Friday, May 26, 2006

Give it back

Interesting story on BBC about various bank machines in Belfast which were giving out double the money to punters making withdrawals. Apparently once news spread, queues formed quickly as the citizenry realised there was money for nothing from the Bank of Ireland machines.

Local priest Martin Magill then said that he hoped people should return the cash.

As far as Kenny is concerned the jury's out on this one, but, there was something pathetic about the photo on the front of Monday's Andersonstown News showing a large queue waiting to double their money at one of the miracle ATMs.

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A republic's immigration policy

Dermot Ahern makes the bizarre assertion in yesterday's Irish Times that while illegal immigrants from Ireland are 'entitled' to be in the US, their position cannot be compared with illegal immigrants in Ireland.

While our immigration system in Ireland is effective, I'd take issue with it being described as "second to none." The justification that becuase Irish immigrants in the US have "put down roots" they're somehow entitled have the right to stay in the US is ridiculous.

Also the Irish government has never persecuted its own citizens so we in Ireland would find it hard to justify the seeking of asylum anywhere in the world. The same cannot be said about the various Afghan (current and past) regimes. Afghans who require protection should be given it, those who do not should be returned.

This Republic does not permit immigration for economic purposes, except where we have a skills gap. To expect the Republic across the water to do differently is hypocritical. Illegal Irish have as much right to be in New York as illegal Afghans have to be in Dublin: none.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Carruthers Red Faced in Let's Talk Gaffe

Chatting about a question on what Derry and Belfast International Airports should be named, presenter of the 'live' and 'unscripted' BBC Let's Talk programme Mark Carruthers let the cat out of the bag on how the show really works. Clearly disappointed with the answers he got from his panelists, Mark did a bit of ad libbing - "everyone in the office was trying to be creative with answers to this earlier" (or thereabouts).

His example of the team's creativity was to bring together the Eurovision and the world of NI airports with Dana International Airport. Strewth.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Answering Ireland's Call

Searching the You Tube archive I came across this treat, showing Ireland's heroes strike another blow for the Republic. In the first instance they appear to blow up a cable access point, while in the second half we see them cut down one of the CCTV masts installed to halt, or at least monitor the spate of sectarian attacks. All of it is accompanied by a ballad that'd bring a tear to a glass eye.

Net benefits to the cause of Irish unity? No NTL coverage in the area; Confirmation for the local prods that they're under siege from 'republicans'; £100k (?) bill for the taxpayer. Oh, and this video.

Irish Americans...

I'm no fan of Northern Ireland soccer, have never set foot in Windsor Park and have no plans to change that, but that doesn't stop me being ashamed of the clowns who protested at the arrival of the IFA at Chicago's Gaelic Park yesterday. Carrying black flags and wearing shirts telling the IFA they were not welcome, a spokesperson for these buffoons accused the IFA of being "a polarising political organisation".

No doubt their antics and success in reaching the front page of the Belfast Telegraph will do wonders for tackling the sectarianism they claimed to be protesting against.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fearghal should have got more juice from this Berry

On UTV's Insight programme last night, Fearghal McKinney had an exclusive interview with Newry & Armagh MLA Paul Berry. Berry, who continues to reject the Sunday World's story that visited the Ramada Hotel to romp gayly with a chap he met in a gay chatroom, spoke at length about the pain he has been through and his support from both the family and the Lord Jesus Christ.

He talked about how he briefly considered suicide and how he felt abandoned by the party he has loved all his life.

When asked about the encounter that started the whole thing, he magnanimously agreed that he had been foolish, but nothing improper took place other than a massage (like the one he famously got from 'a wee darky girl' on his honeymoon). It was very disappointing that Fearghal didn't press harder for Berry's side of that part of the story. Also, more than once I got the feeling that Berry was trying to take a leaf out of Willy McCrea's book and summon up some tears. In the end he couldn't.

The clips of 'Paul in his natural environment' were also revealing - I never trust a man who shouts needlessly at his dog.

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When will we grow out of Celtic shirts?

Recently, I have found myself wondering more and more at the mindset of those who buy and wear Celtic shirts in the North of Ireland. No public event with even the remotest Irish political or cultural connection can pass, and no riot or street protest is complete without a fair portion of young and old dressed in the hoops.

When you question the appropriateness of it to Celtic fans, the reaction is swift and angry: "Do you not know the history of the club...?" "How dare you question it - do you not know how many people have been killed for wearing the hoops...?" etc.

All of which may be true, but surely these days there are more appropriate ways to express positive and confident Irishness than wearing the symbols of a British plc whose commerical success is largely built on the vicious sectarian hatred between it and Glasgow Rangers? This disconnect is even more nauseating if you make a short stop at the Celtic shop in Belfast or the online store, where innocent children can be branded from birth with a full range of accessories including Celtic bottles and Celtic bibs.

Writing in today's Irish News, Tom Kelly expresses it well: "They say apples don't fall far from the tree and when it comes to sectarianism people need to look no further than the family environment. What are we buying into that is not on the label when purchasing a Rangers or Celtic top for our children?"

Monday, May 22, 2006

A good day for news junkies

Anyone who has spent time in Dublin will know the joys of having a full time news and current affairs radio station. The good news is that Newstalk 106, which has a number of big name commentators including Eamon Dunphy (left) sadly missed from Today FM's Last Word, has been given a national licence and should be coming to a crackly frequency near you...

Thank God for a decent alternative to Nolan.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Beastly Catholics?

In a poor attempt at satire in today's Daily Ireland, Robin Livingstone pens a spoof conversation between Charles and Camilla. The photo caption in the print edition: 'I say my good chap, is that one of those beastly Catholics over there?' seems to ignore the fact that Camilla's first husband was Catholic and both her children were rasied Catholic.

I wonder did the poetry on page 8 actually raise a laugh anywhere on the island? And, worse still, the language at the end of the spoof seems, to Kenny anyway, unbecoming of a supposed quality daily newspaper.

Daily Ireland seemed tabloid in design only, but smut and ignorant satire seem to bring it closer to a genre of which the Sun would be proud.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

"The taxpayer was let down by almost everyone..."

With the publication of the Commons Committee of Public Accounts report into shenanigans at DETI, LEDU and the Emerging Business Trust, the full extent of Northern Ireland Civil Service contempt for the taxpayer becomes clear.

In a remarkably frank report, the Committee describes what happened as "one of the worst cases of conflict of interest and impropriety that that this Committee has seen". It also describes the case as having "plumbed new depths".

The lady at the centre, Ms Teresa Townsley - who was the Deputy Chair of LEDU, on the Board of the EBT, owned the accounting firm appointed to provide financial consultancy, and had interests in a number of firms taking grants from EBT, still walks free. In fact, in true Northern Ireland tradition, she claims she's the real victim!

According to the report, "very senior staff in LEDU and the Department, who had knowledge of EBT, did not have sufficient regard for the proper conduct of public business to ensure effective oversight." Yet, how many 'very senior staff' have had to pay any price for their failure?

The Public Accounts Committee investigation and report was one of the few unmitigated successes of the NI Assembly. Could the response to this Commons report and what happens next be an opportunity for our politicians to somehow convince us of their relevance once again?

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meanwhile in the real world...

If you're looking for evidence of changing attitudes in the North, stop wasting your time looking at the sham Assembly. The first round replay of the Ulster Championship is being put back two hours to accomodate coverage of a rugby match. And not a peep from the fans of Armagh or Monaghan - neither what you'd call traditional rugby strongholds...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Is Reg Empey losing the plot?

When I first heard speculation that David Ervine was talking about taking the UUP whip in the 'Assembly' I assumed that it was a bit of publicity hunting from the PUP / UVF man.

Not a bad idea I thought - remind everyone that the unionists have no problem associating with those 'close to the thinking' of loyalists; maybe add a bit of momentum to the case for an Executive. Not for a second did I think it was going anywhere.

A number of unionist bloggers, through Slugger O'Toole and elsewhere have sought to justify the move, but NORTH REPORT would like to pose a couple of questions:

1. What has happened to change the UUP position since March 2006 when it was considering its place on the Policing Board because PUP Chairperson Dawn Purvis had been appointed?

2. Does the UUP now share Provisional Sinn Fein's view of the IMC as a discredited securocrat stitch-up? If not, how can the Ulster Unionists effectively merge with the political representatives of the UVF?

3. Assuming that a new Executive can be formed, with the UUP party structure and organisation punching below its weight (ahem) is it really in the best interests of that party (or the North's long suffering taxpayers) to take on responsibility for another Department?

4. In their wildest, most exciting dreams does anyone in the UUP think that they can regain electoral credibility with middle NI by getting into bed with the PUP/UVF?

'Decent People vote Ulster Unionist'? Boy oh boy.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and Sinn Fein on Business

An excellent feature in the current edition of Business & Finance looks at the economic policies of all the main Opposition parties. The most interesting for NORTH REPORT is the interview with PSF Finance man Caoimhghin O'Caolain.

In conversation with Fearghal O'Connor, the Cavan man explains PSF's sound economic policy base and reassures readers of B&F that his party is growing in popularity with the business community.

Part of that reassurance doubtless comes from the party's view on taxation: "We are prepared... to look at the overall taxation situation and to examine what increases in taxation might then be necessary to achieve a more equitable society." Explaining what this means to O'Connor he admits that it could mean a new 50% tax band for those earning more than €100,000 and a rise in corporation tax to 17.5%.

His grip of industrial development and the need to develop a knowledge economy in the new international context will be equally reassuring to the business community: "The indigenous industries that were there as part of my childhood have all up and left. I mean, where is there a tannery operating on the island of Ireland?"

His confidence about growing popularity in corporate circles comes from the party's success up here: "We are now the largest nationalist party in the six county area of our country, so we are clearly enjoying the support of people right across the business spectrum."

"Business people are looking at Sinn Fein as a realistic alternative to the current tweedledee tweedledum politics." When business people look at PSF's economic policies, this may not be the only reference to Alice in Wonderland they'll think of.

Complete No Brainers

At a hearing in Belfast's High Court yesterday, Justice Girvan upheld a Judicial Review application, halting plans for a massive retail scheme at Sprucefield. The scheme, carefully presented as 'the John Lewis store' was in fact a 500,000 sq ft retail space with one John Lewis and 29 other units. The decision to grant planning permission in the first place flew in the face of government policy and planning guidelines here, but that didn't stop Rooker pushing it through, famously describing his decision as 'a no brainer'.

NORTH REPORT's elation that this crazy scheme is back to square one was tempered however by the report in today's Irish News that the taxpayer may have to foot the significant legal bill for the Judicial Review.

Since Rooker has now been shuffled off and the civil servants are able to point to the fact that their advice was to halt it, it looks like the taxpayer is going to be left once again to grin and bear it, with no one to hold to account.

Where are our local politicians on the issue? Still licking John Lewis' arse of course.

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