added: "They dispel the notion that we're haemorrhaging talent and they recognise that Scotland is an attractive place in which to live and work.

"But we have to build on that and ensure more people are attracted here in the future, or the population decline will return and we'll see that population age at the same time."

Mr McConnell called on people in Scotland to get behind the executive's efforts to attract new people to live and work in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives said the figures offered little long-term comfort.

The party's enterprise spokesman, Murdo Fraser, said: "Whilst these figures show a modest population rise up to 2020, there is no comfort in the long-term as we can see a steady decline to under five million by 2036.

"All the evidence shows that the underlying factor for any population is the strength of the economy.

"Where it is strong, people have greater self confidence and larger families. A country with a strong economy will also attract immigrants."

Of course, the best way to solve Scotland's long-term population problems is to relocate the British colonists in the north of Ireland to Scotland.

Loyalist threat remains strong

Dan McGinn:

A LOYALIST paramilitary feud which claimed the lives of four people in Belfast this summer could erupt again, the IMC report warned.

It said the Ulster Volunteer Force, which carried out the four murders in July and August, was an extremely dangerous organisation. It also stuck by its recommendation that financial sanctions should be imposed against the group’s political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party.

The party’s £27,000 annual Assembly grant has not been withdrawn despite a previous recommendation.

Jameson Lockhart, Craig McCausland, Stephen Paul and Michael Green were killed by the UVF over the summer as it waged a bloody vendetta against the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

All were perceived by the UVF to be members or associates of the LVF, but the report said in some cases they had no links at all.

The report noted loyalist paramilitaries groups were responsible for significantly more violence than their republican counterparts.

While the killing of Ulster Defence Association brigadier Jim Gray fell outside the period covered in the report, the IMC attributed the murder of Stephen Nelson, who died in March after an attack in Newtownabbey last September to the group.

The commission could not definitively state the UDA and UVF were behind the sectarian attacks on Catholic families in the North Antrim village of Ahoghill, but it accused both of supporting them.

The IMC also said both the UDA and LVF were both involved in drugs.

Catholics 'aren't safe in own homes'

South Africa hails Adams

Taoiseach's backing for McGurk relatives

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The broad picture for the Irish economy is generally good, despite a high degree of uncertainty in the international economy, the Central Bank says


Publishing its fourth Quarterly Bulletin of 2005, the Central Bank is forecasting GNP growth for 2005 of about 4.5pc (GDP 4.25pc) and expects growth to continue at a broadly similar pace in 2006.

The bank said domestic demand growth has been quite strong recently and the growth in personal consumer spending has picked up somewhat.

However, it expressed concern about high and volatile oil prices and growing global imbalances create risks that may impact on exchange rate movements, such as a sharp depreciation of the dollar against the euro.

"These could lead to substantial competitiveness pressures against a background in which Ireland has already experienced a deterioration in this regard in recent times."

The bank said HICP inflation remains quite low and stable and is expected to average around 2.25pc this year, with a modest increase to around 2.5pc expected next year.

"This environment of reasonably low inflation has been achieved despite sharply rising oil prices, strong employment growth and some pick-up in private consumption growth."

However, the Central Bank reports that the rise in oil prices during 2005 is exerting some upward pressure on prices.

"Although the Irish economy is operating in a low inflation environment at present, the need to ensure that domestic inflationary or cost pressures do not re-emerge to threaten the maintenance of competitiveness is very important. Recognition of this must be reflected in price and wage setting."

It also called for public finances to be prudently managed in order to avoid incurring a significant deficit as a result of the possible adverse shocks that might hit the economy.

The bank welcomed the gradual easing in house price inflation although it still remained fairly high, while the continuing strong rate of credit growth remains a concern.

Global economic growth continues to be robust, with world output projected to grow in excess of 4pc this year and next, the bank said.

Central Bank cuts growth forecast for 2005

Central Bank warns of risks of both inflation from high oil prices and exchange rate volatility

Scotland's economic problems

Matthew Lynn:

Scottish economic growth hasn't been as strong as in the rest of the U.K. In 2004, the Scottish economy expanded 1.9 percent, compared with 3.1 percent for the whole of Britain, according to the Scottish government. From 2000 to 2003, the Scottish economy grew at an average rate of 1.7 percent annually.

The country is aging rapidly as well. Without immigration, Scotland's population will slip below 5 million by 2017 from 5.08 million now, the executive predicts. The number of inhabitants peaked at 5.24 million in 1974.

None of that sounds like a robust, thriving economy.

In reality, modern Scotland isn't very dynamic. It is kept afloat on a wave of public spending. According to the Scottish Executive, public expenditure accounted for 50 percent of Scottish gross domestic product in 2001-2002. That compared with 41 percent for the U.K. as a whole, and a euro-area average of 48 percent.

The public sector accounts for 23.5 percent of all employment in Scotland. In some regions, the private sector has shriveled to levels that are more reminiscent of Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall than a modern capitalist economy. According to a report in the Scotsman newspaper this month, John Ward, chairman of the economic development agency Scottish Enterprise, pointed out that in the Ayrshire area, government spending accounted for 74 percent of the economy. Those were "Eastern bloc" levels, he complained.

The determination of the Scottish Parliament to boost public spending is crowding out the private, wealth-generating economy. "They are big on zealous regulation, but they are not very good at real economics," said Stuart Thomson, a fixed-income strategist at Charles Stanley Sutherlands in Edinburgh, in a telephone interview. "They have the power to make micro improvements to the economy, but they haven't even tried it."

Just across the Irish Sea, there is an example of a small, Celtic economy that has taken a different path. In Ireland, taxes have been cut consistently. The state accounts for 33 percent of the economy, according to a 2004 report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The result: Ireland has been rewarded with one of the highest growth rates in the world. The OECD this year ranked it as one of the five "high- income" countries in the world, along with Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S. Ireland now has net migration into the country.

Report highlights Scottish economy's fears

Economy growing, but slowing down

Revealed: state's grip on Scotland

How to say 'Do Svidanya' to our Soviet Scotland

The SDLP has warned the British government against undermining the Parades Commission in an attempt to appease the DUP

William Graham:

The party's justice spokesman, Alban Maginness, said "the bottom line is that if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

He added: "The commission works and it should not be weakened in any way at the behest of people who simply don't like the decisions it makes. The whole parading issue would be much worse without the work of the commission and it must be protected from random political attack."

Mr Maginness said the commission was due for reappointment but said that was not a concession.

"It should not be dressed up as one, nor should the DUP be allowed to represent it as a concession," he said.

"As for the review of procedures the secretary of state has promised, it must be just that – a look at the way the Parades Commission procedures work but not one which undermines the commission itself."

In an Irish News interview yesterday (Wednesday), Secretary of State Peter Hain said he would not alter the fundamental principles behind the commission but would look at its operation.

He said there were lessons to be learned on the parades issue concerning the need for more dialogue and a better way of providing mediation.

Imminent changes to Policing Board — Hain

PUP funds continue despite report

PUP fail to split with UVF thugs

Monday, October 17, 2005

Letter from Ireland: Alec Reid had a point

Irish Independent:

Sir - I disagree with Fr Alec Reid's statement at Fitzroy Presbyterian church when he said that Catholics were "treated almost like animals by the unionist community".

If unionists treated their animals in the same manner that some of them treated Catholics, they would have been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty.

Tom Cooper,
Dublin 16.

Excellent point!

Pictures of British loyalist riot suspects issued

BBC News:

Police investigating attacks on officers following a controversial re-routed Orange Parade in west Belfast have issued pictures of riot suspects.

Officers were attacked by loyalists with petrol bombs, blast bombs and live rounds on Saturday 10 September.

It followed a Parades Commission ruling that the Whiterock parade could not enter an interface area.

Photographs from video footage are being circulated by police who have urged those involved to come forward.

West Belfast district commander, Chief Superintendent David Boultwood said: "Our footage is extensive and clearly shows us the perpetrators of this violence.

"We are asking them to come forward before our officers have to knock on their doors."

He appealed to the community to work with the police to prosecute anyone involved in public disorder.

"Criminal behaviour will not be tolerated. We are determined to bring before the courts those who have taken part in serious public disorder," he said.

The march was barred from going through security gates on the Springfield Road, and had to use a former factory site.

There was a major police and Army presence in the area. Screens were erected in front of houses.

Security forces came under sustained attack from several hundred rioters on West Circular Road.

Cars were hijacked and set on fire on Ardoyne Road and North Queen Street.

SDLP criticism for PUP decision

When the DUP boat comes in

PUP 'to maintain links with UVF'

Republican wins case over IRA allegation

Interface attacks increase

Women prisoners in North treated like scum

Priest faces incitement to hatred probe

Ian Graham:

THE Catholic priest who witnessed the completion of IRA disarmament is being investigated by police for alleged incitement to hatred after comparing Northern Protestants to Nazis.

Father Alec Reid is being investigated after the Police Service of Northern Ireland received a formal complaint about his comments at a public meeting on IRA decommissioning at a Belfast church last week.

The complaint has been made by Willie Frazer of the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives which represents victims of IRA violence.

So much for freedom of speech in the British-ruled Six Counties.

PSNI investigates Reid for incitement to hatred

Legacy of sectarianism is the enemy within

Catholics forced to live in squalor

Friday, October 14, 2005

An engineering think-tank says that within the next 15 years, Ireland can become one of the top five richest economies in the world

RTE News:

It says that this would give Irish people the same income per capita as the US and Japan by 2020.

The 'Engineering a Knowledge Island 2020' report is published jointly by Engineers Ireland and the Irish Academy of Engineering and sponsored by InterTrade Ireland.

It proposes a vision for a knowledge based economy which would place the island of Ireland at the forefront of the most advanced economies in the world by 2020. It states that this target is achievable and recommends that it be adopted by government - North and South.

The report recommends the development of a number of world class research and development centres and also urges the promotion of science and engineering as career options more intensively. It says that more women should be attracted to engineering and adds that linkage programmes between industry and third level institutions should be expanded.

Engineers have been central to the development of the high technology sectors, such as pharmaceutical/biomedical, IT and construction sectors. These sectors have been at the core of Ireland's economic success in recent years. Over the last decade, the number of engineers on the island has more than doubled, and the number of computer staff has increased fourfold.

The report says that Irish third level institutions are currently producing 5,100 engineering graduates and 2,500 IT graduates each year - not enough to meet the current demand. It estimates that 14,000 engineering and 6,900 IT graduates a year are needed for the island of Ireland to become a top five economy by 2020.

The report also claims that it is critically important for the island of Ireland to continue to carve out niche positions in the ICT and bio-technology/pharmaceutical sectors.

Ireland: the richest nation by 2020?

Ireland could be in top 5 richest by 2020

Ulster Bank's chief economist is predicting Irish economic growth rates of 4.5% for 2005, and of 5% for 2006

RTE News:

Speaking at the National Construction Conference earlier today, Pat McArdle said the construction industry will remain an important driver in the continued growth of the Irish economy.

While generally positive on the outlook for the Irish economy, he was skeptical about the widely expected consumer spending boom and said that consumer spending had stagnated.

'Retail sales in August were up 5.7% in value but this was only marginally ahead of Labour Force growth of 5%, implying that individual spending by each person in employment in the country is barely rising', he said.

He added that there is no sign here of anticipatory spending of SSIA money or, of a credit financed consumer boom.

McArdle also spoke about the apparent absence of productivity growth, and noted that three sectors, (Construction, Financial & other business and Government) accounted for all of the recent employment growth, and that none of them was noted for high productivity.

He quoted recent CSO data which indicated that, while the economy was producing jobs, income was not growing at the same rate, thereby implying that productivity was negative.

He added that while employment seems to be growing, the new jobs were relatively low paid ones as there is no sign that this is having the expected knock-on income effects in CSO data, or in the Department of Finance income tax receipts.

McArdle said it seemed inevitable that housing output will fall from current record levels, but he forecast that any significant impact may be delayed until 2007, by which time the commercial sector should be performing strongly and civil engineering, which is heavily influenced by Government, may have finally accelerated.

He said it was hard to understand why the Government keep missing their capital spending targets without offering any reasonable explanation and that another large 'saving' is in prospect again this year'.

Buoyant consumer spending has ‘continued unchecked’

44% Increase in complaints against PSNI

Damian Carney:

Figures released yesterday (Wednesday) by the Police Ombudsman show that the number of allegations against the PSNI has sharply increased in the last year. In the period of April 2004 to March 2005 the number of allegations has risen by 44%.

Grosvenor Road barracks topped the poll for the station with most allegations against the PSNI in West Belfast. From April 2004 to March 2005 there were 90 allegations by members of the public concerning their treatment by PSNI officers based in the barracks. Woodbourne didn't fare much better with 67 allegations in the past year.

Worryingly, the majority of the allegations against the PSNI in the West of the city were serious in nature. There were 101 allegations against PSNI officers of what the Police Ombudsman terms 'oppressive behaviour', amounting to 46.8% of the allegations. Oppressive behaviour is the most serious type of allegation and includes assault, intimidation and harassment.

With 37% of allegations being for failure in duty by PSNI officers, this accounts for the second largest type of allegation. There were 80 such allegations against the PSNI in West Belfast – a staggering rise of 100% on the year before. Lower Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Fra McCann said that the figures reveal a continuing trend of unacceptable PSNI behaviour.

"The figures show that young nationalist males are the main victims of oppressive PSNI behaviour. This is evidence that the behaviour of the PSNI falls well short of anything that represents a new beginning to policing in the North. This type of policing has no place in an impartial non-sectarian society.

I have to question why there is an increase in such allegations. Is it because they know they can get away with it because the accountability mechanisms are too weak?"

Commenting on the Ombudsman's figures, SDLP Upper Falls councillor Tim Attwood accepted that although the figures were up from the previous year, he noted that allegations in West Belfast were down from a high of 239 in 2002.

"The SDLP has absolute confidence in the Police Ombudsman and would encourage anybody who has a complaint against the police to contact the Police Ombudsman. The Police Ombudsman has a proven record of independence and will investigate all complaints comprehensively," said Cllr Attwood.

The Grosvenor Road barracks may have had the worse record in West Belfast, but it was pushed into fourth place for PSNI barracks in the whole of Belfast. Strandtown barracks in East Belfast had 186 allegations against it, and in the North of the city Antrim Road and Tennent Street fared poorly with 144 and 131 allegations respectively. Musgrave Street barracks in South Belfast had 132 allegations against it.

In debt to our writers and thinkers

Little uniformity in view of corruption

Sinn Fein: Raids Are ‘Witch Hunts’

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Unionists offer no alternative but the past

Brian Feeney:

After last week there seems to be unanimous agreement that the penny has finally dropped for the Conservative party in Britain. They know they need to change. That's why Ken Clarke won't be elected leader. He'll be 70 at the next British general election. That's certainly one important reason, but the main one is that his speech to the party conference showed he was still fighting battles the Conservatives lost years ago.

There was a lot of soul-searching at the conference, some honest speeches from senior party figures and some difficult home truths confronted, all driven by the fear of losing a fourth general election, a prospect too calamitous to contemplate.

No danger of any soul-searching within unionism, a strange inward-looking political cult whose origin is tribal solidarity and whose sole reason for existence is to maintain local supremacy over the largest area it can control. Now that is no longer a possibility wouldn't you think it's long past time unionists began a quest for an alternative purpose or at least another way of expressing their tribalism? Instead, each summer, when their sectarian hormones come on heat unionism returns like a dog to its own vomit.

Each July and August the world's television screens lay bare unionism's turmoil as the cult seeks to recreate the dominance it once enjoyed here.

Each summer since 1998 sweating, red-faced middle-aged men in silly collarettes have disgraced themselves attacking police and army, forces that in days gone by belonged to them.

Why do they still try it? The simple answer is that their leaders offer no alternative but the past. Even worse, leaders of unionism endorse the be-sashed dopes hurling themselves at police lines but then are nowhere to be seen when the reckoning comes. In their place sit stammering nincompoops demanding the right to walk the "Queen's highway" yet ironically unable to speak the Queen's English.

Where was Nigel Dodds MP who marched demanding the same spurious right, or Reg Empey, also an Orangeman, who also supported the right to march in defiance of the law?

When was the last time any unionist leader ever said anything true or brave? It's not just a matter of lying about the extent of poverty in nationalist compared to unionist districts or purveying nonsense that 'them uns' get everything while unionists get nothing, or misleading their voters about IRA decommissioning. It's the fact that these lies are used to cover up the reality, to try to avoid explaining the inexorable decline in unionism's status, the horrible truth that the cult of unionism has failed the people who placed their faith in it.

In 1987 following the Anglo-Irish Agreement and his nocturnal excursion to Clontibret where gardai were assaulted, Peter Robinson, along with some figures in the UUP flirted with the idea of producing a re-definition of unionism similar to the rethinking of nationalism in the 1984 New Ireland Forum.

His political nerve failed him.

It came to nothing. He concluded there was no place for new thinking in unionism, or at least that there was no electoral percentage in it.

As a result of this leadership vacuum, while nationalist leaders have led their people away from the 'united Ireland or nothing' guff, unionist leaders have kept repeating the same old war cries they used to rally the troops 40 years ago. No unionist leader now admits supporting the Good Friday Agreement which they falsely tell their voters has given unionist people nothing.

Yet no unionist leader can tell you where he wants unionism to be in 10 years time, let alone describe an alternative to the Good Friday Agreement.

Why not? Because it would mean saying something true and brave, namely that the game is up, that unionists must accept mere equality with nationalists. No unionist leader has ever said that because it would mean facing up to the failure of the whole cult.

Can you see Paisley coming to terms with that, admitting that his whole life in politics has been a failure and standing at the top of those Stormont steps beside Martin McGuinness for a photo opportunity which would trump any snap of General de Chastelain among a heap of AK's?

Pandering strategy

Can loyalism sink much further?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Irish economy flexible for next budget - ESRI

RTE News:

According to the Government's Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) the current economic situation provides more flexibility than has been the case for recent budgets.

At a meeting today entitled Budget Perspectives the ESRI said immediate prospects for the Irish economy are quite positive with growth this year and next projected to be close to 5%.

The ERSI said that expansion in employment has been strong and tax revenues are buoyant. However some threats and uncertainties remain such as imbalances in the world economy, the chance that the strong performance of the Irish construction sector might suffer a set-back and the volatility of oil prices.

Speaking to RTE economics editor George Lee earlier today the ESRI's Alan Barrett said the Department of Finance is in a very comfortable position and should have room for some giveaways on Budget Day.

ESRI study: Minimum tax rate is not needed

Minimum tax ruled out in favour of restricting reliefs

Workers may have to foot €5 billion bill over ageing population profile

Economy to thrive with jobs boom, says ESRI

ESRI predicts further strong economic growth

ESRI says CSO being too pessimistic

Economy performing 'extremely well': ESRI

IRA decommissioning has freed our future

Jarlath Kearney:

I only recall hearing the volley of shots. It created a bit of commotion at the end of the lane. And then there was a loud round of applause.

The funeral of Francis Hughes in May 1981 was the first occasion on which I witnessed IRA weapons being fired.

At the age of eight I wasn’t even tall enough to see the firing party.

However, the previous evening I saw other guns being fired – up close and personal.

Several hundred men, women and children had been marching in support of the hunger strikers into Toome village, converging from southwest Antrim on the east of the Bann and south Derry on the west side of the Bann.

As we entered the village, stewards were running towards us shouting for all the women and children to get off the road into the chapel grounds.

Seconds later a distinctive high-pitched revving revealed half a dozen RUC Land Rovers speeding past, dozens of plastic bullets being fired, Wild West-style, in all directions.

A number of men lay unconscious and injured after being struck by plastic bullets – some were arrested.

Like many people, as the IRA left the political battlefield yesterday, I thought about the period of the hunger strike.

Some of the people who formed the IRA guard of honour at Francis Hughes’ funeral are now dead. Some were imprisoned. Some were killed in direct military action with British forces.

Without doubt, their relatives – and many others who have lost loved ones on all sides during the conflict – will be sitting this morning in a turmoil of quiet, tired, confused emotion: utterly uncertain about the present; deeply hurt about the past; nervously hopeful for the future.

Thousands of republicans across Ireland may be experiencing similar feelings. And yet they will be also be coming to terms with the IRA’s initiative by looking into the eyes of their children or their grandchildren.

For whatever view republicans take of the IRA’s actions in putting all weapons beyond use, no republican will argue with efforts to provide a better future for all the people of Ireland.

A gilded image of that growing opportunity for peaceful political transformation on the island emerged at the massive republican rally in Dublin last Saturday.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 people from across the country assembled in Ireland’s capital city for a confident, colourful spectacle to mark the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin’s foundation.

The 100-foot long banner at the head of the march read: ‘We are the people of struggle, ours is the culture of change’.

The following day, Michael McDowell attacked the event with obnoxious and offensive language. He also devoted an entire page in a Sunday newspaper to assert that he was a true republican (on account of the actions of his forebears) and, more significantly, that it was time to recapture the vision of Irish unity from Sinn Féin.

In other circles yesterday, a variety of observers questioned how republicans would react to another unionist pogrom, like the burning of Bombay Street, without the backing of a well-armed IRA.

Each of these perspectives actually highlights the transforming approach adopted by the republican leadership since April 2005.

Republicans have embarked on a course over recent months which is not concerned with responding to other agendas or with planning for every contingency.

In fact, it is Sinn Féin’s conservative political opponents who are furiously reacting to the republican agenda for Irish unity and independence. And in the remote possibility that there is another Bombay Street, republicans say they will assess the prevailing conditions at the time.

Small wonder then that hardline unionism is in a state of delayed shock at the reality that the IRA has delivered.

It’s not just Sinn Féin’s political opponents who are sleepwalking through the nightmare of a peaceful and accountable power-sharing government, based on equality in a transformed society, with republicans north and south.

Just consider how the scores of political detectives within the North’s security superstructure must feel this morning. These are figures whose entire raison d’etre was predicated on the existence of a fully operational IRA maintaining its military capacity. They have built their careers on the IRA. Their mortgages have relied on the IRA. They have gained power to spy and harass and ruin lives, largely by virtue of the IRA’s existence. Yet, in just six months, the IRA has wrapped up its tent and gone away.

In the act of leaving the battlefield, the IRA has been more effective in destablising the cosy conservative cartels across the island than a lifetime of bomb attacks and shootings.

Some will wonder whether the rifles used to honour Francis Hughes have been put beyond use. But that must be considered in the context of Francis Hughes’ struggle after being captured.

In the torturous hell-hole of Long Kesh, Francis Hughes had no guns, no rank, no uniform. He was symbolically and literally naked. And yet his peaceful, dignified, non-violent protest – alongside those of his comrades – was so convincing and powerful that it resounded around the world.

While no one knows how someone like Francis Hughes would view the current IRA, a large majority of those republicans incarcerated in Long Kesh and elsewhere have thrown their weight behind the current republican leadership.

That leadership yesterday urged republicans to “think beyond the moment”.

“It is not the leap itself but the place it takes us all that is important,” Gerry Adams said.

The root cause of IRA activity in the last 35 years was the partition of Ireland.

Partition has imprisoned our past. The IRA has now freed our future. Tomorrow is a new country.

Unionist argument is hard one to sustain

ARA mess

Time for ARA to explain its actions

Unionist leaders endorse violence

Progressive leadership

Family of teenager murdered by UVF get website support

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why is it that the most fearsome enemies of the armed IRA are now running scared in the headlights of an unarmed republican movement?

Damien Kiberd:

You might think that a united Ireland is an ideal outcome to the current phase in Irish history — but not everybody would agree.

Professor John A Murphy, who has been training a generation of historians at University College Cork in recent decades, regards the decommissioning of IRA weapons as “armed struggle by other means”.

He viewed a republican anti-partition rally in central Dublin nine days ago and observed that it was “part of an intensifying unification campaign which will continue to be stepped up as a compensating balance for de-commissioning”.

Professor Murphy was outraged by the recent anti-partition rally. This is, according to Professor Murphy, “a fast-tracking attempt at unification by stealth”, which “violates the Good Friday Agreement”.

The professor observed that the Dublin regime should declare that “the political unification of Ireland will come about, if at all [sic], only at the end of a very long day of reconciliation in Northern Ireland and with unionist (and Southern) consent”.

Murphy even attacks justice minister Michael McDowell, who is apparently unable to sleep because of his fear of a state within a (free) state, for evincing attitudes of what Murphy terms “feel-good greenery”.

Murphy is not alone in his pro-partition ethos. A letter writer to The Irish Times last week reflected a common view.

He asked: “Is it not screamingly obvious that the real dread of those that doubt the totality of the recent decommissioning exercise is that the prospect is now clear for the unwelcome tapis of a united Ireland being vaunted as a routine of political discourse?”

He added that “only by firm renunciation of the territorial incentive can the process of cross-community harmony be nurtured and brought to bloom”.

But if you think that this fear of Irish unity is isolated, you should consult yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, where a political journalist called Alison O’Connor conducted an interview with the Free State minister for social affairs, Séamus Brennan.

The pocket rocket said there was “no shame” in wanting a united Ireland. In other words, Brennan was worried that we might be ashamed of asking the soldiers of a foreign army to leave the farms and fields owned by our people.

Brennan glided to power as general secretary of Fianna Fáil during the sleeveen Taoiseachship of Jack Lynch.

He sensed a public mood that would resent any move to unify the country.

He said: “The aspiration has been kept in the background in recent times because of the delicate nature of the situation in the North.”

Coming straight out of the party of Constance Markievicz, of Margaret Pearse, of Harry Boland, of Eamon de Valera and of Cathal Brugha, Mr Brennan added: “At the moment, we are constrained in how far we can push that. It is not some old-fashioned idea. A lot of young people believe that.” Indeed they do.

The pro-partition mood among the Dublin elite is perhaps best summed up by Pat Rabbitte, current leader of the Labour Party and former member of the Official republican movement.

He observed that, in advance of decommissioning, “they [Sinn Féin] have done nothing to persuade the people of the South — who remain to be persuaded — that the best solution to Northern Ireland as a failed political entity would be to collapse that failed dysfunctional and still violent entity into this state.

“If the communities that go to make up the North cannot function together, why in God’s name should anyone believe that they would function better by attempting to smother them with a largely uninterested Southern embrace?”

Rabbitte added that, “on any rational analysis, Northern Ireland as a demonstrably functioning entity should be a precondition that is proven to exist before anyone thinks about Irish unity — rather than the proven failure of the North being a reason for thinking about the unity of Ireland as a whole”.

He added: “We down here do not have the solution and we should not pretend that we do.” In other words, you will have to make Northern Ireland work before the leader of James Connolly’s party will entertain any idea of a united Ireland.

Connolly, by the way, was the man who wrote that the partition of Ireland would create a “carnival of reaction”.

The decommissioning of IRA weaponry has forced the most reactionary people in the Free State to come out into the open and express their antagonism to a united Ireland.

Not surprisingly, many of these people spent their early years as apologists for the Workers Party/ Official republican movement. But some are simply Castle Catholics — people who don’t want to scare the horses.

The problem for these people is that Northern Catholics and republicans have not gone away. They are becoming increasingly self-confident. And they do not want to live under constant physical threat from the drugged-up unionist lumpenproletariat that thinks it can terrorise Catholic districts on an annual basis, safe in the knowledge that the number of arrests carried out by the PSNI will be minimal.

The leader of the political slum that is Northern Ireland is now Ian Paisley. Dr Paisley has been politically active since the early 1960s, when he confronted ecumenist preachers in Belfast and shot to public prominence. Since that time, he has been Dr No.

He is possibly the only politician in Western Europe who has never — in the space of 40 years of active political life — sat down and negotiated an agreement with his political foes to operate a political system in his native place.

Dr Paisley should wake up and smell the coffee. He might even condescend to attend a match at Croke Park, where the “Fenians” try to park their BMW and Mercedes cars without being clamped before seeing the “puke footballers” of Tyrone hammering the skilful men of Kerry.

He might ask himself where the future lies. Is it among the people of Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry, south Armagh and west Belfast? Or is it to be found in the constant blocking of political progress?

Don't tell the neighbours — loyalism's going bonkers

‘Tell the DUP where to go’ SDLP leader Durkan urges Blair to get tough on Paisley

Mistakes By The White House

Friday, October 07, 2005

ESRI predicts further strong economic growth for Ireland

Ireland Online:

The Government's economic think-tank has predicted that Ireland's economy will continue to perform strongly in the coming year.

In its latest quarterly commentary, the Economic and Social Research Institute said it expected Gross Domestic Product to increase by 5.7% in 2005 and by a further 5% in 2006.

It said growing employment levels suggested that the economy was performing extremely well.

Elsewhere, the ESRI predicted that employment would increase at a slower rate in 2006 due to a decline in house construction, while the unemployment rate was likely to remain static at 4.2%.

It also predicted that inflation for 2005 would be 2.3%, rising to 2.5% in 2006.

Ireland’s strong economic growth to continue

Equality means the end of this sad little state

Jude Collins:

Nationalists did an odd thing in 1998: they turned their back on a core element of nationalist belief. Until that point, nationalists had argued that Ireland’s affairs and the shape of Irish political life should be a matter for the people of Ireland to decide.

The Good Friday Agreement deleted this element. With the assent of the majority of the nationalist people, control of the shape of Irish political life was placed in the hands, not of all the people of Ireland, but one fifth - of Northern unionists.

For some nationalists, this was a step too far and they voted against the Good Friday Agreement. For the overwhelming majority of nationalists, it was a necessary compromise which gave assurance to unionists that they would not be coerced into a united Ireland.

An objective viewer of the situation might have expected unionists and their representatives to take to the streets to dance their delight at this assurance, but an objective viewer would have been wrong. Instead, since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, most unionist politicians have acted as if the principle of consent hasn’t happened. ‘With nationalists it’s take, take, take, and no give,’ they complain.

Whether unionists ignore it or cheer it to the heavens, the principle of consent is there, and nationalists have to confront that fact and ask themselves ‘Where from here?’

One answer - popular until the last census figures - was ‘We wait until we outbreed them, which won’t be long.’ That looks a less promising response in the past couple of years. Evidence? How about the number of Catholic schools that are merging or closing in the North. The inescapable fact is that Catholic families are smaller than they were, the rate of increase in the Catholic population has slowed, and the hope that natural population growth would lead to a nationalist majority seems a lot less robust than it once did.

Another answer - one advanced by Gerry Adams and other Sinn FÈin leaders - is that nationalists must persuade the unionist population of the advantages of a united Ireland. They must argue the case for unionists joining nationalists as part of a self-respecting, self-governing country, rather than continuing to cling to the coat-tails of a disdainful Britain. Eventually the logic of this argument will prevail.

A convincing answer? Well, if you go by past experience, no. The prospects of a mass unionist conversion are low. On the other hand, a united Ireland majority doesn’t require mass or even majority unionist assent, despite what Mark Durkan claims. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a shift of something under ten per cent into the nationalist camp would create the required united-Ireland majority. But even this seems a long shot to the average hard-headed nationalist.

There is a third answer, which is less often offered. One way of getting a majority in the north to vote for a united Ireland is to attract a majority to it. Another way would be if sufficient numbers of unionists became, not so much attracted to a united Ireland, as disillusioned with the notion of a continuing state of Northern Ireland.

The possibility of this judgment taking root within the unionist population is real. Think back to the early days of the Civil Rights movement. The people who were the driving force behind the movement - John Hume, Eamonn McCann, Bernadette Devlin - were not nationalists seeking to break the link with Britain. They were products of the new educated Catholic class, people who refused to accept the role of second-class citizens and demanded full rights in the state where they lived.

Unionism reacted to their demands with anger verging on apoplexy. Why? Because the demand for equality touched a nerve in the central nervous system of unionist thinking. Northern Ireland was set up for the benefit of the unionist population - a Protestant state for a Protestant people. If the nationalists who found themselves stranded within that state were ever to emerge as fully equal, a major reason for the state’s existence would have vanished. That’s why the Protestant population quickly peeled away from the civil rights movement and were filled with suspicion and dread by its growth.

Spool forward 40 years and consider the situation today. Unionist politicians like Gregory Campbell may lament the inequality visited on the unionist population of Derry or the Shankill, but the facts and figures tell a different story.

Nationalists throughout the North are still suffering disproportionate disadvantage in health, jobs, all the major areas.

To suggest that nothing has changed would be wrong. There have been improvements in the lot of nationalists here. They’ve still some distance to go before they reach full equality as citizens, but they’re clearly on their way. The figures are improving. Within the next five years, with energetic political representation, nationalists will make major strides towards real equality in this state.

And then? Then a major reason for the existence of the state will have been removed. What’s the point in carving out a corner of the island and maintaining it in the face of economic, cultural and geographical logic, not to mention international pressure, if the one thing it at one time ensured you - advantage over a Catholic underclass - is gone? It makes as much sense as having an Orange parade with no one to triumph over and bait.

That’s not to suggest that opposition to equality down the decades wasn’t well-laced with bigotry as well, but that bigotry was born of a fear that to grant full equality would be to sound the death-knell of this sad little state.

That, in the final analysis, is why Ian Paisley is scared stiff of sharing governmental power with a bunch of fenians who demand justice and equality for the people they represent. If he does, the consequences for unionism could be fatal.

Loyalists hold on to weaponry

Detective refuses to deny Gray was an informant

Death of a godfather

SDLP — Order is partisan on paramilitaries

Orange halls get rates exemption

Tempers rise in Council violence debate

Old patterns of discrimination

Protesters mar Cemetery Sunday

Thursday, October 06, 2005

New player enters Republic's jockeying game

Brian Feeney:

Weapons decommissioning and the end of all IRA activity have certainly caused a right old stir.

Not here, where the reaction has been all too predictable with the DUP running round like headless chickens isolated from the real world in their own wee hen run.

No, the IRA going out of business caused a lot of fluttering in another chicken coop. All last week southern politicians were falling over themselves to predict what the outcome of the next election in the Republic will be.

Sinn Féin's Dublin 'Make Partition History' rally certainly put the wind up some Fianna Fail people.

Seamus Brennan, bearer of the peculiar title of minister for social affairs, was even moved to remind FF members that the party should "not feel guilty" about saying it stands for a united Ireland.

Hardly a ringing endorsement of the policy from the self-proclaimed 'republican party'.

He added that FF has "hidden or played down this aspiration because the taoiseach wanted to make progress in the north". Hmm. Does that mean they kept the policy secret from the DUP?

Maybe he thinks the DUP didn't know? Or worse, did FF pretend it didn't have that policy any more?

Brennan then went and gave away the real motive for his speech by pointing out that it was also a 'message to Sinn Féin'.

Brennan of course was taking his cue from the taoiseach who told the party faithful in Cavan that unity was "the basis of Fianna Fail's being and our guiding star".

You don't suppose this would have something to do with the recent polls which show first, that the Republic's electorate is just beginning to edge towards preferring a change of government and secondly, that SF's support is steady around eight to10 per cent, more than twice as much as Fianna Fail's coalition partner, the PDs? Just a coincidence?

Several commentators and election pundits believe that with decommissioning and the end of IRA activity SF would be likely to double its Dail representation in the next general election.

That poses the central question, would FF then go into coalition with SF to stave off Fine Gael and Labour?

No, said Bertie, because SF's economic policy was incompatible with Fianna Fail's and besides, it was ambivalent about the EU which is stupid because of the vast sums of cash Ireland receives from Brussels. A coalition couldn't last five days he said, let alone the five-year life of a government.

Take all that with a large pinch of salt. As always Bertie spoke very carefully, though he seems not to. He knows very well that Sinn Féin's economic policy in 2007 will be very different from what people say it is now. In fact Dessie Ellis of Sinn Féin told RTE last week that SF is in the process of "developing" its policy. Watch them steal FF's clothes.

Secondly, while SF opposed the Nice treaty and rejects the doomed Euro constitution, along, it may be said with the voters of France, Denmark and Britain, they do not oppose the existence of the EU or Ireland's membership.

Notice also that Bertie said nothing about accepting support from Sinn Féin in a minority government without entering a formal coalition. There is also a range of other permutations involving the Independents. All of which really means you're looking at the opening gambits of all the Republic's parties in the jockeying before the next general elections and included as a player on the national stage for the first time since 1922 is Sinn Féin.

It has to be so because if, as predicted, SF win nine or 10 seats, that number of TDs can't be ignored in a Dail of 166. When you need 83 votes to be taoiseach any 10 will make a massive difference.

The Dail assembled after the summer break last Wednesday and the race is on.

Fianna Fail faces difficult choices. Do they try to out-republican Sinn Féin?

An impossible task and a foolish policy.

Do they try to repudiate the awful PDs and blame them for all the uncaring failures of the government in health and education?

Or do they try to make friends with SF because they know they won't be able to form a government on their own?

If all that doesn't give the DUP food for thought, nothing will.

Disarmament intensifies FF/SF electoral rivalry

Fine Gael and the IRA connection

European support for IRA move

Bairbre De Brún:

The IRA’s initiative found broad political support in Strasbourg last week.

Those who expressed their support were united in the call for the return of the political institutions and the need for the Democratic Unionist Party to engage with Sinn Féin.

General John de Chastelain’s announcement on Monday last week was a major topic of conversation.

Interestingly, apart from Sinn Féin and independent MEP Marian Harkin, not one other Irish MEP spoke in the parliament on the significance of what had happened.

We made a point of recognising publicly the important role of the European Union in contributing to peace-building in Ireland, both politically and financially.

Gerry Adams can be expected to return to this theme in his visits to the European parliament and European Commission today.

The Strasbourg session also saw the arrival of 53 national parliamentarians from both Bulgaria and Romania as observers in the European parliament.

The observers will play a full role in their groups, take part in committee meetings and attend plenary sessions without voting rights.

This is intended to ensure that the 53 new MEPs who enter the European parliament after the next enlargement in 2007 can integrate as smoothly as possible.

From Strasbourg, I travelled to Co Cork for the National Ploughing Championships. This event attracts thousands of people, and is the premier rural/agricultural event in the country.

The Sinn Féin tent attracted a huge amount of interest, with a steady stream of people wishing the party well.

On the Wednesday, Gerry Adams was practically mobbed by media and well-wishers alike, a further indication of his popularity as party leader and the resounding echo that last week’s move has found in Irish people across the country.

Rural communities are a Sinn Féin priority, and I took this message to the Ploughing Championships. We are working in Europe, through our TDs, our Assembly team and our network of councillors across the island to see that the framework for delivering money through the rural development programmes is right and to ensure that there is a greater sense of urgency about the crisis facing farm families and rural communities.

It was great to hear and see the Rossport Five address the rally outside Leinster House in Dublin on Saturday in person.

The men all emphasised that their fight was just starting following their release from prison on Friday. The men also stressed their willingness to talk to Shell or anyone else to ensure the safety of their homes.

The stand taken by the men and their families and small community has touched hearts right across Ireland and beyond. They deserve our thanks and our continued support.

On September 22, I participated in a conference in Brussels highlighting the issue of asbestos. I presented a report on the current situation regarding asbestos in Ireland.

It is believed that up to 3,000 former workers in the Belfast shipyards could still be affected by asbestosis.

Environmental exposure, as well as work exposure, is a point of contention across Europe.

According to recent research, more than 8,000 people can be expected to die each year in Europe from 2015 onwards from mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos.

Asbestos-related disease is clearly an issue for the present and future, and not just the past.

No funds raised at McGuinness events

Nationalists forced to fund July 12 events

Few tears as loyalist thugs kill their own

Six still held in killing probe

Ulster strongman's death fit a familiar pattern

Village residents discuss attacks

Bottom of the barrel

Cory was shadowed, even in the loo

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pete’s patronising lessons in parsimony

Anne Cadwallader:

Whatever Gerry Adams' aspirations for Ian Paisley's late conversion to common sense, Peter Hain looks set to be master of all he surveys for the foreseeable future – at least for the day-or-so a week he actually works at Stormont.

When the DUP finally catches itself on and settles into the new political landscape, we will be able to turf out our part-time secretary of state. In the meantime, it's as well to pay close attention to the runes set out in his so-called “keynote" speech.

When you think about it, the scriptwriter could have been penning a sketch for the Hole in the Wall Gang.

“Northern Ireland," he said, (his term, not mine) had to break free from “paramilitarism, grisly feuding, rioting, racketeering, sectarianism and organised crime," Goodness. What’s left?

He used the word “great" seven times in his penultimate sentence, promising to “take the tough decisions" and equip Northern Ireland for a “great" future.

Leaving aside the patronising tone, does he think we are taken in by all this?

After 25 years covering squillions of very similar speeches, you will forgive me for being a trifle sceptical. I've been listening to British ministers blathering on like that since 1981.

I think I can remember Chris Patten promising, as Peter Hain did this week, to reform education. By the way, by “reform" he means close down schools which should earn him some brownie points with the British treasury.

Politically, it was a predictable speech, covering all bases, giving unionists a pat on the head here, a spank on the bottom there.

The people into whose back he really sank a stiletto were republicans. Presumably he feels it was a worthwhile bone to throw the loyalists and that republicans don't listen to anything he says.

“For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland," said Hain, “Sinn Féin has accepted that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK until, and unless, the people of Northern Ireland (we've got the message, thank you) decide otherwise".

“For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland (aaargh!) the IRA have accepted that Northern Ireland (groan) will remain part of the United Kingdom until and unless the people of Northern Ireland (gulp) decide otherwise".

“For the first time in the history of (you fill in the gap), the principle of consent is enshrined in an international agreement. Now, anyone who knows the history of (you know where) and of unionism must appreciate the significance of this".

To give him his due, Peter Robinson was first out of the traps on this one, saying he was “surprised" at the suggestion that the IRA had accepted the union.

“This seems," he said, “to fly in the face of every statement they have made".

“I am aware of no such comment from them. I would like the secretary of state to provide us with the text of these remarks by the IRA on this".

Hmm. Don't hold your breath.

Quite aside from all the political games-playing, the speech was remarkable in what it promised will be accomplished by 2009. Some of it was actually desireable and, if Hain succeeds, I will take my hat off to him. In fact, I will eat it.

He did promise to slim down our top-heavy bureaucracy – the 26 councils, four health boards, 19 health trusts and five education and library boards that service a population of just over 1.7 million.

Only those who think it's a good idea to pay some people dig holes in the ground and others to fill them in again could disagree, but do you believe the money saved will be spent on the poor and deprived?

The money saved by closing down village schools, he said, would go towards quality, affordable child care. Hmm. What's that pink thing with the big nose flying overhead?

Water charges, he said, are on the way and a possible doubling of local rates. Average charges are over £1,200 (€1,768) per household in Scotland, England and Wales. We pay “only" £546 (€804).

I can see his point on cutting the bureaucracy, but the near inevitable outcome is that the money saved will not be spent here and we will descend further and further into an even shabbier social and economic backwater.

I asked Mr Hain if he really believed he could deliver all this by 2009? And what did that say about the length of time that might elapse before the assembly and power-sharing executive was up and running?

“I've given a pledge today of a kind that has not been given by any one of my predecessors for understandable reasons", he said.

“What I am saying now, today, is we will drive ahead with reforms and implement them.”

That all sounds to me like “New Labour-speak" for creeping privatisation and we know what that means – a few fat cats and lots more people working harder and getting paid less.

Skills, he said, would be carefully nourished by money now spent on paying dole. Money would be spent on improving our health instead of paying for more pills, potions and hospital beds.

“If the elected politicians don't like some of this, or they disagree with them, well – get into power with each other and take the decisions yourselves.”

So, we're all going to be punished, and the deprived among us most, for Ian Paisley's refusal to share power with Sinn Féin. Nice one, Peter.

Towards the end of his speech, he became almost apocalyptic. “These reforms will be ambitious. They will challenge the status quo. They will disrupt power bases and vested interests.

“They will lead to a radical shift of resources from the back room to the frontline.”

He could have been speaking to last week's Labour Party conference in Brighton. Only trouble is, at least the British have an option to dump New Labour, and it's their fault if they don't.

We don't even vote for them.

Loyalists 'must end all violence'

The sectarian hydra grows another head

Carnmoney monsters are dupes of the DUP

Justice is "ducking" McAllister case

Burnside champions closer links with Tories

DUP found wanting in leadership stakes

Congress members to visit North

Collusion probe barriers

Council condemn loyalist violence

Catholics forced to endure gauntlet of abuse

Cemetery challenge to Unionist leaders

Abuse must stop

No laughing matter