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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
November 20, 2004
News 11/20/04 - Parties Want 1.4bn For Peace Deal
News about Ireland & the Irish
ST 11/21/04 Parties Want Â1.4bn For Peace Deal
NY 11/20/04 Irish Leader's Embrace Socialism Is Causing A Stir -V
ST 11/21/04 Scottish Catholics Suffer More Abuse
GU 11/20/04 Thieves Take Mass - And Handbags
ST 11/21/04 It's A Drag Being Shirley Says RTE's 'New' Lotto Host
DN 11/20/04 Legalize Partnerships But Avoid Gay Marriage
The Sunday Times - Ireland
November 21, 2004
Parties Want Â1.4bn For Peace Deal
SINN FEIN and the Democratic Unionist party want a £1 billion (Â1.4
billion) "peace fund" as part of the price of forming a power-
sharing government The deadline for the two parties to reach
agreement has been extended to next Tuesday but Ian Paisley, the
DUP leader, has said he cannot recommend a deal to his party, whose
executive meets on Friday, without an answer about the money.
The fund was the DUP's idea but Sinn Fein supports it, making it a
rare area of agreement which the British government will find
difficult to ignore.
Paisley says it is needed to improve Northern Ireland's
infrastructure and would be covered by savings in security
spending. When the Good Friday agreement was signed a "peace
dividend" based on reduced spending on security, prisons and
compensation was promised.
The DUP argues that more than 30 years of direct rule by Britain
has meant that the north's infrastructure has fallen into
disrepair. The water and sewage systems need replacing and unless
separately funded this will result in water charges of about £400
per household — much higher than in Britain.
A British government official said any package would have to be
approved by Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, as well
as No 10 and the Northern Ireland Office.
There are still big differences between Sinn Fein and the DUP on
other issues and the two parties have yet to meet. Negotiations are
being conducted in a form of shuttle diplomacy by senior British
and Irish officials including Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief
The IRA has agreed that, if power sharing is restored and there is
a timetable for devolving policing powers to a local assembly, it
will decommission all weapons by Christmas. The terrorist group is
willing to allow two senior clergy to witness the process,
alongside John de Chastelain, the Canadian general who verifies
Under the British and Irish proposals, the DUP must issue a
statement saying that it will enter government with Sinn Fein if
republicans complete decommissioning and end para-military
Although the parties are getting closer all the time it is unlikely
that the new deadline will be met.
Over the next week a further round of meetings with local parties
in Downing Street is likely.
New poll shows increase in support for Government - David Davin-
Power, Political Correspondent, reports on the details of the
Millward Brown IMS poll
November 21, 2004
Irish Leader's Unexpected Embrace Of Socialism Is Causing A Stir
By BRIAN LAVERY
UBLIN, Nov. 20 - After 10 years at the helm of Ireland's dominant
political party, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern marked the occasion
recently with a surprising revelation - a political coming out of
sorts - that has had Ireland in a spin.
His declaration was as simple as it was unexpected: "I am one of
the few socialists left in Irish politics," he said in an interview
with The Irish Times on Nov. 13, shocking his colleagues,
infuriating his opponents and bewildering the public into wondering
what kind of leader it had elected.
Since 1997, Mr. Ahern's party, Fianna Fail, has led the Irish
government in a tight-knit coalition with a small but vocally
right-wing party, the Progressive Democrats, which has cracked down
on immigrants and taken a pro-business stance to woo foreign
investors. So in the debating chamber of the Irish Parliament last
week, Mr. Ahern's rivals spluttered with indignation, demanding to
know how a man who had presided over year after year of tax cuts
could call himself a socialist.
"People mightn't believe this, but I have a very socialist view on
life," he told The Irish Times. "What is the best form of equality?
It is the fact that the richest family in this area can go on a
Sunday afternoon to the Bots" - the national botanical gardens,
which are in Mr. Ahern's Dublin district - "and the poorest family
Columnists joked that "Comrade Ahern" had wrapped himself in a red
flag that had been made-to-measure by a luxury tailor, and Irish
Times letter writers responded, en masse, with incredulity. "A
certain asceticism and a willingness to allow the masses to use
public parks are not the tests of socialism," one wrote.
The realization sank in quickly, however, that the announcement was
anything but a throwaway line for Mr. Ahern, a well-liked and
astute politician with his ear always - critics say too firmly - to
The statement seems to have had an immediate impact on his
positions, as he sided with workers by criticizing the management
of the state-owned airline, Aer Lingus, in Parliament on Wednesday.
Last summer, Fianna Fail (pronounced FEE-na foyle) suffered the
worst electoral defeat in its history, losing seats in local and
European legislatures to left-wing groups like Sinn Fein, the
political arm of the Irish Republican Army that appeals to working-
class voters with a mix of nationalism and grass-roots issues.
As a result, Fianna Fail - its name means Soldiers of Destiny in
Gaelic - is softening its image and returning to blue-collar voters
who were alienated by policies that are perceived as antilabor.
"One's first reaction is to treat this outlandish claim with
derision," said Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party's member of
Parliament. "But anything that Bertie Ahern says is said with
"Socialism hasn't been flavor of the year for several years," Mr.
Higgins said. "He knew that he would get a reaction."
But even before Mr. Ahern revealed his enthusiasm for socialism, it
was considered a legitimate and functional ideology here.
Socialists won a handful of seats on local councils in June, and
Mr. Higgins, one of the most respected orators in Parliament, gave
impromptu lessons in Marxism on current affairs radio this week.
Fianna Fail's policies under Mr. Ahern, however, "have been
anything but traditionally socialist," said Brian Nolan, an
economist with the Economic and Social Research Institute in
Dublin. Income distribution in Ireland has always been highly
unequal, and the gap between rich and poor grew during and after
the boom years of the 1990's.
Catholics Suffer More Abuse
A LEADING churchman has accused Scotland of ''entrenched
hostility'' towards Catholics as new figures reveal they are twice
as likely to suffer sectarian violence and abuse than Protestants.
Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said prejudice against the
country's Catholic population continued to flourish when many
thought it had disappeared.
He blamed sectarian marches organised by the Orange Order for much
of the violence and called on the Scottish executive to introduce
His comments follow the publication of a report by the Crown Office
which shows that 450 people have been charged with the crime of
religious aggravation since it was introduced last year. In 63% of
cases the victims were Catholic, compared with only 29% when they
were Protestant. Catholics make up 17% of the Scottish population
compared with 40% who are Protestant.
Some 15% of offences were committed during marches and parades
while 14% took place at football matches.
Jack McConnell, the first minister, has identified tackling
sectarianism as an important aim of his administration. He
introduced the new offence and has established a commission, headed
by Sir John Orr, the former chief constable of Strathclyde police,
to examine the issue of marches.
The new figures are a setback for those who argue that both sides
of the religious divide are equally affected by sectarianism.
''These figures are frankly appalling. That at least one
religiously motivated offence should take place in Scotland every
day is bad enough, that almost two-thirds of such crimes are
directed against the Catholic community, who comprise just 17% of
the population, is both alarming and saddening'', said Devine.
''These figures paint a picture of a country where entrenched
hostility towards a religious minority, which many felt had long
since disappeared, clearly remains and flourishes. ''
Devine has written to Orr on behalf of the Bishops'; Conference of
Scotland, proposing that the marching season, which currently runs
from June to September, should be restricted to a single month. He
is also demanding that organisers should be required to give police
and local authorities at least a month's notice of their intention
to march, rather than one week.
''It is interesting to note that incidents related to marches
contribute so significantly to the dismal tally of sectarian
abuse'', he said.
Those most likely to commit religiously aggravated offences are men
aged 21 to 40.
Ian Wilson, the grand master of the Orange Lodge of Scotland, said
sectarian intolerance had lessened in the past 40 years and
rejected claims that Catholics were more likely to be targeted.
''I wouldn't have thought that one side was any more likely to hurl
abuse at the other'', he said. ''Scotland has a problem with
religion and the attitudes that that can cause people to have but
the real problem in Scottish society is our free abuse of
Thieves Take Mass - And Handbags
Sunday November 21, 2004
Nothing, it seems, is sacred any more for Dublin's petty criminals
- and that includes Mass.
Priests in the capital have started to advise women churchgoers to
tuck their handbags under their arm when receiving Holy Communion,
to avoid their belongings being stolen. As well as issuing
warnings, city centre churches are installing CCTV cameras in an
attempt to catch thieves at work in their congregations. A
spokesperson for the Catholic church says the turn of affairs is a
sad day for the city.
'We've had many priests reporting this phenomenon,' said Martin
Long of the Catholic Communications Office. 'They feel it their
duty to tell their parishioners to be on guard. It's a terrible
reflection on Irish society in 2004 where everyone is vulnerable to
crime, no matter where they are.'
Thieves reportedly sit through Masses, waiting for the sacrament of
Holy Communion to be given out and then pounce when people go to
the altar, leaving their handbags behind.
'You've got a good few minutes between the time someone rises from
their pew and queues for the sacrament and eventually returns to
their seat, easily enough time to grab a bag and be halfway down
the street,' said Father Donal Neary, parish priest at Gardiner
Street church, in Dublin's inner city.
'We try not to draw too much attention to it but it is a growing
trend and we rely on our CCTV cameras to protect our church.'
Tina McLoughlin, a parishioner at Sutton church in Co Dublin, where
women are asked to bring their bags when coming to the altar, says
she finds the practice distasteful: 'Of course, you do it because
you don't want to be robbed but there's something vulgar about it
While priests try to stamp out thefts during Mass, in one Dublin
parish at least, robbers have found a new supply of ready cash.
Parishioners at Berkeley Road church were surprised at the new-
found popularity of the statue of St Anthony with young people,
until they discovered that a large magnet had been lodged behind
'They'd been using it to lift coins out of the collection box
underneath him,' said church worker Cora Hughes. 'You have to
think, whatever next?'
It's A Drag Being Shirley Says RTE's 'New' Lotto Host
NOW you see him/her, now you don't. Ireland's bingo players,
accustomed to having their numbers called by the country's most
famous drag queen, were surprised last week to find "she" had hung
up the wig and been replaced by "her" brother.
Shirley Temple Bar, who has presented Telly Bingo since 2001,
disappeared from the nation's television screens, only to be
replaced by Declan Buckley, the character's creator, nominally
appearing as her brother.
RTE and the National Lottery say the sex change has more to do with
freshening up the image of the show than the complaints the station
receives about the transvestite presenter.
"There has been a constant trickle of complaints since the show
began, but it was clearly the same few people who had developed an
obsession," said an RTE spokesman.
"What is surprising is the change in attitudes over the past few
years. RTE's recent evening of gay-themed programming, which
included a feature on Shirley Temple Bar, actually received nearly
as many calls in praise as complaints."
Buckley said: "I was looking for some more scope to be myself. For
television it was a toned-down Shirley Temple Bar anyway."
Buckley, 32, a business graduate from Dublin, gave Shirley her
debut at the Alternative Miss Ireland awards in the George,
Dublin's best-known gay pub, in 1997. Shirley then began to
presented a regular bingo show in the pub, prompting the National
Lottery to hire her for its twice-weekly Telly Bingo show three
Lottery officials say they hired Temple Bar to front Telly Bingo
because they wanted "something new" to make the programme
distinctive. But it has now been revamped, with a new studio and a
virtual reality style, and lottery officials have decided to
experiment with the presenter as well.
"After a certain amount of time with any format you have to
innovate," said a lottery spokesman. "Players do get tired and you
constantly have to stimulate the market."
Buckley debuted as himself on Tuesday's show, and the National
Lottery said it had no calls complaining that Temple Bar had gone,
or welcoming her replacement. She is not being permanently
replaced, but will rotate with her "brother", and should make
another appearance before Christmas.
"We are going to monitor this and see what our players think," the
Buckley sees himself as following in the footsteps of the comedian
Paul O'Grady who left behind his Lily Savage persona to pursue a
career as himself. "At the end of the day, behind the make-up, we
are men, and it's just less hassle to be yourself," said Buckley.
Ireland Should Legalize Civil Partnerships But Avoid `Gay
Marriage,' Justice Minister Says
By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press, 11/20/2004 12:36
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) Ireland should legalize civil partnerships
between unmarried couples, including homosexuals, but not pursue
full-fledged ''gay marriage,'' Justice Minister Michael McDowell
said Saturday in his first major policy speech on the matter.
Ireland has become one of Europe's most prominent legal
battlegrounds on the matter after a lesbian couple launched a
lawsuit this month against the country's tax collection agency for
refusing to recognize their 2003 marriage in Canada. Married
couples can claim a special income tax credit.
An all-party committee of lawmakers this month also launched public
hearings into possible reforms to family law in Ireland, a
predominantly Roman Catholic country where homosexuality itself was
outlawed until 1993.
McDowell declared that the government today was ''unequivocally in
favor of treating gay people as fully equal citizens in our
society.'' But he said the current heavy public focus on whether to
extend full marriage rights and responsibilities to gay couples
''is too narrow.''
He listed a wide range of committed relationships outside of
marriage that the state should recognize as likely to require
reforms to Ireland's laws governing tax, inheritance and pensions.
''There are many cohabiting heterosexual couples. There may be
brothers sharing a farm. There may be an elderly parent being
supported by a child. These may be people living together who share
an economic interdependence without having any sexual aspect to
their relationship at all,'' he said.
He said Ireland's parliament should pass legal reforms that
''formally recognize people who have entered into a civil
partnership with each other,'' regardless of their sexuality, and
allow the surviving half of such partnerships ''to acquire next-of-
But McDowell said the question of whether non-married couples
should enjoy the full range of financial rights and
responsibilities as married couples involved ''detailed and often
technical questions not capable of being easily answered.''
Ireland's 2001 census identified nearly 70,000 households in
Ireland involving non-married couples, including 1,300 gay couples,
in this country of 3.9 million. McDowell said cutting the tax
burden on those households would increase the tax burdens
He did recommend that the surviving partner of a non-married couple
should pay no capital gains tax on an inherited property, a major
current complaint of discrimination.
McDowell said that seeking to grant gay couples full marriage
rights would require a national referendum to Ireland's 1937
constitution. He predicted that an electoral battle would polarize
society and run a strong risk of voter rejection, which would delay
for years the introduction of civil- partnership rights.
He also noted that in Ireland where divorce was legalized only in
1997 following a razor-thin referendum victory cohabiting couples
would be wise to avoid the legal downsides of marriage.
Ireland's divorce law requires married couples to be separated for
a minimum of four years before they can file for divorce, an often
grueling process that can require two separate court battles the
first to reach a separation agreement, the second a divorce.
He said it would be unreasonable for Ireland to impose the same
system on people ending a civil partnership. He said such people
should be ''free to formalize a new relationship'' without waiting
for four years.