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March 01, 2007

SF Hails DUP Signal On Power Sharing

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 03/01/07 SF Hails DUP Signal On Power Sharing
BB 03/01/07 PUP Manifesto Launch For 'New Dawn'
IT 03/02/07 Opposition To Brits Rule Common Denominator
IT 03/02/07 Constituency Profile: Foyle
SP 03/01/07 Irish Political Prisoners Speak At Ball State
IT 03/02/07 Opin: Election Guarantees Nothing
IT 03/02/07 Feature: Should You Blog In Or Blog Off?
IT 03/02/07 Feature: Is Writing On Wall For Irish Blogs?
IT 03/02/07 Feature: The Best Of The Irish Bloggers
BN 03/01/07 Plans For M50 Chaos Include BarrierFree Tolling
CL 03/01/07 Irish Folklore Blooms At Philly Flower Show


SF Hails DUP Signal On Power Sharing

Thu, Mar 01, 2007

The Rev Ian Paisley has given his clearest signal yet that
his Democratic Unionist Party is preparing to go into a
power-sharing government, Sinn Fein said tonight.

The party's general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed
Mr Paisley's announcement that the Finance and Personnel
portfolio would be the DUP's first ministerial choice in a
new devolved administration.

In an open letter to voters, Mr Paisley said his party
would claim the Finance and Personnel post and insist
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown resolve the issue
of water charges once and for all in his financial package
to bolster a new Stormont executive.

The North Antrim MP vowed: "If the DUP is returned at this
election as the largest political party, I will make the
Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) my party's first
ministerial choice.

"While a final decision on this issue will be one for the
whole Executive and Assembly to determine, the primary
responsibility for bringing forward proposals will lie with
the DFP minister.

"I want my minister to take charge of this issue." Northern
Ireland's ratepayers are due to receive their water charge
bills next month, based on the value of their homes. There
has been widespread opposition to the charges, with parties
claiming ratepayers are already paying for water and
sewerage services through their domestic rates bills.

Mr Paisley acknowledged that he had rarely seen an issue
which had generated so much opposition in all his years in
politics. However the DUP leader's announcement was
interpreted by Sinn Fein's South Antrim candidate Mitchel
McLaughlin as a signal that the DUP leader was preparing to
go into a power-sharing government.

"What has been very encouraging during this election
campaign is that socio-economic issues have been dominating
the conversations we have been having with voters," he
said. "I would be very surprised if that message hasn't
been coming back to the DUP too.

"This development would appear to suggest that it has been.
It is a very positive indication that the DUP are going to
take part in a power-sharing executive."

British government sources also noted the announcement. "I
think it is arguably the most significant development of
this election campaign," a Government source observed. "It
says an awful lot about the mindset of the DUP leadership
as we approach the end of this campaign. They have never
been so clear before about which portfolio they will take
in a devolved government."

As she launched her party's online election manifesto and a
mural in Belfast depicting a new dawn over the city,
Progressive Unionist leader Dawn Purvis was convinced the
DUP and Sinn Fein were preparing for power sharing. "We are
moving into a new dawn," the East Belfast candidate

The SDLP's Joe Boyle said the fact that the DUP was
prioritising its choice of ministries made it all the more
crucial that voters choose the right parties next Wednesday
to lead a power-sharing government.

The Strangford candidate said: "It appears that we are now
heading into an election which will lead to restoration and
government. "That is why it is crucial that people get out
and vote on Wednesday.

"The results of this election will define progress on
issues such as water charges, rates bills, health and
education for the next five years. Only a stronger SDLP at
the centre of Government can deliver real change and ensure
that the people of the North are not short-changed."

However, Ulster Unionist chief negotiator Alan McFarland
accused the DUP of being detached from reality and engaging
in double-speak. "This is the final nail in the coffin for
DUP hypocrisy," the North Down candidate said. "Here we
have claims about what they might do in a ministry but
they're not honest enough to tell people if they'll even go
into the Executive.

"They can't have it both ways. It was only a short time ago
that DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that 'it would be an
insult to people's intelligence to think we could be in
government with Sinn Fein by March 26'."

c 2007


PUP Manifesto Launch For 'New Dawn'

The Progressive Unionist Party wants all future housing
developments to include units for first-time buyers.

The party's manifesto, launched in east Belfast, focuses on
education, housing, water charges and poverty.

The party is calling for investment in social housing and a
special fund to rehabilitate sectarian hotspots.

New party leader Dawn Purvis, one of three candidates being
fielded, said they wanted to continue the work done by
David Ervine, who died in January.

Ms Purvis said housing policy was "integral to successfully
tackling poverty and environmental issues".

"We also recognise that the soaring price of housing in
Northern Ireland is making it increasingly difficult for
first-time buyers to access the market," she said.

The key points of the manifesto include:

Increased pre-school provision, especially in disadvantaged
areas, the end of academic selection and more integrated
education both inside and outside the integrated school
sector; and more outreach by universities in disadvantaged

The abolition of water charges, incorporating them instead
into a rates system based on the ability to pay; and a fair
domestic rates system based on income and not property
value, replacing the current system which is a stealth tax;

Opposition to racism and support for community projects
which foster good relations;

Backing for the process of change in policing and the
introduction of police community support officers, and
increased use of restorative justice schemes;

Support for the process of conflict transformation taking
place within paramilitary groups, and encourage loyalists
engaged in this activity;

The maintenance of the union with the rest of the UK based
on mutual respect and renewed relationships and also
recognising the importance of north/south relationships to
develop the economy, attract inward investment and address
issues of mutual benefit for both sides of the border;

A fully-functioning assembly and a devolved government
which produces a new style of politics replacing tribalism,
with the British government providing a strong financial

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/01 17:07:18 GMT


Opposition To British Rule Still Common Denominator For

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor, In Derry
Fri, Mar 02, 2007

Peggy O'Hara spends most of her time in her home on the
west bank of the Foyle where she is recovering from ill

Yet the image of the 76-year-old republican appears on
election posters in Derry often alongside an image of her
INLA hunger-striker son who died in the Maze in 1981.

According to campaign manager Martin McMonagle, an alliance
of ex-Sinn Feiners angry at the move on policing, Irish
Republican Socialist Party members, Republican Sinn Feiners
and the 32-County Sovereignty Committee members and others
are uniting under her candidacy.

Their common denominator is not opposition to Gerry Adams,
The Irish Times is told insistently, it is opposition to
British rule in Ireland. To that end he claims a new
generation, too young to recall the Maze hunger strikes,
are energised by the campaign and Patsy O'Hara's "sense of
sacrifice" and are canvassing for Peggy who "will win
thousands of votes".

There is no suggestion of a return to armed conflict, but
then there is no suggestion either that this is a one-off

"We haven't gone away, you know," McMonagle says, borrowing
a line from Gerry Adams.

Others from a variety of backgrounds, however, are utterly

Willie Hay, the personable DUP candidate, could well top
the poll in this overwhelmingly nationalist city, courtesy
of further shrinkage in the Ulster Unionist vote.

There is a sense here that Peter Munce could be rewarded
for fighting in such barren UUP territory as this with a
choicer cut of electoral territory at some stage in the

Hay waves away the threat from anyone outside the main
parties - which means basically his own, Sinn Fein and the

He pooh-poohs the campaign by Willie Frazer who is standing
in Foyle on an anti-St Andrews Agreement ticket, and claims
the south Armagh man has acted to "shred the unionist

The DUP has reason to feel secure there will be no change
in this election on the unionist side of the divide.

Speaking sotto voce, Hay doesn't think there will be a
change in the 3-2 share-out of seats between the SDLP and
Sinn Fein either.

This is Durkan country and there can be no doubt that the
party is looking to next Wednesday with rather more hope
than dread, unlike the last Assembly election in 2003.

The party leader has been joined by personal friend and
political ally Brian Cowen for a business breakfast,
ostensibly for the Minister for Finance to promote the
National Development Programme.

The Minister lauds his hosts as "the right people to make
sensible economic decisions" when in office. "The
Government stands ready to work with you." The Celtic Tiger
boom would not have been as sustained or thorough without
peace in the North, he claims, and John Hume nods silently
in accord.

This is valuable stuff for a party leader who spends most
of his time fighting for seats elsewhere.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Constituency Profile: Foyle

Fri, Mar 02, 2007

NATIONALIST BATTLEGROUND:The 2005 Westminster election
seems to have proved a key point in the electoral history
of Foyle. SDLP leader Mark Durkan beat off a stiff SF
challenge from Mitchel McLaughlin by a more comfortable
margin than most expected. The Sinn Fein man is fighting
this time in South Antrim and the party ticket has a newer
look. But there is a sense here that the share of the six
seats will not change. That said, there is mention that
SDLP man Pat Ramsey, recently intimidated from his home,
could have to fight for his seat against party colleague
Helen Quigley. Eamonn McCann's Socialist Environmental
Alliance polled impressively here in 2003, but has slipped
somewhat in the meantime.

UNIONIST BATTLEGROUND:There is a single unionist quota here
and it is firmly retained by DUP man and policing board
member Willie Hay. The Ulster Unionist have not fared well
in Foyle and this time the party is running young party
employee Peter Munce who hails from the neighbouring
constituency. Victims campaigner Willie Frazer is running
despite having his political base in south Armagh, 100
miles away. Such multi-candidacy can bring benefits or
backfire badly. A city such as Derry, with its strong sense
of identity, may not take too well to the outsiders.

WILDCARD:Peggy O'Hara's abstentionist campaign is the one
truly unpredictable factor at play in Foyle. With the
longer term political effects of the Sinn Fein policing
policy change still to be fully ascertained, her
performance will tell us much.

Her campaign is solidly associated with the hunger strikes
of 1981 and still employs the "Smash Stormont" slogan
associated with republican politics of that time. Whether
the electorate in general, and the young generation in
particular, will be attracted remains to be seen.


(% of first preference vote; Quota =15%)

*Mark Durkan (SDLP)6,806 (16.7%)
*William Hay (DUP)6,101 (15.0%)
*Mitchel McLaughlin (SF)6,036 (14.8%)
* # Mary Nelis (SF)3,499 (8.6%)
Mary Bradley (SDLP)3,345 (8.2%)
Pat Ramsey (SDLP)2,826 (6.9%)

* also elected in 1998

# Mary Nelis retired in 2004 and was replaced by Raymond

c 2007 The Irish Times


Irish Political Prisoners To Speak At Ball State

Natives of Northern Ireland will address the peace process
in their country

By Gail Koch

MUNCIE -- It's been nearly a decade since Ireland and
Britain signed the Good Friday Peace Accord, an agreement
that sought to end years of fighting in Ireland.

In that time, however, "a lot of things haven't changed,"
said Terry Kirby, a former Irish Republican political
prisoner. "We knew the peace process would be a long road
and a test of our patience."

Kirby and two other former Irish prisoners of war, Paul
Harkin and Bobby Lavery, will speak at 7 p.m. today at Ball
State University's Pittenger Student Center, Cardinal Hall.

The focus of their free public lecture will be the peace
process in Northern Ireland and how the decades-long
struggle has affected their lives.

Kirby was 17 years old when he was imprisoned in Belfast's
Long Kesh Prison in the 1970s. He was still behind bars in
1981, when prisoner protests culminated in a hunger strike
in which 10 of his comrades starved to death. In 1983, he
joined 37 other republican prisoners in the largest prison
break in British penal history.

Kirby later came to the United States, where he was
arrested in 1994 with three other escapees, a group that
became known as the H-Block 4. In 2000, after fighting
extradition, he was released and continues to live in the
United States.

Fellow speaker Paul Harkin is a U.S. resident who spent six
years in an Irish POW camp. Bobby Lavery endured three
years at the same prison before he became the first member
of Sinn Fein -- the political arm of the Irish Republican
Army (IRA) -- to be elected to a legislative body for North
Belfast in 1985.

Tragically, Lavery's son, Sean, and brother, Martin, were
both killed in the early 1990s by loyalist para-militaries.
Lavery, now a U.S. resident, escaped numerous attacks
against his own life.

"I had a guilt complex after my brother's death," Lavery
said, his accent heavy. "It became worse after the death of
my son."

Gretchen Bales, a Ball State administrative coordinator in
the family and consumer sciences program, said she wanted
to bring Harkin, Kirby and Lavery to campus so that
students could hear "the other side" of the Irish conflict,
which for years has pitted Protestants against Catholics.

A member of the Indiana chapter of the Irish American Unity
Conference, Bales said the men are in the middle of a 10-
day tour of the Midwest and will head to Kentucky after
tonight's lecture.

"They are very compelling speakers and they bring an
emotional element to this conflict," she said. "I hope we
have a good turnout."

Contact news reporter Gail Koch at 213-5827.


Opin: Election Guarantees Nothing

Fri, Mar 02, 2007

There can be little doubt about how the parties will fare
in next Wednesday's Assembly election. Within unionism, the
DUP will make further gains at the expense of an Ulster
Unionist Party struggling to convince the electorate that
it still has a role to play, writes David Adams.

In truth, confidence is so low within the UUP that it is
struggling to convince itself that it has much of a future.
The party knows that it has yet to reach its lowest
electoral ebb, but it has no idea how far down that might

Whether there will be a steady clawing back after this
election, or whether it proves merely to be a pointer on
the road to irrelevance, only time will tell. What is
certain is that it cannot possibly be in the best interests
of the unionist people to have a single political party
representing them.

On the nationalist side, and perhaps of some comfort to the
UUP, the SDLP's gradual recovery looks set to continue,
with the party at least holding its own and maybe even
closing the gap a little on Sinn Fein.

Under Mark Durkan's leadership there has been a much-needed
major overhaul of SDLP party structures, resulting in
better internal management and improved relationships with
local communities.

More overtly, a continual pointing up of Sinn Fein's lack
of original ideas and questionable negotiating skills has
reminded people that the SDLP remains the intellectual
engine of nationalism. Whatever the spin and gloss from
Sinn Fein, it is becoming increasingly difficult for
republicans to counter the charge that they simply follow a
path already trodden by their nationalist opponents.

It has been, and to some extent will continue to be, a hard
slog back for the SDLP, but at least there is light on the

The Ulster Unionists actually face a far greater task than
ever confronted the SDLP. Unlike the UUP, the nationalist
party never had to contend with elected members, party
strategists and entire constituency associations defecting
en masse to their rivals.

With next week's result virtually a foregone conclusion,
the main electoral interest for many observers will lie in
the particular rather than in the general. Can PUP leader
Dawn Purvis manage to hold the late David Ervine's seat in
East Belfast? Will our first ethnic Chinese candidate, Anna
Lo, of the Alliance Party, be elected in South Belfast? Can
Ms Lo's party leader, David Ford, hold his seat in South
Antrim? And will Bob McCartney, who is standing in six
constituencies, make any inroads into the vote of his
erstwhile anti-agreement allies in the DUP?

On grabbing pole position within unionism the DUP promptly
ditched McCartney and left him trying to hold back the tide
of political progress on his own while they moved instead
to attempting to direct its flow.

McCartney is determined to make the DUP suffer at the polls
for their volte face desertion of him and of a previously
shared position. It is more likely that he will fail even
to be re-elected to the North Down seat he has held.

Such is the lack of public interest in the election that
voter turnout will be low, particularly among the unionist
electorate. However, for any number of reasons, the notion
being peddled by both the DUP and Sinn Fein that this might
result in Sinn Fein being returned as the largest party is
founded more on self-interest than on any realistic chance
of that happening.

A major problem, and primary cause of public apathy, is the
fact that people are not sure why we are having an
election. It can hardly be argued that it is to endorse the
so-called St Andrews Agreement. Every party, including the
DUP and Sinn Fein, has distanced itself from that agreement
by pointing out that only the two governments have
ownership of it. Besides, a referendum, not a party
election, is the only democratic way of gauging public
support for a new initiative.

But, of course, a referendum would not suit the DUP. They
could not permit any "fairer deal" that they were even
remotely associated with to be put directly to the Northern
Ireland people: no new arrangement could ever hope to win
anything like the public support (72 per cent of an 81 per
cent turnout) afforded to the Belfast Agreement they
supposedly despise.

Ostensibly, this election is to determine the make-up of an
Assembly and executive. Yet there is no guarantee that a
new Assembly will meet, never mind agree to form an
executive. The British government acceded to the DUP demand
for an election, thinking that it wanted to seek electoral
approval for sharing power with Sinn Fein.

Instead, the motivation seems to be twofold: to damage
further the UUP and to garner a vote - much of which will
actually be for an Assembly to be reinstated immediately -
that can be presented as a blank-cheque endorsement for
more negotiations after polling day. There should have been
no election without firm guarantees of devolved government
on the other side.

In a process noted for careful choreography, it looks this
time as though the cart has been put before the horse.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Feature: Should You Blog In Or Blog Off?

Fri, Mar 02, 2007

Blogging is catching on here, but has it already peaked in
the US, asks Haydn Shaughnessy

The Irish blogging community will celebrate its second
annual awards ceremony tomorrow evening in Dublin. By the
time the ceremony closes and the dancing begins at 10pm, 21
out of more than 100 shortlisted writers who regularly post
their views and comments online, will be clutching their
prizes and calling themselves best-in-category.

It is impossible to put accurate figures on the number of
people blogging in Ireland, or on their total readership.
But the fact that 100 sites are competing against each
other tomorrow evening is indicative of a range of talent
in the apartments, estates and rural bungalows of Ireland,
all using this new medium to promote their views and

Blogging is an outlet, some say, for egos and dreamers. It
is also one of the few mechanisms that someone new to the
media world can use to reach an audience. Blogging has
helped these 100 writers, at least, win recognition.

The subjects of the blogs up for awards range from
technology to in-vitro fertilisation, from food to
politics, from council estates to drugs. There are few
topics off the blogging radar, which is the main strength
of blogs. While newspapers, magazines and television still
trade in scarcity of space and resources, bloggers are free
to wander.

But while blogging is still taking hold in Ireland, there
is a sense that it may already have peaked elsewhere.

In the US, the blogging scene is settling down after three
years of excitement. Daily KOS, a top political blog, is
credited with re-establishing the credentials of the
democratic left. It is now an established political
resource. The Huffington Post began as an aggregator of
opinionated blogs from across the political spectrum and
became one of the dominant media influences in Washington.
The Washington Post and other newspapers now run online
sections made up of blogs from the public. Companies such
as Blogburst sell blog posts to intermediaries such as the
news agency Reuters.

Blogging has quickly become part of the vast and varied US
media scene and no longer appears to offer up a challenge
to mainstream points of views.

So has Irish blogging come into its own just as blogging's
influence has begun to wane? In order to find out what
bloggers thought of this, we put the following proposition
onto a weblog (
"Blogging has peaked and Irish blogs have come into their
own too late in the day".

Damien Mulley, organiser of the Irish blog awards,
publicised the question on the awards' website and more
than 30 bloggers, previous award winners among them,
provided their own take on where Irish blogging is headed.

Fergus Cassidy, now a freelance journalist, believes the
radical edge that characterised the early days of American
blogging has yet to appear in Ireland for the simple reason
that blogging here is still in its infancy.

It's a point taken up by Lisa McInerny, who writes under
the pseudonym Swearing Lady. ". . . This year could be a
massive one for the blogging community, obviously because
we've got an election coming up. The fact that there are so
many out there regularly publishing their thoughts and
information the mainstream media may have ignored is
something that's bound to affect the way voters think and
decide . . ."

But others, such as the contributors to republican blog,
1169 and Counting, believe the noise created by so many
blogs blocks out radical voices and the fact that some
blogs are egotistical and poorly written allows the
mainstream to dismiss all opinion that originates on blogs
as being of little wider significance. Although more
attention should be paid to bloggers, there are reasons, or
excuses, why they are not.

My own view is that Ireland's cultural strength, its
growing support for diverse opinions, may be its biggest
political weakness. One of the exceptional traits of Irish
blogging is its diversity of viewpoints. Whereas in the UK
and US opinion tends to polarise and quickly follows
established bipartisan lines, in Ireland a debate is likely
to begin wide and remain so. But this may be an Achilles'
heel if bloggers are to become a force for change.
Entrenched political views are going unchallenged because
the voices emerging on the web have inadequate collective
strength. Arguably writers whose opinions matter must
ultimately have an impact on political parties and their
policies. But then, blogging was never only about politics.

Irish bloggers are keeping a collective account of arts and
culture, politics, the culinary landscape, fashion and
appearances, and the emotional experiences of living in
changing times. Below and right are some of their views.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Feature: Is The Writing On The Wall For Irish Blogs?

Fri, Mar 02, 2007

Blogging has peaked and Irish blogs have come into their
own too late in the day. What do bloggers think?

"So the traditional media in the US have done the old
embrace and smother on blogging. I think it will be a lot
harder to do that here. One loudmouth could easily make a
difference . . . In the political arena we do seem to be
missing an 'edge'. Most of the political blogs I read could
easily just be normal journalism. I'd love to see something
with much more bite. And I don't mean 'blah is a bollox', I
mean going for the jugular on a daily basis, pseudonymously
if necessary."


"Over this side of the Atlantic, the limelight is on the
way the UK press has adapted to blogging - and (more
importantly) audio and video podcasting. In Ireland, there
is no limelight. Why? because there's nothing to shine it
on." - fmk

"We are commenting on the day to day issues and on Irish
life from the view of the Irish people.

"To the Irish diaspora abroad, this must be rich pickings.
They no longer just get news on the latest tribunals or
whatever - they get the local issues, the local opinion and
the local voice." - Grandad

". . . there is little doubt that blogs will continue to
shape and influence how people receive their information
about the world. But on a more macro level, blogs are also
about creating communities, sharing information and
perspectives from the first person to the second person . .
. without intermediaries. - JC Skinner

"I regularly speak at business events and in the order of
70 per cent of attendees, when asked, have not come across
blogs." - Krishan De

"Anything that gets away from the present media perspective
has to be a good thing. All national newspapers, radio and
television are written by people who live in Dublin, for
people who live in Dublin. This is a recipe for mediocrity
and parochialism, and it ignores the two-thirds of the
population who live elsewhere."

- Block the robber

". . . bloggers should (in my opinion) be ploughing their
own furrow ever more tenaciously. 'Limited appeal' (after
all) is no bad thing and nothing to be ashamed of. What we
need in the Irish blogosphere is not a gang of fresh
recruits for the Mainstream Media Mills, but rather a
dynamic, playful and confident avant-garde!" - F£star

"The mainstream press and broadcast media tends to be a
free photocopying service for party press releases. Irish
bloggers engage with and challenge party positions in way
rarely seen in the mainstream media." - Green Ink

"Irish bloggers disillusion themselves slowly: they are
mainly hypnotically indebted to their country's heritage.
Above all they are not curious enough. But they don't
realise this. They live in their own world. And put up with
arguing among siblings, as if that was the only way to
life. They are not ambitious. Too often they fail to push
the boundaries of their language into new places and fresh
shapes. In a nutshell, Irish bloggers are a conservative
bunch." - Omaniblog

"Outside of people who are involved in blogging in some
form, I've never had a single conversation with someone
about a blog. Most of the population wouldn't have a
foggiest what you're talking about or simply aren't
interested and many of them are people who are quite tech
savvy. There's a lot of back-slapping and navel-gazing that
goes on in blogging as a whole but especially in Irish
blogging."- BIF

"Every time someone realises their blogging makes a
difference either to others or themselves (personal
development etc) then that's a revolution. Millions of
personal revolutions is what blogging has delivered. It
also means revolutions are always happening as people start
and stop blogging. The timing doesn't really matter."-
Damien Mulley

"Revolutions, by definition, do not peak."

- Conn O Muineachain

The above are extracts of blogging responses to the
question put up on Haydn Shaughnessy's blog:

c 2007 The Irish Times


Feature: The Best Of The Irish Bloggers

Fri, Mar 02, 2007

"This is a Government which dragged Kathryn Sinnott all the
way to the Supreme Court rather than acknowledge that it
had a duty to provide her son with special needs'

On the constitutional rights of children

It dragged another child there rather than acknowledge a
duty to provide secure units for children taken into care.
Kids, legally in the care of the Government, end up on the
streets on a weekly basis, a moral outrage that gives an
acid bitterness to the phrase 'taken into care'. -, nominated for best political blog

On in-vitro fertilisation

I find IVF easier than any other stage of our infertility
journey. So far. Despite the pain in my belly, the
headaches, the enormous hole in our finances, I am
considerably less bitter, broken and angry than I have been
since this blog began . . . The darkest days of all were
during the long, hard months after my first miscarriage,
before we started treatment. 13 of them . . . Each one
another miscarriage, another baby I wouldn't get to hold in
eight months' time. And all the time waiting, waiting,
waiting for an appointment at a fertility clinic, then
waiting for tests, procedures, results, battling for a
chance at treatment, fighting with doctors, willing someone
to allow us a shot at the best possible chance. - Waiting
Game, nominated for best personal blog

On an angry morning

Ban life. Ban work. Ban paying large vomit-like chunks of
PRSI that you'll never be allowed to claim back. Ban your
nagging family. Ban 52-inch HD-ILA televisions. Ban Surf
ads, Finish ads, electrical goods retailer ads, and evil,
good-character-changing Red Bull ads. Ban Mary Harney. -
Swearing Lady, nominated for best blog

On books

"It's only three years since I read Kiely's novel, The
Captain with the Whiskers but it has stayed with me and
will remain one of my favourite Irish novels. Like JP
Donleavy's The Ginger Man, it's a very specific snapshot of
a bygone Ireland (in this case, the late 1950s/early
1960s). Even though there is, what Thomas Kilroy says in
his afterword of my copy of the book a 'moral indignation'
in his writing, it's never bombastic. If anything, Kiely's
handling of subjects like pre-marital sex and adultery are
deft, sardonic and usually very funny. With Donleavy, Kiely
shares a writer's ear for dialogue and a storyteller's
drink-soaked musicality . . ." - Sinead Gleeson, nominated
for best arts and culture blog

On climate change

In a study of over 900 scientific papers on global warming
(a randomised selection of 10 per cent of all scientific
papers published in the area in the last 10 years) not one
scientific paper came out against global warming. Whereas
the same study looked at over 600

newspaper reports on global warming and 53 per cent of them
came out against climate change. - Tom Raftery's IT blog,
nominated for best technical blog

On RT dramas

The motto of recent RT commissioning seems to be "Keep it
regional. Baby". In fairness, this policy brought us Love
is the Drug (Drogheda) and Pure Mule (Offaly), both
entirely passable, and more importantly, watchable dramas
from outside the pale.

The general consensus is that this trend is all very well
and good as long as we never end up with a drama set in
Cork. "This Langer", anyone? - Dublin Opinion, nominated
for best news and current affairs blog

On music

Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe I'm actually too young, but
I can't help but feel that dance music is in a weird time
warp these days.

Perhaps it's not just dance music that's in this stasis, or
even just music. This isn't even a controversial theory, is
it? It reminds me of [ Francis] Fukuyama's theory about
western capitalism. Although it didn't spell "the end of
history" in terms of world events (9/11 NEVER FORGET etc),
it always is a theory that I think of in relation to art
and postmodernism.

- House is a Feeling, nominated for best music blog

On Ireland before the election

After 34 gangland murders in Dublin in the first three days
of the month the Opposition accuses Minister for Justice
Michael McDowell of being "as soft as Scarlett Johannson's
dirty pillows" on crime. The PD leader says it's not his
fault and lays the blame squarely on middle-class
recreational drug users saying if it wasn't for them
there'd be nobody to buy it. Bertie Ahern agrees and
threatens to plunge the country into recession unless
people from Foxrock and Rathgar stop buying cocaine for
their dinner parties. "Maybe then you'll appreciate
everything we've done for you feckless eejits," he says.
Fine Gael promise to cut waiting time in hospitals, an end
to people being treated in corridors and better pay and
shorter working hours for nurses and doctors.

- Twenty Major, nominated for most humorous post

The above are extracts from blogs nominated for the Irish
Blog Awards which are running in the Alexander Hotel,
Dublin tomorrow. (

c 2007 The Irish Times


Plans To Reduce M50 Chaos Include Barrier-Free Tolling

01/03/2007 - 17:56:40

The Government today announced details of its multi-
million-euro plan to reduce traffic congestion on the M50.

Commuters are being promised barrier-free tolling by August
of next year, when a new system of charging will be put in

There will be one single point on the West Link area of the
motorway, where cameras and antennae will detect car

Those without prepaid electronic tags will be sent bills by


Irish Folklore Blooms At 2007 Philadelphia Flower Show

By Alison Lapp

Last updated: Thursday, March 1, 2007 6:38 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA - Shamrocks have long enjoyed a monopoly on
evoking the luck of the Irish, but at the Philadelphia
Flower Show this year, tulips, rhododendrons and azaleas
are giving the old classic some competition.

"The Legends of Ireland" is the theme for the Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society's annual show, running March 4-11 in
the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It could be called the
Emerald Isle's greatest hits.

Leprechauns made of ivy wear impish smiles as they paint a
rainbow that dips into a pot of gold-coin yellow leaves.
Trickles of water make natural music streaming off the
cords of an oversized harp. A cobblestone path leads to a
quaint village front, complete with a wool shop, jewelry
store and pub.

"Without a pub, it's not a town," John Young said of
Vallygael, the quintessential Irish village that he dreamed
up with his colleagues at the Mens Garden Club of

Their display of greenery and woodwork relies on bold
colors that would stand out in an Irish fog and the warm
culture that invites insiders into village shops made
attractive inside and out.

"It's often said in Ireland that if you want to find a
really good pub, look at the outside for fresh paint and
fresh flowers," Young said. "Then you're pretty much
assured the food and drink inside will be good."

Sam Lemheney, the show's director of design, said the
Celts' rich storytelling heritage guided his work.

The feature exhibit in the center of the show's 10
landscaped acres was inspired by the legend of Tir-Na-Nog _
the land of the young.

"The trees always have leaves, the flowers never stop
blooming and the smell of spring is always in the air,"
Lemheney said. "It's just perfect."

At the show, that translates into giant man-made tree
trunks reaching skyward, above a floor of daffodils and
ferns that one might imagine as the preferred home for
Ireland's mythical faeries.

Beyond the wood, which shows off Ireland's natural beauty,
the Knot Garden flaunts the artistic skill honed for
centuries by the island's residents. Colorful cut glass and
blooming annuals meld together to form sparkling versions
of tradition Celtic designs, spread over a mock hillside.

The glisten helps the garden hold its own in the shadow of
the spikes and turrets of a castle that could have housed
one of Ireland's noble families. Planted walls and a
perennial garden surround the outer quarters and lead
visitors to the castle stage, where Ragus, a dance and
musical act from Galway Bay, Ireland, will give daily

A free daily lecture series also will provide guests with
everything from tips on organic gardening to lessons in
Ireland's cultural past.

To start it all out, "The Living Wall," an archway lined
with plants in intricate Celtic patterns, serves as an
entryway into the show.

"It gives a feeling of a portal into ancient, Old World
Ireland," said Barbara King, manager of Valley Forge
Flowers in Wayne.

King said thousands of flowers would go into the display,
including some varieties she'd never seen before.

The buds form bright bursts of color standing out against a
green backdrop that wouldn't be complete, of course,
without its shamrocks.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

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