Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Central Bank predicts Irish economic growth of 5.5%


The Central Bank has predicted that the economy will grow at a rate of about 5.5% this year, which is only slightly slower than the growth recorded for last year.

The bank said that growth will be driven by strong consumer expenditure on the back of the encashment of SSIA savings accounts.

The forecast is for about 71,000 net new jobs to be created in the economy.

Central Bank expects economy to grow 5.5%

Not enough change, say victim's family

Marie Louise McCrory:

The family of the first civilian victim of the Troubles – who died after he was beaten by the RUC – have said they don't believe there had been enough change in policing.

Samuel Devenney (42), a father-of-nine from Derry, suffered internal injuries, a possible fracture to the skull and damage to his eyes and mouth when he was beaten up in his own home by members of the RUC in 1969.

He had been standing at the front door of his home in William Street on April 19 when RUC officers burst in chasing a number of young people, several of whom ran into the house.

Other members of the family were also injured in the incident.

It was said Mr Devenney and his family were beaten with batons. He died three months later.

The inquest attributed the death to natural causes.

An investigation into the death by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan in 2001 found there had been a wall of silence by police officers during an investigation at the time of Mr Devenney's death.

On the day Sinn Féin asked its members to support policing in Dublin, Mr Devenney's son Harry last night (Sunday) said he did not believe there had been enough change in the police.

"These people are telling us they've changed, that they are not the RUC any more," he said.

"There is a chunk who are still the RUC.

"There was a conspiracy of silence in 1969 right up to the British government. That conspiracy of silence is still holding.

"Nuala O'Loan found massive, massive barriers. It was very, very disturbing."

Disgusting justification for sectarian murders

The buck stops where exactly?

Collusion evidence: trickle becomes a flood

Monday, January 29, 2007

Collusion officer gets PSNI promotion

Colm Heatley:

At least one of the four serving policemen implicated in the Police Ombudsman’s report into collusion between the RUC and loyalists has been promoted within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The four were described as junior officers on the ‘‘periphery’’ of the investigation, by Ombudsman sources. The Ombudsman’s report found evidence of collusion between RUC members and a north Belfast UVF unit, run by Special Branch informer Mark Haddock, in at least five murders between 1990 and 2003.

Raymond McCord Sr, whose son’s murder sparked the four-year inquiry, said he was ‘‘disturbed’’ by the development.

‘‘I don’t think any officer who was implicated in this inquiry should be serving in the PSNI,” said McCord. ‘‘If they are implicated in wrongdoing, then they have no place in policing, especially if people’s trust is to be restored.”

Senior sources told The Sunday Business Post that arrests are expected in the coming days in relation to the ombudsman’s report, and specifically the 1997 murder of Raymond McCord Jr. However, it is understood that no former RUC officers will be arrested.

The four year-long investigation was made public in Belfast last Monday, causing huge embarrassment for the British government and the PSNI.

In a separate development, sources within the Ombudsman say that their request for a further stg£1.25 million in funding - needed because of the complexity of their investigation - means that future inquiries may be under-funded.

The report has prompted calls for Ronnie Flanagan to resign from his post as chief of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.

Flanagan was head of RUC Special Branch in 1996 and RUC Chief Constable until 2002. He was made aware of the concerns about the running of agents in north Belfast, but it is claimed he took no action to remedy the situation.

How collusion was built into the system

The victims deserve justice

Turning a blind eye

MP: Flanagan’s position untenable

The hidden role of the SAS

State terrorism was used to uphold the Union

Thursday, January 25, 2007

British politicians remain silent despite revelations

Brian Feeney:

Here we go again. Another report of another inquiry years after the events took place. No prosecutions recommended or likely.

Chief constable, prime minister, current proconsul all throw up hands and say as one: "Nuffink to do with me, guv." All in the past. Couldn't happen now. Let's move on.

So far so predictable. At least there's one minor difference this time. The one lesson that's been learnt from previous reports like Stevens' in 2003, and it's a small mercy, is that politicians no longer automatically 'call for a public inquiry'.

The penny's dropped even with our local geniuses that it's pointless, first because the British government has acted shamelessly to prevent inquiries revealing awkward truths by introducing the 2005 Inquiries Act to wreck the powerful 1921 Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act.

Second, and more important, is the reason the British government emasculated the inquiry process.

They'll tell you it's because of the vast expense over the years of inquiries like the Saville Tribunal which if you laid them end to end would never reach a conclusion. Needless to say that reason is far from the truth.

Guys like Mark Haddock, coyly referred to as 'Informant 1' in the ombudsman's report, were up to their dirty work during the first five years of this Labour government's tenure of office and indeed for the first year of Hugh Orde's time as chief constable.

It was only after the Stevens report that rapid and radical changes were made in handling what are known as covert human intelligence sources [agents]. If it hadn't been for the doggedness of Raymond McCord would any of this disgusting immorality have come to light?

Will anything ever be done as a result? Nuala O'Loan concluded that in dealing with the Mount Vernon UVF, "the most serious failings are at chief officer level particularly those chief officers who were responsible for Special Branch".

Now do you imagine for one minute that if prosecutions were taken against senior police officers that they would not immediately point the finger upwards and show that even more senior figures at Stormont were well aware of the dirty war going on?

Lord Stevens felt he could trust the taxpaying public with only a tiny fragment of his 3,000-page report which showed military intelligence, Special Branch, 14th Intelligence Company, MI5 and the even more infamous Force Research Unit, all competing for agents. We know some agents were operating for two agencies.

Mrs O'Loan tells us that Haddock was paid "in excess of £79,000" of taxpayers' money between 1990 and 2001. Who knew? Who was in charge? A policeman or a senior securocrat at Stormont?

Does anyone imagine that the RUC-protected murder gang operating out of Mount Vernon was anything other than one tiny fraction of the total British administration's conspiracy operation across Belfast, let alone across the north and in the Republic? Does anyone think you wouldn't uncover exactly the same stomach-turning sights if you knew which stone to turn over in say, Portadown or Lisburn or Armagh? We know that after the Security Services Act of 1989 the director and coordinator of intelligence (DCI) at Stormont was responsible to the secretary of state. We know that intelligence provided by top agents was read by British cabinet members of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Are we seriously expected to believe that successive secretaries of state did not know of their agents' unsavoury misdemeanours? Does anyone believe senior intelligence officers did not ask for such behaviour to be sanctioned at cabinet level? If the proconsuls from 1997-2003 did not know what Special Branch was up to or ask the DCI for reports, why not? Apart from murder and racketeering, what was the outcome of this policy? Mrs O'Loan concludes that, "As a consequence of the practices of Special Branch, the position of the UVF, particularly in north Belfast and Newtownabbey, was consolidated and strengthened over the years".

In his report the then Sir John Stevens concluded that the intelligence services, far from advancing the cause of peace, actually prolonged the Troubles.

In short, the behaviour of the security forces in the north and their political masters produced the opposite of what the British administration claimed to intend. Yet no British politician has accepted responsibility never mind apologised.

Ahern calls for British action on collusion

Collusion with loyalists was British security policy

Bank of Ireland: Irish economic growth is at a five year high

Ireland Online:

Average Irish income (GNP) is now rising faster than output (GDP), a departure from the historical norm, reflecting the strength of income earned on Irish investments abroad, according to Bank of Ireland’s quarterly economic outlook, which was published today.

The country is now a high-income economy and exports a substantial amount of capital, the return on which has boosted Irish incomes. GNP growth was estimated at 7% in 2006, with 6.2% forecast in 2007 and 5.2% in 2008.

Bank of Ireland’s chief economist Dan McLaughlin said: “A few years ago we noted that the Irish economy was in transition to a new growth phase, which would see the economy at full employment, with output constrained by a scarcity of labour, so limiting potential growth to around 6% with domestic demand taking over from exports as the main driver.

“As we enter 2007, it is clear that this transition has successfully taken place where growth has averaged 5.3% over the five-year period to 2006, despite export growth of circa 5% per year with a notable acceleration evident in the past 18 months.

“Indeed, annual growth rose to 7.7% in the third quarter of last year, although for the year as a whole, we estimate GDP growth of 6.5%, the best performance since 2000, with 6% forecast for 2007 and 5% for 2008.”

Overseas assets boosting growth - BoI

Bank of Ireland says average Irish income (GNP) is now rising faster than Irish output (GDP) reflecting the strength of income earned on Irish investments abroad

Irish economy to grow by 6.2pc in 2007

Genes reveal West African heritage of Englishmen

Roxanne Khamsi:

Gene tests on a sample of “indigenous” Englishmen have thrown up a surprise black ancestry, providing new insight into a centuries-old African presence in Britain.

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, identified a rare West African Y chromosome in a group of men from Yorkshire who share a surname that dates back at least as far as the mid-14th century and have a typical European appearance. They owe their unusual Y chromosome to an African man living in England at least 250 years ago and perhaps as early as Roman times, the researchers say.

Mark Jobling at the University of Leicester, UK, and colleagues recruited 421 men who described themselves as British and analysed their genes as part of a survey of British Y chromosome diversity. To the researchers’ surprise, they found that one individual in the study carried a very rare Y chromosome, called hgA1.

This particular variant has previously been identified in only 26 people worldwide, three African Americans and 23 men living in West African countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. “It’s so distinctive, it really sticks out like a sore thumb,” Jobling says of the chromosome’s unique sequence. He adds that it is virtually impossible for this sequence to have coincidentally evolved in Britain.

The white British subject with the hgA1 variant, however, knew of no African family connection.

To explore the mysterious origin of his Y chromosome scientists recruited 18 other men that shared his rare surname, which dates back to the first use of surnames, hundreds of years ago, and was first recorded in the county of Yorkshire, in northern England. The researchers have not disclosed the surname to maintain the men’s privacy.

The team hoped that this would help them pinpoint when the hgA1 had variant entered the lineage, since Y chromosomes, like surnames, are passed from father to son.

Of the 18 men with the Yorkshire surname, six of them carried the hgA1 Y chromosome – including one man in the US, whose ancestors had migrated from England in 1894.

Genealogical records linked these men to two family trees, both dating back to the 1780s in Yorkshire. Jobling believes that these two genealogies are connected by a common male ancestor of West African descent living in England at least 250 years ago.

The British men carry an hgA1 Y chromosome that closely matches the one identified in men presently living in West Africa. This suggests that the former group’s black ancestor arrived in Britain within the past few thousand years. Had their hgA1 Y chromosome been introduced any thousands of years earlier, when humans first migrated from Africa to Europe, its sequence would have shown greater divergence from the one currently found in West Africa.

The hgA1 Y chromosome could perhaps have entered the gene pool in northern England 1800 years ago when Africans fought there as Roman soldiers, Jobling says. It also might have been introduced in the 9th century, when Vikings brought captured North Africans to Britain, according to some historians.

But scientists note that the majority of black men with the hgA1 variant currently live in Guinea-Bissau and nearby countries in West Africa. Because many slaves from this area came to Britain beginning in the mid-16th century, it is likely that the white men with the hgA1 variant have a black ancestor that arrived this way, researchers say.

This ancestor could have been a first-generation immigrant African or one whose family had lived in Britain for generations.

Jobling says his study provides the first evidence of a long-lived African presence in Britain. He adds that it raises the possibility that relationships among black and white people was perhaps more historically acceptable in Britain than some people might believe.

Vincent Brown of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, agrees and points to the example of Olaudah Equiano, a slave from West Africa who bought his freedom in Britain in the mid 18th century and achieved fame for his writing. Equiano lived in London and eventually married a white woman, notes Brown, who studies the history of slavery.

The new findings are unusual because they reveal the hidden African ancestry of white men, Jobling says. He notes that it is much more common for studies to discover or confirm the reverse. For example, gene tests gave strong evidence that the black descendents of the slave Sally Hemmings could also trace their ancestry to her "owner", the third US president, Thomas Jefferson (Nature, vol 396, p 27).

And several years ago, Jobling’s team found that more than a quarter of British African-Caribbean men have a Y chromosome which traces back to Europe rather than Africa.

Yorkshire clan linked to Africa

UK men discover long African lineage

First Genetic Evidence Of Long-lived African Presence Within Britain

Rare African DNA Discovered in White British Males

Tracing the route of our shared DNA from Africa to Yorkshire

Tykes are out of Africa

Sub-Saharan African Y chromosome haplogroup A in white British surname

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Now it's official: the British state sponsored loyalist death squads for years in the north of Ireland

Beatrix Campbell:

Nuala O'Loan is a heroine. None of us should under-estimate the moral courage this fastidious lawyer has mobilised merely do her job as Northern Ireland's police ombudsman: to tell the world that collusion describes the relationship between the British state and loyalist gunslingers.

Raymond McCord is a hero. When his own loyalist leaders and militias refused to acknowledge his quest for justice for his murdered son, he risked his life by turning to the purported enemies of his state - the human-rights organisations.

McCord joins the band of relatives who become heralds for their lost loved ones, whose journey confronts them with the state itself. McCord didn't retreat when he found himself in a web of special branch and loyalist assassins.

The human-rights advocates are heroes too, because they would not bow to the slur that they were mad, bad or Provo agents provocateurs for investigating the state's patronage of death squads. Lest we forget, the ombudsman's investigation was prefigured by an earlier report naming the guilty men, published by Jane Winter, the forensic director of British Irish Rights Watch.

None of these people are republicans. But the sectarian slur ricocheted across the ombudsman's bows again yesterday when Lord Maginnis - a liberal in the unionist firmament - dismissed her report not only as "rubbish" but as having "an alternative agenda" - code for Provo propaganda.

The devastating McCord report that was published yesterday tells us that allegations of collusion once dismissed as rubbish are true. But that epochal admission risks being swamped by an old paradigm: tribal paddies dragging the reluctant Brits into their dirty war. It is time for a paradigm shift. It is time for Britain to be brave and tell the truth about itself. It must narrate a new story about that 30-year conflict.

The ombudsman tells us that the collusion prevailed between the prelude to the ceasefires and the new millennium. Her investigation was constrained by the narrow focus imposed on her: she was only able to investigate the murder of Raymond McCord Jr, a 22-year-old RAF cadet. But Mount Vernon, his north Belfast neighbourhood, is both the local and the larger story of collusion.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, acknowledges that this is very embarrassing for the state. This is progress - when O'Loan published her heart-stopping chronicle of the RUC's disastrous role in the Omagh bombing of 1998 she was insulted by unionists, abused by the chief constable and abandoned by Downing Street. The ombudsman was being warned by No 10 that she was on her own.

At least this time Hain has accepted her critique. Even so, he consigns it to the past. But the past lives on - the ombudsman insisted yesterday that Ronnie Flanagan, the former chief constable, had responsibility for everything that happened in the police force he commanded, whatever he did or did not know. He has not been called to account before a public tribunal, and no one expects him to be now. Indeed, after his retirement he has been reincarnated with her majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Flanagan wasn't alone. He was part of an entire system. Who were the civil servants who staffed that security system in Northern Ireland during the Mount Vernon terror? Where are they now? What else were they doing to thwart justice while the state was investing in the Mount Vernon boys? What did these civil servants think they were doing? What did they tell the politicians sequestered in Hillsborough Castle? And the biggest question: what was the overarching agenda?

The Mount Vernon boys were state-sponsored assassins. Special branch ran their local leadership. We now know that British security services had penetrated all the paramilitary organisations. Was there ever an audit of all the murder, rape and pillage?

Collusion tells us about our institutions and their purpose. After 1987 - when the loyalist paramilitary organisations were beginning to contemplate peace - Britain re-armed, reinvigorated and refocused them, taking control through its proxies among the warlords, and prolonged the war. Their reputations as ruffians, religious maniacs and pumped-up thugs merely gilded the reputation reserved by the British as law-abiding peacemakers.

But by enlisting the Protestant militias as auxiliaries while presenting itself as a neutral arbitrator, Britain left itself vulnerable to exposure. It could not stop a father seeking justice for his son wherever he might find it - not from the UVF or Protestant politicians, but among the human-rights groups, in Dublin, in Washington and at the United Nations.

All these pressures are bearing down on Britain. It has been exposed not as peacemaker but as perpetrator, spreading terror and spilling blood; as the most powerful presence among the warlords. That is the national narrative we need to contemplate before we can consign collusion to the past.

Collusion report - The truth has finally come out

Report: N. Ireland Police Shielded Killers

RUC special branch had 'serial killer on books'

Pressure mounts on Ahern

No prosecution of police officers who aided killers

Collusion evidence missing or destroyed

Remnants of RUC have much to fear from SF move

Fine Gael demands that British come clean over loyalist attacks

Victims of loyalist violence meet O'Loan

RUC collusion officers still in police force

RUC was running UVF gang

Haddock on the bottom rung of collusion ladder

O'Loan uncovers RUC collusion with killers

Report to confirm collusion: SDLP

Over ten years of cover-ups left nineteen people dead

Friday, January 19, 2007

Red hair is most common in Ireland

Robin McKie:

Red hair today is generally associated with the Scots and Irish, but there have been no consistent efforts to establish the prevalence of the condition.

“It has actually become harder to find the prevalence of red hair today,” said Rees. “More and more women — and some men — now dye their hair and we simply have no idea if a redhead is a real one or if a blonde is a redhead under the dye. As a result the incidence of red hair in Britain is still a bit of a mystery.”

Enter the scientists of the People of the British Isles project: thanks to their efforts, this most distinctive characteristic is now opening up its mysteries for the first time. Testing their white cell samples for two of the half-dozen red-hair versions of the MC1R gene, they were able to show their frequency in each area of the British Isles. The results were intriguing.

Where one is the maximum value, they got figures of 0.16 and 0.23 for the frequencies of red-hair genes in Cornwall and Devon. The frequency in Oxfordshire was 0.07; in Sussex and Kent 0.13; in northeast England 0.11; in Lincolnshire 0.07; and in Cumbria nil. In Wales the figure was 0.21, and in Orkney a high 0.26. But the highest was in Ireland. Using data from other research studies, the team got a figure for Ireland of 0.31, confirmation of the stereotypical image of the red-haired Irishman.

The results are remarkable, as Sir Walter Bodmer, the Oxford geneticist leading the project, acknowledges: “I was amazed at them. I didn’t expect to see something like this.”

The research gives us, for the first time, an insight into the startling numbers of native people who have been described as having red hair in ancient times.

Here is why red hair is so common in Ireland:

But why do we have such numbers in these parts of the British Isles today and not others? The answer, says Bodmer, is that red-hair genes were common among the first Britons and that populations in the archipelago’s fringes still carry their bloodline.

“Genes for red hair first appeared in human beings about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago,” agrees Rees.

These genes were then carried into the islands by the original settlers, men and women who “would have been relatively tall, with little body fat, athletic, fair-skinned and who would have had red hair”, says David Miles, of English Heritage.

Redheads therefore represent the land’s most ancient lineages. So if you want an image of how those first people appeared, don’t think of a hairy savage with a mane of thick black hair. Contemplate instead a picture of a slim, ginger-haired individual: Prince Harry, perhaps, or the actress Nicole Kidman who has Scottish and Irish descent.

Why did those early Britons have so many redheads in their midst in the first place? Is there an evolutionary advantage to having red hair in this part of the world? According to Rees, the answer may be yes.

The MC1R variants that cause red hair also have an effect on the skin. As a result, redheads do not make enough of the dark pigment melanin to protect them against the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays. Their skin rarely tans. It just burns or freckles.

In Africa, where modern humans first evolved 150,000 years ago, this would have been fatal. In northern Europe, however, melanin-free skin could have provided an advantage because we make vitamin D in our skin when sunlight shines on it.

Dark-skinned people were protected against the African sun, but their ability to make vitamin D would have been badly affected in relatively gloomy northern Europe. This could have caused rickets, resulting in weak bones and curved legs — bad news for a hunter-gatherer. Rickets is particularly damaging for women, as it increases pelvic deformations, raising the risk of death in childbirth. So, the theory goes, we evolved white, melanin-free skin that has no dark pigment to block sunlight and cause rickets. Red hair was a side effect.

So there it is: being a redhead could mean you possess an evolutionary advantage over non-red-haired people.

Genetic differences between Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Nearly two-thirds of voters want to see an English parliament set up as a counterweight to increasing autonomy for Scotland and Wales

Severin Carrell:

The poll, commissioned to mark today's 300th anniversary of the former Scottish parliament voting for full political union with Westminster, suggests that 61% of voters in England want their own parliament, with the support of roughly half of all Scottish and Welsh voters.

The Labour leadership is already mounting an increasingly bitter campaign to counter a resurgence by the Scottish National party, which appears on course for a historic victory in May's elections for the devolved parliament. Polls suggest the SNP is likely to be the largest party at Holyrood, and in a position to form a ruling coalition with either the Liberal Democrats or an alliance of Green and leftwing minority parties.

On Sunday Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, confirmed that his party would publish a white paper within 100 days of taking power which would set out its plans for a national referendum on independence within four years.

Yesterday Labour ministers accused Mr Salmond of watering-down his original promise to publish a parliamentary bill for a referendum, saying this "flip flop" was intended to persuade the anti-independence Lib Dems to forge a new alliance.

Strengthening demand for an English parliament - an answer to the conundrum where Scottish Labour MPs vote to pass controversial England-only legislation, complicates Labour's attempts to defend the union. Mr Brown insisted at the weekend that union made all members of the UK far stronger, calling for a debate on reinvigorating "Britishness".

The Tories, only the fourth-largest party in Holyrood with about 14% of the vote, launch their Scottish election campaign in earnest on Thursday when David Cameron will take the entire shadow cabinet to Scotland to rally support.

Today the Royal Mint unveils a new commemorative coin to mark the 300th anniversary of the Union, although the official event is being held on May 1 to mark the tercentenary of the first sitting of the joint parliament at Westminster.

The new survey, carried out for the BBC's Newsnight, gives the government some cause for optimism. While several earlier surveys said that a majority of Scots favour independence, the BBC poll shows most voters are opposed to ending the union. Asked if they would favour seeing both Scotland and Wales breaking away from England, only 32% of Scots favoured independence. It found that 56% of Scots wanted to maintain the union, although voters in all three countries were evenly split about whether it would last for another 100 years.

Labour officials insisted yesterday that support for an English parliament was based on a misunderstanding of Westminster's wider influence on Scottish and Welsh affairs, as spending on English policies directly affected spending for the devolved administrations.

"After a better look at the arrangements, once the union is properly explained, the demand for an English parliament will die away," said one senior Cabinet adviser. "There is not a clamour for independence. We might be unpopular, but the SNP is a bin for protest votes and once people begin to see what they've to offer things will begin to crack."

However, Scilla Cullen, chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament, said the poll proved their stance was gaining support. "The Act of Union was appropriate for its time 300 years ago. Things have moved on and it seems to us that we've got to go back to basics and renegotiate the union, see what the nations want and what they want out of the union."

The Big Question: What would happen if Scotland achieved its independence?

After 300 years, is there a future for the Union?

Catholics question 'discrimination'

MSP: Irish in Scotland are hidden migrants

Celtic tiger/Celtic kitten

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The number of companies set up last year was up 11% at 19,221 compared with the same period last year, according to a survey from Bank of Ireland

Irish Times:

The bank's business start-up barometer said that larger cities remain the most popular sites for start-ups.

Last year, over 7,000 of the new firms were based in Dublin, with 1,524 in Cork and 1,93 in Galway. More than 600 companies registered in Limerick last year.

The busiest month for start-ups was June.

Dr Dan McLaughlin, B of I chief economist: "The strong level of business start-ups is testimony to two factors. The first reflects the buoyant nature of economic activity in Ireland - GDP growth last year exceeded 6 per cent, and 2007 looks set to deliver something similar, which is supportive of business confidence.

"The second point is that the Irish tax system is now much more conducive to risk-taking than it was, thus encouraging entrepreneurial activity".

Property dominates the start-up sector with the construction and civil engineering sectors accounting for the most new firms.

Last year was saw real estate management firms opening their doors in this sector. A further 1,131 real estate development and sales companies were set up last year.

New Irish company registrations rose 11% in 2006 but level of early-stage entrepreneurial start-ups fell

Irelandian economics

Collusion evidence — trickle turns to flood

David Granville:

You'd think that a substantial – and growing – body of evidence supporting long-standing allegations of British state involvement in the murder of its own 'subjects' and those of a 'friendly' neighbour might warrant the kind of media treatment that, let's say, recent events in Ipswich, or the alleged murder of just one ex-KGB agent have attracted.

Unfortunately, this is the British state and Ireland, its very own partially-occupied colonial fag end, that we're talking about. Instead of pages of indignation, outrage and a scandal so large that senior heads – political, secret service and military – would have to roll, the silence has been almost deafening.

At the end of November an Irish parliamentary committee published its report into a number of incidents which took place on both sides of the Irish border in the mid-1970s, claiming the lives of 18 people. The Irish parliamentarians concluded that collusion was involved in many of the nine attacks under investigation.

The report is the fourth to date to be published in the wake of the Irish government-commissioned Barron report, which itself identified the possibility of widespread collusion between British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

Particularly disturbing is the conclusion that successive British governments, including those of Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher, were aware of the situation, as were the Irish authorities, but did nothing about it.

At the end of October, another report, prepared by a panel of independent, international investigators, concluded that there was "strong and credible evidence" of British state collusion in 24 of the 25 cases, involving 74 murders, it had investigated.

Both of these reports join a growing body of evidence pointing to substantial British state involvement in acts of criminality and murder in Ireland throughout the conflict from the early 1970s.

Among other damning evidence to have emerged in recent months has been:

the unearthing of documents by the Pat Finucane Centre and the Irish News revealing that, in 1973, the British government knew that between five and 15% of those serving in the Ulster Defence Regiment, a unit within the British army, were linked to loyalist groups and that the regiment was "the best single source of weapons" for loyalist terror gangs.

a report by police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's team, which concludes that the Royal Ulster Constabulary's special branch had allowed loyalist informers to carry out around a dozen murders

claims made in October by a former police colleague that Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, the highest-ranking RUC officer to be killed by the IRA, had been involved with the mid-Ulster loyalist gang responsible for a number of attacks across the border, including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, which resulted in 33 deaths and several hundred injuries.

Almost as damning as the growing body of evidence itself has been the British government's unwillingness to co-operate or assist the work of various investigations into collusion between the British state and its agents and loyalist paramilitaries.

Despite this lack of co-operation it is clear that attempts to keep the truth buried can never be wholly successful.

Indeed, some of those involved in the important initiatives concerned with bringing about individual and community reconciliation have spoken of the truth 'seeping under the doors'.

However, despite the trickle of evidence of evidence of collusion becoming more of a flood, outside of the Irish editions of the mainstream British media and their associated websites, very little has been reported. Even where it has, reports have elicited little or no comment from the public or politicians outside of Ireland.

As fellow campaigner and Englishman, Ken Keable, wrote recently:

"The result is that the British state is getting away with murder, the Blair government actively covers up these crimes, and so inured is the public to the whole mess that even when some of the information gets into the mainstream media, hardly anyone in Britain bats an eyelid."

Of course, had it been criminal activities and human-rights violations of the Syrian, Iranian, North Korean or perhaps the Venezuelan, states and their agents that had been under investigation, things would have been different.

Such attempts to ignore the crimes of the British state, carried out in our name, are themselves an outrage and a scandal. Apart from the dastardly nature of the crimes themselves, the implications for civil liberties and human rights in every part of Britain are enormous. It just goes to show how thin the veneer of 'democracy' in Britain really is.

Amazingly the oul' curmudgeon can't deliver

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Queen of England’s official historian in Scotland has sparked a political row by claiming that the country could flourish as an independent state

Marc Horne:

Professor Christopher Smout, the Historiographer Royal, said it was “perfectly feasible” for Scotland to go it alone and that it could prosper in the same way as eastern European republics have done since the break-up of the Soviet Union. He claimed voters south of the border would be happy to see the break-up of the United Kingdom.

He also criticised claims by John Reid, the home secretary, that Scotland’s national security would be compromised by independence, describing his argument as “a complete non-starter”.

Smout, who is emeritus professor of history at St Andrews University, will this week chair a conference in Edinburgh, organised to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union. Ministers have condemned his intervention claiming that, as a member of the Royal household, he should remain politically neutral.

Senior Labour figures said his comments, so close to an election when the future of the Union will be a key issue, were “naive and destabilising” and would be an embarrassment to the Queen.

“It is unfortunate that someone this close to the Queen is coming out with these frankly shallow and not very significant arguments in favour of independence,” said Tom Harris, the Glasgow South MP.

“Politically, it would be better for us to stay in the Union and I would have thought that if a senior member of the Queen’s household did not share that view then they would just keep their mouth shut.

“I wouldn’t want to anticipate what Her Majesty’s view on this is, but I would expect she would be the first and foremost defender of the Union. I think he should be careful about coming out with destabilising and naive views without the express authority of the Queen because it does put a question mark over the royal family’s position on all of this.”

Allan Wilson, the deputy Scottish enterprise minister, said: “An adviser to the head of state should not be trying to destabilise it and jeopardise the jobs and prosperity of millions of Scots.”

Smout said the current constitutional settlement is unstable and it will be resolved either by the break-up of the Union or by Scots MPs being stripped of their voting rights at Westminster. Scottish independence, he said, would be welcomed in England, although he admitted that it would sadden the Queen.

Smout, who has advised the Queen on Scottish history since 1993, rejected Reid’s suggestion a separate Scotland would be a soft target for Al-Qaeda and would require frontier guards.

“There are no border patrols between Belgium and Holland and security there is no worse or better than it is here. There is no reason to think security would be slacker in an independent Scotland. Dr Reid’s observations are a complete nonstarter.”

He added: “The English would probably not be awfully upset if the Scots decided to go it alone. I think the Queen would be sorry, but I can’t see many other people south of the border being too regretful.”

Meanwhile, Archie Stirling, the founder of Scotland’s newest political party, the Scottish Democrats, has played down suggestions he could save the Union.

Professor ‘right to speak out’

Yet more double standards from Labour

Friday, January 05, 2007

Companies backed by state agency IDA Ireland injected almost €15bn into the Irish economy last year

Ireland Online:

The agency revealed the workforce in supported companies increased by 3,795 last year, bringing total employment to 135,487.

Sean Dorgan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, said companies spent almost €15bn in the Irish economy from their annual sales of €77bn and paid over €2.8bn in corporation tax.

“The quality of investments from global companies into Ireland is of the highest standard, reflecting the remarkable evolution of the business ecosystem in Ireland as international competition and Irish economic conditions have changed,” Mr Dorgan said.

“Investments in the past year, such as those by Amgen and in R&D by Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, PepsiCo and Georgia Tech, are clear evidence of this evolution.

“There has been a rapid transformation in what Ireland offers international investors since the year 2000, which was the last year of volume-based growth. Now our growth is quality-based.”

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin said the strong performance of IDA-supported companies showed Ireland was continuing to attract quality jobs.

“What is particularly welcome is the regional spread of investments attracted by the IDA, with 89 new investment projects, including 46 R&D investments, occurring outside of Dublin,” Mr Martin said.

“The R&D strategy published during 2006 will help ensure that Ireland remains competitive and will continue to attract high-profile R&D projects in the future.”

Last year almost 60% of new greenfield projects, including six out of every seven R&D investments, took place outside Dublin.

During 2006, the IDA negotiated 71 new business projects involving a total investment of €2.6bn over a number of years. Around 54 R&D projects were supported by IDA with almost €470m up from €260m during 2005.

Over half of jobs in new IDA-supported projects in 2006 have wage levels of over €40,000 a year.

Mr Dorgan said it was vital the country strongly invest in infrastructure, such as roads, airports and public transport, provide competitive energy supplies and create an innovative research environment.

“These will be the basis of our future success. If we fail to provide essential infrastructure quickly, Dublin may falter and regions fail,” Mr Dorgan said.

The IDA said the country’s position in information and communications technologies was reinforced with new investments from Cisco, IBM, Netgear, Sandisk and Trend Micro, while biopharmaceuticals Amgen and Eli Lilly also chose to locate to Ireland for their bases outside the US for the development and manufacture of drugs.

“The very strong investment achievements of 2006, combined with the ongoing collaborative national efforts to continue the transformation of Ireland into an ever more advanced knowledge economy, gives us great confidence in our ability to win exciting new investment projects in 2007,” Mr Dorgan said.

“We have a good pipeline of potential investments and we are optimistic of winning quality new investments from new and existing clients for locations across Ireland.”

End 2006 Exchequer data underscore strength of Irish Economy

Company collapses hit 20-year low

Surplus in Ireland’s 2007 budget, even with voted spending growth

DUP's mindset is fossilized in 17th century

Brian Feeney:

BBC's Today programme holds an annual poll to find out which law its listeners would like to repeal.

One of the options this time was the 1701 Act of Settlement, which requires Britain's monarch to be a Protestant and forbids the monarch or heir to the throne marrying anyone not C of E.

The man proposing the repeal of this particular piece of discriminatory legislation was award-winning author and historian William Dalrymple, an expert on Asian religions as well as being the presenter of a prize-winning radio series on British spirituality and mysticism.

You probably won't have heard this interview because it was broadcast about 7.25 one morning last week but Jeffrey Donaldson came on to say why the Act of Settlement should not be repealed. It was priceless stuff.

Poor Jeffrey claimed the law had to be retained because, among other things, a Catholic monarch would have to give allegiance to the pope who is also a head of state and, wait for it, that would mean a diminution in British sovereignty.

So that obviously means the real ruler of Spain is a German pope. The same goes for Belgium.

You thought Zapatero was elected to govern Spain and Guy Verhofstadt Belgium? No, according to the DUP mind, the real ruler of these modern democratic states is not the elected head of government but the hereditary monarch who's in thrall to the pope.

Can Jeffrey really believe that? Sadly it seems he can.

Dalrymple, who was supporting his proposal in the same interview, claimed that the BBC had to dredge up a unionist – who else? – to support the retention of this discrimination because they couldn't find anyone in Britain to defend it.

Dalrymple's exasperation was obvious to all listening because our wee Jeffrey just didn't geddit. It just never occurred to him that Dalrymple, a noted expert on the religions of the Indian sub-continent, was talking in the context of modern Britain, a context that remains eternally beyond the grasp of unionists.

For people like Dalrymple it's important to repeal the Act of Settlement not only to demonstrate equality before the law to Catholics, a concept unionists have never come to terms with, but even more important in Britain nowadays, to demonstrate equality to Muslims, Hindus and Jews.

Our Jeffrey never thought for a second that by supporting the Act of Settlement he was advocating discriminating against Jews and Muslims and Hindus, now a sizeable proportion of British society. Jeffrey could only see the Act of Settlement in its 1701 context when the only bogeyman was the pope.

You have to laugh.

The interview provided a crystal-clear example of the gap between unionists' idea of Britishness and current thinking in Britain.

Stand by this year for an outpouring of books and articles and programmes on the concept of Britishness. May marks the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union between Scotland and England which officially invented Britain as a state.

Westminster is intent on formal commemoration of the event, unlike with the 1801 Act of Union anniversary six years ago.

Will the SNP use opposition to the anniversary of 1707 as a springboard for the Scottish parliament elections the following week? Do most Scots see themselves first and foremost now as British, or Scottish? The indications are most Scots have had enough of being run from London.

One certainty is that in all the analysis and soul-searching this year about the meaning of Britishness there'll be no place for the lost tribe in the sick counties.

As far as the majority of people on the other island is concerned the sort of embarrassing nonsense professed by Jeffrey Donaldson is an unrecognisable form of Britishness, a version fossilised in the 17th century which everywhere else was dissolved in the melting pot of 20th century Britain.

Perhaps the most dispiriting observation you can make about Jeffrey Donaldson's bizarre defence of the Act of Settlement is that he is representative of the next generation of unionist leaders.

The current leadership is a political Jurassic Park but if the mindset exhibited on the Today programme is anything to go by, then the prospect the coming men offer is back to the future.

We Say - Hardly a surprise

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Irish economic growth very strong and looks likely to be sustained

Austin Hughes:

Data for the third quarter of 2006 show that the Irish economy is continuing to deliver extremely strong economic growth. The details of CSO figures issued on Dec 21, also suggest that economic prospects may be somewhat brighter than some commentators have suggested.

Growth in the third quarter was boosted by a strengthening in exports with manufacturing output recovering and services exports surging. While household spending and house building remained solid, these numbers suggest strong economic growth is not entirely the product of a debt-fuelled binge on property and consumer goods.

In the third quarter of 2006, real GDP was 7.4 per cent higher than a year earlier while real GNP increased by some 5.4 per cent. These quarterly data can be quite volatile, and it appears that the numbers for the third quarter were flattered by timing issues relating to imports and exports. If today’s figures exaggerate the numerical strength of the Irish economy in the third quarter somewhat, the broad message of exceptionally healthy economic conditions is consistent with that emerging from recent employment and tax revenue data. We now look for GDP to increase by just under 6 per cent in 2006 with GNP set to increase by around 6.5 per cent. Reflecting the carryover of stronger end year conditions, we have raised our forecasts for 2007 by a half percentage point and now expect both GDP and GNP growth of 5.5 per cent next year.

Strong growth in third quarter of 2006

Budget 2007 - More than meets the eye?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Genetic differences between Britain and Ireland

Robin McKie:

A key example is provided by the People of the British Isles study, led by Sir Walter Bodmer, which has found rich concentrations of genes of the British Isles' first hunter-gatherer settlers in men and women now living in Cornwall, Devon, Scotland and Ireland. One version of the gene MCR1 often confers red hair on its owners and explains those ancient Roman and Greek reports of widespread ginger locks among early Britons. Red hair was common until invasions by non-redheads - like the Anglo-Saxons - pushed these settlers to Britain's outer edges. Hence the red-haired Scots and Irish we see today.

Bodmer has found signs of Anglo-Saxon genes in east England, the remnants of the invaders who established English as the language of the British Isles, while Wilson's research has discovered evidence that Vikings, who colonised Orkney, did so by eradicating nearly ever male member of its Pictish population. This latter discovery was made by analysing the Y-chromosome. Orkney men today tend to have Y-chromosomes like those of modern Scandinavians, the Vikings' direct descendants.

Relax - we're all Anglo-Saxon anyway!

Myths of British Ancestry

Anglo-Saxons Were Apartheid Racists!

'Apartheid' slashed Celtic genes in early England

We're nearly all Celts under the skin

Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration

English and Welsh are races apart