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November 05, 2006

Irish Govt Will Not Abandon North

News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 11/06/06 Government Will Not Abandon North
IM 11/05/06 Opin: Has The Irish Times Become Too Big For Its Boots?
TW 11/06/06 Irish Lottery Players Want Bigger Wins
IT 11/06/06 Irish MRSA Rate Higher Due To Poor Resources


Government Will Not Abandon North

Stephen Collins

Northern Ireland: The Government will not walk away from
Northern Ireland if the DUP and Sinn Féin cannot agree on a
powersharing executive, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot
Ahern told the ardfheis.

"Delegates, now more than ever, the North requires clear
political leadership. The current impasse is surmountable.
It can be overcome. We are ready to provide all the
assistance needed. We have never been so close. The public,
North and South, nationalist and unionist, expect their
leaders to grasp this opportunity.

"But if the DUP cannot or will not move on powersharing.
And if Sinn Féin cannot or will not move on policing. We
cannot and we will not walk away. We have no intention of
leaving the North in an economic stasis as parties
prevaricate," he said.

"If we have to we will move ahead anyway - to build jobs
and prosperity across the island. On the economic front our
message is clear - we won't leave the North behind," he

"Turning now to the next phase in our national development,
politics has never been so important. Because the country
faces a stark choice. Between an Opposition bridled by a
lack of purpose or imagination. An axis of taxes which this
country can't afford. Who are incapable of living up to the
ambitions of the Irish people.

"This history has shaped the values of ordinary Irish
people - an abhorrence of injustice and poverty and a
determination to assist the developing world. It is upon
those very values that Fianna Fáil can now advance a new
phase in Irish foreign policy. The first phase focused on
securing sovereignty and its international recognition.

"The second phase focused on securing peace and prosperity
on our island. But sovereignty and prosperity are ours now.
We are amongst the most successful developed countries and
through the Good Friday agreement the outstanding
impediments to lasting peace are now ours to grasp.

"We turn now to the third phase - to a new policy active
neutrality. Ireland as a bridge between the developed and
developing world. A global leader in the fight against HIV,
poverty and underdevelopment," he said.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Has The Irish Times Become Too Big For Its Boots?

National Arts And Media Opinion/Analysis
Sunday November 05, 2006 23:05
By David Alvey - The Irish Political Review Group

The need for a thorough debate

The recent Bertie Ahern controversy showed that the Irish
Times believes it has a right to depose Taoisigh it
disapproves of. They already have the scalps of Haughey and
Reynolds and now they want Bertie's. The paper holds such a
powerful position in Irish public life that its faults
cannot be openly discussed. A debate between Minister for
Communications, Noel Dempsey, and Ryle Dwyer of the Irish
Examiner illustrates the problem. Dempsey failed to mention
that the paper broke the law. Neither did he dare to
challenge the paper about its over the top anti-Fianna Fail
bias. And nobody dares to mention the connection between
the paper and the British Foreign Office initiated by Major
Thomas McDowell in 1969. So confident are the media
professionals who defend the paper, that they simply toss
off rhetorical put downs, as in Ryle Dwyers's reply to the
Minister. It is past time that the bastion of Irish
investigative journalism should itself be investigated.

A politicians-versus-media debate that begun at an Opus Dei
conference (the Cleraun Media conference) held over the
weekend of 21-22 October, having raised a matter of
critical importance, is serving us very badly. The point at
issue is whether or not the Irish Times was right to run
its story on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s finances based on a
leak from the Mahon tribunal. At the conference Noel
Dempsey, the Minister for Communications, attacked the
Irish Times for publishing the story; and a week later on
28th October Ryle Dwyer of the Irish Examiner replied to
that attack. Both contributions avoided the important
issues and in different ways both reflect the degree to
which the Irish Times has placed itself beyond criticism.

Minister Dempsey started well when he issued a short press
statement carried on RTE news bulletins on October 21
arguing that the New York Times banned ‘stories which
damaged an individual, the only source for which was
another individual protected by anonymity’. On that grounds
the action of the Irish Times could be characterised as
journalistic malpractice.

Unfortunately the speech from which the press statement was
taken was less coherent. Dempsey’s talk delivered to the
Cleraun conference
a.htm) was notable for its omissions more than its content.
Instead of directly criticising the Irish Times, he spoke
in general terms about how modern media were increasingly
giving way to commercial pressures. About the pertinent
aspects of the matter – that the Irish Times had
deliberately broken the law and acted out of highly
questionable political prejudice – he said not a word.

Geraldine Kennedy, the editor of the Irish Times, must have
known she was flouting the law when she decided to run the
story. By publishing confidential items of evidence stolen
from the Mahon tribunal, she showed contempt for due
process; she effectively took the law into her own hands.
Then, when the tribunal issued a subpoena for the documents
on which the story had been based, she authorised their
destruction, notwithstanding the fact that the leak was
anonymous. Apart from issuing reports, tribunals have very
few powers, but they do have the power under sections 4 and
5 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act
1979 to initiate legal proceedings against parties
obstructing their work. Under these provisions Liam Lawlor
was imprisoned and it is under the same provisions that
Geraldine Kennedy is now facing prosecution. According to
Pat Leahy writing in the Sunday Business Post (October 22)
it is ‘highly unlikey’ that Ms Kennedy will be jailed. This
poses a question: why was Liam Lawlor imprisoned for
breaking a law, while Geraldine Kennedy will remain at
liberty having violated the same law?

The other matter neglected by Noel Dempsey was the question
of political prejudice. Clearly, going by the opinion
polls, the Irish electorate has decided that the entire
monies-gifted-to-the-Taoiseach controversy was much ado
about nothing. An electorate that rewarded a long-term
political leader by allowing his reputation to be ruined
without proper evidence and due process would be foolish
indeed. But the editor of the Irish Times does not see it
that way. Her response to the opinion polls was along the
lines of ‘you have disgraced yourselves again’.

The following extracts from Irish Times’ editorials
illustrate some of the delusions currently afflicting Ms

“The removal of a Taoiseach from office can be a long and
painful process, as both Charles Haughey and Albert
Reynolds found to their cost.”
(28 September 2006)

“What a breathtaking exposition of the culture of Fianna
Fail we have witnessed in recent days…

…The country is convulsed by the revelations…

What he did was wrong and he must say so. An apology is not
(2 October 2006)

“So, we are to hold our noses. The Fianna Fail/Progressive
Democrat Coalition Government is safe, the Opposition
parties didn’t quite come to the wire and the semantics
over the difference between the loans and gifts received by
the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in the circumstances in which
he received them while he was minister for finance in 1993
and 1994, won the day. Nothing that was done was wrong.
But, warts and all, that is our democracy. This is looking
at ourselves and, through our elected representatives in
the Dail, our political values.

…It is wrong for a serving member of government to receive
monies from personal friends for any purpose…”
(4 October 2006)

“The culture of nods and winks and looking the other way is
alive and well in Irish democracy. Among a significant
sector, however, it reinforces the case that the public
interest requires vigilance, investigation and continuing
scrutiny. If the rest of us “look the other way”, it won't
be long before the culture of corruption engendered by Mr
Haughey will resurface. But, regrettably, this poll would
indicate that this does not seem to matter.”
(13 October 2006)

It is as though Geraldine Kennedy is on a mission to rescue
Irish society from what she sees as the corrupting
influence of the main party of government. Valid as this
may be as an opinion, it is questionable, to say the least,
as an editorial policy for the country’s leading newspaper.
Whatever one thinks politically of Fianna Fail, viewed from
the dispassionate perspective of political science, the
party must be acknowledged as one of the great political
parties of modern Europe. Fianna Fail has played a central
role in the development of the Irish State; to dismiss it
as hopelessly corrupt is a gross distortion.

There is another aspect of the Irish Times’s political
prejudice that does not get aired very often. A letter
released by the British public record office in late 1999
indicates that the owner of the Irish Times, Major Thomas
McDowell, made contact with the British Ambassador to
Ireland in 1969 with a view to enlisting British Foreign
Office assistance in controlling the newspaper. The issues
arising from that letter are too complicated to be detailed
here, but the existence of the letter testifies to a murky
aspect of the Irish Times that has never been
satisfactorily explained. If Geraldine Kennedy were serious
about the need for transparency and keeping everything
above board she would have instigated an investigation into
that matter and made the results public. She has not done

In any case it was disappointing that Noel Dempsey did not
take the opportunity presented by the Cleraun conference of
vigorously questioning the Irish Times, if not on where its
true allegiance lies, then on its attitude to the rule of
law and to the Fianna Fail party.

Noel Dempsey’s speech contained a reference to the Irish
Press that merits comment. He said that the paper was
initially set up not as a commercial entity but as a
propaganda machine, that when it was set up the vast
majority of the Irish people were not newspaper readers. He
explained that the term ‘propaganda machine’ should not be
seen in a negative light. These are all valid points not
heard very often, but the Minister made no further
reference to the Irish Press. He said nothing about the
immense imbalance currently affecting the Irish media
because the traditional Irish Press propaganda machine no
longer exists; and he never mentioned the fact that the
paper cannot be re-launched because a competitor and knight
of the British realm, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, has a
controlling share in the ownership of the title. What is
most astounding is that an experienced Fianna Fail
politician like Noel Dempsey feels no sense of
responsibility for the current disastrous situation in
which no Irish newspaper expresses the Fianna Fail view.

Ryle Dwyer’s article published in the Irish Examiner on 28
October in reply to the Minister treats a serious matter
flippantly, a common failing among media pundits. Like the
Minister’s speech it was notable for what it failed to
mention. Noel Dempsey’s strongest point was that the New
York Times would have refused to publish the story on
ethical grounds. Dwyer answers this point by ignoring it.

Here is a long extract from the article:

“This particular tribunal was set up in 1997 and at the
rate it is going, God only knows when it will conclude.
Bertie Ahern received the first of the money in 1993 when
he was Minister for Finance, and he hung on to it for over
nine years as Taoiseach.”

“It is absurd to suggest that the media jumped the gun or
showed disrespect for the tribunal. The argument could just
as validly be made that the tribunal has shown disrespect
for the media.”

“The news media and the tribunals have different roles. The
question people should be asking is not why the media broke
the story when it did, but why it took it so long to get
the story in the first place.”

“The tribunal was set up to look into planning
irregularities and payments to politicians, but Judge Alan
Mahon has allowed himself to be diverted into investigating
how The Irish Times got the story. If the aim of whoever
leaked the material was to distract the attention of the
tribunal, the ploy has certainly worked.”

"The primary concern of the tribunal at present is to
protect the integrity of its inquiries," Judge Mahon stated
recently. "This objective is best served by taking all
necessary steps to establish the identity of the party or
parties who furnished the documentation to The Irish

“Surely the judge does not think he should have the right
to delay any aspect of Irish life to facilitate his
deliberations. He is supposed to be inquiring into planning
corruption and payments to politicians, not the
information-gathering techniques of reporters.”

“From a media perspective, the important issue was whether
it was in the public interest to know that the Taoiseach
was financially indebted to friends.”

“Judge Brian McCracken ruled in August 1997 that it was
"quite unacceptable that a member of Dáil Éireann, and in
particular a cabinet minister and Taoiseach, should be
supported in his personal lifestyle by gifts made to him

“As Taoiseach, Bertie warmly endorsed those findings.
"Public representatives must not be under a personal
financial obligation to anyone", the Taoiseach told the
Dáil. He said the money he received was a loan, but he made
no real effort to repay it for well over a decade until
after Colm Keena broke the story.”

“The public may or may not be exercised over this
behaviour, but the people have the information now and it
is their right to decide to ignore it. The only proper way
that they could have come to that decision, however, was by
knowing the information. Thus, Colm Keena and his editor,
Geraldine Kennedy, should be congratulated, not

Most writers presenting a case make their main points as
clearly as possible in a logical sequence and then add a
few rhetorical flourishes for colour. Ryle Dwyer jumps from
one rhetorical assertion to the next without any effort at
building a case and then inserts a few serious points
somewhere in the rhetorical jumble.

The first point that needs to be made in answer to his
assertions is that tribunals were set up because the
consensus of opinion in society was and remains that ‘trial
by media’ is inherently unjust. Once the media pack get
their teeth into a story as they did in the recent campaign
against the Taoiseach, innuendo takes over from fact.
Whatever about the difficulties of answering allegations in
a judicial or quasi-judicial hearing, there is no defence
against innuendo.

So, we have tribunals charged with thoroughly investigating
complex matters of major public concern. Our recent
tribunals have all been established in response to media
campaigns. That the work of one such tribunal should now be
undermined by the publication of leaked information in the
Irish Times is doubly offensive, given that Irish Times
helped to create the public concern in the first place.
Ryle Dwyer is merely compounding the offence by disparaging
Justice Mahon for attempting to defend the integrity of his

There is something of the clever schoolboy in the way that
Dwyer attempts to turn Bertie Ahern’s own words against
himself. It is impossible to view this spectacle without
asking whom is more valuable to society: the political
leader grappling with the burden of high office or the
journalist playing clever word games. Hopefully, Justice
Mahon will bring a wider breadth of vision to his judgement
of Bertie Ahern than the small minded moralising of our
media crusaders.

In his final paragraph Ryle Dwyer does some fancy footwork
to come up with the idea that the media has fulfilled its
function by placing the facts about the Taoiseach’s debt to
his friends before the public. But that is not the way
Geraldine Kennedy views it. She was hell bent on ending
Bertie Ahern’s tenure as Taoiseach. The whole point was to
knock a serious dent in Fianna Fail’s ratings in the
opinion polls. Since the opposite has occurred, the end
result is that the work of a costly tribunal has been
undermined for no good reason.

In conclusion, following the publication of Colm Keena’s
story on Bertie Ahern the role exercised by the Irish Times
in Irish society needs to be examined and debated. The
present debate between Minister Dempsey and Ryle Dwyer
skirts the real issues. The Minister is too pusillanimous
to confront the Irish Times about respecting the rule of
law and pursuing dubious political agendas. And Ryle Dwyer
is more concerned to express solidarity with his colleagues
in the paper of record than to provide the public with a
diversity of opinion. His approach is symptomatic of a
media that takes the same line on all the major issues. The
Irish Times leads and the Irish Examiner follows slavishly.

The Irish Times is exercising power without responsibility.
How long more will it be allowed to get away with it?


Irish Lottery Players Want Bigger Wins

6th November 2006, 7:53 WST

A million euros is no longer enough to pull
in Irish lottery players.

Dermot Griffin, director of Ireland's National Lottery,
says that rising wealth in Ireland means people are not as
attracted as they used to be by the prizes on offer.

"A million euros doesn't cut it any more," Griffin told The
Irish Times newspaper.

From this week, the National Lottery is raising its minimum
weekly jackpot to 2 million euros ($A3.31 million) from 1.3
million euros ($A2.15 million) at present, in an effort to
boost flagging sales.

"Our lottery sales over the last number of years have been
declining somewhat," Griffin said.

"An issue for us is the rise in house prices and the fact
that people's standards of living have risen so much."

He said the lottery needed to rekindle people's enthusiasm
for the game, which started in Ireland in 1987, and their
belief that winning would change their lives forever.



Irish MRSA Rate Higher Due To Poor Resources

Eithne Donnellan, Health Correspondent in Waterford

The number of patients who pick up MRSA in our hospitals is
higher than in many northern European countries because the
resources put into fighting the problem in this State are
not the same as in the other countries, it was claimed at
the weekend.

Dr Robert Cunney, a consultant microbiologist at the
National Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said
countries like Denmark and Norway had more facilities to
isolate patients with infections, had less hospital
overcrowding, more infection control staff, and they had
aggressive screening policies and used antibiotics less.

"They decided to take MRSA very, very seriously and put the
resources into it," he said.

In the Netherlands, infection rates were low and it had
among the lowest levels of antibiotic use in the world.

In this State, he said, there had to be more prudent use of
antibiotics. Our use of antibiotics was on the increase,
antibiotic resistance was rising and new forms of
resistance were emerging.

Dr Cunney, who was speaking at the second annual conference
of MRSA and Families in Waterford on Saturday, said he was
"dumbstruck" recently when he received data on numbers of
MRSA bloodstream infections reported by Denmark and Norway
in 2005.

The number for Denmark was 11, the number for Norway, with
a population of around 4.6 million, was four. In the
Republic, the number of cases was close to 600.

He pointed out that these infections increase the length of
time a patient has to spend in hospital and are therefore
costly. While not all are preventable, many of them would
be, he said.

"There is compelling evidence that if you put resources
into healthcare-associated infections you actually save
money and this is something we have to drive home to those
who hold the purse string."

There was no national system for surveillance of
healthcare-associated infections in the State even though
this was a requirement under European legislation, he
added. And while a recent study comparing rates of
healthcare-associated infections in the Republic, Northern
Ireland, Wales and the UK put the overall prevalence rate
in the Republic at 4.9 per cent - which was lower than in
the other three areas - he believed the rate in the
Republic was "an underestimate". He was waiting to see the
full data to determine if the types of hospitals and their
patients had been taken into account when compiling the
final figures.

Síle Creedon, a lecturer in nursing at Cork University
Hospital, said a study she conducted suggested healthcare-
associated infections including MRSA were costing the Irish
health service at least €150 million a year.

Paul Bergervoet, an infection control practitioner at a
400-bed hospital in the Netherlands, told the conference
there were now very few MRSA cases in Dutch hospitals
because of a Government-backed "search and destroy" policy,
which meant hospital staff actively sought out and
eradicated infections.

He explained that when a patient was admitted to a hospital
in the Netherlands from a hospital outside the
jurisdiction, or from a pig farm or slaughter house, they
were immediately isolated, and then tested for MRSA. It is
only after the patient has three negative MRSA tests over a
period of days that they are considered not to have the

If any cases are found, even in intensive care, the whole
unit would be closed, the press would be informed and all
staff and patients who had come in contact with the patient
would be screened.

If a member of staff was found to have MRSA on their skin
after such screening they would be sent off duty and given
extra training on avoiding infections.

While Dr Cunney pointed to gaps in Irish efforts to control
infections like MRSA, the HSE said only last month it was
committed to appointing extra infection control nurses,
antibiotic liaison pharmacists and surveillance scientists.
In the medium to long-term, funding would be committed to
increase the number of single rooms and isolation
facilities in hospitals, it added.

© The Irish Times

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