Thursday, October 26, 2006

A major blueprint for an all Ireland economy has been launched by the Irish and British governments


It identifies concrete initiatives to strengthen North/South economic co-operation.

These include further collaboration in R and D, including maximising access to EU funds, a new targeted approach to enterprise training and to identifying labour market needs on an all-island basis, plus "joined-up planning" in delivery of key infrastructure.

The blueprint takes the form of a study, which also envisages that trade missions and overseas offices of both Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI being made available to companies across the island.

It was not immediately apparent whether the measures suggested have any connection with the so called "Plan B" that British and Irish officials are known to have been preparing for N Ireland.

The possibility of such a plan, involving closer North-South co-operation, has for some time been held over the head of the DUP as a threat of what might happen if currently proposed devolution arrangements are not implemented.

However, there was no hint from either government today that the steps proposed by the study are only for that eventuality.

Indeed, in a statement on the study, the Northern Ireland Office said the two governments, along with key stakeholders, would now jointly develop a detailed programme of work in each of the areas identified, as well as seeking further opportunities for co-operation in the education and health sectors.

The study sets out a rationale for what it sees as beneficial all-island economic activity.

It focuses on increasing co-operation in infrastructure, science, technology and innovation, trade and investment promotion, labour market and skills and enterprise and business development.

Its key theme is that co-ordinated policies can and will deliver benefits to citizens and businesses North and South.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern welcomed the study.

"It makes clear the strong economic imperative driving North/South co-operation," he said.

"To be globally competitive we must exploit the opportunities of all-island collaboration. To make the knowledge economy a reality in Ireland North and South, the opportunities of cross-border co-operation in R&D should be eagerly grasped.

"In the area of infrastructure, more joined up planning and delivery will give better outcomes for people throughout the island. A coherent transport infrastructure is vital for the balanced regional development of this island and to support the development of areas which have historically enjoyed less economic success including the border counties and the North West."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the study represented a new level of North South economic co-operation.

"Along with the fresh initiatives which will be progressed on a collaborative basis, the study importantly sets out a compelling vision of a strong competitive and socially inclusive island economy with island wide clusters whose strength and development is not impaired by the existence of a political border.

"This must be our aim if we are to compete on the world stage and deliver sustained economic benefits for everyone.

"I look forward to further development and implementation of the goals and actions contained in the Study both in the weeks to come and as part of the agenda of the restored institutions."

Study to recommend North-South economic links

Blueprint for all-Ireland economy unveiled

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Irish GDP growth is forecast at 6% for 2006

Conor Keane:

IRELAND’s housing stock is worth €700 billion and is carrying a loan-to-value mortgage of just 17% or €119bn, figures released by AIB indicate.

And while the rate of growth in the Irish economy is expected to slow, it will still create an extra 140,000 jobs over the next two years, despite an expected slowdown in house construction.

The chief economist at AIB’s Economic Research Unit John Beggs, commenting on growing debt levels in the Irish economy, said the vast bulk of personal debt is secured by property.

“The risks in relation to growing personal sector indebtedness are very much linked to the prospects for the housing market, where we expect a soft landing.

“There has also been a very sharp rise in household assets. Indeed, at end 2006, the outstanding level of residential mortgage debt will be equivalent to around 17% of the value of the housing stock, which is expected to be around €700bn,” he added.

Mr Beggs said that he wanted to make it very clear that the Irish economy is continuing to perform remarkably well.

“Employment growth is likely to average 4.5% (90,000 jobs) this year, after a 4.7% rise in 2005. GDP growth is forecast at 6% this year, up slightly from 5.5% in 2005.

“Looking forward, it is likely that the growth rate of the Irish economy will slow somewhat in 2007 and 2008 as many of the factors currently boosting activity begin to wane. Growth in the global economy is expected to moderate, interest rates are rising and new housing output may soon start to decline, while the impact of maturing SSIAs and an expansionary fiscal policy is likely to become less pronounced by 2008. We look for GDP growth to ease somewhat to 5.5% in 2007 and 4.5% in 2008.

This implies continuing large net inward migration and a further rise in participation rates to meet continued strong growth in the demand for labour. Employment growth is expected to moderate but still average a robust 3.5% per annum over the next two years.

Mr Beggs knocked on the head the notion that the economy becoming lopsided and overly dependent on the construction sector.

“The fact is that GDP growth has been very well balanced to date in this decade. Indeed, in 2006, we expect domestic demand and exports to both rise by 6%. Within domestic demand, consumer spending, Government consumption and fixed investment are forecast to rise by 6.5%, 4.5% and 5.0%, respectively. This can hardly be called lopsided growth,” he said.

Mr Beggs acknowledges the pace of growth in housing activity is slowing and housing output is likely to rise by about 6.5% this year, down from the double digit growth rates of recent years.

He believes the slowdown in housing should be offset to some extent by a pick up in non-residential construction activity, which has been very weak in recent years. It is also encouraging to see a marked pick up in Irish manufacturing activity and a rebound in service exports.

AIB Global Treasury says Irish Economy to grow by 6% in 2006, slowing somewhat to 4.5% by 2008

Over 90% of all racist attacks between January 2005 and September 2006 in the North of Ireland have occurred in loyalist areas

Henry McDonald:

In 2005 there were 31 racial assaults reported in the media and 28 of these took place in loyalist communities ranging from south Belfast to Portadown all the way across to Portavogie on the Ards Peninsula. The remaining three attacks were in Catholic areas including Derry and Ballycastle.

So far this year there have been 33 racist attacks recorded and 30 of these were in Protestant areas. These assaults range from petrol bombings of the houses of migrant workers to the forced evictions of black women from loyalist estates. In one incident in March this year racists smeared excrement over a Catholic Church in the Upper Newtonards Road in east Belfast, which has become a place of worship for Filipino nurses working at nearby Ulster Hospital.

The latest alleged racist incident occurred last Monday at a secondary school in North Belfast. Jade Taylor, 13, was left badly shaken and bruised after she said she was assaulted by racists at Glengormley High School. Her Indian mother, Satwant Shanti Johal, has vowed not to send her child back until the school implemented a multicultural, anti-racist programme. The school has said it already runs a number of anti-racist projects.

Many of the racists' targets have been vulnerable women and children including Alison Antoine, a black nurse, who was intimidated into leaving her home on the loyalist Rathkyle estate in Antrim Town in January. Racist graffiti and swastikas were daubed on to the front of her home.

Anti-racist campaigners last night said the overall figures showed there was a serious problem within loyalist communities regarding racism.

Davy Carlin, one of the founding members Anti-Racist Network in Northern Ireland, also called on unionist leaders to do more. 'Those figures do confirm that the majority of these attacks are happening in Protestant, mainly working class areas. Racist attacks do happen in both areas across the sectarian divide but we have to say the overt assaults are coming in Protestant areas.

He claimed that the figures 'seriously underestimate' the real number of attacks against immigrants and ethnic minorities across Northern Ireland.

'They are definitely unrecorded and unreported out of fear. Those people who have just come here to make a better life for themselves and their families are least likely to report them because they are outsiders in a new community.'

The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said the figures confirmed all their anecdotal evidence that most racist attacks were taking place in unionist areas.

Racist war of the loyalist street gangs

Friday, October 20, 2006

Irish GDP is expected to grow by 5.25% and GNP is expected to grow by 5.75% in 2006

Jodie Ginsberg:

Ireland increased its 2006 economic growth estimates on Thursday but Finance Minister Brian Cowen promised a "responsible" budget despite a further cut to his expected borrowing needs thanks to a surging tax take.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is seen at 5.25 percent this year and gross national product (GNP) is expected to rise 5.75 percent, the Department of Finance said in its Pre-Budget Outlook, which gives forecasts for 2006-8.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said earlier this year GDP was expected to rise by around 4.8 percent in 2006 versus 5.5 percent in 2005. The Central Bank's most recent estimate is for 5.25 percent growth in GDP and 5.5 percent for GNP.

The latest Reuters poll of Irish economists saw GDP growing 5.5 percent this year, with GNP seen up 5.8 percent.

The Department of Finance said that for the period 2006 to 2008, it expected GDP and GNP to expand by 5 percent a year.
Govt's huge tax take sees improved economic forecast

Cowen: no giveaway Budget despite €2.2bn surplus

Government expects €2.2 billion tax boost

Cowen presents optimistic outlook on Irish economy in advance of Budget 2007 in December

Friday, October 13, 2006

Overseas earnings boosting Irish GNP growth


Bank of Ireland economist Dr Dan McLaughlin says profits from Irish assets abroad are fuelling strong growth in gross national product (GNP), which he expects to expand by 6.6% this year.

The economist says gross domestic product (GDP) will expand by 5-6%. GDP has traditionally outpaced GNP because it includes profits made by multinational companies based here.

In the bank's latest quarterly economic outlook Dr McLaughlin says employment growth will fuel a 10% rise in consumer spending this year. He says the pace of employment growth continues to surprise, with the service sector replacing construction as the main engine of jobs growth.

On inflation, he predicts that the average will be 3.9% this year, falling to 3.4% next year as oil prices fall.

BoI: Irish investments abroad contributing to rise in income

BoI predicts €3.5bn Budget injection

Irish economy strong but prices a worry

GNP growth fueled by surge in returns on Irish investments abroad according to Bank of Ireland

Friday, October 06, 2006

Victims of Kenya's independence war with Britain 50 years ago are to start proceedings to claim compensation from the British government

BBC News:

Veterans of the Mau Mau - who fought a guerrilla war with their colonial masters - are demanding an apology and an out-of-court financial settlement.

Tens of thousands of Mau Mau fighters were killed or imprisoned in camps.

"Many are in their 70s and 80s and would like to see reparations before they die," lawyer Martyn Day said.

Mr Day added: "We recognise the pain, suffering and torment that these freedom fighters have gone through - many of them are still suffering from the after effects today.

"We call on the British government to pay compensation to these people so that they can receive the justice they deserve."

Mr Day said the lawsuit would be filed next week, and the British government would have three months to decide whether to settle out of court.

If they do not get a satisfactory response, the Mau Mau say they will take their case to the High Court in London early in the new year.

The Mau Mau movement undoubtedly contributed to Kenya achieving independence in 1963, says the BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi.

It started in the European-owned farmlands in the Kenyan highlands in 1952.

Mau Mau fighters launched attacks on white settlers, spreading terror through the white farming community.

By 1960, the uprising had been decisively put down by the British colonial government.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission says 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions.

An official report in 1961 determined that more than 11,000 Africans, most of them civilians, and 32 whites died during that period.

Mau Mau veterans to sue Britain over illegal killings

Mau Mau veterans to sue Britain over 'torture'

Kenyan Mau Mau Fighters Intend to Sue British Government

Mau Mau veterans to sue Britain over torture and killings

Mau Mau veterans to sue Britain over torture and illegal killings in Kenya

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why Scotland must be independent

Michael Fry:

Studying the Union is bad for your unionism. I can say this with confidence after researching the subject for the past four years so that I could write a book to mark its 300th anniversary on May 1.

I have chased up original material from Perth to Paris, London to Los Angeles. And, at the end of it, have come out a nationalist — quite a journey for someone who was a Conservative candidate for the British and the Scottish parliaments.

Those familiar with my previous writing will be surprised by this conversion. After all, I’ve penned a biography of Henry Dundas, who consolidated the Union in the 18th century, in part by persecuting radicals. I’ve also written The Scottish Empire, chronicling the Scots’ fervour for imperialism, a subject not often dwelt on in the modern nation. And my book Wild Scots is notorious for its alleged Clearance denial.

Yet now I’ve changed my mind. I believe in an independent Scotland and I will do what I can to bring it about — although I have enough intellectual scruples to see it won’t be easy. My change of heart has been brought on by devolution. It has proved completely hopeless, if anything making Scotland a worse rather than a better country, so I think we have to do something different. We cannot go back, so we have to go forward.

A small country, of course, is not completely in control of its economic environment — that’s why the policies of sky-high expenditure advocated by the SNP will never work — but within fairly narrow parameters you can do sensible things. You can still do more, and better, under independence than you can by rattling the begging bowl at the British government.

I have been pondering how devolution has served, or might serve, my yet more fundamental political beliefs. What I believe in is liberal democracy under a limited state kept prosperous by the capitalist system. I had hoped devolution would bring Scotland closer to that ideal — at least in its political aspect, although the economic aspect was always going to take a little longer.

Instead, devolved Scotland has gone in the opposite direction. It is not liberal but illiberal. Its government is not limited but rampant. Its economics are not capitalist but statist — neither is it bringing prosperity.

How Scotland has gone off the rails might be illustrated by the evolution of the old Conservative party, even in its resolve to remain undefiled by devolution. It is an outsider to the new order, shunned by other parties, yet conforms in all main respects to it.

In 1997 the Tories still stood for liberal democracy, limited state and the capitalist system. Today the party does not seem to stand for anything but a harder line on crime (and even that is identical to new Labour’s). The Scottish Conservatives merely try to compete with other parties in dreaming up more ways for the government of Scotland to spend our money. They continue to flatline, as they have since 1997.

By the 2010 election, the Scottish Conservatives may not be here. They have had seven years to sort themselves out and adapt to the new political environment. They have done nothing. I have had enough of them.

That said, I am not rushing off to join the SNP. In terms of belief in liberal democracy, a limited state and capitalist system, I find the nationalists almost as deficient as the Tories, or indeed as any other party in Scotland. SNP policies would be disastrous. They would quickly ruin Scotland if they came in on that programme. As a floating voter maybe I can help — I’m not going to join them but I will try to bring them to a more sensible frame of mind.

All these parties are the products of a clapped-out, corrupt Scottish political system, the result of a century of dependency culture. None has the imagination or bravery to break free. Their response to every problem is to demand more intervention by the state, more public expenditure and more power to bureaucrats.

To mention a radical agenda at this point may appear a trifle glib. Yet there are countries comparable in size to Scotland, some with political and economic histories a great deal unhappier, that have been able to cast off their shackles and make a leap to a better future.

A prime example is Estonia, which emerged in 1989 from half a century of communist thralldom and has since become a beacon of democracy and capitalism to the rest of the old Soviet bloc. The Estonians have a long way to go, but already they are getting richer far faster than the Scots.

Looking closer to home, Ireland spent the first 50 years of independence trying to encourage peasant agriculture in the same way as we are doing with our land reform, but 50 years was enough to get into Irish skulls that it was possible for governments, even of small countries, to have the freedom of action to introduce sensible policies and prosper.

So a couple of decades ago they too turned to capitalism — and created a boom that Scots can only envy. I hope it will not take Scotland 50 years.

Once I would have argued that political independence is not a necessary condition for their kind of economic success, now I take the opposite view. The Estonians and the Irish cannot ask anybody for money, which is the Scots’ first reaction to any crisis. They have to work out what to do for themselves and get on with it.

This is why I have concluded that independence is the prerequisite for Scottish prosperity. In an independent Scotland, I do not expect the ridiculous social and economic programme of the SNP to last five minutes. I don’t think there will ever be four taps to every Scottish sink — hot, cold, oil and whisky.

Independence is not a pain-free option. The withdrawal of UK public expenditure would be unfortunate in certain respects. But in the end it would be better for Scotland to face the reality of its situation and try to devise sensible policies to deal with it. One way or another, the addiction to subsidy and the whining supplication it induces would have to be broken before a new life could begin.

History suggests the requisite qualities of enterprise and initiative are present in the Scottish people. It will be a matter of getting to grips with some serious and uncomfortable issues, rather than with the pork barrel or the political correctness that offers such a pathetic substitute today.

The cause of independence now is much like the cause of independence in 1707. Scots then were like Scots now: they agonised, they changed their minds, they did not know what to do. They tried to look forward, but they could not see far. None of the choices before them seemed palatable.

I wonder whether the present generation can ever match the courage of its forefathers.

It’s time to move on

Historian Fry ditches Tories and opts for independence

Tories Hit New Lows in Scotland

Rally calls for independence vote

Parties unite in call for independence referendum

Radical ideas on independence