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May 11, 2007

FF Polls Increase, But Alt Coalition Still Leads

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 05/11/07 FF Increase While Alternative Coalition Still Leads
BT 05/11/07 Executive Postpones Introduction Of Water Charges
DJ 05/11/07 Local Issues To The Fore As Sinn Féin Targets FF
BB 05/11/07 Paisley And Ahern Visit 1690 Site
IT 05/11/07 Opin: Europe Decisively Shaped By Battle Of Boyne
EX 05/10/07 Basking Sharks Off Coast Signals Good Weather Ahead


FF Increase While Alternative Coalition Maintains Lead

Fri, May 11, 2007

Support for Fianna Fail has increased over the past two weeks but
the Fine Gael-Labour alliance is still ahead of the outgoing
Government in the election race, according to the latest Irish
Times/TNS mrbi poll. Stephen Collins, Political Editor, reports.

The poll shows that support for Fianna Fail has risen by 2
percentage points while support for Fine Gael is down 3 points.
However, Labour is up 3 points and the Progressive Democrats are
down 1 point to give the alternative alliance a lead of 3 points
with two weeks of the campaign to go.

The adjusted figures for party support are: Fianna Fail 36 per
cent (up 2 points); Fine Gael 28 per cent (down 3 points); Labour
13 per cent (up 3 points); Sinn Fein 10 per cent (no change);
Greens 5 per cent (down 1 point); PDs 2 per cent (down 1 point);
and Independents/ others 6 per cent (no change).

When asked if the Taoiseach had further questions to answer about
his personal finances 72 per cent of respondents said that he
had. Asked if it was a serious issue in the general election
campaign, 50 per cent said it was and 43 per cent said that it
was not.

A total of 59 per cent said he should make a public statement
about his finances during the campaign while 32 per cent said he
should wait until the Mahon tribunal after the election.

The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday among a
representative sample of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews
at 100 sampling points around the country, just over a week into
the election campaign and the controversy over Mr Ahern's

The core vote for the parties is: Fianna Fail 35 per cent (up 3
points); Fine Gael 22 per cent (down 1 point); Labour 10 per cent
(up 3 points); Sinn Fein 8 per cent (no change); Greens 4 per
cent (no change); PDs 1 per cent (down one point);
Independents/others 5 per cent (no change); and undecided voters
15 per cent (down 4 points).

When voters were asked which of the alternative coalitions on
offer they would like to see forming the next government, the
Fine Gael-Labour alliance, with the possible support of the
Greens, had a two-point lead with 38 per cent as against 36 per
cent for the Fianna Fail-PD coalition. There was only a 1 per
cent change on this issue since the last poll but there was a
significant change in the number of people who actually believe
the alternative alliance will win.

Asked which of the coalitions they thought would actually form
the next government 35 per cent opted for the Fine Gael-Labour
alliance while 34 per cent said Fianna Fail and the PDs.

This is the first time more people expected the Opposition to
form the next government. Only two weeks ago 41 per cent expected
Fianna Fail and the PDs to win while 23 per cent thought Fine
Gael and Labour would take power.

The survey, which coincided with the re-establishment of a
powersharing Executive in the North, showed a 1 point increase in
the Taoiseach's satisfaction rating to 54 per cent, making him
the most popular party leader. Satisfaction with the Government
was up 4 points to 47 per cent. The most dramatic change in
satisfaction ratings was that for Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny,
who was up 6 points to 47 per cent.

It was the highest rating achieved by Mr Kenny since he took over
as leader of Fine Gael five years ago.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte's satisfaction rating was up 2
points to 50 per cent while Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was up 5
points to 51 per cent.

There will be some relief in Fianna Fail at the two-point
increase in party support since the last poll, given the poor
start to the election campaign and the controversy over the
Taoiseach's finances. But there will be disappointment that a
"Bertie bounce" on the scale of that which happened last October
has not materialised again.

Fine Gael will be disappointed to see support slipping by 3
points since the last poll but party strategists are confident
that 28 per cent on election day will deliver more than 50 D il

The three-point jump for Labour is probably more important for
the prospects of the alternative government. At 13 per cent
Labour should hold its existing seats and have a chance of some
potential gains. Critically for Labour the party has pushed back
ahead of Sinn Fein and is well ahead of the Greens in Dublin.
Sinn Fein will be happy that it is holding the 10 per cent it
achieved in the last poll but the Greens will be disappointed at
the one-point drop to 5 per cent following its two-point drop in
the previous poll.

On 2 per cent nationally, the PDs slipped into dangerous
territory and the party does not have a single safe seat. Michael
McDowell's satisfaction rating has improved a little but the poll
shows the party has a battle for survival on its hands.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Local Issues To The Fore As Sinn Fein Targets FF

Liam Reid
Fri, May 11, 2007

Dublin North West is one of the key constituencies for Fianna
Fail in the capital, as it battles to retain its 21 Dublin TDs in
the face of an assault on all sides from Opposition parties.

Fianna Fail holds two of the three seats in the constituency, and
one of those seats is particularly at risk from growing support
for Sinn Fein. Should Fianna Fail hold on to the two seats, it
would be due to the strength of its candidates in the local

As a constituency, Dublin North West is a much different
proposition for politicians compared with 25 years ago, when it
had some of the worst pockets of poverty in the country, high
levels of drug abuse and associated problems of crime and

Those problem areas have undergone or are in the process of
undergoing wholesale urban regeneration. Finglas and Ballymun by
and large contain very settled communities, with many residents
at retirement age or older.

Dublin North West has also undergone a significant population
increase of 7 per cent in the last five years, driven largely by
new apartment and townhouse developments close to the edge of the
constituency along the rim of the M50.

With such a mix, there is no single issue dominating the
campaign. Local issues, from mobile phone masts to speed bumps,
are to the fore.

Poor transport features as an issue on the fringes of the
constituency, and there is also a campaign to realign the
proposed metro route. Access to health services is also

Only one seat, that of Fianna Fail's Minister of State and
brother of the Taoiseach Noel Ahern, is considered safe, with an
extremely close contest likely between Fianna Fail, Labour and
Sinn Fein for the final two seats.

Dublin North West is a crucial constituency for Sinn Fein, and
one of its primary targets for a seat gain. In 2002 its
candidate. the former IRA prisoner Dessie Ellis, was third on the
first count, but lost out on a seat due to a lack of transfers.
He will hope to increase his personal vote to close to a quota in
order to avoid a similar fate.

On paper it should be sitting Labour TD R¢is¡n Shortall whose
seat is at greatest risk. She was behind Sinn Fein on the first
count in 2002, and owed her election to transfers from Fine Gael.
However, a good local profile and a stronger campaign by Labour
this time round suggests her seat should be in less danger.

Fianna Fail has enjoyed considerable success in this constituency
in the last decade. In 1997 Noel Ahern and Pat Carey took two of
the four seats here, which led to sitting Fine Gael TD Mary
Flaherty losing her seat.

In 2002, after the constituency was reorganised and reduced to
three seats, Ahern and Carey held on to their seats, polling 1.9
quotas between them, with Ahern topping the poll.

To repeat this feat will be a much greater challenge in 2007, and
Carey's seat is therefore seen as highly vulnerable. However,
what should not be discounted is the strength of Carey's record
as a local TD.

In all, the election in Dublin North West is likely to come down
to the transfers of Fine Gael candidate Dr Bill Tormey, a former
Independent politician and Labour Party member. Although he
enjoys a relatively high profile in the constituency, Tormey is
not expected to poll ahead of Shortall, and should be eliminated
before her. The Fine Gael/Labour pact should therefore see
Shortall safe.

This means that Carey would have to poll significantly ahead of
Ellis to stand a chance of retaining his sea. It would require
Carey to garner a personal vote well above that of his party's, a
challenge he may find impossible to meet.

Anti-social behaviour is one of the only issues that is common
across the constituency. Health services also feature, especially
in areas with a higher proportion of older residents. Like most
urban areas, there are specific local planning cases in some
neighbourhoods, but the issue of the proposed Ikea furniture
superstore is not one that has prompted any significant local
opposition. Public transport features in some areas, while in
neighbourhoods closer to the city centre there is a campaign to
reroute the proposed metro over fears about the potential damage
to properties from underground tunnelling.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Executive Postpones Introduction Of Water Charges

[Published: Friday 11, May 2007 - 08:54]
By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland's new power-sharing Executive has attempted to
maintain the "feel good factor" flowing from the restoration of
devolution by confirming households will not have to pay water
charges this year.

The deferral of water charges for 12 months will cost œ75m -
which will come from the extra cash promised to Northern Ireland
by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

But the Executive, at its first meeting yesterday, also agreed to
maintain its contact with the Treasury in an attempt to improve
the peace dividend package.

First Minister Ian Paisley, Deputy First Minister Martin
McGuinness and Finance Minister Peter Robinson are to continue
the engagement with Mr Brown "to ensure that we get the best
possible deal", an Executive statement said.

Mr Brown has now confirmed in writing the proposals which he has
already made but the statement added: "This is not the end of the

The anticipated postponement of water charges for 12 months was
confirmed at the end of a three-hour meeting at Stormont castle.

The decision not to impose the proposed annual charges for water
and sewerage during the financial year until the end of March
next year will save the average household œ100 over the 12-month

At their inaugural meeting, which was described as "cordial and
relaxed" , ministers also agreed to a proposal from Regional
Development Minister Conor Murphy for a comprehensive review of
the investment in the water and sewerage service which the
Executive agreed is badly needed.

The review which is to examine a longer term approach to
financing water and sewerage services, is to be completed by the

It will include the issue of the future of the Government-owned
water company set up by Direct Rule Ministers.

"I think what we want to do with the review is put everything on
the table again," Mr Murphy said.

The decision was welcomed by Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain, who
chairs the Stormont committee which monitors Mr Murphy, and the
Consumer Council.

"I have very real concerns about the way the Government-owned
company was imposed on all of us by the Direct Rule Ministers
without any proper examination of the alternatives," North
Belfast MLA Mr Cobain added.

The Consumer Council said it hoped the short and focused review
would answer fundamental questions such as whether the capital
value of people's homes should be the basis for determining water

c Belfast Telegraph


Republican 'couldn't be happier' after convictions quashed

By Michael McMonagle

Derry republican Charlie McMenamin has said he "couldn't be
happier" after he had convictions for attempting to kill a
British soldier and possession of weapons quashed at the High
Court in belfast.

Mr. McMenamin was arrested in 1978 when he was 16 years-old and
charged with involvement in a gun attack on British soldiers in
the Bogside. He was held at Strand Road RUC station. He was
convicted and served three years in a young offenders' centre.

Mr. McMenamin has always denied the charges and said that he was
forced to sign a false confession after being ill-treated by the

In 2002 the 45 year-old republican's case was referred to the
Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

At the High Court yesterday, Lord Justice Campbell said the he
and his two colleagues had "a sense of unease about the

During the hearing it emerged that on the day when the 16 year-
old was alleged to have been involved in a gun attack he was
actually in a training school after running away from home.

This information led to an official in the office of the Director
of Public Prosecutions advising the RUC not to proceed with
charges but the prosecuting lawyers were not informed and the
teenager was convicted on statements he made after interrogation
at Strand Road RUC station.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr.McMenamin said that he "could not
he happier" with the outcome.

"This is something that I have campaigned on for a number of
years and it is great to finally see it. I confessed under duress
and was advised to plead guilty by my legal representatives at
the time but I have always known I was innocent. I was one of the
lucky ones in that I only served three years while many others
who were wrongfully convicted served much longer sentences but I
felt it was important to prove that the original convictions were
totally wrong," he said.

Mr. McMenamin was joined in the High Court yesterday by his
mother and sister and said that the verdict was a "vindication"
for his family.

"My mother always said to me through the years that she did not
know how they got away with sending me to jail and I was pleased
that she could be in court to hear that the convictions have been
quashed. When I was arrested my mother came down to the Strand
Road barracks every day for three days to try and see me and
bring me food.

"For years after my release from prison my family were harassed
by the RUC and our home was raided and I was arrested many times.
My mother had to put up with all of that and now my family have
been vindicated," he said.

Mr. McMenamin also encouraged other republicans who feel that
their convictions are unsafe to contact ex-prosoners groups and
seek legal advice.

The 'Journal' has learned that several other local people have
contacted solicitors in the wake of Mr. McMenamin's case with a
view to challenging their convictions.

Last Updated: 11 May 2007


Paisley And Ahern Visit 1690 Site

Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley and Irish Republic
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have arrived at the site of the 1690
Battle of the Boyne.

The two men are viewing an exhibition on the battle at Oldbridge
House, part of a multi-million pound restoration project by the
Irish government.

Work on the project in County Meath is expected to be completed
next year.

The Battle of the Boyne was fought between William of Orange and
Catholic King James II in 1690.

The Protestant Orange Order celebrate William's victory every
year on 12 July.

Mr Ahern and Mr Paisley will later attend a reception for guests
from north and south of the Irish border.

'Learn from past'

The guests include politicians, representatives of the Orange
Order and other loyal orders, local authorities and others
associated with the project to develop the site.

Mr Paisley is to present the Taoiseach with a musket in return
for Mr Ahern's gift at the St Andrews talks of a walnut bowl made
from a tree from the site.

The tanaiste - Irish deputy prime minister Michael McDowell - and
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern are expected to attend,
along with newly appointed ministers from the Northern Ireland

Mr Ahern and Mr Paisley agreed to the visit at the start of last
month after talks in Dublin between the two.

Mr Paisley said it would show "how far we have come when we can
celebrate and learn from the past".

"We both look forward to visiting the battle site at the Boyne,
but not to re-fight it. I don't want Mr Ahern to have home
advantage," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/11 11:44:57 GMT


Opin: Irish History And European Struggles Decisively Shaped By Battle
Of Boyne

Fri, May 11, 2007

Today the Taoiseach and the newly-installed First Minister will
walk the site of the Battle of the Boyne - an encounter in 1690
which defined the history of this island for the following 300
years. Jonathan Bardon explains what happened

Only for a brief moment in history did Ireland become the cockpit
of Europe. That was when James II, the Catholic king driven from
his throne in England, decided to make Ireland the base for the
recovery of his kingdom with the aid of France.

The raising of a Catholic army in Ireland by the king's lord
deputy, Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, proved to be the last
straw for English aristocrats. In 1688 they turned for help to
William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic.

William had every reason to listen to English appeals for aid: he
had formed a Grand Alliance against Louis - James I's ally -
which included Leopold I, the Catholic Emperor of Austria,
several German princes and Pope Innocent XI, an implacable
opponent of the French king.

In Ireland, the conflict would be fought strictly along sectarian
lines. Elsewhere - with the Pope's encouragement - Protestant and
Catholic rulers joined forces to halt the aggrandisement of

An imposing Dutch army disembarked at Brixham on November 5th
1688 and James fled to France just before Christmas.

In this so-called Glorious Revolution, the Stadtholder was
crowned as William III, joint monarch with his wife, Mary.
Meanwhile, Louis provided James with a formidable French army,
commanded by the Comte de Lauzun, and on March 22nd 1689 James
landed at Kinsale in Co Cork.

From there to Cork city and north to Dublin the Irish turned out
to give him a rapturous welcome.

Very soon, King James had control of the whole island - only the
island town of Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh and the walled city of
Londonderry held out against him. The epic defence of that city
over 105 days provided a vital breathing space to William by
giving him a secure base in Ulster.

Early in June 1690 William assembled an army of continental size
at Hounslow Heath near London. Then a cavalry detachment went
ahead to clear the road to Chester for a train of no fewer than
3,000 ox-carts stretching for 18 miles. A squadron of warships
escorted William's fleet of about 300 vessels across the Irish
Sea into Belfast Lough on June 14th. King William stepped ashore
at Carrickfergus and then drove along the lough shore to meet
Schomberg in Belfast.

The pale asthmatic monarch told the citizens of Belfast in
halting English that the people of Ireland would "be settled in a
lasting peace".

James, meanwhile, had stationed his army on the south side of the
Boyne close to Drogheda in Co Louth. William advanced south and
on Monday June 30th he deployed his troops on the north side of
the river. He did not know that that very day the English navy
was being badly beaten by the French off Beachy Head in Sussex -
there was much at stake in the coming battle.

The international composition of William's army showed how it
represented the Grand Alliance: here were regiments of English,
Dutch, Danes, French Huguenots, Germans and Ulster Protestant
skirmishers ("half-naked with sabre and pistols hanging from
their belts . . . like a horde of Tartars", the Williamite
chaplain, George Story, remarked).

Numbering some 36,000, the Williamites were at least 10,000
stronger than the Jacobites. Although recently re-equipped by
another French fleet, James's army was also greatly inferior in

William was superstitiously opposed to doing anything important
on a Monday, but according to Sir Robert Southwell: "His Majesty,
at his arrival yesterday near the river about 12 of the clock,
rode in full view of the Irish army, which are ranged upwards on
the other side. The enemy even discovered it must be His Majesty
. . . They began to fire and presently one of the balls past . .
. upon the blade of his right shoulder."

That night the bandaged king had a council of war with his
generals. A detachment would ride inland to the fords at Slane,
to make it look as if this was the main attack. Later, when the
tide was right, he would direct a frontal assault across the
river. Just before dawn, on Tuesday July 1st, Meinhard, son of
the Duke of Schomberg, led 10,000 men upstream past Townley Hall
to the fords at Rosnaree. As the sun rose these Williamites
encountered fierce opposition from Irish Jacobite dragoons led by
Colonel Sir Neil O'Neill.

O'Neill was mortally wounded and, as the attackers crossed the
fords, the French commander made a frantic appeal for assistance.
At their headquarters on the Hill of Donore, King James and
Lauzun concluded that the main attack was at Rosnaree: they
decided to lead most of their troops to the fords. James left
those remaining under the command of the Earl of Tyrconnell. And
so William's feint to draw most of the Jacobite troops away from
the main assault had worked perfectly.

Just after 10am the ground shook as William's artillery pounded
the Jacobite positions directly across the Boyne. The Dutch Blue
Guards had to wade eight abreast up to their armpits at
Oldbridge, holding their weapons over their heads.

King William crossed the river with great difficulty and was
temporarily incapacitated by an asthmatic attack. He watched
Tyrconnell's Irish Jacobite cavalry counter-attack with great
ferocity. The guards swiftly formed squares and Tyrconnell's
horsemen dashed themselves futilely against their fixed bayonets.
The Williamites triumphed by superior firepower and weight of

To Southwell's alarm, William "was here in the crowd of all,
drawing his swoard & animating those that fled to follow him. His
danger was great among the enemye's guns, which killed 30 of the
Iniskillingers on the spott".

Near Slane, King James was informed of William's triumph at about
two in the afternoon. He and the Marquis de Lauzun decided to
abandon the field of battle. In the circumstances, the retreat
was brilliantly organised, much credit being due to the Duke of
Berwick, James II's 19-year-old illegitimate son, and to Sir
Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan.

The casualties were remarkably low for such a large battle: about
1,000 Jacobites and 500 Williamites died in the action.

King James headed straight for Dublin. He said to Lady
Tyrconnell: "Your countrymen, Madam, can run well"; to which she
responded: "Not so well as Your Majesty, for I see you have won
the race."

Not long after, the deposed king left Ireland for ever, being
remembered here as S‚amus an Chaca, James the Shit.

The Irish and French retired in good order to fight doggedly
behind the Shannon for another year. Not until the Battle of
Athlone in June 1691 (the heaviest bombardment in Irish history),
the Battle of Aughrim on July 12th (the bloodiest battle in our
history, when 7,000 Irishmen died in an afternoon) and the second
siege of Limerick (the greatest siege in Irish history) did the
Jacobites lay down their arms.

Yet the decisive encounter had been the Battle of the Boyne. The
victory was celebrated by the singing of the Te Deum in Vienna
and other imperial Catholic cathedrals. Pope Innocent, had died
in 1689.For the English, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and
parliamentary rule were made secure. For the Catholic gentlemen
of Ireland, the defeat dashed hopes of recovering their estates
and ushered in the Penal era. And, for Ulster Protestants, the
battle ensured the survival of their plantation and a victory to
be celebrated from year to year.

Dr Jonathan Bardon OBE is the author of A History of Ulster. He
lectures in history at Queen's University, Belfast.

c 2007 The Irish Times


Basking Sharks Off Coast Signals Good Weather Ahead

By Ail¡n Quinlan and Donal Hickey

BASKING sharks, the second largest fish in the world, have been
sighted off the coast of West Cork.

Between 10 and 12 of the fish, about the size of a small truck,
have been spotted in the past fortnight cruising the waters
between Cape Clear and the Old Head of Kinsale. It's the first
time in several years that such large animals have been observed
here, according to Dr Nic Slocum, director of Whale Watch, West

"We have encountered a large number of individual sharks during
our whale watching tours during the past two weeks and passengers
on the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry have been reporting sightings
to us."

Only small numbers of the fish had been spotted in recent years,
he said.

"We saw one last year, while the previous year we saw two."

Despite being the second largest fish in the world, second only
to the whale shark, basking sharks live on some of the smallest
organisms in the sea microscopic fauna known as zooplankton.

"Their slow swimming speeds and low repro-duction rates make them
especially vulnerable to commercial hunting" said Dr Slocum.

Meanwhile, one of the country's leading amateur weather
forecasters, Kerry publican TP O Conch£ir, yesterday
enthusiastically welcomed the presence of basking sharks close to
the shore.

"It's a mighty sign of the weather and the closer in they come,
the better," he said. "Last year, we had them in April and May
off the Kerry coast and there was a great summer afterwards. We
haven't seen them here yet this year, but I'm glad to hear
they're off Cork."

Ballydavid-based Mr O Conch£ir, a campaigner on behalf of drift
net fishermen, has not yet given his summer forecast.

"We're not sure yet. A couple of things are not corresponding.
Something that's encouraging, however, is that the growth of
foliage is late, especially the fuchsia and whitethorn, and
that's a good sign."

Mr O Conch£ir relies largely on the movements of animals and
birds, as well as signs from plant life, for his forecasts. He
urged people to go and see the sharks, which he described as
being among the most beautiful creatures in the world, surviving
totally on plankton.

"Seeing them is a huge experience for children, especially, but
people should not frighten them or interfere with them. These
sharks are not dangerous. Just let them go their way."

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