Friday, April 28, 2006

Calling time on childhood

Jude Collins:

After Liverpool’s victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final last Saturday, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was told about Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho’s remark that the better team had lost that day. Gerrard smiled and replied: “Well, there’s a surprise.” Theses are words which a lot of us might feel like using as – at the time of writing – leaks regarding the latest IMC report come through, accompanied by the reaction of the DUP. The commission will report that the IRA is doing better but is still not as pure as it must be if the DUP are to join in government with Sinn Fein. The DUP will say: “Thank you very much, IMC, that’s just what we were thinking ourselves, what an intelligent and thrillingly independent quartet you are,” and the rest of us will say: “Well, there’s a surprise.”

All of which means the May-June six-week stint at Stormont will be a waste of time and money, and unless the IMC and the DUP learn a new tune between now and the autumn, a lot of us will find ourselves witnessing the end of the devolution experiment and sighing: “Well, there’s a surprise.”

Does it matter? Does the public here really care if the DUP doesn’t pull out of its kamikaze nose dive into the prospects of local power-sharing?

It depends on whom you ask. When a power-sharing executive was first established under David Trimble, the air was thick with postive comments on the performances of local ministers such as Martin McGuinness and Gregory Campbell. These ministers, it was agreed, understood local problems and could be held accountable for their actions, unlike the fly-by-night British ministers, who hadn’t a clue and couldn’t care less. A local power-sharing executive was deemed ‘a good thing’.

Then came the years of suspension, and pundits began to tell us the public were fed up with local politicians being unable to agree, and anyway that they hadn’t been all that hot when they had access to power, in fact they were in many respects an incompetent bunch. Most people, the commentators said, were perfectly happy with British direct rule, and the judgments of British ministers were likely to be more enlightened than that of local politicians anyway. Look at the mess local people made of running the education and library boards. Let’s face it, the population here can live with direct British rule because they know it’s far better than things being run locally.

The DUP take a third line on this matter of local vs direct rule. They believe the people of Ulster (ie, the unionist people of the six counties who vote for them) are keen to have devolved government. However – and it’s a big however – they say the people of Ulster/unionist-people-in-the-six-counties-who-vote-for-them have lost any faith they had in republicans. Were any political party to sit down in government with republicans, the people of Ulster would rise up in electoral wrath and repudiate such a deal. Not that the DUP would consider such a deal anyway. Only when criminals and subversives i.e. republicans have satisfied the DUP that they have given up their oul’ sins will it be possible for the DUP to sit down in government with Shinners. It’s unfortunate, of course, given the people’s appetite for devolution, but when you’re a principled party whose leader believes his political opponents worship in a church headed by the anti-Christ and when your party’s deputy leader has a criminal record for terrorising defenceless villagers, you have to maintain moral standards in politics.

You must not ask how the DUP knows the electorate would not countenance power-sharing with Sinn Féin until all republican sins are washed whiter than white in the DUP springs of judgment; and you must not ask how commentators know the public here are perfectly content for British ministers to go on governing here indefinitely. Or rather you can ask, but you’ll be wasting your time. They just know.

Which is a pity, because all this takes us away from what should be the deciding factor in the question of power devolution to a local administration. Whether or not Shaun Woodward or Peter Hain are better ministers than we might produce locally or poorer ministers than we might produce locally, isn’t the point. Whether the people of Ulster/unionist voters feel they trust republicans shouldn’t be the deciding factor either. There is a reason why we should, why we must, have local control of matters, a reason which goes beyond how well the job might be done by whom, or how much or how little trust there is in the air.

It’s the same reason as that which motivates us when we get up in the morning and wash and dress and go out to work, or take care of the children or do the shopping or get the car serviced or put a deposit on that family holiday.

It’s because we’re adults. That’s part of what being an adult involves – you look after yourself and those in your care. You take on responsibility and discharge it to the best of your ability. The man in the house to your right or the woman in the house to your left could, if you let them, run your life for you. They could move into your house and manage your accounts and tend to your children and make decisions for you, but no matter how brilliant such a neighbour might be, even if they were able to do the job twice as well as you, you’d be considered less than adult and possible a headcase if you let such a man or woman run your world.

We’re all grown-up now, and a key feature of being grown-up is that, for better and/or worse, we run the show ourselves, not the next-door neighbour. If we’re adults, we don’t really have a choice. Which is why the sooner we stop acting childishly and give Hain, Woodward and Co their ticket back home, the better.

Good news

Policing will be the next excuse

A few bad apples don't make a bad barrel

Thursday, April 27, 2006

We all react differently to a little pressure

Brian Feeney:

So much excitement about four DUP MPs travelling to Killarney to show themselves to the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body.

The truth is that they had no option. It just goes to show that even some in the DUP respond to pressure.

In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the DUP insist they want to be part of a northern administration.

The smarter MPs – or, as some hope, the more 'pragmatic' MPs – know that they can hardly claim to want to participate in an administration here yet refuse to speak to fellow parliamentarians from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

After all, the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body is a powerless talking shop and anyway, the Irish government has given up its claim to the north, so what's the problem?

They've run out of excuses and pretexts. It will be good practice for the talking-shop assembly they want. Continued abstention would simply confirm the general opinion that the DUP is a party of bigots.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on from Dublin and London to move into talks with Sinn Féin.

Our proconsul made it clear at the weekend that the British government no longer accepts the DUP excuse that the IRA is lurking in the background. In fact the British government now publicly rejects the DUP reasons for prevaricating.

The question is, what effect this pressure will have on the bulk of DUP voters, reared as they have been on a diet of virulent anti-Catholicism and political apartheid? Will it make any difference?

Jeffrey Donaldson is the DUP MP most eloquent about the need to 'make the unionist case'. He's obviously a welcome support for Peter Robinson, who's been the Paisleyite bridesmaid now for a quarter of a century.

Jeffrey's Ulster Unionist Party slip is showing more and more as he advocates being reasonable in a party noted for its bull-headedness.

The problem is that Jeffrey is a Johnny-come-lately in the DUP and is weighted with that UUP baggage.

Many people choose to forget that the party leader's guiding text from his earliest years as a preacher is from Corinthians: "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord and touch not the unclean thing."

For many of his faithful followers who are saved and born again, it is inconceivable to share power with Catholics or nationalists let alone Sinn Féin. They depend on Paisley not to do it.

Jeffrey's desire 'to make the unionist case' cuts no ice with the hot-gospellers, holy rollers and Bible-thumpers in the DUP, especially if, as many of them believe, making the unionist case inevitably ends in getting into bed with Sinn Féin.

Furthermore, no-one in the DUP has given the slightest indication to the crazies in the party that they intend to share power with Sinn Féin.

Peter Robinson promises to consult the electorate. Not before 2008 for sure.

Do the crazies care if our proconsul threatens them with higher rates, water charges, school closures and deeper Dublin involvement?

Not a bit.

It doesn't seem to occur to the genius strategists in the NIO that these nutters voted DUP because they would rather eat grass than share power with Sinn Féin. In fact, for many of them, deeper Dublin involvement would be preferable to sharing power with SF if that was the only alternative.

Ah, you might say, too much emphasis on the DUP crazies. If it came to an election the majority of 'decent unionists' would support partnership.

Nope. That was the last gaffe of Trimble's unlamented leadership when he claimed that 'decent people' support the UUP.

The DUP represents the majority of unionists not because there was a huge swing from UUP to DUP but because a huge number of UUP voters, decent or otherwise, stayed at home.

In other words, the vast majority of unionist voters either don't want to share power under any circumstances, namely the DUP's supporters, or they couldn't care less whether there is ever partnership, namely the famous UUP 'garden centre unionists'.

So don't imagine the DUP visit to Killarney signifies anything but a fig leaf.

Sinn Féin brands IMC ‘a securocrat device’

Tell Philip we’re not in next time

Meeting ‘a waste of time’

Don’t be DUP-ed by doublespeak

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Police in the north of Ireland fail to act on key Stevens recommendation

Barry McCaffrey:

Police have failed to set up a special unit to investigate allegations of security force collusion three years after it was first recommended by Lord Stevens.

On April 18 2003 Britain's then most senior police officer revealed that he had found evidence that members of the security forces colluded in the murders of solicitor Pat Finucane and Protestant teenager Adam Lambert in 1989.

In a report delivered to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde three years ago this week Lord Stevens called for the establishment of a special unit to investigate the allegations.

"An internal investigation department should be established by the PSNI in order that any allegations or suspicions of collusion and corruption can be tackled proactively as well as reactively," Lord Stevens said.

However, the PSNI does not appear to have taken any action.

A police spokesman said allegations of security force collusion were dealt with by its Internal Investigations Branch (IIB).

Concerns have been raised that IIB was established in 2001, two years before Lord Stevens's call for a special collusion investigation team.

The investigation of collusion is not mentioned anywhere in the IIB's terms of reference found on the PSNI's website.

Jane Winter of the British Irish Rights Watch group said she was shocked and concerned that the PSNI did not appear to have acted on one of the key recommendation made by Lord Stevens.

"The PSNI is saying that the IIB is sufficient to investigate collusion," she said.

"But if Stevens had thought IIB was sufficient he would not have called for the establishment of a special unit to investigate collusion in April 2003.

"Despite a written request the PSNI has been unable to tell us if it has such a unit. If it does exist no-one seems to know about it."

Mrs Winter said the need for a 'collusion' unit was reinforced by ongoing cases involving allegations that police officers protected loyalist paramilitaries from prosecution.

"One only has to look at the case of Raymond McCord jnr and the allegations that Special Branch officers protected UVF members from prosecution for more than a decade," she said.

"The McCord and Finucane murders are just two cases in which allegations of collusion exist. There are many more.

"What astounds me is that the PSNI does not appear to have any procedures in place to investigate allegations that its members are involved in collusion."

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) says it has not taken any decision on whether 20 security force members, allegedly involved in collusion, should stand trial.

In April 2003 Lord Stevens sent files on 20 soldiers and policemen to the PPS for alleged involvement with loyalist paramilitaries.

A PPS spokesman said the files were still "under review".

HIGH price of parades

Irish language act call for the North

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ireland holds promise of green for the French

Christophe Schmidt:

Thousands of young French people are taking advantage of full employment, if not iron-clad job security -- not in France, but a little more than an hour away by plane in the capital of Ireland.

The French Embassy in Dublin estimates that at least 17,000 French citizens live in the city. Not all have qualifications, but most can get by in English.

"The growth of the Irish economy is so strong [more than 5 percent a year] that there's not been enough local workers for a while," said Laurent Girard-Claudon, an expatriate since 1999.

"There are always vacancies in every sector, from information technology to the restoration business, sales and the building trade," said the 29-year-old entrepreneur, whose company Approach People recruits multilingual workers.

Irish employment contracts remain the same whatever the employee's age: a six-month trial period, which is renewable once, during which time either party can terminate the contract with a week's notice.

After that, the notice period is one month. At this stage, any dismissal must be backed up in writing, but the procedure is not set in stone.

The minimum hourly wage is $8.50 after taxes, and the unemployment rate is 3 percent.

The job market in Dublin contrasts with the situation in France, where the unemployment rate is 22 percent and double that in some areas.

A French government effort to reform the law on job contracts by allowing employers to fire workers younger than 26 at any time during a two-year trial period triggered widespread protests and riots in Paris, forcing President Jacques Chirac to withdraw the proposal earlier this month.

Veronique Lagrange, 24, qualified as a sommelier -- a wine steward -- in Bordeaux two years ago. Tired of being offered waitressing jobs, she left for Dublin with only her resume in hand and a room booked in a youth hostel.

"I immediately found a job as an assistant sommelier in a large restaurant," she said. "Three months later, my boyfriend joined me, and he was taken on as a hotel receptionist."

Yannick Martin, 25, from Dieulefit in southeast France, spent three years working out short-term contracts after completing an information-technology course at a university.

He chose to work in Ireland to improve his English skills and boost his chances of finding a job when he returns to France.

Ireland's wealthy getting richer

Growth spreading from US - IMF

‘No evidence poor were left behind by Celtic Tiger’

Partition – the elephant in the sitting room

Jude Collins:

You wouldn’t have thought it possible: an animal that size, in a confined area like that, critics and commentators checking out the space in meticulous detail for days and weeks and months in advance. But there you are – the elephant in the Easter 1916 livingroom somehow managed to avoid being noticed.

Or maybe it was noticed, but those who noticed thought it would spoil the mood, be rude to mention this huge presence overflowing the hearth-rug.

Mind you, it’s an elephant that’s used to being not noticed. When John F Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963, he addressed the combined houses of the Oireachtas.

Ireland, he reminded his listeners, was “the first of the small nations in the twentieth century to win its struggle for independence” and provided an example to other emerging nations. He quoted the words of Henry Grattan: “A country enlightened as Ireland, chartered as Ireland, armed as Ireland and injured as Ireland will be satisfied with nothing less than liberty.” And he rounded off by congratulating Ireland on having achieved that liberty. “I am deeply honoured to be your guest in a Free Parliament in a free Ireland,” he said.

I remember watching that speech in 1963 and being swept up in the glorious flow of his words. But not so swept up I couldn’t see and smell the backside of the elephant that JFK had somehow stepped around.

I got the same feeling last Sunday as Bertie Ahern stood in front of the GPO in O’Connell Street in Dublin and explained to us all what the parade and celebration was about. “Today is a day of remembrance, reconciliation and renewal. Today is about discharging one generation’s debt of honour to another. Today, we will fittingly commemorate the patriotism and vision of those who set in train an unstoppable process which led to this country’s political independence”.

And when he had finished, no one booed or threw anything or shouted that he was a bloody liar. They clapped, they cheered, they waved their little tricolours. Just like JFK, Bertie’s body-swerve took him past the elephant as if it wasn’t there.

Except that the elephant Partition is still there. It would be nice if President Kennedy had visited a free parliament in a free Ireland back in 1963, but he didn’t.

And it would be nice if Bertie had got it right when he said that 1916 had led to Ireland’s political independence, but it didn’t. The actions of Pearse and others led to political independence for the south of Ireland but not the six northern counties. The American president addressed the free parliament of a southern state, not a free Ireland. And it’s this awkward, inconvenient, party-spoiling elephant called Partition that politicians on this island keep trying to avoid.

To even mention its existence as a driving force in our past is frowned on in some quarters. In a recent radio discussion Garrett Fitzgerald got tetchy when it was suggested that the civil war which followed the signing of the Treaty might have had something to do with a desire for 32-county independence. “Learn your history,” he declared in his best magisterial style.

Unionist politicians, who know full well that Easter 1916 was about breaking the British connection for all the people of Ireland, have no qualms about denouncing the events of the time. They were acts of treachery, acts of terrorism, and should never have happened.

This sort of talk makes southern politicians uncomfortable. Normally sensitive to unionist needs, they can’t very well join in this condemnation of violence because (i) it clashes with the free Ireland myth they have constructed, and (ii) the talk of terrorism and treachery sounds too similar to the way unionists talk about the activities of the IRA in the North over the last 30 years, and that’s one parallel southern politicians are keen should be avoided.

But Bertie Ahern is nothing if not resourceful, and he found a way round that little awkwardness. Keep the commemoration of those who won Ireland her complete freedom, but add to it commemoration of another 1916 event which northern unionists like to mythologise: the Battle of the Somme.

On the face of it, Bertie’s move makes sense. Many Irishmen, north and south, died in that battle. If a significant event occurred – whether the defeat of the insurgents in 1798 or the passing of the Act of Union in 1801 or the failure/success of Easter 1916 – it should, it must, be accepted and incorporated into our history.

But for what it was, not for what we’d like to pretend it was. The First World War – supposedly the war to end wars – was a struggle between two imperial powers, Britain and Germany, and the millions on both sides who died in that war, including the many Irishmen, died futile, pointless deaths. We only add to the many lies on which that war was built when we say that their deaths were glorious.

A second feature of that war – one with which unionists are comfortable but not surely nationalists: the Irishmen who died at the Somme died in the uniform and service of the British army. That’s the army whose presence on this island over centuries has had a single purpose, to suppress any moves towards Irish freedom.

If you hear a tearing sound, that’s nationalist thinking trying to applaud at once those who fought for Irish freedom and those who donned British uniform and bought an old imperial lie.

But the contradictions don’t end at the differences between those who fought in the GPO and those who died at the Somme. Cork TD Ned O’Keefe wants to honour all the combatants involved in Easter 1916. “I believe we should remember those who died on both sides of the figthting,” he says.

A British Tory MP has built on this and called on the Taoiseach to visit the graves of three members of the Worcestershier and Sherwood Foresters Regiment in his constituency. That’s the regiment that supplied the firing squads which executed Pearse, Connolly and the other leaders.

Dublin TD Sean Ardagh backs the idea. “I think it would be a suitable thing for the Taoiseach to do,” he said.

What an odd thought: in the name of Anglo-Irish friendship, the Taoiseach is being urged to honour those who died in the cause of Irish freedom and those who did their damnedest to suppress it.

What next: a memorial to the Parachute Regiment at Free Derry Corner? There has been much talk of the need to acknowledge the complexity of Irish history and not to simplify it into a clash between good guys and bad guys.

In the North, we’re urged to acknowledge the variety of forms in which Irishness comes and to be open to such variety. Both constructive suggestions. But acknowledging complexity and variety is one thing; pretending a mammoth grey bum in the livingroom, which is pressing us all against the wall and making breathing difficult, doesn’t exist – that’s another entirely.

King Speaks For McAllister

Friday, April 14, 2006

An official index of the most deprived areas in the North of Ireland is dominated by indigenous Irish nationalist communities

Marie Louise McCrory:

Areas around the Whiterock, Falls and Crumlin Roads in west and north Belfast rank among the top five 'most deprived' districts.

A report last year by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) also suggested that of the 50 most deprived small areas in the north, the number of predominantly Catholic areas was twice that of Protestant areas. Parts of the Whiterock in west Belfast topped the index, with the Shankill in second place. Of the top 10, eight were nationalist areas.

The report took into account 43 indicators of deprivation, such as receipt of social welfare benefits, crime rates and housing quality.

Meanwhile, a consultants' report for the Department for Social Development last year found that Catholics are more likely to live in areas of weak community infrastructure.

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers also appears to dispute claims that Protestants are less likely than Catholics to get EU funding to build up community infrastructure. The study found that of 61 bids for 'Peace II' funding from Protestant communities, 37 were successful. Catholic areas put in 60 bids and exactly half were funded.

Ignoring the substance behind the symbols

Nationalist estates may escape unionist council

Debate on 1916 raising key issues

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Central Bank's second quarterly bulletin of 2006 reports that the outlook for the Irish economy remains good

Irish Examiner:

The report forecasts GNP and GDP growth for 2006 of about 5% - similar to last year's figures and a small increase on previous forecasts.

Labour costs have increased significantly in the past two years. The average increase was about 4.5% a year, compared with an increase in the euro area of about only 1%.

Pay increases, the report says, have been rising faster than productivity in the past two years.

House-building exceeds what is required over the medium-term and will have to steady slowly.

Consumer price inflation (CPI) in 2005 remained quite low at 2.2% and broadly in line with the euro area average.

CPI inflation was 2.5% in 2005.

But the Bank is converned that it has risen sharply since then, with an annual increase in February of 3.3%.

They expect inflation to level off at 3% in 2006.

Central Bank watching lending closely

Central Bank warns of loss of cost competitiveness due to falling productivity

Dirty dealing encourages false line of thinking

Brian Feeney:

We know that British security services and armed forces conspired with loyalist terrorists to kill republicans, members of Sinn Féin and the IRA; that they allowed, even encouraged, loyalists to kill relatives of republicans and solicitors who acted for republicans; that they allowed loyalists to kill innocent people to protect the identities of agents. We know they allowed agents in their pay to be killed by other agents in their pay.

We know all this because Lord Stevens told us so in general terms when a minuscule fraction of his last report was released on April 16 2003.

We know that none of the people who sanctioned all that killing will ever be brought to justice.

Most who were absent from the Mull of Kintyre Chinook helicopter crash have either been promoted or retired.

The Conservative politicians who authorised the dirty war are dead or gone to the House of Lords, where they will be joined by the best the DUP could offer as candidates for that House.

We know all this but we don't know the half of it. To be more accurate, we don't know 99% of it since Stevens was allowed to release only one per cent of his 3,000-page report.

We also know that there are what have come to be known as 'securocrats', people in the British administration who never agreed with the peace process, who worked in the 1990s to frustrate it and then continued to try to stymie the political process which brought Sinn Féin centre-stage in politics.

Some of them are still in senior positions. You can see from the briefings given to certain newspapers and journalists that there remains strong opposition in some circles to the developments of the last decade or so.

All this dirty dealing encourages a false line of thinking which blames the British security services for every sensational event that affects politics here – the Castlereagh burglary, Stormontgate, the killing of Denis Donaldson.

It's fertile ground for conspiracy theorists. The furtiveness of the British state means no-one can prove MI5 or the SAS or FRU (renamed the Joint Services Group) isn't the culprit, no matter how bizarre the claim.

And bizarre these claims are. Let's take the suggestion that British security services were involved in the murder of Donaldson.

Of course they have the expertise, manpower and equipment. However, we are being asked to believe that 48 hours before the British prime minister was due to issue a joint statement with the taoiseach, elements in his own security services decided to embarrass him by killing a man in another jurisdiction, a killing which could have derailed the policy initiative the prime minister had been working on for months. As Tony Blair would say, "Really?"

There is a crucial difference between the nefarious activities of the British security services and RUC before 1997 and now.

It's this. During the whole disastrous period of Conservative governments from 1979-97, British policy was exclusively directed at defeating the IRA and producing a victory for the state's security policy. Even the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by Thatcher because it promised closer security cooperation with the Republic.

Since Labour came to power, led by one of the most ruthless and powerful prime ministers in British history, wielding gigantic parliamentary majorities, policy has been directed at producing a political resolution of the problem here.

Conspiracy theorists ask us to believe that this most powerful prime minister would permit a group of his government employees opposed to his policies to commit crimes against the state and in another state for the express purpose of wrecking his policy.

Unfortunately for that argument, this is a prime minister who has exercised more control over Britain's security and intelligence services than anyone in living memory.

Is he not accused of doctoring intelligence material to suit his own policy on Iraq? Is he not accused of appointing his own candidate to head MI6?

Yet the conspiracy theorists would have us believe that where Ireland is concerned, Blair allows some class of free-booters to try to destroy his goal of settling the Irish question, perhaps the only potential success left to his premiership.


Hunger strike tribute ‘destroyed by loyalists’

1916 and all that...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

100% increase in third level graduates in Ireland since 1994

Ireland Online:

A record number of students are graduating from higher education here, according to figures released today by the Higher Education Authority.

Over 48,000 people graduated from third level in 2004, almost double the 1994 number.

Almost all of the graduates had secured jobs, with only 3% still seeking employment nine months after graduating.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, said the figures showed that the Irish economy had the need and the capacity to absorb more and more graduates.

Boom 'frees 250,000 from poverty'

Survey points to high quality of Dublin life

Monday, April 03, 2006

Irish people are spending less time at work now than at any time in the past 15 years

Jan Battles:

Irish employees put in 14% fewer hours in the workplace on average in 2004 than they did in 1990. Of 28 countries analysed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Ireland saw the sharpest reduction in working hours over the 15-year period.

In 1990, only the Greeks, Japanese and Koreans clocked up more hours at work. But by 2004 the Irish were working fewer hours than 17 other nationalities, including the British, Canadians, Spanish and Australians.

At the start of the 1990s, and before the arrival of the Celtic tiger, the average Irish person spent 1,911 hours a year at work, 144 hours more than their British counterpart. In 2004, workers in Britain clocked up 1,669 hours, 27 more than those in the republic.

The average Irish working week has shortened by five hours in the 15 years to 31.6 hours — or one hour less per day in a five-day week.

The perception that the country is working harder than ever has been perpetuated by an influential minority of the workforce — mainly senior male managers — who are putting in long hours themselves, say experts.

“There are more of those sort of jobs where people are put under pressure to work long hours, but they are not the statistical average,” said James Wickham of the Employment Research Centre at Trinity College Dublin.

“It is not the case that working hours have been getting longer. We have this perception because male managers, in particular, work long and varied hours, which is quite stressful. These are the people who get listened to — they have louder voices than someone working in a bank or a shop.”

Eamonn Finn, a senior market analyst at Mintel said: “People tend to have more responsibility in their jobs now. As a result when 5pm comes, it’s harder to separate themselves. Even though work ends, the stress continues. For that reason a lot of people think they are working longer hours when it’s not the case.”

Maria Cronin, director of European and social affairs policy at Ibec, agreed that the trend is for Irish people to work less hours. “Obviously within that are some people who are working the same hours, and there may be some who are working more,” she said. “But there are many more people taking time out and career breaks, availing of holidays and statutory leave periods, and working part-time.”

The European working time directive, which was introduced in 1998, limits the working week to 48 hours. “Our statutory holidays have increased under the directive, maternity leave has increased and parental leave was introduced,” said Cronin.

The fact that there are more part-timers working now than in 1990, when Irish unemployment rates were higher, also pushes the average number of working hours down. There has been a large influx of women into the workforce during the period, many taking up part-time jobs. There are also more casual positions filled by students.

In most of the 28 OECD countries studied, hours worked fell over the period. The average hours worked per year per employed person fell from 1,790 in 1990 to 1,740 in 2004.

Workers in Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden experienced a marked increase, however, while the Danes, Greeks and Hungarians saw a smaller rise. The Dutch worked the fewest hours, followed by Norwegians, Germans and French.

Sally Anne Kinahan of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), said the fall in working hours had been more marked in Ireland because unions had helped achieve increased holidays, time off and a shorter working week.

“Reduced working hours are welcome,” she said. “It is a fact that there is a long-hours culture in some parts of the economy. “Whether they are working shorter hours or longer hours, people feel under a lot more pressure in work.”

Swedish growth model fails poor

The great majority of Irish people are nationalists favoring a united Ireland

Pat Leahy:

Almost 80 per cent of Irish people would like to see a united Ireland. Almost a quarter of voters - 22 per cent - believe that ‘‘delivering a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority’’.

More than half of voters, 55 per cent, say they would like to see a united Ireland, but ‘‘other things should have priority’’.

Ten per cent of voters say no efforts should be made to bring about a united Ireland, whereas 13 per cent say they have no interest one way or the other.

The survey, carried out among more than 1,000 voters between March 20-22 in conjunction with the tracking poll of political support, shows that these proportions are broadly reflected in attitudes among Irish people to the 1916 Rising, the 90th anniversary of which will be commemorated shortly.

Four out of five voters say the Rising was a ‘‘positive event in Irish history’’; 71 per cent believe Ireland ‘‘owes a debt to the leaders of the 1916 Rising’’, although just half of voters believe that the government’s plans for a military parade are appropriate. One fifth of voters say they ‘‘couldn’t care less’’ about the Rising.

Taken together, the figures show a large reservoir of nationalist feeling among the great mass of the Irish people, although it is striking that by far the largest group (55 per cent),while in favour of a united Ireland, believes the government should have other priorities.

However, the group that believes that a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority is also relatively large, at 22 per cent.

Clearly, this encompasses much more than just Sinn Fein supporters, who make up about 10 per cent of the electorate.

Attitudes towards a united Ireland are remarkably consistent across the various age brackets, and show that younger people tend to be at least as ‘green’ as their parents.

For example, 22 per cent of those aged 18-34 believe that delivering a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority - exactly the same proportion as in the general population.

For those aged over 65, the proportion is only slightly higher, at 26 per cent.

Of those in the largest group (55 per cent) who say they would like to see a united Ireland but ‘‘other things should have priority’’, the proportions are again broadly similar across all age groups.

The proportions are also largely consistent across all social groups, with some slight variation among the wealthy ABC1 section of the population and farmers, who are slightly (but only slightly) less ‘green’ than the population at large.

Geographically, attitudes to a united Ireland are also broadly consistent, with one exception.

Fewer people in Dublin believe a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority - 15 per cent against almost a quarter in the rest of the country.

Consequently, more people in Dublin - 61 per cent - do want to see a united Ireland but not as the government’s first priority, as opposed to the rest of the country where the proportions in this bracket are smaller.

Overall, the figures show the enduring strength of the Irish people’s attachment to the ideal of Irish unity - even if most of them are in no hurry to achieve it in practice.

The great mass of people are in the ‘soft green’ middle ground, with those who are either not interested or actively hostile to the idea in almost exactly the same proportion as those who are committed to the idea as the national priority.

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Adams accuses British government minister of ‘repackaging’ funds for nationalist areas ahead of massive cash injection for loyalist districts

Jarlath Kearney:

The Department for Social Development (DSD) has been accused of “repackaging” funding commitments for nationalist parts of Belfast.

Sinn Féin president and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams last night criticised the DSD’s approach ahead of an imminent announcement that massive public funds will be skewed towards unionist and loyalist areas.

DSD minister David Hanson visited west Belfast yesterday where he said £737,000 (€1.07 million) would be given to the Colin area as part of his department’s neighbourhood renewal policy.

Despite the announcement, over 30 jobs in the west Belfast community sector are set to be lost.

“Efforts to regenerate deprived neighbourhoods must be based on real partnerships. An integrated approach is also essential,” Mr Hanson said.

“This involves new ways of thinking and working but is necessary to ensure that the significant resources which government makes available have a lasting impact,” the minister added.

Mr Hanson insisted that DSD funding under neighbourhood renewal will be targeted using objective indicators of social deprivation.

However, Mr Adams accused the DSD of “repackaging commitments made by the minister almost two months ago”.

Mr Adams said the west Belfast community sector “is being systematically eroded with each decision by government ministers and their appointed agencies”.

“There is little that is new within it. On the contrary this package of measures falls far short of what is necessary to tackle real disadvantage in the Colin area or in west Belfast generally,” Mr Adams said.

“The approach of the DSD and the Belfast Regeneration Office in recent times has been characterised by job cuts and a significant reduction in resources into west Belfast. The Lenadoon Community Forum, the West Belfast Féile and others have been badly affected by decisions taken by DSD and BRO, and groups like the Sally Garden project in Poleglass are now under serious threat.”

Mr Adams’ party colleague, assembly member Michael Ferguson, confronted David Hanson during yesterday’s visit. Mr Ferguson challenged yesterday’s DSD announcement as “yet another example of New Labour spin”.

“Any real money invested is of course welcome but when this allocation is looked at under the microscope it is minimal given the local need, it had to be campaigned for and those who campaigned for it are now losing their jobs,” Mr Ferguson said.

Sean Paul O’Hare, director of Féile an Phobail, revealed that five members of staff will be made redundant on Friday after the DSD refused funding. The losses put major aspects of the internationally renowned festival under threat, including the West Belfast Talks Back evening and the Féile carnival.

“David Hanson has told us that, although he supports the work of Feile, his department are unwilling to resource or fund the work of Feile, despite previous assurance to the contrary.”

In a written answer to the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hanson revealed that a major funding announcement focused on unionist areas is imminent.

“I am currently working closely with the senior civil service officials to finalise a positive agenda for action on tackling disadvantage, with a particular emphasis on Protestant working class communities.

“A government announcement on this issue will take place in early April.

“A delivery team, lead by Nigel Hamilton, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, has been appointed to drive forward this important work,” Mr Hanson said.

Barry McCaffrey:

SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness accused unionists of deliberately distorting social deprivation figures.

"The truth is that on every social indicator Catholics as a group are worse off than Protestants," he said.

"Two-thirds of the top 20 most deprived areas in the north are Catholic.

According to the last census a Catholic is 1.7 times more likely than a Protestant to be unemployed."

Mr Maginess said the number of Catholics leaving school without any educational qualification was 20 per cent higher than for Protestants."

Warning the government against rewarding loyalism, Mr Maginness said: "This deliberate cultivation of victimhood on the basis of falsehood is appalling and it is even more appalling if the government goes along with it.

"We need effective programmes to help all poor areas, not a sectarian agenda to tackle one community's problems only."

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