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March 15, 2007

Devolution Deadline Can Be Met

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 03/15/07 Devolution Deadline 'Can Be Met'
BT 03/15/07 Yes, DUP Will Share Power With Sinn Fein
BT 03/15/07 DUP: A Balancing Act Between Optimism And Scepticism
BT 03/14/07 Paisley Silenced After Commons Blast
IT 03/14/07 Ahern Backs S Africa-Style Truth Review
BT 03/14/07 I Warned Blair I Could Lose My Commons Seat: Trimble
BT 03/15/07 Elected Less Than A Week, & Already Targeted By Racists
RT 03/15/07 Ahern In US Plea For Irish Undocumented
RT 03/15/07 Ireland Facing 'Dangerous' Climate Changes
IT 03/15/07 Ireland Has Highest Rate Of Binge Drinkers In EU
IT 03/15/07 One In Four Girls, One In Five Boys Now Overweight


Devolution Deadline 'Can Be Met'

The Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, has said that he believes
the 26 March deadline for devolution will be met.

He told a gala dinner in the US capital, Washington DC, it was
time for Northern Ireland to move on.

"Never has the support for what we are seeking been so universal
and so united," the taoiseach told the American-Ireland Fund

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr also told the BBC progress was being
made towards achieving devolution.

"I'm hopeful and I think it is important that we continue to be
hopeful and work towards that end of achieving devolution - as
soon as the conditions are right," he said.

"I hope that's sooner not later."

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said that he was also optimistic
about a power-sharing administration being formed.

"I think it is the will of the people," he said.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that the people expect Ian Paisley
and ourselves and the other parties will establish a government
on the 26th and that we will move with great speed then to deal
with the vital issues that affect them in their daily lives."

Mr Ahern and other politicians are in Washington for St Patrick's
Day celebrations.

In a tradition marking the patron saint of Ireland's day, he will
present a bowl of shamrocks to President George W Bush.

The newly elected Northern Ireland Assembly met for the first
time on Tuesday at Stormont.

The parties have until 26 March to agree a power-sharing
executive or the British and Irish governments say they will shut
the assembly and stop the pay of its members.

If a power-sharing executive is formed it will have four DUP
ministers, three Sinn Fein, two UUP and one SDLP.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since October
2002, amid allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont. A
subsequent court case collapsed. Direct rule has been in place
since that date.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper Mr Ahern
said he was still committed to a united Ireland.

"I am personally deeply committed to a united Ireland and I make
no secret of that fact," he told the paper.

"But the most important thing is that we have peace and hopefully
reconciliation between everyone on this island. We need to have a
unity and a friendship among the people and that must be our
first priority."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/15 08:03:00 GMT


Yes, DUP Will Share Power With Sinn Fein

[Published: Thursday 15, March 2007 - 09:17]
By Ben Lowry and Lesley-Anne Henry

DUP Assembly members are prepared for power sharing with Sinn
Fein, but a majority think it will not happen by March 26.

A survey by the Belfast Telegraph of the party's MLAs found that
almost all who responded believed there would be an executive
that included republicans.

And one high-profile DUP politician said power-sharing would
happen by March 26 or shortly after.

But the prospect of such an arrangement was met with widely
varying degrees of enthusiasm within the 36-strong DUP Assembly
party, 27 of whom replied to our straw poll.

When asked whether they were personally happy to share power with
Sinn Fein, the responses ranged from an unequivocal "Yes, I would
be happy", through to a blunt "No, I don't think they should ever
be in Government" .

Most of the 27 MLAs who spoke gave a more centrist response to
that question, saying that they were unhappy personally at
sharing with Sinn Fein but they were prepared to do so in the
right circumstances.

One MLA's response was typical: "I don't really relish the idea
but I recognise that we have dragged them a long way kicking and
screaming and the alternative (to power-sharing) may be far

A number of the respondents said the recent election had shown a
strong desire among unionists for a swift return to devolution.

The first question the Belfast Telegraph put to each of the MLAs
was whether they thought there would be an executive by March 26.

Only one of the 27 said clearly that power-sharing would be
established by that deadline.

Another four said it would happen by then or shortly thereafter.

A further eight said it was unlikely by that date, while ten MLAs
were even more categorical, saying that there was no chance of
power-sharing by then.

Four did not know or would not speculate on when power-sharing
would be up and running.

Of the 18 MLAs who dismissed the chances of power-sharing by
March 26, or deemed it unlikely, we asked when they expected an
executive to happen, if at all.

Three said it would be established "soon" while another three
specified May as a likely month. Another three MLAs suggested the
summer, or shortly afterwards.

One said that it would be the "end of the year at the earliest".

Four would not be drawn on a likely date, and another four said
it depended on other factors, such as a clear Sinn Fein
commitment to democracy or the British Government delivering a
financial package.

None of the 27 MLAs predicted there would never be an executive.

Each of the MLAs was then asked how happy they were personally at
the prospect of having to share power with Sinn Fein. Four
expressed happiness without any qualification.

"I look forward to it," said one of these four, likening it to
doing business.

Five MLAs expressed qualified happiness.

"Happy is not the right word," laughed one of the five. "
Realistic is the word."

Another said: "It is time to face them (Sinn Fein)."

Ten MLAs expressed unhappiness at working with republicans, but
qualified their unease.

"It is not something that I want, but under the proper
circumstances I am prepared to accept it," said one MLA.

Another said he was not happy but "we have to bite the bullet. It
will happen eventually".

Six MLAs expressed clear unhappiness at the thought of
republicans in power.

"If I had my way personally, they would never be through the
door," said one of the six. He added that he hoped senior Sinn
Fein members would be brought to justice if evidence emerged of
their involvement in past terrorism.

Another MLA cited republican criminality, adding: "I do not
believe that Sinn Fein is fit for Government."

One MLA said: "With an unreconstructed Sinn Fein, not only would
I be unhappy, I would not be party to it."

Asked whether Sinn Fein had changed in the way he wanted, the MLA
said there had been "some steps in the right direction" but "not

Several MLAs said Michelle Gildernew's comments about "political
policing" showed Sinn Fein had not changed sufficiently.

One said her comments had been "unhelpful" but the MLA noted that
Gerry Adams had encouraged those who knew about Monday's murders
in Belfast to go to the police.

"Maybe that counterbalances what Michelle Gildernew was saying,"
he said.

Another MLA said the DUP had placed a lot of reliance on past IMC
reports that showed continuing IRA activity, so it was difficult
to now say that they were not accepting more positive reports.

c Belfast Telegraph


DUP: A Balancing Act Between Optimism And Scepticism

[Published: Thursday 15, March 2007 - 09:55]
By Chris Thornton

Ian Paisley is bullish about a deal, except when he isn't. On
Monday the DUP leader grabbed the headlines by reporting progress
in the talks about a settlement.

He said his party's election victory had "strengthened my hand",
and meant he "can afford now to go a bit further".

No doubt Peter Hain glowed at his words.

But - and there was a significant but - Mr Paisley also indicated
that if a power- sharing partnership with Sinn Fein had already
been up and running, it would now be in tatters.

He said he could not have stayed in a coalition while Sinn Fein
criticised the PSNI for "political policing" in the arrest of
attempted murder suspect and veteran republican Gerry McGeough.

So there is an element of guessing involved when it comes to
assessing whether the DUP is ready to enter government with Sinn
Fein by the deadline of March 26.

After all, there are outstanding issues. Mr Paisley's ardour for
the financial package got him in trouble with the House of
Commons Speaker yesterday, but the Government is upbeat about
resolving this one.

And there is the continued uncertainty about policing. "We do not
accept the equivocal support of policing as it is presented by
republicans currently," North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds reminded
everyone last night.

But beyond the specific issues, there has long been a question
about whether the DUP was really ready to deal.

Ever since 2004 - when Mr Paisley first seriously flirted with a
settlement - there has been scepticism about whether the DUP's
rank and file had been prepared to switch their focus from
smashing Sinn Fein to cooperating with them.

Republicans spent a long time coaxing their people towards
decommissioning and policing. Could the DUP perform the same feat
over power-sharing?

There are some pretty strong indications that the answer is yes.
The first was last week's election victory.

Mr Paisley's anti-Agreement opponents did not draw a viable vote.

Arguably the demise of Robert McCartney's UK Unionists is a
lesson for any internal DUP critic preparing to put their head
over the parapet.

Another is today's Belfast Telegraph's straw poll within the new
Assembly Party.

The widespread expectation of an eventual deal suggests that the
Assembly members are thoroughly engaged with the idea they will
partner Sinn Fein.

A self-described ember of the "more liberal wing" of the party
spoke of "considerable progress" by Sinn Fein.

"I think there is a good chance the executive will be up and
running sooner rather than later," the MLA said.

The positivity should be tempered by the attitudes of some senior
members, who expressed serious dissatisfaction with the idea of
serving with Sinn Fein.

There is a discernible difference between the two attitudes.
Those who are more positive about the prospects of a deal tended
to focus on whether the financial package is achievable. There is
little question now that something will happen in that regard.

But the sceptics tended to talk about their need for Sinn Fein to
do more on policing, and for the commitment to policing to be
tested. That will be significantly harder to establish in the
next 11 days.

The various attitudes will influence Ian Paisley, but ultimately
they will probably follow where he leads.

The Government better hope it's the positive Paisley who comes to
work on March 25.

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley Silenced After Commons Blast

[Published: Wednesday 14, March 2007 - 14:41]
By Mark Hookham and Noel McAdam

Ian Paisley had his House of Commons microphone switched off
today as he insisted the Government must come up with an economic
package to secure devolution.

His blistering tirade was brought to a halt by Speaker Michael
Martin who had to shout "order" five times before the DUP leader
resumed his seat.

Before the microphone above his seat was switched off, Mr Paisley
said: " There is no use putting a beautiful engine on the road
and saying 'here is devolution, here is a wonderful form of
government', if there is not the money to pay for the fuel to run
this engine."

Earlier, North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said that what Unionist
leaders are currently hearing from ministers "falls well short of
what is going to be necessary".

Secretary of State Peter Hain, however, said a "good financial
package" would be on offer from Chancellor Gordon Brown, who
would not want to stand in the way of devolution.

Both Mr Paisley and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams were due to
talk to Mr Brown today, as well as Tony Blair, who insisted the
March 26 deadline cannot be shifted. Ahead of his meeting with Mr
Blair, Mr Paisley thundered: "The people of Northern Ireland
resent with anger the fact that this Government, who are telling
us today what a wonderful future you have . . . why did they (the
Government) not do all these wonderful things that they tell us
we should be doing."

Mr Adams said any package must be able to effectively tackle
issues like water charges.

The PM's spokesman said he believed there was a growing
realisation that the Government is serious about the March 26
cut-off point, just 12 days away.

"Today is all about listening to the leaders and just underlining
that March 26 is a deadline that we cannot shift in any way.
Certainly Dr Paisley's comments yesterday seem to suggest that he
thinks that progress is being made," he said.

"I think people are beginning to realise that we are serious
about the 26th, and people also know that the message on the
doorsteps was very clear, that people want them to get on with
doing the deal and get on with the business. A combination of
those two things is having an impact."

Meanwhile, the Guardian today revealed Mr Paisley and Mr Blair
have been sharing theological books over the past year and held
discussions which " had gone well beyond politics".

c Belfast Telegraph


Ahern Backs S Africa-Style Truth Review

Wed, Mar 14, 2007

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he would support a process which
would review events during the North's troubles similar to the
truth commission that investigated crimes during the apartheid
era in South Africa.

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York today,
the Taoiseach said he supported a system that end the suffering
of the victims of violence.

"I think we have to find some mechanism. ... Otherwise it will
never come to an end," he said.

One commission already exists. The Police Service of Northern
Ireland has established the Historical Enquiries Team to re-
examine deaths between 1968 and 1998.

Mr Ahern said the team had investigated some cases, but said
survivors of the troubles may need some other system to end their

"A lot of these people want to know what happened. Why was our
loved one killed? Who killed them? Was it investigated? So
there's an enormous number of people who want to go back into
it," he said.

"The difficulty is, you have try to end them somewhere. If you
just go on and on and on and try to get to the truth about the
past, it keeps up."

c 2007


I Warned Blair I Could Lose My Commons Seat: Trimble

[Published: Wednesday 14, March 2007 - 14:45]
By Noel McAdam

Tony Blair was warned Lord Trimble was in danger of losing his
Westminster seat - by Mr Trimble himself, it was revealed today.

But when the former Ulster Unionist leader told the Prime
Minister about growing unease within unionism, a senior Downing
Street aide laughed and rebuffed the suggestion that Lord Trimble
might be defeated in Upper Bann. The revelations come in the
latest interviews published by the Guardian today in a series on
the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

Asked if he was "let down" Lord Trimble said Downing Street
became blase about the perception of a continuing flow of
concessions to Republicans.

The Governments' notion appeared to be that the then Mr Trimble
would always be able to "pull something out of the hat".

The ex-MLA said from around 2001-02, which included the Weston
Park talks, Mr Blair "increasingly got the focus wrong.

"I remember we said to him many times that his focus was always
seen to be on republican difficulties and doing things to help
them," he said.

"Whereas we pointed out: 'Look the real problem threatening the
agreement is the fact that unionist support has slipped and is
continuing to slip because of what they see as a continuing flow
of concessions to republicans and you have got to address that'.
And they didn't and they were blase about it.

"There seemed to be a sort of notion that no matter how bad
things were, I would always be able somehow to pull the rabbit
out of the hat. I remember during one meeting in Downing Street
saying to Blair that the way things are going that I am in danger
of losing my parliamentary seat. A senior aide who was with him
laughed and said it wouldn't happen. But there we are."

Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon told the Guardian he
came to the point where he would not take Mr Blairs' word "for

"This man, with a moral dimension to everything, who applied
morality to nothing. I got increasingly to the point where I
wouldn't have taken his word for anything," he said.

The former SDLP deputy leader went on: "It wasn't judgments that
went wrong. It was strategy. You had [Downing Street Chief of
Staff Jonathan] Powell and others in Dublin who had decided that
to make this work you had to dispense with middle unionism and
middle nationalism. I think it was as calculated as that."

c Belfast Telegraph


Elected Less Than A Week, And Already Targeted By Racists

[Published: Thursday 15, March 2007 - 09:51]
By Deborah McAleese

Northern Ireland's first Chinese politician has vowed not to be
deterred by racists after abuse was posted about her on a high-
profile website.

Police are continuing their investigations into allegations of
racism against south Belfast MLA Anna Lo after new bigoted
footage appeared on the video website YouTube.

The videos, which are seen 100m times a day, were removed after
they appeared in the comedy category showing a poster of the new
Alliance MLA being defaced while the culprits ridiculed her

The footage was removed as soon as the Belfast Telegraph alerted
Ms Lo, the PSNI and the website to the material.

This is the latest in a series of racist on- line attacks against
Ms Lo, who is the first politician of Chinese descent to be voted
into government in Europe.

Ms Lo's face has been maliciously posted onto pornographic
websites and she has been abused on a hate site which links into
a network "for national-socialists world-wide" and claims to be
part of the infamous neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

Ms Lo today said that, while the racist slurs are upsetting, the
overwhelmingly warm response she has received following her
election as south Belfast MLA is much more representative of
local people.

"I have had a meeting with police about this kind of thing before
but they cannot do much because no actual threats have been made
against me. When the sites are shut down, they are just re-opened
somewhere else.

"In all societies there are small elements who are against you
simply because of who and what you represent.

"I think my election shows how far we have actually progressed as
a society.

"The fact that Northern Ireland is the first place in Europe to
vote in a (Chinese) politician is a very positive image for the
province world-wide. Therefore, I try not to think about the
abuse on the internet."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police inquiries are ongoing into an
existing issue regarding internet content. The PSNI do not
monitor internet sites on a day-to-day basis; however, we will
take appropriate action when we receive a complaint of a criminal
offence in our jurisdiction."

Nobody from YouTube was available to comment.

c Belfast Telegraph


Ahern In US Plea For Irish Undocumented

Thursday, 15 March 2007 07:37

The Democratic Speaker of the United States House of
Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has given a commitment to
introduce bi-partisan, comprehensive immigration reform this

Ms Pelosi was speaking at the American Ireland Fund Dinner in
Washington last night, which was also attended by the Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern.

A new push on immigration reform is going through a difficult
time in the US Congress with disagreement on some aspects of a
planned bi-partisan bill in the Senate.

Last night Mr Ahern made a plea in a speech for the
Irish undocumented in the US, which he put at 30,000 people.

The Taoiseach said he was 'not arguing the case for citizenship'
but wanted to ensure they had freedom to travel and work.

He also pledged an endowment of ?10 million to the American
Ireland Fund over the next five years.

Ms Pelosi, who was honoured at last night's event, gave Mr Ahern
her commitment that she would work towards introducing bi-
partisan, comprehensive immigration reform this year.


Ireland Facing 'Dangerous' Climate Changes

Thursday, 15 March 2007 07:37

Ireland's climate could suffer the effects of dangerous climate
change if global temperatures increase by more than 2%, an
environmental report has forecast.

The report from the Environmental Protection Agency, prepared by
climate experts at NUI Maynooth, is the first time the Irish
implications of such a temperature increase have been directly

The EU-agreed position is that if world temperatures increase by
2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it will probably
trigger what is known as 'dangerous climate change' - meaning
significant, if not irreversible, impacts.

Using data from three global climate models, the
report estimates that rising summer temperatures could lead to a
drop in rainfall of up to 25% with a major impact on water
resources, particularly for Dublin.

In winter, rainfall could increase by 17%, possibly leading to
significant storm surges and flooding as well as increased
coastal erosion.

It is estimated that as much as of land would have more
than a 50% chance of being threatened.

Unless action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases, which are
blamed for rising temperatures, the report's lead author suggests
the critical two degree limit could be exceeded by as early as

The report concludes that Ireland needs to meet its commitments
in reducing greenhouse gases to maintain solidarity - and
credibility - with the international community.


Ireland Has Highest Rate Of Binge Drinkers In EU

Carl O'Brien, Social Affairs Correspondent
Thu, Mar 15, 2007

Ireland has the highest rate of binge drinkers in the EU, a new
survey exploring attitudes to alcohol shows.

A total of 34 per cent of people in Ireland report having five or
more drinks on average in a single sitting, more than three times
the EU average of 10 per cent.

This compares to binge-drinking rates of just 2 per cent in
Italy, 5 per cent in Spain and 8 per cent in France.

Binge drinking is defined in the Eurobarometer survey as having
five or more alcoholic drinks in one session. A glass of wine or
a shot of alcohol is measured as a single drink, although a pint
of beer is regarded as almost two drinks.

The report shows that the countries least likely to have a binge-
drinking problem are those with a culture of moderate, everyday

For example, people were most likely to have a drink every day in
Italy (26 per cent), Spain (24 per cent) and France (18 per
cent). This compares with a rate of just 2 per cent in Ireland,
or an EU average of 13 per cent.

Overall, binge drinking across the EU is highest among the 15 to
24 age group (19 per cent), according to the survey.

There was significant public support for advertising restrictions
and tougher drink-driving measures.

Most people in Ireland (74 per cent) would agree to a lowering of
the blood/ alcohol level for young and novice drivers and support
the banning of alcohol advertising which targets young people
(also 74 per cent). The support for random Garda checks on
drivers in Ireland is among the highest at 91 per cent, compared
with an EU average of 80 per cent.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said he was "deeply
concerned" by the data in general.

Public health specialist and former member of the Government's
taskforce on alcohol Dr Joe Barry called on the Government to
take stronger measures to tackle alcohol misuse, such as greater
restrictions on advertising and an end to the voluntary code of
conduct that exists for the drinks industry.

A Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) spokesman said: "We
believe education is the key and we are working through
partnership programmes to achieve this."

Meanwhile, the industry says it is taking steps to highlight the
importance of responsible drinking on St Patrick's Day.

One of the main sponsors of the parade, Diageo, is devoting
advertising space around the festival to the "drinkaware"

EU's worst offenders Ireland 34% Finland 27% UK 24% Denmark 23%
Sweden 16% Belgium 13% Netherlands 12% Czech Republic 11% Poland
9% France 8% Germany 5% Italy 2%

EU average 10%

Binge drinking:The proportion of people who have five or more
drinks on an occasion when they consume alcohol. A standard drink
is considered to be a glass of wine or a shot. A pint of beer or
stout is measured as 1.9 drinks.

Source: Eurobarometer survey for the European Commission on
attitudes towards alcohol.

c 2007 The Irish Times


One In Four Girls, One In Five Boys Now Overweight

Paul Cullen, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Thu, Mar 15, 2007

Rates of obesity among young girls have increased threefold in
the past 15 years, a conference on soft drinks has been told.

Almost one in four Irish eight to 12-year-old girls and one in
five boys are now either overweight or obese, according to Dr
Sin‚ad McCarthy, nutritionist with the Irish Universities'
Nutrition Alliance.

The home environment had to be targeted in any attempt to tackle
obesity because this was where 85 per cent of calories were
consumed, she told a forum organised by the Beverage Council of
Ireland (BCI).

Research showed child obesity tended to be higher where the
mother was obese, while the children of mothers who watched a lot
of television also tended to watch a lot of television.

In 1990, 5 per cent of young girls were obese and 10 per cent
were overweight but, by 2005, these figures were 14 per cent and
9 per cent.

In the same period, the proportion of obese boys rose from 6 to 8
per cent, and overweight boys rose from 5 to 12 per cent.

In the general population, half of all women and two out of every
three men are obese or overweight. Since 1990, obesity has
increased 2.5-fold in men.

Dr McCarthy said consumer education had to focus on the amounts
of food that people eat, rather than the types. Greater awareness
of the importance of portion size was needed.

However, it was becoming increasingly difficult to buy small
packets and bottles.

Obesity poses a variety of health risks: obese women, for
example, are almost 13 times more likely to develop type-2
diabetes than women with normal weight, and the risk for obese
men is five times greater.

Studies of food consumption patterns have shown obese people tend
to eat more of a variety of food types, in particular breads and
meat, she added. Their average excess energy intake of 271
calories would take five hours to burn off while resting, or one
hour out walking.

The amount of food eaten at a typical lunch affects energy
intake. Any increase in portion size can lead to a significant
increase in energy intake.

Dr John O'Brien, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of
Ireland, said consumer education and better product labelling was
needed to tackle the obesity issue. It was better for the EU to
introduce a single system of food labelling rather than have
individual member states going their own way, as this would lead
to confusion among consumers.

Alfie Lydon, president of the BCI, said the soft drinks industry
sometimes felt it was being scapegoated in every issue that

"Perhaps we don't extol our virtues as much as might be
justified," he said.

Portion size: counting calories and weight

Regular lunch 250ml soft drink 25g crisps 2 slices bread 14g
butter 1 slice cooked meat chocolate bar


Large lunch 500ml soft drink 40g crisps 3 slices bread 21g butter
2 slices cooked meat king-sized chocolate bar


c 2007 The Irish Times

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