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November 15, 2004

News 11/15/04 - SF: Put Children First In Budget

News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 11/15/04 SF Budget - Put Children First In Budget 2005 –V
SF 11/15/04 Adams: Failure To End Child Poverty Is A Scandal
SF 11/15/04 Nationalists Believe UDA Were Responsible For Attack
SF 11/15/04 Discrimination Against Irish Schools Must Be Opposed
GU 11/15/04 Murphy's Law - Bore Ulster Into Peace
IT 11/16/04 Role Of Ex-Prisoners In North To Be Debated
UT 11/15/04 Murphy Warning To UDA
BB 11/15/04 NI Bank Customers 'Ripped Off'
IT 11/16/04 Parties Agreed On Rights For Same-Sex Couples –V
TO 11/15/04 Obit: Basil Mcivor
IT 11/16/04 Dublin Mayor Attempts To Save Bewley's

QA 11/15/04 Is Bertie Repositioning FF? -VO
QA 11/15/04 What's Behind Bertie's Comments On Haughey? -VO

Q&A Panel:
:: Denis O'Donovan TD, Fianna Fáil
:: Richard Bruton TD, Fine Gael deputy leader
:: John Kelleher, Irish Film Censor
:: Marian Mulholland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties
:: Ronan Mullen, Irish Examiner

Question: Are Bertie Ahern's recent comments an attempt to
reposition Fianna Fáil in the emerging left- right divide? - Panel
and audience respond

Question: What lies behind Bertie Ahern's recent comments on
Charlie Haughey?  Panel and audience respond


See video at:

SF Budget Priorities - Put Children First In Budget 2005 -V

Published: 15 November, 2004

We have the resources to Budget for Equality

After seven Budgets of Inequality from former Minister for Finance
Charlie McCreevy the Cabinet reshuffle created an expectation that
the new Minister, Brian Cowen, might adopt a different approach.
Certainly the public is entitled to expect the new Minister to turn
over a new leaf. His predecessor's record has been a sorry tale of
how a Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government squandered the
golden opportunities of the past seven years and allowed the
wealth-poverty gap to grow while failing to properly develop vital
public services and social infrastructure.

As Budget 2005 approaches we have been subjected to the annual
ritual of the Minister for Finance attempting to dampen speculation
about a 'giveaway budget' and reassuring conservative economists
that he will keep the purse strings tightly secured. Expectations
are adjusted downward in the hope that whatever positive measures
emerge from the Budget will be greeted with rapture by a grateful
public and adoring media. But people have come too far and learned
too much over the past seven years for that trick to work this

There is a greater awareness now than ever before of the persistent
inequalities in Irish society that have been deepened by this
Government. This is underlined by a series of studies and reports
published in the autumn and providing a stark backdrop to Budget
2005. They include:

:: The EU Measure of Poverty Risk shows 21% of the population
living below the 60% income poverty line. This is compared to an EU
average of 15%. ESRI report states that the Government will have to
increase spending on social protections if it wants to reduce
relative income poverty in Ireland (Combat Poverty Agency, ESRI,
September 2004).

:: Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative shows high levels
of educational disadvantage, inadequate housing, higher than
average unemployment, high dependence on social welfare, lack of
childcare, and insecurity due to anti-social behaviour. This
mirrors the experience of many similar communities throughout the
country. (October 2004).

:: Vincentian Partnership study of families on low income, shows
that a "low-cost yet dignified" standard of living is out of reach
for thousands of people who are dependent on social welfare
(October 2004).

:: Justice Commission of CORI estimates rich/poor gap has widened
by €294 per week over the last seven years as a result of
government policy. (October 2004).

:: The End Child Poverty Coalition estimates that 66,000 children
in this State live so far below the poverty line that they
experience deprivation of basic needs such as proper food and
heating. (October 2004).

:: Irish Congress of Trade Unions says Irish tax sytem is
"fundamentally unjust" and "biased against those on low and middle
incomes and it does not raise enough tax overall to pay for modern
public services" (October 2004).

The Living in Ireland Survey (2001), which is the most recent such
detailed study, is used to estimate levels of poverty in this
State. By its reckoning over 700,000 people have incomes so
inadequate that they are deemed to be living in poverty. Of these
over 250,000 are children. All the front-line agencies agree that,
while there have been some improvements, this level of disadvantage
and inequality persists in 2004.

The scandal is that these inequalities persist in an affluent
economy. For a decade now the Irish economy has experienced record
growth. Government revenues were never higher. Tax receipts have
consistently exceeded forecasts - up 15% during 2004. We have the
resources to Budget for Equality and that is what Sinn Fein is
campaigning for.

Put Children First in Budget 2005

This is a prosperous country. It is a small country. There is
sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that, at the very least,
no child should want for any of the basics of life and should be
able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of
vision, the incompetence and conservatism of successive governments
in this state have robbed generations of children of their

Reversing all of this will mean a change in economic policy, a
shift in emphasis towards social need and equality. This will
require moving away from the outdated model of annual budgeting and
the 'Budget Day' ritual and towards multi- annual budgeting based on
medium to long-term planning.

The priorities that Sinn Féin presents for Budget 2005 are designed
to tackle immediate needs and the most extreme inequalities. A much
more comprehensive approach will be required to move towards an
Ireland of Equals. In this Budget we urge prioritization of those
most in need -- the children of the nation.

Summary of Sinn Féin Budget 2005 Priorities

:: Increase Child Benefit to €150 per month for the first and
second child and €185.50 for third and subsequent children. Child
Benefit is recognised as the single most effective social welfare
measure for addressing the needs of children. Such an increase
would also assist working parents with the cost of childcare.

:: Comprehensive package of childcare measures, budgetary and
legislative, implementing the right of all children to the best
care, allowing parents to care for their children full time up to
one year of age and equalising women's participation in the labour

:: Immediately extend medical card qualification to all under 18.
Children are suffering most from the disgracefully low income
threshold for medical card qualification.

:: Improve funding for primary education, including school building
programmes and schemes to tackle educational disadvantage.

Income supports for children

As a key measure to tackle child poverty the Government set a
target of €149 per month for Child Benefit by 2005. This target
should now be met and, given the wealth of the economy, exceeded in
the coming year. While far more wide-ranging measures are also
needed, it is recognised that Child Benefit fulfils a key role in
the absence of more comprehensive equality strategies.

:: Increase Child Benefit to €150 per month for the first and
second child and €185.50 for third and subsequent children.

:: Increase Child Dependent Allowance (CDA) to a single weekly
figure of €26 for all recipients. The value of CDA has decreased by
25% since it was frozen in 1994.

:: Clothing and footwear allowances to be integrated into the main
welfare system and delivered in conjunction with Child Dependent

:: Increase the minimum level of social welfare rates by €14 per
week to make progress towards the Government's own target of €150
per week by 2007.

Childcare as a right

There is no more important concern for parents, families,
communities and our society than the care of our children. There
has never been a greater need for a comprehensive and accessible
childcare infrastructure. Yet, over five years since the
publication of the National Childcare Strategy childcare provision
is still, in the words of the Strategy, "uncoordinated, variable in
quality and in short supply".

The Government's failure to ensure comprehensive childcare
provision has negative consequences for children, women, families,
society and the economy. Lack of adequate childcare, including pre-
school, after-school and out-of-school childcare, continues to
restrict the participation of parents of young children,
particularly women, in the workforce, education and training. There
is an urgent need to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy
for childcare provision up to and beyond the completion of the
Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme in 2006.

The development of quality childcare could be self-financing
through increased tax returns from the participation of those now
able to take their place in the workforce and through less
dependency on social welfare.

Sinn Féin believes the government should have the following goals
and should work to achieve them within a definite timeframe:

:: to enable all parents to reconcile their childcare needs with
participation in the labour force, education and training

:: to enable all parents to exercise their choice to care for their
children full time up to one year of age

:: to enable all parents to access affordable childcare for their

:: to establish universal state provision of pre-school for all
children from the age of three to five years

:: to establish universal provision of early childhood care and
education based on the Swedish system

In the interim Sinn Féin calls on the government, beginning in
budget 2005, to:

:: Harmonise maternity leave on an all- Ireland basis by increasing
maternity leave to 26 weeks paid and 26 weeks unpaid.

:: Increase Maternity Benefit to 80% of earnings immediately

:: Harmonise paternity leave on an all- Ireland basis by introducing
paid paternity entitlements of two weeks per child

:: Increase adoptive leave to 24 weeks paid and 26 weeks unpaid

:: Introduce paid parental leave and legislate without further
delay to implement the terms agreed in respect of parental leave
under the Sustaining Progress Agreement

:: Assist parents with the cost of childcare by increasing Child
Benefit to €150 per month for the first and second child and to
€185.50 for third and subsequent children and by increasing Child
Dependent Allowance to a single weekly figure of €26 for all

:: Introduce a Childcare Supplement to be paid as a top-up for
Child Benefit for under 5's

:: Increase revenue for the Equal Opportunities Childcare
Programme, including capital, staffing and operational funding and
immediately expedite all outstanding applications which have been
delayed due to the review of the Programme

:: Remove the cap on the Creche Supplement and on the VTOS
childcare supports, the cutting of which have caused severe
hardship to parents and children in disadvantaged communities

:: Raise awareness of and increase funding for the Childminders'
Grant scheme

:: Review the 'Childcare Facilities: Guidelines for Planning
Authorities' to assess effectiveness of the guidelines and
investigate the possibility of introducing legislation in line with
Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to require
developers to construct childcare facilities in housing
developments and to transfer these to the ownership of the local
authority upon completion

:: Bring forward legislation to effectively address the need for
employers to share responsibility for provision of childcare for
their employees.

Prioritise the health of children

The scandalously low income threshold for medical card
qualification is one of the greatest causes of hardship in our
society. People well below the minimum wage are not deemed to be in
sufficient need to qualify. A couple with two children on a miserly
€260 per week must pay the full cost of GP care. As a result
parents often forego spending on their own healthcare needs to
ensure that their children's needs are met.

When Sinn Féin tabled a Dáil Question to the Minister for Health
and Children Mary Harney on the cost of GP visits she stated that
this was a 'private matter' between the doctor and patient. Yet the
prohibitive cost of these visits is a cause of real hardship and is
one of the factors contributing to the crisis in Accident and
Emergency wards.

It is widely recognised that the most effective and efficient form
of healthcare is primary care, including GP services. To be most
effective these services must be accessible in terms of
affordability, 24-hour coverage and location.

The government is duty bound to extend medical card qualification
in Budget 2005. It has allowed the numbers qualifying to fall to
record lows. It has long abandoned any pretence of delivering its
promise of 200,000 further medical cards but it must make major
progress immediately.

Therefore, in order to target those in greatest need and to ease
the burden on parents and children alike, Sinn Féin is calling for:

:: Immediate extension of medical card eligibility to all under 18
as a key measure to address gross inequality and real hardship in
our health system. This would cost approximately €116 million.
(Department of Health, Dáil PQ).

This call is without prejudice to the need to widen the income
qualification for the medical card. Sinn Féin also sees these
measures as transitional as we seek an end to the two-tier public-
private system and its replacement with universal provision based
on the principles of need and equity.

Equal access to Education

Investment in primary education, including school building
programmes and support for disadvantaged pupils should be the
Government's education priority in this year's Budget. The ESRI has
reported that the State would save €14 million annually if the
Government could prevent young people dropping out of school before
the Junior Certificate. Of course the wider benefits of eliminating
such educational disadvantage and increasing participation in
education are not quantifiable in mere monetary terms but would
greatly enhance our society and our economy. Therefore Sinn Féin
calls for:

:: School Building Programme to move to multi-annual funding based
on a five year plan of targeted investment with the objective of
eliminating the school building waiting list by 2010. It is totally
unacceptable that thousands of pupils and teachers still have to
cope with problems such as dilapidation, overcrowding and
underheating in an economy where construction is booming.

:: Extension of the Early Start programme to all schools serving
communities with significant levels of disadvantage.

:: Increased capitation grants for primary and secondary schools.

:: Increase investment in the National Education Welfare Board to
enable it to fulfil its statutory obligation to ensure all children
and young people receive an education.

Taxation justice to fund equality

It is essential to reform and re-weigh the taxation system in
favour of the low paid and to increase the overall tax take by
targeting wealth, speculative property and corporate profits. By
this means we will fund the improved social provision which is so

Budget 2005 comes in the wake of the revelation that 11
millionaires and 242 people earning between €100,000 and €1 million
per year paid no income tax at all in 2001. In the interim period
incomes have increased markedly, as have the opportunities for the
wealthy to avoid tax, courtesy of the many avoidance schemes
introduced by this Government.

The Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners do not know
how many tens of millions of euros are being lost every year
through tax breaks for property speculators and developers of such
commercial ventures as private hospitals, hotels, sports injury
clinics, multi-storey car parks and a range of others.

In 2001, the latest year for which figures are available, over €1.8
billion was the cost of capital allowances. But the Government has
carried out no cost-benefit analysis of the huge range of such
allowances. Instead it tries to confuse the public by claiming that
critics of its tax giveaways to the very wealthy are also targeting
the untaxed status of Child Benefit. This is a blatant
misrepresentation which only demonstrates the Government's

The reality is that while families on low income struggle to meet
€40 bills for visits to the GP for their children.

The tax system must be reviewed, reformed and restructured with the
aim of increasing overall tax take in order to increase social
spending and infrastructural development. This must be based on
equity and efficiency.

This will not be achieved in one Budget but a start should be made
and measures could include:

:: End tax avoidance schemes such as tax breaks for developers of
private hospitals. The cost of most of these schemes is unknown and
the alleged benefit to society is not quantified. But such schemes
are among the vehicles used by millionaires to pay little or no

:: Measured increase in Corporation Tax, increased Capital Gains
Tax for owners of multiple residential properties.

:: Create a 50% tax band for incomes in excess of €100,000.

:: Take the low paid out of the tax net.


Failure To End Child Poverty Is A Scandal

Published: 15 November, 2004

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the publication of
the party‚s priorities for Budget 2005 said "in terms of Budget
2005, Sinn Féin is today focusing on the needs of children. It is a
scandal that in the Ireland of 2004 we still talking about child
poverty. In many communities, North and South, it is an acute
problem. In this document we set out basic rights and entitlements
- the right to a decent income, the right to proper healthcare, the
right of access to education and to childcare."

Mr. Adams said: "The Equality agenda is the cornerstone of Sinn
Féin policies. Following our success in the local and European
election campaigns earlier this year the equality agenda is
becoming the primary focus of a growing section of our people.

"In response there has been the usual ill- informed and deliberately
misleading comments and scaremongering tactics from various
Ministers and backbenchers in an attempt to frighten people away
from supporting Sinn Féin and our agenda for equality. These
tactics failed before the election and they will fail now.

"People are not stupid. They can see and feel, on a daily basis,
the inequalities that are so pervasive in Irish society today. And
they want them reversed.

"However, despite Government posturing in relation to Sinn Féin, we
have also had the spectacle, since the elections, of both Fianna
Fáil and the PDs clamouring to present themselves as a more Œcaring
and sharing‚ kind of Government. Why is that? Well, it‚s their
contradictory response to our recent election successes.

"But, let me say, if they modify some of their policies or bring in
progressive measures, then we welcome that as positive political

"In pursuing the equality agenda there is an obvious starting
point. Everybody needs and deserves a good, quality start in life.
If every child was guaranteed as a right, as was envisaged in the
1916 Proclamation, access to quality food, shelter, education and
healthcare and to an equal stake in society then many of the
problems that afflict marginalised communities would vanish.

"That is why, in terms of Budget 2005, Sinn Féin is today focusing
on the needs of children. It is a scandal that in the Ireland of
2004 we still talking about child poverty. In many communities,
North and South, it is an acute problem.

"In this document we set out basic rights and entitlements - the
right to a decent income, the right to proper healthcare, the right
of access to education and to childcare." ENDS


Nationalists Believe UDA Were Responsible For Attack On Danny
O'Connor's Home

Published: 15 November, 2004

Sinn Féin East Antrim Representative Cllr. Oliver McMullan has said
that nationalists in Larne believe that the UDA were responsible
for an attack on the home of SDLP Cllr. Danny O'Connor last night.

Cllr. McMullan said: "Last night a number of men attacked Danny
O'Connor's car and home. They fled after Mr O'Connor fired four
shots at them. This is the latest in what can be only described as
a campaign of violence at intimidation against Danny O'Connor and
his family.

"Local people and the O'Connor family believe that the UDA in Larne
has been behind this campaign. It is ironic that the latest attack
came on the very day that the UDA announced that they were pursuing
a peaceful path.

"Nationalists in Larne want the UDA off their backs. Some may have
hoped that yesterday's statement would mark the end of their
violent anti-Catholic campaign. The UDA need to realise that they
will be judged not on fine words but on actions. Last nights attack
on Danny O'Connor's home is unacceptable and unwarranted and will
only add to people's scepticism regarding future UDA intentions."


DUP Discrimination Against Irish-Medium Schools Must Be Opposed

Published: 15 November, 2004

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that the
recent comments made by Ballymena DUP Councillor Roy Gillespie
regarding the setting up of an Irish language primary school is
another example of the party's blatantly sectarian attitude.

Mr McGuigan said: "The setting up of Bunscoileanna and
Naoiscoileanna in Ballymena is long overdue and would be a
development that most people would gladly welcome.

"Cllr Gillespie's comments about the school being divisive have no
foundation in reality but are a continuation of the DUP's policy of
opposing equality. Most people will find Mr Gillespie's comments on
creating division ironic given his party's appalling record on
creating and maintaining division within Ballymena Council area.

"Bunscoileanna and Naoiscoileanna are non- denominational and have a
proud record in offering school children an excellent education
through the medium of Irish.

"Parents in Ballymena should be able to avail of that choice should
they want to see their children benefit from all of the advantages
of bilingualism.

"Ballymena is widely recognised as a core area for the development
of an Irish-Medium pre-school and primary school. This being the
case there is no reason why Ballymena Council should oppose this
move. Roy Gillespie's opposition to both the GAA and the Irish
Language Sector are based on an anti-Irish agenda. It is this that
must be opposed and not Irish Medium Education." ENDS


Murphy's Law - Bore Ulster Into Peace

Simon Hoggart
Tuesday November 16, 2004
The Guardian

There was a statement on Northern Ireland yesterday - no, please
don't stop reading. I'm sure Thought For The Day will be on soon,
so you might as well use the time!

There was a Commons statement on Northern Ireland, and I popped in
to see how things were going. Ulster used to be the cockpit of
world terrorism - ah, those distant, innocent days!

Now you don't even know who the secretary of state is. You probably
remember Willie Whitelaw, Douglas Hurd or perhaps even Roy Mason.
You may well recall Peter Mandelson, who ran the place with the
help of his two dogs until whichever was that year's scandal blew
him from office.

Now it seems to be run by the town clerk of a small Welsh council,
specifically Mr Paul Murphy, the MP for Torfan. Mr Murphy is short
and dumpy and not given to splashy gestures or grandiose rhetoric.
His accent speaks of chapel, and men in Sunday best suits singing
Men Of Harlech.

He is well-spoken, yet as sometimes happens to Welsh people,
English words can present him with a challenge, so that
"particularly" comes out as "padiggly".

Mr Murphy's strategy is simple and brilliant. He plans to bore the
people of Northern Ireland into peace.

Yesterday he was announcing that the paramilitary gangs known as
the UDA/UFF, as vicious a bunch of blood- soaked monsters as you
might hope to meet this side of the Falluja Starbucks, were to be

It's a measure of how things in Northern Ireland have got better
that New Labour has imposed its own jargon upon the place.

Of course the fact that thugs have been "despecified" does not mean
that they have been "deproscribed". A proscribed organisation is a
bunch of terrorists, such as the IRA. A specified organisation is
so utterly bad, so wicked and so evil, that the government will not
even treat with them.

So it's a convenient way for ministers to sort out the good
terrorists from the bad ones. The UDA/UFF have simply been moved
from one column to another.

And what will they do now that they have achieved this measure of
social acceptability? Why, they will "re- engage with the
decommissioning commission, and indeed I understand that has

Even this was a faint echo of more stirring times, when we would be
told that a report had been "commissioned by the independent
commission on decommissioning".

One or two MPs cleared their throats and wondered whether this was
precisely the right moment for the UDA/UFF to receive this signal
commendation. Had they not been involved in the shooting of a
Catholic councillor, only this weekend? Hadn't their chaps been out
on the streets of Rathcoole, in balaclavas?

There was a slight chance of controversy breaking out, and in a
properly run chapel that would never do. Mr Murphy consulted the
Book of Common Cliche, and dampened down the mild frisson of
excitement with some fine, ringing verses:

"We have the words, and now we have to have the deeds to match
them," he said, and you see the congregation - sorry, the house -
curl up quietly again.

"If we can persuade these organisations to go down the right road,
to go down the political, non-violent road, so much the better," he
averred. They would have muttered "hear, hear", except that would
have meant waking up.

"This is a chance, a chance to show the world that there is change
..." he went on, but I won't inflict any more upon you. Thought For
The Day is almost over, and you need to catch the weather forecast.


Role Of Ex-Prisoners In North To Be Debated

  Dublin Castle will be the venue today for a conference entitled,
"Building the Peace: The Role of Loyalist and Republican Political
ex-Prisoners". Deaglán de Bréadún reports.

The one-day conference seeks to build on the commitment given in
the Belfast Agreement by the UK and Ireland which states: "The
Governments continue to recognise the importance of measures to
facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community . . ."

Speakers include: Senator Mary White of Fianna Fáil, the
businessman Sir George Quigley, Mr Wilhelm Verwoerd from the
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, Mr Mike Ritchie of Coiste na n-
Iarchimí (Committee of ex-Prisoners), the secretary general of the
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Seán Aylward, Ms
Mary Bunting from the Equality Directorate at Stormont, Ms Nuala
Kerr of the Special EU Programmes Body and Mr Peter Shirlow of the
University of Ulster.

There are workshops on a variety of issues, including employment,
human rights and the media. The conference concludes with a plenary
session on "The Inclusion and the Role of Political Ex-Prisoners in
Crafting the Future".

© The Irish Times


Murphy Warning To UDA

The Ulster Defence Association was warned by the Government today
that it must "live up" to commitments it gave on ending military

By:Press Association

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said he had agreed to
recognise the UDA`s ceasefire because it was now "holding and

But in a Commons statement, he said paramilitary organisations had
to be judged by their deeds, nor their words.

"So, I will be watching the actions of the UDA very carefully over
the coming weeks to ensure that they live up to the commitments
that they have made.

"The UDA remains a proscribed organisation and the police will
pursue relentlessly any criminal activity undertaken by its members
or those of any other group."

Mr Murphy coupled his warning with an appeal for all paramilitary
groups - loyalist and republican - to decommission their weapons.

The move came after the UDA, Northern Ireland`s largest loyalist
paramilitary group, pledged to end all violence and work towards
complete disarmament.

****************************************** /2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4013093.stm

NI Bank Customers 'Ripped Off'

Consumers are being "ripped off" by Northern Ireland's four largest
banks, a leading watchdog has said.

Which? - formerly the Consumers' Association - has lodged a
complaint with the government over the way the personal banking
market operates.

It says local consumers are being badly treated by the big four
local banks.

In some cases, they are charged over 21 times more than customers
in the rest of the UK.

However, the association said at this stage there was little
consumers could do other than switch banks.

It presented its third "super-complaint" to the Office of Fair
Trading (OFT) on Monday.

It will have 90 days to decide what action it will take.

The complaint is directed at the Bank of Ireland, First Trust,
Northern Bank and Ulster Bank.

Phil Evans, principal policy adviser for Which?, said: "Bank
customers in Northern Ireland are being ripped off.

"The big four in Northern Ireland are all offering similarly
inferior products, leaving their customers with little choice,
indeed a choice between who will rip them off the least."

'Staggering difference'

Which? said the banks paid "paltry" interest for accounts in credit
- generally 0.1%.

They also charged up to 43p each time a customer used a cash
machine, sometimes even when they were not overdrawn.

"Northern Irish customers are paying too much," said Which?

Its research showed a "staggering" difference between the cost of
running overdrafts with one of the Northern Ireland banks in
comparison to one of its "best buys".

Someone with a £500 authorised overdraft for two weeks per month
could pay £11 a year with a lender, compared to £236 with one of
the Northern Ireland "big four", said Which?

General Consumer Council chairman Steve Costello said in its
judgment, the Northern Ireland market "plainly does not work for

"The banks must do the honourable thing by putting their house in
order and removing these excessive and unfair charges," he said.

"The OFT has the duty to investigate this in detail and answer
questions about the market's effectiveness once and for all."

He encouraged people to shop around for a better deal.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/15 13:30:15 GMT


See Q&A Video (17 Minutes) at:

Parties Agreed On Rights For Same-Sex Couples -V

  A rare all-party consensus in favour of the State giving legal
recognition to couples in same-sex relationships is emerging in the
Dáil after the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, backed the concept at the
weekend. Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter, reports.

As the Taoiseach restated the view that a form of gay marriage was
still a long way off, a spokesman for the Minister for Social and
Family Affairs, Mr Brennan, said the treatment of homosexual
couples in the social welfare code was under review.

While Mr Brennan's spokesman said the review would take "a couple
of years" to complete, it would concentrate on the definition of
the terms 'spouse' and 'couple'.

At present in the social welfare code, these terms refer only to
married or opposite sex cohabiting couples.

Each of the opposition parties said last night that they were in
favour of moves to provide legal recognition to same-sex

The Taoiseach's remarks in an RTÉ interview were described as a
positive "first step" yesterday by the National Lesbian and Gay
Federation and its newspaper, the Gay Community News.

The paper's editor, Mr Brian Finnegan, said anything that was
inclusive and accepting of minorities was to be welcomed.

"This is the first time Fianna Fáil have ever put themselves on the
line separately. In terms of gay rights, we welcome it as a first
step in a long journey towards equality for all."

Mr Ahern's remarks follow signals in favour of the concept by the
Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, who said last March that he
sensed a view "right across the Government" that there would have
to be some sort of recognition for civil partnerships.

A spokeswoman for Mr McDowell said the Minister was prepared to
consider a private members Bill on civil partnerships which was
being prepared by the independent Senator, Mr David Norris. "It
will be considered by the Government, absolutely."

Fine Gael's official spokesman said the party leader, Mr Enda
Kenny, and its front bench endorsed a party policy paper last June
that gay people should be allowed to enter "civil partnerships".

Such partnerships, which would be open also to heterosexual
couples, would entitle couples to succession and tax rights in
addition to rights as "next of kin" in crisis medical situations.

Labour's spokesman said the party had committed in the general
election to provide legal recognition to couples in non-marital
relations, including gay and lesbian couples.

The Green Party and Sinn Féin also said they were in favour of
recognising such relationships.

© The Irish Times

******************************************,,60- 1360392,00.html

Obit: Basil Mcivor

Unionist MP and magistrate who pushed for integrated schooling in
Northern Ireland

BASIL McIVOR was a noted figure on Northern Ireland's legal circuit
and, in his capacity as a Unionist politician and later as
educationist, proved a doughty champion of an integrated schooling
system in the Province.

The son of a Methodist clergyman, William Basil McIvor was educated
at Methodist College and Queen's University in Belfast. He was
called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1950 and made a Northern
Ireland Privy Counsellor in 1971.

McIvor entered Stormont as the Unionist MP for Larkfield in 1969
and was appointed Minister of Community Relations in 1971. At a
time when sectarian animosity was becoming more acute, it was seen
as a wise move. As a Unionist in the liberal and patrician mould,
he was regarded as a voice of calm and level- headedness.

When Stormont was prorogued in 1972, he was brought into the power-
sharing executive of Brian Faulkner as Education Minister. Here his
interest in integrated Catholic-Protestant education was first
sparked. At the Sunningdale conference of December 1973, he
announced a scheme to introduce shared schools in Ulster.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party and various fringe loyalist
groups were becoming increasingly and violently ill-disposed
towards the Sunningdale agreement and, by organising a strike that
brought the province to the point of paralysis, they brought down
the power-sharing executive in 1974, and McIvor's initiative was

Two years later he returned to law, serving until 1993 as a highly
regarded resident magistrate in Northern Ireland. He maintained his
interest in non-sectarian schooling and he played a substantial
role in establishing the first integrated school, Lagan College,
Belfast, which opened in 1981. He became its first chairman.

McIvor's progressive ideas often put him at odds with fellow
Unionists. Under direct rule he had distanced himself from the
hardliners, who in their turn had suspicions about him.

In 1987 four Unionist MPs tabled a Commons motion calling for his
removal from the Northern Ireland bench, accusing him of displaying
bias against Orangemen in a case at Ballymoney.

When devolution returned to the Province in 1998, McIvor wrote to
the new Education Minister, Martin McGuinness, wishing him well and
asking him to visit Lagan College.

He was appointed OBE in 1991 and published his memoirs, Hope
Deferred: Experiences of an Irish Unionist, in 1998.

A family man who enjoyed golf and gardening, Basil Mcivor married
Frances Anderson in 1953. She survives him, as do a daughter and
two sons.

Basil McIvor, OBE, Unionist politician, magistrate and
educationist, was born on June 17, 1928. He died on November 5,
2004, aged 76


Dublin Mayor Attempts To Save Bewley's

  Dublin's Lord Mayor has said Bewley's of Grafton Street must not
be given up "without a fight", writes Christine Newman.

In a bid to avert the planned closure of the restaurant, the mayor,
Cllr Michael Conaghan, has called a meeting of interested parties
to examine what options might be open to them.

Last month the Campbell Bewley group said the Grafton Street and
Westmoreland Street cafes were making unsustainable losses and
would close before Christmas.

Cllr Conaghan said quite a number of people had been in touch with
him and had expressed their concerns.

He had also raised the issue at council meetings and in the draft
development plan he had suggested the need for the council to do
more about the conservation of shops of character.

"I'm inviting people to the meeting to explore what options there
are and to examine and assess how much potential there is in terms
of retaining Bewley's and saving it," he said.

People from across the spectrum had already put in a number of
practical ideas, he said.

There had been little done to conserve the urban landscape in
Dublin and Bewley's was unique.

The Labour councillor said: "If we lost it without a fight, we
would lose something that can never be created again."

He felt as Lord Mayor it was his job to bring people together. It
would be a small meeting tomorrow evening with a mix of
representatives from the business community, architecture, and
political, heritage and conservation groups.

"We want to look at it in the financial context," he said.

They needed to know what exactly the financial problem was before
proposals could be put forward. There might be solutions in the
area of rates remission or conservation schemes, he said.

Heritage campaigner Mr Damien Cassidy said the first step was to
try to meet the proprietor to see what could be done.

© The Irish Times

Jay Dooling (
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