Thursday, May 29, 2008

Britain 'acted outside the law' in NI

A consultative group set up to find ways of dealing with Northern Ireland's troubled past has said that innocent people were allowed to die because of illegal activity by the British state.

The retired Church of Ireland primate Lord Robin Eames and former Policing Board chairman Denis Bradley are to produce a report later this year on how those affected by the violence of the past 30 years might be able to move on.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cowen appeals order on bombing 'secrets'

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is appealing a High Court order compelling him to hand over secret files on the Dublin Monaghan bombings.

The files, which were given to the McEntee investigation into the 1974 atrocities, yielded "significant" new material about the blasts which have been withheld from relatives of the dead.

The secret files are being sought by relatives of victims as part of their bid to have a sworn public inquiry into the bombings, which killed 33 people.

But the Irish Independent has learned that the State has appealed the order, paving the way for a legal row over judicial review of executive decisions.

The Government claims that disclosure of the files would pose a risk to life, endanger State security and breach assurances of confidentiality given to those who provided the documents.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lisbon too close to call as race tightens

Neither side has secured a decisive lead in the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign and with just over a fortnight until polling day, the fate of the treaty hangs in the balance.

The campaign against the treaty has closed the gap with the Yes side slightly in the past two weeks, and the pro-treaty side now leads by eight points, according to the latest Sunday Business Post/Red C tracking poll. Turnout on polling day will be crucial if the government wants to secure the passing of the treaty.

Support for both the Yes and No side has increased in the past two weeks, as the number of undecided voters declines. However, as the campaigns intensify, the No side has fared better recently, gaining five points since the last poll. The Yes side gained three points.

Yes 41% (+3)
No 33% (+5)
Don’t Know 26% (-8)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Young men hit hardest as jobless figures jump 33%

THE spectre of tens of thousands of young men signing on the dole every week has returned to haunt the country as new figures yesterday revealed the extent of the economic downturn.

The overall number of people signing on the live register has increased by a third in the space of just 12 months, new figures released by the Central Statistic Office reveal.

But the downturn is hitting men far harder than their female counterparts.

The figures show there has been a 63pc increase in the number of young men aged between 25 and 34 signing on to the register.

High youth drug, alcohol use - survey

About half of Irish adolescents use illegal drugs and binge drink regularly, new research has suggested.

A survey of hundreds of teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years old from the south and south east found more than 50% frequently drank heavily with a similar number regularly using drugs.

The findings are to be disclosed at an international conference on alcohol and drug use by young people today in UCD.

“The research was conducted on a sample of 462 15-19 year olds living in the South and South East regions and found that 51 per cent binge drank regularly which is defined as five or more drinks on one occasion once a month or more,” a conference spokesman said.

“Nineteen per cent said they binge drink weekly, while 4 per cent said they binge drink several times a week.”

About 86 per cent of those surveyed said they drank alcohol and the findings showed there was no significant difference between boys and girls in how much they took or at what age they first began drinking.

The average age was just 13 and a half.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SF says Ictu Yes to Lisbon 'misguided'

Sinn Féin today criticised the decision by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) to support a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The Ictu executive council this morning voted to support a Yes decision by a vote of 14 to five, with eight abstentions.

But Sinn Féin spokesman on workers’ rights Arthur Morgan TD said he believed the Ictu executive was misguided on what the Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights can deliver for workers.

Mr Morgan said: “I am disappointed that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions following deliberations, where a significant number of trade unionists including members of the state's biggest union Siptu abstained, has come out in favour of a Yes vote.

“I feel that the decision is misguided, and I suspect that there was much debate at the table today as to the negative implications of this Treaty, before a decision was made.

“In my view the outcome of the Ictu executive’s deliberations stemmed from a fear, installed by the Government, Fine Gael and Labour, and EU leaders, that jobs will be lost if the Treaty is defeated," he said

Mr Morgan argued there was “too much that is ambiguous” in the Treaty for workers “and much that is blatantly anti-worker", such as the clause to remove ‘distortions’ from competition, which he said meant protective workers’ rights and state funding for public services.”

He called on those unions, including Siptu, who have not come to a position on Lisbon to urge their members to vote No.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Record number take UK citizenship

A record 164,635 people were granted British citizenship last year, government figures have shown.

Graph of people granted British citizenship
The number of asylum applications is rising after an record low was reported last year, but the 2008 figure is still the second lowest since 1993/94.

In 2007/088 most of those seeking asylum were from Afghanistan, Iraq, Zimbabwe or China.

The number of failed asylum seekers deported from January to March was down 13%, to 2,805.

The total number of people removed - including foreign criminals - was up 12% to 16,760.

Figures showed 845,000 people whose countries joined the EU in 2004 applied between May that year and the end of March 2008 to work in Britain. Of those, more than half a million were from Poland.

The nations that joined the EU in May 2004 are Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Equality ruling favours foreign workers

COMPANIES who employ foreign workers face the prospect of substantial compensation claims after one employer was ordered by the Equality Tribunal to pay €290,000 to 58 staff because it did not translate work contracts.

Dublin-based Goode Concrete said it will challenge the tribunal’s ruling in favour of its staff, which was published yesterday.

Each of the workers was granted €5,000 on the grounds their contracts and safety documents were not produced in their own language or translated by an independent party.

Campaigners call for Lisbon 'No' vote

An alliance of groups campaigning for a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum has claimed there is “no truth” in the assertion by senior trade union figures that a Yes vote will give more rights to Irish workers.

The Campaign Against the EU Constitution, an alliance of 13 groups and individuals including Sinn Fén and the Socialist Party, today opened its campaign claiming Lisbon “offers nothing” to the Irish people.

It called on Ictu general secretary David Begg and Blair Horan of the CPSU to state how the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would be made binding under Lisbon, would protect workers.

Spokesman for the campaign group Brendan Young said: “David Begg and Blair Horan are leading people to believe that the Charter of Fundamental Rights would give us more rights and that it would prevent another Laval ruling by the European Court of Justice. We are of the opinion, supported by legal advice, that there is no truth in these claims. We call on Mr Begg and Mr Horan to say precisely how the Charter would prevent another Laval ruling.”

The Laval case accepted that the right to strike is a fundamental right, but not as fundamental a right as that of businesses to supply cross-border services.

The group also claimed Article 188c of the Lisbon Treaty would remove the veto on international trade agreements in health, education and social services “in all but exceptional, undefined circumstances”.

“Trade in public services leads to privatisation, service charges and two-tier services – especially in health and education,” the group said.

The campaigners also claimed Lisbon would accelerate the “militarisation of the EU”.

“Article 28 commits the EU to a ‘common defence’, even if by unanimous agreement. But if we vote for this treaty, we are tied into a commitment to increase military spending. We could also be pressed to give military support to another Member State, or to a non-EU state, in what EU leaders call the fight against terrorism.”

“Lisbon would allow a group of well-armed states to form a military alliance within the EU in cooperation with US-dominated Nato. The remaining states would have no say in the workings of this group, but its actions would inevitably affect us all. Lisbon reinforces EU-Nato links and gives the US more influence over European foreign policy. Yet the Treaty would not require a UN mandate for EU military action."

It was also claimed that additional powers given to the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty “do not redress the lack of accountability of the Commission, nor the enshrinement of neoliberal and militarising policies in treaties we cannot change”.

“If we don’t like our government, we can vote them out. But we can’t change EU treaties once they’re in place. Lisbon offers nothing to ordinary people and would give us less control.”

Those affiliated to the group are: Communist Party of Ireland; Community & Workers Action Group, Crumlin; Éirígí; Irish Anti-war Movement; Irish Republican Socialist Party; Irish Socialist Network; Peace and Neutrality Alliance; People Before Profit Alliance; People’s Movement; Sinn Fein; Socialist Party; Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Party.

State to consider Muslim school-dress code

SCHOOL dress codes in an increasingly culturally diverse Ireland will be the subject of a national consultation process in the autumn.

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe yesterday said he had asked Junior Minister Conor Lenihan, who has responsibility for integration, to consider the matter in the context of work on the development of an Intercultural Education Strategy.

The issue has come to the fore after a Muslim family from Gorey, Co Wexford sought permission for their daughter to wear a hijab -- a headscarf worn by Muslim women -- to school.

Gorey Community School principal Nicholas Sweetman sought guidelines from the Department of Education last September on the wearing of the hijab but the department refused to issue advice.

Mr Sweetman allowed Shekina Egan (13) to wear the hijab, but called on the State to give guidance and so avoid a situation where one school had a policy allowing a hijab, while it was not permitted in another.

Shekina is the eldest daughter of Gorey native Liam Egan, who lived in the Yemen and Saudi Arabia and converted to Islam a number of years ago. Mr Egan returned to his hometown last year with his family which also includes wife Beverly and children Shakura (12), Shakiira (8) and Shadia (4).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Over 7,000 foreign nationals ‘evading deportation’

Gardaí are unaware of the whereabouts of more than 7,000 foreign nationals who have been the subject of deportation orders, The Sunday Business Post has learned.More than 9,100 deportation orders have been handed down to foreign nationals since 2003, but just over 2,000 have been carried out. A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that the department was aware that ‘‘a substantial number of persons are evading deportation orders’’.The spokesman said it was not possible to provide an accurate estimate of the number of those who had since left Ireland of their own accord.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dublin shop workers 'bribed to help in €1m laser card fraud'

Around €1m has been stolen from 300 bank accounts in one of the largest incidents of bank card fraud ever in Ireland.It is understood bank cards were cloned at points of sale in shops and restaurants around Dublin in the last few weeks.It is understood that criminals paid shop and restaurant workers up to €10,000 to skim laser cards and find out their pin numbers by looking over their shoulder - a practice called "shoulder surfing".The criminals withdrew cash from the unsuspecting victims in countries around mainland Europe, including Italy, Romania and Spain.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Call for probe of British link to 1974 bombs

The organisation representing the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is calling for an inquiry into allegations that British security forces were involved.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
The single biggest loss of life in one day during the Troubles happened on 17 May 1974, when four car bombs exploded during rush hour without warning. Thirty-four people died in the bombings.

No one has ever been charged with the attacks, which have been described by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice as an act of international terrorism colluded in by British Security Forces.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tommy Broughan TD asks Minister about job displacement

Job Protection.

278. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will investigate reports that Irish workers are being forced to take redundancy in the construction sector when workers from outside of the Republic of Ireland are still being employed by the contractors and subcontractors involved; if she will review whether the State’s redundancy scheme is being used to fund the replacement of direct employees by agency or subcontracted staff in the construction sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17350/08]

279. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to what is allegedly happening in a company (details supplied), where Irish workers are allegedly being forced to take redundancy and are being replaced by non-Irish nationals; if she will check all P35s and pension schemes of all agency and non-agency workers employed by the company and all of their subcontractors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17351/08]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trends in problem drug use in Ireland, 2001 - 2006

A new report has indicated that problem drug use has increased in many parts of the country.
The study from the Health Research Board also shows that nearly a fifth of those seeking treatment were under 18 years of age.
The research was carried out over a six-year period between 2001 and 2006.
While it shows a relatively small increase nationally in the number of new drug treatment cases, the figures show dramatic increases in regional areas.

Across Ireland, the main problem drugs reported were cannabis and opiates. The number of new cases reporting cocaine as their main problem drug was still relatively low, but did increase over the period.

Health Reaseach Board press release;

Full Report;

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cowen to kick out FF treaty 'rebels'

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday threatened to expel any Fianna Fail TD who breaks ranks over the Lisbon Treaty.
Mr Cowen warned that he will not tolerate any dissent from within his own ranks as he began his first real working day as Taoiseach.
He threatened to remove the party whip from any minister, TD or senator who voiced support for the No campaign as the Government officially confirmed the referendum will be held on June 12.
Mr Cowen said his party had no intention of standing back and letting No campaigners "distort the treaty or demonise a union which is so important to the success of modern Ireland".

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blitz on benefits catches out 5,000 non-Irish families

CHILD benefit payments to almost 5,000 non-Irish families have been suspended in a major crackdown on welfare fraud.
The Department of Social and Family Affairs stopped the payments after it reviewed its control policy for the scheme, the Irish Independent has learned.
It emerged earlier this year that a new system had been introduced whereby non-Irish EU nationals in receipt of child welfare were required to prove that they were still resident or working in Ireland.
In order to prove that they were still in the country, the department sent letters to the non-Irish EU child benefit recipients. The letters then had to be returned within 21 days with proof that the children were still living in Ireland.
Between November 2007 and April 2008, 27,840 letters were sent out in total. Of that number, 4,960 were not returned with proof of residency or employment and payment was suspended.

2,700 jobs cut due to HSE recruitment freeze

Almost 2,700 jobs have reportedly been cut from the health service as a result of the HSE's controversial recruitment freeze.
Reports this morning say figures supplied to the HSE show that just over 110,000 people were employed in the health service in March.
This compares to almost 113,000 last August, just before the recruitment freeze was put in place in an effort to rein in a €200m budget overrun.
Health unions say the cutbacks are already having a significant impact on services and patient care.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

€10,000 bogus marriage offer for Latvian girls

POOR, young Latvian women are being lured to Ireland with promises of up to €10,000 to "marry" illegal immigrants here, men mainly from Pakistan, most of whom are believed to have wives back in their home countries.
Adverts have been placed in Latvia and, it is believed other Baltic states, seeking women to come to Ireland to marry illegal immigrants over the past two years.
One advert in Latvia stated: "Young unmarried women wanted. Women who would agree to help Indian guys in Dublin with registering marriage on paper (fictitious marriage, popular in Dublin nowadays).
"Everything will be covered, plus you get €1,000, plus room rent covered, plus work offered, plus pocket money, plus course (professional, language) plus other benefits. Also plane ticket costs will be covered. All this is legal!."
Although the advert claimed that "Indian" men were involved, investigations into such marriages by the Garda National Bureau of Investigation (GNIB) found that those involved are all from Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mandelson accuses farmers of lying over treaty

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson yesterday accused the Irish Farmers' Association of lying to voters ahead of the upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Mr Mandelson insisted the EU reform treaty should not be linked to any world trade deal.
"The Irish Farmers Association are getting their facts wrong. The first step is for people to understand what's really at stake in these negotiations and why the Irish beef industry can and will be secured," he said.
"Rejecting the treaty would not be in Ireland's interests. It wouldn't be in Europe's interests."
The IFA has threatened to oppose the new treaty, if Mr Mandelson manages to carve a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement before the vote on June 12.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ireland's immigrants returning home ?

With growing concerns over job losses and the credit crunch starting to bite, Ireland's migrant workers are feeling the strain - not just in their pockets, but in their relationship with the adopted homeland.

With a drop of close to 25 per cent in Ireland's once booming construction industry, fears are also rising that concerns over job losses, the credit crunch and the still high cost of living will produce an unprecedented wave of racism and xenophobia. The Polish community in Ireland, which is estimated at around 230,000, is experiencing the largest exodus of workers back either to their homeland or other parts of the EU in search of work.

Ireland has experienced one of the fastest rates of immigration in history. In less than a decade its non-indigenous population has shot up from just under 1 per cent to 12 per cent. There are officially now half a million non-Irish living in a state of four and a half million.

Up to 27 per cent of migrants living in the Republic today come from Britain. Estimates put the non-Irish population at about 12 per cent, but some academics in Dublin argue it could be as high as 18 per cent.

NI Population split over influx of migrant workers

Last year statistics revealed Northern Ireland had seen a record level of immigration in 2005 and 2006 with The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency recording large numbers travelling here from Poland and Lithuania.
About 9,000 migrants into Northern Ireland came from outside the UK. Immigration outstripped natural population growth for the first time. Some homes of migrant workers have been attacked in incidents labelled hate crime by the PSNI.
Tyrone and Fermanagh, where some of the largest numbers of migrants have settled, registered the strongest opinions both for and against immigration. Forty-five per cent in that area said immigration was a good thing, with more than a third (36%) disagreeing.
DUP supporters were more likely to be concerned about immigration than supporters of any other party. Forty-three per cent of DUP supporters did not agree that immigration is generally good for Northern Ireland, with 30% agreeing.
Among all other parties, supporters were more likely to agree with that statement than disagree.
Catholics were more likely to be receptive to immigration than Protestants.
Forty-six per cent agreed immigration is good for Northern Ireland, with 27% disagreeing.
Among Protestants, opinion is split, with 37% disagreeing and 35% agreeing with the statement that immigration is generally good.

TEEU urges members to vote NO to Lisbon Treaty

The national executive of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union is advising members to vote ‘No’ in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. General Secretary Designate Eamon Devoy says, “The TEEU favours a social Europe but unfortunately recent key judgements by the European Court of Justice show that the pendulum has swung against workers’ rights and in favour of big business. In the circumstances it would be foolish to provide the institutions of the European Union with more power.“The judgements in the Laval and Viking disputes accepted workers had the right to organise in unions only to negate its value by saying they could not undertake industrial action where it conflicted with the provision of goods and services, regardless of the social consequences. In the recent Ruffert case the Court found that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany was entitled to pay his workers less than half the agreed minimum wage for the construction sector, because the right to provide unrestricted services took priority over collective wage agreements.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Business support for immigrants urged

The Small Firms Association has called on the Government to provide funding for entrepreneurs from ethnic minorities
SFA director Patricia Callan said that, as non-nationals make up 10 per cent of Ireland’s workforce, there is clearly “untapped pool of entrepreneurial talent in Ireland”. She said most of the 200,000 non-nationals in the workforce are in the 24 to 44 age range, when most people set up in business. “With only 28 per cent of Irish nationals now falling within this age bracket, non-nationals will clearly become increasingly important in contributing to our pool of potential entrepreneurs,” Ms Callan said. “Promoting entrepreneurship should become one of the new Government’s top priorities, as new businesses starting up has proven to be a key contributing factor to economic growth, and thus it is essential that we have more entrepreneurs in times of economic downturn.” The SFA pointed out that there is currently no specifically-designed mainstream programme that targets the particular problems encountered by ethnic minority entrepreneurs such as racism, language problems and social exclusion. Ms Callan also called on the Government to review the regulations governing non-nationals in setting up a business in Ireland. She said the current system whereby “business permission” is required is “highly restrictive” and is “denying Ireland a great source of entrepreneurial talent”.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ahern: Integration of immigrants is a 'big' challenge

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that the integration of immigrants in Ireland is one of the country’s biggest challenges.Speaking on RTE radio today, Mr Ahern said that integration of the “new Irish” should not be seen as a problem but as a challenge that has to be handled carefully.“I don’t say this as a downside, there are many upsides to this, when I took over as Taoiseach 11 years ago 1.5% of the workforce of the country was new Irish, today it’s 14.8%,” he said. “We shouldn’t see this as a problem but we must see it as a challenge – the integration of so much of the nations of the world, looking after the education, the new religions, the welfare, the extraordinary talents that many of these people bring. The challenges that some of them bring is going to be a big issue.”

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Establishment shaken by swing against Lisbon Treaty

THE political establishment in the 26 Counties has been shaken by the results of last weekend’s Red C opinion poll which showed a dramatic swing against the Lisbon Treaty, with the ‘Yes’ side leading by just 6 per cent when undecided voters are excluded.The Red C poll in The Sunday Business Post says that among those entitled to vote, 35 per cent are backing the treaty, a fall of eight per cent since the last poll two months ago.Almost a third (31 per cent) are decidedly opposed to Lisbon, an increase of seven points, while another third of voters, 34 per cent, “don’t know”.When those undecided are excluded, the ‘Yes’ side leads by 53 per cent to 47 per cent, a very narrow margin with seven weeks to go to polling.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lisbon a bad deal for everyone, says Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has claimed the Lisbon Treaty is a 'bad deal for Ireland, for the EU and for the developing world'.
Mr Adams was addressing the National Forum on Europe in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
Mr Adams said he was 'baffled' as to how any party could campaign to remove the right to a veto on EU decisions.
He claimed that the Lisbon Treaty would remove the requirement for a referendum before the Government drops its veto.

Ireland home to seven million by 2041

IRELAND'S population is set to climb to its highest level in 200 years and could reach a staggering seven million by the middle of the century, new figures reveal.We will be living longer but the country will be a much older one with the number of pensioners aged 65 and over expected to triple by 2041 -- posing major implications for pension funds and the burgeoning healthcare service.The Central Statistics Office projections emerged as Social and Family Affairs Minister Martin Cullen warned that one million workers would be forced to rely on the state pension as their main retirement income unless they act now.