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September 01, 2005

Teenagers At Centre of Sectarian Attacks: Orde

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News about Ireland & the Irish

IO 09/01/05 Teenagers At Centre Of Sectarian Attacks: Orde
BB 09/01/05 Youths Clash In City Disturbances
DI 09/01/05 Lessons In Hate (Reminiscent of Holy Cross)
UT 09/01/05 Ex-Terrorists Will Not Be Involved In Policing
IT 09/02/05 Garda Visit To Colombia Still Undecided
SF 09/01/05 Sinn Féin Assembly Delegation To Visit Rossport
IT 09/02/05 DUP Warns Ahern Over 'Colombia Three' Issue
BB 09/01/05 Poll Cost One-Seat UUP £250,000
BB 09/01/05 DUP In Talks Over Military Cuts
SF 09/01/05 Arson Attacks In Dún Laoghaire - Action Needed
IT 09/02/05 Ireland Not A Rip-Off, Claims Tourism Chief
EX 09/01/05 Rip-Off Republic - RTÉ Must Not Cave In To Gov
IO 09/01/05 Rip Off Republic Statistics Backed
IT 09/02/05 Ahern Appears Unrattled By Hobbs' Show
IT 09/02/05 Ireland Ranks 1st For Quality Of Life- Survey
BB 09/01/05 Leisure Facility For Ormeau Site
IT 09/02/05 Summer Was Warmest In 10 Years


Teenagers 'At Centre Of Sectarian Attacks': Orde
2005-09-01 17:20:02+01

Young teenagers are increasingly at the centre of sectarian
disturbances and attacks in the North, Chief Constable Hugh
Orde said today.

During a meeting with the Northern Ireland Policing Board
in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Orde said the response to recent
sectarian violence was not just simply an issue for the

"Much of the disorder on the small number of parades where
disorder occurred we saw was being perpetrated by people of
a very young age," he said.

"In other words what we have been seeing is a trend across
a number of events where police officers or communities are
attacked, where very young people are engaged in criminal

"This, I think, makes it a problem which is far wider and
far more complicated than a simple policing solution."

Orde was commenting following attacks on two Catholic
primary schools in Ballymena in recent days.

There has also been a catalogue of sectarian attacks in
Belfast and North Antrim in recent weeks as well as
disturbances around parade.

At today's public meeting of the policing board, Ballymena
district commander Chief Superintendent Terry Shevlin
revealed that police had identified a problem with
sectarian violence as far back as March in the area.

His officers recorded 42 significant attacks in their area
- 28 of them on Catholic targets and 14 on Protestant.

Of these 18 occurred during a four week period in the run
up to a controversial republican parade in Ballymena.

The village of Ahoghill had 15 incidents.

The police, he said, had deployed high visibility patrols
and had received tactical support to combat the violence.

They had also increased community beat officers on the
ground, engaged in covert operations, and resorted to
technical operations such as using police cameras and
equipment, CCTV, intelligence gathering and forensics to
reduce the violence.

He said that in the fortnight between August 15 and 30,
before the two recent attacks on Catholic primary schools
in Ballymena, there had been only one significant attack on
a Catholic property in Ahoghill and one attack on a
Protestant property in north Ballymena.

In addition to dealing with the problem he had also had to
contend with tensions around parades, public disorder in
the Dunclug area of Ballymena, the loyalist feud, and using
police resources to keep rival nationalist and loyalist
youths apart.


Youths Clash In City Disturbances

There have been disturbances just outside Belfast city
centre, police have said.

Rival gangs of loyalist and nationalist youths clashed in
the vicinity of Cromac Street, near the Markets area.

They threw stones, bottles and paint at each other. Police
and community workers worked to keep the sides apart.

Police were also targeted but the area was later described
as being quiet. Five petrol bombs were thrown into Donegall
Pass police station.

About 100 people gathered in lower Donegall Pass area and a
second group assembled in the lower Ormeau Road area.

Motorists were asked to avoid the area during the trouble.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/01 21:53:37 GMT


Lessons In Hate (Reminiscent of Holy Cross)

By Connla Young

The PSNI is set to deploy heavily armed patrols to guard
Catholic primary schools in north Antrim after a spate of
sectarian attacks.

In scenes reminiscent of the 2002 Holy Cross crisis when
loyalist protesters attempted to stop Catholic schoolgirls
from attending Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast,
heavily armed PSNI officers have been tasked to guard six
Catholic schools in the Ballymena district.

The move came just hours after St Louis' primary school in
Ballymena was targeted by loyalist arsonists.

One room was gutted and ten others suffered smoke damage
after flammable liquid was poured through a broken window
on Tuesday.

Just hours earlier St Mary's primary school in the town's
Harryville district was damaged by fire in a similar
loyalist arson attack.

Children who were supposed to start their first day at
school will not now start until Monday as a clean-up
operation gets under way at St Louis'.

Principal Liam Corey said he is saddened by the attack.

"This is very disappointing. The building supervisor and
staff have worked hard to have the school ready for the new
start. The Primary Seven room and its resources are
completely destroyed. This attack certainly fits in with a
pattern in Ballymena in recent weeks."

Bishop of Down and Connor Patrick Walsh, who visited St
Louis' and St Mary's yesterday, called on political leaders
to find a solution to the attacks.

"In this situation, party political interests must be set
aside and all must be seen to stand for what is for the
good of the entire community."

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan challenged the
DUP to use its influence to bring the sectarian attacks to
a halt.

"Nowhere near enough is being done to bring these attacks
to an end. Yesterday I listened to the MP for this
constituency, Ian Paisley, say that he had no influence
over those who are waging this campaign. I disagree with
this assertion. Most nationalists and republicans think
that Ian Paisley has a great deal of influence over the
section of community that is carrying out these attacks.

"His party sits on forums elsewhere in the North with the
UDA, the UVF and with other Unionist paramilitaries. Has
this contact been used to ask them to stop attacking homes,
chapels, and schools in north Antrim?"

Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan called on elected
representatives to examine the causes of sectarian tension.

"Attacks like these cannot just be blamed on a tiny section
of the community. They indicate a deep communal problem in
the area."

Catholics living in north Antrim have been the focus of a
loyalist campaign of intimidation and violence since the
beginning of June.

In recent weeks, five Catholic chapels have been targeted
in multiple loyalist attacks while four Catholic primary
schools have been damaged in loyalist paint and fire bomb

Since July three Catholic families have been forced to flee
the nearby village of Ahoghill after a series of fire and
paint bomb attacks on their homes. The PSNI, which has been
criticised for its approach to the sectarian pogrom, handed
local residents fire blankets and smoke alarms after
receiving threats from loyalists.

A spokesperson for the Irish government said they continue
to monitor the sectarian campaign in north Antrim and have
raised the matter with the British government.


Ex-Terrorists 'Will Not Be Involved In Policing'

Former convicted terrorists will not be allowed to become
part of future policing arrangements in Northern Ireland,
policing board chairman Sir Des Rea insisted today.

By:Press Association

He warned: "This board will not allow progress that has
been made on policing to slip - nor to become a football
for the purposes of political expediency."

There had been some claims that ex-IRA men with criminal
records could be recruited to serve as community officers
after Sinn Fein endorsed Sir Hugh Orde`s police service.

Sir Des said he was alarmed at the speculation on
Government negotiations on future membership requirements,
even though reforms by former Hong Kong governor Chris
Patten - accepted as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement
- stated that people with serious criminal or terrorist
backgrounds should not be considered.

He told a board meeting in Ballymena, Co Antrim: "That is
the majority board viewpoint and I will be urging the
board`s sub group on part-time policing to reach a
conclusion and recommendations for the Board sooner rather
than later.

"We will not be waiting for any Government settlement with
political parties."

Meanwhile, he revealed that nearly 200 officers had been
hurt trying to keep the peace on the streets over the

With undercover security operations being mounted in a bid
to end sectarian attacks on Catholic homes, schools and
churches in north Antrim, he disclosed that 188 officers
were injured, some seriously, as they kept rival rioting
factions apart in Belfast.

Meanwhile, the international monitoring commission which
was set up to watch the IRA ceasefire will come under
enormous Government pressure to produce a favourable report
next January when it delivers an assessment on the
Provisionals following the leadership`s announcement in
July to end its armed campaign.

London, Dublin and Washington expect moves by republicans
within the next few weeks to begin the process to
decommission all its remaining arms and explosives,
clearing the way for a resumption of talks aimed at
restoring the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly in

It will be many months however before unionists will even
begin to consider the re-establishment of the powersharing
executive and that will depend on them being convinced the
IRA had definitely ended all links with terrorism and

The IMC is due to publish a report next month, but
January`s assessment will be the more critical and any
evidence the Provisionals are still active will wreck hopes
of a new political settlement in 2006.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has already made it
clear the Government will not seek to influence the

But after talks in Belfast with the IMC representatives,
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey insisted they must
remain independent and not allow themselves to be
manipulated by Downing St "as part of the on-going

He added: "There will be enormous pressure exerted on the
IMC by Government for obvious political reasons to produce
a favourable report in January. It is essential, for public
confidence, that the IMC calls the situation as it is."

But Sir Reg added he was assured by the commissioners their
independence would be safeguarded, and they would not be
pushed around.

He said: "They also assured us that they are not limited to
taking evidence from Government or the PSNI, but are using
and seeking information from other outside sources to gain
a more rounded insight."


Garda Visit To Colombia Still Undecided - Commissioner

The Garda Commissioner has not yet decided whether
officers investigating the "Colombia Three" will travel to
the South American country, despite yesterday's insistence
by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell that such a trip
was now a certainty, writes Mark Brennock, Chief Political

For the second day running, the Garda cast doubt on an
assertion by Mr McDowell in relation to whether gardaí will
go to Colombia.

Mr McDowell said on radio yesterday: "I was told at the
most senior level of the Garda Síochána that they were
definitely going to do it [ travel to Colombia] and I could
quote them on that."

On Newstalk 106 he described as "inaccurate" and as "spin"
a report in this newspaper yesterday, that gardaí had cast
doubt on his statement that a Garda visit to Colombia was

But when asked to comment yesterday on Mr McDowell's
statement that he had been told "at the most senior level"
that a visit was "definite" a spokesman for Garda
Commissioner Noel Conroy made it clear that this decision
had not yet, in fact, been made.

"Gardaí are of the opinion that it may be beneficial for
officers to go to Colombia," the commissioner's spokesman
told The Irish Times. "If that remains the position we will
definitely go." It is understood that no decision will be
made until gardaí decide whether there is information of
value that they can glean in Colombia, and they have not
yet made this assessment.

The decision is an operational one and therefore one
entirely within the remit of the Garda authorities and not
the Minister - a point which Mr McDowell accepts and indeed
highlights regularly.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte yesterday demanded an
explanation of Government policy in relation to the three
fugitives who returned from Colombia last month.

"After all the huffing and puffing by the Government and in
particular by the PDs, the sum total of the Cabinet's
deliberations is that a couple of gardaí may or may not be
sent on a fool's errand to Colombia," he said in a

"The Taoiseach broke his holidays, the PDs were supposed to
walk out of Government, the acting Justice Minister, Mary
Harney, wanted the men at a minimum to serve their
sentences in Irish jails. The returned Justice Minister,
Michael McDowell, indignantly summoned the Garda
Commissioner (not the acting Justice Minister) to explain
the orchestrated publicity coup when the men presented
themselves to three different Garda stations."

He said it was regrettable that the three had "upstaged the
Government and indeed our democratic system". But he added:
"The PDs may have persuaded their supporters that they
would have done the devil and all were it not for Fianna
Fáil 'being soft on the Provos', but it is clear that the
Government is united in hoping that the issue will peter

"An Taoiseach has fallen silent on the issue. It is time
that someone explain the Government's policy on this
matter, if it has a policy."

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin Assembly Delegation To Visit Rossport

Published: 1 September, 2005

A Sinn Féin Assembly delegation led by Assembly Chief Whip
Philip McGuigan MLA (North Antrim) and Francie Brolly MLA
(East Derry) will visit the relatives of the Rossport 5 in
Mayo tomorrow, September 2nd.

Speaking ahead on the fact finding mission, Philip McGuigan

"The issue of the Rossport 5 and the way that the Dublin
government has sold off one of Ireland's most important
natural resources is one that effects everyone living on
this island.

"It is an opportunity to express solidarity with the men
and their families, and all of those who have been
campaigning for their freedom and to reiterate Sinn Féin's
call for the immediate release of the men.

"It is clear that many politicians past and present have a
number of serious questions to answer in relation to this
whole fiasco. The role of former disgraced Minister Ray
Burke and successive Ministers with responsibility for our
natural resources, who have given away the rights to our
gas reserves and natural resources for next to nothing
needs to be fully examined.

"The deal Mr Dempsey offered Shell last week in issuing
Exploration Licences in the North East Rockall Basin is the
latest in a long line of questionable deals brokered by
successive Irish governments.

"Protection of valuable Irish energy resources from
exploitation is essential if we are to guarantee the long-
term sustainability and stability of the emerging all-
Ireland energy market." ENDS


DUP Warns Ahern Over 'Colombia Three' Issue

Deaglán de Bréadún, in London and Seán MacConnell

The DUP would break off contact with Dublin unless the
Government resolved the issue of the so-called "Colombia
Three", party leader the Rev Ian Paisley said in London

He said he would be meeting Taoiseach Bertie Ahern shortly
to discuss the affair.

Dr Paisley warned about Government policy: "If they are
going to declare themselves as providing a safe hidey-hole
for people who are in the IRA and support terrorism, well,
we want no talk with them.

"They have been trying to tell us that's not their
viewpoint and so we have to wait and this is the time now
when the Minister of Justice down in the south of Ireland
has to put his money where his mouth is."

Responding to the DUP leader's remarks, a Government
spokesman said: "Notwithstanding the difficulties of the
case, we see no reason why there should not be ongoing
dialogue with the DUP and we look forward to this
continuing over the coming period."

Meanwhile, UTV has reported that the meeting between the
Taoiseach and Dr Paisley was originally planned for last
Wednesday but would now probably take place next week.

A Government spokesman commented: "There was a tentative
arrangement for a meeting this week but the DUP had said it
was not possible."

The spokesman understood this had been "for diary reasons"
and he was not aware that any political reason had been
suggested. Dr Paisley was speaking to journalists after
meeting British defence secretary John Reid in London over
proposals to disband the Royal Irish Regiment.

Speaking after the meeting, the DUP leader said: "These
plans are seen by many as an act of appeasement that has
more to do with pleasing republicans than it has to do with
the security of the law-abiding citizens who look to the
government for protection from terrorism." The DUP
delegation also included Jeffrey Donaldson MP, William
McCrea MP, Gregory Campbell MP, and Maurice Morrow MLA.

Earlier yesterday the Taoiseach said that the return of the
"Colombia Three" to Ireland had caused " quite a ripple in
the peace process", when he visited Piltown agricultural
show in Co Kilkenny.

Mr Ahern said all the legal processes were being followed,
the Director of Public Prosecution's report and a Garda
investigation was also under way. He said he had sent an
Ambassador to Colombia and the Garda were in touch with the
authorities there through Interpol.

"There is a lot of ground to be covered on this issue," he
said. In reply to a question, the Taoiseach said it was a
matter which had to be dealt with. "As you know it caused
quite a ripple in the peace process but that has been but
one of the issues over the summer and there have been
others in the North which have been quite worrying as well.
It's not the only issue," he said.

On decommissioning, the Taoiseach said he expected
"something in the early days of September".

"I know during the holiday period nothing was to happen but
I expect it to come back centre stage very shortly, in
early September, and I hope it will," he concluded.

© The Irish Times


Poll Cost One-Seat UUP £250,000

The Ulster Unionist Party spent about £250,000 on the
Westminster election campaign in which it won only one

The DUP took nine seats after spending only £91,000,
figures released by the Electoral Commission show.

The SDLP spent £154,000, to win three seats while Sinn Fein
spent £44,000 on winning five seats.

The Ulster Unionists said they only spent £160,000 on the
campaign proper, but had to declare £80,000 on a leafleting
campaign carried out before.

The precise total for UUP spending was not included in
Thursday's Electoral Commission figures because parties who
spend over £250,000 have three more months to detail their

North Down MP Sylvia Hermon was the only Ulster Unionist to
retain her seat in the May election.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/01 16:09:54 GMT


DUP In Talks Over Military Cuts

The defence secretary was "left in no doubt" about the
DUP's attitude to the Royal Irish Regiment's home
battalions disbandment, Ian Paisley has said.

Mr Paisley led a DUP delegation to press John Reid for a
generous package for the 3,000 people affected by scaling
down the Army presence in NI.

The move is part of the response to the IRA ending its
armed campaign.

Mr Paisley said "failure to deal with the issues we have
raised will have very serious consequences".

"The government is in no doubt that we will not be settling
for second best on this issue," he added.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson
said the treatment of the soldiers and civilian workers had
wider implications for the political process.

"The future of the home service Royal Irish Regiment and
the way in which the government treats the soldiers is a
touchstone issue for the unionist community," he said.

He said unionists were "disillusioned" with the way in
which the government is handling the process.

The Northern Ireland-based battalions of the regiment are
to be disbanded on 1 August 2007, the same day as the Army
ends its support role to the police.

More than 3,000 soldiers serve in the three battalions,
many part-time.

Troop levels in the province are to fall from 10,500 to
5,000 in two years time.

The DUP delegation pressed Mr Reid for a severance package
for RIR soldiers and civilian employees comparable to that
received by Royal Ulster Constabulary officers who left the
force during police reform.

The party would like to see the soldiers' package also take
into account resettlement and the need for new training and

The party said it would urge Mr Reid to either retain a
unit for RIR members who wish to remain in service or
provide for the permanent attachment of those soldiers to
another regiment on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland.

The Royal Irish Regiment was formed in 1992, with the
merger of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/01 17:16:09 GMT


Arson Attacks In Dún Laoghaire - Urgent Action Needed Now

Published: 1 September, 2005

Following another spate of arson attacks on a number of
derelict houses in Laural Avenue, Loughlinstown, Co.
Dublin, local Sinn Féin representative Michael Nolan has
called on Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council to make
this it's "number one priority". The Sinn Féin
representative said the "situation was totally
unacceptable" and that it was only a matter of time before
somebody is seriously injured or killed.

Mr. Nolan said, "Much has been made of the deliberations
the Council have been engaged in over the old Dún Laoghaire
baths site in recent months with hours of council time
spent on it and acres of media coverage given to it.
However, the Laurel Avenue issue, which is literally an
issue of life and death, is a much more critical situation
that would need only a fraction of the attention that has
been given to the baths debate for it to be resolved. It
just needs to be prioritised.

"Earlier in the year I was told by Dublin Fire Brigade that
they have been called out to the road over forty times to
put out fires. Since then there have been dozens more
fires, with the last couple of days alone seeing the Fire
Brigade called out several times. Only last night four
units of the Fire Service were tackling yet another blaze.

"People are living in disgraceful conditions; the council
owned properties are a magnet for anti-social behaviour and
the current situation is totally unacceptable. It is only a
matter of time before somebody is seriously injured or

"My understanding from the Fire Brigade is that these
buildings were condemned over two years ago. That they are
still standing is scandalous. They must be levelled to the
ground without delay - not only for the sake of the
community but to ensure that the lives and safety of the
men and women of the Dublin fire service aren't being
needlessly put in jeopardy."

Mr. Nolan concluded by saying that Dún Laoghaire Sinn Féin
will hold a picket in solidarity with local residents on
Saturday morning to demand that the Council take immediate
action to tear down these potential death-traps. The
protest will take place at 11am on Saturday morning on
Laurel Avenue. ENDS


Ireland Not A Rip-Off, Claims Tourism Chief

James Fitzgerald

Holidaymakers from overseas coming to Ireland do not feel
they are being ripped off by the tourism industry and an
overwhelming majority would recommend this country as a
holiday destination to a friend, according to the chief
executive of Fáilte Ireland, Shaun Quinn.

Writing in today's Irish Times, Mr Quinn says "visitors are
satisfied with value for money provided by travel to
Ireland, car hire and accommodation".

While he accepts that according to Fáilte Ireland's visitor
attitude surveys, the cost of eating and drinking out are
considered too high, 97 per cent of visitors surveyed said
they would recommend Ireland to others.

"The phrase 'rip-off Ireland' is becoming a dangerous
cliche. It's too sweeping to be meaningful, too superficial
to inform debate and too general to point to solutions," Mr
Quinn says.

Mr Quinn's remarks coincide with the latest figures from
the Central Statistics Office showing that the number of
trips from overseas for the first six months of this year
were up 4 per cent on the same period last year, to
3,095,000 trips. Visitors from mainland Europe were up by
19 per cent in the first six months of the year compared
with the same period last year and the British market was
up by almost 2 per cent to 1,719,800 visitors.

The number of trips Irish people are making abroad is also
increasing, having risen 14.5 per cent in the same period.
While the overall number of trips to Ireland is up, the
number coming from North America fell by 5 per cent.

The figures received a general welcome yesterday, although
there is concern that the improvements are not being
enjoyed in all parts of the country. "We need to look
behind these national returns and identify where the
visitors went," said Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the
Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC).

"ITIC's recent study into the regional distribution of
visitors shows that since 1999 while growth was achieved in
Dublin and the eastern half of the country, significant
losses in tourist traffic have been experienced in the
western regions, notably in motoring visitors from Britain
and Europe," Mr McKeon said. "It must be a national
priority for the tourist industry to restore growth to the
west," he added.

Minister for Tourism John O'Donoghue said the figures were
"encouraging" but also warned against getting carried away
with an increase in overall visitor numbers. "I am aware
that the growth in visitor numbers recorded for the first
six months of 2005 may not fully reflect the experience of
certain regions and sectors," he said.

"It is evident that there has been a shift in the nature of
international tourism to our shores in recent times. The
challenge now for the industry is to ensure that we have
sufficiently compelling and attractive packages to entice
our visitors to stay longer and travel more widely," he

Paul O'Toole, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said he
was "happy to see what looks like the start of a turnaround
in the British market, our largest market and a backbone of
the Irish tourism industry's business, accounting for
almost half of all our tourism revenue. The decline in the
North American market is disappointing, although the
figures do show a recovery in June."

© The Irish Times


Rip-Off Republic - RTÉ Must Not Cave In To Government

POLITICIANS who rail against the damning RTÉ series Rip Off
Republic should come into the real world.

They are on a hiding to nothing if they imagine that by
simply trotting out alternative statistics they can halt
the rising tide of criticism of Government inaction in the
face of soaring prices.

It will take more than political griping or manipulation by
big business to negate the compelling arguments presented
by consumer watchdog and Irish Examiner contributor Eddie
Hobbs who chairs his fourth and final show next Monday.

When the Cabinet meets today in its first session since the
summer break, ministers will be painfully aware that a
record 778,000 viewers watched this week's programme - over
53% of all TV viewers on the night. While the show may not
be on the agenda for discussion, it is bound to concentrate
ministerial minds.

In another development, Fianna Fáil Senator Donie Cassidy
will today focus attention on the Hobbs programme when he
gives an Oireachtas committee figures disputing some of
those outlined as facts on the show.

However, instead of whingeing over the inescapable
perception that the Coalition sat on its collective hands
as prices went through the roof, politicians should be out
there fighting for the rights of consumers.

Politicians are being lobbied by retailers to copper-fasten
the Groceries Order which boosts profits at consumers'
expense. While business may fund party political
organisations, ultimately consumers vote them in or out of
office. Any Cabinet minister or backbench TD foolish enough
to lose sight of this fact does so at his or her peril.

It is time members of the Coalition realised that people
are fed up to the teeth of paying exorbitant prices in
Ireland compared to more reasonable charges encountered on
sunny holidays in Portugal, Spain or France. That is
particularly true of the emerging economies of Eastern
European which attract thousands of holiday-makers from
this country.

Doubtless, what sets them apart from Ireland are low price
regimes, especially the cost of dining out. Inevitably,
such issues loom large in the eyes of holiday-makers.

If high-earning TDs are inured to the realities of rip-off
Ireland, the same cannot be said of tens of thousands of
people caught up in a price web where many find it
impossible to make ends meet.

Admittedly, the economy has performed well. Record numbers
of people are employed and the dole queues have never been
less evident.

But that could change rapidly if oil prices continue to
spiral. Jobs are already being lost in manufacturing and,
for the first time in a decade, the construction boom is
coming to an end.

Generally speaking, price increases show no sign of
abating. In a volatile energy market, a litre of petrol now
costs up to €1.13 at the pumps. Motorists are unlikely to
forget the point made by Eddie Hobbs when he emphasised
that Government takes 20% of the cost of every litre.

Right across the board, consumers are paying more for food,
drink, electricity, gas, health care, and housing. Add such
controversial ingredients as unfettered over-spending on
public projects, plus the numerous examples of taxation by
stealth, and it is a bitter recipe for hard pressed
taxpayers to stomach.

With political pressure mounting on RTÉ, the acid test will
be whether it caves in to demands from Government sources
for Eddie Hobbs to be muzzled in future. If that happened
it would make a mockery of RTÉ's important role as public


Rip Off Republic Statistics Backed

31/08/2005 - 17:16:22

The Central Statistics Offices today backed grocery prices
used on RTE's controversial "Rip Off Republic" programme
which Government politicians had dismissed as inaccurate.

The hugely-successful show fronted by Eddie Hobbs recently
used Competition Authority data to argue for the 1987 ban
on below-cost selling of household goods to be scrapped.

Government politicians, including Oireachtas Enterprise and
Small Business Committee chairman Donie Cassidy, claimed
the information was different to official statistics
compiled by the CSO.

However CSO director general Donal Garvey today told the
Oireachtas Committee that there the Competition Authority
data was similar to its own figures.

Mr Garvey explained that the Competition Authority takes
prices for June of each year whereas the CSO takes the
overall 12-monthly average.

"But the basic story is the same," he explained.

"Over the 18-year period, inflation in the items covered by
the Groceries Order was about 9% higher than the other
items not covered."

The Oireachtas Committee and industry bodies wants the ban
on below-cost selling to remain to protect small shops from
big retailers.

However the Competition Authority and the newly-formed
National Consumer Agency want it scrapped to bring down
prices for consumers.

Rip Off Republic, which has highlighted high prices for
groceries, entertainment and transport, attracted 778,000
viewers on Monday night.

Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin is due to make a
decision in early October on whether to retain the ban on
below-cost selling.

Speaking after today's meeting, Mr Cassidy refused to be
drawn on whether the 'Rip off Republic' had contributed to
the debate on the Groceries Order.

"The Groceries is much more important than a TV programme,
however good it is," he said.

"Below-cost selling affects every man, woman and child in
the country.

"The consumer has to come first in all of this and I want
to create a constructive debate on the issue through the
Oireachtas Committee that I'm chairman of.


Ahern Appears Unrattled By Hobbs' Show

Seán Mac Connell

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said yesterday he had not yet seen
the controversial Rip-off Republic programme on RTÉ, which
is presented by Eddie Hobbs, but would be doing so.

On his first official outing since the summer recess, Mr
Ahern was questioned closely about his attitude to the
Corkman whose consumer programmes have been generating
major interest in recent weeks. However, an unruffled Mr
Ahern said Mr Hobbs had been appointed by the Government to
the National Consumer Agency.

"We, for the last number of years, have been putting
forward very strongly our views on trying to control prices
as best we can," he said.

"In the last three years inflation in the grocery areas and
foodstuffs has been at 1 per cent and that compares well
with anywhere," he said.

"However, we always have to ensure we have competition." He
said anything that highlights prices was very useful.

"I know that he does the show and that it is a show for the
audience. A lot of it is about putting a presentation
rather than being factual, but I don't argue too much about
that," the Taoiseach said.

However, he would argue when facts were involved.

"When Eddie would say that low taxation here is a myth . .
. We know from OECD figures that our tax rate at 30 per
cent is the lowest in Europe, and that is a fact," he said.

However, he (Hobbs) was out there highlighting prices and
that was important, but he hated when facts were not dealt

Asked if it was damaging to his Government, Mr Ahern said
he did not think so and highlighting prices was in line
with Government policy, especially if it brought prices

© The Irish Times


Ireland Ranks First For Quality Of Life, Survey Finds

Joe Humphreys

Despite grumbling about rising prices and creaking public
services, Irish people enjoy one of the lowest inflation
rates in the world, and the best quality of life in any
country bar none. That's according to a survey of 180
countries to be published next week.

The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2006 draws together a
number of previously published and new studies from the
Economist Intelligence Unit, showing Ireland to have the
fifth-highest GDP per head worldwide at $38,430 (€30,837).

Although its cost of living is just below that of New York,
Ireland's consumer price inflation rate is said to be
relatively low at 2.2 per cent last year - three times
lower than the rate in Brazil, and 60 times lower than that
in Zimbabwe.

However, office rents were found to be particularly high in
Dublin, at $805 (€646) per square metre in January 2005.
Only four other cities were found to be more expensive:
London, Tokyo, Paris and Birmingham.

Ireland ranks first on a quality of life index, ahead of
Switzerland and Norway. The calculation is based on a
number of measures including political freedom; family and
community life; climate and gender equality.

On a separate human development index, Ireland ranked 10th,
ahead of Denmark, France and most other EU nation states.
And while Irish people had just the 38th-highest life
expectancy at 78.5 years, they still ranked higher than the
US and Denmark, among other industrialised nations.

However, a worrying health trend was the rate of obesity,
with a fifth of Irish men falling into this category, the
16th-highest rate in the world. While Ireland had the
ninth-highest number of hospital beds per 1,000 population,
it failed to register in the top 30 highest health spenders
as a proportion of GDP.

In other lifestyle areas, Ireland had the second-highest
rate of beer consumption per capita, and the third-highest
rate of colour TV ownership per household, after the US and

On overseas development, Ireland ranked ninth - along with
Switzerland - in terms of bilateral and multilateral aid as
a percentage of GDP. Saudi Arabia, Norway, Denmark,
Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and France filled
the higher spots.

© The Irish Times


Leisure Facility For Ormeau Site

Belfast City Council has decided to proceed with plans to
build a new leisure centre at a site at Ormeau Park in the
south of the city.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP had argued that a site at Maysfield
was more neutral and economically viable.

However, they failed to gain the support of the other
parties at a council meeting on Thursday.

The new facility will replace Maysfield Leisure Centre,
which closed at the end of July last year.

Meanwhile, the family of a north Belfast man murdered
during the recent loyalist feud attended the same council

Craig McCauland, 22, was shot dead at his home in Dhu
Varren Park on 11 July. Police said he had no paramilitary

His aunt and cousin sat in the public gallery to watch
councillors debate loyalist violence.

His family has written to all council members to seek their
support in their campaign for justice.

They saw councillors passing a motion which criticised
public representatives who failed to encourage those with
information on criminality to assist the police.

The motion, tabled by the DUP's Ruth Patterson, was passed
by 34 votes to none, with nine abstentions by Sinn Fein.

The council expressed its "complete abhorrence" at the rape
of a 15-year-old girl in west Belfast on 6 August, the
murder of Thomas Devlin, 15, in north Belfast on 10 August
and the loyalist murder of Craig McCausland on 11 July.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/01 21:52:46 GMT


Summer Was Warmest In 10 Years

James Fitzgerald

This summer was the warmest for 10 years with most areas
enjoying higher temperatures and lower rainfall than
normal, according to Met Éireann.

Mean air temperatures for the season were about one degree
above normal and June, July and August were each warmer
than usual with the overall summer being the hottest since
the record-breaking year of 1995.

The hottest weather of the season occurred during the first
half of July, especially in the period from the 10th to the
12th where temperatures exceeded 25 degrees in most areas.
Summer rainfall was lower than average this year with only
around three-quarters of the normal amount of rain falling
in parts of the midlands and eastern areas.

There were between 25 and 34 wet days, which is below
normal levels of between 30 and 40 wet days. Dublin, in
particular, was largely dry this summer with the exception
of some heavy falls towards the end of July.

More than a third of the seasonal total at both Dublin
stations was recorded in just two days, July 28th and 29th.
The exception to this dryness was in the northwest with
Malin Head registering its wettest summer since 1998.

However, even though it was warm and largely dry, it was
also duller than usual with only parts of the south
enjoying a normal amount of sunshine for the season. More
than 15 hours of sunshine were recorded across most of
Munster and Leinster on June 27th and July 11th, the
sunniest days of the year.

© The Irish Times

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