Wednesday, November 30, 2005

US white supremacists distance themselves from Northern racists

Ciarán Barnes:

The Ku Klux Klan yesterday distanced itself from a group of right-wing fanatics who have been holding white supremacist meetings in Co Antrim.

In a statement released to Daily Ireland, the United States-based Klan claimed it had nothing to do with the group that has been holding regular get-togethers in Ballyclare, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Coleraine.

A Klan spokesman said: “We have members in foreign countries but we do not attempt to organise in foreign lands because we are not familiar with the laws and issues which other countries may have.”

In a direct reference to the north Antrim gang, he added: “This office knows nothing about them.”

The Co Antrim group of fanatics is believed to include a number of loyalist paramilitaries.

It has masqueraded under a series of different names such as the White Nationalist Party, the Third Way, and Aryan Unity.

Members have carried out leaflet drops and placed posters on street corners advocating policies such as racial segregation, the criminalisation of homosexual acts, and fighting those regarded as “commies”.

Those in the gang even dressed up as Klansmen in white robes with pointed masks and burned a cross on Ballymena’s Clonavon Road.

North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan said: “The activities of this far-right group in the north Antrim area are well documented.

“The gang is made up of loyalists who have held meetings and who have put racist posters and flyers around towns.

“It just goes to show how thuggish they are when a racist organisation like the Ku Klux Klan distances itself from them.

“The public has no appetite for these people and they would do everyone a service if they disappear and take their hate-filled messages with them.”

PSNI records from April 2004 to April 2005 show that 83 racial incidents occurred in the north Antrim area.

This figure accounts for more than ten per cent of all racist crime in the North during that period.

In total, 813 racial incidents occurred in the North during the 2004-05 financial year. In the 2002-03 financial year, 226 racist crimes were recorded.

Why the streets of Bolton echo to the sounds of a loyalist vendetta

English fascists to join loyalists at Drumcree

Racist war of the loyalist street gangs

Loyalist ties with racist groups are nothing new

Ireland's job growth still steaming ahead

RTE News:

The country's labour force grew by 99,000 - or 5% - in the year to the third quarter of 2005 to a total of 2,086,500, while the number of people in employment also grew by 5%, or 96,200, to just under two million.

According to the Quarterly National Household survey from the Central Statistics Office, the labour force now accounts for 63.2% of all persons aged 15 and over. This compares with 61.8% in the third quarter of 2004.

The CSO says there were 96,700 people unemployed in the third quarter of the year, up 2,800 on the year. The rise in joblessness was dominated by the increase in the numbers of short-term unemployed, most of whom were women.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 4.3%, unchanged from the second quarter of the year.

Ireland's employment growth continues to outpace its European counterparts. The CSO says that between the second quarters of 2004 and 2005 the country's employment level grew by 5.1% and its labour force by 4.9%. The comparable figures for the 15 EU states are 1.5% and 1.3%.

The data reveals that employment in the construction and financial sectors continued to grow strongly with 30,400 and 20,200 new jobs added respectively. All other areas in the services sector recorded significant employment growth over the year.

However, there was a sharp fall of 11,000 jobs in the numbers engaged in other production industries, while there was little or no change in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

The CSO says that almost one in four new migrants to the country found jobs in the construction industry, while increases were also recorded in other production industries, wholesale and retail trade and hotels and restaurants. Around three quarters of the new migrants came from the 10 new EU states.

The figures also show that during the three months from June to August, the number of women in employment rose by 48,200 - a rise of 6.1% - of which 18,000 was accounted for by a rise in the number of part-time workers. The number of men in employment increased by 4.4%, or 48,000.

Strong employment growth was particularly evident among the older age groups. The employment rate for men aged between 60-64 rose from 53.7% to 57% while the rate for women in the 55-59 age group rose from 41.4% to 45.4%. However, the most significant employment rise was witnessed in the 25-34 age group which increased by over 36,000 in the 12 months to the third quarter of 2005.

The number of people describing their usual situation as 'at work' grew by 93,000 in the year to 1,890,600. This compares to an increase of 57,100 the same time last year.

The numbers recorded as 'on home duties' fell by 18,800 to 545,800 in the year while the number of students showed a fall of 4,400 in the year to 346,000. The figures show that 25.1% of students had a job compared to 23.8% for the same quarter last year.

Labour pool grows 5%

96,200 more in jobs in 2005 - CSO survey

Irish labour force nears two million

Marching towards end of partition

Daily Ireland:

In recent times justice minister Michael McDowell has joined the chorus of the various parties in proclaiming his republican credentials on several occasions.

Now he appears to have gone somewhat further and declared the reunification is inevitable at some time in the not too distant future.

Republicans will no doubt be reassured by Mr McDowell’s prediction, as they have been certain of the same outcome for quite some time, and been working hard to make sure this inevitable step is taken sooner rather than later.

Republicans and nationalists will also be pleased to see all the different parties in the South finally coming to the same conclusion, despite some suspicions about their motivations for doing so.

Rather than disparage them for their movement on the issue, Sinn Féin has welcomed each step on the road to enlightenment from all the parties and the public statements in support of that goal.

The party realises that despite its differences and the electoral motives behind such moves, a broad consensus being communicated to the electorate by all shades of political opinion can only help to speed the end of partition and lead to a fairer and more just society here for all the people of the island.

If Mr McDowell says he supports the idea, who are we to doubt him?

SF calls for cross-party push for united Ireland

Partition is an absurdity in all terms

Partition 'Devastating' For Many Communities

Northern state is being eroded

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Irish economy to grow by 5% in 2006


Ireland's GDP is expected to grow at a steady rate of 5pc over the next two years, according to an OECD report published today.

The OECD said in its latest global economic outlook that the expansion will be driven by continued income growth and sustained government spending.

The removal of the Groceries Order was welcomed by the OECD who said that intense competition was needed to counter short-term inflationary pressures and to boost long-term growth.

The OECD report warns that, "with strong activity exerting inflationary pressures, core inflation is projected to creep up over the projection period."

In Europe as a whole, the OECD forecast a 2.9pc growth in 2006 and 2007 following a 2.7pc growth this year.

The report also said that, following a 3.6pc growth this year, the US economy would power ahead at 3.5pc next year and 3.3pc in 2007.

With the ECB expected to raise interest rates later this week, the OECD report recommended that eurozone interest rates should stay static until September or October 2006, as inflation in the 12-nation currency area was well under control.

5% increase in output forecast

Report shows strong entrepreneurial activity

'Good Santa' effect helps consumer sentiment

Two people arrested by police investigating the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery are understood to be employees

BBC News:

A 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman were arrested on Tuesday morning, said a PSNI spokesman.

It is understood Northern Bank employee Chris Ward is one of the two people detained in the latest arrests over the December 2004 raid.

After the bank robbery, Chris Ward described how he had been held captive in the run-up to the raid.

The details were given in an interview with BBC's Spotlight programme.

He described in detail how he and a colleague were forced to facilitate the theft of millions of pounds from the cash centre of the Northern Bank's headquarters.

Police Land Rovers have been at the Ward family home in the Poleglass area of west Belfast since about 0600 GMT.

Earlier this month, police investigating the robbery arrested several people.

Of the 10 people questioned to date in connection with the robbery, three have already appeared in court.

The robbery happened at the bank's Northern Ireland headquarters at Donegall Square West just before Christmas last year.

Some money seized in County Cork last February was linked to the robbery, but virtually all of the missing millions remain unrecovered.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde subsequently blamed the IRA for the raid.

So the Northern Bank robbery was an inside job. Just goes to show why you should never take the word of Hugh Orde or of any other member of the British colonial police. Will the the politicians and journalists who have been blaming Irish republicans for the robbery now apologize? Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Top economist backs all-Ireland economy


Stephen Kingon, managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Northern Ireland, told a meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body today said that he believes that better co-operation between North and South would benefit both economies.

The comments come just weeks after Northern Secretary Peter Hain outraged Unionists by saying that the North's economy was not sustainable in the long run.

The DUP called for Hain's resignation following his recent suggestion that the North should consider embracing an all-Ireland economy.

Earlier in the month Hain told the New York-based Irish Echo that it would become increasingly difficult to look at the economy of North and South except as "a sort of island of Ireland economy".

Kingon is one of the top economists in Northern Ireland. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and the Institute of Management Consultants, Kingon is also the chairman for the Centre for Competitiveness and Economic Development Committee of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and he serves on the Northern Ireland Economic Development Forum and the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

One more reason why the British should dismantle their foul colonial state in the north of Ireland.

Cloud over North of Ireland investment conference

Irish Echo:

The child-like outbursts of some Irish unionists in response to this newspaper's interview with Peter Hain, Britain's Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland, have astonished many Irish-Americans.

Hain announced a major international conference designed to encourage U.S. companies to take a fresh look at investing in the North. He pointed out that the North, which receives massive subsidies from Britain, was not economically sustainable. He said its future lay in an all-Ireland economy.

Instead of being regarded as having merely stated the facts, Hain was immediately accused of betraying Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionists said his comments represented a "stab in the back."

The Rev Ian Paisley, leader of the North's largest party, the DUP, called on Hain to resign. Arlene Foster, one of the party's most prominent politicians, said: "Peter Hain's comments to the Irish Echo are an unacceptable slur."

Unionist leaders have written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, quoting this newspaper and expressing outrage.

And now, a cloud of doubt hangs over the participation of unionists in the investment conference.

In this week's edition of the Irish Echo, the DUP's economic spokesman has warned that if the conference is framed in the all-Ireland context outlined by Hain last week, his party may decide not to attend.

This is the last thing the North's economy needs right now. By any objective analysis, the situation is already dire; the public expenditure represents around 70 per cent of GDP, and the tiny private sector is dominated by British government contract work.

The thing that it needs most is what just might emerge from the conference - real jobs in real industry.

Irish unionists should realize fast that sharing resources and infrastructure with the rest of the country need not erode their identity.

And it would surely improve their economic lot.

Activists vow treaty will be election issue

Firestorm over North economy

Spicer fails to show; McBrides up campaign

Chilly winds of change blowing all around the North

State forces slip under the radar

Chance for NIO to wipe out double jobbers

Blank cheque for Hain is unwise

We did not agree to blanket amnesty

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ireland reverses the story of ages and puts an end to its diaspora

Philip Hopkins:

JUST four years ago, only about 19 Irish companies were operating in Australia. Now there are more like 50 — and many of them are companies involved in high-tech areas such as software.

As Micheal Martin, Ireland's visiting Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment noted, the change is testimony to the growing trade and investment ties between the two countries.

It is also indicative of Ireland's economic dynamism. Economically, the country is at an historical peak.

The population is 4.1 million, the highest in 130 years. Emigration has stopped; expatriates are returning, and Ireland takes in about 80,000 migrants a year, including many from the former communist countries of eastern Europe, like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Average growth in gross domestic product from 2000-04 was 6.1 per cent, the highest in the 30-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

European Union funds had helped foster this growth, but Mr Martin, 45, speaking in Melbourne, said Irish Government policy over the past three decades had been crucial.

"The Government has adopted a macro position, assessing what the drivers of the Irish economy over the next decade would be," he said. "It has created an environment for business, for foreign direct investment, that has had a transforming impact on Irish business and enterprise. The Irish mindset has changed."

Key drivers have been an emphasis on education, research and development, technological innovation, and openness in international trade. The Government has set the broad parameters and left the "nitty-gritty" work to market forces.

In the final two years of secondary education, there is an emphasis on vocational training for those who want it. A chain of regional institutes of technology turns out engineers with strong practical skills suited to industry. There are no university fees, although there are some charges.

"The teacher was always celebrated in the Irish parish. Those who went through the tough times in the 1940s and '50s were determined to give their kids a good education," said Mr Martin, himself a former teacher with a Master of Arts in political history.

Under its National Development Plan, Ireland will spend €36 billion ($A58 billion) to upgrade the country's infrastructure over the next 10 years.

"There are lots of opportunities for Australian companies in this big expenditure," Mr Martin said. For example, engineering group Sinclair Knight Merz is playing a big role in a light rail project in Dublin.

Ireland reciprocates by buying from Australia. Mr Martin pointed out that Australian wine is the No. 1 seller in Ireland with 34 per cent of the market, ahead of Chile and France.

The Irish Government prides itself on its pragmatism. It has the lowest personal and corporate tax rates in the OECD, with the latter only 12.5 per cent.

The emphasis on education has paid off. Ireland excels at pharmaceuticals, IT and medical technologies, and has become a mini-manufacturing powerhouse in these areas. Its share of high-technology exports (41 per cent) is the highest in Europe.

"We are one of the top three producers of software in the world. There are 800 software companies in Ireland," Mr Martin said.

Conference guest says S.C. should learn from Ireland

US Multinationals Overseas Profits: Ireland's patent income tax-exemption may fund over 5% of Irish Government annual spending in 2006

Concerns after rates rise 'misplaced'

Irish top Christmas-spending poll

Ireland Online:

Irish people are in line to become the biggest spenders in Europe this Christmas season as festive fever takes over, a new survey has revealed.

As other European nations tighten their belts, spending by Irish consumers on Christmas gifts is set to increase by 8%.

The research from financial consultants Deloitte showed it was the largest increase across the nine European countries surveyed, placing Irish consumers in position to become the biggest spenders across the region.

Cormac Hughes, a partner with Deloitte Consultants, said: “The results of our survey indicate that again Irish consumers are defying the trends in Europe and planning to spend reasonably freely this Christmas.

“Spend will grow, our results indicate 8% on the people surveyed.”

Around 84% of those surveyed expected to spend at least as much if not more than last year.

The 9% of consumers planning to curb their spending put this down to the high cost of living and saving money for things like a new house or additional holidays.

Mr Hughes said the Irish economy was continuing to perform strongly and this was revealed in the anticipated spending levels.

“Our survey shows that Irish consumers have a high degree of job security, at 77%, and are optimistic about their personal financial situation, with 76% indicating that they expect their financial situation to stay the same or improve over the next year.

“This contrasts sharply with the European average for job security, at 50%,” he said.

The survey, which was based on responses from 6,800 consumers in nine EU countries, found spending on gifts was in line to increase by 6% in Spain, while a drop in spending of 9% was anticipated in Germany with a fall of 6% in Portugal and Italy.

Among the most popular toys this Christmas are the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PSP and Star Wars.

Batman and Power Rangers toys remain popular among boys, while Bratz and Barbie are claiming the attention of young girls.

Irish, British and German consumers are planning to buy toys purely for fun this Christmas but in Dutch and southern European countries’ many adults are planning to buy educational presents.

Around 44% of Irish consumers would consider how the goods were sourced in relation to fair trade and child labour.

But when it comes to where to shop for gifts for around 40% it would be a last-minute decision.

Mr Hughes said: “This presents a good opening for retailers in the battle for the consumer wallet.

"Christmas, with its large sales volumes, is an opportunity to attract and, when successful, permanently re-route customers to their shops.”

Across Europe, the internet was being used by 75% of people to browse for products and stores, 54% were engaging in price comparisons and around half of those surveyed were going to buy products and services on the internet this Christmas.

Consumers set to spend less across Europe for Xmas except in Ireland and Spain

DUP talks with Loyalist Commission will show British terrorists’ role in peace process

Ciaran Barnes:

“A huge shift in Democratic Unionist Party thinking” was one of the phrases used yesterday to describe the party’s decision to sanction talks with the Loyalist Commission.

For years, the party vowed never to get involved with the commission because it includes Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force members.

The DUP insisted in public that paramilitaries should be locked up and not talked to.

However, the party has been actively enaging with loyalist paramilitaries for the past 30 years, mostly behind closed doors.

Yesterday’s statement was just confirmation of the fact for many nationalists.

During the Ulster Workers’ Council strike in 1974, DUP leader Ian Paisley surrounded himself with UDA men, including the organisation’s leader Andy Tyrie, to bring industry in the North to a halt.

In the 1960s, Mr Paisley worked with UVF man Noel Docherty to set up the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee, which later developed a UVF-linked subsection called the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. Members of that subgrouping were involved in scores of sectarian murders during the early part of the Troubles.

There is no suggestion that Mr Paisley himself was ever involved in paramilitarism.

In the 1980s, the DUP leadership began to flirt openly with paramilitaries again. Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson attended an Ulster Resistance rally in Belfast’s Ulster Hall.

Ulster Resistance was set up in response to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The group was heavily involved in shipping arms into the North for use by loyalist paramilitaries.

The group’s 70 assault rifles, 30 Browning pistols, 165 fragmentation grenades, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and four RPG7 rocket launchers have been used in more than 20 murders.

The DUP’s relationship with loyalist paramilitaries was again exposed in 1996 when then Mid-Ulster MP Willie McCrea shared a stage at a loyalist rally with the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright.

Five years later, Belfast DUP mayor Sammy Wilson laid a wreath during a loyalist remembrance ceremony on the city’s Shankill Road.

The last six months have also thrown up further examples of DUP members’ relationships with loyalist paramilitaries.

In September, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson admitted in court that he had been in telephone contact with former LVF chief Mark Fulton.

It emerged in the same month that the party’s press officer in north Antrim, Gary Blair, was a convicted former UDA man.

A short time later, DUP councillor Ruth Patterson admitted meeting UVF leaders to end a dispute between families in the Donegall Pass area of Belfast.

The DUP decision to give members permission to engage with groups involving loyalist paramilitaries is nothing new, as these examples demonstrate.

What is new is that when meetings do take place, there is now no need for denials from those involved or from party headquarters.

There is no need for spin, tales of chance encounters, or expressions of astonishment that a paramilitary was present during a meeting involving a DUP member.

Working with the Loyalist Commission is undoubtedly the DUP’s best way of understanding the reality that paramilitaries have a crucial role to play in the peace process.

The commission is chaired by the Reverend Mervyn Gibson, a former RUC member turned preacher.

The veteran Orangeman’s background fits the Paisley mould perfectly but his openness and frankness about working with loyalist paramilitaries ensured that the DUP always kept him at arm’s length until now.

Mr Gibson has refused to comment on reports that the DUP had scheduled a meeting with him before Christmas.

He said his organisation was “always open to engage with anyone”.

In recent years, Mr Gibson has brokered an end to a series of loyalist feuds and has repeatedly called on political parties to work on initiatives to help steer paramilitaries away from crime.

The DUP is understood to have identified him as someone the party can trust. This is significant because a lot of republicans would also identify Mr Gibson as a relatively trustworthy figure.

The party’s decision to engage with him could be interpreted as its first step on the road to negotiating with Sinn Féin.

In this respect, yesterday’s announcement does mark a “huge shift” in DUP policy.

However, it is not the case that the party is only now sanctioning talks with loyalist paramilitaries. Its members have been meeting loyalist paramilitaries for years.

All-Island Economy Makes Sense

DUP talks stance branded nonsense

'Loyalist feud' led to pair's death

Just who elects these DUP flat-Earthers and cranks with the most odious of beliefs?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The British Government has dismissed the first minister's call for Scotland to be given special treatment regarding the removal of asylum seekers

BBC News:

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said no concessions could be made for Scotland, despite the Scottish Executive's unease at the system.

Jack McConnell had hoped that the executive would be consulted before failed asylum seekers were removed.

But Mr McNulty said there could not be different arrangements around the UK.

Mr McConnell has repeatedly called for Scotland to be made a special case in relation to asylum, particularly over the use of dawn raids to remove families from their homes.

Campaigners have increased their efforts to stop such raids following the deportation of the Vucaj family from their home in Glasgow.

Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan is among those who have been targeting the immigration service office in Govan, Glasgow, resulting in his arrest on Monday. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday.

Mr McConnell's Fresh Talent initiative is aimed at helping to attract skills to Scotland and reverse the declining population. Educated asylum seekers are seen as offering some of the skills which are in short supply in Scotland.

Last week, the Scottish Parliament's external relations committee urged the Scottish Executive to lobby the Home Office over rules which prevented employment asylum seekers from taking up jobs.

Mr McNulty will be in Scotland on Thursday to meet Scottish Executive officials and organisations involved with asylum seekers.

Ahead of his visit, it has emerged that he will tell Mr McConnell there can be no special arrangements with the executive on the issue of dawn raids.

Senior Home Office officials said there cannot be different arrangements for different parts of the UK.

BBC Scotland home affairs correspondent Reeval Alderson said educational or medical criteria would be taken into consideration but he pointed out that that was already happening across the UK and was not a concession to the executive.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie called on the first minister to make a statement to parliament.

"What today's development shows loud and clear is that the first minister has no status, no stature and no authority with his colleagues in Westminster," she said.

"I am calling for the first minister to come before the parliament and to make a statement at the earliest possible opportunity in order to clarify what the actual situation is."

The Scottish National Party echoed Tory calls for Mr McConnell to make a parliamentary statement on the issue.

SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "It now appears that the first minster is at best muddled over the Home Office's position.

"We need to know if the first minister was misinformed or if he misled parliament."

The irony is that there are hundreds of thousands of British colonists in the north of Ireland who could easily remedy Scotland's population problems if they were relocated from the Six Counties. The great benefit of relocating the unionists to Scotland is that they are all English-speakers who are intimately familiar with British culture.

Hain was simply stating the truth

Daily Ireland:

The hapless Peter Hain finds himself under fire again from the DUP for restating the old Charlie Haughey dictum that Northern Ireland is a failed entity.

Ian Paisley now demands the Secretary of State’s head on a platter for his unguarded comments to the Irish Echo in New York — despite the fact that Mr Hain has behaved in an insufferably unctuous manner to the DUP boss since his arrival here.

Peter Hain doesn’t do “tough” very well but in recent weeks he has been posing as as the heavy sent in by Tony Blair to knock some heads together. Thus, he warns, water rates are on the way, quangos will be quashed, schools shuttered and Assembly wages stopped unless the parties in the North can make common cause in a new Executive.

Unfortunately, his jellyfish approach to the DUP and a series of botched decisions — the imprisonment of Seán Kelly being the most notable — mean that it’s hard to take him seriously.

A prisoner of his civil service, Mr Hain parrots lines fed to him by NIO “lifers” who pine for the good old days when their writ ran without interference from the natives.

When, occasionally, he gets it right — as he did in New York — he immediately beats a retreat. Not a word in his defence has he uttered since that Irish Echo interview was printed. That’s unfortunate because when Secretary of State Hain says that the economy of the six counties is “not sustainable in the long term”, he’s using the kindest terms possible to describe a basket case economic model.

The solution to the economic woes of the North are to be found — as Mr Hain states — in greater harmonisation with the Republic.

“In future decades, it is going to be increasingly difficult to look at the economy of north and south except as a sort of island economy,” he says.

At senior levels of the civil service and within the ranks of the DUP that hard truth may be unpalatable but the failure of the economic agencies in the North to attract foreign direct investment projects underlines the need for the six counties to piggyback on the phenomenal economic success south of the Border.

Third World roads, high corporate taxes compared with the rest of the island, and the use of sterling rather than the euro, all combine to make the North an unattractive option for investors. More co-operation between the faltering Invest NI and its powerhouse peers in the Republic is now a necessity if the six counties is not to slip even further behind the rest of the country in the economic stakes.

Of course, the other barrier to investment is the failure of the British government to guarantee equality of opportunity to all the citizens of the North. Angry accusations of “geo-sectarian discrimination” by the SDLP over the refusal of the British government to site job projects west of the Bann will give potential investors pause for thought.

And the fact that much of Mr Hain’s interview with the Irish Echo was taken up with his limp defence of the ban on government job ads from Daily Ireland suggests that not all Irish-Americans, who more than any other group secured stiff anti-bias workplace laws in the North, believe the discriminating leopard has changed its spots!

Hain stated the obvious

Fourteen warnings of loyalist threats in two years

Connla Young:

A Belfast man has been warned 14 times in the past two years by the PSNI that his life is under threat from loyalists.

Seán Hayes, a former Sinn Féin councillor in Belfast, was visited by the PSNI last week and advised to step up his personal security after intelligence files went missing from a PSNI station in east Belfast in July 2004.

Mr Hayes is among an estimated 400 people across the North whose personal details were contained in files removed from Castlereagh barracks last year.

After the incident, almost 30 members of the Royal Irish Regiment were removed from the barracks to other locations.

Mr Hayes yesterday accused the British government of deliberately withholding information about the Castlereagh controversy.

“They knew about this last year and yet they have said nothing for over 16 months. That was a policy decision taken 16 months ago,” he said.

“The British government has lied about this. I have received 14 visits from the PSNI in the past two years. If we go further back, it’s dozens. I’ve lost count.

“The two PSNI men who advised me to step up my security laughed when I asked them where I would get such advice. The British government have armed the people who have my details and now they are giving them intelligence.

“The PSNI should just put my personal details on their website or, if loyalists want them, they should call their local station, where I’m sure they’d be happy to hand them over.

“By holding back this information, the British took a decision to endanger up to 400 lives. I am a single parent with responsibilities for children but there’s no support for me and others. Nobody is going to buy my house or give me protection.”

Pat Doherty, Sinn Féin’s spokesman on collusion, yesterday called on those contacted by the PSNI in recent days to get in touch with his party.

“Sinn Féin is anxious to quantify exactly how many people were told that their files are in the hands of unionist death squads as result of the Castlereagh collusion scandal,” said Mr Doherty.

“No doubt it is in the hundreds but exactly how many is unclear at present. I am therefore appealing to anyone who has been visited by the PSNI in recent days to contact their nearest Sinn Fein centre so that we can see the extent and breadth of this latest collusion scandal.

“Some for of collective action may be necessary in the near future to force the PSNI, British Army, the NIO and the British government into revealing more details of what went on ion Castlereagh in July 2004 and why it has taken so long to inform nationalists and republicans that their lives were in danger.”

Is this what the McCartney sisters mean when they talk about how Ireland has changed?

UVF murder victim's family in appeal to US Counsel

The Troubles linked to mental health problems

The Political Police

Loyalists murdering with impunity

McCartney sisters allege "smear campaign"

Sean O'Driscoll:

Repulicans are using a "smear campaign" to distort the McCartney sisters' message to Irish Americans, one of the sisters has said at the end of a week-long visit to Washington.

Catherine McCartney, who travelled with her sisters last week to meet with US politicians, including senators Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, said that many Irish Americans were living in the past and looked at the IRA too favourably.

She said that there was a "whispering campaign" against the sisters in the United States that was trying to link their campaign on behalf of their brother to pro-British political causes.

"Irish Americans are getting the belief that we're not just looking for justice, that we are looking for something more than that. That's why we're going to have to do more to educate people in the US," she said.

She added that she had used her own credit card to pay for her and her sisters to travel to the US and that they would have to chip in to pay the bill.

"We need to get it through to people that the IRA of the 1980s and the early 1990s no longer exists and that Ireland has changed very much," she said.

She said that she has the strong feeling that pro-IRA republicans were doing their best to discredit her family's campaign.

"We see a smear campaign on the Internet and trying to say that we are putting Robert's murder in a much wider political context, which we're not. This is about the abuse of power by IRA members, it's not about the freedom of Ireland," she said.

Senator Clinton has called on those with information on Robert's killing to come forward to the police.

"Robert's killers must be brought to justice and I urge everyone to co-operate with the authorities to find those responsible," she said.

The only people engaged in a smear campaign are the McCartney sisters themselves. The murder of Robert McCarney was unjust but it was the actions of a few individuals. The McCartney sisters have been trying to make it look like the entire Irish republican movement killed their brother even though the Provisional IRA has told them the names of the men involved in the murder and even offered to execute the perpetrators. As for their claim that "Ireland has changed very much" where is the evidence of this change? Have the loyalists gone away? No. Has anti-Catholic discrimination been ended? No. Are the unionists willing to work with the elected representatives of the Irish Catholic population as equals? No. The reason why people have been accusing the McCartney sisters of engaging in pro-British propaganda is because that is precisely what these women are doing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Unionists say no to nationalist housing plan

Andrea McKernon:

A "unionist line" has been drawn through proposals to build 70 homes for nationalists in the Oldpark, say housing campaigners.

Plans for the site at Hillview, behind Dunnes Stores, were opposed at a recent meeting attended by members of the unionist community and politicians in the Avoca Street Community Centre.

But the St Patrick's and St Joseph's Housing Committee this morning demanded answers from the Housing Executive over its housing policy in North Belfast where nationalists number 85 per cent of those in housing crisis.

Officials of the Housing Executive attended the meeting as well as unionist councillors including the PUP's Hugh Smyth, Independent Frank McCoubrey, UUP councillor Fred Cobain and the DUP's Diane Dodds.

Gerard Brophy of the St Patrick's and St Joseph's Committee said nationalists were being blocked from housing "at every turn".

"Here are 70 families that could get a decent house and again the unionist bloc has got together to oppose any housing for nationalists.

"What they are saying about it becoming an interface is groundless, because there's nothing but derelict houses in Manor Street."

"They have opposed housing in Sailortown, where there is no unionist community anywhere near, and in every other place where Catholics are trying to get decent housing. In Somerdale, unionist housing is going ahead and that will create another interface. This is the unionist line being drawn again to keep North Belfast unionist. The minute there's a row from the unionist side the Housing Executive immediately backs down. There needs to be an inquiry into who is in charge of housing policy in North Belfast. Is it the Housing Executive or unionists?"

But Hugh Smyth today denied that there was any political motive in the unionist opposition.

"I am opposed to this because it would create another interface. It's nothing to do with politics. It's a clear matter of creating another flashpoint. It will create nothing but difficulties for both sides of the community."

A Housing Executive spokeswoman said it was in favour of the development.

"The site at Hillview has been acquired by North and West Housing.

"The Housing Executive, through the North Belfast Housing Strategy, has supported their proposals for social housing at this location on the grounds of housing need in North Belfast," she said.

"The North Belfast Strategy Manager and senior Housing Executive officials regularly meet with community groups and elected representatives about proposed developments in North Belfast. Initial contact has been made with local politicians about the site at Hillview and the Housing Executive and North and West Housing are awaiting a response from Sinn Féin about possible dates for public consultation."

Sinn Féin's Margaret McClenaghan said, "Sinn Féin is asking unionist politicians to stop scaremongering around the issue of the proposed new Hillview Housing Development."

'Structures Of Collusion Still In Place'- Says McGuinness

Calls for honest account of 1980s history

Troubles provide 'lesson for London'

Should the Irish be Trusting the Brits?

Hain urged to make statement over threats to republicans

Sir Hugh to be quizzed over missing documents

Hain's view

Perils of Megaphone Diplomacy

Finucanes brief US on efforts to achieve inquiry

Committee long-fingers U.K. extradition treaty

British government shows ‘resistance’ to bill of rights

Eyewitness speaks out

Bias remains among top civil service jobs

Seminars focus on Border poverty

Friday, November 18, 2005

Security cameras have been erected around a Catholic Church in County Derry in a bid to ward off loyalist attacks

Connla Young:

Magherafelt parish priest Peter Murphy says the decision to install the cameras was unfortunate but necessary. The security move came just weeks after Saint John’s Church, which is located between Castledawson and Magherafelt, was targeted in a loyalist graffiti attack. During the September incident a number of graves were desecrated after loyalist vandals attacked headstones with paint and scrawled obscene sectarian graffiti on the church walls.

St John’s was reopened just over 12 months ago with a complete internal refit after it was gutted in a loyalist firebomb attack in 2003.

Fr Peter Murphy said the security cameras are needed.

“This church has a special place in the affections of parishioners who found these acts very distressing indeed. We have to try and prevent the chapel and adjoining graveyard from being attacked in such a way again and hopefully the cameras will achieve that aim. There is now 24-hour surveillance at Saint John’s which will hopefully deter those who carry out such disgusting acts.”

Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Sean McPeake said it was a matter of regret that the cameras were erected.

“It’s regrettable that in this day and age that we have to resort to placing cameras around a church. It’s indicative of the sectarianism that has been festering around the Magherafelt area this summer.”

Magherafelt SDLP councillor Jim Campbell is saddened by the erection of the cameras. “It’s a sad reflection on society we live in that not even the dead are safe. The people while in that churchyard did nobody any harm when they were alive they are hardly going to do any harm now.”

In recent months an outbreak of tit-for-tat sectarian incidents in the Magherafelt area has resulted in churches and Orange halls being targeted in vandal attacks. In August the PSNI issued a warning to GAA clubs in south Derry after they claimed to have uncovered a loyalist plot to spread broken glass on gaelic fields. Days later an explosive device was discovered at the gates of Magherafelt O’Donovan Rossa GAA club, which sits just yards from St John’s Church. A recent anti-GAA poster campaign in Counties Derry and Antrim originated in the Magherafelt area in September.

The day Belfast mourned

Source claims Andre Shoukri’s latest stint in prison marks the end of his paramilitary career

Finucanes call for lawsuit

Shadowy work of spooks continues

'Reveal loyalist group' demand

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hard political truth is tough to swallow

Brian Feeney:

The events of the weekend are a sure sign that the Republic's general election campaign has kicked off: the Fine Gael conference with shiny new policies, the PD's 20th anniversary jamboree and Bertie Ahern's statement about Sinn Féin in government brilliantly timed to wipe both PDs and Fine Gael off Monday's front pages. Next up is Brian Cowen's budget which will tell us by the size of its giveaways when the election is, 2006 or 2007.

We've come a long way since October 2004 when the newly-appointed minister for foreign affairs, Dermot Ahern, told RTE's Tommie Gorman at Hillsborough that it was "only a matter of time" before Sinn Féin would be in government in the Republic. He added that "as long as an armed and active IRA exists, Sinn Féin will remain in the cold".

That's no longer the case now, so what's the problem? Their economic policies it would seem, which Dermot Ahern said last October would "make all of Ireland a social and economic wasteland". Pretty much what Bertie Ahern said at the weekend.

However, Bertie told The Irish News last week that the main block to SF participation in government was the continuing existence, in any form, of the IRA because any party in government must support Bunreacht na hEireann which recognises only one army, that of the state. By the weekend he had toughened up his position because his priority was to shoot the PD's fox. Neither Fianna Fail nor Fine Gael can win an outright majority so there will have to be a coalition. Fine Gael and Labour are already committed to one. The obvious alternative, given the current state of the polls, would be FF/SF.

Bertie knew Michael McDowell was going to start chanting, 'A vote for Fianna Fail is a vote for Sinn Féin'.

Now Bertie has ruled that out saying he will not accept 'any act' from SF which would make him taoiseach, preferring to go into opposition instead.

It's shrewd. It's ruthless. It's brutal. It's effective. It's 26-county politics. It ignores the consequences for the north.

A steer has been given to the media that Bertie was excluding SF solely on their economic policies because he didn't want to give the DUP any excuse for following his line and refuse to contemplate joining SF in an administration here on the grounds that Dublin was asking the DUP to do something they wouldn't do themselves. If so, why did Bertie mention the continuing existence of the IRA as a reason last week and hand the DUP another excuse?

Two points are clear and connected. First, Bertie Ahern will do anything to win the next general election and he believes ruling out any deal with SF is an essential prerequisite for that.

Secondly, and more ominously, he has read the signs at Westminster and knows that whatever he says will not affect the prospects of resurrecting devolution in the north because it isn't going to happen until Blair goes.

As you read here in June, the DUP are going to use their nine MPs to the maximum advantage to screw as much out of the weakened Labour government as they can.

Do you think Blair isn't going to court their votes on something like ID cards?

If it comes to it on education reform or benefit reform will Blair make concessions to gain nine votes if he needs them?

Will Blair care whose nine votes they are? Will the prospect of infuriating northern nationalists outweigh the chance of pushing through major changes in the welfare state written into Labour's May election manifesto? What do you think?

The hard political truth is that the DUP would be mad to make a deal with SF before they see how bad the trouble gets for Blair in Westminster. We've been here before in 1976-79 and 1992-97. Nationalists were paying well into the 1980s for deals done about Belfast housing in 1978-79. We still don't know all the dirty deals John Major's NIO ministers did in the mid-90s to buy UUP votes in crucial divisions on EU matters. We do know they postponed the peace process by four years. How many years will it be this time?

Attacking S.F. carries risks for Republic's other parties

Increase in poltical attacks on Sinn Féin since arms move shows fear of republicanism’s rise

Adams beams in, SF rakes in

One island!

Partition scourge raises its ugly head

Adams name found on 'threat list'

SF calls for inquiry into security breach

Gangland glamour

Time to get tough on unwilling DUP

Actions, Not Words

Let proper authorities sort out paramilitaries

90-day detention proposal had full glare of media but another case fell under the radar

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bush’s big mistake and Sinn Fein

Irish Voice:

IT is impossible to understand the latest Bush administration move on Northern Ireland.

Restricting Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams from fundraising in the U.S. is a clear attempt to bully him into accepting the new Northern Ireland police force, the PSNI.

The timing is truly remarkable, just weeks after Adams delivered on the seemingly impossible, a full decommissioning of IRA arms.

One would expect that after that truly historic event the U.S. government, which has played an overwhelmingly positive role throughout both the Clinton and Bush administrations, would welcome the Sinn Fein leader with open arms to the U.S.

After all, for how many years did we hear the mantra that those who take risks for peace will be rewarded? Adams has just done that in the most profound way, yet he finds coal in his stocking.

It is particularly disappointing that the Bush administration has read this issue so wrong at this stage. America stood firm for the peace process through far greater crises when the pressure was on to ban Adams or cut off links entirely with Sinn Fein.

Indeed the work of the Bush special envoys, first Richard Haass and now Mitchell Reiss, had been much appreciated in Ireland. Now, for some reason, that work seems to have been thrown overboard.

Asking Adams to move precipitously on policing is a huge mistake. It smacks of a bully-boy approach to foreign policy.

Having just won over even his most hardline supporters on the issue of decommissioning, Adams is perfectly correct to wait and see what the other side begins to offer in the upcoming negotiations.

He has said as much in very direct terms. “Our position on policing is very clear. The British government has agreed to honor certain commitments made on the policing issue. When they do this I will honor commitments I have made, including going to a special party ard fheis (convention) to deal with this matter,” Adams said.

It is easy to translate those words. When the time has arrived Sinn Fein will consider policing, not before. Adams has stayed at the forefront of the Republican movement by adopting a highly nuanced, careful strategy that never moves faster than the slowest boat in the convoy.

The reasons are simple. Any premature move and hardliners within the IRA could have easily derailed the entire peace process.

Given this careful strategy, the Bush administration attempt to pressure him comes across as absurd in the extreme. It is flailing around with a big stick when quiet diplomacy, as practiced by Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Haas, and up until recently, Reiss has had spectacular success.

Pressuring Adams with demands that he regurgitate State Department approved statements on policing would only cost him dearly in support at home.

Indeed, there are many of his supporters who now say that since decommissioning has happened, their worst fears are being realized — that advantage will now be taken because the IRA are no longer a threat.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Irish peace process knows that while progress can happen in a maddeningly slow fashion, each step forward by Sinn Fein has been achieved by consensus building and plain hard work, both internally in the movement and externally with the other major players.

The Bush administration has now decided it knows better. They need to get back with the program and understand that the way forward in Ireland is through persuasion, not misguided decisions like prohibiting Adams from U.S. fundraising.

'He saw them all as his mother's murderers'

New team, old ideas

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sinn Féin fundraising drive in US nets €400k

Paul T Colgan:

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams addressed Irish-American supporters by video link in the Sheraton Hotel in New York last week at a dinner that raised about $400,000 for the party.

Adams cancelled a planned visit to the US following a State Department decision prohibiting him from raising funds during the trip. He had been invited as guest of honour to an event hosted by businessman William J Flynn on Tuesday.

However, the Sinn Féin leader spoke to more than 1,000 people on Thursday night by satellite link.

Party sources said the $500-a-plate dinner had raised about $400,000 once the cost of putting together the event had been taken into account.

It is likely that a number of donations were also made to the party on the night.

Another $150-a-plate dinner in Toronto last week means that Sinn Féin is likely to have raised more money last week than Fianna Fáil collects from its tent at the Galway Races - the highest-profile and most controversial political fundraising event of the year. The Galway Races is estimated to raise about €400,000 for Fianna Fáil.

Adam's trip to the US was organised as part of Sinn Féin's 100th anniversary celebrations. The party claimed that the US government had denied him permission to raise funds in order to force Sinn Féin to accept the current policing arrangements in the North.

A senior republican source said that the party's position on policing was straightforward. It would not endorse policing until the British government implemented a deal it agreed with Sinn Féin in recent negotiations.

“We currently have an agreement with the British on what should happen with regards to policing,” said the source.

“The North has one of the lowest crime rates in western Europe - ours is a lawful, law-abiding community that wants to be policed. We want this sorted out.

“The State Department's decision was a disappointing one and is at odds with our agreement. We want to get policing right, and I've no doubt that we will get it right'‘.

Friends of Sinn Féin in the US, Canada and Australia raise hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of dollars for the party every year. However, the money can only be used in the North, as electoral finance laws in the Republic prohibit the use of foreign-generated money for electoral purposes, except where that money comes from Irish citizens abroad.

The Friends of Sinn Féin website invites contributions to support the party's task of achieving a united Ireland. “A lasting peace,” says a statement from Adams, “if it is to be successful, must have international support.”

Detention without trial vote puzzler

Fraud Act is an instrument to deny votes

Friday, November 11, 2005

All to play for in changes to council boundaries

Jude Collins:

By general agreement we’re over-governed: too many MLAs for a non-existent Assembly, too many district councillors for too many district councils. But while the British government isn’t going to start shouting for fewer MLAs at the same time as it’s trying to coax all parties back into the Assembly, it is gearing up to do something radical with local councils.

One thing we know: there’ll be fewer councils. The body charged with the review of public administration is looking at three options: reducing the present 26 councils to seven, 11 or 15. For each of these three options three possible models are on the table, which makes a total of nine possibilities.

What criteria are being used by the people doing the boundary calculations? Well, they say it’s important each council area contains roughly the same number of people; that the people who live in a given area also work there; and they talk about ‘co-terminosity’, which is, yes indeed, a sinfully-ugly word and refers to the need for council areas to match health and education boundaries. In contrast, the boundary planners are rather quiet on a central question that absorbs the rest of us: how many of the new councils will have a unionist majority and how many will be nationalist?

And no, please. PLEASE. Don’t start squawking ‘Sectarian head-count!’ Among mindless catch-calls, that ranks high. Experience – hard experience – has taught us that whether a council here is unionist-dominated or nationalist-dominated matters a great deal.

Consider Lisburn. There you have an example of not-an-inch unionism in all its splendour, with representatives of the largest nationalist party excluded from all posts of influence. Contrast that with nationalist-dominated Derry, where posts such as mayor rotate so that all major parties, including the DUP, get to share in the responsibility of local government.

Against that depressing backdrop, it’s clearly desirable from a nationalist point of view that the new dispensation land as few nationalists as possible in a unionist-controlled council area. So what are the prospects? It depends on what option and what model for change is selected.

If the review body and Peter Hain opt for 11 super-councils, the breakdown would be unionists seven councils, nationalists four. Under this arrangement, the present boundaries of Belfast City Council would remain untouched, which would probably mean a nationalist majority there within a decade. That’d change the balance to unionists six, nationalists five.

If Hain and Co opt for 15 super-councils, it’ll mean unionists nine, nationalists six with two of the models, and unionists eight, nationalists seven with the third model. Under two of these models Belfast Council boundaries would stay unchanged, leading to a nationalist majority in Belfast City Council within a decade. Which’d make the sums look rather different: eight councils nationalist, seven unionist. Eeeek.

And if our British master opts for seven super-councils, it’ll mean three nationalist councils, three unionist. The boundaries of the seventh – Belfast – would, in two of the seven-council models on offer, stay as they are. Which, inside a decade, would mean – that’s right – a nationalist-majority Belfast City council and a final score of nationalists four, unionists three. Eeek and double-eek.

However (no nodding off at the back, please), with the third of the seven-council models, Belfast’s boundaries would be changed to take in maybe Castlereagh, or Newtownabbey, or Lisburn. Result? You got it in one. Belfast would have a safely-unionist council for years and years and years.

Word is that the Brits are leaning heavily towards opting for seven super-councils. Word also is that the DUP have included changed Belfast Council boundaries on their wish-list to Tony Blair. That’s the least he could do, the DUP will argue, considering the one-way flow of concessions to nationalists since the Good Friday Agreement… And would the person who shouted ‘Articles 2 and 3!’ and the person who shouted ‘Principle of consent!’ please leave the hall now.

Clearly, then, the key council in the preferred seven-council model will be Belfast. Right-wing unionism in recent years has been outraged at the sight of nationalist and even (smelling salts, quick) republican politicians taking up residence in the mayor’s parlour, and it aches to turn back the clock in Belfast City Hall.

If Blair and Hain can be persuaded to include a good big unionist population bloc within Belfast’s new boundaries, there’ll be no further need to worry about a Sinn Féin mayor desecrating the cenotaph with his presence on Remembrance Sunday.

And the change would be so simple. Part of the reason Belfast within its present boundaries is on its way to becoming a nationalist city is because unionists, middle class as well as working class, didn’t like having taigs as next-door neighbours and moved to places like Lisburn and Newtownabbey.

How sweet for unionism if a small adjustment could bring the suburban exiles home again, and put nationalists back where they belong, on the fringes of a new Belfast City Council.

Belfast aside, there would be some advantages for nationalists in a seven-super-council model. With an even balance of three councils each, the growth of the nationalist electorate would be given a clear and undeniable manifestation. In addition, SDLP and Sinn Féin representatives would find seats on every council in the north, something currently absent in places like North Down and Carrickfergus. Barring as I say unionist conversion, there’d be no rotation of positions of power on these new unionist councils; but the nationalist electorate in such places would have the satisfaction of voting in council members who actually represented their views. After that, it’d be up to those councillors, by the clarity of their voices and the diligence of their efforts, to build on the base.

There are those like the SDLP’s Tommy Gallagher who argue that the seven-council model – if that’s what’s opted for, and leaks suggest it is – will ‘facilitate divisive and sectarian politics’.

Well Tommy old sausage, if you believe the unionist-nationalist division in this state is sectarian, maybe you should join the Alliance Party. On the other hand you may feel more comfortable where you are.

But if you’re saying that nationalists/republicans should have been more proactive about this whole council business, and pressed their own council plans more vigorously on the Brits rather than reacting to what Hain and Co have set in front of us, I’d agree.

There are, for example, models of revised councils that leave the great majority of nationalists governed by a nationalist-majority council – an important consideration, if, in the continued absence of an Assembly, the new councils were to be given enhanced powers. But these alternatives were not pressed on the British with sufficient energy and conviction.

The fact is, this is where we are now. And the question is, what are we going to do about it?

Victims campaigner receives new UVF death threats

Adams Socked

Murdered teen’s mum says net is closing on killers

Hypocrisy on OTRs

Sister of shot teen calls for truth over killing

Thursday, November 10, 2005

SSIAs to drive Irish economic growth by 5%

Conor Keane:

THE Irish economy will grow by an extra 5% a year in 2006 and 2007 as consumer spending accelerates by up to 7%, funded by the release of €16 billion from Special Savings Incentive Accounts (SSIA).

A study by Davy Stockbrokers into the impact of SSIAs on the Irish economy and financial institutions estimates the funds saved will come to almost €16bn, factoring in likely investment returns, and not €15bn as is commonly thought.

The report’s authors, analyst Scott Rankin and economist Rossa White, said: “What it not widely known is that using the last published statistics (end-2004), by value, 43% will mature in 2006 with 57% maturing in 2007 by virtue of the fact that ‘early adopters’ put in more money to begin with.

“In other words, the SSIA phenomenon is not as much a 2007 event as is generally believed.

“This is important to understand both from a macroeconomic point of view and from the point of view of investors.”

The Davy duo believe the Irish economy will be boosted in 2006-2007 from higher consumer spending, with some of this washed out via increased imports.

“We assume that 20% of the SSIA pool will be spent and that 50% of the current flow into SSIAs will not be re-saved. This will boost consumer spending to 6.5% in 2006 and 6% in 2007, leading to 5% growth in GNP in both years.

“However, more aggressive assumptions will lead to rapid growth in consumer expenditure and, hence, in the economy overall.”

Davy expects strong competition among financial institutions for SSIA money.

Bank of Ireland-owned Davy said: “Given that the real push will involve longer-term savings and investment products, those firms with the strongest asset management/life arms should do best.

“Among the quoted players, this clearly suggests that both Bank of Ireland and Irish Life and Permanent are in the strongest position as both have been gaining share in life assurance and together account for roughly half the market for new business sales.

“AIB’s Ark Life unit has been losing share while its asset management business has suffered from a poor track record in recent years (though it is recovering).”

Davy said that if the rumoured deal between AIB and Aviva happens, AIB could be in a stronger position to compete by next year.

“Anglo Irish Bank also stands to be a net winner in our view, as it has relatively few SSIAs (c. €100 million at maturity), while it has some of the best deposit rates in the market and a rapidly-growing private banking franchise that has a reputation for developing innovative investment products,” the stockbrokers said.

Davy also noted there will be some deterioration in loan/deposit ratios due to SSIA maturity.

“Hence this could have negative implications for bank margins though it may not be material,” they said.

UK manufacturing confidence falls

It's a bit late for SDLP's 'principled' stand

Brian Feeney:

The SDLP have set out six 'principles' for dealing with on-the-runs or OTRs. They're not principles at all of course, they're conditions but the word 'principles' always sounds much grander and more important. It's a bit late though for either principles or conditions.

Why demand trials now for OTRs when both the SDLP and UUP were happily urging voters to support the Good Friday Agreement which guaranteed release of any prisoner as long as he or she belonged to an illegal paramilitary organisation? What new principle is at stake that wasn't jettisoned seven years ago in the rush to get the GFA up and running?

Maybe the SDLP is thinking only of OTRs who haven't been convicted of any offence but jumped bail, or just made themselves scarce in case they were going to be charged with some offence.

Seriously? Do they think any former IRA member is going to come over the border and own up to a criminal offence?

So how many trials would the SDLP want? Forty, 50?

Who would pay the millions the trials would cost?

Would they all be over in the year the SDLP has stipulated as the time limit? No chance.

So they'd be remanded in custody awaiting trial? Great.

Let's suppose for a second that OTRs agreed to such a procedure. What would happen if the first few were found not guilty? After all, 30-odd years ago is a long time.

Could there be a safe conviction on the basis of evidence, especially recollections of events, in the early seventies? Of course not.

So maybe it's a crafty SDLP plot to get the OTRs off altogether?

Go one better than an amnesty? Hardly.

On the other hand, maybe it's a genius plan to watch a few dozen IRA figures being put on trial for their activities decades ago while British soldiers and RUC men get off scot free since there's no question of any of them going on trial for anything and none will spend a day in jail. That would be a real political coup for the SDLP, wouldn't it?

Why didn't we hear any of this in 2001 when the British government and the IRA first did the deal on the OTRs? Why did the SDLP unquestioningly sign up to the Joint Declaration in May 2003 which contained even more lax provisions for OTRs?

One thing at least you could say about the DUP is that it isconsistent in its opposition.

You could but you'd be wrong.

The DUP was prepared to sign up to a 'comprehensive' deal last December which would have included the OTR deal which it was blaming on the UUP. It was OK then but now the oul' curmudgeon calls it a great betrayal and pledges the 'greatest possible resistance' to the proposed OTR bill.

By the way, wasn't it curious to watch Arlene Foster on TV on Sunday opposing the OTR bill when she was a member of the UUP in 2001 when it was agreed in principle, that word again, at Weston Park?

Why didn't she resign then if it was so heinous?

The truth of the matter is that the word principle is the last one that can be used about a process which has to be entirely unprincipled. The fact is that this British government came into power in 1997 with the clear intention of getting the prisoners out because that is an essential feature of any conflict resolution here. Releasing them was an acknowledgement that what passed for law and the judicial process was a tool of the British administration here and that the only principles which applied were those enunciated by Brigadier Kitson in his 1971 book Low Intensity Operations.

Kitson recommended that the law should be used as a weapon of the state to counter subversion and insurgency and so it was.

The deal on OTRs, devoid of any legal principle as it must be, therefore makes an important point for Sinn Féin, namely that this place is not like, altogether now, 'the rest of the UK' but an entirely artificial construct where the rule of law is whatever the British parliament says it is. Does the SDLP leader not know that?

A total amnesty will only come when British ministers face implication in the dirty war

Political motives driving PSNI agenda

No show after mum vows to confront ex-officer

Monday, November 07, 2005

NIHE failing to home in on Catholics

Brian Feeney:

Recently you might have read an item in this paper about a new housing development in Belfast's former docklands, known locally as Sailortown. To most readers it would have been a minor good news story. In reality the announcement was a triumph for the efforts of the few individuals heading the St Patrick's & St Joseph's Housing Committee who have struggled for years to have housing put back into a district the DOE has left derelict and dilapidated for a generation.

However the housing committee has bigger fish to fry than a small development in the docks. Last month they produced the results of research they commissioned into housing in north Belfast as a whole. It repays careful study. The blunt conclusion is that the Housing Executive (NIHE) and Stormont's Department of Social Development (DSD) are failing Catholics in north Belfast.

The evidence is quite straightforward. In 2000, almost thirty years after NIHE was established, it produced a North Belfast Strategy to deal with the acute housing crisis facing Catholics there. In March 2000 although Catholics made up 40% of households in north Belfast, they comprised 73% of NIHE's waiting list. More significantly, Catholics made up 81% in the priority category of urgent need. Four years later, in March 2004, Catholics made up 83% of the urgent need category. Not only has NIHE's so-called North Belfast Strategy failed, the situation for Catholics is worse than when it was drafted.

It was bound to be so. For most of its existence, and certainly since the 1980s, the outcome of the Housing Executive's policy has coincided remarkably precisely with unionist policy in north Belfast. Unionist policy was summed up admirably concisely in May 2005's nakedly sectarian DUP election slogan: 'Keep North Belfast Unionist!' That might seem a difficult task given that the unionist population of many districts in the constituency has collapsed. Twenty years ago NIHE reported that while the Catholic population in north Belfast grew between 1971 and 1985 by 6.4%, the Protestant population fell by 38%. Catholic households grew by 11.8% while Protestant ones fell by 27.6%.

However unionism's objective has been made much easier when NIHE and DSD combine with the DOE to help it along. By the mid-1980s the Belfast Development Office, a body devoid of nationalist councillors, had conspired with the DOE and security forces to fence off most nationalist districts in north Belfast. Despite acres of empty ground in neighbouring unionist districts, fences were always sited right up against Catholic housing to corral the residents. The New Lodge was completely corralled by 1986. Ardoyne was walled off by so-called interface fences by 1992 with the completion of the Alliance Avenue fence. Money to build these walls and fences often came from environmental improvement funds for the Catholic areas.

The effect of course was to halt expansion of the growing Catholic populations beyond these districts and to produce chronic over-crowding. Any suggestion of meeting the dire housing need of Catholic families was received with hysteria from unionist representatives.

The Irish News of June 2000 reported this response of the then Housing minister (sic), Nigel Dodds: 'The reality is that ordinary Protestants have seen the area being run down over the years having been forced out by the IRA and SF Hitlerite Nazi tactics. What we are seeing is demands by nationalist politicians to take away the peace-lines. It's a recipe for civil war.'

The reverse was the truth. In fact NIHE for years had been building houses in unionist districts where, on its own admission there is no demand. In fact there is excess housing stock in Protestant areas. Why do they do it? 'To stabilise the area', 'to attract people back', they say. Yet they encourage Catholics to 'become more mobile'. The result is the same dwindling unionist population moving around north Belfast as house prices fall. Nationalists are forced to move to outlying districts while within nationalist areas house prices soar.

Not surprisingly both NIHE and DSD are very sensitive and highly defensive about their activities in north Belfast. They'll blind you with figures and dates but they can't deny the simple facts: the outcome of their actions is the opposite of the purpose for which the Housing Executive was created.

Just for the record

Murders are just tip of the iceberg

Adams Fundraising Still in Doubt

Wrong message is sent to Orangeism

North's doldrums are exposed by Republic

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Basque radical has been sentenced to a year in prison for saying the King of Spain was "in charge of torturers"

BBC News:

Arnaldo Otegi, spokesman for the banned Basque nationalist party Batasuna, was charged with slandering King Juan Carlos during a 2003 news conference.

The Supreme Court's decision overturns a ruling by the Basque Superior Tribunal, which cleared Otegi in March on grounds of freedom of expression.

Batasuna was banned for allegedly being part of the Basque militant group Eta.

The slander charges related to a visit to the Basque region by the King of Spain in 2003.

Otegi told a news conference that the King was "chief of the Spanish army, that's to say, the person responsible for the torturers, who favour torture and impose his monarchic regime on our people through torture and violence".

Otegi later said that he had not intended to slander the king, and his criticism was directed at those who commit torture and not him personally, El Mundo newspaper reports.

Interesting to see how much Spain values freedom of expression.

Sense of Déjà vu over PSNI raids

Maria McCourt:

With Halloween out of the way and the countdown to the Christmas season now under way, it was almost with a sense of inevitability that we were asked to ponder the possibility of a breakthrough in the most controversial Christmas crime of them all – the robbery of £26.5m from the Northern Bank in Belfast last December. Perish the thought that we should go a full year without a single breakthrough of any significance in the investigation into a crime of such magnitude.

The two young Co Down men arrested early yesterday were eagerly named by some media outlets before the ‘suspects’ had got their feet properly under the interrogation table, although they were more circumspect about the arrest of a third man in Belfast later in the day.

Now that the almost forgotten Northern Bank raid has once again intruded on the public consciousness, we take this opportunity to point out once again that we have absolutely no idea who carried out the robbery. The plain fact of the matter is that nobody else knows either – not the PSNI, not the media, not the IMC, not the Irish or British governments. They may well have strong suspicions, but strong suspicions are not the same as proof, and they’re certainly not enough to justify the vilification of the republican movement in the way that we’ve seen over the past ten months.

Disquiet about this latest development in the case is not confined to republicans. An SDLP source in Co Down yesterday told Daily Ireland that he is firmly of the opinion that neither of the two men arrested there had anything to do with the robbery, adding with some heat that the entire episode “stinks of a set-up”. That it was “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen” and should be seen for what it is – “a joke”.

It seems evident that the PSNI is unaware of, or simply not capable of appreciating, the deep suspicion of nationalists and republicans every time another one of these media-friendly setpiece raids is splashed across our TV screens. They’ve seen it all before – a long line of Land Rovers on the Stormont drive; the raids on homes in the wake of the Castlereagh break-in; the searches of commercial premises in the wake of the Northern Bank raid. The defining nature of these operations was that they weren’t raids at all in the accepted sense of the word: officers wandered about not bothering to look in drawers, cupboards or roof spaces; computer disks were arbitrarily selected for confiscation and later returned; search teams stood around twiddling their thumbs while keyholders and householders drank tea and waited for them to leave. What the raids had in common was the eagerness of all involved to stand outside the premises in boiler suits and baseball caps for the benefit of the cameras.

What will become of the three men arrested yesterday is unclear. What is all too clear is that yesterday’s events had all the hallmarks of another media circus and precious little to do with professional policing.

Persuading your former pals to call it a day

Strand mother responds to campaign of murder 'abuse'

The truth will out

Bertie in credit after classic piece of politics

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Time for an end to loyalist threats

Daily Ireland:

Quite what ‘operations’ the LVF ceased last midnight is not entirely clear, because it’s evident to observers of loyalist paramilitaries that the terror group was in business not to save Ulster or to protect Protestants, but to make money from drugs and extortion and to target anyone who stood in the way of their dirty business.

That said, an announcement by any of the armed groups in Ireland that it is to stand down is to be welcomed, but given that the LVF, uniquely among paramilitary groups here, was exclusively dedicated to criminality and gangsterism, it’s hard to see how the order to stand down can be made to work. Will those shaven-headed, bling-loving louts who peddle drugs to young people give up their lucrative activities and sign on the dole? That’s unlikely, to say the least.

More significant perhaps was the statement by the Loyalist Commission that the bloody feud between the UVF and the LVF is at an end. The LVF’s decision to call it a day wasn’t prompted by any deep-seated conviction that Ulster is safe and their job is done – the recent widespread street disorder and soaring loyalist discontent are evidence that loyalist morale has never been at a lower ebb.

The decision was more likely prompted by a good old-fashioned survival instinct – the UVF had claimed the lives of four men with the likelihood of more to follow, while the tiny rabble that is the LVF were incapable of formulating any kind of similar response. The UVF promised at the start of the latest feud that it wouldn’t stop until the LVF disappeared – that has now come to pass.

We report today, however, that death threats made against individuals during the feud are still in place. None of the people living with the threats over the head has been contacted by the PSNI and told that the threats have been lifted. “I’m not going to rest any more easy,” one death threat target said.

“No-one’s contacted me about it. As far as I’m concerned we’re still under threat and no-one has told us otherwise.” Such is the depth of personal enmity between individuals within the UVF and LVF it would be a foolish man indeed who put away his bulletproof vest and went back to sleeping in his own bed on the back of recent developments.

A statement formally lifting the threats would be welcome, and that’s something that the Loyalist Commission might profitably work towards.

The spotlight now falls on the UVF and the UDA, none of whom shows the slightest sign of preparing to go away. Statements from unionist political leaders in the wake of the LVF statement urging loyalists to follow that example suggest that the days when loyalist paramilitaries were tolerated or condoned by political unionism may be coming to an end. The IRA’s unilateral initiative cleared the way for a new and more positive political discourse, and we eagerly await that, but it has also stripped unionism and loyalism of any excuse for further prevarication or ambivalence when it comes to the UVF and UDA.

Crimewatch focus on UVF murders

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Arson suspected in fire at offices previously targeted by loyalists

Jarlath Kearney:

Offices belonging to an estate agent previously targeted by the Ulster Volunteer Force were torched yesterday in a suspected arson attack.

Several residential premises had to be evacuated when Apsley Homes on Belfast’s Donegall Road was set alight.

Fire crews were called to the scene of the blaze at around 4.30am.

Just over two months ago, the Office of Fair Trading revoked the customer credit licence of the Apsley Homes owner, William Faulkner.

Between 1985 and 2003, Mr Faulkner was convicted of two counts of assaulting police, counts of possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply and of dishonestly handling stolen goods, and three counts of fraudulently using a road fund licence.

In August, the Office of Fair Trading said in a statement: “An adjudicator determined that Mr Faulkner’s criminal convictions and his failure to declare material information about them in his consumer credit licence application made him unfit to engage in either estate agency work or credit activities.”

Mr Faulkner was entitled to continue trading as an estate agent pending the outcome of an appeal he lodged against the adjudication at that time.

Station officer Harry Dawson of the Fire and Rescue Service told Daily Ireland that, pending an investigation of the fire at Apsley Homes, “all the indications are that there are unusual circumstances in relation to the blaze”.

Mr Dawson said the incident had developed into a “fairly major fire” by the time the tenders arrived and it took about an hour to bring under control.

As a result of the common roof void in the terrace adjoining the scene of the blaze, several residential premises were evacuated.

South Belfast SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna called for anyone with information about the blaze to contact the PSNI.

“It is clear that the fire brigade believe that this fire was started deliberately,” Mrs Hanna said.

“It is fortunate that the fire did not spread any further as the consequences could have been even more severe.

“It is shocking to think that there are people out there who are so ambivalent to damaging people’s lives and destroying people’s livelihoods.”

In a statement, a PSNI spokesperson confirmed that the blaze at Apsley Homes was being treated as suspicious.

“Police are treating as suspected arson a fire at commercial premises on the Donegall Road.

“The fire was reported at around 4.30am and the road was sealed off for a while as the fire brigade tended the blaze. Extensive damage was caused.”

PSNI detectives were reported to be “keeping an open mind” about the motive behind the attack.

They have appealed for information about any suspicious activity in the Donegall Road area.

In January 2004, William Faulkner claimed the UVF had warned him not to let properties to ethnic minorities.

Daily Ireland understands that the loyalist organisation was upset after a number of UVF members faced charges relating to the extortion of cash from a Chinese businessperson in south Belfast.

The UVF subsequently attacked the offices of Apsley Homes on a number of occasions.

Daily Ireland was unable to contact anyone representing Apsley Homes yesterday.

It’s not just the unionists – the partitionist mentality is alive and kicking in the South

Plan for unity

Will Dublin Love Ulster?

Protestant-only aid a 'form of apartheid'

More 'butcher' than 'grocer'

Bertie can stick his military two-step