Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Director Ken Loach has dismissed claims his award-winning film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is anti-British

BBC News:

"Nonsense," he told BBC Breakfast. "We could have shown things that were much worse than are actually in the film."

He also said accusations that his film could be seen as a recruiting tract for the Irish Republican Army were "a cheap shot" and "barely worth answering".

The film, about Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain in the 1920s, has just won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

In Tuesday's edition of the Sun, columnist Harry MacAdam calls The Wind That Shakes The Barley the "most pro-IRA film ever".

Its plot, he continues, is "designed to drag the reputation of our nation through the mud".

In the Daily Mail, Ruth Dudley Edwards writes that Loach's purpose is to "encourage direct comparisons between the Ireland of 1920-22 and present-day Iraq".

"This, of course, requires the portrayal of the British as sadists and the Irish as romantic, idealistic resistance fighters."

The film, told entirely from the perspective of its Irish characters, shows British soldiers to be indiscriminately violent.

Loach, however, said this was a true depiction of how the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries behaved.

"Their brutality is legendary - no one would question that," he said.

He added that the film was "about a group of people, mainly young lads, who are fighting to get an army of occupation out of their country".

"You could compare them to the French Resistance and the Partisans in Italy."

Before The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Loach had been nominated for the Palme d'Or seven times.

He won the jury prize in 1990 for Hidden Agenda, a drama about a British army shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland.

European film set in Ireland voted best of Cannes 2006

Loach: "Ireland like Iraq"

Movie set to reignite civil war debate

One of Scotland’s most prominent academics - and a staunch defender of the union with England - has announced his conversion to independence

Marc Horne:

Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard University and author of several books celebrating the success of the British empire, said that he now believes Scotland would be better off as a separate nation state.

He claims that Scotland’s “dismal” progress since devolution has convinced him to abandon his lifelong commitment to unionism.

It is not the first ideological volte-face performed by the Glasgow-born historian. In 2003 he supported the allied invasion of Iraq before becoming a critic of the war and reversing his previously strong support for the Bush administration in the 2004 American election.

Earlier this year he compared Scotland with Belarus, the former Soviet republic which has clung to Stalinist policies.

Ferguson, presenter of a new history of the 20th century series for Channel 4, entitled The War of the World, said he believes that the 1707 Act of Union should now be repealed.

“Devolution gives Scots the illusion of self-government but not the reality of it. The parliament is essentially a glorified council and cannot flourish while it acts as a mere channel for aid from England,” he said.

“I now find myself feeling that independence would be preferable to this halfway house we have at the moment.

Ireland and some of the east European countries like Estonia are showing that small countries which embrace economic liberalism can thrive.”

The expatriate Scot said one reason why he left Scotland was the sustained erosion of the “can do” enterprising spirit that he had experienced in the Glasgow of his childhood. Ferguson believes that an independent Scotland could flourish if it ditched its statist economic assumptions.

“What Scotland needs is a re-injection of the ideas of Adam Smith,” he said. “If economic liberalism has a birthplace it is Glasgow and I do wonder where that all went.

“It was part of the culture I grew up in, but increasingly it seems to have vanished and been replaced by a clapped-out socialist model of state intervention and hand-outs.

“There is a kind of dead hand gripping hold of Scotland at the moment and this lack of enthusiasm for market economics is causing the country to underperform economically.

“The future looks grim if, as present, Scotland maintains a demoralising gradual decline as little more than an extra bit of the north of England.”

He said Scotland needed to shake off its “unhealthy fixation” with its southern neighbour before it could progress.

“We have got to stop worrying about how we compare with England and start looking outwards at how other small countries fare. It is frankly pathetic that the most important issue on Jack McConnell’s agenda is reassuring people that he will be supporting Trinidad and Tobago rather than England in the World Cup.

“Since I left Scotland I have found it liberating not to be thinking about my identity in terms of this ‘wha’s like us’ attitude that prevails.

“A reduction in financial drip-feeding from England might force Scots to think a little harder about the world around it.”

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, described Ferguson as a “surprising convert” to independence, adding: “It is better to have a repenting convert than a constant detractor.”

‘Who gives a toss what a London hack thinks of us?’

British loyalists blamed as racist attacks on immigrants double in the north of Ireland

Owen Bowcott:

Racially motivated attacks, including pipe bombs, bricks hurled through windows and assaults, have risen sharply in Northern Ireland, according to the latest police figures. Loyalist paramilitaries are believed to be behind a significant proportion of the reported incidents, which have doubled in the past two years.

Migrant workers, mainly those from new EU states working in meat-packing and food-processing businesses, are being targeted in the latest wave of attacks. Many east Europeans have been driven from their lodgings. In the most recent attack a Polish man suffered multiple fractures to his skull and face after being attacked in Co Derry. The man, who had been selling pictures door to door, was found badly injured in the Station Road area of Magherafelt on Saturday evening. A week earlier two Poles living in Derry's Waterside had their car windows smashed and were assaulted.

In towns such as Dungannon there have also been clashes between rival ethnic groups. Officers were recently called to break up fights between Lithuanians and workers from East Timor. During 2005-06 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded 936 racial incidents, of which 746 were subsequently deemed to be racist crimes. The previous year there were 813 incidents, of which 634 were confirmed as crimes. In 2003-04, 453 racist incidents were reported.

"Northern Ireland is becoming increasingly diverse at a very quick rate," said Inspector Robin Dempsey of the PSNI's community safety branch. "It is one of the biggest challenges for the police. Many racial crimes involve criminal damage - graffiti and broken windows. Unless there's a witness it's difficult to solve. These attacks involved pipe bombs, letter boxes burnt out, paint bombs and petrol bombs. The more serious have the potential to cause deaths. Some loyalist paramilitaries have an interest in the British National party. Loyalist paramilitaries are involved, though the organisations deny they have sanctioned attacks."

Northern Ireland's ethnic minority population was recorded as 14,000 in the 2001 census, accepted as an underestimate. The true figure, say the police and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (Nicem), is probably 35,000 in settled communities, plus at least 35,000 migrant workers. Northern Ireland's population is 1.67 million. Two murders have been blamed on racist attacks, one in 2004 and the other in the mid-1990s.

Racist war of the loyalist street gangs

Monday, May 22, 2006

Equality remains beyond grasp of NIO

Brian Feeney:

Just suppose our beautifully maintained proconsul had appointed Breandan MacCionnaith and John Duffy to the Parades Commission last November.

You can imagine the reaction from unionists: the traditional ranting and raving from Paisley though now in his old man's piping whistle, the protests, boycotts, walk outs. Indeed it is unlikely there would now be an assembly if an event as unthinkable as the nomination of two Garvaghy Road residents had occurred.

And yet our proconsul in his insufferable, imperious manner did the precise equivalent. He appointed two Orangemen whose membership of the Orange order, whose attitudes, behaviour and public statements made them, as yesterday's (Friday) judgement said, self-evidently 'partisan'. Despite protests from nationalists and despite the glaring irregularities exposed in the Orangemen's applications and the procedures used by the appointment panel, our proconsul arrogantly stuck to his decision.

His appointments were manifestly unjust and discriminatory because he had nominated two participants in a dispute to sit on a tribunal adjudicating on that dispute.

A child could have seen how outrageous his actions were. Now his actions have been condemned as unlawful and discriminatory by the High Court at great cost to the taxpayer because costs were awarded against the NIO.

Why is it unthinkable to appoint two men from the Garvaghy Road Residents' Association yet alright to appoint two men from the other side of the dispute and sustain them long after they had lost any credibility? Here we come to the heart of the matter. It is clear that the NIO do not view the Orange order and nationalist residents' groups as having equal status. Central to the NIO's inherently unionist psyche lies the notion that the Orange Order should enjoy some kind of official status. In short, the issue is one of equality, a concept which remains eternally beyond the grasp of NIO officials.

As a result, the NIO solicited applications to the Parades Commission from all loyal orders, the four main churches and main political parties, but not from any nationalist community or residents' group. The high court said, 'the government considered it important to ensure that their [loyalist] perspective was heard within the commission'.

In a crucial criticism of this one-sided approach the judgement held that there was 'an obligation to consider whether it was necessary to target those groups within the nationalist community which opposed the perspective of the loyal orders'. Equality folks, equality.

Disgracefully the NIO not only didn't consider the nationalist perspective but actively didn't want a representative of a nationalist group about the place. You can see them scratching their heads now and asking, 'How can them fenian residents' groups be equal before the law with the Orange Order?' Equality is so hard to stomach, eh?

What is our proconsul's response to his huge humiliation? Not surprisingly, denial, insolence, arrogance, the typical attitudes this British government exhibits towards the courts and the rule of law. He issued a statement of exquisite balderdash claiming that the fatally flawed commission he had sellotaped together had been 'very successful at building trust and confidence'. It has not. On the contrary, his political interference has reduced this commission to a shambles.

We are informed from the proconsul's Welsh retreat that he intends to take legal advice. Huh. They all say that. The advice will be the judgement is a slam-dunk. He'd be better considering the consequences of his unlawful appointments and serious misjudgements. The marching season looms. Six weeks from today Portadown Orangemen will be demanding to march along Garvaghy Road. Will anyone replace our proconsul's ejected Orangemen?

Is there time for the proper procedure? How would the NIO know? Breandan MacCionnaith is right – our proconsul has contaminated the whole commission.

Perhaps the most revealing consequence is the insight into the discriminatory mindset which drives NIO policy. The honourable action would be to resign, to spend more time with his sunlamp but there is no chance of this guy falling on his sword.

It is just as unthinkable for him to be brought down by two fenians from the Garvaghy Road as it was for the NIO to recommend appointing them. No, he won't go. His neck is solid brass. Be assured, however, Blair will be ripping. This is our proconsul's last ministerial appointment.

Power sharing at assembly is just not going to work

DUP to reject first minister vote

Parade decision is cheap and shabby

Ballymena’s culture of hate is steeped in old DUP poison

Counting the seats, not the killings, is unionist rationale

UUP's breathtaking hypocrisy

PSNI is accused of holding back sectarian statistics

UDR parade plan ‘will rub salt in wounds’

Sectarianism: it's not both sides

Friday, May 19, 2006

Protestant boys from poor homes in the north of Ireland are least likely to want to go to university

BBC News:

University of Ulster research suggests Protestant boys do not see the point of going into debt for a degree without the guarantee of a good job afterwards.

Researchers said Catholic parents seem more likely to push their children towards further or higher education.

Protestant families believe their children could use family or friends to get good jobs in industry, they add.

The study showed religion and gender was a factor for school pupils considering going to university.

Boys from low-income Protestant backgrounds were less keen on a university degree than either their female classmates or Catholic boys and girls from a similar background.

The research also found that Catholic secondary schools were thought more likely than state schools to have a sixth-form which could encourage pupils to stay on.

Among all pupils there were worries about the cost of a degree and concern that a degree no longer led automatically to a high salary.

Sinn Féin must caution against stretching too far

Catholic rights are secondary to unionist needs

Without the truth funerals will go on

Politician's seamless move from UDA to UDR to RUC

Information on website details UDR subversion

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cunning plan is 'assisted suicide' for UUP

Brian Feeney:

So farewell the PUP. Instead of PUP/UVF it's now UUP/UVF, as some members of the assembly murmured while the UUP went to sign the assembly roll on Monday.

Farewell the prospect of any working-class based unionist party.

Farewell too Davy Ervine because, given the collapse of his party's fortunes, he knows he'll never be elected again.

In the end that's probably why he threw in his lot with the fur coat brigade he has so often derided instead of staying with the 9mm brigade. Now unionists know if you vote PUP you get UUP.

It's the end of a project which began 32 years ago in September 1974.

The UVF front the Volunteer Political Party stood in West Belfast in the October 1974 British general election five months after the UWC strike during which the UVF killed scores of people in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and in random sectarian carnage in the north.

Gerry Fitt trounced them. The VPP got 2,690 votes. Fitt got 21,821.

Instead of the VPP, unionists preferred the DUP candidate, the ranting extremist Johnny McQuade. He polled 16,265. So, no change there.

Ervine has finally conceded that the unionist vote is a purely tribal vote. He has given up and returned to sectarian politics.

All that rubbish he used to spout about supporting left-wing politics was just hot air. He's joined the most conservative group in the sham assembly with an economics spokesman who makes Lady Hacksaw sound like Che Guevara.

No matter. For Ervine, as he kept repeating to the cameras on Monday, all that counts is maximising the unionist vote.

Oh dear. If the assembly ever gets up and running he's going to have to eat a lot of those big words he loves to learn to pronounce.

This was the guy who raised the scandal of the appalling education system which, in some years in the poorest unionist districts like the Shankill, produced not a single 11-plus pass and in good years saw one pupil get through.

He deplored the UUP insistence on maintaining the grammar system which perpetuated that inequality. Now he's going to be in the UUP group voting to continue the very system he attacked. Yuk.

In some respects it's a return to basics. Unionism used to be a tribal all-class alliance until Paisley's toxic cocktail of rabid anti-Catholicism and working-class populism split its monolith.

Before the DUP there was always a place for guys like Ervine in the Ulster Unionist Party, as long as they knew their place, which was to misrepresent a middle-class party in a working-class district in Belfast.

Oh yes, Ervine will still spout socialist rhetoric. In fact that will be his role in the UUP assembly group, a working-class gas-bag sitting beside that famous orator, the UUP's other working-class mascot, Fred Cobain.

Like Cobain, Ervine can emit all the vapour he likes and you do have to feel sympathy for the UUP assembly group when you think of the length of their meetings with Ervine holding forth.

He can talk all he likes but he will not get a single motion through the group. The UUP has captured him and his party.

He can't escape, because if he tries, he will look an even bigger ass having somersaulted twice.

What's in it for Ervine? The ability to report the inner workings of the UUP group to the UVF? Hardly riveting stuff.

No. Could it be simple vanity? A rush of blood to the head? Courted by the UUP, a momentary delusion of grandeur.

'Yes, I can be a king-maker. Yes, I can say I'll support him for minister but not him. I can turn the tables on Sinn Féin.'

Nope. Fatal move. Ervine's apostasy will only have an impact on internal unionist politics.

Ervine will bite the dust with the UUP in the next election, which there will be.

The DUP's Peter Weir put it best. For the UUP to take on board a member whose party represents the UVF, a group not even on ceasefire, which deals in murder, drugs and prostitution in loyalist districts, is, said Weir, "assisted suicide" for the UUP. So maybe that's Ervine's cunning plan?

A day in the life of a Stormont MLA

Top cop’s ‘two-way’ bigotry comment criticised

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Irish government heads for €800m surplus

Brian O’Mahony:

THE Government is heading for an €800 million budget surplus this year and not a €1.8 billion deficit as originally anticipated.

Bank of Ireland’s chief economist Dan McLaughlin predicts that this will be a boost to the Government in next year’s general election.

“This will allow the Government to deliver another expansionary budget for 2007,” he said.

Bank of Ireland has stuck to its growth forecast for the economy of 6% in 2006. It is also projecting a similar level of growth in 2007 which it says will be helped significantly as the SSIAs mature.

Overall Mr McLaughlin expects savers to spend up to €4 billion of their €16bn savings.

Of that €1.6bn will be splashed this year and the remainder in 2007. This will have the effect of cutting the savings ratio to 11% from 13% of income next year, but still leaves us with a very strong savings culture, “despite the popular myth” of us being total spendthrifts.

Mr McLaughlin predicts the strong economic growth will provide the Government with a massive boost to exchequer funding.

“The combination of strong economic growth and rising property values will result in a €1.5bn tax windfall for the authorities, leading to an €0.8bn General Government Surplus, as opposed to the €1bn deficit forecast in the Budget,” he said.

Speaking at the launch of the bank’s latest economic review, The Outlook, Trends in the Irish Economy, Dr McLaughlin said Irish people “are saving like Germans and spending like Americans” adding that younger people are spending while older people who have built up a good asset base are better able to save.

As this year unfolds the SSIAs will add to the rising level of consumer demand that has already entered a boom phase, he said.

This year the outlook for the economy is being dictated by a more coherent set of factors. “Last year the Irish economy was characterised by a dichotomy between the domestic economy and the external sector. The former boomed, driven by a significant rise in consumer spending and a surge in business spending on machinery and equipment, resulting in a 7.3% increase in domestic demand”.

Exports sagged and although they recovered somewhat annual export growth was less than 2%, he said. As a result overall GDP was just 4.7% in line with the previous year.

Bank of Ireland forecasts 6% Irish economic growth in 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

A majority of English voters think that Scottish MPs should be barred from becoming the British prime minister

BBC News:

ICM research spoke to 1,000 people for the poll for the BBC's Politics Show.

They were asked whether it was right for a Scottish MP to be prime minister now Scotland has its own parliament.

While 45% of those questioned across the UK thought it was okay to have a Scottish PM, 52% were opposed. That figure rose to 55% in England alone.

However, just 20% of those polled in Scotland were opposed to an MP from north of the border becoming prime minister.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said the findings were "bad news" for Labour.

"It means the current prime minister is deeply unpopular in Scotland while the future prime minister is unacceptable in England," he said.

"It shows Gordon Brown's new-found Britishness cuts no ice north or south of the border."

Scottophobia lives on today

Anti-Scottish bias could crush the ambitions of both Brown and Reid

Friday, May 12, 2006

Enough ‘one-side-is-as- bad-as-the-other’ bunkum

Jude Collins:

Two weeks ago I found myself talking to a man who takes, um, shall we say, a Fine Gael/PD/DUP line on law-and-order. The subject of drug dealers came up and he was off.

“People say to me ‘Did you hear about that gangland shooting the other day? A man shot dead in a turf war over drugs. Isn’t it terrible?’ I say ‘What's terrible about a drug-dealer being shot dead? I think that's great!'"

It's a line that gets a nod of assent from more people than you might like to think. What’s scarier still, it finds its way into media reporting. On Tuesday morning, RTÉ radio reported that a man had been shot dead in Finglas the previous night. The dead man, we were told, had had a drug problem; and then the report went on to tell us about the man's brother. Ten years ago, the brother had been given eight years in prison for mugging and killing an elderly man as he prayed at the grave of his late wife. At the trial, the brother apologised for his actions but said that he had been high on drugs at the time.

You might think that who your brother is or what he gets up to has no relevance to what you are or get up to, and you'd be right. But by the inclusion of such information, the listener is led to a subtext which hints that the Finglas man shot dead was a drug addict, his brother was a drug addict and a murderer, and while it's unfortunate such people feel the need to shoot each other up, let's not get too weepy, they’re all part of the same violent, brutal world, and now there's one less of them. Such reports don't go so far as my Fine Gael/PD/DUP friend, but they're heading that direction.

The man in Finglas wasn't the only person to die on Monday night as a result of a violent attack. A 15-year old Catholic called Michael McIlveen also died. He'd been subjected to a brutal attack by a gang of around a dozen men in Ballymena at the weekend, and on Monday night efforts to save him failed. In reporting the event, the BBC noted that the murder ‘followed' an attack on a Protestant man in the Dunclug area of Ballymena a while back. Get the subtext? This murder is part of a pattern of sectarian strife in the area, with Catholic thugs as much to blame as their Protestant counterparts.

To her credit, Wendy Austin on Tuesday’s Good Morning Ulster challenged this line, asking a community worker if it really was a case of one side being as bad as the other. “Or is it that Ballymena is something of a cold house for Catholics?" (You might, of course, want to question if ‘cold house' isn't a little mild to describe a place where people attack you with a baseball bat and take turns jumping on your head when they find out you're a Catholic.)

Predictably, the man she was interviewing slid away from her question. Could you blame him? Catholics in the area have repeatedly asked for anonymity when talking to the press about the killing, in case they'd be identified as the next victim for similar treatment.

The unionist-aligned establishment has wasted no time weighing in behind the one-side-is-as-bad-as-the-other line.

The MP for the area, Ian Paisley: “Any reprisal or upping the ante would serve no purpose other than to make matters worse. I would call on all sides to pull back from the brink before tragedy is multiplied by catastrophe.” Note ‘all sides’.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde: “There are people from the next generation who are prepared to go out looking for people, on both sides, it's a two-way thing". Note ‘both sides’.

The Church of Ireland's Archbishop Lord Eames: “It is one more example of the bitterness of both sides of the spectrum". Note ‘both sides’.

The facts tell a different story. Two weeks ago a Catholic youth was stabbed in the centre of Ballymena. Last year dozens of attacks were made on Catholic-owned property in the Ballymena area. Catholic churches and schools were attacked by paint bombers and arsonists. In the nearby village of Ahoghill, a number of Catholics were forced from their homes after loyalist attacks. Our Lady’s Church in the Harryville area of Ballymena has been the focus of sustained sectarianism over the years, and last summer the petrol bombers and paint bombers were back.

Is there a comparable record of repeated and murderous Catholic attacks on Protestant people and Protestant property in the Ballymena area in recent years? If there is, it's been oddly under-reported. There are, you may be sure, Catholic bigots in Ballymena, but to present the situation in that town as a case of two equally-culpable warring factions, rather than a minority Catholic population subjected to primitive and murderous sectarianism, is to present a lie as the truth. The fact that this both-sides bunkum is offered by the great and the good, and the media, under the guise of balance and fairness, makes it all the more sickening.

Nor does this distortion stop at Ballymena town boundary. Watch the reporting of events at Stormont next week. The record shows that republicans have done all and more than was required of them by the Good Friday Agreement, are willing to enter into a power-sharing executive and are ready to vote for Ian Paisley as first minister. The record also shows that the DUP keeps finding new reasons for not going into a power-sharing executive, has done nothing to bring about loyalist decommissioning, and next week will refuse to so much as look at or speak to Sinn Féin, let along enter a power-sharing executive with them. And how will that be reported? What calls will be made by the great and the good? Why, one side is as bad as the other, of course, and both sides must learn to compromise and come to an agreement.

As long as those in positions of influence are incapable of delivering an honest diagnosis on this society and its problems, so long will this society remain sick.

Loyalists urged to postpone Ballymena parade

Inquiry report ‘not until 2007’

Laird's scuppered theory bordered on the fanciful

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Britain is perceived as one of the most loutish countries in Europe

Matt Weaver:

The poll, taken in six European countries including the UK, found that 76% of respondents thought Britain had a "big or moderate problem" with antisocial behaviour - a higher percentage than for any of the other countries involved.

Despite riots in the country's suburbs in November, France was rated just behind the UK (75%), followed by Germany (61%), Italy (52%) and Spain (51%). The Netherlands (44%) were at the bottom of the list.

The survey, which was conducted by University College London's Jill Dando institute of crime for the security firm ADT, found that 95% agreed that antisocial behaviour was a big or moderate problem.

The survey also revealed a sharp contrast in national attitudes to tackling unruly behaviour. It found that in Germany, six out of 10 people would challenge a group of 14-year-olds vandalising a bus shelter, but in Britain six out of ten would not.

"These perceptions, both inside and outside of Britain, are worrying," said Adrian Casey, the managing director of ADT Europe & South Africa.

"We have to seriously ask what sort of reception our fans travelling to the football World Cup and Brits on holiday abroad will receive when the rest of Europe perceives us to have such a problem with troublemakers.

"Government and policy makers may challenge them with statistics on crime and disorder, but as a nation we don't believe this situation is under control."

A breakdown of discipline in British homes and schools was seen as a factor by 79% of respondents, and nearly half believed stricter sentencing would help tacklethe problem. It also found that two thirds of Britons thought drink was a key factor.

"This research is a wake-up call. We know antisocial behaviour is a major issue in Great Britain and the rest of Europe clearly agrees," said Professor Gloria Laycock of the Jill Dando Institute.

"The study shows people believe it is fuelled by the excessive consumption of alcohol. Increasing our access to alcohol cannot be the answer and it is time that the government addressed perceptions of this problem."

Across Europe the top three concerns about behaviour were vandalism (70%), rowdy behaviour (59%) and disrespectful behaviour (58%).

In France and Italy, residential housing estates were seen as the location of greatest risk. For the Germans it was transport termini, for the British and Spanish around bars, nightclubs and pubs and for the Dutch in shopping areas.

The survey was carried out in January and questioned just over a 1,000 people in the six countries concerned.

Britain seen as 'most anti-social'

World Cup fears as Britain tops European yobs league

Bad behaviour 'worst in Europe'

ESRI predicts jobs growth of 70,000 for Ireland in 2006

Ireland Online:

The Economic and Social Research Institute has issued an optimistic assessment of employment growth for the rest of this year.

The think-tank is predicting that the total increase in the number of people working will reach 70,000 by the end of 2006

The ESRI made the prediction while releasing its monthly survey of the jobs on offer in the various sectors of the Irish economy.

The survey found that 22% of firms had vacancies last month, compared to just 12% in March.

The largest increase over the month was in the services sector, with the number of firms reporting vacancies up from 15% to 31%.

World Competitiveness Rankings 2006: US at No. 1; Ireland gets 11th ranking; Finland's Government provides most positive contribution

Protagonists need to put houses in order

Breidge Gadd:

"Not bad for a wee lad from Onward Flute Band in Belfast who used to march to Finaghy on the Twelfth" – the words of Sir James Galway as he prepared to play for the Pope last week.

These words were the only beacon of light in an otherwise deeply depressing week for Protestants. Even then, I suppose there are still some who even today believe that Sir James is betraying his heritage by setting foot in the Vatican. Reverend Brian Kennaway's recently launched book certainly confirms a picture of modern bigotry and begrudgery still rampant in Loyal Orders members.

Most damning by a long chalk has been this paper's exposure of the government knowledge, since the 1970s, at the highest level, of collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitary organisations in the targeting and murder of Catholics.

Those of us who lived through that period believed that nothing would shock us but I was shocked last week by The Irish News' revelations. Although over the years there were angry accusations from republican areas of systematic collusion, law abiding Catholics dismissed the claims as exaggerated. Few indeed would have given any credence to the seemingly wild accusations that government ministers and unionist politicians knew and condoned what was going on.

Well we were wrong: they did and they did nothing to stop it.

And what is most shocking of all, as Susan MacKay pointed out in her article last week, is the deafening silence of unionist politicians to these revelations. We wait to hear the voice of the Protestant Churches on these matters.

In fact, while this archived material was being exposed in this paper, bizarrely other media generally ignored it and focused on analysing the impact of the hunger strike on the civil conflict here and its contribution to the continuation of violence. As usual we had the predictable statements from a range of Protestants/unionists about their surprise, indeed outrage that otherwise decent Catholics supported the hunger strikers.

Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.

If last week's revelations taught us anything it was that there were people from all sides in Northern Ireland with blood on their hands. There were many, including British government ministers, who proclaimed outrage at IRA terrorism who also knew but said nothing about the terrorist infiltration of HM forces for terrorists' own murderous purposes.

In fact, last week should also have taught us that there is little room for self-righteous rants about who was to blame for the deaths during 30 years of conflict. It was a dirty nasty war from which none of the combatants emerges with untarnished glory.

Given what we now know as fact, the old adage that those in glasshouses should not throw stones must become the new imperative.

While there is a long way to go, I do believe that republicans have started a painful process that will define a future that genuinely includes those for and those against the union with Britain.

I struggle to find the same sense of purpose in unionism. Historical papers, Brian Kennaway's book, the continuation of intimidation of Catholics from their homes, still one-off murders by loyalists, the supposed majority of unionists now against the good Friday Agreement – all point to a people resisting, (and some still being prepared to use violence) the idea of sharing Northern Ireland with their fellow republicans and nationalists. Last week's evidence in this paper showed that it was not only the IRA who used terrorist tactics. It is time to put an end to the fallacy that everyone else involved were passive victims.

If we have learned anything it is that all the protagonists, not just the IRA, need to devote energy and ingenuity to put their own house in order and to stop blaming others for their woes.

Surely the time has come for Protestant leaders to be brave and honest enough to acknowledge the wrongs their people did.

They must work to raise the game of the young Protestant working class men who see the pinnacle of their ambition as walking down Garvaghy Road. Their role model should be the epic one of Jimmy Galway walking into and welcomed by the Vatican.

Politicians must realise what failure means

Tension and disbelief on estate’s streets

There’s a sinister hush over collusion evidence

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A man whose home was attacked at the weekend has said he was targeted for being a Catholic

Daily Ireland:

A window in Michael Conway’s home in Garvagh, Co Derry, was broken by a mob of loyalists early yesterday.

The incident took place only a week after a Catholic-owned hotel was targeted in a similar incident several hundred metres away.

Mr Conway, who runs a taxi business in the town with his wife Siobhán, told Daily Ireland last night that he would not be forced from his home.

The weekend’s sectarian attack was the third time the family had been targeted in recent years.

“We were targeted simply for being Catholic. It’s coming up to the time of the year for it.

“Our sons were attacked three weeks ago. The boys who did this are known to me. Everybody in the town knows who did it.

“But I’ll be standing where I’m at. My family have been here for over 100 years. The last time something like this happened, the Protestant community stood by us. A lot of neighbours contacted us and already they are contacting us again. We know the people who did this don’t represent them. They represent nobody.”

An emotional Siobhán Conway said: “It was a rude awakening and very frightening. Your initial thought is: What is happening here?”

Daily Ireland has learned that loyalists in the town last week targeted an elderly Catholic family.

East Derry SDLP assembly member John Dallat demanded tough PSNI action to catch the culprits.

“Michael and Siobhán Conway were in bed when they heard six or seven bangs at their living-room window and knew immediately that they were under attack.

“Siobhán rushed downstairs and managed to get a very good description of the thugs involved, and a full statement has been given to the police.

“I have demanded that those involved are arrested immediately and fast-tracked through the legal system. The Conway family work hard running a taxi business which is available to everyone.

“The pensioners who had their home attacked on Thursday night were severely traumatised when I visited them the following morning.

“The Housing Executive is currently renovating their home and they were so looking forward to a few years of comfort, peace and happiness.

“Sadly, well-known sectarian bigots who have little or no support among anyone in the community are determined to ruin their dream.

“This current spate of attacks began when a Catholic boy was set upon by three thugs who drew up in a car three weeks ago. On that occasion, the youth was rescued by others who came to his aid,” said Mr Dallat.

The SDLP man said he feared that tensions would rise in the area in the run-up to the marching season.

“I believe this is a ‘warm-up’ for the marching season and consequently I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Parades Commission to discuss a number of parades scheduled for Garvagh in the coming weeks.

“I don’t believe it is prudent to allow these to proceed in their present form, leaving families exposed to the danger that their homes will be attacked again with the potential for further damage to people or their property.

“Those involved are misrepresenting good relations between Catholics and Protestants. Sadly, however, we still have DUP representatives rushing to the defence of these thugs and they need to accept that they are being used time and time again. That must stop.”

The PSNI confirmed that the force was treating the attack on the Conway family as sectarian and confirmed that two men are being questioned.

Sectarian & Murderous

Monday, May 08, 2006

Celts and Romans

Terry Jones:

The fact that we still think of the Celts, the Huns, the Vandals, the Goths and so on as “barbarians” means that we have all fallen hook, line and sinker for Roman propaganda. We actually owe far more to the so-called “barbarians” than we do to the men in togas.

In the past 30 years, however, the story has begun to change. Archeological discoveries have shed new light on the ancient texts that have survived and this has led to new interpretations of the past. In Roman eyes the Celts may have lacked battle strategy, but their arms and equipment were in no way inferior to the Roman army’s. In fact the Celts had better helmets and better shields.

When the Romans got to Britain they found another technological advance: chariots. It may seem odd to those of us brought up on Ben Hur that the Romans should have been surprised by chariots on the battlefield, but that was the case.

The Romans had chariots, but the Britons made significant design improvements and, as Julius Caesar noted, had thoroughly mastered the art of using them. So how come the Romans built roads and the Celts did not? The answer is simple. The Celts did build roads. The “Romans-were-greatest” version of history made the earlier roads invisible until recently. One of the best preserved iron age roads is at Corlea in Ireland, but it was not until the 1980s that people realised how old it is. It was known locally as “the Danes’ road” and generally assumed to be of the Viking period or later. It was not until the timbers were submitted for tree-ring dating that the truth emerged: they were cut in 148BC.

However, the really startling thing is that wooden roads built the same way and at the same time have been found across Europe, as far away as northern Germany. The Celts, it seems, were sophisticated road builders and the construction of these wooden roads was no mean feat of engineering.

Oak planks were laid on birch runners and they were built broad enough for two carts to pass each other. What’s more, Celtic road building is not necessarily predated by that of the Romans. The first important Roman road was the Appian Way, built in 312BC, but the so-called “Upton Track” in south Wales, a wooden road laid across the mudflats along the Severn estuary, dates back to the 5th century BC.

It is only now that historians are beginning to reassess the sophistication of Celtic science and engineering. From early times the Celts were the iron masters of Europe. A Celtic smith was regarded as a magician, a man who could take a lump of rock and transform it into a magical new substance — a cunningly worked steel blade sharp enough to cut through bronze or ordinary iron.

The Celts’ mastery of metal technology also enabled them to develop sophisticated arable farms. We know they had iron ploughshares in Britain from about the 4th century BC because in a shrine at Frilford on the River Ock, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire — a site that was occupied from about 350BC — an iron ploughshare was found under one of the central pillars where it had been buried, perhaps as a votive offering. It is a fair guess that the temple was one of the first buildings to be erected there and that the iron ploughshare was offered at the time that its foundations were laid.

The Celts’ use of metal even allowed them to invent a harvesting machine. Historians did not believe that it could be true until bas-relief sculptures were discovered that apparently show just such a contraption. It was a sort of comb on wheels that beat off the ears of corn and deposited them in a container rather like the grass box of a lawnmower. A replica was built and tested in the 1980s.

It has been easy to underestimate Celtic technological achievements because so much has vanished or been misunderstood. Of course, it was thoughtless of the Celts not to leave us anything much in the way of written records — they should have known that the lack of books putting forward their own propaganda would weight the evidence firmly in favour of the Romans.

Western society’s enthusiasm since the renaissance for all things Roman has persuaded us to see much of the past through Roman eyes, even when contrary evidence stares us in the face. Once we turn the picture upside-down and look at history from a non-Roman point of view, things start to look very, very different.

Italy owes wine legacy to Celts, history buffs say

British knew of loyalist collusion

Colm Heatley:

The British government wanted to increase the Ulster Defence Regiment’s intelligence-gathering role in the mid-1970s, despite knowing that the group was infiltrated by loyalist paramilitaries.

The proposal is contained in a Ministry of Defence (MoD) memo from 1974, which has only recently come to light. It states: ‘‘We have agreed that the extension of the UDR’s intelligence-gathering function is a good thing.”

This is despite earlier MoD memos acknowledging that loyalists paramilitaries were UDR members. At the same time, the British government relaxed vetting procedures for UDR recruits. Another MoD memo warns that the relaxed procedures should remain secret because the British government was then fighting a case related to the North in the European Court of Human rights.

According to the documents, the British government was briefed on the internal status of the UDR in 1975.

In the mid-1970s the UDA and UVF were carrying out murder campaigns against nationalists. In 1974, the groups were responsible for murdering more than 100 innocent Catholics.

Throughout the Troubles, nationalists regularly complained that the UDR colluded with loyalists to murder Catholics. The UDR patrolled nationalist areas in the North, operating vehicle checkpoints and taking personal information from Catholics.

A number of UDR men were convicted in the courts on serious terrorist charges in the 1980s and 1990s.

The revelation that the UDR’s intelligence role was to be increased in the 1970s has caused serious concern within the nationalist community.

‘‘We now have a very definite paper-trial going back to the 1970s through to the 1990s, which shows that at the highest levels of the British government, it was aware of collusion,” said Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre.

‘‘It raises fresh concerns about the many murders committed by loyalists colluding with the British Army in the 1980s and 1990s.”

British Used Spy to Destroy Northern Ireland Power-Sharing Govt. in 2002

Falls Road residents demand truth over PSNI informers

Catholic children less likely to have qualifications

Ministers aware of UDR links with loyalists, archives show

Friday, May 05, 2006

Unionist silence the most shameful part of the story

Susan McKay:

Their silence is deafening. Can you imagine the pitch of self-righteous frenzy that unionist politicians would by now have reached had it been revealed that the main source of the IRA's weapons in the early days of the Troubles had been the Irish army?

That innocent Protestant civilians had been gunned down in the streets by terrorists using those weapons? That elements of the Garda were close to the IRA and were giving information to Gerry Adams? That the Irish government knew, and suppressed the information?

Yes, you can imagine it. The silence which has greeted the revelations carried in The Irish News this week about collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries is perhaps the most shameful aspect of the whole sordid story.

As I write, unionist politicians have responded minimally and only to try to deny that the information is true and accurate.

Lord Denning infamously said that the prospect that the Birmingham Six might be innocent presented such an "appalling vista" that it must be rejected. This is another appalling vista – and it must be faced.

The sources of the documents published in this paper this week, and painstakingly analysed by Steven McCaffery, simply cannot be plausibly rubbished. This is evidence from the heart of the British establishment.

It was uncovered by researchers at the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten.

The Irish News has published documents which show that in 1973 British military intelligence knew that up to 15% of UDR soldiers were also involved with loyalist paramilitary groups. That the UDR was the "best single source of weapons" for those groups. That the weapons were being used in sectarian murder attacks on catholic civilians. That in 1975 Labour secretary of state Merlyn Reese briefed Tory leader Margaret Thatcher that there were elements in the RUC who were "very close" to the UVF, and were prepared "to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley".

This reference to the DUP leader is particularly interesting in the light of the false allegations he has made in the House of Commons regarding those he claims were responsible for the Kingsmills Massacre.

Paisley claimed his information came from security sources but the RUC denied and repudiated it.

Much of the so-called information passed to loyalists over the years was based on rumour, fuelled by passionate sectarianism. Many innocent people have died as a result.

The UDR was formed out of the notorious B Specials and brazenly carried on the tradition of that unionist militia. Remember that dual membership of the UDR and the UDA was for a considerable time perfectly legal. The 'Subversion in the UDR' document reveals that the main anxiety on the part of the British was that the loyalty of a large element of the UDR was to Ulster and not to Britain, and the implications of that.

Although loyalist paramilitaries boasted that they were the "gloves off" branch of the security forces, allegations about collusion have always been met with denial from 'respectable' unionists. Far from accepting that it was institutionalised in the local security forces, unionists have even rejected the idea that there were "bad apples".

The UUP's former security spokesman, Ken, now Lord, Maginnis, claimed that in his time in the UDR (during the 1970s) he had only come across a small number of "bruised" apples.

This is hardly in keeping with the comment in the 1973 British intelligence report that if you removed the undesirables you would be left with a "very small regiment indeed".

John Stalker tried to investigate collusion and was thwarted.

John Stevens was obstructed over 14 years but found that it existed during the 1980s, including "the extreme of agents being involved in murder".

Mr Justice Henry Barron's investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombs revealed a chilling network of loyalists, policemen and UDR soldiers who murdered with apparent impunity while the British and Irish authorities were preoccupied with the "real" enemy, the IRA.

Barron was refused access to British intelligence documents he needed.

Judge Peter Cory protested vehemently when the British rushed through legislation making it impossible for the sort of inquiry he had called for to be carried out into the murder of Pat Finucane. The Saville Inquiry was obstructed and evidence willfully destroyed.

A Tyrone coroner was refused access to documents he needed to carry out inquests into controversial murders in the 1990s.

We now know a bit more about what they have got to hide.

Nationalists Angry Over Parade Move

Orange questions for society

Thursday, May 04, 2006

It takes lots of courage to break ranks

Brian Feeney:

Rev Brian Kennaway's new book The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed is causing quite a stir, mainly it has to be said among Protestants, unionists and Orangemen.

Writing the book was a courageous exercise by Kennaway because its publication places him among a minuscule number of people from the Protestant and/or unionist community who have publicly criticised 'their own side'.

The book is an indictment of the leadership of the Orange Order, particularly in the last 10 years.

As Kennaway wrote in a newspaper article: "The major issues facing the order in recent years have been the relationship with loyalist paramilitaries, violence at confrontational parades, the unwillingness to exercise discipline and the inability of the leadership to give leadership."

Nationalists will reject the whole thesis of the book and laugh at the notion that the Orange Order was ever anything but a politico-religious conspiracy ready to offer violence to deny Catholics an equal role in society in Ireland.

They would question the use of the word 'recent' and ask where Kennaway was when the Orange Order gave over its halls in the 1970s to UDA and Orange Volunteers to drill in or when the UDA, with the connivance of the RUC, openly policed Orange marches through the Tunnel in Portadown in the seventies.

Did Orange lodges only begin to march behind UVF and UDA bands in the 1980s?

Nevertheless, despite its serious shortcomings, the point is that Kennaway has written the book, an act which makes him one of a very select band from his tradition who have not always taken the line 'my own side, right or wrong'.

This blindness contrasts sharply with the nationalist side where there have been virulent and sometimes physical, disputes between SF and SDLP and between SF and the Catholic Church over the decades.

This silence goes right to the heart of the nature of British administration here because it's official.

When you read the details in The Irish News this week of what was going on between the police and army and loyalist terrorists you ask yourself, who knew about state-sponsored killing?

The answer must be hundreds but more likely thousands of unionist politicians, police, civil servants and transient British politicians and officials. They all knew that the UDR was riddled with UVF and UDA, that indeed some UDR units were simply UDA men without balaclavas.

They all knew intelligence about the nationalist community passed freely to loyalists, as loyalists themselves admitted.

RUC reservists, prison warders, UDR/UDA/UVF men all drank together in the same clubs. In fact, in some cases they were all the same men. Of course nationalists suspected as much and repeatedly made allegations of collusion which were just as repeatedly denied. We now know those denials were all lies, official lies.

Republicans, who were mainly on the receiving end of the conspiracy to kill which the British administration managed here, made the most lurid allegations which were derided and dismissed because of the very fact that it was republicans making them.

It now turns out that republicans were correct; indeed that their most outrageous allegations only lifted the hem of the curtain.

Yet the extraordinary tribal solidarity of unionism and the British administration here meant that no-one broke rank, no-one said a word.

Oh yes, we have Jonty Brown now writing about UDA control of Rathcoole 30 years ago and Special Branch conspiracy to kill, maybe even to kill him. Again, where was he 20 years ago?

You'll notice no unionist endorses anything Jonty Brown or Brian Kennaway says, except in Kennaway's case David Trimble, himself rejected by unionism so he has nothing to lose by telling the truth to Orangemen.

Few people now remember the late Jack Hassard – a Protestant from Dungannon – and the flak he took when he resigned from the sham Police Authority in 1978 saying that both the chief constable and secretary of state knew what was going on in Castlereagh interrogation centre.

Few will remember that when one police surgeon blew the whistle on the beatings, some low dog in the NIO immediately told the media it was only because the surgeon's wife had been raped by an SAS man.

Yes, it takes courage to break ranks.

Order talks with SDLP signify little

Bus full of loyalists puts four in hospital

Remembering, 25 years on

Files confirm suspicions

Wrongly convicted men claim libel

Killers being shielded: detective

Irish America ‘must not merely spectate’

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ireland is one of Europe’s most entrepreneurial nations

Ireland Online:

Ireland is still one of Europe's most entrepreneurial nations, according to the latest report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

The report says almost 10% of Irish people are planning to set up their own businesses or have already done so, while almost 70% of Irish people consider entrepreneurship to be a good career choice.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin has welcomed the figures, saying they show Ireland is beginning to approach the levels of entrepreneurial activity seen in the United States.

Entrepreneurial activity on the increase

Ireland is reaching US levels of entrepreneurship

Monday, May 01, 2006

SDLP only has itself to blame

Daily Ireland:

Our front page story today makes grim reading for the SDLP. A leaked internal party document shows that membership of the party fell catastrophically in the three years between 2002 and 2005.

From 3,386 members three years ago, party membership today stands at 2,196, with numbers going into freefall in some strongly nationalist constituencies. This is particularly the case in west Belfast where there are in existence only 24 paid-up members of the party. In Foyle, a seat which Mark Durkan managed to hold on to last year, membership has fallen by well over two-thirds at a time when having a local man as party leader might have been expected to bolster support.

Republicans jokingly refer to the SDLP as the South Down and Londonderry Party after the party’s poor showing in the last Westminster elections. The prospects of the party holding its remaining two Westminster seats would be slim enough if the party had a large and healthy membership helping drive the SDLP forward. But with the party clearly in a state of chaos, it would be a foolish person indeed who would bet on Mark Durkan and Eddie McGrady both being returned next time round.

It’s not hard to see where the problems arise. In west Belfast, for example, where there aren’t enough members to stage a charity football game, the party insists on giving its full backing to the PSNI despite the force’s shambolic performance on the ground in working-class streets and estates.

The party’s championing of the PSNI does not go down well among people who are reading the paper or watching the teatime news with a car on fire outside their door and a crowd of drinkers and glue sniffers at their gable wall. Against a background of chaos and lawlessness in such areas, how many men and women will step forward to join the party? Not many, we suspect, and not many is the answer provided by the statistics.

Then there’s the internal squabbling, best illustrated by the resignation from office of senior party member Eddie Espie and the estrangement of the north Belfast young Turk Martin Morgan. They have had scathing things to say about the organisation and direction of the party, and instead of being earnestly listened to by party chiefs, they have found themselves vilified and ostracised. They have many challenging things to say about the party which many within the SDLP do not like, but if the SDLP is serious about regaining ground lost to Sinn Fein, it is going to have take on board robust criticism from people like Espie and Morgan, which, these figures suggest, is entirely justified. Then there’s the total mess that was the ditching of post-nationalism in favour of wrap-the-green-flag-round-me republicanism. People are not stupid.

They know that in politics you should only choose battles you can win, and for the SDLP to presume that it could convince people that it could take on and beat Sinn Fein in the fight for the right to don the republican mantle was folly indeed.