Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Catholic than Protestant children are leaving school without a single qualification in the north of Ireland

Simon Doyle:

More Catholic than Protestant children are leaving school without a single qualification, new statistics reveal.

While Catholic schools have more pupils leaving without GCSE or A-level passes their pupils are still the most likely to achieve three or more A-levels.

Universities also accepted a greater number of Catholic than Protestant students last year, according to statistics published by the Department of Education.

The figures, which are the results of the 2005/06 school leavers survey, detail the qualifications and destinations of school leavers by gender, religion and school sector.

The results revealed:
more than 40% of Catholics went on to university last year compared to just 33.6% of Protestants

Catholic school leavers were more likely than Protestants to go straight from school into employment – 11.6% compared to 11.1%

two-thirds of Protestant school leavers continued their studies at further education colleges compared to just one quarter of Catholics.

In addition, 3.5% of Catholic children left school with no formal qualifications last year.

The figure for Protestant children was 2.9%.

A total of 7.8% of children from ethnic minority groups, including the Travelling community, left school without a single GCSE or A-level.

Prof Bob Osborne, an expert in social statistics and education from the University of Ulster, said the figures were consistent with earlier data that showed Catholic school leavers were doing less well at the bottom.

He said there appeared to be a gap opening up at the top end – those achieving A-levels – between the attainments of those in Catholic and 'other' managed schools.

"However, previous research suggests that Catholic-managed schools do better for their pupils from poorer backgrounds than those in other managed schools," Prof Osborne said.

"This 'school effect' in Catholic schools partially offsets the fact that Catholic managed schools have a much higher number of pupils from poorer backgrounds than is the case in other managed schools."

Prof Tony Gallagher, head of the Queen's University Belfast's School of Education, said he believed a better indicator of low performance was the proportion of school leavers with less than one good GCSE.

"On this indicator the Catholic schools have also switched the pattern as now, for the first time, there are more leavers from other schools with less than the equivalent of one good GCSE as compared with leavers from Catholic schools," he said.

'Sunday' victim's brother welcomes 'innocent' admission

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A former senior Orangeman has lost an appeal against a conviction for the 2001 murder of a Protestant man he thought was a Catholic

BBC News:

Trevor Lowry, 49, was beaten to death in an alley in Glengormley.

Harry Speers, 47, Carntall Road, and Ronald Craig, 22, Richmond Avenue, both Newtownabbey, were convicted of his murder in 2004.

A judge described Speers as a dominant figure who encouraged younger people and then lied to exclude himself.

Craig, who was only 16 at the time of the murder, also lost his appeal.

Mr Lowry was a Protestant, but police said at the time that his attackers believed he was a Catholic and had been lured into the alley in Harmin Drive where he was attacked.

Appeal Court judge Sir Michael Nicholson said the picture that emerged of Speers, a former Orange Order district master, clearly pointed to someone who was not merely a callous bystander but was a participant or encourager.

Speers did not give evidence at his trial and Sir Michael said: "The only sensible explanation was that he had no answer to the case against him, or one that could stand up to cross-examination."

Speers had been ordered to serve at least 15 years in jail and Craig 11 years. Their appeals against the sentences will be heard later.

UDA prison stand-off

Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British have won their legal battle for the right to return home at the Court of Appeal

BBC News:

Some 2,000 residents were forced out when the British colony in the Indian Ocean was leased to the US in the 1960s to build an airbase at Diego Garcia.

The government took the case to the Court of Appeal after two earlier rulings declared the actions unlawful.

It has a month to decide whether to appeal to the House of Lords.

Many former residents of the Chagos Islands now live in Mauritius or in the UK.

They were evicted from their homes on the Chagos archipelago between Africa and Indonesia, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Lord Justice Sedley, giving the lead ruling, said the government's use of the Order in Council under the Royal Prerogative - powers that allow action without reference to Parliament - was an unlawful way of preventing the islanders from returning.

Lord Justice Waller said the decision had been taken by a government minister "acting without any constraint".

The UK Chagos Support Association welcomed the court's decision and also urged the government not to appeal again.

Chairman Robert Bain said: "The government knows the Chagossians have no independent means to resettle the islands.

"To accept the islanders' right to return but do nothing about it - as it did between 2000 and 2004 - would be meaningless and immoral."

The Diego Garcia base, which was crucial during the Cold War, has gained new significance in recent years as a launching point for bombing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2000, the courts ruled that Chagossians could return to their homes in 65 of the islands, but not to Diego Garcia. The then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said the government would not appeal.

But in 2004 the government used the royal prerogative to effectively nullify the decision.

Last year the High Court overturned the order and rejected government argument that the royal prerogative, exercised by ministers in the Queen's name, was immune from scrutiny.

The government took the case to the Court of Appeal, saying the High Court ruling seriously affects the government's control over security matters and its legal relationship with overseas territories.

Will Chagos Islanders' Return Mean Problems for U.S. Base?

UK Government broke law over Chagos exiles

Britain is continuing to erode fundamental human rights, Amnesty International claimed in its annual report

London's "continued failure" to set up an inquiry into the 1989 killing of Northern Ireland human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane was listed among the reasons for its findings.

The human rights organisation said the UK government was also damaging the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary - particularly in relation to its anti-terror legislation.

The allegations, contained in the charity's annual breakdown of human rights around the globe, focused on the Terrorism Act 2006, which doubled the amount of time terror suspects can be detained without charge to 28 days.

"Some of its provisions were inconsistent with fundamental human rights," the report said.

It also criticised the UK's emphasis on deporting terror suspects or placing them under control orders rather than subjecting them to criminal prosecution.

Control orders are a controversial measure which places suspects under a loose form of house arrest. The report said: "Consequent judicial proceedings were profoundly unfair, denying individuals the right to a fair hearing, including because of heavy reliance on secret hearings."

Amnesty's document also criticised the record 80,000 prison population in England and Wales, which it said was "linked with self-harm and self-inflicted deaths".

Unionists defeat equality motion

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bank of Ireland chief economist Dr Dan McLaughlin has dismissed claims that Ireland's economy is set for a slowdown

Ciara O'Brien:

In a speech to the Irish Home Builders' Association, Dr McLaughlin said he expected 6 per cent growth in 2007 and 5 per cent in 2008, despite a spate of forecasts projecting a slowdown for the economy.

He told the gathering that most of the macro-indicators - including retail sales, industrial production, foreign travel and unemployment - did not support the idea of a softening in the pace of growth.

He also rejected suggestions that Irish economic growth was unbalanced. "There are a number of economic viewpoints about the Irish economy which are often voiced but have little in the way of support from the facts," he said.

Dr McLaughlin conceded the housing market had slowed, with mortgage lending falling to 22 per cent in March 2007, from a peak of 28 per cent in spring of 2006.

Annual house price inflation, currently at 7.4 per cent, has also slipped, according to the latest Permanent Tsb index, and now trails the pace of growth in private sector rents.

"This is a very unusual situation and suggests that the demand for housing has not fallen but that the decision to rent or buy is now biased to the former," said Dr McLaughlin.

He said that uncertainty over stamp duty had made an impact on the market but said it was a "secondary market issue" because few first-time buyers qualify to pay it. The interest rate cycle was a more fundamental issue, he said.

Bank of Ireland's Dan McLaughlin delivers sanguinity on the Irish Economy to the builders as forecast housing output in 2007 is cut to 75,000 units

Economist rejects slowdown suggestions

Monday, May 07, 2007

Clinton Supports McAllister

Irish Voice:

MALACHY McAllister is a Northern Ireland native who is in limbo in the U.S. at present. He fled Northern Ireland after being involved with the INLA, and for years has fought his deportation battle in the U.S. with the help of the Irish American community.

He attended the Irish American fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton last week and spoke publicly for several minutes about his case to President Bill Clinton.

Clinton listened sympathetically and stated that his view was that McAllister, similar to many other combatants on every side in Northern Ireland, should have his case resolved in his favor now that the war was over.

He specifically noted that America should not lag behind Ireland and Britain, which have resolved many such cases in favor of the former paramilitaries. Clinton asked for specifics on this case to be sent to him and Senator Clinton in order to pursue it.

The Belfast Telegraph, however, reported the encounter in a manner that has had many shaking their heads. They reported that Clinton refused to help and was hostile to the McAllister request. Nothing could have been further from the truth as the 100 or so in attendance at the fundraiser can bear witness to.

It was after all, Clinton who ensured that many former paramilitaries were allowed to stay here during the peace process. McAllister, unfortunately, was not among them as his case had not come up at that time.

The Belfast Telegraph, it seems, is outraged that the war is over, that peace has broken out and that people like McAllister now have a shot at a decent life in the U.S. Their reporting was scandalous on this occasion.

It wouldn't be the first time that the Belfast Telegraph engaged in shoddy journalism.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The writing is on the wall for 'Britishness'

Brian Feeney:

On Monday one of Tony Blair's former doormats, Jack Straw, was waffling on again about 'Britishness' – what it is, how it can be strengthened and developed.

He reckons there is need for a stronger 'British story' that everyone in Britain can identify with and feel part of.

What he said on Monday was in fact a shortened repetition of a lecture he gave in Oxford in January.

He cited examples such as Magna Carta and the civil war where people were fighting for 'British values' like freedom and fair play. Total rubbish.

For a start, the civil war was an English civil war in which the Scots intervened and secondly, anyone who associates Oliver Cromwell with freedom and fair play must be nuts.

As for Magna Carta, again it was an exclusively English matter, a deal King John made with his barons to stave off civil war and which he repudiated as soon as he left the scene of the deal.

Who knows why Straw comes out with such unhistorical nonsense? Maybe it's part of the desperate thrashing around in the British Labour party to find a fig leaf to cover Gordon Brown's very obvious Scottishness, now generally believed to be the single biggest reason he's going to lose the next general election.

It may also be that Straw has timed the repeat outing of his sole idea on the subject to coincide with the Scottish elections which take place tomorrow.

Perhaps he was trying to help Brown, who looks as if he is going to be seriously embarrassed in those elections by Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party.

All the polls point to the SNP becoming the largest party and Labour being too small to form a coalition with the Lib Dems.

It's clear that people in Scotland feel Scots and not British, whatever that means.

Perhaps Straw and Gordon Brown, who has also made an eejit of himself proclaiming his Britishness, don't realise it but regularly trying to find ways to describe Britishness simply shows that people don't know what it means or what constitutes Britishness.

Few will ever forget Brown's pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with the English electorate, who will reject him in a couple of years' time, when he said his favourite moment in sport was Gascoigne's goal against Scotland in Euro '96. Yuk. All he managed to do was to disgust his fellow Scots.

What is equally interesting is that no-one, but no-one, tries to include the members of the poor lost tribe here, who are the most vociferous in protesting their Britishness.

Sadly for our diminishing number of Union flag-wavers here, when Jack Straw and Gordon Brown and their ilk talk of Britain, they mean England, Scotland and Wales, excluding Norn Irn, which is a semi-detached part of the UK now firmly attached to all-Ireland bodies in a North-South Ministerial Council and run by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Council.

Needless to say, no politician in GB wants to remind anybody of the sort of 'Britishness' that manifests itself here. All they will say is that it has no place in modern British society: not much consolation for unionists.

Tomorrow's election results in Scotland are going to increase the isolation of unionists in Ireland even more.

Scotland was the place most northern unionists closely identified with, some even wearing tartan on special occasions. Many still even read Scottish newspapers like the Sunday Post. Tomorrow (Thursday) it seems most Scots will vote for a party which wants a referendum on independence from the rest of Britain.

For many who will vote that way their vote will not necessarily be a vote for independence but will certainly be a vote to assert their Scottishness, and reject Britishness.

Do unionists here realise that they have also voted for structures which emphasise their separateness from Britain, that point them towards the rest of the people on the island they live on?

Next month the first meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council for several years will drive home that point.

Can it be long before unionists are sitting in the NSMC with Sinn Féin ministers from both north and south? Can it be long before unionists support SF's demand for representation in the Dail?

SF members vow to go on despite threats

IICD has expressed concern that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had dealt with the issue of its weapons on its own

The body overseeing paramilitary disarmament in Northern Ireland today expressed concern that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had dealt with the issue of its weapons on its own.

Following a statement today by the UVF about its intentions to move away from paramilitarism and criminality, Gen John de Chastelain's Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) urged the loyalist group to work with it to destroy the arsenal.

An IICD spokesman said: "We note the statement by the UVF and the Red Hand Commando regarding their future intentions.

"We welcome and are encouraged by the proposal to end their involvement in paramilitarism and reject criminal activity. We are concerned by their intention to deal with their arms without the involvement of the IICD.

"Without the commission's involvement their action on arms does not meet the requirement of the decommissioning legislation and the agreement reached by the parties in the Belfast Agreement," the spokesman said.

"We are prepared to meet with the UVF representative to discuss how we can work together in dealing with arms."

UVF must match words with actions

UVF stand down - Guns should be put beyond use

Loyalist duo jailed for extortion

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ireland climbs above Britain in European Union life expectancy table

Ireland Online:

Figures released by the Ireland Central Statistics Office on Monday show Ireland moving rapidly up the EU life expectancy league table.

In 2005, Ireland had the 6th highest male life expectancy out of 27 countries in the enlarged EU and the ninth highest female life expectancy.

For both males and females, life expectancy in Ireland is now higher than in the United Kingdom, the first time this has occurred since records began.

Jobs boom, but euro affects trade - CSO

Measuring Ireland's Progress 2006 report: Benchmarks against other EU countries in economic, social and environmental areas

The British loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) has been called on to cease all criminal and terrorist activity

After meeting Northern Secretary Peter Hain and PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan at Stormont to discuss recent threats to individuals from the UVF, the SDLP's Patsy McGlone insisted the paramilitary group needed to deliver an end to drug dealing, extortion, targeting and violence.

The Mid Ulster Assembly member, who joined SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell, South Antrim MLA Thomas Burns and Magherafelt councillor Kate Lagan at the meeting, said they had also sought assurances about the safety of the hundreds of people who had been warned recently their security was under threat from the UVF.

"Any statement emanating from the UVF must reflect the need to move away from paramilitarism and crime for good," he said.

"It needs to bring to a close all activities from drug dealing to extortion to threats or violence.

"Mr Hain was very sympathetic today towards those who have received threats and assured us he was at one with us in wanting to see a complete end to such activities from loyalist paramilitaries."

In recent days the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which is linked to UVF, has met Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Mr Hain amid mounting speculation that the paramilitary group will make a statement on its future.

Northern Ireland's ceasefire watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), last week urged the UVF and the other main loyalist group, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), to respond to the changing political circumstances in Northern Ireland by following the Provisional IRA's lead in winding down their criminal and paramilitary activities.

Over 100 people were warned about their safety recently by the UVF and a man was charged by police following the seizure of documents allegedly relating to the group.

Adams predicts Irish poll success

UVF boss covered murdered informer

Subsidy a scandal

Raymond McCord case on European stage

Allowance may mean party sues council

Maginness questions home deals

‘Killer was controlled by cops’