Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ireland and the slave trade

Brian Feeney:

Apologies seem to be our proconsul's latest cheapo wheeze, especially for events long ago for which he has no responsibility. Most laughable and incredible was his "apology" in the United States for Northern Ireland's involvement in the slave trade. As Newton Emerson pointed out in this paper, Norn Iron didn't exist at the time of the slave trade and, as historians hastened to protest, Belfast was always opposed to the slave trade.

As a matter of fact Ireland's involvement with the slave trade was in providing slaves. In the 1650s Cromwell sent thousands of Irish men and women to Barbados, Montserrat, St Kitts and Antigua. The minimum figure was 12,000. Others put it as high as 50,000. The Irish, not surprisingly, proved to be lousy slaves in the Tropics with an inconsiderate habit of dying quickly from malaria. The English sugar planters turned to our proconsul's friends the black slaves in the 18th century.

Any chance of our slippy, orange-tinted, opportunist apologising to the Irish for England's experiments in white slavery on one of his flying visits or perhaps when he's in Croker?

Don't hold your breath.

All the same, you might have expected someone born in Nairobi to know something about colonialism.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.

Still, he's not stupid. You'll notice he craftily offered his meaningless, cynical apology on behalf of Wales and Norn Iron. He knew he was skating on thin ice because black groups in Britain are trying to organise a claim for compensation from companies they believe benefited from slavery.

So he didn't apologise on behalf of the government.

New World Celts

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ireland has been ranked ninth out of 21 industrialized countries in a report assessing the well-being of children

RTE News:

UNICEF said the assessment looked at 40 separate indicators to gauge the quality of the lives of children in the majority of economically advanced nations.

But the study found there was no consistent relationship between a country's wealth and a child's quality of life.

Northern European countries dominated the top half of the table, with child well-being at its highest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

The United Kingdom came bottom of the list.

The study found Britain lagged behind on key measures of poverty and deprivation, health and safety, relationships, risk-taking and young people's own sense of well-being.

Britain received better ratings for education but languished in the bottom third for all other measures, giving it the lowest overall placing, behind the United States.

Child study finds big divisions

British children: poorer, at greater risk and more insecure

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ireland's economy will be the fastest growing in Europe in 2007, according to Pricewaterhousecoopers

Aoife Carr:

The analysis shows shows Ireland's economy growing by an estimated 5.9 per cent in 2006 and a projected 5.1 per cent in 2007, keeping the country at the top of the Euroland growth table in both years.

The pace of growth for the euro zone economy as a whole is estimated at 2.7 per cent in 2006 and a slightly slower 2.1 per cent in 2007.

The report identifies domestic demand as continuing to be the main driver of overall growth, despite slowing consumer spending in 2007. Consumer spending is expected to slow as interest rates rise further and employment growth weakens.

However, the release of funds from maturing Government-backed savings schemes is likely to provide a boost to disposable incomes and underpin consumer spending growth over the course of the year.

The report warns that high inflation and rising labour costs could lead to a continued erosion of Irish export competitiveness in 2007.

It predicts a slowdown in euro zone economic growth in 2007 owing to tighter fiscal policy in a number of member states, the lagged effects of past ECB interest rate rises, further possible appreciation of the euro and an expected slowdown in the United States, affecting euro zone exports growth.

Yael Selfin, senior economist at Pricewaterhousecoopers, said: "The Irish economy looks set to continue as the Euroland's top growth performer this year. Unfortunately Ireland is also likely to remain at the top end of the inflation league table, to the detriment of the important export sector and some areas of domestic demand."

Irish eyes smiling for good reason

Unexpected growth for euro zone

British implicated in Belfast murders

Colm Heatley:

A former Ulster Volunteer Force man alleged that he and British military handlers organised and took part in a gun attack that left six Catholic men dead.

The attack took place in Belfast, in 1974, during a period in which he claimed to be working with British military intelligence. The man, who uses the pseudoynm John Black, said he was one of a team of four gunmen who opened fire on civilians in the New Lodge area of North Belfast on February 3, 1973.

Six unarmed men from the New Lodge area were killed during the 45 minute attack.

The six killed were Jim Sloan, Jim McCann, Tony Campbell, John Loughran, Brendan Maguire and Ambrose Hardy. Black said that a member of the British Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) led his three-man UVF team that night and told loyalists to be on stand-by for the attack.

Black, who served two prison sentences for UVF activities and is in ill health after a stroke three years ago, said he would stand over his claims in a public forum.

The families of the victims said the claims opened the possibility of legal action against the British government.

The deaths were the subject of a community-based public inquiry in 2002. It was led by an international panel including human-rights lawyer Gareth Peirce and American lawyer Ed Lynch. The inquiry found evidence of British army collusion in the night’s events.

The inquiry dismissed the British government’s official version of events, which said the deaths were the result of a gun battle with the IRA. Black told The Sunday Business Post that his FRU handler, ‘Mike’, phoned him on the day of the shootings. ‘‘He rang and told me that something was planned for that night, and our role in it was to create the impression that the New Lodge was under attack from loyalists,” Black said.

‘‘Later I listened with him to the military radio until a code came over it, which was the cue for us to start shooting. Me and two other UVF men were positioned in an entry close to Edlingham Street, beside the New Lodge and Mike was in charge. The four of us fired shots for around 15minutes, then we went to a different point at Edlingham Street where regular British soldiers were firing into the area.

‘‘We stood with them and Mike fired shots from there.” Black said that the attack was designed to draw the local IRA into a gun battle with the British troops, who were using a new night vision telescope, known as a ‘star-scope’. Spokesman for the families John Loughran said he was hopeful that Black’s claims could help ‘‘uncover the truth’’.

‘‘It is the families’ view that these killings were sanctioned at the highest political levels in Whitehall,” he said. ‘‘Now that this has been acknowledged by someone involved in the murky underworld of British military intelligence, this must be considered as new evidence. This is the basis for a new investigation into the killings of six innocent men.”

Commemoration to mark murder of Pat Finucane

Friday, February 09, 2007

O'Loan report just the tip of collusion iceberg

Jim Gibney:

It was ever so cosy. Great company and place to have a bit of R&R. A refuge to escape from the pressures of the job. Somewhere to relax in the company of very obliging friends – mates really. They were very protective, generous with their time, advice and, of course, money. They provided much needed accommodation for a night or two to get away from it all, wholesome food and a friendly chat. All pals together.

That sort of commentary you will, understandably, not find in Nuala O'Loan's devastating and withering report about the Mount Vernon UVF. An organisation who moved in and out of the RUC/PSNI Special Branch and Castlereagh interrogation centre as freely as they moved about north Belfast killing hapless victims at will, Catholics and Protestants.

For me that sort of commentary was inescapable as I read O'Loan's report. There was an old boy's bonhomie club atmosphere about the interplay between the state forces and those deemed illegal as they shared cells in Castlereagh or met in unnamed locations to collaborate over the many acts of violence under discussion. It was akin to 'shooting the breeze' with your buddies.

O'Loan's report is refreshing for its frankness and clarity. Its precise, to the point, use of language exposes senior and middle ranks of the RUC/PSNI, its Special Branch and CID and their direct involvement in murder, plotting to murder, attempted murder, extortion and drug dealing.

O'Loan's style of investigation and its presentation brings you into the centre of a sordid and secret world which relatives, human rights organisations, solicitors and Sinn Féin have been trying to expose for decades. A world where there is contempt for life and the law is manipulated to protect the perpetrator. O'Loan draws back the heavy black curtain and shines a beam into crevices and reveals disturbing and frightening behaviour.

In the 160 pages of her report you meet dark, sinister, Machiavellian people in the uniform of the RUC/PSNI who protected, paid and praised UVF personnel responsible for a 10-year catalogue of crimes against defenceless people. Senior RUC personnel who knowingly and wilfully provided glowing references for murderers as if they were applying for a prestigious job.

In fact, they provided the Director of Public Prosecutions a 'get out of jail' card for many UVF personnel.

This report reveals a powerful, elaborate, carefully constructed, tried and trusted system which with ease expertly concealed the killers, the planners, the bank-rollers of a state-sponsored, controlled and directed killing machine. A system which, until the publication of this report, was virtually impenetrable. A system which was a law unto itself, run by people who played God with the lives of individuals they were paid to protect and did not.

The report strikes you in so many different ways, in particular the intrinsic immorality and corruption of the Special Branch. There is no personal or operational distinction between the UVF killers and the Special Branch. There is no informer/handler relationship. There is no 'them and 'us'; police officer and loyalist; no thin blue line protecting citizen and society. There is just 'us'; UVF and Special Branch, Special Branch and UVF.

Even though I have known and read extensively about collusion this report shocks on practically every page.

Most shocking of all is the cloak of protection the Special Branch weaved around those involved in killing as many as 15 people.

The killing of Sharon McKenna screams out of the pages of the report for justice as you read how the Special Branch carefully erected a fortress around the killer which even his own admission to them for killing her failed to dislodge.

Their influence even stretched into the H-Blocks into the very cell where they protected the person who killed Raymond McCord junior, whose father's campaign was to lead O'Loan's report.

Murder files and investigations lost or deliberately destroyed, falsified statements, sham interviews, concocted alibis for killers, withholding vital information, frustrating O'Loan's inquiry – the active hand of the Special Branch behind every obstacle.

It represents the tip of the collusion iceberg. The perpetrators are in the spotlight but where are those who shaped and set the policy – MI5 and their paymasters in 10 Downing Street?

Don’t force the DUP into government

Monday, February 05, 2007

‘Collusion was going on in the early ’70s’

Andersonstown News:

This week’s Ombudsman’s report revealed collusion was rife between the RUC and the UVF in Mount Vernon for over ten years from 1991, but the mother of a 14-year-old-boy who was murdered by a UDA gang in 1973 insists that it has been happening throughout the conflict and across the North.

Philip Rafferty was abducted by a UFF gang in January 1973 close to his Tullymore Gardens home as he made his way to band practice. The teenager’s body was found hours later in the Giant’s Ring, close to Shaws Bridge, with his coat wrapped around his head and with three gunshot wounds.

“That night the last thing I said to him was, ‘Philip avoid being on the main road because they are shooting out of cars.’ ‘Nothing will happen to me mum, nothing.’ But he never came back,” said Maureen.

Maureen is certain that there was collusion in her son’s death, as the area was normally saturated with soldiers and RUC officers during that period, but on that night there were none.

“Andersonstown was flooded with army, and they were in full force, yet that night when I went looking for my son we could not find a soldier, not for love nor money. We walked from Tullymore Gardens to Andersonstown police station and not one policeman was about. We knew there was something happening on the road because there was nothing moving.”

Maureen’s assertions that the road had deliberately been cleared of RUC and British army to enable the death squad to enter and exit the area without hindrance are substantiated by the murder of 17-year-old Gabriel Savage on the same night.

“They [the UDA gang] came back and a boy who was standing with his girlfriend outside the Busy Bee was taken and murdered that night, and his body was left at the M1 at the Donegall Road, and the inquest proved that the same gun killed the both of them.

“So they were able to go up the Andersonstown Road, into Shaws Bridge where they murdered my son, come back to the Andersonstown Road and [take Gabriel Savage and] shoot him on the Donegall Road – so if that road wasn’t cleared, I’ll eat my hat.”
The mother-of-three was impressed by Raymond McCord Senior’s success in achieving official recognition that there was collusion, at least in terms of a 12-year period in North Belfast.

“Not if Sinn Féin had’ve talked until Doomsday would they have believed them, or would anyone have believed me that I know that that road was cleared. So it took a Protestant man to bring it to the forefront, and he’s the only one who could do it.”

Next Wednesday marks the 34th anniversary of Philip’s murder and Maureen has not had any contact from the Historic Enquiries Team, or spoken to the Ombudsman’s office, but she still hopes to have the truth uncovered.

“I would like it to happen because it is something which should be told.

“I do believe that night, that road was cleared and nobody can tell me anything different, but can I prove it? No.

“I would like to see anybody who had anything to do with murder, especially the murder of my son, to come and tell me who did it. I have this awful feeling to this day that I am going to meet the person who murdered my son, but it is wishful thinking.

“I think that from higher up, they were ordered to do that. They don’t go out off their own bat to do that.

“Somebody up there knows all about it.”

SDLP launches all-island economy plan

Election results show moderates’ decline

Troops 'colluded with Mad Dog'

New evidence of collusion in Dublin and Monaghan bombings

O’Loan facing new demands over loyalist murder of teenagers

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hibernian predicts Irish GDP growth of 5.4%

Geoff Percival:

HIBERNIAN Investment Managers (HIM) is predicting growth of 5.4% in gross domestic product (GDP) this year before a slowdown in growth to 3.9% and 3% over the next two years.

The company estimates the final growth percentage for 2006 to come in at 5.8%.

HIMs figures differ slightly from the most recent forecasts - put out by Bank of Ireland Global Markets, last week. BoI suggested that GDP growth for 2006 would come in at 6.5% and that growth would slow to 6% this year and to 5% in 2008.

"The main swing factor will be how rapidly house building adjusts to a level more in keeping with long-term demand. We estimate a soft landing or gradual decline over the next three years. From an investment perspective, the important question is what happens during 2008 and thereafter. We're pencilling in a couple of years of softer GDP growth before the economy recovers to trend. The SSIA effect will have washed through, returning consumer spending to a more normal pace of expansion," said HIM economist and senior fund manager, Fiona Hayes at the launch of the company's investment outlook for 2007 yesterday.

HIM is forecasting consumer spending growth of 6.8% this year and 3.3% in 2008 and is expecting - in line with most economists - two further 0.25% hikes in European Central Bank interest rates to 4% this year.

"We're confident our forecast is pretty secure. In Ireland, we expect consumer spending to be supported by SSIA releases - about 30% of those accounts set to mature this year to be spent - with late joiners more likely to be big spenders than those who were first in line to join the scheme," she added.

Hibernian's latest investment outlook also suggested that 2007 has the potential to be a bumper year for international merger and acquisition activity. It said that the British market could be a geographical M&A hotspot, with the banking and financial services sector an obvious source. HIMs senior investment manager, James Forbes said that M&A activity could spread to the Irish market also.

"At the moment, it would be easier to suggest the company's who will probably not be involved than those who could be," he said. "Barring Anglo Irish Bank and Ryanair, virtually any Irish company is a potential target for M&A activity," he added.

Irish consumer sentiment improves

Sinn Féin can sit and watch intra-unionist bigot-fest

Brian Feeney:

Yesterday's (Tuesday) statement by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair fired the campaign starting gun for the March 7 assembly elections.

The statement is also an indication that as far as both the Irish and British governments are concerned, the election is a two-horse race between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

It is going to offer slim pickings for the SDLP and UUP as both parties struggle to find an answer to the question 'What are they for?'

The result of the governments' posture is to maximise support for SF and the DUP.

In effect both governments are asking the voters of each of the north's two communities to endorse the respective positions of their tribal leaders – encourage the DUP to share power and encourage SF to support the police and criminal justice system.

They think these encouragements are necessary because it's far from clear that the DUP will be able to deliver its part of the bargain Dublin and London have concocted.

Since Sunday's vote Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have both already encouraged people in nationalist districts to report serious crimes to the police – assaults, rape, aggravated burglary, causing death by dangerous driving.

On the other side of the fence Ian Paisley is paralysed by the bigots his lifetime of inflammatory rhetoric has encouraged to join his party.

He has so far proved unable even to convince a majority of the MPs in his party to support sharing power. As soon as one like Jeffrey Donaldson suggests it is a possibility, another one like Nigel Dodds tries to postpone the prospect indefinitely.

Within the party there is a grim tussle going on for selection for assembly seats.

There is a distinct possibility that Paisley will end up with an assembly party opposed to the verbal assurances their leader has given Mr Blair. For those reasons Sinn Féin made their ard fheis motion highly conditional on the DUP delivering the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

For those same reasons both governments are appealing to SF to help what are laughingly called the 'modernisers' in the DUP.

They want SF to move on support for policing institutions before the election: in other words to breach the terms of the resolution passed on Sunday which says that 'only when the power-sharing institutions are established and the ard chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred' will the motion be implemented. SF will not move. Here's why. The DUP will not enter this election campaign with a manifesto advocating power-sharing. They can't, because a majority in their party opposes the concept, and why wouldn't they, since Paisley spent the last 37 years railing against it? What Sinn Féin has done is set the scene for another set of negotiations in the period from the election results on March 8 to the proposed establishment of the executive on March 26 – a crucial 16 days.

Quite right too. Only when they see the election results will they know whether Paisley can deliver power-sharing.

Will Paisley need the support of the surviving UUP assembly members to complete the Good Friday institutions which, remember, the DUP has never agreed? Or will Paisley be able to ride roughshod over his dissenting bigots, secure in the knowledge that seats in an executive and committee chairs are in his gift and that the lure of filthy lucre has proved just as tempting for his hot gospellers as it is for fenian sinners?

The DUP is afraid of its voters so its manifesto will be cowardly, full of bombast and bluster, castigating Sinn Féin as the great evil over whom Protestant voters must triumph despite the fact that not one DUP vote will have the slightest effect on SF's vote.

Only when the election is safely over and the DUP has consigned its UUP rival to oblivion will Paisley be able to contemplate delivering on his political obligations.

Suggesting that SF can in any way help in this intra-unionist bigotfest is fanciful in the extreme.

SF has delivered on all its obligations. How would they join the Policing Board between now and March 7 anyway?

Now they can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of Paisley on the frying pan. There's plenty of him to roast.

SF meet Blair on police collusion

House calls for Finucane probe

Getting away with murder