Thursday, December 28, 2006

Corruption in the north of Ireland

Brian Feeney:

Over the next week or so they'll be looking back on TV and in the papers at Norn Irn in 2006. They'll point to the quietest marching season since pussy was a cat; hardly any killings; the DUP nearly admitted talking to Sinn Féin in private; Ian Paisley talked to Gerry Adams publicly in the cod assembly, even offered him some unhistorical advice. They'll conclude that, all in all, it was a good year.

They'll be wrong because they'll ignore the behaviour of the British administration here, behaviour typical of this British government, the most revoltingly dishonest and deceitful anyone can remember.

Lady Hacksaw had deceitful ministers and everyone knew members of her government were lining their pockets and those of their cronies as they sold off the family silver but the Tories never made any secret of what they came into government to do.

They got on with it until they sank in a swamp of sleaze.

In response to people's revulsion at all that, the present government of liars and hypocrites promised to be 'whiter than white'.

It didn't take long to fail the Daz whiteness test. Bernie Ecclestone's million pound bung, which of course was totally unconnected to Labour's 1997 decision to change its policy on tobacco advertising, caused the first wave of nausea. Since then it's become glaringly obvious that Blair's lot know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

During 2006 his arrogant proconsul vigorously applied Labour policy to the north. He was simply continuing the NIO's panicky response to the DUP's destruction of the UUP in the 2005 British general election.

No sooner had our proconsul smarmed his way onto the local scene than efforts to bribe and buy the DUP reached fever pitch.

We know largely because of court cases that the DUP had a shopping list including parades and victims and the RIR and peerages. Following the loyalist riots in September 2005 the DUP added loyalist alienation to the shopping list.

The wonderful feature of their list is that, unlike your Christmas shopping, they presented their list and everybody else had to pay. Great, isn't it?

Thus our proconsul instantly appreciated that the inalienable right of DUP voters to swagger through Catholic districts was frustrated by the Parades Commission. Perhaps they would like to have people on the Parades Commission?

For the DUP only Protestants were victims of the Troubles. Perhaps the DUP would like to nominate someone to be victims commissioner?

The DUP said 'Protestant' districts are worst off. OK.

So the NIO appointed a minister for Protestant districts to shell out, we think, about £30 million.

The UDA also got in on the act since they, not the DUP, run these districts. Can we have money too they asked, like a kind of pension like the RIR? No problem. The thugs in south-east Antrim asked for a special pension fund for themselves.

Consideration is still pending.

All this if only, please, would the DUP share power with Sinn Féin, even speak to Sinn Féin?

Hey, how about an assembly? What about a couple of peerages? Givvus a couple of names. No problem. Ah gwan, just speak to Sinn Féin.

Did they? Would they? Did our proconsul get anything for his bungs? Absolutely nothing.

The process of this ignominious fawning is reprehensible enough but the consequences are very serious.

Slowly, bit by bit since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement there has grown up the belief that nationalists would get a fair crack of the whip, that jobs would be allocated fairly, that positions of influence could be open to nationalists like anyone else, that there were selection processes, albeit imperfect.

What this current proconsul has done is to subvert that process and with it the rule of law.

He has blithely ignored the courts just like other Labour ministers such as Blunkett and Reid and lately Blair by dropping the inquiry into arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The present crop of carpet-baggers we have has also sectarianised the allocation of funding when it used to be on the basis of need. They've undone decades of painstaking work.

Do they care? Not a bit. Why should they? No votes here.

O'Hagan inquest: police know who killed Sunday World reporter but lack evidence

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Irish GDP per capita in 2005 was 39% above the EU25 average while Irish GNP per capita was 33% above

Finfacts Team:

GDP per capita in Luxembourg, expressed in terms of purchasing power standards3 (PPS), was more than twice the EU25 average in 2005, while Ireland was about 40% above the average. The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Sweden were between approximately 15% and 25% above the average. Finland, Germany and France recorded figures about 10% above the EU25 average, while Italy and Spain were around the average.

Ireland's GDP in 2005 was €161.2 billion compared with a GNP of €135.9. The latter figure is adjusted for the profits of the large multinational sector.

Cyprus was about 10% below the EU25 average, while Greece and Slovenia were around 20% below. The Czech Republic, Portugal and Malta were around 30% below the EU25 average, while Hungary, Estonia and Slovakia were about 40% below. Lithuania, Poland and Latvia were around half of the EU25 average.

Double digit growth predicted in 2007 as Irish shares celebrate bumper year

Economy to grow 5.6% in 2007 - Goodbody

Friday, December 15, 2006

Economists Robbie Kelleher and Rossa White estimate that Irish GDP and GNP grew by 5.5% and 6.5% this year, and say both should expand by 5% next year

RTE Business:

The economists have lifted their forecast for consumer spending growth next year to 7%, boosted by the release of some €10 billion from SSIA accounts and the recent Budget tax and spending measures. But they say the pace of growth in the building sector will slow to less than 0.5%, with house building falling from 92,000 this year to 87,000.

But the Davy report describes 2008 as 'payback time' for consumer spending, with a reversal of the SSIA effect and a fall in construction output. It predicts GNP growth of 3% for 2008.

Davy says Irish economic growth will remain exceptionally strong next year before falling significantly in 2008

Construction boom still evident in jobs figures

Sinn Féin is right to make policing a deal-breaker

Brian Feeney:

Among all the other criminal offences reported last week, two received substantial publicity – a rape in Woodvale Park and on a much more mundane level the vandalised parking meters in the Sandy Row no-go area for traffic wardens.

You can bet your life that if either or both of these offences were reported in north or west Belfast or in Derry the meedja would have sought out some 'hapless' Sinn Féin councillor, not to hear condemnation of the crimes but to ask why Sinn Féin doesn't support the police and if Sinn Féin would tell anyone who knew anything about the events to give their information to the police.

In this line of questioning the north's unionist-dominated meedja unquestioningly follow the unionist line and avoid the real issue.

Unionists like to claim, as they have always claimed, that they are the 'law-abiding community', as if nationalists are a kind of sub-species who enjoy criminality and endorse lawlessness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact northern nationalists have always wanted but never enjoyed, proper policing.

The quest for properly accountable policing is the real issue, not whether you can find someone in SF to support the PSNI.

The simple fact is that if all elected Sinn Féin members lined up at Stormont and chorused their support for the PSNI and urged all their constituents to tell the police anything they knew about crimes it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference.

It's taken for granted that all unionists support the police. Does that mean all their constituents report what they know to the police? Of course not.

Are unionists any more law-abiding than nationalists? Of course not. Did the people of Sandy Row provide evidence to the police about who sliced off the parking meter coin-holders in their district? Not a chance.

Furthermore, we had a unionist councillor trying to tell us that it hadn't happened, that the DoE had removed the meters at the request of local traders.

Did he call on his constituents to pass information to the police?

Not a bit of it. Was he asked? Natatall.

Are we really supposed to believe that crime in nationalist areas would plummet if SF announced their support for the police?

Is there anyone who does not realise that this demand, dutifully put to SF by the meedja on every possible occasion, is the DUP's demand, a demand concocted simply and solely to postpone the evil day when they have to share power with SF?

For some reason no-one puts to the DUP this question – Is it their policy to share power with nationalists and if not, when will it become so?

Instead, the DUP is allowed to hide behind the false pretext of demanding support for policing, which is nothing other than the traditional unionist demand since Norn Iron was invented.

Sinn Féin have made a mess of their response to this demand.

Their demand is that justice and policing be devolved. They need to explain why this must be so.

All they've said is that they want an end to political policing. What they need to spell out repeatedly is the following.

Policing in the north was created by and for unionists. Policing always belonged to unionists because they believed the very existence of their northern state depended on a police force created to defend it.

Nationalists knew that the RUC would treat any nationalist protest like an insurrection and would attack nationalist communities at the drop of a hat as they did on many occasions with the help of the B Specials and later the RUC Reserve. OK. That's over.

Now, in order to ensure all that can never happen again, nationalists have to run a ministry in the north which is in charge of policing and justice. That's why Ian Og will not be the minister for police and justice. It's quite elementary.

If nationalists are to share in running the northern state, they have to participate in running the police so that they are seen to be their police and not just a re-structured unionist police.

It's an essential condition and SF are quite right to make it a deal-breaker.

NI soldiers convictions revealed

Families deserve judicial inquiry into collusion

Collusion policy is now unravelling

Monday, December 11, 2006

John Lennon met the IRA and offered to sing at a fundraising concert for republicans after Bloody Sunday

Henry McDonald:

The pacifist singer was so incensed about the British army's killing of 13 unarmed demonstrators in Derry in 1972 that he agreed to hold talks with an IRA representative in New York shortly afterwards. But such was Lennon's confused thinking about Ireland that during his talks with a leading Belfast Provo he also suggested doing a gig for working-class Northern Ireland Protestants.

Lennon's relationship with the IRA is confirmed by the Provos' former 'Belfast Brigade' press officer, Gerry O'Hare, in an interview with rock n'roll biographer Johnny Rogan. O'Hare, who later left the Provisional IRA and pursued a career in Irish journalism, said the Provos' high command sent him over to New York on a speaking tour shortly after Bloody Sunday. Through republican contact in the city, O'Hare linked up with Lennon.
'You see in New York there were Irish Americans who kept him [Lennon] briefed. I was over on a speaking tour and a guy said to me, "would you like to meet John Lennon?" Within two days I was in his presence,' O'Hare said.

Lennon had recorded political agitprop songs such as 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and 'Luck Of The Irish', donated royalties to the Civil Rights Movement and had joined anti-internment marches the previous year. O'Hare, who in the early Seventies operated under the nom de guerre of 'S O'Neil', said the IRA leadership regarded Lennon as a useful ally.

'He was taken very seriously because he offered to do two concerts - one in Dublin and one in Belfast. When I was in New York I met him briefly through a contact whose name I do not want to divulge. I went up to the apartment and I asked Lennon was he serious about all this. He said he was, but his problem was that if he left America he might not be able to get back in again and he was frightened about this.

'So I came back and told the people on our side, "he wants to do it, but this is his big problem." And then, of course, it faded from our priorities. But I did speak to him myself. He knew who I was and where I was coming from. He said he'd do it all right.'

O'Hare tells Rogan he was convinced that Lennon was dedicated to the Irish republican cause even if he appeared confused about the conflict.

'You have to think of the time. There was nobody bigger than the Beatles, and John Lennon was espousing his working-class values. We [the IRA] were thinking, "This is brilliant, how did he get away with it?"... Whether he [Lennon] was [just] caught up in the emotion, I don't know."

'He gave me the impression he was genuine. I said, "that's fine".' The upshot of it was that he said he would love to do a concert, but if he did it he insisted on doing one in Belfast too. I got the impression that he was very anxious to do one for the Protestant community as well.

'In the end he just explained to me, "I have a difficulty, my lawyers are fighting this. There's a lot of things I want to do and I badly want to go back home".' He kept saying "back home" and I presumed he meant London or Liverpool or whatever. Finally, he said, "until such time as that, this will have to be put on the long finger." So it was left to the guy who introduced me to him, that if it were ever going to happen then he would be the contact and we would do what we had to do on this side. But nothing ever happened.'

Rogan has also uncovered still classified FBI files on Lennon, which, he claims confirms MI5 whistleblower David Shayler's allegation that the British security services spied on Lennon because of the star's support for Irish republicanism.

John Lennon and the Irish question

Shayler: Lennon 'funded IRA'

Irish Contacts

Lennon aided IRA, claims MI5 renegade

Friday, December 08, 2006

Children in loyalist areas of Belfast do much worse in GCSE exams than their counterparts in nationalist districts


The education system is failing pupils in loyalist areas of Belfast.

A watchdog committee at Westminster has said the Government isn`t tackling the underperformance of Protestant pupils urgently enough.

The committee has sent the Department of Education an end of term report.

It grades the department on what it has done to lift exam results in loyalist areas.

The verdict: could do a lot better.

GCSE Maths: Appalling performance; literacy and numeracy: progress manifestly unsatisfactory.

In fact the latter criticism applies across Northern Ireland. The Public Accounts Committe reports that one in five pupils leaves school here without being able to read and write properly.

But though concerned with the broad question of educational under achievement in Northern Ireland, it is the plight of pupils in deprived Protestant areas of Belfast that most worries MPs.

Research shows that children in loyalist areas of the city do much worse in GCSE exams than their counterparts in nationalist districts.

Looking at schools in deprived areas the MPs found that while 24% of Catholics got at least a C grade in Maths, only four per cent of Protestants managed the same score.

Similarly while 29% of Catholics got at least a C grade in English, only 17% of Protestants achieved the same mark.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) doesn`t believe the Department of Education is tackling the problem of underperformance with enough urgency.

The PAC was not convinced by the explanations of officials who said paramilitarism and peer pressure was to blame for underachievement in loyalist areas.

It is waiiting to hear from the Department on how it plans to improve exam performance in deprived Protestant districts of Belfast.

When you look at exam results generally in Northern Ireland it`s remarkable how similarly Catholics and Protestants perform.

Not so in Belfast`s deprived areas where Protestants underachieve.

It`s claimed change is underway, if so it needs to be accelarated.

David Gordon:

The scale of an education crisis among Protestant working class children in Belfast was today exposed by a powerful Parliamentary body.

And the findings of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were swiftly cited by Secretary of State Peter Hain to push the case for major schools reform in Northern Ireland.

In their new report, the MPs rapped faltering efforts to tackle the problem of poor maths and English skills among many pupils across both communities.

But they voiced particular alarm about levels of educational achievement within deprived Protestant areas of Belfast.

The PAC concluded that the issue must be "one of the major challenges" facing Northern Ireland.

It said "significant differences" existed in the GCSE English and Maths results of Protestant and Catholic schools in poorer parts of the city, with Protestant pupils performing "disturbingly less well".

The MPs also noted that social deprivation levels are higher in Catholic areas.

As part of their investigation, the PAC examined statistics for Glasgow schools and found no marked differences between Catholic and non-denominational schools there.

In addition, Protestant children in deprived Belfast districts were found to be doing "much less well" than their counterparts in non-denominational Glasgow schools.

The committee was particularly shocked that only 4.4% of Protestant children who sat GCSE Maths in secondary schools in disadvantaged Belfast areas had achieved grades between A* and C2.

It was also heavily critical of the disappointing returns from a £40m drive to raise numeracy and literacy standards across the province's schools system.

It said progress had been "manifestly unsatisfactory" and the Department of Education had "failed to show sufficient leadership in driving things forward".

PAC chairman Conservative MP Edward Leigh said today that, although the committee recognised the achievements of many children in the province compared favourably with the brightest in the rest of the UK, the school system in Ulster had tolerated, for too long, a situation where a significant proportion of children were underachieving.

The Secretary of State today told the Belfast Telegraph: "This is a very serious and important report from the PAC and we must consider it carefully and provide a full response in due course.

"However, it does appear to vividly demonstrate the point that I have been seeking to make over many months, that while Northern Ireland's education system does very well for some pupils, too many are being failed by it.

"The setting of a young person's life chances by a couple of exams cannot be the right way to proceed and that's why ending the 11-plus is so crucial."

Mr Hain said "far more" than abolishing the 11-plus was required and highlighted other current education initiatives including investment in before and after school activities.

"Northern Ireland can and should be world class, but it can only thrive in a harsh global climate if we don't waste the talent of any of our young people," he said.

In its evidence to the PAC, the department suggested that the "considerable time" devoted in P6 and P7 to preparing for the 11-plus was "narrowing" the curriculum and having a negative effect on the 60% of pupils who do not go to grammar schools.

The PAC, meanwhile, cautioned against "a simplistic view" that "structural change" was the answer to the problems.

"The differences which we have highlighted between Catholic and Protestant children in socially deprived areas suggest that there are much more profound difficulties at work than the system of selection," it said.

The Commons report was today welcomed by Ulster peer Baroness Blood who has had a long association with skills training in Belfast's Shankill area.

Baroness Blood said education had been undervalued historically in Protestant working class areas. She also stated that some "tremendous work" was currently being done but more was needed and funding had to be better targeted.

"We still have a huge problem in numeracy and literacy, there's no doubt about that," she said.

Of course, an important reason why Protestant working-class students do so poorly is that people from these areas often got jobs just for being Protestants. Since they grew up believing that their religion automatically entitled them to a job, they never felt that they had to do anything to earn one. Catholics from working-class areas, on the other hand, always knew that the odds were stacked against them when it came to getting a job and so they worked harder in school.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sit back and enjoy Britain being made to squirm

Brian Feeney:

You can hardly lift a British newspaper these days or turn on the TV without some reference to Alexander Litvinenko, the former Soviet spy poisoned in London last month.

On Monday British police flew to Moscow to pursue their investigations. British home secretary John Reid said the police would "follow the evidence wherever it goes".

Last week Irish newspapers, TV and radio were full of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights to the Dail about the activities of loyalist-cum-security-force gangs in the mid-seventies.

There was nothing new in the report. It restated what Mr Justice Henry Barron had first concluded almost exactly three years ago when he dealt with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, namely that there was widespread, systematic and endemic collusion between British security forces and loyalist terrorist groups in mounting these attacks.

What was different about the joint committee's report was that, aside from the Dublin and Monaghan attacks, it pulled together a series of bombings and killings, north and south from 1974 to 1976, which left 18 people dead and scores injured.

The report showed convincingly that there was an extensive network of RUC, UDR, UVF and regular British military personnel engaged in planning and carrying out these attacks; that in those gangs there was substantial overlap between RUC and UVF membership and between UDR and UVF membership.

Again there is nothing new about this information, nor about the fact that many attacks were planned, bombs constructed and weapons stored at a farm near Glenanne in Co Armagh.

In short we are exactly where we were three years ago. Referring Mr Justice Barron's report to the joint committee for another report to the Oireachtas was as much use as emptying a bucket of water into Lough Neagh.

The taoiseach has made all the right noises, as he did in 2003 and indeed in 1999 when he met the families of people killed in some of the attacks. He will ask Tony Blair for his assistance and for information. Our proconsul has said he will do what he can to assist Dublin.

On past evidence neither of them will lift a finger. The proconsul when Mr Justice Barron was conducting his inquiry was John Reid. Despite promises of help and providing relevant documentation Barron got nothing of value. Pleas to Blair fell on deaf ears.

Why wouldn't they? Did Blair move a muscle to stop the Ministry of Defence obstructing the Saville tribunal? One flick of his hand to compel his own government to cooperate could have shaved millions of pounds off the cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Instead, nothing.

No-one seems to have spotted the curious symmetry between Britain's position with regard to the Litvinenko case and Ireland's position in the case of the British government's agents bombing and killing Irish citizens.

John Reid, as we have seen, has promised to follow the evidence wherever it goes. He won't.

He can't.

Russia is a big powerful state which could make things very unpleasant for any British government, including increasing the price of gas at the drop of a hat or throwing British oil companies out of Siberia after they've spent zillions making oil fields ready to exploit.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already warned that British speculation about Litvinenko's death is harming relations between Russia and Britain. Watch Reid pulling his horns in.

Similarly Ireland can do nothing about the illegal activities of the British government 30 years ago.

Oh yes, Dublin could take the cases to the European Court, could make things awkward for Britain in various ways in Brussels but so what? What would the outcome be? Nothing.

No British government would provide any evidence that would help and Barron's conclusions are not proof because no British government provided him with any useful evidence.

The truth is that the British government couldn't care less what the taoiseach says about 1974-76 any more than the Russian government cares about what John Reid says about anything.

Still, there are some consolations. Sit back and enjoy the British government being treated by the Russian government with exactly the same contempt as the British government treats the Irish government.

Damning report

Plea for truth on McGurk bomb

Quarter of police reforms not yet implemented

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ireland's GDP growth will peak at 5.6% next year, according to a new report from Goodbody Stockbrokers

RTE Business:

The new report on the Irish economy, which is called 'Forging Ahead', was launched today.

Chief economist at Goodbody, Dermot O'Leary, predicted that Ireland's GDP growth will remain strong into 2008. He said that he expected growth of about 3.5% in 2008.

According to the report, inflation will fall back to about 3.3% in 2007. Goodbody also said that it expected interest rates to peak in early 2007.

Goodbody says Irish tax revenues have trebled since 1995; Property-related taxes in Ireland now account for at least 17% of total revenues - up from 4% ten years ago

Stabilise property prices, expert advises

Rates of Irish service sector activity and new business growth were strong in November despite continuing to ease

UPDATE 1-Irish Nov consumer confidence up ahead of Budget

Personal finances affect consumer confidence