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April 18, 2006

Hains Reveals Plans To Recall Assembly

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News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 04/19/06 Hain Reveals Plans To Recall North Assembly
BN 04/18/06 Hain: No joint rule in North
IT 04/19/06 Hain To Hold Talks With NI Parties
DI 04/18/06 Reverse Law Banning Irish From Top Civil Service Jobs
DI 04/18/06 Report That Handlers Won’t Face Charges Angers McCord
DI 04/18/06 Opin: Is Shoot-To-Kill Policing Back?
IT 04/19/06 Opin: Some 1916 Fatalities Overlooked
IT 04/19/06 Opin: The Myth Of Our Economic Autonomy
TO 04/18/06 Opin: Ireland's Dispossessed Are Threat To Celtic Tiger
IM 04/18/06 Opin: How Long Before Britain Occupies All Of Ireland?
IT 04/19/06 Forecourt Prices To Soar As Oil Reaches New High
IT 04/19/06 New Microchip Passports From October
IT 04/19/06 Crowds Flock To See Medjugorje Visionary In Tipperary
CO 04/18/06 Former Sen. Thomas Sullivan Dies
DI 04/18/06 Aer Lingus: To Irish Diaspora, It’s A Little Piece Of Home
GU 04/18/06 Ben & Jerry's New Flavour Leaves Bad Taste


Hain Reveals Plans To Recall North Assembly

The British government is to rush emergency legislation
through the House of Commons over the next week to recall
the Northern Ireland Assembly, it was confirmed today.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain told MPs the
emergency bill would enable the 108 Assembly members to
gather at Stormont on May 15th for the first of two bids
this year to elect a power-sharing executive.

As he outlined the plan for reviving devolution, Mr Hain
said the British and Irish governments wanted a locally
elected administration to be formed by November 24th.

He warned if a devolved government could not be
established, Assembly salaries and allowances would be
stopped; there would be no election to a new Assembly next
year; both governments would have to halt work on
devolution in Northern Ireland; and the British and Irish
governments would develop cross-Border bodies and areas of
co-operation under Belfast Agreement.

"Northern Ireland has also undergone a positive
transitional experience but the potential of full
devolution remains tantalisingly out of reach.

"The blunt truth is that Northern Ireland is in great
danger of being left behind as, not only the rest of the
United Kingdom strides on successfully but as the Republic
of Ireland continues to be one of the biggest global
success stories of our generation," he said.

"It is now for Northern Ireland's politicians to catch up
and catch up fast. Northern Ireland's people demand nothing

Devolution has been suspended since October 2002 since
allegations of an IRA spy ring in Stormont emerged.

A new Assembly was elected in November 2003 but its 108
MLAs have never taken part in any debates or committees
because no power-sharing government has been formed.

There have been three failed bids to restore power sharing
- each stumbling over the issue of Provisional IRA

Last July, the Provisionals announced an end to their armed
campaign and last September completed their programme of

However, the DUP have remained sceptical, insisting there
must be proof that all PIRA criminal and paramilitary
activity has ended before they will sit in a government
featuring Sinn Féin.

Questioned by the opposition about possible Republican
involvement in the murder of Denis Donaldson and a recent
vodka heist, Mr Hain said he had received no intelligence
that either crime had been "sanctioned, approved or in any
way organised" by the IRA leadership.


© The Irish Times/


Hain: No joint rule in North

18/04/2006 - 18:51:42

Northern Secretary Peter Hain tonight denied there was any
prospect of the Irish and British governments jointly
ruling the North in the event of no power-sharing
government at Stormont.

As the British government prepared to introduce an
emergency Bill in Westminster on Thursday to facilitate
efforts to revive power sharing this year, the Northern
Secretary reassured Conservative and Democratic Unionist
MPs that there were no plans for joint authority from
Dublin and London.

Mr Hain told Shadow Northern Ireland spokesman David
Lidington: “There is no question of joint authority,
absolutely no question of joint authority or joint
government at all.

“There is plenty of scope for practical co-operation
provided through the architecture of the Good Friday
Agreement endorsed by a vote by the people of Northern
Ireland, cross border co-operation across a number of areas
on energy, the economy, on child offending, on getting rid
of unfair mobile-phone roaming charges and having a single
all-island mobile phone rate.

“On all those issues and many more, there is tremendous
scope for future co-operation and, indeed, much of it is
already taking place but there is no question of joint
authority at all.”

Mr Hain was responding to concerns that Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's blueprint for
reviving devolution by November 24 this year offered a
bigger stick to unionists than republicans if they were
unable to meet the deadline set for forming a multi-party
executive this year.

Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson accused Mr
Ahern and Mr Blair of issuing a crass, foolish threat to
Unionists which was contrary to the concept of any
principle of consent in the North.

Mr Robinson told MPs today: “I hope the Secretary of State
will make it very clear that there will be no
constitutional change (to the status of Northern Ireland
within the UK) as a result of the Provisional IRA not
meeting the deadline that is set for November 24.”

The East Belfast MP also claimed that one of the weaknesses
in the plan for reviving devolved government in the North
by November 24 was its belief that unionists could be
forced into a government featuring Sinn Féin by imposing a
timetable for progress.

“The issue is not to be determined by the clock but whether
various conditions have been met,” the former Stormont
Regional Development Minister insisted.

“It will be determined by whether paramilitary and criminal
activity has ended and that is the critical factor as far
as this party is concerned.

“We want to move into devolution. We want to have an
executive in Northern Ireland but the principle of the
mandate that we have indicates that we can only share power
with those who are committed to exclusively peaceful and
democratic means.”

Both Mr Robinson and Mr Lidington noted the roadmap from
the two governments for devolution had been released in
between two events in which the Provisional IRA was
suspected of having involvement: the murder of former Sinn
Féin official turned spy Denis Donaldson in Co Donegal and
a heist on a lorry carrying vodka.

Mr Hain, however, insisted that it was significant that in
its Easter statement issued last week the Provisional IRA
distanced itself from former republicans engaged in
criminal activity.

Mr Hain told MPs that the emergency bill, which would be
rushed through parliament over the next week, needed to be
passed quickly to enable MLAs to have two attempts at
forming a power-sharing executive this year.

The Assembly will be recalled on May 15 with the express
purpose of trying to elect First and Deputy First Ministers
at Stormont on a cross-community basis and a power-sharing
government within six weeks.

However, if it was apparent that no executive could be
formed before the summer recess, all 108 Assembly members
would be given a further 12-week period in the autumn to
complete the task.

The Northern Secretary also confirmed the Assembly would be
given the opportunity before the formation of an executive
to consider issues affecting their constituents including
water charges, education reform, the economy and the review
of public administration.

Orders in Council affecting Northern Ireland could also be
referred to the Assembly, he signalled, for consideration.

Mr Hain added: “Ministers will naturally be willing to take
account of views on such matters, if they are provided on a
cross-community basis.

“It would be preferable to all democrats that the parties
were quickly to take up the mantle of government so that
the decisions which affect the every day lives of people in
Northern Ireland were taken by locally accountable

“However, in the meantime, I will not delay in implementing
vital reforms which this government considers essential to
the better running of Northern Ireland.

“While these decisions may not always be popular, they are
necessary in the public interest, to put Northern Ireland
on the road to becoming world-class.”


Hain To Hold Talks With NI Parties

By Frank Millar, London Editor

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain will hold talks with
the political parties next week while rushing emergency
legislation through Westminster, enabling the recall of the
Stormont Assembly on May 15th.

In a statement to MPs yesterday, Mr Hain said his new bill
would arrange the Assembly recall "with the express purpose
that it sets about electing a first and deputy first
minister on a cross-community basis and then forms an
Executive under the d'Hondt formula".

He insisted that the latest British-Irish initiative to
restore devolved government to Northern Ireland, launched
by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on
April 6th, was "designed for success, not failure".

Mr Hain acknowledged, as had Mr Blair and Mr Ahern, that
London and Dublin could not force the Northern parties to
share power and that failure by the November 24th deadline
could see government "forced to close the book on
devolution for the foreseeable future".

The secretary of state also laid bare the British
government's belief that the DUP and Sinn Féin would
eventually sit together in government.

Describing direct rule as "a 1970s solution to a 1970s
problem", Mr Hain said: "Since then Northern Ireland has
moved on and changed beyond all recognition. It is light
years away from the Troubles.

"Where once there was economic stagnation, there is now
vibrancy. Where once there was the futility of cyclical
violence, there is now the stability and prosperity of
peace and where once the political landscape was riven by
sectarianism, there is now a shared desire from all the
parties to move forwards and take their places in the
devolved institutions into which they were elected."

The real argument, said Mr Hain, "is when and how".

His emergency bill would allow the transitional Assembly to
meet for six weeks before the summer recess and for a
further 12 weeks ahead of the November deadline for forming
an Executive.

Officials confirmed last night that this temporary measure
reflected the "one-off" nature of the current initiative,
and that the original 1998 legislation effecting the
Belfast Agreement would remain on the statute book.

Mr Hain said the transitional Assembly would address issues
such as the economy, education reforms, public
administration and water charges, while holding out little
prospect of change in British government policies currently
being implemented by direct rule ministers.

He told SDLP leader Mark Durkan he did not envisage "any
new status" for North-South bodies established under the
original agreement, currently operating on a "care and
maintenance" basis. Mr Hain was also at pains to reassure
Unionist and Conservative MPs that "there is no question of
joint authority" arising from the statement by Mr Blair and
Mr Ahern in Armagh.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said the threatened "step
change" in North-South co-operation should the devolution
project fail had been "crass and foolish and contrary to
any concept of the principle of consent".

Mr Hain told him there was "absolutely no threat" to the
North's constitutional position and agreed with former
Northern Ireland minister Michael Ancram that the internal
"governance" of the North would "of course" remain the
responsibility of the British parliament.

Mr Hain similarly upheld Westminster's "supremacy" in
response to the Conservative spokesman for Northern
Ireland, David Lidington, who told him that "any form of
joint authority would be in breach" of the consent

© The Irish Times


Bid To Reverse Law Banning Irish Nationals From Top Civil Service Jobs


The SDLP will today try to reverse a law banning Irish
nationals from holding top civil service posts in the

The party said it would put forward a series of amendments
to a bill in the House of Commons dealing with the ban.

The SDLP will also propose changes to a number of other
areas of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions)

SDLP Belfast South MP Alasdair McDonnell said his party
would highlight the places where the British government had
failed the equality and human-rights agendas “most

“Every year for the last five years, the British government
has paid lip service to a private member’s bill that has
proposed scrapping the ban on Irish nationals holding top
civil service posts. But every year, they have done nothing
to back the legislation and it has fallen for lack of
parliamentary time,” he said.

“The SDLP is highlighting these outrageous delays in
scrapping what both ourselves and the government agree is
an archaic, discriminatory and damaging ban. The fact is
that only 30 per cent of the senior civil servants are
Catholics. By opening up the senior civil service to
Southern nationals, we can make much faster progress to
equality. We will be calling for the government to back our

Dr McDonnell also criticised the British government’s
stance on the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in the North.

“For the last seven years, the government has been talking
about giving the Human Rights Commission the powers it
needs to carry out investigations into human-rights abuses.

“Yet it has done nothing to ensure this. Meanwhile, the
commission has been refused access to places of detention
and denied the opportunity to make its mark through human-
rights-abuse investigations. Our amendment will give the
HRC all the powers they need to get their job done. We will
be putting down an amendment to oppose the British
government’s planned takeover of intelligence gathering by
MI5, which undermines Patten and good policing,” he said.


Report That Handlers Won’t Face Charges Angers McCord

Father of soldier killed by loyalists says probe must
recommend prosecutions

by Ciaran Barnes

A Police Ombudsman report into the murder of a British
soldier by loyalist informers will be worthless unless it
recommends charges against the paramilitaries’ police
handlers, the dead man’s father said yesterday.

Raymond McCord was reacting to weekend reports that
suggested the Special Branch detectives who covered up his
son’s murder will not be prosecuted.

In November 1997, Raymond McCord Junior was beaten to death
in a north Belfast quarry by a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

Three of the men involved in the killing are Special Branch

They escaped prosecution in return for continuing to
provide information on the UVF.

The Police Ombudsman launched an investigation into the
McCord killing three years ago. Its findings are expected
to be made public within the coming weeks.

The report will detail a catalogue of killings carried out
by a UVF gang in north Belfast’s Mount Vernon estate and
how they were covered up by police to protect informants.

On Sunday, sources close to the Ombudsman claimed the
report would be highly critical, but would stop short of
recommending prosecutions against detectives who allowed
UVF agents to kill.

Raymond McCord said that, if this is the case, then the
report “will not be worth the paper it is written on”.

“My understanding is the report will recommend
prosecutions,” said the campaigning father.

“The prosecutions should go to the highest level, not just
the Special Branch men who ran the UVF informants, but
their bosses who knew full well what they were up to,” said
Mr McCord.

Four UVF informants involved in a dozen murders between
1993 and 2000 are central to the report, along with a
Special Branch detective whom they gave information.

The first UVF man, codenamed Helen, is currently on bail
facing charges relating to a serious assault.

The second is the current commander of the organisation’s
Southeast Antrim brigade.

The third paramilitary who helped beat Raymond McCord
Junior to death, has fallen out of favour with the group.

The fourth man, a Catholic, now lives in England after
being exposed as an informer.

Retired CID detective Jonty Brown has provided the Police
Ombudsman with detailed statements on how the men were
given carte blanche to kill in return for passing secrets
to their Special Branch handler.

His former CID partner, Trevor McIlwrath, has also given
in-depth accounts of how the gang were protected at the
highest level.


Is Shoot-To-Kill Policing Back?

Mother of man shot in 2003 by PSNI says officers opened
fire on car needlessly

by Ciarán Barnes

- Striking similarities between two incidents

- Police accused of being trigger-happy

- O’Loan to probe if lethal force was needed

The mother of man shot dead two years ago by the PSNI has
accused the force of operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

Colette McConville’s son Neil was killed in 2003 after PSNI
officers opened fire on a car in which he was travelling.
She was speaking yesterday, the day after the PSNI shot
dead a suspected car thief in Co Down.

Stephen Colwell was hit twice in the chest after officers
opened fire on a stolen BMW he was driving through

The Police Ombudsman has begun to investigate whether the
use of lethal force was merited.

In November 2003, officers opened fire on a vehicle near
Lisburn in Co Antrim.

They killed 21-year-old Neil McConville and seriously
wounded the driver.

Mrs McConville yesterday accused the PSNI of operating a
shoot-to-kill policy in relation to suspect cars.

She said: “There are real similarities between what
happened in Ballynahinch on Sunday and with Neil’s death.

“In both cases, the PSNI opened fire needlessly on a car.

“Both my son and that other lad’s deaths were avoidable had
the PSNI not been so trigger-happy.”

Mrs McConville urged the Colwell family to be wary of
claims that the car Stephen Colwell was driving had tried
to smash through a checkpoint.

She said: “When Neil was killed, the PSNI said the car he
was in had smashed through a roadblock.

“I now know that was a lie. I would tell the family of the
young lad killed on Sunday not to believe everything they
are hearing at the moment.

“There were attempts to blacken Neil’s name after he was

“Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen in this case?

“My heart goes out to that poor man’s family.

“They are going through hell. I can remember how difficult
it was for my family.”

Five passengers who were in the car with Mr Colwell were
released on police bail yesterday.

The vehicle is thought to have travelled from Ballykinlar,
about 19 kilometres from Ballynahinch on the Co Down coast.
It was possibly heading for Belfast.

Last month, the PSNI opened fire on a suspect car on the
Glen Road in west Belfast.


Opin: Some 1916 Fatalities Overlooked

For a gig thought up a few days before the Fianna Fáil
ardfheis a few months ago and then advertised by Bertie
Ahern as the celebration of purely Fianna Fáil
achievements, aside from 1916 itself - the four "pillars"
of our existence as a country, he said, are 1916, the 1937
Constitution, the decision to join the EU and the Good
Friday agreement (Irish independence in 1922 didn't rate,
as far as he was concerned) - the Easter Sunday
commemoration was impressive, writes Vincent Browne.

The city looked great, the GPO imposing, the Army drilled
and disciplined, military music not too bad, fine weather,
great crowds, no speeches and the rioters took a day off.

Not quite the trooping of the colours, or Bastille Day, or
the former ceremonials in Red Square (what a pity Dessie
O'Malley didn't get his way with nuclear power in 1978 and
we could have had a parade of those long menacing missiles,
instead of the empty 1950s army trucks). Highlight of the
day was Bertie's invitation to Mary McAleese to lay a
"reet" in honour of the fallen 1916 heroes.

Also the representatives of "Óglaigh na hÉireann" who
seemed a bit long in the tooth and wide in the girth to
qualify as "Óglaigh". But, all in all, an impressive
performance. What a fine job Willie O'Dea has made of the

But, but . . . ...

As the Proclamation was being read by a fine Army officer,
I thought about the young policeman who walked up to the
door of the GPO on that Easter Monday midday to see what
was going on. He was shot in the head, right there on the
steps of the GPO.

And when the troops emerged from Dublin Castle with the
banners and flags, some of us remembered the policeman who
was the first fatality of the Rising, also shot dead in
that first shot fired in anger in the Easter Rising. And
then the 300 civilians shot dead, many of them in the
immediate vicinity of O'Connell Street.

Yes, I know all the fatalities of that Easter Rising were
supposedly remembered, but were they? If that police
officer who sauntered up to the GPO and that police officer
at Dublin Castle were remembered, how were they remembered
in those commemorations?

It may be true that had the Easter Rising not happened we
might still be part of the United Kingdom with a very
limited form of home rule.

Garret FitzGerald has argued persuasively that had the
Rising not occurred, by the 1920s the scale of subsidy from
the "Imperial" government would have been such as to deter
any movement for full independence.

I am one of those who are glad we achieved independence and
therefore glad of the consequences of the Rising.

But is that enough? Are actions to be judged by their
consequences? Are there not side constraints on actions,
side constraints to do with killing for instance? It is
said we cannot impose our contemporary perspectives on past
events, but by what other criteria do we have to judge past
events for the purposes of commemorating those events? What
would we say now to the widow of that poor policeman who
walked up to the door of the GPO that Easter Monday morning
in justification for the killing of her husband? Too bad,
your husband had to be killed not for anything he did, but
for the good of the Irish people as a whole? If so, how
many people would it have been justifiable to kill for an
outcome we approve? And what people would it have been
justifiable to kill? Just policemen and members of the
British military presence in Ireland, or would it have been
okay to kill a few innocent bystanders as well?

Remember during the Northern Ireland conflict how it was
said repeatedly nothing justifies the taking of a single
human life? Was that all bilge or was it meant at the time?
And even if meant at the time, was it still bilge because
there are some things that justify the taking of human
life, even the taking of innocent human life? Some things
like national independence?

We would not have been too impressed with that argument,
say, 20 or 30 years ago in the heat of the carnage, so why
does it have any currency now? Okay, it might not matter to
have had and enjoyed that one celebration on Monday, and
since it went off so well is it churlish to be questioning?
But why not celebrate it again next year and every year
until the 100th anniversary and ever year afterwards?

Every year obliterating the memory of that poor RIC man who
walked up to the door of the GPO to ask what was going on
and having his head blown off? We will celebrate on the
very steps on which his blood flowed, on the very scene
where this poor man's life ebbed away. Every year
justifying actions on the basis of their consequences.

There was and is much to admire about those who acted as
they did in Easter week 90 years ago and certainly they
thought they were justified in doing what they did. Had
they a chance to look back on everything that flowed from
their actions, very probably they too would celebrate now.
But, as with us, would they be right?

© The Irish Times


Opin: The Myth Of Our Economic Autonomy

We may celebrate our independence, but the truth is that
the Celtic Tiger is an American creature and operates
within parameters largely set by Europe, writes Michael

Commentators have recently suggested that the Celtic Tiger
is the crowning achievement of Irish independence and
economic nationalism; in other words, we ourselves, by our
own efforts, have brought about the fastest-growing economy
in Europe.

Sadly, this is wishful thinking, not merely because the
policy of "sinn féin" (the concept, not the party) was
inconsistent with free trade and any form of globalisation.
It is also incorrect because our rapid growth has
everything to do with US multinational investment in
Ireland and hardly anything to do with our own domestic
activities, which tend to be low-tech, sheltered and

On the face of it, Ireland does seem to have lost more
autonomy than most other countries to the point where we
have very little influence on our economic destiny.
Decisions in Europe have had powerful effects - not always
for the better - on Irish agriculture, fishing and
industry. Structural and cohesion funds have impacted on
agriculture and infrastructure. Other forms of European
legislation have had a pronounced influence on our social,
legal and foreign policies. These, in turn, have had
indirect effects on the economy.

Many pundits thought breaking the link with sterling was an
act of growing economic independence. One commentator at
the time felt that it was the financial equivalent of the
Easter Rising. But it didn't last very long. We went into
the European Monetary Union, which meant we no longer had
an exchange rate to call our own, or even a currency. It
goes without saying that we cannot devalue or revalue the
euro. We have no control over interest rates and it is well
accepted in official circles that interest rates should
have been much higher here than in Europe because of the
overheating property sector, higher inflation, and so on.
Senior policymakers were quite reluctant about Ireland
joining EMU while the UK stayed out. In the event, we went
from the UK currency union to the European currency union
with hardly time to draw breath. In retrospect, it seems
prospects for Ireland successfully fielding an independent
currency were not rated very highly.

While the EU hasn't got around to harmonising tax rates, it
has considerable and growing influence in that area. While
it was easy for finance ministers to offer up central banks
on the altar of European unification, it was and is another
matter for them to cede fiscal autonomy to the centre. No
minister wants to go to Brussels to have his budget
approved. But a lot has already been centralised in the
fiscal area: for example, the budget deficit provisions,
under which Ireland has already been sanctioned, although
some of the bigger countries were let off with a caution.
Ireland has recently been prevented by Brussels from grant-
aiding multinational companies here. It is likely that
fiscal harmonisation will proceed further over coming
years, possibly on a two-track basis, and could encroach
into the sensitive area of corporate tax rates.

As much as 80 per cent of "Irish" manufactured output comes
from multinational companies located here. Allowing for
multiplier effects, it is likely that over half our annual
growth rate is attributable to decisions made abroad - in
America, Europe, Japan and the UK, with the latter
increasingly important in multiple retailing throughout
Ireland. An even more striking example of economic
dependence is the fact that a relatively small number of
foreign companies located here account for over 60 per cent
of our merchandise exports.

We provide the labour and the tax incentives but all
important entrepreneurial decisions are made abroad,
including, of course, decisions about relocation based on
competitiveness. The Celtic Tiger is not Celtic at all;
paternity can be claimed by the US.

People used to complain about the IDA hoarding in Dublin
airport which showed a TCD class of fresh-faced graduates
over the caption, "We're the Young Europeans. Employ us
before we employ you."

The complaint was based on the fact that by the time the
hoarding was erected, half that class had emigrated. While
that criticism would, thankfully, not be relevant today,
the other "message" of the ad is still valid, ie we may be
good workers but we do not aspire to entrepreneurship or to
owning our own businesses. In other words, we seem to be
content with the notion that important decisions about job
creation (and destruction) continue to be made abroad.

Some might contend that we retain autonomy in respect of
the annual budget and social partnership. These two events
are, however, marginal in terms of overall economic policy.
The budget is constrained by European rules and regulations
and is, in any case, a rather limited exercise in
redistribution, despite all the discussion that surrounds
it. Where spending on infrastructure is concerned, and this
is a matter for domestic decision-making, the results leave
much to be desired.

Social partnership has very little effect on actual wages.
Some years ago market forces gave rise to wage increases of
over 6 per cent on average. The agreed partnership figure
for that year was only about 3 per cent. Everyone said
there was some drift that year. It wasn't drift. The
buoyant market determined an outcome that greatly exceeded
the norm. The national agreement was and is largely
redundant and will always be overruled by the market,
unless the social partners happen, by coincidence, to fix
on a figure that the market is going to deliver anyway.
Remember also that the multinationals and a large swathe of
the private sector are essentially outside the process.

Since our exports and imports add up to a figure which is a
massive 170 per cent of GNP, we are at the mercy of world
trade - and of international capital flows, including US

At the risk of oversimplifying, we've given away our
demand-side policies to the EU and our supply-side policies
to the US, leaving us with very little autonomy indeed.

Like the curate's egg, this isn't all bad. When the world
economy, and particularly the US, is doing well we will do
very well. In this regard, the "Celtic" Tiger period
coincided with an unprecedented sustained growth
performance in the US. Many influences coming from the US
and EU are helpful but there are a number of downsides, the
most pervasive of which is complacency induced by extensive
reliance on US entrepreneurship and research and
development. We have become, like Blanche DuBois, dependant
on "the kindness of strangers".

Perhaps the most serious downside is the risk of becoming a
client of the superpower. A recent example of this is the
permission given to the US to use Shannon airport for troop
movements. We depend so much on American goodwill that we
cannot afford to have a foreign policy of our own, even on
important matters such as war.

The assimilation of US industry implies the assimilation of
American culture and values up to a point. We see this all
around us in our daily lives. It is probably no coincidence
that the distribution of income here is probably closer to
that in America than it has ever been in the past. This
reflects the American economic philosophy of unrestrained
capitalism which, broadly speaking, we have also adopted.

There are probably about 10 or 12 multinational companies
in Ireland that could exercise extraordinary leverage over
an Irish government. If any one of these companies pulled
out of Ireland, the economic consequences for employment
and growth would be so severe that any government would
probably fall. Such power is unhealthy in a democracy.

The EU may move to harmonise corporate tax rates at some
stage or the US might rethink its policy on international
tax agreements. A large part of the tax which our
Government gets has been rerouted away from governments
ofother jurisdictions. In absolute terms, the amounts of
tax lost to other governments are low enough to be below
their radar, though very important to us. The day may come,
however, when these tax losses may begin to attract the
attention of other countries. The EU and US, our two
mentors, could begin to pull in opposite directions,
creating a dilemma for us. An example of this was the
recent withdrawal of grants to US multinationals, based on
an EU directive. The world trade talks could also give rise
to a difference of opinion between the two power blocks,
thus forcing Ireland to choose between them. What if the EU
pressures us to implement more egalitarian policies while
America continues to espouse an aggressive form of
capitalism? If forced to choose between Berlin and Boston,
what do we do?

Economic nationalism is probably not a viable concept
nowadays in a globalised world, but Ireland seems to have
less autonomy than most other countries, given our
dependence on world trade, international capital flows, US
investment, and EU policy decisions. This does not mean we
are heading for trouble, but it does mean we should not
delude ourselves into thinking that a policy of "sinn féin"
has worked, or that we can fix things if the world goes
into recession.

It is important to understand that, although we have good
relations with the EU, including Britain, and with the US,
the world does not owe us a living.

It is essential that we maintain competitiveness and that
we seek to become an important niche player on the world

There is also the question of additional unification of
Europe. Maybe an EU constitution is a step too far.

As we began to lose autonomy, and as the scope for domestic
policy action shrank, the economy began to perform
extremely well. The other side of that coin is that when we
did have considerable control of our own destiny, the
economy virtually stagnated. The inference is clear enough.
The leaders of 1916 would have expected us to do more with
the freedom they won for us.

Michael Casey is a former chief economist with the Central

© The Irish Times


Opin: Ireland's Dispossessed Are Real Threat To Celtic Tiger

European Briefing by Carl Mortished

THERE were two Easter parades in Dublin last weekend. The
first military parade for more than three decades to mark
the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule was well
attended (it didn’t rain) and even the doubters proclaimed
it tasteful and inclusive, with Britain’s Ambassador on the
reviewing stand.

It was a triumph for the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s strategy
of pulling the ceremonial rug from under Sinn Fein, a party
whose recent electoral success in the Irish Republic poses
a threat to the political and financial establishment. Mr
Ahern wants to steal Sinn Fein’s republican clothes — but
even Sinn Fein realises that the real Irish debate has
moved on.

The question today is not whether politicians stand
metaphorically shoulder to shoulder with the rebels of
1916, but whether they are a part of the new Ireland of tax
havens, million-euro homes and rampant consumerism.

Sinn Fein’s Easter march, held a day before the official
Sunday parade, was an unprepossessing affair. A few
hundred-strong, clad in cheap tracksuits, black berets and
dark glasses, they looked embarrassing as they drummed and
whistled their way past chic boutiques, bemused tourists
and sated shoppers.

The Sinn Fein banners bore the usual 1916 nationalism, but
the marchers’ unspoken complaint is that the Celtic Tiger
has passed them by. Ireland is rich — unemployment is 4.5
per cent, half the European Union average, and its income
per capita is higher than the UK’s and on a par with
Sweden’s. Yet the new wealth of this land of tax
accountants, offshore assembly plants and financial
intermediaries does not trickle down easily to the poor.

More worrying is evidence of Ireland’s dependence on the
screwdriver plants of foreign multinationals to create jobs
and pay bills. A recent study by economists at Trinity
College, Dublin, of the effect of globalisation on the
Irish economy revealed that American companies accounted
for 77 per cent of the Republic’s total exports, with
domestic-owned firms accounting for less than a tenth of
the total. Moreover, in 2002 foreign multinational
investors paid €2.6 billion in corporation taxes to the
Irish Government, 56 per cent of the total paid by
companies in that year and almost 10 per cent of all tax

That would hardly matter if one believed that Microsoft,
Hewlett-Packard and GlaxoSmithKline were in thrall to the
unrivalled skill and productivity of Irish workers or, at
the very least, retained an extraordinary affection for
Ireland’s climate and cuisine.

The study, by Philip Lane and Frances Ruane, suggests that
foreign investors may be drawn for pecuniary reasons. The
foreign multinationals earned a yield of 17.5 per cent on
their Irish investments in 2003, more than twice the rate
of profitability scored by Irish firms investing money
overseas. The economists reckon that the enviable rate of
return scored on Irish investments is in part due to an
overstatement of profits, “the result of the tax-planning
activities of multinational corporations, in recognition of
Ireland’s status as a low-tax regime”.

To put it bluntly, US corporations are exporting profits to
Ireland, transferring by a simple process of book-keeping
the locus of added-value in the sale of a computer,
reckoning that Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate
makes it a more rewarding profit centre than the US or most
European countries, including Britain.

This is not sustainable and the Irish Treasury’s golden
goose could be strangled more quickly than Common
Agricultural Policy subsidies. Even among Irish-American
senators in Washington, such a huge subsidy to a foreign
government will not stand. What will happen to Dublin’s
smart set, the bankers and lawyers and the shoppers at
Brown Thomas, an establishment so chic that it makes
Selfridges look tawdry? They will survive, but for Mr
Ahern, the real worry must be the one in ten who vote Sinn
Fein. Their numbers will grow.


Opin: How Long Before Britain Occupies All Of Ireland Again
Due To Climate Chaos And Peak Oil?

National Anti-Capitalism Opinion/Analysis Tuesday
April 18, 2006 14:41 by Terence - None

Is Britain finished with Ireland? No.

In this article the case is made that once the disastrous
consequences of Climate Change and Peak Oil begin to bite
that Great Britain will almost certainly re-invade the
whole of Ireland again to gain access to our land and
agricultural resources to help either supply the mainland
and also to transfer some of it's population here. The
timeline for this could be within the next decade or so.
And why Ireland? Quite simply because we are so near. Why
not? And how ironic it would be if this happened to occur
in 2016?

Outline map of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales

In a recent speech by the UK Defense Secretary John Reid in
Chatham House, London, -reported here he
outlined how climate change and dwindling natural resources
(code for Peak Oil) were combining to increase the
likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy
because Climate change will make scarce resources, clean
water, viable agricultural land even scarcer and this will
make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than
less likely.

In the last year or two especially since the publication of
the Pentagon report (“An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and
Its Implications for United States National Security”) the
possibility of chaotic and disastrous effects of Climate
Change has been occupying the minds of the military and
various governments and quite clearly John Reid's speech
was the first major public outing of the UK's thoughts on
it. And what's being discovered is that this is not a
subject for the namby pamby hippies and greens but that it
has political and social consequences too. Perhaps it's a
pity they didn't realize that about 30 years ago when they
were told these things were on the medium term horizon
during the Club of Rome days in 1972.

The net result is that they see the developing world
sinking quite rapidly into all sorts of major conflicts and
strife where the effects of Global Warming are even greater
than at temperate latitudes because in most of those
countries they already have huge populations and severe
water shortages and problems with rapidly eroding soils.

Reid acknowledged though that the more developed countries
would not likely be spared from these same damaging and
destabilizing effects. He may have been indirectly saying
that if problem become so bad elsewhere it could effect the
supply of food and other stuffs. In this era of cheap oil,
Great Britain whose population is 60 million is quite
obviously way over populated, has an ecological footprint
much bigger than the UK itself. Cheap oil and the still
functioning climate and ecosystem elsewhere allows the UK
to draw it's resources from all around the world to
maintain itself. If and when even some of these supply
lines get cut off and considering it looks like 2005 was
the year of Peak Oil, then the UK will have to look closer
to home. And that is why I suggest that it will soon make
sense to re-occupy Ireland again and to make use of it's
resources to help solve or ease it's own problems at home.
It's quite likely the British establishment and military
are aware that this option or scenario could well arise
considering Reid specifically stated that no society
however affluent would escape involvement in these

The UK is now so heavily urbanised that it is difficult to
see how if it had to, it could feed it's own population
without some gigantic effort to remould the entire system
there. It should be noted that North Sea oil already peaked
back in 1999 and production has dropped some 25% since
then. It's gas fields are in decline and it is now turning
to Russia for supplies. But the key point is that
industrial agriculture is heavily dependent on plentiful
supplies of cheap fossil fuel. Without these the migration
from the land will have to be reversed, because although
organic farming could probably ultimately do the job, it
will require far more people living on the land and the
configuration of urban Britain makes that a difficult
switch. It would be far easier to increase the supply of
food from Ireland. And as global crisis gets worse as
Climate Change becomes Climate Chaos, the relatively
plentiful supply of farmland, outside of the sprawl of
Dublin at least, will be a useful dumping ground and
granary for it's surplus population.

In the early stages greatly increased trading might suffice
but as difficulties mounted and tensions were rising
everywhere and supposing for a moment the government here
was reluctant to sell enough output or it felt the terms
were increasingly unfavourable then the point must surely
come when it would be time to dispatch the troops.

Yet another fact to note is that within 15 years the Corrib
Gas field which was effectively stolen from the Irish
people through a series of undemocratic manoeuvres by
successive corrupt Irish politicians, will be depleted
assuming it were to start production soon. Then we will be
entirely dependent on gas pipelines connecting us to the UK
and from there onwards to the last dregs of gas in the
North Sea or onward to Europe and Russia. In the manner of
the recent game of hardball by Putin with natural gas to
Ukraine, the UK will have a nice leverage to strong arm
what it wants from Ireland. From it's point of view it
would be best to get as much from here for the least amount
of effort and resources, although in time the gas lever may
not be sufficient. This argument alone is reason enough why
the Corrib field should be taken back off Shell et al and
given to the people of Ireland to use wisely and sparingly
so that it can last us far more than 15 years which is
presumably based on the assumption of sucking it dry as
quick as possible.

And what are the chances of us resisting another English
invasion? That of course is difficult to say and depends
largely on how it comes about, the way it is done and the
resources it puts into it and not least how desperate it
is. This raises the question of what should we, as a
country being doing about this now and should we even
bother to resist. To anyone on the Left or Green it is
obvious that we should be heading towards cooperation and
working together with the Brits that is, repairing the
environment, helping to mitigate Climate change and
building a sustainable and equitable future. Only by that
means can we possibly avoid conflict.

But first lets see how desperate the Brits might get. The
population of the Ireland including Northern Ireland is
about 5.5 million (4 m + 1.5 m) and covers an area of
approximately 32,000 square miles. The population of the UK
is 60 million with an area 89,400 sq mi. However at least
half of Scotland at 30,000 sq mi is composed of largely
unproductive uplands and peat which must surely mean the
effective UK area is closer to around 75,000 sq mi or a
little over double that of Ireland. During the famine in
Ireland in the late 1840s the population was around 8
million and the land was pretty much intensely farmed. The
famine of course though was due more to the effects of
capitalism even back then, because at the time parliament
was insistent that the free market should prevail and no
help was given to the Irish until a few years after the
start. However it is probably reasonable to assume that we
were close to our sustainable population level then. So if
it is say 8 to 10 million for Ireland, then it can not be
far more than double that for the UK giving a figure
between 16 to 20+ million. These figures it turns out are
in rough agreement of those from the Optimum Population
Trust who give figures of 8 and 29 million respectively for
modest lifestyle standards. (See ).
Rounding 29m to 30m, that still leaves 30m too many for the
UK to feed and gives some idea of the scale of the
potential problem. Quite simply we could be overwhelmed.

So what tactics for the British would arise logically from
these facts or constraints? Well ideally if they just
emptied Ireland and replaced us with 8 million of their own
that would help and wiping out Dublin, Cork, Limerick and
Galway would be a start. But flattening these cities
through bombing would be messy and unpopular and would
destroy much needed infrastructure. Alternatively a few
neutron bombs would be ideal for them since they kill
people and leave property undamaged, although the Brits
don't actually have any. This of course is inhuman to put
it mildly, but then all wars are inhuman and when did that
stop any capitalist power? After all the usage of depleted
uranium in Iraqi is likely to permanently damage the
collective genomes of the population there and the
capitalists don't care because all they want is their oil.
So there is a precedent of sorts. Seriously though the most
viable solution would -following the lines as indicated
above about controlling our gas supplies when ours are
gone, would be to weaken and starve us into submission.
This could be achieved by an naval blockade that would cut
off our oil and gas supplies. The best time to do it would
be in winter when food-stocks might be relatively low. The
effect of this would be to cripple fertiliser production
(needs natural gas) and agricultural production since if
there's no diesel for the tractors, we would be screwed.
Cutting off food imports would then ensure that even with
Trojan efforts it would take us months to grow our own
food. By then we more malleable.

Ah but other countries would never allow that. Well eh,
relying on the US even now would wishful thinking. In 15
years the EU may have broken up in disunity as problems hit
home everywhere. By 2020 global oil production is likely to
be down anywhere from 30% to 50% having long convulsed the
capitalist model of endless growth, by plunging it into
global depression and the annual losses to the global
economy from damage due to Climate Change from storms,
drought and failed crops could be very costly and over
burden it. By then the Germans could be invading Poland,
again for the same reason the Brits would be here. Nope,
Ireland by virtue of it's unique geographical position in
relation to the UK, is always going to be primarily under
Britain's sphere of influence and nothing much is going to
change that anytime soon.

Therefore it makes sense for all Left and Green groups on
both sides of the Irish Sea and of course elsewhere to
bring about this change and dispense with capitalism and
it's authoritarian successors. And what then does that mean
in practical terms too? Well it means we should behave
responsibly and reduce our use of fossil fuels that which
are the main cause of Global Warming and stop the wasteful
production and consumption of so many useless short lived
goods that ultimately mean increasing amounts of pollution
dumped into our soils, water and air. And since a
significant amount of fossil fuel is wasted via the private
car where they spend much of their time driving slowly in
cities and on new motorways to the commuter belts because
the madness of capitalism has driven people there, then to
cut our CO-2 emissions and make oil last a lot longer, we
should therefore abandon all those plans to spend billions
more on motorways since there is going to be a lot less
driving after Peak Oil anyhow. Those resources should
instead be channelled into building a sustainable
infrastructure, boosting our use of renewable energies and
in the transport sector greatly increasing public
transport. For example just 1 billion euro which would be
less than the price of another motorway, could easily build
enough wind power capacity to provide 25% of our
electricity. And that's doable today.

Industrial agriculture has already taken it's toll on our
environment, so lets not make it worse. The most immediate
action should be to transform all agriculture to organic
farming which primarily means less artificial fertiliser
and a lot more smaller holdings resulting in a significant
shift of the population back to a more rural model with an
emphasis of settlement around smaller towns and villages.
The benefit here in terms of resisting 'pressure' from
Britain is that we would be a lot more dispersed and will
be able to cope much better if oil and gas were cut off and
a lot more people would be growing their own food directly
as well as the country nationally being less vulnerable to
gaps in imports and just as importantly we might be in a
better position to cope with Climate Change. It would also
be more in line with sustainable living.

If these changes were implemented then they would
automatically reduce the enormous stresses that are already
arising from our ludicrous assault on the environment and
in that way tensions would be eased back. It is basically
the same recipe for every country everywhere. There is
really no other option. If we do nothing, then we will
ultimately pay for this through war or something close to
it. In some ways the die is already cast.

But one thing's for sure Britain's interest in Ireland is
likely to greatly increase and not decrease in the
immediate future.


Forecourt Prices To Soar As Oil Reaches New High


Petrol prices are heading for €1.20 a litre as oil prices
hit new highs. Consumers could also face rising prices
elsewhere as record crude prices affect company costs,
write Barry O'Halloran and Meg Sheeve

Oil broke the $70-a-barrel mark and previous records on
international markets yesterday. In London, Brent crude
closed at $72.29 after trading at a high of $72.34. In New
York, US light crude was selling for $71.35.

Oil firm Esso responded immediately by raising prices for
its premium unleaded petrol by two cents a litre at its 40
sites in the Republic. It now sells for 111.9 cents and
114.9 cents a litre, depending on the location of its
forecourts. Before the increase, Esso's average charge was
€1.09 a litre.

Esso said that since February, international market prices
for petrol and diesel had jumped 31 per cent or more than
$160 a tonne. Experts believe that other companies will
follow suit.

Growing tension between the US and Iran, the world's
fourth-biggest oil producer, over the Middle Eastern
country's nuclear programme, is driving up prices.

"The current shoot-up we are experiencing is as a result of
the Iran problems and it's not helped by the flare-up
between Israel and the Palestinians," Opec president and
Nigerian oil minister Edmund Daukoru said, "but mainly it's
the threatening statements being made against Iran as a
result of its nuclear programme."

Nigerian output is also a major concern. An uprising in the
country's delta region, which produces 500,000 barrels a
day, has shut down its refineries.

Oil prices have soared from $20 at the start of 2002 and
are nearing the inflation-adjusted peaks of more than $80
which they reached in 1980, the year after the Iranian
revolution. At the same time, the summer driving season
begins in the US next month. This will fuel demand in the
world's biggest consumer of oil and petroleum products.

The increase threatens to have a more general effect on
Irish consumers. Fuel accounts for 25 per cent of the cost
of electricity production and the ESB is expected next
month to demand that the Government allow it to increase
charges above the rate of inflation to counter the impact
of increased oil prices.

Taxi drivers have already stated their intention to seek a
special surcharge on fares. National Taxi Drivers Union
president Tommy Gorman said its members had decided to ask
the taxi regulator today for the go-ahead to charge
passengers an extra 50 cents a journey until petrol prices
retreated from current levels.

The Irish Road Haulage Association called on the Government
to cut duty on diesel. Spokesman Jimmy Quinn said the State
took €367 every time a truck filled its tank. "Under EU
rules, the Government can cut that to €302, so there's €65
that's available there straight away," he said.

Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O'Leary warned that
if crude prices remained at current levels, consumers could
find themselves paying up to €1.20 a litre for petrol.

Paul Harris, head of energy and emissions at Bank of
Ireland global markets, said prices tended to rise by four
to five cents a litre for every $5 a barrel increase in
crude oil prices. Mr Harris said that if current trends
continued, crude prices could reach $75 a barrel. "In that
case, you are looking at petrol prices of €1.15 to €1.18 a
litre," he said.

A spokesman for Statoil argued that there was no direct
correlation between crude oil prices and what motorists pay
at the pump.

Ulster Bank economist Niall Dunne said he did not see
current trends in the crude oil market reversing in the
near future. "We are looking at €1.15 a litre if the full
price is passed on," he said. However, he added that a
strengthening of the euro against the dollar would ease the
impact of crude prices, as it is traded in US dollars.

British Airways yesterday said it would again increase its
fuel surcharges by £10 on round-trip longhaul flights
to £70. Ryanair, which has guaranteed not to introduce
surcharges regardless of the price of fuel, reiterated its
position, while Aer Lingus made no comment.

© The Irish Times


New Microchip Passports From October


Passports issued from October this year will contain
microchips containing a digitised image of the holder's
face along with their personal details, it was announced
yesterday, writes Carl O'Brien, Social Affairs

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said the move was
due mainly to a requirement from US immigration that all
countries participating in the visa-waiver scheme begin
producing biometric passports by October 27th this year.

Existing Irish passports will continue to be accepted until
they expire.

New legislation to be enacted in the coming months will
also introduce a series of new offences relating to the use
of a false Irish passport.

The Minister declined to say whether the new offences were
related to the circumstances surrounding the "Colombia
Three" affair, except to say that a "number of high-profile
cases" had underlined the need for new legislation.

The extent of the new penalties had yet to be decided, but
Mr Ahern said they would be "increased" and "severe".

He also insisted that the new biometric passports would not
contain any additional information than was on existing

The digitised facial image will make processing of visas
faster and easier, while also helping to cut down on
potential fraud.

"People may be concerned that this is a move towards
finger-printing and using other data. We're not doing that.
We're just using a photo that is given by an individual and
putting that into a microchip instead of putting a photo
physically onto a passport," Mr Ahern said,

He said new legislation would ensure that biometric data
was properly regulated and stored.

The Minister plans to advise the Data Protection
Commissioner and the Irish Human Rights Commission on the

The cost of introducing the new passports is estimated at
€8.8 million and is the product of a project between the
Department of Foreign Affairs and BearingPoint Ireland Ltd.

The legislation will also provide for transsexuals to have
their "reoriented" gender recorded on their passport.

This will be done providing that appropriate medical
evidence is supplied, certifying that gender reorientation
has taken place.

While passports have tended to be given to transsexuals on
an occasional basis in the past, it is likely to be the
first legislative recognition of gender change.

New offences for the misuse or abuse of passports will
cover areas such as wilfully destroying a passport;
obtaining a passport fraudulently; producing a false

Ironically, several years after the practice was
discontinued by the Government, the sale of passports will
also become an offence.

The new passports are currently undergoing testing in the
Netherlands and will be tested in the US shortly.

As well as new conditions set by the US for the production
of biometric passports, Mr Ahern said the new technology
would be needed shortly as the European Union brought in
similar measures.

"The need for passport legislation must be understood
against a background of heightened public awareness of
passport regulations. We need primary legislation in this
area to safeguard the Passport Office from legal

He added: "Ireland is internationally recognised as having
one of the most advanced passport documents in the world.
The proposed legislation will further augment the trust
that the international community places in our passports."

Officials say more than 680,000 passports were issued last
year. An estimated 100,000 passport have been lost or
accidentally destroyed.

© The Irish Times


Crowds Flock To See Medjugorje Visionary In Tipperary Church


He was a teenager when the apparitions started, on a
hillside in the former Yugoslavia 25 years ago. Since then,
Ivan Dragicevic's fame has taken him to "every country in
the world, except the Muslim ones", writes Frank McNally in
Kilcommon, Co Tipperary

But no matter where he goes now, he says, every evening -
at exactly the same time - the Virgin Mary appears to him.

Last night, he was in the packed parish church of
Kilcommon, a tiny village on the Tipperary/Limerick border,
where the faithful had gathered since 1pm to witness the
man from Medjugorje's experience close up.

At 6.35pm, half an hour into the ceremony, parish priest Fr
Dan Woods broke off from reciting the rosary to announce:
"We are approaching a very precious time. In about five
minutes, Ivan will have an apparition of the Blessed

At 6.40pm, on cue, the guest of honour walked forward from
the front pew and knelt before the altar. His eyes fixed on
a point just above it, while all other eyes in the church
fixed on him. For eight minutes, he smiled, nodded and made
whispers as if responding to something he was hearing.

Once he shook his head briefly, before nodding again.

Then he looked higher up, towards the ceiling, and made the
sign of the cross, as did the whole congregation. It was

Now a smartly dressed 40-year-old, Dragicevic travels
everywhere with an interpreter.

But speaking beforehand in the parochial house, he recalled
the events of June 24th, 1981, in fluent English.

He was watching a basketball game in a friend's house when
he went home to get food and, on the way, met a girl he had
seen earlier that day. She was frightened and excited and
claimed to have "seen Our Lady in a hill".

He said he saw her too, but at first he wasn't sure and his
family warned him to be careful about telling people. It
was the time of communism, he reminded us.

After that, he said, the apparitions moved to his home, to
the church and now to wherever he goes. Tonight, it's
Abbeylara, Co Longford, and tomorrow, Dominick Street,

Although a village of only 60 people, Kilcommon is used to
crowds, with the church and adjoining "peace garden"
hosting a series of well-known preachers every summer.

Last night's event was smoothly run, as a hundred
volunteers monitored a one-way system on the local roads
and set up TV screens at several points outside the church,
which was full two hours before the ceremony.

The parish hall also filled early and 40 people crowded
into the sacristy. Several hundred more braved the rain to
watch the broadcast in the peace garden and church yards.

A few stalls sold religious objects on the village street,
while a pair of chip vans also did a steady trade.
Kilcommon's two pubs did not entirely empty, even at
6.40pm. But most of the congregation attended the full
three-hour ceremony, which also included Mass and a talk
from the special guest.

The Blessed Virgin had no special message for Ireland, he
confirmed. As always, she had urged the importance of
"peace", "conversion" and "return to God".

© The Irish Times


Former Sen. Thomas Sullivan Dies

Passion For Sports, Politics Recalled

By Daniela Altimari
Courant Staff Writer
April 18 2006

Former Democratic state senator and longtime state
basketball coach Thomas J. Sullivan Jr., a towering redhead
whose affection for the game was matched by his love of
politics, died Sunday at his Guilford home. He was 73.

"He lived his politics like he lived his sports, with a lot
of passion," recalled Guilford First Selectman Carl
Balestracci, who had known Sullivan for many years. "He
loved the give and take, he loved the competition and he
loved a good story."

Born in Boston, Sullivan was "an Irishman through and
through," Balestracci said. He came to Connecticut in 1959
to teach high school English and coach the basketball team.
Under his leadership, Guilford High School enjoyed success,
twice reaching the state championship finals.

Sullivan was a hands-on coach, "a jumper and a yeller,"
Balestracci said, and his sideline fervor was not unlike
that of UConn coach Jim Calhoun.

In the early 1970s, he was hired to coach the New Haven
Elms and the Hamden Bics, two semi-professional basketball
teams. He also coached at St. Bernard High School in

Sullivan entered politics in 1969 and spent much of the
following decade on various local boards and commissions.
He was elected to the state Senate in 1986 and served two
terms, ascending to deputy majority leader. He also held a
seat on the legislature's powerful finance committee. He
made economic growth a keystone of his campaigns and was
instrumental in winning passage of the bill that created
the state's scenic road policy.

In 1990, Sullivan lost to Republican newcomer William
Aniskovich in what was viewed by many as a stunning
political upset.

Despite establishing his political career in Connecticut,
Sullivan remained devoted to his hometown and its venerable
Irish American politicians. He was forever talking about
the Kennedys and former U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip"
O'Neill, his political idols.

"I don't think he ever left Boston," Balestracci said. "It
was in his blood."

Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant


Aer Lingus: To The Irish Diaspora, It’s A Little Piece Of Home

Mal Rogers looks at our national airline which celebrates
its 70th birthday this month

Mal Rogers

When Orville Wright took off on the world’s first powered
flight on December 17, 1903, he only travelled 120 feet –
less than the wingspan of a 747. But the world was changed

Ireland’s first flight took place six years later when Co
Down man Harry Ferguson made a short flight near his home
in Hillsborough. Ferguson, an engineering genius,
thereafter lost interest in flight, and turned his
attention to revolutionising farm machinery. Just our luck
really – instead of farmers driving round in Ferguson
tractors, we could all be flying across the Atlantic in
Ferguson Airbuses.

But one set of magnificent pioneers did stay with their
flying machines – the men who founded Aer Lingus exactly 70
years ago, en route developing one of the most respected
airlines in the history of aviation.

Aer Lingus Teoranta was registered as an airline on May 22,
1936. The first Aer Lingus route was from Baldonnel
airfield in Dublin to Bristol, inaugurated on May 27, 1936.
The aircraft flew at a speed of 130mph, and on its first
flight landed on schedule. Mind you, it could fairly be
called a no-frills airline. The De Havilland 84 Dragon,
bought for the sum of £2,400, only had room for six
passengers on board. Just.

Tourism was still in its infancy but tourists to Bristol
could be assured of a room for the night in one of
“Britain’s leading temperance hotels from 8/6 a night”.
Which would be about 30p today, and sneak your own drink

It’s difficult to be precise about when the idea of a
national airline was first mooted. Michael Collins had
already expressed interest in the idea in the early 1920s –
this may have had something to do with the fact that an
Irish aircraft had been on standby in London in case he
needed to leave the country as a matter of urgency in the
event of Treaty negotiations collapsing. It possibly helped
concentrate Collins’ mind on how useful these new machines
could be. (The Treaty aircraft was subsequently the fourth
plane bought by Aer Lingus and was always known as The Big

After much debate and lobbying, in 1936 the Air Navigation
and Transport Bill was passed by Dáil Éireann. Aer Lingus
was born.

Now boarding

The first ever Aer Lingus employee was one Nobby Rafter,
taken on as a booking agent. His duties for the first trip
weren’t overly onerous – only five passengers joined the
flight, and the only cargo was a consignment of Irish Times
newspapers bound for London. The second employee, and the
first ever Aer Lingus captain, was Oliver Armstrong. He
piloted the inaugural flight, and later joined the Royal
Air Force. When Paddy died in 1959 the Birmingham Post
praised his major contribution to flying in Britain, noting
that he’d completed 15,000 flying hours.

But up to the 1950s, Aer Lingus looked more like a flying
club than the huge airline it is today. World War II
intervened, and by the end of hostilities the national
airline boasted only three planes, with a combined
horsepower of less than one of today’s saloon cars.

The Dublin-London run was the first international route
reinstated after World War II using a Douglas DC3 Dakota
aircraft. The fare was £6.10s one way – and you could have
stocked up on fruit for the journey for the first time
since before the war – oranges went on sale again in Dublin
for 2d each.

In 1945 a significant step took place – the first Aer
Lingus stewardesses went on duty, earning something in the
region of £4 per week. That same year a new service from
Dublin to Rome began, £33 for a single £48 for a return.
Flying was undeniably for the financially carefree.

In the 1950s Aer Lingus pioneered the first ever passenger
night flights in the world, called Starflights. Radio
Éireann celebrated with a peel of bells, or so it seemed.
In 1950 the national radio station began broadcasting the
Angelus at the behest of the then Primate of Archbishop
John Charles McQuaid. The Angelus bells proved more durable
than night flights – only a very limited number of flights
are allowed to land at Dublin airport, and no scheduled
flights are allowed to take off before 6am. The Angelus
bells, however, still peel out daily.

By the mid 20th century flying had begun emerging as part
of the fabric of Irish society, and Aer Lingus became an
icon loved by emigrants all over the world. By 1950 almost
200,000 people per year were flying on Aer Lingus planes.
The DC3 Douglas Dakotas, one of the most reliable and
versatile planes ever built, was the Aer Lingus plane of

The decade began with Taoiseach John Costello catching one
to Rome to celebrate the first post-war Holy Year.

The 50s probably saw the greatest ever disparity in
Ireland’s transport system – Aer Lingus was on the verge of
entering the jet age, radar was installed at Dublin
airport, and the Super Constellation Padraig took off for
the US. Meanwhile CIÉ, the Irish transport authority, were
still using 300 horsedrawn vehicles.

In 1960 Aer Lingus bought the first of its two Boeing jets
covering the routes from Dublin to New York and Boston.

Brendan Behan was one of the first passengers to avail
himself of the new Aer Lingus trans-Atlantic route.

He was heading for New York to attend the opening of his
play The Hostage. He pledged he would drink only soda water
‘a good drink, invented in Dublin’, but it proved to be a
promise, alas, he couldn’t keep.

The plane facts

Although Aer Lingus is one of the safest airlines in the
world, it has had its tragedies. None more mysterious than
the Vickers Viscount Phelim which crashed into the Irish
Sea near Tuskar Rock on March 24, 1968.

All 57 passengers and the crew of four perished in the
accident. The accident stunned Aer Lingus to its core, and
it quickly became one of the world’s greatest aviation

The cause of the crash has never been identified.
Everything, including the weather en route, was perfect as
Captain Barney O’Beirne lifted off from Cork airport. It
was 11.32am, and Phelim was bound for London Heathrow.
Captain O’Beirne confirmed at 11.57am that he was at the
designated initial cruising height of 17,000 feet.

Thirty-two seconds later Captain O’Beirne’s last radio
message burst through to air traffic control: “Twelve
thousand feet descending – spinning rapidly.”

Repeated attempts were made to re-establish contact, but
nothing more was ever heard from Captain Barney O’Beirne or
anyone else aboard Phelim.

Although over the years many suggestions as to the cause of
the crash have been made – including a British air missile
strike – subsequent enquiries have listed structural
corrosion or a bird strike as equally plausible causes.

The sky’s the limit

It is an astonishing fact that Orville Wright, one of the
brothers who pioneered powered flight, was alive at the
same time as the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, and
also Neil Armstrong, the first man in the moon.

Travel was truly revolutionised in his lifetime, during 50
years of the 20th century.

That flying revolution had personal significance if you
lived on an island, and even more so if you were from an
island with a long history of emigration.

When Aer Lingus took to the skies, members of the Irish
diaspora had a lifeline home, a link with the old country
which didn’t mean a journey of days – or even weeks.

Even today, when a sandwich at the airport might cost you
more than your flight, there are few Irish immigrants in
Britain or America who don’t board an Aer Lingus plane and
feel a hint of nostalgia. The familiar livery, the Céad
Míle Fáilte signs, the Cara inflight magazines – in times
gone by, if you were far from home, boarding an Aer Lingus
plane was like taking the first tiny step onto Irish soil.

Happy Birthday to our national airline.


In September 1977, some of Ireland’s greatest art treasures
were conveyed across the Atlantic on four separate Boeing
747 flights -–the Book of Kells, the Ardagh Chalice, the
Tara Brooch, the Cross of Cong, St Patrick’s Bell and the
Glenasheen Collar were all bound for an exhibition in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Aer Lingus was the first airline outside Alitalia to be
used by Pope John Paul II, when in 1979 he flew from Rome
to Dublin and later from Shannon to Boston on an Aer Lingus
plane chartered for him.

One-hundred-and-thirteen passengers on board an Aer Lingus
flight from Dublin to Rome on May 1, 1981 were hi-jacked by
a former Trappist monk. On his apprehension (and the safe
release of the hostages) the hijacker gave one of the most
bizarre reasons in the history of aviation for his action –
he wanted to know the Third Secret of Fatima. In the event,
the hijacker failed in his attempt to uncover the secret,
and subsequently received a lengthy jail sentence for his
trouble, none the wiser about the visions in the central
Portuguese town of Fatima.

On October 2, 1995 the last Aer Lingus Boeing 747 flight
took place, after 25 years of service. By that time, over
eight million people had travelled across the Atlantic in
Aer Lingus ‘jumbo jets’.


Ben & Jerry's New Flavour Leaves Bad Taste

Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondent
Wednesday April 19, 2006
The Guardian

Ben & Jerry's, the socially aware ice-cream maker, has
apologised to Irish consumers for launching a new flavour
evoking the worst days of British military oppression.

Tubs of Black and Tan ice-cream have gone on sale this
month and prompted complaints that the phrase is not just
the name for mixing stout with pale ale.

Black and Tans, irate customers explained, was the term for
an irregular force of British ex-servicemen recruited
during the Irish war of independence and renowned for their
brutality, including the 1920 massacre of 12 people at a
Dublin football match. The new flavour is only available in
the US at present.

A rival manufacturer observed on the Ice Cream Ireland blog
spot that Ben & Jerry's had a social conscience but "a
Black and Tan flavour?... first of all, for some of their
Irish-American customers Black and Tan won't immediately
bring to mind the drink but unsavoury historical
references. Secondly, their website states this flavour is
for 'beer enthusiasts' but there is no beer listed in the

The Vermont firm, famous for donating part of its profits
to charity, was taken over by Unilever six years ago and
has been criticised for changing its commercial focus.

Lee Holden, a US spokesman for Ben & Jerry's, yesterday
told The Guardian: "We have had a small amount of contacts
from people letting us know how Black and Tan originated.
We were not aware of that.

"It was named because it's a very popular drink in the US
... flavours are always released in the United States
before being [promoted] for international use. That's now
being discussed."

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