Tuesday, November 28, 2006

OECD forecasts 5% growth for the Irish economy in 2006 and 2007


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has forecast that the Irish economy will grow by just over 5% this year and in 2007, before slowing to 4.5% in 2008.

However, the OCED warns that boosting competition in the electricity and gas sectors was becoming 'a matter of urgency', as these areas were contributing more to inflation.

The Paris think-tank said growth was being fuelled by strong household spending, but inflation was likely to remain above the euro zone average.

It urged the Government to focus on keeping inflation in check, saying the Budget should 'refrain from fuelling consumption'.

It said the Budget should prioritise spending on areas such as infrastructure and training.

Cowen urged to abolish stamp duty for new home buyers

An all-island economy offers the best future for the North of Ireland, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will tell British business leaders

Senan Hogan:

In his keynote address to the Confederation of British Industry in London, Mr Ahern will also emphasise the productive Anglo-Irish partnership forged with British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the past decade.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and Conservative Party leader David Cameron are also keynote speakers at the two-day conference at the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London.

The Taoiseach’s spokesman said: “The Taoiseach will highlight the importance of relations between Britain and Ireland.

“In that context, he will underline the significance of the partnership that has developed between the two governments and their determination to achieve stability and peace in Northern Ireland.

“He will also address the question of the island economy and a future of cooperation in its development.”

Mr Ahern is to emphasise the key factors which continue to make Ireland a competitive economy for the IT, pharmaceuticals and other knowledge-based sectors.

“In addition to a competitive fiscal environment, a skilled labour force and a positive attitude towards enterprise, the Taoiseach will emphasise the importance of stability and confidence in facing up to change as a result of our social partnership process, and the increasing emphasis on our capacity in science and technology in support of research and development,” the spokesperson said. “He will highlight the growing significance of investment in R&D facilities here by blue chip companies across the globe.”

Where are all those weapons when you really need them?

Painted into a corner

Carry on regardless

It makes economic sense for a single economy

Unionists still believe they own the north

There has been a steep rise in cases of religious hatred and religiously motivated crime in Scotland, mainly targeted against Catholics

Severin Carrell:

Official figures yesterday revealed that the number of sectarian incidents reported to police jumped by 50%, with more than 440 Scots convicted of religiously motivated verbal and physical assaults in one 18-month period.

The Roman Catholic church said the statistics provided proof that religious bigotry was embedded in parts of Scottish society. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Scottish church's senior cleric, said: "Sadly, this document shows that Catholics in Scotland are still many times more likely to be the subject of a sectarian attack than any other group. During the period of this study Catholics were five times more likely to be the victims. This is of great concern to me."

The report from Scottish executive statisticians is the latest in a series of initiatives to combat sectarianism involving police, churches, political leaders and the owners of Glasgow's two largest football clubs, Rangers and Celtic.

The figures analysed 726 cases between January 1 2004 and June 30 2005 where people were charged with religiously aggravated offences, and found that in 64% of cases the abuse or assaults were motivated by hatred against Catholics, and by hatred against Protestants in most of the remaining cases.

More recent figures show that in 2005-06 there were more than 700 racially aggravated crimes handled by prosecutors, up from 479 the previous year.

Row over religious crime figures

Anti-Catholic bigotry is deep and pervasive, says Cardinal

A poll of registered English and Scottish voters believe that Britain should be broken up, with England and Scotland set free as independent countries

United Press International:

Fifty-two percent of Scottish voters and 59 percent of English voters want Scotland to be its own country, the ICM Research opinion poll for London's Sunday Telegraph said.

Forty-eight percent of English voters and 58 percent of Scottish voters want England independent of Wales and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain -- an island lying off the northwestern coast of mainland Europe and to the east of Ireland -- currently consists of England, Scotland and Wales.

The findings indicate a hardening of support for Scottish independence as the issue comes into focus ahead of the forthcoming local elections, ICM said.

Scotland's future

68% Want an English Parliament But Cameron Says No

Britain wants UK break up, poll shows

68 per cent of English want independence from Scotland

Voters 'back Scots independence'

Public back disunited kingdom

momentum still building for Scottish independence

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Peace payout won't suffice in the north of Ireland says economist

James Stinson:

A one-off 'peace dividend' from the British treasury won't be enough to put Northern Ireland on a par with the Republic or richer parts of Britain and the rate of corporation tax must be lowered if the region is to prosper.

The claims are made by Mike Smyth, a respected commentator on the north's economy, in Business Insight today, ahead of an industry-backed report into the issue due for release tomorrow.

The north's politicians have been in talks with British government officials in recent months over a 'peace dividend' package which Chancellor Gordon Brown claims is worth billions of pounds.

Most of that will fund major infrastructure improvements.

However, Mr Smyth says this alone won't bring about the "step change" needed to make the region more prosperous and sustainable.

While the treasury is resisting calls for Northern Ireland to break from Britain and charge a lower rate of corporation tax, Mr Smyth says this should be an integral part of any final political deal.

He says it would cost the treasury less than expected, it would not break EU rules and that Northern Ireland deserves special treatment.

"If a lasting political deal is to be achieved then it must be underpinned by an effective economic package," he says.

"What is the point of achieving an historic rapprochement between republicanism and unionism if it cannot deliver a better life and living standards for all the people of Northern Ireland?"

Corporation tax has been much talked about as a way of delivering faster growth in the north's economy.

While the region is doing better than it was, it still lags behind the Republic and Britain. Average wages are lower and the region depends heavily on the public sector.

Corporation tax is a tax on business profits. While Britain and Northern Ireland have the same rate, it is twice that levied in the Republic.

This is often cited as a having been a key factor in the transformation of the Republic's economy.

"If the Northern Ireland economy is to reach its potential just as the Republic has done then what is required is a level playing field in terms of attracting foreign direct investment," Mr Smyth said.

"At the last count there were more than 20 of the largest US companies with their European operations established in the Republic of Ireland.

"There are none in Northern Ireland – and there never will be under existing policies."
Proconsul's jiggery-pokery comes at a price

MLA asks what NIO is hiding on loyalist £135k

Friday, November 10, 2006

The latest PWC quarterly update says the Irish economy will expand by 5.2% this year, before slowing next year to 5%, still well ahead of the eurozone


PWC said for the three months to the end of June, the Irish economy expanded by 0.9%, compared to the previous quarter.

PWC said that with external demand stagnating - mainly the result of a slower US export market, domestic demand - specifically, consumer spending - was the main growth engine.

PWC said Irish unemployment at 4.45% in August, is among the lowest in the EU but inflation continues at high level.

PWC said moderating competitiveness and weaker external demand are likely to limit investment growth in the last two quarters of 2006.

The report added that the recent interest rate increases will also slow investment, which combined with falling oil prices means there should be some moderation in inflationary pressures moving into next year.

Ireland second easiest country to pay tax

Ireland's Economy Expected To Continue To Outpace Euroland Average Growth in 2006 and 2007 - says PwC analysis

Irish people have the fourth highest quality of life in the world


The latest United Nations Development Report ranks the Republic of Ireland fourth in a list of 159 countries in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education and GDP per capita.

Ireland`s average income per head is put at just under €30,000.

Only Australia, Iceland and Norway are ahead of Ireland in the report, however, Ireland trails in the poverty stakes ranking 17th out of 18.

The Irish Republic`s Social and Family Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan is disputing the latter figure saying 250,000 people have been taken out of poverty in the past 10 years.

UN report: Israel 23rd on quality of life list

Norwegians told to stop their whining

Paisley's about-face has faithful still in shock

Brian Feeney:

Bertie Ahern told his mini ard fheis that the St Andrews Agreement has to be signed off on Friday "if the November 24 deadline is to be met".

The Sinn Féin ard chomhairle has given its go-ahead, deciding to "follow the course set out in the agreement".

So what will the DUP do?

All the indications are that Paisley will say 'yes, but, if' and try to wring a long list of concessions out of the British government on the mechanisms for operating the agreement if it becomes fully functioning next March 26.

It's going to be great fun watching him turning and twisting and wriggling while claiming great victories over republicans. He has to make those claims of course, because his about-face has been so sudden many of the faithful are still in shock.

Here's a man who built a career out of sulphurous anti-Catholic speeches and hawking scurrilous anti-Catholic rags on street corners in loyalist districts, yet is now happy to sit down with the Pope's main man in Ireland.

He leads a party which many of its members joined because Paisley's foul anti-Catholicism chimed with their own bigotry and ethnic fear and loathing of northern nationalists.

Many people voted for him secure in the knowledge that he would never share power with republicans, let alone agree to all-Ireland institutions.

Yet he didn't denounce the concept at St Andrews. On the contrary, he said he'd go along with it if certain conditions are fulfilled. They will be.

There has been no education process in his party. The ground has not been prepared as Sinn Féin's leaders prepared republicans slowly and carefully over years, losing some by the wayside.

As a result, Paisley's lieutenants are still using the rhetoric of hatred and fear of republicans they have become used to spouting over the years, as though nothing has changed.

Just like Trimble in the same fix in 1997, Paisley still hasn't spoken to Adams or McGuinness, his putative co-equal First Minister. It's great fun watching the action replay.

Will he take two years like Trimble?

Why would Paisley turn turtle like this? Not because the British government holds a big stick over him, or because Dublin and London plan to work in tandem.

There's another factor which people tend to underestimate – the visceral antipathy many DUP people feel towards the Ulster Unionist Party.

Don't forget, a lot of DUP voters in salubrious south Belfast were more than happy to lend Alasdair McDonnell the Westminster seat rather than let the UUP win it. Never in his wildest dreams did Paisley ever imagine he would defeat the UUP in an assembly election let alone see them reduced to one Westminster seat.

He wants to complete the job and finish them off as a political force. That's why the DUP want a triumphal assembly election so bad they can taste it.

Furthermore, the DUP got the message on the doorstep in 2005 that voters didn't like them saying 'No' to everything, including sharing power at Stormont.

Failing to bite the bullet – unfortunate metaphor – and snuggle in with Martin McGuinness would mean the slow withering of the all-conquering unionist party Paisley has created.

Worst of all, it could allow the resurgence of the UUP as a party prepared to do a deal with republicans, which is something the DUP know unionist voters want.

The stark choice confronting Paisley is that if he doesn't deal now when he's on top of the pile there will be no other opportunity and once bereft of a goal, the inevitable disintegration of his party could allow the hated and despised UUP to stage the biggest comeback since Lazarus.

He has an opportunity to create a legacy now that he never imagined he would have had, to establish his party as the permanent ruling voice of one of the north's ethnic blocks.

So while the anti-republican rhetoric remains, what it's really intended to do is convince unionist voters that the DUP is the only party they can trust to deal with Sinn Féin.

It has absolutely nothing to do with defeating SF. It never had. It's all about defeating other unionists and making Paisley head buck cat unionist, all he's ever wanted.

U.S. Lifts Adams Fundraising Ban

Democrat victory 'will help NI'

Dramatic change to US political landscape

We Say : The US’s vital role

Not satisfied yet

Hamill Inquiry challenges police anonymity

Collusion: a reality

Adams to meet supporters in New York

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Irish economy will enjoy solid growth this year and next, the Central Bank has forecast

Ireland Online:

In its Financial Stability report 2006, the bank said growth will match potential with GNP – the value of goods and services produced by Irish business - sitting at around 5.5%.

And it also supports the much touted soft landing in the housing market.

Governor John Hurley, however, warned our reliance on the construction sector and the dangers of losing our competitive edge are two major risks to the economy.

He also noted threats from the international arena which have increased since last year.

These include volatile energy prices, global imbalances, potential crashes in financial markets and exchange rates, the risk of inflationary pressures re-emerging and fallout from a sharp weakening in the US housing market.

But Gov Hurley said strong job creation, improved participation and migrants’ demands for work would benefit the economy.

“As has been the trend of late and given the expected composition of growth, economic growth is likely to be accompanied by strong employment growth, driven in large part by continued significant net inward migration and, to a lesser extent, further increases in the participation rate,” he said.

“As a result, unemployment is projected to remain at around its current level of 4 to 4.5 per cent.”

Economy to stay ahead of European neighbours

"Irish economy in good state of health"

RUC and the British army backed loyalist killers

Owen Bowcott:

As many as 74 murders by a loyalist paramilitary gang in Ireland during the mid-1970s may have involved collusion with serving police and soldiers, an international lawyers' report alleged yesterday.

The independent inquiry focused on allegations that some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles - including the 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan, which killed 33 people - were carried out by an Ulster Volunteer Force faction operating under security force protection from a farm near Glennane, County Armagh.

The authors of the study, sponsored by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, said they had found credible evidence of training, weapons and information being provided by Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers. Such claims surfaced repeatedly during the Troubles and their aftermath but this report suggests that collusion in Armagh was systematic and involved senior officers.

It relied on ballistics evidence as well as the testimony of a former RUC officer who has admitted involvement with the gang. Among cases investigated were the Miami Showband massacre in July 1975 and the shooting of Catholic policeman Sergeant Joe Campbell in February 1977.

Douglass Cassell, of Notre Dame Law School in the US, who chaired the panel, said it had been denied access to some Northern Ireland police documents and called for a wider inquiry.

Ahern urged to pressure British over bombings

Questions haunt probe into loyalist collusion

Evidence found of British collusion in bombings

Families lobby MPs on 'collusion'

Anika's lonely death highlights racist hatred

Friday, November 03, 2006

Irish economy in good shape with tax €2bn ahead

RTE Business:

The latest Exchequer figures from the Department of Finance show that tax receipts are running 2 billion ahead of target so far this year, boosted by the booming property market.

Last month Finance Minister Brian Cowen said that tax receipts for the year would come in €2.3 billion ahead of targets for the full year.

Spending is running just €346m behind target, compared to a figure of €1.2 billion this time last year, and the Government has collected €33 billion in tax so far this year.

But it is not the country's workers who are paying it, it is house buyers and businesses with stamp duties running €836m above target and capital taxes €444m ahead of targets. Both of these taxes reflect the strong property market.

Vat receipts are 239m ahead of the figure forecasted in January, income tax is running 147m ahead of target and corporation tax is 213m ahead for the ten months to end of October.

Chief economist of Ulster bank Pat McArdle said that if revenue continues to overshoot at this pace, the will be €2.4 billion, not the €2.2 billion that the Minister predicted in mid-Oct when he unveiled his new pre-Budget Outlook for 2007.

'In fact, there is a good chance that the overshoot will be substantially greater than €2.4 billion. About a quarter of all tax revenue comes in in the last two months as the self-employed file and pay. While many will have slaved to meet the end-October filing date, they will usually have dated the cheque 31 Oct with the result that it is not booked by Revenue until early November', he said.

Irish budget deficit shrinks in year to Oct

Services sector optimistic on outlook

Manufacturing continues solid performance

Irish service activity, new business and employment all continued to rise sharply in October although rates of expansion eased

Solid expansion of the Irish manufacturing economy in October but rates of growth of output and new orders eased

The majority of Scots favour breaking away from the rest of Britain and embracing an independent Scotland

Angus Macleod:

The ICM poll showed support for Scottish independence running at 51 per cent, the first time since 1998, the year before devolution, that support for separation has passed the 50 per cent mark. Only 39 per cent of Scots are for the status quo, and 10 per cent said that they did not know whether they wanted independence, according to the poll of 1,000 voters north of the Border.

The survey for The Scotsman newspaper, six months before Scottish Parliament elections, will make Scottish Labour nervous, especially since it confirms recent polls showing the Scottish Nationalists making gains from Labour. If the Nationalists win power, they say that they will hold a referendum on independence within four years.

Next May also marks the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union. A pair of Acts of Parliament, passed in 1706 and 1707 and taking effect on May 1, 1707, created Great Britain. The sovereign parliaments were dissolved, with a new Parliament of Great Britain set up and based in Westminster.

Scottish voters will have two votes — one for a first-past-the-post constituency MSP and a second for the party they favour on a proportional representation list system. On the first the poll shows a resurgent SNP enjoying 32 per cent support to Labour’s 30 per cent. On the second both parties are level on 28 per cent.

This would not give the SNP an outright majority, but it would open the door to a ruling coalition of SNP and Lib Dems (already in power with Labour), supported by a handful of Green MSPs. The question then would be whether the Lib Dems would agree to the independence referendum proposed by the SNP and the Greens.

Privately, senior Labour figures in Scotland say that Tony Blair’s apparent intention to remain as Prime Minister until after the Scottish election is hurting the party north of the Border. “A lot of people in the party just want the change-over to Brown to happen sooner rather than when it’s too late to have an impact up here,” a Labour MSP said.

Majority in Scotland wants independence, says poll

Poll: Majority in Scotland want independence from Britain

Is it a country or a region? It's a basket case

Brian Feeney:

When unionist politicians give a knee-jerk reaction it is the mentality they reveal that still shocks – the boorishness, the ignorance, the bone-headed arrogance, the dog-in-the-manger attitude and in some cases just plain stupidity, though there is plenty of stupidity on the nationalist side too.

Broadly, the mentality is the same as tying up the swings on Sunday and smacks of the old joke that if they could, they would tie up the ducks' legs to stop them swimming on Sundays.

I don't do it, so I don't allow you to do it either. I'm the boss. You do it my way or not at all.

What a sickening, overbearing cast of mind. We got the whole nine yards in reaction – for you could not call it a response – to the proposals on joint Irish-British investment in the north.

The spluttering also betrayed the usual confusion about whether unionists think the north is a country in its own right or whether it's part of Britain or part of the UK. The funniest spluttering came from Gregory Campbell, the DUP's economic and statistical expert sans pareil, who swung among all three interpretations talking about 'adjoining countries' one minute then being part of the UK economy the next. Here is a guy who would not allow dualling of the Derry to Aughnacloy road, or upgrading of radiotherapy provision at Altnagelvin Hospital or a new north-south electricity interconnector if he thought they were part of the dreaded 'all-island economy'.

Aye, he would know too.

Listen lads, there is an all-Ireland economy. Who owns the banks in the north? Anybody in the north? Nope. The same people who own the banks in the Republic and yes, sometimes they're fenians but it's also Australians and English people too. Who owns the north's food-processing industry and has done for years?

Well Gregory, what's the answer? Companies in the Republic, that's who. Do they care about the border? Do they want to govern limping Limavady? No chance.

What they want is to buy and sell. They want your money and you've been giving it to them for years. What's UTV doing advertising in the Republic and owning a radio station in Cork? Exactly the same – trying to make money.

Why do companies in the Republic own so much of the north's business? Easy. The Republic has moved into a modern economy, something no unionist politician would recognise if he swallowed one of its microchips. As the north's, all together now, 'traditional industries of engineering and textiles' collapsed, the civil servants here struggled to replace them with more of the same heavily subsidised engineering and textile companies, all bound to fail. The Republic went for a modern, high-skill, globalised economy emphasising inward investment attracted by tax-based incentives and it succeeded.

They bought up anything in the north that looked as if it had vaguely modern potential.

You hear them talk on the meedja here about the north's 'economy'. The north hasn't got an economy. It's a basket case. It's not part of the UK economy either. It's isolated within the UK with a low standard of living just under 80 per cent of the UK average. The NIO has been running around for decades offering massive subsidies to any high street operator to open in Belfast to maintain the fantasy that Belfast is just another prosperous UK city. They tell chain stores about the high disposable income here. True – it's because most people here are paid by the NIO.

What the hysterical unionist reaction to the joint proposals means is this. They want to stay in their comfort blanket.

They want to say, to hell with the future and long live the past. Yeah, well OK, we knew that already.

What they can't be allowed to do is prevail over the chances of people living in the border areas to have a better life with modern roads and health services just because bigoted unionist politicians would rather eat grass. What needs to be driven home to unionists is that while they may have a veto over constitutional change, that does not and cannot mean they have a veto over any change whatsoever, particularly change that is to the benefit of their fellow countrymen and their own supporters.

Ex-loyalist gunman tells of Livingstone assassination plot