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March 05, 2007

Ahern To Give NI Poll Assessment

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 03/05/07 Ahern To Give NI Poll Assessment
BB 03/05/07 Fewer Women Standing For Election
BT 03/05/07 Parties Praised For Blog Battle To Win Votes
SR 03/05/07 Technology As An Election Ticket
JN 03/05/07 Irish To Rally For Immigration Bill
BT 03/05/07 Tourism Ireland's Most Important Indigenous Industry
BN 03/05/07 Price Of A Pint To Increase Today


Ahern To Give NI Poll Assessment

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is expected to give his latest assessment
of the likely implications of the elections in Northern Ireland.

The Irish prime minister is expected to address politicians at
the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Dublin later.

The 68-member body is meeting for its 34th plenary session in

NI issues are expected to dominate the discussions, however,
sectarianism and equality issues will also be discussed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/05 08:24:32 GMT


Fewer Women Standing For Election

The number of women standing for election in this week's assembly
poll has fallen since the last one in 2003.

The independent group Women into Politics has said this is
disappointing as in 2003 women won only 18 of the 108 seats.

The organisation's May de Silva said more has to be done to
ensure women take an active roll in politics.

She urged the media and political parties to do more to increase
the profile of women candidates.

"Political parties have a tendency to put forward their 'familiar
faces' for TV and media interviews, most of whom are men," she

"Women make up 51% of the population and this time around we have
three fewer women candidates standing in this election than in

"Maybe if we had more women in politics, we would have progressed
a lot further than where we are today."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/05 06:52:03 GMT


Parties Praised For Blog Battle To Win Votes

[Published: Monday 5, March 2007 - 10:58]
By David Gordon

Northern Ireland parties have been praised for their online
electioneering efforts.

The battle for Ulster votes has been taken into cyberspace for
this Assembly poll, for instance through party election
broadcasts being made available on the Youtube website.

Some parties have also been giving updates on their campaigns
through blogs.

Mick Fealty, who runs the popular Slugger O'Toole political and
cultural blog site, said: "What I think is great about it is that
they have all been having a go.

"In that respect, and at this moment in time, Northern Ireland is
ahead of the curve."

Mr Fealty said the Ulster Unionists had made an election
broadcast available online, before it was broadcast on mainstream

"That's not happened before," he said. "That's privileging the
online audience in a way we've never seen mainstream parties do

Mr Fealty also highlighted developments in coverage of the
election on independently run web sites.

This has included the provision of constituency election
profiles, with highly detailed analysis and predictions.

Another web user has created a special wiki - a website that
allows visitors to edit content - on the election. It features
the policies of the parties on key bread and butter issues.

c Belfast Telegraph


Technology As An Election Ticket

05.03.2007 - What does the outcome of the forthcoming general
election mean for the use of technology in the homes, schools and
offices of Ireland over the next five years?
endeavoured to find out by asking each of the main political
parties some questions about their priorities in this area.

The questions are listed below. Since the questions were
submitted, the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2007
was published, which will give the Commission for Communications
Regulation (ComReg) greater punitive powers when dealing with
issues of regulatory non-compliance.

1. Broadband take-up in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU
average, with us positioned second-bottom out of the EU15. Do you
consider this a problem and do you intend to try to grow take-up
with specific policies?

2. Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc. Internet
providers say it is uneconomical for them to roll it out to the
last 15pc of the population and have requested that the State
provide the remainder. What is your party's policy on this?

3. How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling (LLU) and speed up the process? Is it your view
that the role of ComReg should be reviewed?

4. Does your party have an agenda for incorporating computer and
internet technology into the school curriculum?

5. Do you have any plans for rolling out public Wi-Fi hotspots,
such as in city centres and public buildings?

6. What areas of the technology sector have you earmarked for
investment in the future?

Fianna Fail - Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey TD

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
The Government's broadband regulation and infrastructure policy
is to facilitate the private sector to develop a competitive and
rapidly growing broadband market that offers a choice of
affordable products and providers to Irish consumers.

There are currently more than 500,000 broadband subscribers in
Ireland, up from just over 60,000 two years ago. Approximately
31pc of households in Ireland now have broadband (up from 3pc of
households in 2005 or 19pc of households at the start of 2006).
15,000 new subscribers sign up for broadband each month in this

According to a report published earlier this month by the
European Competitive Telecommunications Association, Ireland has
one of the highest growth rates for broadband take-up in the EU15
(only Greece is higher).

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
In order to extend broadband coverage to the 10-15pc of the
country where it is currently uneconomical for operators to
provide a broadband service, the State will announce details of a
tender process for a national broadband scheme in March.

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
A new Bill was published at the beginning of the month that gives
extra powers to the regulator (ComReg) to enforce competition in
the sector.

ComReg will now be able to aggressively investigate and take
swift action in cases where there has been an abuse of a dominant
position. Operators who are found to have acted anti-
competitively will be aggressively pursued and face very
significant financial penalties.

The Bill also provides for the creation of indictable offences
for breaches of enforcement measures imposed by ComReg. Fines of
up to ?4m or 10pc of turnover can be imposed for non-compliant
behaviour. Additional fines of up to ?5,000 per day or part of a
day, during which the offence continues, can also be imposed
under this new legislation.

There are also provisions designed to facilitate court
proceedings and related enactments as well as a civil enforcement
procedure to enable ComReg to enforce obligations relating to the
sharing of physical infrastructure against non-undertakings. In
addition, the Bill includes provisions for the protection of

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
Some 97pc of schools now have broadband access. The Department of
Education and Science will be able to exploit broadband as part
of the education process.

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
Private operators are using various technologies (wireless,
mobile, cable, etc) to roll out broadband.

6 (investment in the future)
Next-generation networks are of particular interest in the
current telecoms market.

Fine Gael - Bernard Durkan TD, spokesperson on communication and
natural resources, and Olwyn Enright TD, spokesperson on
education and science

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
More needs to be done to make people aware that broadband is not
simply 'the internet but faster'. Something must be done about
Eircom's stranglehold on the phone network, which is stymieing
competition. We will bring together all the State-controlled
broadband networks such as those owned by Bord G is, the ESB,
Irish Rail and the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) to form a
State-controlled broadband and telephone network to facilitate

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
Fine Gael will put the investment in place to develop a network
of wireless broadband services to cover areas outside our bigger
towns. We will examine and use all modern technology with a view
to providing broadband services to cover areas, both urban and
rural, that are currently not receiving cover.

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
One single regulator, under the proper democratic scrutiny,
should replace the myriad of non-financial regulators that have
proven ineffective. We propose to set up a Consumer Rights
Enforcer that will smash local cartels.

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
Fine Gael and the Labour party proposed that information and
communications technology (ICT) be developed as a subject at
Junior Cert level. As part of this agreed programme, the two
parties have committed to the development of the ICT element of
the mathematics curriculum, moving towards computer-based
segments of the course and providing enhanced ICT training for
teachers. Fine Gael has called for all second-level teachers and
students to be equipped with a laptop.

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
We are currently drafting our election manifesto but will seek to
do all possible to roll out such hotspots. This will involve
discussions with the private sector, led by the Department.

6 (investment in the future)
Wireless broadband to allow for 100pc penetration is a major
priority for Fine Gael. In finalising our proposals in advance of
the election, our focus will be on the extension of the best
technology to the greatest number.

Labour - Tommy Broughan TD, spokesperson on communications,
marine and natural resources

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
In November 2005, the Labour party put forward policy suggestions
to bridge this gap including: the establishment of a new
government vision of broadband connectivity in Ireland; the
establishment of a Department of Communications and Broadcasting;
the launch of a broadband taskforce and accompanying e-envoy; the
provision of laptops for secondary-school children; and the
creation of a Universal Service Obligation for broadband.

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
In Northern Ireland this was achieved through a contract with the
private sector. The tendering process was won and carried out by
BT there and similar measures should be examined for the

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
A settlement with Eircom to create an operationally separate
network division would address the crucial problem of access to
the local loop. This should ensure greater access for other
broadband operators and a greater variety and less expensive
range of broadband products.

A first step would be for ComReg to have the ability to impose
much greater financial penalties on telecom operators, as current
fines are ridiculously low.

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
By the late primary-school stage, all children should have had
the chance to extensively develop their IT skills and have
regular access to advanced IT technology. When children move to
second level and receive a laptop they should have the skills to
effectively use such technology.

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
I have been informed by the new Dublin City manager that he
intends to proceed with a citywide hotspot and I would appeal to
the City Council that money is provided in the next annual
Budget. An ICT-enabled city will be a hallmark of urban areas as
the 21st Century progresses. It is deplorable, but not
surprising, that there have been no real initiatives by Dublin
City Council to ensure Dublin leads the way in providing
widespread accessible and affordable internet access.

6 (investment in the future)
Broadband infrastructure is a key priority for investment and
development, as is the advancement of Wi-Fi. The Labour party and
I favour a fibre optic local network (as well as backhaul) being
put in place as soon as possible to maximise the speed and
bandwidth of the Irish communications network.

Green - Eamon Ryan TD, spokesperson on transport, enterprise,
trade and employment, marine and natural resources and

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
We are concerned that the Government's main solution to the lack
of broadband penetration - the development of metropolitan
networks - may not be an efficient use of resources for the issue
of last-mile connection and the availability of a competitive
backhaul network. The backhaul issue can only be improved with
the co-ordination of all other fibre optic lines in State hands,
such as those of the ESB, Bord G is and Irish Rail, and it will
require more rigorous LLU to overcome the last-mile problem.

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
State support systems to allow broadband services to reach the
remaining section of the population should be directed to the
provision of new services rather than a subsidy for the
development of the existing, fixed-line network.

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
The failure to process LLU seems to have revolved around
technical legal problems in how ComReg pursued its case. The
regulator should continue to pursue the incumbent on the matter,
having sorted out legal issues raised in the earlier hearings. A
more radical approach should also be considered, including the
repurchase by the State of the fixed-line network to open it up
to other operators on an open-access basis.

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
We want to increase investment in computer equipment for schools
and roll out broadband provision to every school. We plan to
introduce a computer studies subject into second level, following
consultation with the National Council for Curriculum and
Assessment. We believe computer skills should be incorporated
into a child's education at an early stage.

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
The market should be responsible for rolling out new technologies
but the State can take an active part in the process by
commissioning Wi-Fi services for libraries, post offices and
other community centres.

6 (investment in the future)
We see the integration of broadcasting and telecommunications
services as a major new development that could provide
opportunities for increased competition and reduced prices for
the customer. We see the provision of devices with multiple
applications as being a major development in the next five years.

Sinn Fein - Sean Crowe TD, spokesperson on science and education
and community affairs

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
There has been a total market failure in the provision of
broadband. It is interesting that even leading free-market
economists like Dan McLaughlin, Bank of Ireland chief economist,
and Jim Power, Friends First chief economist, have called for the
renationalisation of Eircom.

Sinn Fein believes a national, island-wide broadband
infrastructure is a vital element of the economy and supports a
State-owned telecommunications grid, which would prioritise
investment in rolling out broadband networks across the island.

A medium-term aim would be a 10 to 80GB network reaching all
major towns, with an island-wide 10GB service available to all
users and at least 2.5GB to every home within five years.

The profitability of the formerly State-owned telecommunications
sector could fund substantial parts of this rollout, with little
need for extra public finance to be diverted.

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
We support the idea of a State-owned telecommunications
infrastructure and believe that every firm using that grid should
be levied under a Public Service Obligation to fund the universal
access costs.

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
ComReg has been an ineffective regulator but the real failure
lies with the Minister for Communications. With a State-owned
infrastructure and private companies that want to sell services
to household or business on that grid fulfilling adequate
guarantees of quality of service and fair prices, the unbundling
problem will not exist.

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
Every school must be fully ICT-enabled. This means providing and
updating teachers' training, equipment, teaching materials, PCs
and laptops. Projects such as Digital Learning in Dublin's south
city should become the norm.

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
It is unclear how the broadband market will respond to Wi-Fi, as
technological development is moving fast in this sector. More
important is the need for a State-owned company at the cutting
edge of development in providing the type and quality of service
that ICT users need today.

6 (investment in the future)
Broadband rollout is key, as is more funding and aid for start-up
businesses, particularly micro-enterprises. Broadband in all
schools, with proper labs and so on, is an urgent priority.

Progressive Democrats (PDs) - Fiona O'Malley TD, spokesperson on

1 (Broadband in Ireland currently lags well behind the EU)
The delivery of competitive, affordable broadband by service
providers has been slower than we would have liked but broadband
take-up in Ireland is running at twice the average EU rate. The
PDs will build on the work done to date and propose policies in
our election manifesto to grow both availability and take-up.

2 (Broadband availability currently stands at 85pc)
In the National Development Plan (NDP), we announced the
allocation of ?435m to support regional economic development and
address market failures in the provision of broadband in parts of
the country.

By 2013, all the MANs in gateways and hubs will have been
completed and enhanced backhaul connectivity will deliver much
improved and more cost-effective broadband accessibility.

3 (How would your party seek to resolve the disputes about local
loop unbundling)
Legislation is being brought forward to strengthen the powers of
ComReg, including provisions to promote faster LLU, which has
been a very important factor in accelerating broadband take-up in
other countries.

4 (incorporating computer into the school curriculum)
The NDP also reflects the PDs' desire to see investment in ICT
for schools. The planned funding in this respect is for ?252m
over the period of the plan. Also, a detailed ICT strategy will
be published by the Department of Education and Science this

5 (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
We will propose specific policies in our election manifesto,
which is currently being finalised.

6 (investment in the future)
There has been recognition of under-development in science,
technology and innovation at both business and academic levels
and the PDs will pursue dedicated investment to address this. In
addition to investment in broadband, investment to replace
Ireland's analogue network with a digital terrestrial television
network will also be put in place, for example.

Computer canvassing - blogs and the election

Spending on technology will be a deciding factor for some voters
going into this year's election, but technology may also affect
parties' performance in other ways. Irish bloggers have been
using the internet to stir up debate and some politicans have
started blogging too.

Election candidates are writing blogs (Ciaran Cuffe, Joan Burton,
Liz McManus, John Gormley), Bebo profiles (Jerry Buttimer, John
Paul Phelan) and are uploading videos on YouTube (Brody Sweeney,
Dominic Hannigan) and photographs on Flickr (Dominic Hannigan).
The recent Labour party conference was the first to be covered by
live bloggers and it is planned for other party conferences to
follow suit.

Damien Mulley, blogger and spokesperson for internet lobby group
IrelandOffline, describes the benefits of blogging from a
political perspective.

"Because blogs are more participatory and you can leave your own
comments and link to a blog, they are great for political debate.
Ordinary people are able to give their opinion on anything they

He says that because blogs don't need to correspond to
traditional news media production cycles, bloggers have more time
to fact-check and cover things in depth. He predicts the rise of
single-issue blogs, where somebody can interest a local audience
in a specific issue that might otherwise only get cursory
coverage in print or broadcast media. "A small audience will be
able to find one blog that will interest them."

Political parties will also start using them in a manner similar
to focus groups - to gauge opinion and reaction to policy ideas,
Mulley forecasts.

Blogging may not have as much impact on the upcoming Irish
election as it has had on the US election two years ago but Cian
O'Flaherty, administrator of, says a crucial
fact for politicians to consider is that many blog readers and
writers do not follow traditional voting patterns and are there
to be converted in tightly contested constituencies.

"The demographics tend to suggest that many of the people who
read the site [] would not have a traditonal
voting preference and would have moved to their constituency in
the past five years. Demographically, their votes are probably
going to be very important in the next election."

By Niall Byrne


Irish To Rally For Immigration Bill

The Irish are gearing up for another immigration rally in the
nation's capitol. Members of the Irish Lobby for Immigration
Reform have organized another rally in Washington, D.C., on
Wednesday. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-
Mass., authors of an immigration reform bill, are expected to be
there. Buses are leaving from Woodlawn, Queens, Brooklyn and
Monroe at 4 a.m. Other contingents from Boston, Philadelphia and
San Francisco will attend as well. Rockland residents wishing to
secure a place on a bus should e-mail or
call Mary Brennan at 914-420-5894. For more information, log onto
the organization's Web site,


Tourism Now Ireland's Most Important Indigenous Industry

[Published: Monday 5, March 2007 - 07:43]

The Irish Hotels Federations says tourism contributed ?2.6bn to
the Exchequer last year, making it Ireland's most important
indigenous industry.

In its latest annual report, the group says tourism revenue
increased by 11% in 2006, with more than 160,000 people employed
in the sector.

However, speaking ahead of its annual conference in Cavan today,
the federation says the Government must provide more funding to
ensure the industry can attract more visitors to areas outside

c Belfast Telegraph


Price Of A Pint To Increase Today

05/03/2007 - 12:29:15

The price of a pint could increase by as much as eight cent from

Drinks firm Diageo has hiked the cost of its brands by four cent,
and publicans are expected to add a similar mark-up.

Pints of draught Guinness, Smithwicks, Carlsberg, Budweiser and
Harp will be affected.

The company is also expected to increase the price of Smirnoff
Vodka and Baileys.

A Diageo spokesman said: "The 2.7% increase is necessary to
offset the rising cost of raw materials and energy prices."

A Vintners Federation of Ireland spokesperson confirmed publicans
will be adding similar mark-ups.

"The likelihood is that members will have no alternative but to
pass the price increase on to the customer. The VFI doesn't know
by how much as this is up to individual publicans."

According to CSO figures, the average price of a pint of Guinness
was ?3.72 at the end of 2006 but this climbs far higher in bars
in major towns and cities.

Diageo, the world's biggest drinks group, reported a 3% drop in
beer sales in Ireland for the second half of 2006.

The firm blamed the drop on people drinking at home and enjoying
different tipples.

About 70% of the group's Irish sales in 2001 were in pubs, but
that has fallen to 50% now.

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