30 June 2008

Sinn Féin damands a native Justice Minister

Sinn Féin is pressing for a local politician from the North rather than a Westminster MP as the new Minister for Justice and Policing in the Northern government.
A party spokesman says that a Northern minister was part of the power-sharing deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

This morning the new First Minister Peter Robinson (photo) told a group of international lawyers that he supports the principle, "but with strings attached".
Robinson's problem is that many of his unionists would not support a Sinn Féin justice minister, even though Sinn Féin is now urging support for the police.

He indicated that the DUP might back a justice minister from the modestly nationalist Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) or the liberal cross-community Alliance Party. Such a move may come within the next twelve months.

The Emerald Islander

No Deal involving Pay Cuts

Ireland's trade union leaders, arriving for today's pay talks at Government Buildings in Dublin, have warned that there will be no deal involving pay cuts.

Trade unions, employers and the government are attempting to reach a new National Wage Agreement amid growing concern about the worsening economic situation.

John Douglas (left), General Secretary of the Mandate trade union, said that his members in low-paid sectors could not afford cuts in salaries, as prices for food and fuel continued to rise.

Unions also warned that any cutbacks in services, particularly health and education, would be deal breakers.

Larry Broderick of the Irish Bank Officials Association acknowledged that there were challenges in the economy, but said that workers were being subjected to a pre-emptive strike by employers and the government.

The employers lobby group IBEC said that the economy was under pressure, with 7000 people joining the unemployment register each month.

IBEC's Director General Turlough O'Sullivan said that employers remain committed to social partnership and that any new deal must be good for Ireland and good for jobs.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen (right) warned that painful cutbacks are on the way as Exchequer returns have already experienced a shortfall of € 1.2 billion this year.

The economy is now in decline and apparently the government is powerless to control some of the key international factors involved, including oil and food prices.

Serious cutbacks are on the way in a bid to balance the books, the government announced. All the optimistic promises made by the government parties before the last general elections in May 2007 seem to be forgotten now, and all the extra money promised for major improvements will be spent by the end of this year.

The latest economic returns, out on Wednesday, will set the economic backdrop for negotiations.

For the last week, employers and trade unions have been sniping at each over the airwaves. IBEC wants continued investment in the national plan, but a pay freeze for workers.

Also on the agenda are tricky non-pay issues, including pensions, agency workers and collective bargaining rights. Many analysts believe the talks could drift on into the autumn, if they do not break down completely. The consequences of that could be disastrous for the already weakened Irish economy, prolong the recession and destroy most of the advantages Ireland has gained in the twelve years of the "Celtic Tiger" boom.

The Emerald Islander

29 June 2008

Largest ever Lotto Jackpot goes to Carlow

For nearly two months Ireland has been in an ever growing Lotto fever. There was no winner of the jackpot since May 3rd, and subsequently the twice-weekly roll-over of the top prize went on and on, a total of sixteen times, until it stood last night at the enormous sum of € 18,963,441, making it the largest jackpot ever since the start of Ireland's National Lottery in 1988.

With the growing amount of money in the jackpot the interest of the country's punters in the National Lottery grew massively.
It is estimated that more than 3500 Irish people bought a ticket every minute during peak time in the run up to last night's draw, which was watched live on television by more than half of the nation's population.

A couple of hours later the news emerged that there was a winner, a single ticket, sold in the South-East of the country (where I live myself). I checked my numbers immediately, but sadly is was not me this time.
This morning we learned that the lucky ticket was sold last Wednesday in a supermarket in Carlow (half-way between Dublin and Waterford).

This weekend has been exceptionally lucky for players of our various lotteries. Not only was the largest ever Irish jackpot won last night, on Friday evening an even luckier punter in Spain won the jackpot of the European multi-national Euro-Millions lottery, which - after several roll-overs in previous weeks - stood at the amazing sum of € 58,278,337.

On April 26th, only a week before the Irish jackpot began rolling over again, another massive roll-over jackpot worth € 15.65 million (the third-largest sum ever in Ireland) was won in Dublin. (see my entry from April 27th)

Congratulations to the two extremely lucky people, and to everyone who won anything over this weekend. As I had - as usual - no luck at all, I will continue to be a hard-working consultant and a happy blogger.

The Emerald Islander


It has meanwhile emerged that the largest ever Irish Lotto jackpot - worth € 18,963,441 - was not won by a single person or family. RTE Radio reported that the winner was in fact a syndicate of sixteen workers from a company in Carlow, who spent € 2 each on a combined ticket. Thus the massive win will be divided into sixteen shares of € 1,185,215 each. This is still an awful lot of money for any individual, and in my opinion a lot fairer than one person winning nearly € 19 million out of the blue. Few people would be prepared for such a massive windfall, which might not always lead to joy and happiness.

28 June 2008

And the World did not end...

It is only two weeks now that the people of Ireland delivered a crushing defeat to the government, which was - unusually - allied with the two largest opposition parties. I am talking of course of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected by the Irish people with a margin of more than 100,000 votes.

Despite a massive campaign, on which millions were spent, the odd coalition of Fianna Fail, Green Party and Progressive Democrats (all three in government) and Fine Gael and the Labour Party could not persuade a majority of Irish voters to trust them. The strong support from industrialists, employers organisations and - rather late in the campaign - the Irish Farmers' Association did not change the matter either.

A clear majority of Ireland's people chose to believe Sinn Fein (the only parliamentary party in the NO camp), the Workers' Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers' Party and the 'People before Profit' movement on the political Left, together with the euro-skeptic think tank Libertas on the Right and a large number of independent individuals in the middle and rejected the Lisbon Treaty as the flawed document that it is.

Major figures in the YES campaign, led by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, issued all sorts of threats and warnings before the referendum, giving the impression that a NO vote would mean the end of Ireland's EU membership, a collapse of our economy and perhaps even the prospect of war.

Anyone with even a bit of common sense could see that this was nothing but scaremongering and hogwash, a feeble attempt by established politicians to bully the electorate into submission. Well, it did not work, and I am glad about that. Ireland has shown to Europe and the world that true democracy is still at home on the Emerald Island.

A week after his defeat our new Taoiseach had to go to Brussels and explain the situation to his EU colleagues. He did so quite eloquent, and despite some verbal sniping from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a few more minor politicians, nothing has happened. Not to Ireland and not to the EU. After a whole day of negotiations the 27 heads of government decided to postpone the matter until after their summer holidays.

So the world did not end after all, the EU is still the world's strongest political alliance, and the Republic of Ireland is still a full and equal member of it. Maybe even more equal now than we would have been in case of an acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty. Once again the people on this island, who in the past suffered the yoke of colonisation and foreign government for 750 years, have shown that they cannot be ignored or pushed aside; not by Europe and certainly not by our own politicians.

Meanwhile, only a fortnight after the vote, hardly anyone talks about the referendum anymore. The matter is dead, as is the Lisbon Treaty. What comes next is anyone's guess and no-one can be sure, not even the political leaders of Europe's countries.

Much will depend on the attitude of France, which takes over the rotating EU presidency from Slovenia on Tuesday. It is unlikely that Nicolas Sarkozy can come up with a solution that pleases everyone, and many analysts expect that new ways will not be found before January 2009. This might not be so bad for Ireland, as by then the rather euro-skeptic Czech Republic will be in the chair of the EU. Negotiations between 27 countries always take their time, and I do not expect a return of the Lisbon Treaty - perhaps in disguise or under another name - before the European elections of next summer. The risk to get a second rejection is too great for our politicians, and a referendum too close to the elections would also influence people's choice whom to send to the European Parliament. In this regard only one thing is certain: Thanks to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty Ireland will still elect 13 MEPs (plus two from the North) to the European Parliament. Had the treaty been passed, there would only be 12. And for a small country like Ireland such numbers - even though small as well - do matter a lot.

The Emerald Islander

27 June 2008

More Sense and Respect, please!

Yesterday Ireland commemorated 50 years of participation in UN peacekeeping missions (see my entry below) and there were several ceremonies held in various military barracks around the country.

The largest of those took place at McKee Barracks in Dublin, with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Defence, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces and many other generals and senior officers in attendance. The weather was wet, but the rain did not stop the military parade, held in memory of the Irish soldiers who served with the United Nations and especially the 85 servicemen who died on foreign soil during UN peacekeeping missions.

The top brass of the Irish Defence Forces took the march-past of troops from the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps with the appropriate and usual seriousness and sombre expression, but Taoiseach Brian Cowen (right) and Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea (pictured below) showed a staggering lack of sense and sensibility. Standing in the front row on the parade podium, in full view of troops and attending media, they had their minds obviously on other matters than the ceremony and the troops in whose honour it took place.

It appears that the Taoiseach had nothing better to do than telling his Defence Minister a joke, while soldiers marched past them in perfect order. Even though it is not known what this joke was about (as both politicians refused to comment on the matter later on), it was obviously so hilarious that Willie O'Dea could not hold his composure and broke out in uncontrolled laughter. (A complete set of three photos, showing the incident, can be seen on the front page of today's edition of the Irish Independent newspaper.)

There is nothing wrong with politicians telling each other jokes, and it is in fact good to see that members of our government have not lost their sense of humour after their crashing defeat in the referendum over the Lisbon Treaty.
But there is a right time and place for everything. And a military ceremony that commemorates the exemplary service of our soldiers and honours those who have died wearing our nation's uniform and the blue beret of the United Nations is certainly not the place for jokes and funny banter.

Having been an officer myself for many years, I never saw a single case of such disrespect during a military ceremony ever before. It appears that our new Taoiseach lacks a good bit of common sense and even more the good manners one would and can expect from the political leader of the country.

His unsuitable behaviour yesterday at McKee Barracks comes on top of the undemocratic and rude threats towards the opposition parties in the Dáil (where he said "he could organise that the opposition would no longer be heard in the House" and shouted down by Fianna Fáil members) and the use of very rude language - including the f-word -
in the Dáil chamber (while talking to the Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Mary Coughlan).

It might well be that things in Co. Offaly - the Taoiseach's home turf - are less formal and that in the bucolic atmosphere of the countryside both manners and language are more robust than in Dublin. But after 24 years in the Dail and 16 years in the cabinet one would expect that Brian Cowen knows by now how to behave in public and shows at least some of the dignity his office demands. This applies especially to situations when the dead of the nation are remembered and honoured.

Cowen's predecessor Bertie Ahern has a great sense of humour, but never displayed it in public in an unsuitable or embarrassing way.

Perhaps the new Taoiseach should employ an expert on good manners and behaviour who could advise and train him in the proper ways of appearing in public.
The same expert could then also take care of the Minister for Defence, who seems to be in need of some more dignity and respect for his troops as well. Alternatively there are of course always the options of making Willie O'Dea Minister for Fun or returning him to the backbenches, where his antics would be less noticeable.

The Emerald Islander

26 June 2008

New Internet Domain Name System approved

A complete overhaul of the way in which people navigate the internet has been approved in Paris.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the world-wide web's regulator, voted unanimously to relax the so far strict rules on "top-level" domain names. The decision means that in future companies could turn brand names into web addresses, while individuals could use their names.

A second proposal, to introduce domain names written in Asian, Arabic or other scripts was also accepted.

"We are opening up a whole new world and I think this cannot be underestimated," said ICANN member Roberto Gaetano after the decision was made.

The organisation said it had already been contacted about setting up domain names in the Cyrillic script, which is used in Russia and other Eastern European countries.

"This is a huge step forward in the development of the internet. It will unblock something that has prevented a lot of people getting online," said Emily Taylor, director of legal affairs and policy at Nominet, the national registry for .uk domain names.
"At the moment, there are one-and-a-half billion people online and four-and-a-half billion people for whom the Roman script just means nothing."

Dr. Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN, described passing the resolution as "a historic moment".
His organisation has been working towards opening up the 25-year-old net addresses for nearly six years. It was one of its founding goals in 1998.

At present top-level domains are limited to individual countries, for example .ie (for Ireland) or .uk (for Britain), to commerce (.com) and to institutional organisations, which can use .net or .org in their web address. The .com suffix is currently the most popular and most expensive.

To get around the restrictions, some companies have used the current system to their own ends. For example, the small Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu has leased the use of its national signature .tv to numerous television companies from many different countries.

Under the new plans, domain names can be based on any string of letters, and in any script.

Individuals will be able to register a domain based on their own name, for example, as long as they can show a business plan and "technical capacity". Companies will be able to secure domain names based on their intellectual property. The result could be thousands or even millions of new addresses.

"The most likely new top level domains to be pushed into the ICANN process are those that have been under development for some time now, for example the geo-domains such as .cym for Wales, .sco for Scotland, .ldn for London, .nyc for New York and so on," said Marcus Eggensperger of Lycos Webhosting.

However, the costs of setting up such a new domain - at least initially - will be quite high.
"We expect that the fee will be in the low six figure dollar amounts," said Dr. Paul Twomey.

ICANN has already spent close to $ 10 million on the proposals - set to rise to $ 20 million - and needs to recoup their expenses.
"The costs of developing and implementing this policy will be borne by the applicants," Dr. Twomey explained. "But we are certainly not setting this up for profit."

Many experts have pointed out that because of the scale of the plan, its introduction and effect will have to be monitored closely.

"I am concerned about spending our domain name inheritance for future users," said Dave Wodelet, a member of the ICANN board.
"I certainly don't want future generations to look back at us with disdain for not being good stewards of this limited resource."

Many businesses have pointed out that the new system could be very costly, and perhaps even too expensive.

"The major issue with the potentially large number of new domain names is going to be for brand owners who will want to protect their trademarks," said Marcus Eggensperger.
"For a major pharmaceutical business, the cost of registering all of their trademarks when a new procuct is released runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds."

Others point out that some generic domain names - such as .news or .sport - could become subject to contention and a bidding war.

ICANN has said that it was "aware of all of these concerns" and that it had "considered them very carefully".
It will implement an arbitration process to oversee disputes and has said that if all else fails, a domain name would "go to the highest bidder" in an auction.

"On balance, the board feels that adopting this resolution is in the best interests of the internet and the public at large," said ICANN board member Dennis Jennings.

The process of introducing the new system will start in 2009, with the first of the new domain websites possibly coming online in the final quarter of next year.

The Emerald Islander

Trade Union Leaders reject Pay Freeze Idea

The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), David Begg (right), has rejected a call from the employers group IBEC for a pay freeze to help tackle the economic recession. In a robust response he said that IBEC had "a brass neck to suggest pay restraint for low-paid workers at a time when many top executives are receiving millions in salaries".

David Begg was obviously angered by the call for a wage freeze and said that ICTU would make no sacrifices to continue the Social Partnership model. He outlined increasing pressures facing the average worker - especially the low paid - including food and fuel increases, and hikes in interest rates. For those people, he explained, a pay pause was "a non-starter" which he was not even prepared to entertain.
He stated that - because of inflation - many workers had already endured a pay freeze, if not a pay cut, over the past two years and added that he would not advocate sacrifices on behalf of workers to maintain social partnership in its current form when others in society had "their snouts in the trough".

The Taoiseach has declined to comment directly on David Begg's comments. Speaking on his way into an IBEC dinner in Dublin, Brian Cowen said that Mr. Begg was expressing his own view.

In a separate statement the Impact trade union has described the proposal of a pay freeze across the public service as "an absurd proposition".

The union’s general secretary, Peter McLoone (left) said that the suggestion was neither sensible nor acceptable, as workers would not support a social partnership deal which made no provision for a pay increase.

Speaking on RTE Radio, he said there was a large number of public sector workers whose pay was well below the average industrial wage.
“It is an unrealistic proposition to ask people of those levels of earnings to go without any increase for the duration of an agreement,” he explained.
“Very little progress” had been made at the partnership talks which commenced two months ago. All sides had yet to fully engage on the most important issues.

The Emerald Islander

50 Years of Irish Peacekeeping

Ceremonies have been held today in several of the Irish military barracks to mark fifty years of Ireland's involvement with United Nations peacekeeping overseas.

Brian Cowen attended a parade at McKee Barracks in Dublin, with some retired soldiers present who served in the first Irish UN peacekeeping mission
to Lebanon in 1958.

Since then many thousands of Ireland's soldiers have served in more than 70 UN missions all around the world. 85 members of the Irish Defence Forces have lost their lives on overseas duty. At present there are over 800 Irish men and women serving abroad. The biggest missions today are in Chad and Kosovo.

Lieutenant General Dermot Earley (left), Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, said he and his colleagues are mindful of the sacrifices made by Irish soldiers, but they are also looking to the future development of their overseas capability.

During the fifty years of active participation in UN peacekeeping operations Ireland has contributed a high percentage of her soldiers, keeping in mind that there are only about 8500 at any time on active service.
And wherever they were sent, Irish troops earned themselves a very high reputation for competence and fairness. Especially in the Near East - most of all in Lebanon and Cyprus - Irish soldiers wearing the blue beret of the United Nations are very popular with the local people and trusted by the political and military leaders from all sides.

Having never waged war against any country, the Republic of Ireland is a very positive example for the use of soldiers for peacekeeping and the service to the whole world.

The Emerald Islander

25 June 2008

Serious, but not hopeless

If I were a cynic, I could sit back now, look at the news that Ireland is in recession and say: Well, I told you so - two years ago, and several times since. Obviously my words did not have any impact, although I know that quite a few of my readers agreed with me and could see as well that the way the Irish economy was going during the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' period was dangerous and aimed at the fast buck rather than long-term growth and stability.

But I am not a cynic. I still believe in the goodness of mankind, the potential of Ireland and in particular the abilities of the Irish people. We have a young, bright and well-educated workforce on the Emerald Isle, our universities and institutes of technology are turning out thousands of new IT experts each year, and in the creative field Ireland is still among the leading countries in the world.

So, in my opinion the economic conditions are serious, but not yet hopeless. It all depends now on us, the people of Ireland, and to a certain extend on our political leadership. If we all work together for the common good of the country and its future, the recession will not be more than a short downward blip on the economical radar. The crisis can be overcome and the Irish industry - this time no longer focussed predominantly on construction work - return to regular growth and lasting strength.

But should we continue to be selfish and greedy (as many have become during the 'Celtic Tiger'), Ireland will see a rapid decline in income, productivity, jobs, competitiveness, social stability and public morale. The number of emigrants would - as the ESRI predicted yesterday - rise again to the level we had before 1980 and all dreams of Ireland as a country that can make it, look after itself and after its people would disappear into thin air. We would once again be sitting in the EU Council with the begging bowl.

The only problem is that this time we would attract very little help and sympathy, if we get any at all. Over the past 35 years Ireland has profited greatly from the EU and received more money from European Union funds than any other country. It was received with thanks by our government, and then blown and squandered in the most careless way. Portugal, a country that received only about half of the amount given to Ireland, used the money wisely. It improved its infrastructure, especially the public road and railway network, and made the poor north of the country accessible and prosperous. Almost every citizen of Portugal benefits from the EU subsidies, in one way or another.

Here we have seen a short and fast economic boom which lasted not more than 12 years. It did create a few new millionaires, but it really made the existing ones a lot richer. Statisticians in Dublin estimate that the true beneficiaries of the 'Celtic Tiger' number not more than 10,000. At the same time we have more than two million people - including many children - who struggle every day for basic survival. Rising food and fuel prices make their lives even harder, while the super-rich spend a few more weeks in Monaco or the Bahamas.

This is no time to be ignorant, but also no time to be too pessimistic. It is a time to be pro-active, sensible and creative, to think of Ireland first and of our own pockets later. If we do that, we will all have a decent future. Should we fail and keep fighting and bickering over petty cash, Ireland will within twenty years sink to the standard of a developing (third world) country. (The whole nation would then be on the same level as our health service.) There would be no more money from the EU, and everyone would look down on us with contempt. And rightly so. This time we are the masters of our own destiny, and we better make sure we know where we are going.

The Emerald Islander

24 June 2008

ESRI declares: We are in Recession

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Dublin has declared that Ireland is "in the grip of an economic recession for the first time since 1983".

Economists are warning that government borrowing will exceed EU limits next year if public spending growth is not curtailed to historically low levels. The massive public finance surplus, on which the government has based its election promises in 2007, will be all gone by next year.

In its latest Quarterly Commentary ESRI forecasts that unemployment in Ireland will exceed 7% of the labour force by the end of this year and that public finances will deteriorate sharply.

The authors of the report say that this raises the prospect of a return to net emigration for the first time since the 1980s, with the numbers having to leave the country to find work exceeding those coming here by about 20,000 per year.

The report includes the ESRI's fifth successive downward revision to its outlook for this year. It says the impact of declining consumption, slower exports, the building slump, and the massive international credit crisis have been much worse than feared.

ESRI expects that economic activity will now fall by 0.4% and disposable income by 2.6% this year, the first annual reductions since 1983. The implications are stark.

But speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland programme, report co-author Dr. Alan Barrett said that the prospects of getting out of this recession are better than those of the 1980s.

The ESRI argues that the government should break European rules and borrow € 11 billion to run the country next year. It says pay restraint must be imposed in the public sector, and it calls for state agencies to do more to help the unemployed.

Shannon linked again to CIA 'Rendition' Flights

Amnesty International says it has collected evidence that shows that three aircraft involved in US rendition flights had links to Shannon Airport.

As part of a week of events to mark the International Day against Torture, the human rights group has published a report on Europe's role in US rendition and secret detention.

In their latest report Amnesty International accuses a number of European states of either turning a blind eye to rendition or actively participating in it. The report highlights six cases involving 13 individuals, three of which have links to Shannon Airport.

In the case of one man - Abu Omar - the report says the aircraft that took him from Germany to Egypt eventually returned to the USA via Shannon.

In the case of another man - Khaled al-Maqtari - the report says the aeroplane which took him from Iraq to Afghanistan had previously stopped and refuelled at Shannon.

And in a third case, Amnesty says the aircraft that took Khaled el-Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan had also stopped and refuelled at Shannon.

In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Irish government is "completely opposed to the practice of the rendition of prisoners". In a statement it said that no evidence has ever been produced that any person has ever been subject to 'extraordinary rendition' through Ireland.

That might well be the case, but nevertheless Ireland continues to be a low-level supporter and supplier of services to the USA in their war against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. US troop transporters land and refuel at Shannon regularly, and so do other US aircraft, military as well as civilian, including those used by the CIA. Even if there was no prisoner on board (which is at this stage neither to prove or disprove), three executive jets of the CIA - known to be used for the 'extraordinary rendition' - landed and refuelled at Shannon Airport. Thus we did, even though in a minor and indirect way, support the cruel and illegal CIA practice of torture which breaks not only natural but also international law.

By allowing the USA to use Shannon Airport at will for refuelling and stop-overs of their aircraft, the government of Bertie Ahern has abandoned Ireland's neutrality and thus sold out a sacred and long-established principle of Irish politics and independence. The consequences of this and the price we will have to pay for it long-term can only be imagined at this time.

The Emerald Islander

A Man like Hitler and Stalin combined

Many Irish people take little notice of other countries and their affairs, especially when they are far away, on another continent.
However, the ongoing and ever increasing campaign of terror, violence and political intimidation that is unleashed daily on the people of Zimbabwe has now become a regular news item here on the Emerald Isle and thus Irish people are ever more aware of the worst abuse of political power in Africa.

Having lost the parliamentary elections of March 29th to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as well as the first round of the presidential election held on the same day, the now 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader (he is no longer the legitimate President) Robert Mugabe is using any possible means to cling on to power, while his country deteriorates into chaos, economic meltdown and famine.

Robert Mugabe (above), a Jesuit-educated Catholic and once a revered freedom fighter in the struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe, has in his old age become the worst and cruelest dictator the African continent has seen in modern times. As a historian one needs to be careful with the use of superlatives, but sadly there is no doubt that Robert Mugabe now outranks even Uganda's Idi Amin and Zaire's Mobuto when it comes to cruelty, brutality, violence and absolute egoism. Zimbabwe's dictator also outshines other African leaders in his combination of huge arrogance and ignorance, with total incompetence in the field of proper political and economical leadership. And the longer he carries on in power, the clearer it becomes to observers and analysts that he is a totalitarian maniac who has lost all sense for reality and the outside world. In this he resembles Adolf Hitler in his last days in the bunker beneath his office, still convinced of 'his special mission' while the world around him was shot to pieces by Russian artillery.

Like Hitler, the Zimbabwean dictator also believes that he is "chosen by God" as the leader of his people. And in a speech that can only be described as a bad copy of Hitler's Nuremberg rally speeches, Mugabe declared a few days ago that he "will never give up power to the opposition" and that "only God" could remove him as leader.

In private, it is said, he is quite a shy man who lives a rather simple life (another similarity with Hitler), and like Stalin he appears to be fond of much younger women in his old age. During his first marriage (to the Ghana-born political activist Sally Hayfron) this was not the case. It was in fact Sally who inspired him politically and believed in Mugabe as 'the chosen one' to rule and lead his country. A similar belief was shared by Mugabe's mother, a pious Catholic who saw her son Robert as some kind of Messiah after a priest had told her that he was gifted and 'chosen by God to do great things'. As it happens, this priest was Irish and thus we have perhaps a share in the responsibility for the making of Robert Mugabe.
Hitler was a Catholic as well, even though not very practising and church-going. He also did enjoy a close relationship with the Church throughout all his life and was - despite his atrocious crimes against humanity - never excommunicated.

But Hitler is not the only of Mugabe's inspirational characters from history. In many ways he is actually closer to Stalin than to Hitler and shares several personality traits with the former Soviet dictator. Before he got involved in revolutionary politics, Stalin was a seminarian, studying to become a Russian-Orthodox priest. Mugabe, who grew up on a Catholic missionary station in (the then British colony of) Rhodesia, took the name of the archangel Gabriel as his confirmation name and was educated by Marist Brothers and later by Jesuits, with the prospect of joining the order. But like Stalin he preferred politics to theology and got involved in the revolutionary underground of Rhodesia.

Stalin attempted a large-scale land reform, confiscating land from bourgeois private land owners and handing it over to collectives of landless peasants. The result was a dramatic shortage of food production, which led to a massive famine. More than 20 million Russians died within a decade, most of them from starvation, but many of the former landowners were also killed by the NKVD (later renamed KGB) on Stalins explicit personal orders.

Mugabe did the same. He confiscated the most productive farms in his country (which happened to belong mostly to successful white Zimbabwean farmers) and handed them over to motley crews of so-called 'war veterans', uneducated and arrogant young thugs who never saw a war in their life. High on alcohol and drugs, they wreaked havoc in the countryside, killing many farmers and driving the rest off their lands. Then they occupied the farms as the new masters, but since they have not the slightest idea how to run them, the result is the same as in the Soviet Union in the 1920s: a drastic decline in food production and subsequently a massive famine.

Meanwhile the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is above 80%, and inflation is rising so fast that any percentage rate is already out of date by the time one mentions it. A British journalist who covered the elections of March 29th told me that he got one billion Zimbabwe Dollars for one pound sterling when he entered the country. A week later, when he left, the exchange rate had already doubled. And last week, when he went for another visit, the value of one pound sterling had jumped to a staggering 40 billion Zimbabwe Dollars!

Both Hitler and Stalin used their armies, police, secret police and uniformed party militias (formed from uneducated thugs, bullies and criminals) to intimidate their political opponents, bully the population and force people to comply with their political programmes and wishes. Robert Mugabe does exactly the same. Just like Hitler and Stalin he has also corrupted the leadership of the armed forces in such a way that meanwhile their own survival depends entirely on him and the continuation of his totalitarian regime. And there is another parallel between the modern African dictator and his two historical inspirations: Like the leaders of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia the leader of Zimbabwe also is very blunt and open in his speeches. He freely admits his aim of absolute and total control, and he openly threatens his opponents in public speeches, which - like those of Hitler - are filled with references to war and fighting.

In the past week alone at least 84 MDC members and supporters were killed by armed thugs of the ZANU-PF (Mugabe's party) militia, modeled on Hitler's SA. About 3000 more were attacked and wounded with weapons or beaten up. Many have been arrested by the police and tortured in prison. And hundreds of women were assaulted by ZANU-PF thugs and raped, while their children were either killed or abducted. The wife and son of the Mayor-elect of the capital Harare, who is a leading member of the MDC, were abducted by soldiers last week. The wife was later found dead, while the son managed to escape injured.

Yesterday a large contingent of police has stormed and ransacked Harvest House, the MDC head office in Harare, and any MDC candidate trying to campaign in the second round of the presidential elections has been arrested.
Tendai Biti, the Secretary General of the party, has been in prison for a week now, held on the spurious charge of 'treason'. Subsequently the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai (above), a former miner and trade union leader, had to abandon his campaign and seek protection and safety in the Dutch embassy in Harare.
Meanwhile the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has declared that "a free and democratic election in Zimbabwe is no longer possible". He urged Robert Mugabe and his party to stop the violence and intimidation and restore law and order. But as welcome these words are, they are just words and will have no impact. Mugabe, who lives in his own little world, has long ago stopped to listen, and especially to people from the outside world.

Every time I hear further news from Zimbabwe I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century such behaviour is still possible - and tolerated by the rest of the world. The scenes reported by journalist and people from Zimbabwe are the same as one finds described in books about Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union during the time of Stalin's terror. The only difference is that now the world looks on in horror - and does nothing. Critical words from western politicians are the only reaction of the so-called 'free' world.
George W. Bush, who mentions in almost every speech that his country's mission is to bring democracy to the third world, is ominously silent. There are no US or NATO troops preparing to go into Zimbabwe to defend and restore democracy. Of course not, as they are too busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they wage war against civilians and behave worse than the most brutal German forces in Poland and Russia during World War II.

The greatest disappointment is the silence and inactivity of most of the other African leaders. The ignorance displayed by them is nothing short of criminal, and they are co-responsible for the terror and chaos that is happening in Zimbabwe. Idle bystanders who could help to avoid a catastrophe, but chose not to, are as guilty as those who plan and execute acts of terror.

With the exception of
Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa, who is currently also the Chairman of the SADC (South African Development Council), Africa's leaders are in denial over the violent attacks on Zimbabwean democracy, most of all South Africa's spineless President Thabo M'beki, who recently declared in public that there was "no crisis in Zimbabwe".
Last month I had the privilege to meet Morgan Tsvangirai at a conference in Belfast, where he was the surprise guest of honour. He is a kind and friendly man, but also a determined politician and a true democrat, probably one of the few to be found in modern Africa. He needs all the support the free world can give, and I hope that our politicians will this time offer more than a few lukewarm words.

Many years ago, when racist white regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia oppressed the political will of their black people, the western world was outraged and imposed harsh sanctions on both countries. The imprisoned leaders of the black rebellion - among them Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe - were hailed as heroes all around the world. They both achieved the ultimate political and personal success and became the Presidents of their countries.

But where is the outrage of the world when an illegitimate and tyrannic black leader does to his fellow black compatriots worse things than the white minority governments ever did? Not much is seen and heard from the people who were so active in the 'Free Nelson Mandela' campaign. It is a real shame and a clear sign of hypocrisy. There is also absolute silence in the Catholic Church. No critical word about Mugabe is heard from any church pulpit or bishop's palace, and especially not from the Vatican.
Why has he not been excommunicated for his murders, terror and cruelties?
(A local woman, who got married again after her divorce, was refused communion by the priest in her church, with the backing of the bishop. It appears that for the Church she is a worse sinner than Robert Gabriel Mugabe...)

Dictators around the world and of all times have the same psyche as bullies on a playground: they are really cowards inwardly and need the constant harassment of other people to feel their apparent own importance. They can only succeed if they find enough others to go along with the cruel ideas they have, enough who are willing to get involved in their crimes. And they also need many others to accept their bullying and dictatorship. No country can be ruled against the will of its people, and each nation is responsible for its own destiny.

But the world as a whole - especially in the apparently so enlightened 21st century - has also a collective responsibility. Criticising Mugabe and his henchmen is not enough. A truly criminal and inhumane regime that kills its own population systematically with weapons and with starvation is unacceptable and needs to be removed by all means. The world's major powers have enough soldiers and equipment to liberate Zimbabwe in a week, if they want to.
Sadly it appears that the people of this once rich, fertile and prosperous country will have to suffer ever more in years to come, as no country has the courage and humanity to put an end to Robert Mugabe, the worst dictator in Africa and a man who is like Hitler and Stalin combined.

The African Union (the successor to the OAU) has actually the power for a military intervention in member countries 'under exceptional circumstances', which has been used recently in Lesotho and the Comoros Islands. It is more than time for the Africans to sort out their own problems, face the facts and restore law, order and democracy to Zimbabwe.

The Emerald Islander

23 June 2008

580 Irish Office Jobs will be shifted to India

580 jobs are to be lost at the Irish insurance group Hibernian, as part of a three-year restructuring programme.

The Irish jobs will be transferred to Bangalore in India, where Hibernian's British parent company Aviva has offices and facilities already.

It is expected that most of the jobs will be 'phased out' at the Hibernian's head office in Dublin and most of the jobs concerned will be in back office and support services.

The process will start in the first three months of next year, when the work of 80 Irish people will be shifted to India.

Hibernian's Chief Executive Stuart Purdy said the company "hopes to mitigate the impact by offering staff re-deployment and re-training".

However, the UNITE trade union, which represents most of the workers, has expressed shock and anger. The union's national officer Jerry Shanahan said his organisation had not accepted the proposal and would be challenging the Hibernian's case for the restructuring.

Hibernian insurance, which in its advertisements always emphasises that they are an Irish company, currently employs 2200 people.

High Speed Ferries go slower to save Fuel

High-speed ferry services between Ireland and Britain are being slowed to save fuel.
Ever more soaring oil prices are blamed for
Stena Line's decision, which increases the usual crossing time between Dún Laoghaire in Co. Dublin and Holyhead in northern Wales by 16 minutes (to an average of now 115 minutes).

Journeys between Larne in Co. Antrim and Stranraer in Scotland are extended by 14 minutes (to an average of now 119 minutes) as well to cut costs.

"In the current circumstances most passengers realise that just as they are making some difficult choices, ourselves who operate in the transport sector have to do that as well," a Stena Line spokesman said.
"Compared to the conventional ferries it is still a lot faster. We provide a quality of service and people come back because of that quality."

Stena Line recently opened a new terminal in Belfast, which will shorten the distance to be covered, although the slower speed means that it will now have little impact on crossing times.

22 June 2008

The Weather is getting ever more unpredictable

More than thirty years ago scientists from various countries began to warn about the possibility of 'Global Warming' if the industrialised countries would not begin to reduce emissions of 'Green House Gases' which could damage the planet's atmosphere.

Few politicians - and even fewer industrialist - took this warning serious, even though evidence of climate change and damage to the atmosphere has been presented to them aplenty. Reluctantly international talks began, but no great efforts were made to reduce emissions in the most heavily polluting countries. The 3rd World Climate Conference in Kyoto produced a document - known as the Kyoto Protocol - and adopted it on December 11th, 1997. But despite initial co-operation with the rest of the world, the USA refused to sign the document and continues to ignore the ever more drastic changes in the world's climate.

On February 16, 2005 - more than seven years after the Kyoto conference - the Kyoto Protocol came into operation eventually, having been ratified by 182 'parties' to the negotiation, most of which are countries. (The EU is also a partner in her own legal right, and so are other organisations and international bodies.) Nevertheless, the world's largest polluter - the USA - are still not part of the agreement and continue to destroy the planet's climate with industrial emissions, while her soldiers operate illegally in Afghanistan and Iraq in an even more damaging way.

Pessimists warn that it might already be too late to save the planet from a huge catastrophe and the signs for that are indeed becoming more numerous. For example, the climate structure for many parts of the planet are changing fast, with unpredicted and unexpected weather conditions appearing literally 'out of the blue'. There has been snowfall in the deserts of North Africa and an atrocious heat wave over the Balkans and the Black Sea during last year's summer.

Here in Ireland we are also effected by the changing climate. Last year we had the sunshine and temperature normally encountered in June, July and August already in late April and May. And then we had a completely cold and grey summer with much wind and rain, from early June to the mid of September. It now appears that this is the new pattern for Ireland's weather, since we had once again marvelous summer weather in late April and on most days of May. Even though June began also warm and friendly, meanwhile we had several very bad days, with rain and storms.

Friday night was Summer Solstice, and we had planned a celebration for the weekend. But sadly the weather was once again against us. Heavy and lengthy rainfall and storms with a speed of up to 120 km'h prevented any gatherings in the open.
The same weather has continued over the whole weekend, and many other events in Ireland - including a large agricultural show in Galway - had to be canceled as well. All ferry sailings from Ireland were also canceled, as the storm was even worse at sea and the safety of passenger and crews could not be guaranteed, even though all ferries have stabilisers now.

Furthermore, the heavy storms have broken branches from many trees, some of which were uprooted and fell onto roads. The storm also damaged cars and houses, and brought down electricity and telephone wires (photo right). According to news reports more than 1000 households were cut off in the west of Ireland today, and more damage was reported from the midlands. Here in the south we had continuous rain and storm for nearly 48 hours, and even when the rain eventually stopped, the storm continued for most of the day.

One wonders how our lives might have to change if this ever more unpredictable and violent weather continues. Even in a good year the Irish summer is not very long and never very warm. But now, it seems, we have to prepare ourselves for rain, storm and autumnal weather during the months the calendar lists as 'summer'.

The Emerald Islander

20 June 2008

No "quick Fix" for Europe

Taoiseach Brian Cowen (left) has told EU leaders that there is "no quick fix" to resolve the dilemma caused by the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by Irish voters. Speaking at a press conference after the EU Summit meeting, he made it clear that it is "too early to know how we can move forward at this time".

He said that it has been a busy number of days and that the only potential way forward would need to be acceptable to Ireland and other countries. He added that a number of EU members have indicated that they have no interest in reopening negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty.

When asked about whether a second referendum would be held, the Taoiseach said he could not say whether there would be a further vote on Lisbon. The Irish government could not go beyond where they are at the moment. They are currently analysing the results of the Lisbon Treaty's rejection.

It was also revealed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Ireland at the beginning of his EU presidency and in the aftermath of Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Earlier President Sarkozy said he intended to go to Ireland to help finding a solution, but he said he was determined not to re-open the debate on the institutions of the EU.

The French President also declared that the (British) EU's Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson (right) is partly to blame for Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.
Mandelson, a former Northern Secretary, had upset Irish farmers with his strategy at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks.

Speaking on the second day of the EU summit in Brussels, President Sarkozy said: "We were going to negotiate, in the case of the WTO, a 20% reduction in European agricultural production. Reducing agricultural production by 20% in a world where there are 800 million people dying of hunger, every 30 seconds a child dies of hunger, is unacceptable."
"Quite honestly," the French President added, "there is one person who is of this opinion, and that is Mr. Mandelson. It is not France's position."

Padraig Walshe, the President of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), stated that Mr. Sarkozy was correct in highlighting the damage that Commissioner Mandelson had done to farmers' opinion in the run-up to the Lisbon referendum.

Meanwhile Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food rejected comments from Mr. Mandelson that NO campaigners in the Lisbon Treaty campaign were "allowed to spread misinformation".
Speaking at the Farmfest event in Co. Galway, Brendan Smith said the government's focus was now on addressing the issues raised during the campaign, as part of the effort to resolve the difficulties raised by the Irish rejection of the treaty.

The increasing hesitation of the Czech Republic over the Lisbon Treaty was also a point of focus at the EU summit. Ahead of today's session, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he did not think the Czechs would block the treaty. He added that he thought the treaty would be ratified in all the remaining member states.

However, the Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Olivier Chastel was sceptical, saying the Czechs were "not willing to listen to reason". This statement coincides with the strong views expressed by the Czech President Václav Klaus three days ago. Klaus had congratulated Ireland on a "victory for democracy against bureaucracy and elitist EU plans". Meanwhile the Lisbon Treaty has been referred to the Czech Constitutional Court for closer examination and a growing number of politicians from the ruling party have expressed their doubts about the value of the Lisbon Treaty for their country and progress in the EU.

Luxembourg has warned that the EU will not be able to enlarge further without the Lisbon Treaty. This is quite a correct analysis, but in my opinion it is actually a good and welcome fact. The EU is already too large and has admitted in recent years new members without proper scrutiny. While - for example - Greece, Portugal and Spain had to wait many years for their EU membership (which was only granted after they had reformed their political systems and laws), Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the EU after only a few years, without achieving the required and necessary stability and democracy. Bulgaria is virtually run by organised crime gangs, and Romania has still great shortfalls in the fields of economy and political participation.

Slovenia, another new member which currently holds the EU Presidency, said that Ireland's rejection of a new EU treaty should not slow down the process of enlarging the union. This is, however, a minority position.

Separately, the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said he expected negotiations with Ireland on what it might do with regards to the rejected Lisbon Treaty would take place in the first half of next year. On January 1st, 2009 the Czech Republic will succeed France (which takes the chair on July 1st) in the rotating six-months EU Presidency.

The Emerald Islander

19 June 2008

Kathy and the Boys in Green

Kathy Sinnott, the independent MEP for the Southern constituency of Ireland and one of the leading lights in the recent 'NO to Lisbon' campaign, is an outspoken and fearless woman, as well as a very determined member of parliament.
More than most Irish MEPs she has in the past always stood up for Ireland and defended the nation's interests. (For example, she was the main voice from this country protesting against the destruction of the Irish sugar industry by the EU bureaucracy...)

Yesterday, during a plenum session of the European Parliament in Brussels, she made once again a clear statement for Ireland. Kathy, supported by fellow MEPs from Britain and other EU countries, wore a green sweatshirt with the words 'Respect the Irish Vote' during the parliamentary session.

This silent demonstration was in response to the statements of EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and various other politicians from different member states that the Lisbon Treaty should be ratified by all other countries, despite the resounding Irish NO to it. Under its own rules, the treaty will need the ratification by all member states to become EU law. The Irish rejection has made that impossible, but stubborn politicians - especially from the large member countries - still seem not to be able to understand the meaning of the word 'No'.

The Emerald Islander

Kathy Sinnott MEP (front row centre) is joined in protest in Brussels yesterday by Eurosceptic MEPs from Britain and the Netherlands. Clockwise from top left: Gerald Batten, Geoffrey Bloom, Mike Natrass, Geoffrey Titford (all members of the UK Independence Party), and Bas Belder of Hollands Christen Unie-SGP.

18 June 2008

Islands for Sale

Have you ever dreamed of living on your own island? If so, there is some news from the Irish Sea that might interest you.

A group of three small Scottish islands, popular with Ireland's sailing community, has come on the property market.

Sanda (pictured above), Sheep Island and Glunimore - off the Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland and close to Northern Ireland - have been put up for sale by their current owner Nick Gannon.

Sanda, which had little more than a few derelict buildings twenty years ago, now has a pub, a farmhouse and a number of self-catering cottages. The 315-acre island, circa twenty miles east of Ballycastle, is even known to host the occasional stag and hen party. And Britain's Princess Royal, Princess Anne, sailed to Sanda in 2004 just to purchase some of its famous free range eggs.
But usually the island is a popular place for sailors, mostly from Ireland, to stop and go ashore for a drink, some fresh provisions and a good conversation.

Sheep Island consists of nearly 40 acres and is inhabited only by a flock of 60 sheep, while Glunimore is little more than a lump of rock.

58-year-old Nick Gannon, who bought the three islands in 1989 for £ 250,000, said that he and his wife have decided to sell the group because they are separating.
"Although we have three daughters and a son, no-one in the family wants to take over the islands," he declared.

There are some ancient rights and special privileges connected to the islands. The new owner of Sanda will have the right to issue his own postage stamps and to mint his own gold coins.

However, the islands are not cheap. Nick Gannon is looking for about £ 3.2 million (which is circa 4 million Euro).

The Emerald Islander

17 June 2008

McCreevy criticised for his Ignorance

Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy (right) has been heavily criticised for not reading the Lisbon Treaty prior to the Irish referendum.

At a news conference in Luxembourg Martin Schulz (below left), leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, rounded on McCreevy, the Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services. The German Socialist and veteran MEP said he was particularly disappointed by Mr. McCreevy's public statement [live on RTE] that he had not read the Lisbon Treaty.

"We have to ask Mr. Barroso [the President of the EU Commission] what kind of people he has in his Commission, particularly if you have someone acting as the deregulation Pope in Europe who goes home and says he hasn't read the treaty and doesn't understand it," Schulz said. He added that the NO vote of the Irish people "has to be taken very seriously".

Meanwhile Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a "multi-speed Europe". At a meeting of the Federalist Club, which promotes the idea of a 'United States of Europe', Juncker said he accepted the decision of the Irish people, but the will of "one small EU member state should not block the progress of the whole union". The majority of EU countries wished to move forward, and they would find ways to do it, "regardless of those who prefer to stay behind".

Dáil debates the Aftermath of the Referendum

Today the Taoiseach has outlined his approach for Thursday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Brian Cowen said during a debate in Dáil Éireann that he will tell his European colleagues the people of Ireland have spoken and he accepts the result.

He told the House that there is a need for the EU and not just Ireland to examine what this vote means, and to find a way forward.

He was replying to questions from Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny on whether he had received an agenda for Thursday's summit.

The Taoiseach said that he will be aiming to reflect in Brussels "the range and depth of debate that occurred here".

The Cabinet was earlier briefed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin on the outcome of yesterday's discussions with his EU colleagues in Luxembourg.
He said that all the other states wanted to work with Ireland to find a solution to the situation, and no one had been hostile to him or "pointed a finger of blame towards Ireland".

Tomorrow the Dáil is to debate the Lisbon Treaty for more than five hours. Apart from leader's questions, ministerial questions and private members' business in the evening, the entire Dáil schedule has been cleared to allow members to debate the fallout from last week's referendum.

The European Parliament, sitting in Luxembourg, will also debate the implications of the Irish NO vote tomorrow.

Czech President takes the Side of Ireland

The President (and former Prime Minister) of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus (left), has broken ranks with other EU leaders and openly praised the courage of the Irish people to reject the Lisbon Treaty.

Klaus, whose signature is also needed for the Lisbon Treaty's approval, called the Irish NO "a victory for liberty and reason over elitist plans and European bureaucracy".

Speaking at a meeting with the Presidents of France, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in his capital Prague, Klaus emphasised that in Ireland - the only EU country where people had a vote on the new treaty - "the conflict between democracy and bureaucracy clearly came out into the open". He was pleased, he added, that democracy had won.

The Czech President, an economist and strong supporter of the free market theory, served as Minister for Finance in both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, before becoming the Prime Minister of his country in 1992. In 2003 he succeeded
Václav Havel as President.

16 June 2008

A Time for Thinking and Analysis

Ireland's Minster for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said that none of the other EU states have pointed the finger of blame at the Irish government over the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, he said that all member states wanted to work with Ireland to find a solution to the situation.

He told a news conference that solidarity was the overwhelming message given to him by the other ministers and said "there was no talk of the other 26 states going ahead and leaving Ireland behind".
In particular, he mentioned the German Foreign Minister (and Deputy Prime Minister) Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who told him that Germany wanted to work with Ireland.

There has been no discussion of putting the Lisbon Treaty to another referendum, nor of any changes to the treaty text or its implementation.

Minister Martin said Ireland is "a strong supporter of a deeper EU, with a stronger global role" and did not want to be left behind.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, who chaired the meeting, said it was "time for a little bit of thinking and analysis".
"It would be risky to say we are going to bring the treaty back to life when we are facing a blockade," he added.

Dick Roche, Ireland's Junior Minister for European Affairs, whose job included organising and overseeing the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, was less positive and still sulking over his failure to deliver a YES vote. After bi-lateral meetings with other EU ministers in Luxembourg he said that there was "a real sense of crisis over the Irish rejection of the treaty".
Well, it seems that his boss Micheál Martin did not see that crisis and neither experienced any hostilities. Perhaps it is just the inability of Mr. Roche to see and accept realities and listen to the voice of the people. (One should never forget that this is the same Dick Roche who is personally responsible for the destruction of the Hill of Tara and who made a complete fool of himself - and damaged the image of Ireland - in Beijing in March of this year.)

Meanwhile Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy conceded that the treaty as it was intended cannot come into force now, following Ireland's rejection.
Speaking on RTE Radio 1, he said that neither the Irish people nor the government could be 'bullied' following the result, which had to be respected by the EU.
However, he stated that it was possible that some 'new arrangements' could be made which would be in the best interests of Ireland and the EU.

Yesterday Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that his government and the EU were "in uncharted territory" in the wake of the referendum result. This shows clearly that neither the Irish government, nor the other parties in the YES camp, had read the signs of unrest in the population and expected a defeat. They did not make any plans, and neither did the ever arrogant EU bureaucracy.

A two-day EU leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday is expected to 'chart' the way ahead and to find some practical solution for Ireland.
It is obvious that the scaremongering of the YES side was not only unsubstantiated and silly, but also contributed to the defeat of the treaty. Ireland said NO, and the world has not ended. What is needed now - as the wise Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel (a literary scholar of renown) put it so rightly - is time for thinking and analysis. Sooner or later that will create a solution with which both Ireland and the EU can live and prosper.

The Emerald Islander