Thursday, June 29, 2006

Because it's traditional doesn't make it right

Brian Feeney:

Let's get a few points clear. The Orange Order has been the cause of civil disorder in Ireland since its foundation.

In 1813 Orangemen caused the first sectarian riot in Belfast. Repeatedly in the 19th century Orangemen forcing their way through Catholic districts resulted in scores of people killed, countless injuries and damage to property, mostly Catholic.

The only reason these consequences of Orange violence didn't occur continually in the 19th century is that the British government banned Orange marches by the Party Processions Act between 1832 and 1844 and 1850 and1872.

A British government commission in 1857 concluded that Orange festivals led to 'violence, outrage, religious animosities, hatred between classes and, too often, bloodshed and loss of life'.

That's the Orange tradition.

This tradition was maintained and improved upon in the 20th century when the north became an Orange state in 1921.

Orangemen instigated violent clashes in every decade – Belfast, Derry, Dungiven, Coalisland, Annalong, Portadown and so on, endlessly.

It's important to make this point because Orangemen and their NIO sympathisers have succeeded in peddling the lie that opposition to Orange marches began with Sinn Féin conspiracies in the 1990s.

Rubbish. There were disturbances in Derry and Belfast and Portadown in the 1970s.

There were huge confrontations in the 1970s on the Springfield Road at Ainsworth Avenue, literally a stone's throw from where the Parades Commission forced the Orangemen into the Catholic district last Saturday.

The Public Order Order (sic) was brought in in 1987 as a result of stand-offs in Portadown when Orangemen refused to abandon their traditional route through the Catholic Tunnel to march along the Garvaghy Road.

Yes folks, 20 years ago Orangemen were REFUSING to march along the Garvaghy Road. They thought there were more Catholics to intimidate in the Tunnel.

Given all this, it's truly sickening to hear Peter Hain say he hoped "people can exercise their traditional and cultural rights".

The logic of that nonsense is that he would support cannibals boiling someone alive in a pot or have widows in India burnt alive along with their husband's body.

Well, it was traditional wasn't it? Doesn't make it right but suttee was their culture.

This balderdash from our proconsul may show he disconnects his brain from his mouth when he's talking about this place. It also shows how successful Orange apologists have been in portraying their antics as 'cultural'.

The reality is anything but. They are the Ku Klux Klan marching through Harlem, the National Front marching along Brick Lane in London, or perhaps our proconsul would be more familiar with the concept of the Broederbond marching through Soweto?

Would he support that?

Then again, he has performed so many somersaults in his diverse political career that he might.

How could you predict which way he'll jump next?

He went so far as to regurgitate the NIO fodder he'd been fed that if 'both sides' were displeased, then the Parades Commission decision was probably right.

Wrong. It's not a matter of conflicting rights, as the British administration have sought to portray Orange marches.

Buried in the Good Friday Agreement is a little sentence guaranteeing 'the right to freedom from sectarian harassment'.

If sectarian harassment doesn't describe an Orange march in a Catholic district, what does?

Here's where the Parades Commission, now devoid of any credibility thanks to our proconsul's manipulation, confirms the cowardice of its decisions.

They begin with the presumption of the right of Orangemen to march, not the right of Catholics to live in peace and quiet, free from men marching past their homes who revere loyalist killers.

The Parades Commission's aim, as the NIO gameplan said in 1997, is to get 'Orange feet' on a Catholic street, in other words to keep the Orange Order happy.

Tradition doesn't enter into it.

The Parades Commission is now licensing marches in parts of Stoneyford where there have never been marches so that Orangemen can disturb the peace of Catholics who have never seen an Orange march and moved out to Stoneyford to get away from Belfast.

You can get away from Belfast, but thanks to the craven Parades Commission you can't get away from Orange intimidation.

Catholic family forced to move

Monday, June 26, 2006

A recent increase in Scotland's population is a blip rather than a long-term trend

BBC News:

The Scottish Item Club research group said for the first time in generations more people were coming to Scotland.

However, Dougie Adams, economic adviser to the group, said the forces driving migration to Scotland were temporary.

He also warned that Scotland's economy was predicted to lag behind the UK, and Scots could face a relative decline in living standards.

Mr Adams said migration had been driven by the tightness of the Scottish labour market, the relative affordability of housing in Scotland and a well-publicised one-off boost for migration of young workers from new EU members.

The unexpected upturn in the population resulted in a rise of about 41,000 (0.8%) in the two years to mid 2005.

A number of Scottish sectors had benefited including agriculture, food processing and hospitality, he said.

He added: "However, it is only in the last two to three years that Scotland has gained population from overseas, the UK has been reaping the benefits since the mid 1990s.

"We expect the inflow to peter out over the next few years - with a gain of only another 5,000 over the next three years, reflecting Scotland's relatively slow economic growth compared with southern England."

The report predicted that the Scottish economy was on track to achieve modest growth of 1.9% GDP in 2006.

However, it said Scotland's growth would lag behind the rest of the UK, which is expected to grow by 2.3%.

Furthermore, the gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK, in terms of GDP growth, would widen even further in 2007 with predicted rises of 2% and 2.7% respectively.

Mr Adam said: "The growth challenge facing Scotland is clearly demonstrated by the economy's inability to benefit from recent strong world conditions.

"With so little benefit flowing through from the best spell of world growth in a generation, there has been an over-reliance on buoyant public spending for growth.

"As a result when public spending hits the buffers from 2008, it will be difficult for the Scots to avoid a relative decline in their living standards compared with the most prosperous parts of the UK."

Of course, the Scottish demographic situation could be improved if the British would just relocate their colonists in the north of Ireland to Scotland.

ITEM Club sees Scottish growth lagging UK

Timely reminder to second-class Irish nationalists about Orange marches

Jim Gibney:

In case any one is in any doubt about the purpose behind Orange marches the decision by the Parades Commission in relation to an Orange march on Belfast's Springfield Road this weekend is a timely reminder of what they are about.

Orange marches have one purpose and one purpose only – to remind Catholics and nationalists of their second-class status.

Whether it was Orangemen marching on the Longstone Road, Annalong in the 1950s, Obin Street in Portadown, Derry's Walls or the Springfield Road, Orange marches exist to remind nationalists of their lack of power and their lack of political rights.

The marches are public demonstrations of political domination by unionists of their Catholic neighbours.

Unionist and Orange political power might be waning in the face of the peace process but the Parades Commission's decision proves the Order still retains the capacity to impose its will on society and in particular on the Catholic community on the Springfield Road.

The Orange Order still has the power to dictate to and mobilise the forces of the British state to ensure it is protected. This will be demonstrated when the Parades Commission's decision is policed with the usual military tactics which amount to a curfew. Residents will be hemmed in their homes; their lives disrupted living in a climate of fear.

The Order still has enough influence and strength inside the political and military system to secure decisions which undermine the peace process and do irrevocable damage to community relations.

The parade on the Springfield Road is even more offensive because it is a march associated with the UVF who are responsible for killing many Catholics from that area.

All shades of unionism, political and paramilitary, are involved in this march – the Ulster Unionists, the DUP, the Orange Order, PUP, UVF and UDA. It was this sectarian coalition which justified the mayhem last September when the Parades Commission correctly re-routed the Orange march away from Workman Avenue.

Before making his decision did Roger Poole, chairperson of the Parades Commission, bother to assess the involvement by Orangemen in last September's street violence? They were clearly involved at every stage of the disturbances.

Orange Order violence set the scene for a week of mayhem which spread across Belfast. It involved 150 gun attacks, blast bombs, hundreds of petrol bombs and vehicles being hijacked. Belfast's daily life came to a halt.

The Orange Order and unionist politicians blamed the Parades Commission and absolved themselves from any responsibility.

The new Parades Commission, which includes Orange Order members and sympathisers, have rewarded those behind last September's violence.

The commission also includes, Joe Hendron, former SDLP MP for West Belfast. He needs to publicly explain to his former constituents if he supported the Orange Order's application.

The statement from the Parades Commission chairperson defending his decision is breathtakingly naive.

He described last September's violence as "savage and shameful" and then incomprehensibly says this violence will not be allowed to hold back progress towards a "shared future".

For Poole the "shared future" is allowing unwanted Orange parades to march through Catholic and nationalist areas.

In what can only be described as a bout of wishful thinking to bolster his decision Poole described low-level contact between both sides as "courageous, real and meaningful" dialogue.

Meaningful dialogue is what is needed. Low-level contact should not be exaggerated to fit into the commission's agenda.

The Orange Order should be judged on their intentions. And their intentions are to cause offence to people in places like the Springfield Road. On that basis Orange parades which apply to go through areas where they are not wanted should be banned.

The Orange Order is a secret, oath-bound, sectarian, anti-Catholic organisation. It forfeits any rights it has when it seeks to march through Catholic areas where it is not welcome.

No-one should try to balance out the rights residents have to live free from sectarian intimidation and those of Orangemen. There is no equivalence.

Residents should be protected by the state against the Orange Order which is the aggressor.

No-one would suggest that racists or anti-Semites have rights over those they seek to trample over.

The same attitude should apply to the Orange Order.

It’s the same old story

Parade compromise offer

Cash up in smoke

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ahern predicts Irish GDP growth of 4.8% in 2006


Ireland's economy is expected to grow by around 4.8% this year, more than double the growth forecast for the euro area as a whole, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said today.

The Taoiseach made his comments at the opening of a new Intel facility in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

He said he expected the country's gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by some 4.8% this year, slightly above the 4.7% growth recorded in early estimates for 2005.

In March, Finance Minister Brian Cowen said he expected Ireland's GDP to grow by around 4.7% this year. Latest GDP growth estimates for the euro zone this year are around 2.1%.

Ahern said Intel's commitment to opening a new facility showed that Ireland - which some economists warn risks losing its competitive edge as prices and wages, rise above those of its peers - was still a good place for business.

Indigenous exports surge, figures reveal

R&D boosts Irish exports by €1.2bn

Monday, June 19, 2006

England no longer needs Scotland, says English Tory

Douglas Fraser:

THE English have no more need of Scotland or its oil wealth, and should stop letting Scotland "extort" money, says a leading Conservative.

Michael Portillo, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2001, left parliament last year and is now a journalist, which gives him licence to say the unsayable within Tory ranks.

In a newspaper column yesterday, Mr Portillo, a former defence secretary, said the English used to fear becoming economically inferior to Germany and France and worried about what would happen if they lost part of the UK's population and North Sea oil revenue.

Tory interests would be better served by splitting England from Scotland, now that Britain is growing more strongly than its large continental rivals, he argued.

"The loss of one-twelfth of our population in a region that drags down our national performance could not harm us. Our hydrocarbons are less of an issue now that they are being exhausted." He added it would be good for Scotland to be separate. "It is a pensioner economy existing on English handouts and consequently its politicians implement centralising policies of a kind abandoned in the former Soviet satellite states," he wrote.

The creation of a separate parliament has not reduced "wearisome whingeing" and the World Cup finals have not helped relations, he said, and First Minister Jack McConnell's support for Trinidad and Tobago against England in last week's match was a display of offensive and "undignified chippiness". He said: "Perhaps McConnell needs reminding his population lives as well as it does thanks to subsidies extorted from English taxpayers."

Alex Salmond gave a caustic welcome to Mr Portillo's comments, saying "even the most unlikely convert to the cause of independence has to be welcomed, even if it is a rather extreme reaction to Gordon Brown's support for the England football team".

The SNP leader added: "His conclusion that Scotland would benefit from independence is undeniably correct."

Today, a Labour-dominated Commons select committee is expected to report its concern about rising disquiet in England at the role of Scots MPs who shape policy on issues which have little impact in their own constituencies.

Salmond joins O'Brien to campaign against 'shameful' Act of Settlement

British media critics' reaction to Ken Loach's film about the Irish struggle for independence shows little has changed regarding attitudes to Ireland

Paul Donovan:

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival, The Wind that Shakes the Barley has been described as anti-British.

It would be difficult to see how a film of this period in Irish history could be anything other than anti-British if it was to in any way reflect the truth. What was Loach supposed to do depict the Black and Tans as peacekeepers?

What Loach has done is again produce a film that asks searching questions, particularly of the British state, for what it did during that period. The film, though, also depicts the terrible waste of life of the civil war. Loach is not a sentimental film maker but one who holds up a mirror to the truth so that others can learn from history.

The best guage as to the merits of a film about Ireland is usually the amount of vitriol it attracts from the British media. Loach has always passed this test. His previous film, Hidden Agenda, on the conflict in the north stirred controversy, drawing together a script based on the Stalker affair and the Clockwork Orange plot against the Wilson and Heath governments. It was remarkable over the years how often the film got pulled at the last moment because of some real atrocity that had occurred at the time. Perhaps this censorship was due to how close Loach had got to the truth about past happenings.

Other films that have stirred controversy include Neil Jordan's Michael Collins and Jim Sheridan's Some Mothers Son. Earlier still, Kenneth Griffith's film Hang out Your Brightest Colours: The Life and Death of Michael Collins (1972), was banned by the Independent Broadcasting Authority on the basis that it was "an incitement to disorder." It was finally shown on 13 August 1994 as part of ITV's 25 Bloody Years season. A later film Curious Journey featuring interviews with those who'd fought in 1916 did not receive a viewing until 1980 at the London Film Festival.

The power though of any good filmaker is to not only depict historic events in a dramatic way but to strike a resonance with the audience about contemporary life. The Griffiths films were controversial because although they drew together the events of the war for independence with the later conflict of the time in the north of Ireland.

So too with Loach, who has told how he tries to draw comparison between the occupied 1920s Ireland and Iraq today. The situations are obviously different but to the native populations in both countries the British army have been seen as an occupying force. The historical parallels can be over done but do exist. If Loach's film can not only stir some of the historical amnesia of the British public relating to Irish history but also provide a lesson on the futility of continuing to occupy Iraq it will be a fine work indeed. Let's hope the film gets a wide distribution in the UK, not just being seen in areas where the Irish diaspora dwell.


Shock study revealing childhood sectarianism

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ethnic divisions in the north of Ireland

Suzanne Breen:

Even in death, they don't want to be together. In Belfast City Cemetery, an underground wall separates the Catholic and Protestant dead. Sectarian division exists from the cradle to the grave.

Catholic and Protestant children go to different schools and live in different areas. When they grow up, only a minority work in districts dominated by the 'other' religion. The peace process was meant to bring a transformation. While the murder rate has fallen, little else has changed.

"Belfast is far from being the post-conflict city dreamed of by planners, investors and British and Irish politicians," says University of Ulster lecturer, Pete Shirlow, co-author of a new book which discloses the naked sectarianism that still resides in the North.

In North Belfast alone, there were 6623 sectarian incidents from 1996 to 2004. Shirlow's research exposes deep divisions there. Upper (Protestant) Ardoyne contains no shops. There are six grocers in Lower (Catholic) Ardoyne. Less than one in five Protestants will use them. Eighty-two per cent of Catholics refuse to use the leisure centre in Protestant Ardoyne.

An Ardoyne Protestant says of his neighbours across the peaceline: "I would love to burn those bastards out. The soap dodgers (derogatory name for Catholics) breed like rabbits. All you ever hear from them is whinge, whinge, whinge. Why don't they get jobs and live like decent people?" Another says: "If I knew my neighbour was shopping in Fenianville, I'd take a pounder (hammer) and knock his head of his shoulders."

One Ardoyne Protestant who shops in west Belfast has to hide such 'disloyalty': "We shop in Curley's. It's so cheap and who is going to know we are Prods? But we take Tesco bags with us and put the shopping in them before we go home. If I walked up that path with Curley's bags I'd get my windies (put) in."

An Ardoyne Catholic says: "One of my neighbours bought a suite of furniture from a place in the Shankill. I told him I wouldn't be in his house as long as that furniture was there. He was giving money to people who (had) attacked us."

Shirlow found much of his research depressing: "You'd see a playground on one side of the fence, and it was out of bounds for the kids on the other side of the fence. Generation after generation is growing up like this."

Rather than challenging division, the peace process is about managing it, he says. At the time of the Belfast Agreement, both sides were told they'd won. Instability over the North's constitutional future, and continuing inter-community conflict, was inevitable. There's been a growth in attacks on symbols of tradition such as Orange Halls, GAA clubs, and churches.

In some Belfast communities, three-quarters of people refuse to use their closest health centre if it's in an area dominated by the other community. Such attitudes are understandable. A third of all victims killed in Belfast were murdered in their homes or metres from their homes. This war was very personal.

Although they could still be strongly nationalist or unionist, pensioners – with experience of pre-1969 society – held less sectarian attitudes than younger people.

They were more likely to say, 'I come from Belfast'. The younger generation, steeped in parochialism, were more likely to say, 'I come from West Belfast' or 'I come from East Belfast'.

Only 11% of Catholics and 7% of Protestants live in religiously mixed areas. Graffiti such as 'KAT' (Kill All Taigs) or KAH (Kill All Huns) is common in flashpoint areas. Recently, there have been efforts to camouflage peacelines through landscaping. They're hidden by parkland or industrial buffer zones. Shirlow finds "attempting to normalise the abnormal is absolutely bizarre".

Catholics working for mainly Protestant firms tend to be safer if they're not on the shop-floor. A personnel manager says: "The worst thing that could happen in the offices is that someone would throw a bagel at you. On the shop floor, you could get a spanner in the teeth."

Anyone who believes that an indigenous population can peacefully coexist with a colonial one is fooling themselves.

Ireland's GDP per inhabitant in 2005 was nearly 40% above EU25 average

Finfacts Team:

Nowcasts (short-term assessments) of purchasing power parities1 (PPP) for 2005 are now available for the European Union Member Countries. Based on these nowcasts, GDP per inhabitant2 in Luxembourg3 (partly due to the large share of cross-border workers in total employment) was more than twice the EU25 average in 2005.

Ireland was nearly 40% above average (Ireland's figures are partly boosted by the strong multinational presence), while Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium were around 20% above average. The United Kingdom and Sweden were 15% above average, and Finland, Germany and France about 10% above average. Italy and Spain were around the EU25 average.

Cyprus, Greece and Slovenia were about 20% below average. The Czech Republic, Portugal and Malta were around 30% below average, and Hungary and Estonia about 40% below. Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia were around half the EU25 average.

These figures for GDP per inhabitant, expressed in terms of purchasing power standards4 (PPS), are published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

Malta's GDP per inhabitant is 30% below EU average - Eurostat

GDP per inhabitant varied by one to five across the EU25 Member States

Czech Republic, Cyprus make gains in EU prosperity table

The unspoken case for lower taxes

Monday, June 05, 2006

Scotland's economy has grown four times more slowly than Ireland's over the past six years


The figures show Scotland growing by 13.7 per cent since 1999, while Ireland has grown by 55.6 per cent. The UK as a whole has grown by 20.1 per cent, just over one-third of the rate of Ireland's performance.

The report also emphasises unemployment in Ireland - standing at 4.1 per cent against 6 per cent in Scotland. And it adds that Ireland has grown more quickly than Scotland by a factor of at least 2.5 times every year since 1999.

Celtic Tiger shows how Brown failed Scotland

When Brits get bashed in films, they usually deserve it

Concubhar Ó Liatháin:

I haven't been to see The Wind that Shakes the Barley, the Ken Loach film about Ireland's war to free itself from the brutal grip of British imperialism, yet but, by the end of the week, all things being equal, the deed will be done.

At the outset, I should declare that I have a vested interest in that my mother and father are participants in the movie, a substantial part of it was ‘shot' (oops) around Cúil Aodha, the Gaeltacht village in west Cork from which I hail, last summer.

They're both now enjoying the reflected glory of being part of a Palme d'Or winning movie. A career in Hollywood beckons.

When the news of the Palme d'Or win was announced on Sunday night, the equivalent of the World Cup in movie terms, I thought there would be an all out celebration on the British TV channels which presume to broadcast in Ireland as if the country was part of their ‘nation'.

Yet the news was buried in that evening's BBC news when the announcer mentioned, in passing, as it were, that the British film-maker Ken Loach had won the award for his film ‘chronicling Ireland's fight for independence in the 1920s'.

An accurate if downbeat description of the movie and its great triumph.

If you want to uncover the true attitude of the BBC towards this film, you'd have to read their online review which describes Loach's movie as one of “his weaker films” and laments the decision of the Cannes jury to reward it with the Palme d'Or thus ensuring it “reaches a wider audience”.

Of course the BBC reviewer believes that this is a bad thing because, among the faults he finds with the movie, its script is “one-eyed and unashamedly so” and its aim is political - “to show an occupied country which rises up to throw off the yoke of an occupying army”.

“Such a lack of balance, however, results in a one dimensional script," he enthused. The British are depicted as cardboard cut-out thugs, he feels.

In a quick survey carried out by myself on films in which British forces are featured, the vast majority of movies depicted them as brutish and thuggish.

I'm thinking here of the likes of Braveheart, The Patriot, The Four Feathers and not forgetting Michael Collins.

Has the penny ever dropped with the BBC or other self styled ‘impartial’ British media outlets that the reason for this ‘one-sidedness’ is that British forces were – indeed are – brutes and thugs.

And all the counterpropaganda in the world won’t change that ‘one eyed’ view of things.

I can’t wait to see the film.

I spy with my little eye... stories not quite right