Thursday, July 26, 2007

Greens mean spin.

In today’s Irish Times (Opinion & Analysis) Mary Raftery, under the heading “Greens mean business”, sings the praises of our new Green party ministers, citing specifically Environment Minister John Gormley’s reversal of rezoning decisions made by Monaghan Co Co and a supposed hardening of Ireland’s position on GMOs.

However, Minister Gormley’s predecessor Dick Roche had taken the same action against Laois Co Co in October 2006, while her statement that “at the EU Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health, Trevor Sargent abstained in a vote on a GM animal feed ingredient called Herculex which continues to be banned“ hardly suggests a new or radical stance.

An article could just as easily be written under the alternative heading “Greens mean spin”? In the past month we’ve had Trevor Sargent’s big photo opportunity buying a Toyota Prius, Eamon Ryan paying (with our money) for his carbon footprint and taking a subway with a camera crew in tow, while John Gormley got tough with the litter bugs. The decision to increase the on-the-spot fine for littering from €125 to €150 is supposed to send a stern message to offenders, but it’s laughable. If non-enforcement of the current fine isn’t working, non-enforcement of an increased fine is unlikely to do the trick.

It’s time for Green ministers to stop these petty PR stunts and start to show us some substance, other than simply replicating what their FF predecessors would have done anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Green Ministers adopt 3 wise monkeys approach to Govt

To date, the Greens have brought a us new form a laid-back Government and on RTE's Morning Ireland we’ve just had another instalment from Minister John Gormley.

When asked about Finian McGrath’s deal re Dublin Port - he responded with a question: has RTE asked Finian about it?

Gormley claims to know nothing about whatever arrangement was agreed between the Taoiseach and McGrath on this important topic. It doesn’t seem to strike him as odd that he doesn’t know, and it clearly hasn’t occurred to him that he should ask anyone, especially the Taoiseach, to put him in the picture. Surely the Taoiseach should have briefed the cabinet on any material matters he agreed in his deals with the independent TDs, items which clearly will impact on the work of various Departments?

Given that
(a) part of Dublin Port is in the minister’s own constituency
(b) there’s a proposal to extend the port by reclaiming about 50 acres of sea
(c) it’s PD policy (a partner in Govt) to move Dublin Post altogether to Bremore.
(d) either of the above proposals have potentially major consequences for the “environment” of Dublin City
you'd imagine that Minister Gormley might wish to keep himself informed about port-related developments.

So far, the Green ministers seem to be keeping their heads down and their mouths shut in Cabinet/ Government. This 3 wise monkeys approach may well keep their cabinet colleagues happy for the moment, but I doubt it’s impressing the electorate.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Who killed who in the NI "Troubles"?

In the run-up to the election, I heard someone on radio extolling the virtues of a forum called so I started to engage there. However,the forum has a large number of contributors there who are unreconstructed republicans who don’t accept the Good Friday agreement and hijack almost any topic thread to vent their rabid anti-Brit feelings. These are dressed up as being anti-war, anti-imperialism etc., but you don’t have to scratch hard to find the Northern Ireland gorilla perched firmly on their backs.

Many of the anti-Brit contributors on routinely present the British as the army from hell, marching through civilian settlements, killing, raping, burning, looting etc.. We’re left with the impression that this is what happened in Northern Ireland during the “troubles”.

Am I alone in having difficulty reconciling this picture with some of the actual facts which emerge from that conflict? (without in any way seeking to excuse the British army for Bloody Sunday or other atrocities).

During the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, the British army presence peaked at 30k+ in the 1970’s, supplemented by c. 20k combined RUC & UDR. That’s a total of about 50k armed personnel on the government side of the conflict. In addition, the British army were equipped with armoured vehicles, helicopters and had ready access to a vast array of weaponry of all types.

Facing this large and well-armed force, republican paramilitaries had a much more limited arsenal of weaponry and their active service volunteers never numbered more than a small fraction of their “crown forces” adversaries.

So, logically, the ruthless, jack-booted British killing machine should have been responsible for the vast majority of deaths in the troubles. And that this number killed by the crown forces should greatly outnumber their own casualties.

Yet the tables below, from the CAIN website, , which analyses all troubles-related deaths from 1969 to 2001, shows that Republicans were actually responsible for the majority (58%) of such deaths.
In fact, British Security Force deaths outnumbered Republican deaths by a ratio of almost 3 to 1!

Even allowing that some portion of the Loyalist killings were proxy killings on behalf of British Forces, the Republicans still win the killing race hands down.
One conclusion that can clearly be drawn from these statistics is that republicans were far more ruthless killers than their British opponents.

The data below includes deaths caused by military vehicles and heart attacks caused by explosions etc.. 1581 (45%) deaths occurred in the 5-year period 1972-1976. It also covers all relevant jurisdictions , in NI (3268), Britain (125), RoI (113) & Europe (18),

Killed by
Republican Paramilitary = 2056 (58%)
Loyalist Paramilitary =1020 (29%)
British Security Forces*= 362 (10%)
Irish Security Forces = 5 (0.1%)
Not known = 81 (2%)
TOTAL = 3524

Victim Status
Civilian = 1857 (53%)
British Security =1112 (32%)
Republican Paramilitary = 394 (11%)
Loyalist Paramilitary = 151 (4%)
Irish Security = 10 (0.3%)
Total = 3524

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Michael Moore - new book reviewed

There’s a new book “Citizen Moore: The Making of an American Iconoclast” by Roger Rapoport, reviewed a couple of weeks back in the Sunday Times - on the attached link.

It doesn’t seem to be a particularly flattering account of the man and his methods.

His first big hit “Roger & Me” supposedly portrayed Moore’s futile efforts to get to meet the General Motors CEO, Roger Smith. While the film claims that Moore never succeeded in getting to meet Smith, the book reveals that he actually met him three times, with the interview filmed on two occasions. This fact was completely suppressed in the final production.

According to reviewer Rod Liddle, the picture of Moore that emerges “is of an at times unscrupulous, overambitious, often incompetent and always arrogant hybrid of journalist and comedian, with a monstrous ego. His former manager, who also seems to hate him, describes him contemptuously as a “vaudevillian”. Rapoport marshals a parade of disgruntled former associates and employees to fling the ordure”.

A new international role for Bertie Ahern?

RTE are reporting that the Government is to set up a new Conflict Resolution Centre, based in the Dept of Foreign Affairs, with an annual budget of €25m.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said that while the conflict in the North was a local one, it had global resonance and, using the experience gained in the peace process, the new centre will seek to assist in bringing peaceful solutions to international trouble spots.

Could this be Bertie Ahern’s next stop - a state-funded role as an international peace-maker to rival good friend Tony Blair’s recent appointment as representative of The Quartet in the Israel/Palestine conflict?

And when will he be taking up that position? Anything to do with his appearance at the Mahon Tribunal later this month? Probably just wishful thinking on my part.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Raj still rules.

Empire’s Children, a new series on Channel 4, started last night, tracing the colonial roots of Dame Diana Rigg who was born in India in the 1930’s, where her father worked as a railway engineer.

During the programme, Dame Diana did a certain amount of hand-wringing about the fact that even the relatively low-ranked English sahibs were waited on hand and foot by an army of Indian servants.

Her conscience was assuaged by meetings with a number of Indians who had known her father and gave him good references with regard to his treatment of themselves and other natives. She told us that she now felt somewhat less guilty about their time in India, knowing that her father had not been a typical Sahib.

Her father was working for the Maharaja of Jodhpur at the time his career in India ended, following the granting of independence in 1947. Dame Diana had a photo of a social event in the Rigg house in the early 1940‘s, which included a lady known as Baiji, who was a member of the Jodhpur royal family. Rigg visited this lady, now in her 90’s, who still lives in the Maharaja’s palace.

The documentary showed Rigg being admitted to the Maharaja’s Palace where she was shown into a sitting room. Then Baiji enters the room and Rigg waves her hand at a sofa and invites her to sit there. It struck me as odd, as a guest in someone else’s house, to be inviting your host to sit down.

Clearly the ways of the Raj are not easily forgotten.