Friday, September 29, 2006

Analysts at Goodbody Stockbrokers say that the Irish economy appears to be on track to achieving 5.5% GDP growth for the full year


In a research note published this morning, the analysts mention that although GDP growth declined from 5.7% y/y in 1Q to 5.0% y/y in 2Q, the strength of the Irish economy remains impressive. The economy recorded 3.6% y/y growth in domestic demand in 2Q, taking the 1H figure up 5.0% y/y, the analysts say. Although gross domestic fixed capital formation declined 2.2% y/y in the quarter, this was mostly on account of a large y/y dip in aircraft imports, Goodbody Stockbrokers points out.


IBM announces Dublin-based venture centre

Growth figures remain steady at 5.0%

Irish Economic Growth continues at a strong rate - - Austin Hughes, IIB Bank

Ireland's GDP up 5 percent, GNP hits 5-year high of 9 percent

The Irish Economic Miracle

Irish GDP increased at annual rate of 5% in Quarter 2 2006

Irish economy grew at 5pc in Q2 - CSO

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A former DUP mayor of Coleraine has pleaded guilty to six charges of electoral fraud at the 2005 general and local government elections

BBC News:

Dessie Stewart, who originally denied the charges, will be sentenced later.

He admitted four counts of pretending to be someone else in order to cast postal votes, and two of fraudulently stopping free exercise of a proxy vote.

The DUP said a party disciplinary panel would "review and adjudicate" the circumstances Stewart found himself in.

A party spokesman added the DUP takes a "very serious and dim view" of electoral fraud and other such matters.

The charges relate to the last general and local government elections which were held on the same day in May 2005.

A pre-sentence report is being prepared and Stewart will be sentenced on 24 October at Antrim Crown Court.

A councillor since 1989, Stewart was re-elected to council with 773 votes in The Skerries area which includes his home town of Portrush.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have both called for Stewart to resign from the council.

Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard said he could no longer operate as an elected representative.

"This exposes the DUP's hypocrisy of trying to lecture others on democracy and a host of other issues.

"Dessie Stewart has admitted that he pretended to be someone else just to get some more votes.

"He has totally contradicted the whole idea of people entrusting their democratic vote and I think he is now totally compromised."

John Dallat of the SDLP said the case "must come as a huge embarrassment to the DUP".

"In the complaints made to me, I know that one elderly lady was distraught that her vote was used to promote the aims and objectives of a party which she feels has made a huge contribution to the negative politics which she has lived through.

"Councillor Stewart's replacement should go to the candidate who was runner-up in the council elections and most certainly not to the DUP."

Chair of East Londonderry Alliance Association, Paddy McGowan, said Stewart should resign immediately and 2005 election runner-up, Alliance candidate Barney Fitzpatrick, should be co-opted onto the council.

"Any sense of natural justice would not see one discredited DUP councillor replaced by another member from the same party," he said.

Calls for action after protesters mock murdered Catholic teen

Politician queries loyalist funding

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ireland has been ranked sixth out of 22 OECD countries in meeting its commitments on providing aid towards basic education in poorer countries

Ireland Online:

The rankings have been drawn up by the Global Campaign for Education, an international group that lobbies governments to meet their promises to make free basic education available to all people.

Some of the world's richest nations have received a very poor assessment of their performance, with Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Australia, the US and Austria all at the bottom of the table.

Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all receive the highest rankings.

Teachers earn above OECD average

CRC article relates more to unionist thinking

Brian Feeney:

Ever since the north failed as a political entity in 1972, the British administration which took over has created a series of shop-window fronts to give the false impression, particularly to those looking from abroad, that Britain was addressing the unique problems here.

To that end officials set up various paper tigers with important-sounding names but with neither the power nor the authority to do anything.

So we had the Fair Employment Act, the Fair Employment Agency which made no difference to discrimination, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights which stood by as the British army and RUC violated human rights on a daily basis, the Police Authority which had no authority over the police, and so on and so on.

The one surviving remnant of this mentality is the Community Relations Council, which has been in formal existence for 16 years during which it has made no difference whatsoever to 'community relations', whatever that is.

Then of course the CRC wasn't meant to DO anything about improving community relations. Like SACHR and the FEA and the other quangos, its function is just to BE there so that the British can point to it and claim they're doing something.

There was a rare intervention in politics from the CRC's chief executive last week in an article in a local paper urging politicians to support 'practical measures' to implement the NIO's failed Shared Future policy.

His article was very revealing, though not intended to be. It's worth quoting the two most revealing sentences in full.

"For nationalists, a shared future means committing to full engagement in a state with which they have never felt comfortable and some have dedicated their lives to replacing. For unionists, the hard part of sharing will be making political arrangements with previously violent enemies who have deeply traumatised friends and relations and coming to terms with the Irish dimension to the six counties."

So there you have it. Apparently, in this mindset, violence was all one way. Unionists, despite being traumatised, will have to make political arrangements with "previously violent enemies".

All nationalists have to do is engage fully in the state. Dead easy. Obviously none of their friends or relations were victims of violence from unionist sources, paramilitary or official, or a combination of both.

Unionist politicians have all clean hands.

Just forget the effects of systematic discrimination or the endemic sectarianism of unionism which insisted on creating and possessing this place to exclude nationalists.

You could see why nationalists were never comfortable, but that's OK: sure nobody ever did them any harm. Unlike the horrible nationalists who carried out all the violence. Hmm. Fascinating insight, isn't it?

Completely wrong-headed. Not just in apportioning blame, but in the CRC mindset you don't mention sectarianism.

The sentence should read: "For unionists, the hard part of sharing will be treating nationalists as equals with as much right to run the affairs of this place as unionists and accepting that unionists no longer own the north."

It's not a case of simply "making political arrangements" and putting up with all-Ireland bodies. The central problem facing unionism is its inherent sectarianism, which no unionist politician has ever confronted because it's the basis of their political creed.

Look at the continuing sectarianism of unionist councillors, most obviously in Ballymena and Lisburn. Does any unionist leader condemn it? Does any even admit it?

Do you think it likely that the CRC would even name it as a problem never mind do anything about it? Ooh noo. Nayce people call it 'community relations'.

Yet we're supposed to believe that the sectarian bigots who dominate councils are suddenly going to treat nationalists as equals in a partnership administration at Stormont with more at stake than emptying the bins and burying the dead. The NIO has been compelled to deal with discrimination and policing. The central gaffe in the CRC article shows there's a long way to go before they'll be compelled to deal with sectarianism.

Death threats force Irish diplomat to quit Belfast

Paisleys twist more than 'biased media' ever could

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Britons applying for Irish passports

Owen Bowcott:

Applications from UK-born citizens for Irish passports have more than doubled in the past year, partially reflecting, it is thought, tourists' heightened fears about revealing their British identity abroad.

The figures, released to the Guardian, show a rapid rise in the period since the July 7 London tube and bus bombings at a time when al-Qaida sympathisers have been targeting British travellers in the Middle East.

As many as 6 million people in the UK have an Irish grandfather or grandmother, which entitles them to claim citizenship in the Republic. The same generous regulations have traditionally allowed the Irish football team to draw on a wide reserve of talent.

According to the department of foreign affairs (DFA) in Dublin, in the first six months of last year 3,843 people born in the UK applied for an Irish passport for the first time; in the first six months of this year the figure was 8,896.

Passport renewals among those born in the UK showed a similar rapid rise: from 7,861 in the first half of last year to 19,497 in the first half of this year. A DFA spokesman said the figures revealed "a very sharp leap" but he could not account for the change, since those applying do not have to give reasons.

Release of the latest statistics follow confirmation last month that applications for Irish passports by US citizens have tripled in the five years since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Several US websites extol the virtues of travelling on Irish passports pointing out that the republic's long-established neutrality is a better guarantee of safety. "With an Irish passport you are at lower risk when travelling in areas of the world that are hostile to Americans," explains "Terrorists are far less likely to kidnap or attack an Irish citizen than an American."

Among those reported to carry an Irish passport is Lt Col Tim Collins, who led the Royal Irish Regiment during the invasion of Iraq.

The family of the British hostage Kenneth Bigley asked the Dublin government to issue him with an Irish passport in an effort to convince his al-Qaida captors that he was from a neutral country. He was murdered nonetheless.

A spokeswoman the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), said yesterday: "It may be because it is more fashionable to be Irish and it's merely a way of expressing their heritage."

Part of the increase may also be attributable to changes over the past three years allowing those living in Northern Ireland to apply directly through post offices for Irish passports. The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) is pressing the Irish government for a local office to process applications.

New poll calls for independence

Friday, September 08, 2006

Colonial baggage put aside as Irish men manage Britain

Irish Examiner:

Our poorly-educated navvies helped build Britain, but now increasing numbers of Irish men are running the show there, a new survey shows.

However, 10% of Irish males living in Britain admit to doing nothing productive at all!

Researchers say they don’t know what the reason for this is though it could be because more Irish white men are mature students — while some are, no doubt, part of the black economy.

If it is more time spent in education, it could explain the improved fortunes of Irish men in entering the managerial and professional classes.

The survey, conducted by Dr Yaojun Li from Birmingham University and Prof Anthony Heath from Oxford University, shows Irish men have the competitive edge — as managers — over British males.

In the past decade Irish white men have overtaken British white men in gaining access to professional or managerial positions.

All of this shouldn’t come as a major surprise, given that we have well and truly shaken off our legendary inferiority shackles, blamed on 800 years of political domination by our nearest neighbour.

Talent, like cream, will always rise to the top.

A case in point is our high-flying compatriot Willie Walsh, who runs British Airways. !

With his feet firmly on the ground, the inimitable Matt Barrett rose to become chairman of that most British of institutions, Barclays Bank.

After all these high-flying sentiments, it’s sobering to reflect that, at the bottom of the ladder, the proportion of British and Irish men in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs or unemployed is the same.

Irish men top of tables in British workplaces

Friday, September 01, 2006

A red-haired body found in a remote desert in western China provides an extraordinary link between China and the Celts of Europe

Clifford Coonan:

He stands as solid as a warrior from the Táin Bó Cúailgne, his hair a reddish brown flecked with grey, framing high cheekbones, a long nose, full lips and a ginger beard.

When he lived 3,000 years ago he stood 6ft tall and was buried wearing a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. He looks like a Bronze Age European.

In fact, he's every inch a Celt. Even his DNA says so.

This though is no early Celt from Ireland. This is the mummified corpse of Cherchen Man, unearthed from the scorched sands of the Taklamakan Desert in the far-flung region of Xinjiang in far western China and now housed in a new museum in the provincial capital of Urumqi.

In the language spoken by the local Uighur people in Xinjiang, Taklamakan means "You come in and never come out."

The extraordinary thing is that Cherchen Man was found - with the mummies of three women and a baby - in a burial site thousands of miles to the east of where the Celts established their biggest settlements in southern Europe, France and Ireland.

DNA testing confirms that he and hundreds of other mummies found in Xinjiang's Tarim Basin are of European origin. We don't know how he got there, what brought him there or how long he and his kind lived there. And as the desert's name suggests, he never came out.

His discovery provides an unexpected connection between east and west and some valuable clues to early European history.

One of the women who shared a tomb with Cherchen Man has light brown hair which looks like it was brushed and braided for her funeral only yesterday.

Her face is painted with curling designs and her striking red burial gown has lost none of its lustre during the three millenniums that this tall, fine-featured woman has been lying beneath the sand of the Northern Silk Road.

The bodies are far better preserved than the Egyptian mummies and it is sad to see the infants on display; to see how the baby was wrapped in a beautiful brown cloth tied with red and blue cord, then a blue stone placed on each eye. Beside it was a baby's milk bottle with a teat, made from a sheep's udder.

Based on the mummy, the museum has reconstructed what Cherchen Man would have looked like and how he lived. The similarities to the traditional Bronze Age Celts are uncanny and analysis has shown that the weave of the cloth is the same as that found on the bodies of salt miners in Austria from 1300 BC.

The burial sites of Cherchen Man and his fellow people were marked with stone structures that look like the dolmens you see in Ireland, ringed by round-faced, Celtic figures, or standing stones.

Among their icons were figures reminiscent of the sheela-na-gigs, wild females who flaunted their vulvas and can still be found in Kiltinan and Moate Castle.

A female mummy wears a long, conical hat which has to be a witch or a wizard's hat. Or a druid's, perhaps? The wooden combs they used to fan their tresses are familiar to students of ancient Celtic art.

At their peak, about 300 BC, the influence of the Celts stretched from Ireland in the west to the south of Spain and across to Italy's Po valley, and probably extended to parts of Poland and Ukraine and the central plain of Turkey in the east.

These mummies seem to suggest, however, that the Celts penetrated well into Central Asia, nearly making it as far as Tibet.

The Celts came to Ireland about 500 BC and established themselves for nearly 1,000 years. Historians reckon they probably arrived at different times and are considered a group of peoples loosely connected by similar language, religion and cultural expression.

The Eastern Celts spoke a now-dead language called Tocharian which is related to Celtic languages and part of the Indo-European group. They seem to have been a peaceful lot as there are few weapons among the find and there is little evidence of a caste system.

Even older than the Cherchen find is that of the 4,000-year-old Loulan Beauty, who has long flowing fair hair and is one of a number of mummies discovered at Qäwrighul near the town of Loulan. One of these mummies was an eight-year-old child wrapped in a piece of patterned wool cloth and closed with bone pegs.

The Loulan Beauty's features are Nordic. She was 45 when she died and was buried with a basket of food for the next life, including domesticated wheat, combs and a feather.

The Taklamakan Desert has given up hundreds of desiccated corpses in the past 25 years and archaeologists say the discoveries are some of the most significant finds in the past quarter century.

"From around 1800 BC, the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucausoid or Europoid," says Victor Mair, a Pennsylvania University professor who is one of world's leading authorities on the mummies and who has dedicated years to researching their story.

He has been captivated by the mummies since he spotted them partially obscured in a back room in the old museum in 1988 and has gone to extraordinary lengths, dodging difficult political issues, to further knowledge about these remarkable people.

East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Mair says, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern-day Mongolia, about AD 842.

A believer in the "interrelatedness of all human communities", Mair resists attempts to impose a theory of a single people arriving in Xinjiang and his belief is that the early Europeans headed in different directions, some travelling west to become the Celts in Britain and Ireland, others taking a northern route to become the Germanic tribes, and then another offshoot heading east and ending up in Xinjiang.

This section of the ancient Silk Road is one of the world's most barren precincts. You are further away from the sea here than at any other place on Earth and you feel it. This is where China tests its nuclear weapons. There are labour camps scattered around the desert - who would try to escape?

Its remoteness, however, has worked to the archaeologists' advantage. The ancient corpses avoided decay because the Tarim Basin is very dry, with alkaline soils, and scientists have been able to glean valuable information about many aspects of our Bronze Age forebears from the mummies, from their physical make-up to information about how they buried their dead, what tools they used and what clothes they wore.

In her book The Mummies of Urumchi, the renowned textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber examines the tartan-style cloth and reckons it can be traced back to Anatolia and the Caucasus.

Her theory is this group divided, starting in the Caucasus - one group went west and another east.

Even though they have been dead for thousands of years, every perfectly preserved fibre of the mummies' make-up has been relentlessly politicised.

The received wisdom in China says that 200 years before the birth of Christ, China's emperor Wu Di sent an ambassador to the west to establish an alliance against the marauding Huns, then based in Mongolia.

The route across Asia that the emissary, Zhang Qian, took eventually became the Silk Road to Europe. Hundreds of years later Marco Polo came and the opening up of China began.

The very thought that Caucasians were settled in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di's early contacts with the west and Marco Polo's travels has enormous political ramifications. That these Europeans should have been in restive Xinjiang hundreds of years before East Asians, is explosive.

Chinese historian Ji Xianlin, writing a preface to Ancient Corpses of Xinjiang by the Chinese archeologist Wang Huabing - translated by Mair, says China "supported and admired" research by foreign experts into the mummies.

"However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some of them have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient 'white people' with the aim of dividing the motherland, but these perverse acts will not succeed," Ji wrote.

Many Uighurs consider the Han Chinese as invaders. The territory was annexed by China in 1955 and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region established, and there have been numerous incidents of unrest over the years.

In 1997 in the northern city of Yining, there were riots by Muslim separatists and Chinese security forces cracked down, with nine deaths. There are occasional outbursts and the region remains very heavily policed.

Not surprisingly the government has been slow to publicise these valuable historical finds for fear of fuelling separatist currents in Xinjiang.

The Loulan Beauty, for example, was claimed by the Uighurs as their symbol in song and image, although genetic testing now shows she was in fact European.

Mair acknowledges the political dimension to all this has made his work difficult, but says that the research shows that the people of Xinjiang are a dizzying mixture.

"They tend to mix as you enter the Hang dynasty; by that time the East Asian component is very noticeable," he says. "Modern DNA and ancient DNA show that Uighurs, Kazaks, Kyrgyzs, the peoples of Central Asia are all mixed Caucasian and East Asian. The modern and ancient DNA tell the same story."

Altogether there are 400 mummies in various degrees of desiccation and decomposition - including the prominent Han Chinese warrior Zhang Xiong and other Uighur mummies - and thousands of skulls. The mummies will keep the scientists busy for a long time.

Only a handful of the better-preserved ones are on display in the impressive new Xinjiang museum. Work began in 1999, but was stopped in 2002 after a corruption scandal and the jailing of former director Du Gencheng for 10 years, reportedly for involvement in the theft of priceless antiques.

The museum finally opened on the 50th anniversary of China's annexation of the restive region and the mummies are housed in glass display cases (which were sealed with what looked like Sellotape) in a multi-media wing.

In the same room are the much more recent Han mummies - equally interesting, but rendering the display confusing as it groups all the mummies closely together. Which makes sound political sense.

This political correctness continues in another section of the museum which is dedicated to the achievements of the Chinese revolution and has artefacts from the anti-Japanese War (1931- 1945).

Best preserved of all the corpses is Yingpan Man, known as the Handsome Man, a 2,000- year-old Caucasian mummy discovered in 1995. He had a gold foil death mask - a Greek tradition - covering his blond, bearded face and wore elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon wool garments with images of fighting Greek or Romans.

The hemp mask is painted with a soft smile and the thin moustache of a dandy.

Currently on display at a museum in Tokyo, the handsome Yingpan man was big, two metres tall (6ft 6in) and pushing 30 when he died. His head rests on a pillow in the shape of a crowing cockerel.

Caucasians preceded East Asians in basin

Another calculated insult to Catholic ratepayers in the Six Counties

Jim Gibney:

Lisburn council's decision to erect a monument to the UDR in the middle of Lisburn town on council-owned property is just the latest in a long line of council decisions which will be viewed as a calculated insult by the council's nationalist and Catholic ratepayers.

This decision about the UDR follows other council decisions which are equally insulting to nationalists and Catholics – the flying of the Union Jack from council-owned premises all year round; the hosting of an annual dinner, now in its second year, in the council building for the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), costing the ratepayers £5,000 a time; the refusal by the council to officially recognise the Irish language; the exclusion of Sinn Féin councillors from council positions their mandate entitles them to.

Lisburn's unionist councillors are also not averse to extending their discriminatory practices to other groups in society.

Several months ago they voted to exclude same sex partners from using a designated room inside the council building for civil partnership ceremonies.

This decision was challenged by a gay constituent using Section 75 of the 1998 Equality Act.

The Equality Commission informed the council that their decision to exclude was wrong and was in breach of equality provisions.

The council's solicitors advised the councillors they would lose the case in court on discrimination grounds and could individually face hefty legal bills. It was only at this point they backed down and reversed their decision. The legal advice cost the ratepayers of Lisburn £11,000.

Smarting over this humiliating defeat unionist councillors regrouped and continued their homophobic offensive.

They passed a motion at council meeting which they called a 'conscience clause' for council workers who object to staffing a civil partnership ceremony.

This is an attempt by the council to legitimise their homophobia and is blatantly encouraging and giving cover to any member of the council staff foolish enough to withdraw their labour.

The council is currently seeking legal advice about this decision; advice which will cost the ratepayers another tranche of several thousand pounds.

Unionist councillors on Lisburn Council will squander ratepayer's money and risk council worker's jobs rather than put their money where their mouth is.

The Local Government Auditor has been called in by Sinn Féin and is investigating the cost to the ratepayer of this legal advice.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler spends quite a bit of his time in correspondence with solicitors and the Equality Commission over decisions taken by the council.

Last week he organised a petition signed by 500 voters across the borough opposing the decision to erect the UDR memorial.

On foot of the petition Butler is demanding the council reverse its memorial decision or face a legal challenge.

Butler's campaign to eradicate sectarianism from Lisburn Council has seen him challenging many biased decisions against nationalists.

For more than 20 years the council has refused to build a play park for children in Poleglass. Disparity in allocating funds tells a similar story – £1,000 to the nationalist Colin Festival, £5,000 to the unionist-based Hillsborough Oyster Festival.

One-third of the population of Lisburn's council area are nationalists living in Twinbrook and Poleglass, yet official publications promoting the council's activities rarely carry photos of nationalists from these areas or their elected representatives.

Only once in 30 years has there been a nationalist-elected mayor of Lisburn.

The decision to erect a UDR memorial was taken in the full knowledge that many soldiers in this regiment, since it was set up in 1970, were involved in a murder campaign against the Catholic population.

A Sinn Féin pamphlet, published in 1989, claims more than 200 UDR men were convicted for their involvement in various sectarian offences.

Lisburn Catholic Liam McKee was killed by a UDR man who was also a member of the UDA. Other members of the UDR were members of this UDA squad which was responsible for killing several Catholics in the Lisburn area.

Reason enough you would have thought to let the UDR fade unnoticed with the RIR and B Specials into history.

But unionist councillors in Lisburn attach more importance to glorifying this sectarian regiment than treating their Catholic and nationalist constituents with the respect they are entitled to.

British had Dublin bombers in custody