Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Drastic steps needed to save native-spoken Irish

Drastic steps needed to save native-spoken Irish

CONCHÚR Ó GIOLLAGÁIN and BRIAN Ó CURNÁIN - Tue, Dec 29, 2009 – Irish Times

OPINION: The Irish language needs to be promoted in ways that differentiate between native speakers and others

LAST MONTH the Government published its draft 20-year strategy for the Irish language, 2010-2030. The constructive nature of many of its recommendations is to be welcomed. The positive aspects of the draft are particularly significant given current economic circumstances and the threatened withdrawal of support schemes for the language, recommended by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes – “Bord Snip Nua”.

The invitation to engage in a quasi-consultative process towards the final draft marks a positive departure. Equally, the Government strategy affirms the support of the majority language community for planning initiatives on behalf of the minority language, an essential component of effective language planning in any minority context. Having recognised the limitations of previous policies, the renewed commitment of the Government to Irish is to be commended.

The most immediate priority according to all available evidence is the linguistic crisis of the contemporary Gaeltacht. The draft accepts the troubling sociolinguistic conclusions and the rescue strategy presented in the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht (2007).

Two important issues, although neglected in the draft, are worthy of further discussion: unidirectional bilingualism (ie bilingualism of native Irish speakers, monolingualism of native English speakers) in the Gaeltacht, and the failure to distinguish between the diverse needs of two distinct speech communities – ie speakers of Irish as a first language on the one hand, and learners or speakers of Irish as a second language on the other. This re-examination of the draft’s philosophy may assist in the formulation of the definitive plan.

The draft includes many references to the positive aspects of bilingualism inside and outside the Gaeltacht. However, this appraisal of bilingual practice does not address the clear evidence, demonstrated both nationally and internationally, of a correlation between social bilingualism in minority language contexts and the erosion of minority languages. Minority-language speakers are bilingual because their acquisition of the majority language is compulsory and unidirectional. This is because majority-language speakers only acquire bilingual competence as a matter of choice.

It is clear that a bilingual capacity is a positive personal asset. On the other hand, the promotion of bilingualism will erode the social use of Irish in the minority Gaeltacht community. Bilingual social practice is inherently problematic and disadvantageous for the minority language.

It is vital that the policy engages with the social dynamics governing the relations between the English-speaking majority and the Irish-language minority. Otherwise, elements of the strategy will be reduced to a post-Gaeltacht planning scenario.

The draft refers to the current crisis threatening global linguistic and cultural diversity. The draft appositely highlights Unesco’s evidence that minority languages and cultures are facing extinction at a faster rate than ever, yet it does not address the basic reasons or dynamics driving this loss.

What global transformation has occurred to bring about this ongoing worldwide loss of cultural diversity? A main determinant is in fact the sociological spread of unidirectional bilingualism. The draft, however, suggests bilingualism as the solution, when it has been scientifically indicted by linguists for generating pervasive language death.

Research and documentation of language death have repeatedly highlighted weak language acquisition processes and limited ability in minority languages (in comparison to high proficiency in the majority language) – we need look no further than Nancy C Dorian’s innovative portrayal of the death of Gaelic in northeast Scotland in the 1980s.

We have evidence of clear parallels currently in the Gaeltacht, where two native speakers of Irish face almost insurmountable difficulties in raising their children as competent native speakers. This should be a cause of profound concern. In such a context, unidirectional bilingualism is simply a misguided rescue strategy.

One aspect of the confused advice in the draft’s approach to bilingualism is the conflation of native speaker and learner contexts. Approaches which suit the learner community are inappropriate for native speakers. For the native speaker it is necessary to stress the importance of rich and varied home acquisition of the language, social and academic reinforcement in the context of formal education, and its holistic integration into communal practice.

Acquisition for learners, on the other hand, primarily requires the support of educational institutions, supported where possible by their integration into certain local or other networks. Clarity in educational policy is a prerequisite for proactive State support of minority language speakers in the Gaeltacht.

Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge (SLG - support scheme for Irish-speaking families in the Gaeltacht) was one of the first measures implemented in support of the Gaeltacht. It indicates recognition for the efforts of Irish-speaking parents to preserve Irish in the Gaeltacht, and their contribution to the founding vision of the nation.

The draft lays significant emphasis on the importance of language planning for the Gaeltacht and networks of speakers nationally. Without the SLG, it will be impossible to distinguish between language planning initiatives for native speakers as distinct from learners. In that case, the strategy may well increase the total number of speakers (ie learners), while conversely failing the Gaeltacht by not arresting the precipitous fall in the number of native speakers.

In a crisis it is always necessary to address priorities: the kernel of the crisis in the Gaeltacht is the low number of young native speakers. We therefore strongly advise, as a matter of urgency, that priority be given to revising and strengthening SLG, as recommended in the Comprehensive Linguistic Study . This would send an immediate message as well as an injection of key supports where they are most required.

The SLG is the only targeted mechanism the State has to increase the number of young native speakers, which is the starting point of all language planning initiatives. Discussions concerning the title, functions and administrative boundaries of Gaeltacht agencies may soon become irrelevant if there is no speech community for them to serve.

To put it bluntly, the learner community cannot have it both ways. That is to say, it cannot both use the native-speaking community as an acquisition resource and then fail to provide the language planning supports necessary for the continuation of Irish as a community language. As a corollary, unless Irish is revitalised in the younger generation, is it reasonable for the Gaeltacht community to expect the Government to maintain the status quo of their support structures, while the State endeavours to function in a “Gaeltacht” that has succumbed to language shift?

We seek to enhance the positive political nature of the draft by recommending the incorporation of sociolinguistic insights into the final draft. The main danger of the current draft strategy is its strong potential to camouflage the transformation of Irish native-speaking communities into a community of learners of Irish. Given that English predominates as the social language of the younger generation in almost every Gaeltacht district, in the first instance a renewal process or a language revival is required among the young.

There is no doubt that this is a daunting task, given that relatively few communities have succeeded in reversing the trend to English monolingualism during more than 100 years of language revival. But realistic language planning as suggested here will increase the capacity of the strategy to achieve its stated aims, and foster support among the public as a result.


As a speaker and very strong supporter of Irish who has a home in the Connemara Gaeltacht, I feel that whatever measures are needed to preserve the Irish language should be taken. The Irish Constitution, very rightfully, recognizes the native tongue as the first language of the country and therefore it should be taught, learned, and supported regardless of cost. It would be unrealistic to think that children growing up in Ireland today would be proficient only in their own tongue. They must also be prepared to function in a world that conducts their business in other languages ie. English, French, & Spanish. However, I believe that it is absolutely essential for any nation, Ireland included, to preserve their national identity by encouraging the use of their own native language on a daily basis. Tir gan Teanga, Tir gan Anam!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Number of Irish moving to Australia up by 25% as crisis bites

Number of Irish moving to Australia up by 25% as crisis bites

JAMIE SMYTH - Tue, Dec 29, 2009 – The Irish Times

THE NUMBER of residence visas issued by the Australian government to Irish people rose by 25 per cent this year, while there has been a 13 per cent jump in similar residence visas issued by Canadian authorities, according to new figures.

The statistics show Irish people are moving to both Canada and Australia in increasing numbers to escape the economic recession but are largely shunning traditional emigration routes to Britain and the US.

Australia issued 2,501 residence visas to Irish people in the year to the end of June, up from 1,989 in the same period last year. Canada issued 1,471 visas in the first six months of 2009 and is on course to issue 3,000 for the full year. Last year it issued 2,607 visas.

The number of 12-month working holiday visas for Australia issued to people under 30 has surged by 33 per cent to 22,786 in the year to the end of June, new figures show.

In comparison, the number of people emigrating to the US has continued to fall in recent years. In the year to the end of September 2009 the US government issued 287 immigrant visas from its Irish office. This compares to 288 visas in 2008 and 317 in 2007.

A new 12-month US working holiday visa for students and graduates, which was given a high-profile launch by the Government in 2008, has so far proved a flop. Fewer than 200 visas were issued in the first year, significantly below the 20,000 visas available every year through the visa exchange programme.

Britain, which during the 20th century was a hugely popular destination for Irish emigrants, has not experienced a dramatic upturn in imigration. The number of national insurance numbers issued to Irish people has increased only slightly in the first half of 2009, suggesting 11,000 people will move there this year.

The Central Statistics Office published figures in September showing 18,400 Irish nationals emigrated in the year to April 2009. But it is not possible to tell from the statistics where they went. The new figures, compiled by The Irish Times from the Australian, Canadian, British, US and New Zealand immigration authorities, shed some light on where Irish people are moving to escape the recession and unemployment.

“The big increase is for temporary options. People are taking a year out to ride out the recession by travelling to Australia and Canada. There aren’t the same options for travel to the US and the new J visa is quite restrictive,” said Joe O’Brien, policy officer at Crosscare Migrant Project, which offers advice at its drop-in centre to potential emigrants.

But he cautioned it was still early days in the recession and emigration rates would likely pick up during 2010.

The Economic and Social Research Institute predicts net outward migration to be 40,000 people in the year ending April 2010, up from 7,800 in the previous 12 months. Unemployment should peak at close to 14 per cent, according to the ESRI.

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, Patrick Binns, said Canada was probably seeing more interest from Irish people wanting to emigrate because its economy had not been as badly hit as other countries.

“We are out of recession and are still open to Irish workers with skills in many areas,” said Mr Binns, who noted the embassy held several events during the year outlining the options available to emigrants.

Usit, which organises working holiday visas for tens of thousands of people every year, is also reporting a 700 per cent rise in interest for its volunteer programmes, which enable people to do volunteer work or teach abroad for a year or more.

“So far the level of e-mail, phone and walk-in demand for the year ahead is pretty extraordinary. People seem determined to make the best use of time available to them,” said Usit’s Seona MacReamoinn, who expects this to continue in 2010.


The opinions and figures expressed in this article seem to contradict those of most of the Irish immigrant advocacy groups here in the U.S. One advocacy group here, in particular, would have us believe that the numbers that they quoted prior to the collapse of the Irish economy would double in the next year. I thought that opinion was way off base in consideration of the tightening of our already stringent laws regarding work authorization here and the serious penalties imposed on those caught breaking those laws. The high rate of unemployment here for American citizens only exacerbates an already serious problem. Although there will always be some who are willing to take a chance, I do feel that there is some credence to the opinion expressed in this article.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Batteries not included: Christmas day of energy switches on at 6am

By John O’Mahony - Thursday, December 24, 2009 – Irish Examiner

T’WAS the dawn of Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring – except for children sneaking round the house,

When down in the front room there arose such a clatter,

Springing sleepy parents from their beds (about 6am) to see what was the matter...

It’s the stuff of tradition.

Despite stern warnings the night before, curiosity gets the better of over excited children, as they scamper to see if their wishes really came true.

According to an analysis of electricity usage, the madness of Christmas kicks off in the average Irish house at 6am with the switching on of front room lights to reveal the magic of Santa’s kindness.

Add to that kettles, Playstations, MP3s, PSPs, laptops, V-techs, televisions, iPhones, DVDs and a variety of electric gizmos and power usage begins to peak as the big day routine kicks in.

Ovens on, turkeys basted, vegetables prepped and out the door to religious ceremonies where there’s no chance of a seat next to the choir. Dozens of kisses, handshakes, later it’s off on a lightning tour of relations before sitting down for a meal befitting the Three Kings.

Then begins the fight for the remote control, as the half-pound of Brussels spouts takes its toll and grandad nods off after the third glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The wattage use winds down as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory winds up, children and cousins head upstairs to wreak their own brand of havoc.

Then it’s off again on the whistle-stop family tour – distant relations, strange coloured jumpers, socks for the bottom drawer and a chance to avenge last year’s card game defeat.

Then home before 10 for one last feed of turkey.

How Christmas lights up our lives...


I guess Christmas morning is the same all over the world for those fortunate enough to have a home in which to celebrate it. Please say a prayer for all those less fortunate and also for our valiant American troops serving in harm’s way and their families. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All. Le gach dea-ghui i gcoir na Nollag agus na hAthbhliana

Monday, December 21, 2009

Health Care Bill Clears Key Senate Test

Health Care Bill Clears Key Senate Test

Erica Werner


WASHINGTON (Dec. 21) - Senate Democrats won a crucial test vote on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, putting them on track for passage before Christmas of the historic legislation to remake the nation's medical system and cover 30 million uninsured.

All 58 Democrats and the Senate's two independents held together early Monday against unanimous Republican opposition, providing the exact 60-40 margin needed to shut down a threatened GOP filibuster.

The vote came shortly after 1 a.m. with the nation's capital blanketed in snow, the unusual timing made necessary in order to get to a final vote by Christmas Eve presuming Republicans stretch out the debate as much as the rules allow. Despite the late hour and a harshly partisan atmosphere, Democrats' spirits were high.

"Today we are closer than we've ever been to making Sen. Ted Kennedy's dream of universal health insurance coverage a reality," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said ahead of the vote, alluding to the late Massachusetts senator who died of brain cancer in August.

"Vote your hopes, not your fears. Seize the moment," Harkin urged colleagues.

Kennedy's widow, Vicki, watched the vote from the visitor's gallery along with administration officials who have worked intensely on the issue. Senators cast their votes from their desks, a practice reserved for issues of particular importance.

The outcome was preordained after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrangled his fractious caucus into line over the course of the past several months, culminating in a frenzy of last-minute deals and concessions to win over the final holdouts, independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Obama's oft-stated goal of a bipartisan health bill was not met, despite the president's extensive courtship of moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican to support the bill in committee. Obama called Snowe to the White House for lengthy in-person meetings both before he left for climate talks in Copenhagen and after his return on Saturday. In the end Snowe said she was "extremely disappointed" in what she called a rushed process that left scant time for her to review, much less amend, the bill.

Even so, the vote represented a major victory for Democrats and Obama, who's now clearly in reach of passing legislation extending health coverage to nearly all Americans, a goal that's eluded a succession of past presidents. The legislation would make health insurance mandatory for the first time for nearly everyone, provide subsidies to help lower-income people buy it, and induce employers to provide it with tax breaks for small businesses and penalties for larger ones.

Two more procedural votes await the Senate, each requiring 60 votes, the first of these set for Tuesday morning. Final passage of the bill requires a simple majority, and that vote could come as late as 7 p.m. on Thursday, Christmas Eve, or the day before if Republicans agree.

Although Democrats are expected to prevail in the votes over the next several days, the final outcome remains unpredictable, because the Senate measure must be harmonized with the health care bill passed by the House in November before final legislation can be sent to Obama's desk.

There are significant differences between the two measures, including stricter abortion language in the House bill, a new government-run insurance plan in the House bill that's missing from the Senate version, and a tax on high-value insurance plans embraced by the Senate but strongly opposed by many House Democrats.

After Monday's vote a number of Senate Democrats warned that the legislation could not change much and expect to maintain support from 60 senators. House Democrats are sure to want to alter it but may have to swallow it mostly whole.

"It took a lot of work to bring this 60 together and this 60 is delicately balanced," Lieberman said.

Republicans are determined to give Democrats no help, eager to deny Obama a political victory and speculating openly that the health care issue will hurt Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

"There will be a day of accounting," warned John Cornyn, R-Texas, accusing Democrats of pushing a health overhaul opposed by the public. "Perhaps the first day of accounting will be Election Day 2010."

At their core the bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate are similar. Each costs around $1 trillion over 10 years and is paid for by a combination of tax and fee increases and cuts in projected Medicare spending. Each sets up new insurance marketplaces called exchanges where uninsured or self-employed people and small businesses can compare prices and plans designed to meet some basic requirements. Unpopular insurance practices such as denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions would be banned, and young adults could retain coverage longer under their parents' insurance plans - through age 25 in the Senate bill and through age 26 in the House version.

Reid cut numerous last-minute deals to get the votes he needed and powerful Democrats also inserted home-state provisions in a 383-page package of amendments Reid filed this weekend to the 2,074-page bill.

Among other items, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., included a provision allowing residents of the town of Libby, Mont., who are suffering asbestos-related illnesses from a mining operation to get Medicare benefits. Nelson won a list of benefits for Nebraska including a commitment for the federal government to pick up the full tab of an expansion of Medicaid. And Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who faces a difficult re-election, inserted a $100 million item for construction of a university hospital that his spokesman said he hopes to claim for the University of Connecticut.


The vote was taken at 1:00 AM this morning as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow watched from the gallery. Hollywood writers could not have scripted it better. The circle is now complete except for the remaining routine procedural votes. Obama will get his Christmas gift from his pals in the Senate, Ted Kennedy will have been paid back for his very significant role in the election of Barack Obama, Senators who voted with the majority will get their "little perks", and the American taxpayer will be required to take on a $1,000,000,000 plus bill to pay for this disgraceful display of political chicanery. Hopefully, next November American voters will show their “appreciation” to those in Congress who felt it was more important to shield the President from embarrassment than to serve the people who put them in office by telling them to clean out their desks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Archbishop Dolan says Archbishop Sheen knew Jesus was ’way to heaven’

Archbishop Dolan says Archbishop Sheen knew Jesus was ’way to heaven’

By Catholic News Service
Posted: 12/18/2009

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The purpose of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's philosophy and theology, radio and TV programs, books, articles, retreats and conferences was "to help us discover the purpose of life -- eternal union with God," said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

"His pivotal insight, central to revelation, was that Jesus Christ was the way to heaven, the truth about how to get there, the life we hope to share for all eternity," he said a homily Dec. 9 at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The archbishop was the principal celebrant of a Mass at the cathedral to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Sheen.

Masses were celebrated in all 50 states and in 35 countries -- including Pakistan, Fiji and the Czech Republic -- to mark the anniversary and to promote the late archbishop's cause for canonization, formally opened by the Vatican in 2003.

In New York, Archbishop Dolan was joined by cardinals, bishops and priests from around the U.S. and abroad, including Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., Archbishop Sheen's home diocese; Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, based in Peoria; and Msgr. John E. Kozar, national director of the pontifical missionary societies in the United States.

The body of the late archbishop, who was an auxiliary bishop of New York from 1951-65, is interred in the crypt of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The crypt was open to the public immediately before and after the Mass.

In his homily Archbishop Dolan said it was a blessing to have in the congregation "so many of his family, friends, admirers and those we may call 'clients,' who look to him still with love and gratitude, eager for the wisdom he so effectively imparted, always in the name of Christ Jesus, whom St. Paul reminds us today, is the very "wisdom of God."

The packed cathedral included members of the Sheen family.

Archbishop Sheen "wanted to get to heaven ... wanted to bring all of us with him ... wanted to be a saint. ... wanted us to be saints, too," Archbishop Dolan said.

"With his voice Fulton J. Sheen gave us the story of Jesus, the 'greatest story ever told,' the way the stained-glass windows of the medieval cathedrals, or the brush strokes of a Raphael, a Fra Angelico, a Giotto once did," he said.

"For him, this Jesus was alive, still active, still powerful, still teaching, still healing, still leading us to heaven, because, you see, the incarnation was still going on: The word was still taking flesh; God was still becoming man," Archbishop Dolan said.

In Rochester, where then-Bishop Sheen was head of the diocese from 1966 to 1969, Father John Mulligan, celebrated a midday Mass in his memory at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Father Mulligan, a senior pastor for the cathedral community and one of diocese's two vicars general, was a young priest during the bishop's tenure.

"He was a very dynamic individual who was full of ideas and enthusiasm," the priest said. "I think it was contagious."

Upon his retirement as bishop of Rochester in 1969, the late prelate received the title of archbishop.

"I've always felt that he brought with him a real commitment to live out the Second Vatican Council," Father Mulligan said after the Mass in an interview with the Catholic Courier, Rochester's diocesan newspaper.

Several items in the cathedral pay homage to Archbishop Sheen. One is the baldacchino, or canopy, now located over the cathedral's tabernacle. In his day, it was over the cathedra, or bishop's chair.

Other items are the pulpit he used, which is still in use today, and his crest, which is displayed along with the crests of all of Rochester's bishops.

It's important to remember "that his spirit lives on and that he continues to inspire us," said Father Mulligan.

Born in El Paso, Ill., in the Diocese of Peoria, John Fulton Sheen was ordained a priest of that diocese in 1919.

He eventually left his central Illinois roots and became known nationwide as the host of pioneering radio and television programs, including "The Catholic Hour" and "Life Is Worth Living." The latter was a television series that aired from 1951 to 1957 and attracted an estimated 30 million weekly viewers.

In addition to serving as a New York auxiliary and Rochester's bishop, Archbishop Sheen also taught philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, 1926-50, and was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, 1950-66.

In February 2008 the Peoria Diocese marked the end of five years of preliminary research into Archbishop Sheen's life and virtues.

Msgr. Deptula told the Catholic Courier that the collected information has been sent to the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes. This information is being summarized, work that could be completed within six to eight months, he said.

The summaries would then be used by theologians, cardinals and bishops to determine whether Archbishop Sheen's cause for sainthood should advance.


I am very pleased to see Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s thoughts with regard to the proposed sainthood for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Personally, I have always admired accomplished public speakers and two of my favorites were Catholic priests, Bishop Sheen and Fr. Joseph Manton, a Redemptorist from the Mission Church in Roxbury, MA. Archbishop Sheen’s Life is Worth Living program in the early days of television was mandatory watching in my family’s home. Fr. Manton used to conduct novenas in various parishes in the Boston Archdiocese and whenever he was in one of the churches in my neighborhood, I would be there mesmerized by his public speaking skills. In addition to his oratorical skills, Archbishop Sheen was a man who was responsible for many converts to Catholicism as well as National Chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America. Our noble Order is currently working diligently for Archbishop Sheen’s elevation to sainthood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lawmakers renew immigration-reform push

Lawmakers renew immigration-reform push

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 – Washington Times

Tossing another hot potato on the 2010 congressional schedule, top Hispanic Democrats outlined Tuesday a major immigration-reform proposal that is more generous to illegal immigrants than the last two bills that failed to make it into law in the past three years.

Backers of overhauling the nation's immigration laws have concluded that, having failed to win support from businesses and immigration-enforcement advocates in the past, they would write a new bill without any compromises.

The new legislation would kick local authorities out of the business of immigration enforcement, establish new due-process protections for illegal immigrants and create a new pathway to citizenship that would require only that illegal immigrants pay a very small fine and would not require them to return to their home country first.

"What we need to do right now is not complicated. Our nation's immigration policy should be pro-family, pro-jobs, pro-security," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, who wrote the bill and took over leadership on the issue after the death of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Mr. Gutierrez was greeted as a hero by dozens of immigrant rights supporters at a Capitol Hill rally introducing the bill.

The pathway to citizenship would require illegal immigrants to pay a $500 fine and complete a criminal-record check in exchange for legal status. After six years, they could apply for a green card signifying legal permanent residence if they prove they are learning English and civics and paying taxes. The bill would apply to anyone who could show he or she was in the U.S. as of Tuesday - the day the legislation was introduced in Congress.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, is working on the Senate version of the bill and supporters in both chambers say they want a debate next year - something President Obama has also called for.

But the poor jobs picture and upcoming midterm elections make that a tough sell for many lawmakers. Republicans have already signaled they will argue the economy is not strong enough to legalize millions of illegal immigrant workers who are filling jobs that could be done by Americans and legal immigrants.

One key change from the 2006 and 2007 bills is that backers have dropped a guest-worker program to allow for a steady stream of temporary workers in the future. Businesses wanted the program but labor unions have balked, arguing it drives down wages.

Dropping guest workers has cost Mr. Gutierrez the support of a former ally, Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who in previous years had teamed with the Democrat to introduce immigration bills.

"I know how committed he is to this issue. However, this is a flawed bill," Mr. Flake said. "It repeats the mistakes of the '86 reform - massive legalization without a temporary worker program to accommodate future labor demands."

He also said that Mr. Gutierrez watered down the tough legalization provisions that were in the bill they sponsored together in the last Congress.

That previous bill called for a $2,000 fine - four times the fine in the new bill - and had required illegal immigrants to return home at some point before obtaining a green card.

The new bill also carves out special visas that would go specifically to countries that already send a high number of illegal immigrants. Backers said this would be a safety valve on illegal immigration.


Like most bills, the first draft is Utopian in nature. They usually try to be everything to everyone. This bill is clearly no exception to that rule. If it survives the House, it will then have to be compromised with a Senate version which Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has promised to file before the end of this year. We will have to wait and see what that will bring.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Senate vote on abortion in health reform called ’a grave mistake’

Senate vote on abortion in health reform called ’a grave mistake’

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien - Posted: 12/11/2009 – Boston Pilot

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate's rejection of a bipartisan abortion amendment to its version of health care reform legislation was "a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health reform," according to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago and three USCCB committee chairmen commented on the Dec. 8 vote in separate statements Dec. 9.

Following several hours of debate on the Senate floor, senators voted 54-45 to table the amendment sponsored by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Robert Casey, D-Pa.; and at least five others.

Cardinal George said he remained "hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation."

"Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent," he added.

Similar comments came after the vote from Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, who heads the Committee on Migration.

Bishop Murphy said both houses of Congress need "to retain existing abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all."

"We hope the Senate will address the legislation's fundamental flaw on abortion and remedy its serious problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of immigrants," he added.

Cardinal DiNardo said Congress 'needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding."

"Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply," he said. "The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in this legislation."

The Hyde amendment, first approved in 1976, prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother's life.

Bishop Wester said health reform "must respect, not threaten, human life and dignity" and "respect, not violate, consciences of providers, taxpayers and others."

He also urged senators "to resist amendments that would leave immigrants and their families behind as the nation reforms health care" and to support amendments "that improve health care access for immigrants and their families."

In a Dec. 7 letter to senators, the three committee chairmen had thrown their support behind the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, saying it would "keep in place the long-standing and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions" and was similar to one approved by the House in November before passage of its Affordable Health Care For America Act.

"Like that amendment, it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available, but no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions," the bishops said.

"This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds," they added. "It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people's abortions."

Along with their letter, the three chairmen sent each senator copies of two fact sheets -- one on abortion and conscience problems in the Senate health reform bill and the other detailing what the Senate amendment would do.

During the Senate debate, several senators read from the fact sheets or the USCCB letter to support their arguments in favor of the amendment.

"Sadly, the current Senate bill fails to keep in place the long-standing federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions or health plans that include elective abortions," the letter said. "We believe legislation that violates this moral policy is not true health care reform and must be amended to reflect the Hyde restrictions. If that fails, the current legislation should be opposed."

In the end, the vote was not on the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment itself but on a motion to table the amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

In addition to Casey and Nelson, five other Democrats -- Sens. Edward E. Kaufman of Delaware, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Evan Bayh of Indiana -- joined all but two Republicans in opposing the tabling of the amendment. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans from Maine, supported the Boxer motion to table.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has said he opposes abortion, voted to table the Nelson amendment, saying, "This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. We can't afford to miss the big picture."


All Catholics and other abortion opponents must to continue our struggle to stop all use of American tax payer’s money to fund abortion. We must never abandon the campaign to abolish Roe vs. Wade. Please make note of the Senators and Congressmen who are voting not according to the wishes of their constituents but rather to get this very bad, astronomically expensive piece of legislation passed in order to avoid embarrassment for the President and the Democratic Party. Many of them will be up for re-election next year. Do not hesitate to let them know by your vote that you are disgusted at the position they have taken in support of this bill. As the saying goes, “DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nation braces for wave of public strikes

Nation braces for wave of public strikes

By Shaun Connolly and Niamh Hennessy - Friday, December 11, 2009

HOSPITALS, schools and vital services could be crippled by open-ended national strikes in the new year, union leaders warned last night as anger over budget cuts to public sector pay and welfare benefits intensified.

SIPTU president Jack O’Connor escalated the battle with the Government after wage cuts of 5%-7% were forced on most state workers, threatening a fresh wave of intensive industrial action unless ministers backed down. "It is open to us to name a day, some day in January and say that’s the day we’re stopping – my union has a mandate for that – and that we won’t be starting again until it’s over one way or the other."

Mr O’Connor stressed he hoped such extreme action would not be needed.

The threatened strike move came as a survey showing steep price rises for key goods flatly contradicted Government claims deflation would cushion struggling families against their sudden drop in income.

Welfare claimants and the low-paid bore the brunt of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s €4bn cuts package, which provoked a strong backlash, with opposition parties insisting the Government was "running scared" as it rushed the slashing of the benefit budget through the Dáil before TDs faced the full wrath of voters at the weekend.

Fine Gael and Labour rounded on the 4.1% cut in welfare payments, branding it unfair and unjustified.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen defended the move, saying the Government had no alternative and the budget had been "well received".

Anti-poverty campaigner Fr Sean Healy of Social Justice Ireland was scathing about the measures, insisting they would cause real hardship for the most vulnerable in society. Fr Healy ridiculed claims by ministers that the pain had been evenly spread, because they had taken pay cuts on their own lavish salaries. "People who are earning €4,000 a week after they have taken their pay cut... are in no position to understand the impact of a reduction in income on somebody receiving €204 a week on welfare," he said.

Ministerial claims that the poor would be cushioned from the cuts by deflation were also contradicted by evidence from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which showed that in the year to November price increases had already pushed petrol up by 6.5% before this week’s budget hike in duty. Bus fares shot up 12%, rail travel rose by 8%, third-level education costs rocketed by 20%, and insurance costs, already up 17% in the last 12 months are expected to climb by another 10% in the new year.

While prices overall are down 6% on the year, opposition parties point to this being driven by mortgage cuts which often would not benefit the poor.


Problems continue to mount for the Irish people while the banks who are the root cause of the current economic woes are being bailed out by the government. This should sound like a familiar story to us in the U.S. It seems that some things know no national borders. In the meantime as the flood waters recede and the extent of the damage becomes evident, the Irish Red Cross is beginning to process requests for relief from victims of the horrific floods in Ireland. Please be generous with your donations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Public sector workers bear brunt of spending cuts

Public sector workers bear brunt of spending cuts


The Dáil is debating cuts in social welfare rates today as it discusses legislation to enable measures outlined in yesterday's Budget.

Public servants and social welfare recipients took the brunt of the €4 billion in spending cuts announced in the Budget yesterday by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.

Reaction has been largely negative with the Opposition claiming the Budget was not 'fair' and public service unions threatening further unrest.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted Budget 2010 was “fair” and would provide “a significant stimulus” for jobs, training and employment opportunities.

The Taoiseach said the measures introduced yesterday would provide training or supports for 180,000 people. He said 80,000 jobs will be supported through the Employment Subsidy Scheme and €900 will be invested in 2010 protecting jobs and providing training. A further €200 million will be invested in enterprise supports.

Mr Cowen said a “key goal” of the Budget is to aid recovery and build Ireland’s smart economy.

He said €40 billion will be invested in infrastructure over the next six years. He said this investment was expected to create at least 60,000 jobs.

The Taoiseach also said the introduction of an employer PRSI exemption for new employees will reduce the cost to business of creating new jobs, support employment and help to get the economy moving again. “This Budget is the start of a new phase – where we begin to create sustainable jobs as the global economy begins to pick-up,” he told the Dáil.

Mr Cowen described the reduction in social welfare as a “regrettable, but necessary” adjustment. “The reason we are reducing payment rates is to ensure that we have a sustainable welfare system which can continue to protect the most vulnerable.”

Key elements in the Budget unveiled by Mr Lenihan yesterday were cuts of more than €1 billion in public service pay, a reduction of €760 million in social welfare, just under €1 billion on day-to-day spending and the same amount on capital projects.

From January 1st public servants will suffer a cut of 5 per cent on the first €30,000 of salary, 7.5 per cent on the next €40,000 and 10 per cent on the next €55,000. Social welfare recipients face an average reduction of 4.1 per cent with those under 25 facing much more substantial cuts.

Child benefit will be cut by €16 a month with families on social welfare being compensated through an increase of €3.80 a week in the qualified child allowance.

Pensioners were exempt from the welfare cuts and public service pensioners decoupled from the cuts in pay. However, Mr Lenihan announced his intention of ending the link between public service pay and pensions in the future, making a link instead with the cost of living index. A cut of 20 per cent in the Taoiseach’s pay and 15 per cent in Ministers’ pay was also announced.

This morning, Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said cuts in social welfare announced in Budget 2010 would not have a severe impact on people, as the value of the increases given in last year's budget still existed.

"The euro is going further. Prices have come down for all groups of people including those who are unemployed and including those who are on social welfare," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland . "And, I know it is a difficult situation for them but the real value of the increases that we gave last year still exist. It won't make the situation any worse for them."

By contrast with April’s budget there were no significant tax changes this time around though Mr Lenihan announced a domicile levy of €200,000 a year on Irish nationals and domiciled individuals whose income is more than €1 million and whose Irish located capital is greater than €5 million.

Mortgage interest relief was also extended until 2017, when it will be abolished.

Full details of the cuts across Government Departments will emerge in coming days. They include measures such as a 50 cent charge per item on prescriptions and an increase in the monthly threshold for the drugs payment scheme from €100 to €120. Savings of €400 million are to be made in health.

In an effort to curb cross-Border shopping Mr Lenihan reduced excise duty on alcohol by 12 cent on a pint of beer, 14 cent on a glass of spirits and 60 cent on a bottle of wine. He also announced a reversal of the half per cent increase in VAT imposed in his first budget last year.

As expected there was a carbon tax of €15 a tonne. It will result in increases of 4.2 cent in the price of a litre of petrol and almost 5 cent in a litre of diesel from today. It will apply to home heating oil and gas from next May. Other measures include a car scrappage scheme and extra funding for Fás training programmes. Some €70 million was allocated to help the victims of flooding as well as flood protection measures.

The Government had a decisive majority of 13 in the first Dáil vote on the measure last night. The reduction in excise duty on alcohol was carried by 88 votes to 75 with Independents, Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish and Jackie Healy Rae voting with the Coalition.

Peter McLoone, leader of the State’s biggest public sector union Impact warned 350,000 workers would now prepare for industrial action. “All existing and former public servants must now mobilize to protect their incomes,” he said. But Mr Lenihan signalled last night he was prepared to face down unions and even raised the prospect of further cuts if reforms proposed in last week’s pay talks were not agreed.


It would appear as though the actual budget cuts have lived up to the opinions rendered in the past few weeks. As expected they affect most Irish people, especially workers and the needy. If these people are willing to accept these cuts in services, it is certainly time for some government officials who have recently retired with obscene “golden handshakes” to pay their fair share. Their retirement packages should be adjusted to reflect the cuts that are being borne by the people that they represented before they abandoned an obviously “sinking ship”.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lenihan tries to soften blow of budget

Lenihan tries to soften blow of budget

By Paul O’Brien and Mary Regan - Wednesday, December 09, 2009

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has made a last-ditch attempt to soften people up for today’s devastating budget, which will include drastic cuts in public sector pay, child benefit and social welfare.

Mr Lenihan insisted the €4 billion of cuts announced this afternoon would represent "the last of the very difficult budgets" – even though the Government will have to cut another €4bn next year and a further €3.5bn in 2011.

Fine Gael last night ridiculed what they saw as Mr Lenihan’s preemptive attempt at damage limitation and predicted a "budget of despair" for workers, families and the poor.

"€4 billion in cuts may be easy for Fianna Fáil to announce but it will be more than difficult for the ordinary families who face huge cuts in pay, welfare payments and social services," party leader Enda Kenny said last night.

Mr Lenihan will rise to his feet at 3.45pm in the Dáil to announce what is expected to be most severe budget in decades. It is understood to include:

* A cut in child benefit of up to 10%, which would reduce the monthly payment by more than €15.

* A cut of more than €8 in the weekly payment for unemployed people.

* A cut of more than €40 in unemployment payments for under-23s who refuse to partake in further training.

* A 4% to 5% cut in most other welfare payments. The old-age pension will be left untouched.

* Average pay cuts of between 5% and 6% for the country’s 315,000 public sector workers, with deeper cuts for those earning the highest salaries, such as the Taoiseach and his ministers.

* A 5% cut in fees paid by the state to lawyers, doctors and other professionals.

* An increase of circa €10 in emergency department & charges.

* A 50c charge on every prescription for medical card holders.

* A carbon tax, pushing up the price of petrol, diesel and home heating fuels.

On the flip side, speculation grew last night that the Government would cut excise duties, meaning a fall in the price of a pint.

The public sector pay cuts (€1.3bn) and social welfare cuts (up to €1bn) will represent the largest elements of the €4bn savings package.

The Government will rush through legislation to ensure cuts in those areas take effect from January 1.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed that a social welfare bill would be before the Dáil this week.

Mr Cowen rejected claims by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore that Mr Lenihan had deliberately sought to collapse last week’s union talks. That failure means the Government will cut public sector pay today but it has also raised the prospect of public sector strikes.

As revealed by the Irish Examiner last weekend, the Government has already prepared the legislation to cut pay. It will be presented to the Dáil next week.

Mr Cowen last night held meetings with Independent TDs Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae in an effort to secure their support for the budget. The Government is confident that it will pass.


The cuts mentioned above represent only the major ones that are expected to be announced. We will not know the full extent of what has been described as “the most savage budget cuts in the history of the State” until the actual announcement is made later today (Dec. 9, 2009). In the meantime, people in Ireland are hoping for the best as they try to cope with this and the damage from the floods.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

AOH Board Of Erin

I have been copied on the following E-mail message from the AOH Board of Erin following their National Board meeting of December 5, 2009.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just closed the National Board meeting of AOH Board of Erin. I am instructed to advise you that we have authorized a donation to the Irish Red Cross in the amount of £1,000 for flood relief. We respectfully encourage our American brothers and sisters to join us in this relief effort and to support the work of the Irish Red Cross. We thank you most sincerely in advance for your generosity.

In Our Motto of Friendship, Unity and True Christian Charity,

John Shanahan

AOH Board Of Erin


It appears as though the Board of Erin have assessed the current flooding in Ireland and have determined that the situation is of a drastic nature and immediate help to the victims is indicated. They have elected to make a very generous donation of 1000 Pounds Sterling ($1,650 approx.) and to put their confidence in the Irish Red Cross to distribute it where it is needed most. They have also requested that we, here in the U.S., would also support the work of the Irish Red Cross in this relief effort. I have every confidence that the A.O.H. & L.A.O.H. in America will respond in their usual generous manner.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Open Letter to Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians

An Open Letter to Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians


Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians

I have sent out several articles recently and also a bulletin issued by the Embassy of the United States of America in Dublin. The bulletin was sent to every U. S. citizen known to be residing in Ireland. It warns U.S. citizens of the drastic nature of the floods currently being experienced in Ireland. The level of devastation caused by the floods actually parallels that which was wreaked upon the New Orleans and Gulf Coast areas of the United States following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The floods come on the heels of the worst economic collapse in Ireland in years. Thousands of Irish people who are in imminent danger of losing their homes and all of their worldly possessions to the seemingly relentless flooding were already facing the possibility of those losses as a result of the collapsed economy. To put it very bluntly, the situation is dismal and worsening as the days go by and their homes remain submerged in the flood waters. The full extent of their losses can only be estimated at this time by most victims, but as in the Gulf Coast area, the receding water only confirms that their worst fears have been realized.

Catastrophic events such as these sometimes require that drastic measures be taken in trying to resolve them. In 2005, the men and women of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians responded immediately and generously to assist the victims in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. As a charitable organization dedicated to our Irish heritage and our Catholic faith, I have absolutely no doubt that they will respond to this tragedy with their legendary generosity once again.

I have been in contact with the Board of Erin and the A.O.H. in Canada and they have both promised to render as much help as possible to alleviate the suffering of the victims of the Irish floods. I recall that following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Board of Erin presented our HDRE (Katrina Fund) with a check for several thousand dollars. Even though I am sure that there will be donations from Divisions, County, and State Boards, I feel very strongly that a substantial donation should also be made from our National Boards to “kick off” a relief effort and also as an incentive to other jurisdictions and individual members to do everything possible to help our Irish brothers and sisters to recover from this enormous tragedy.

Let us not forget our motto of Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity and that this is the Holy Season of Christmas, our traditional season for helping those in need.

Yours in our Motto,

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America


More information including contacts on flood relief in Ireland will be posted on my blog as soon as it becomes available

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This Bulletin was distributed to all known American citizens resident in the Republic of Ireland Embassy of the United States of America

This Bulletin was distributed to all known American citizens resident in the Republic of Ireland

Embassy of the United States of America

Dublin, Ireland

December 3, 2009

Following an extended period of rainfall and severe weather conditions, flood response efforts continue across a number of counties in Ireland. Furthermore, heavy rain and high tides are expected to peak beginning Wednesday, December 2, through Saturday, December 5 and result in an increase in water levels in areas currently affected by flooding, especially County Clare. The current major areas affected include Clare, Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Roscommon. It has also been reported that Carlow, Kildare and Tipperary are being affected by the severe floods. The Health Services Executive (HSE) has advised people living in flood-affected areas to protect their health when using emergency water supplies and to take precautions in cleaning up safely after floods. The local authorities are working with An Garda Siochana, Civil Defence, the HSE, and the Army Services to ensure that the necessary action is taken.

For more information from the HSE, please refer to the following website:

Please see the details below for additional information from the local authorities in the affected areas.

County Cork

The affected flood areas in Cork have reportedly been reconnected to the main water supplies. However, councils in the areas are conducting water quality tests to ensure that the floods have not contaminated the water supplies. For more up-to-date information, please refer to the Cork County Council’s website:

Cork City

In Cork City, the City Council continues to restore the main water supply to households affected by the consequences of the recent flooding in Cork City. Affected households north of the River Lee – North Channel have had their supply restored; however, work is ongoing in some small areas in the north side of the city. A number of areas on the south side of the city are without water or are experiencing intermittent supply or low pressure. The City Council advises that consumers who do not have a clean main water supply at a steady pressure should not use washing machines, dishwashers, pumped showers, etc.

As the supply of piped water returns on a phased basis, Cork City Council, in consultation with the HSE, has lifted its Boil Water Notice in certain areas. Please refer to its website,, for the detailed map outlining the areas in Cork City where Boil Water Notices are still in place. The emergency FREEFONE helpline number is 1.800.283.034 (8:00am–10:00pm); the 24-hour emergency number is 021.496.6512. For more information please refer to Cork City Council’s website:


In Galway, a Boil Water Notice was issued after it was reported that water supplies were contaminated with animal and human waste as a result of the flooding. It has been reported that it may take a number of weeks for engineers to work on repairing the damage. For more information, please refer to Galway County Council’s website: In cases of emergencies relating to flooding, please call 091.509.309.


Roscommon County Council advised consumers that due to the current flooding situation, as a precautionary measure, it is advisable to boil water before use until further notice. Emergency telephone numbers are listed on its website:

Limerick and Clare

Limerick County Council and Clare County Council confirmed that a precautionary Boil Water Notice was put in place in Montpelier, O’Briensbridge and Bridgetown.

For residents of Limerick, further information and advice is available at the following phone numbers: 061.496.326 (9.30am–4.30pm, Monday–Friday), 061.419.226 or 087.629.5167 (after-hours). A Boil Water Notice was issued for the southeast regional water supply area last week and is still in place.

Clare County Council has repeated its flood risk warning for all parts of the county. Despite reporting a slight drop in water levels in recent days, further rainfall is expected within the next three days. The Council advised that its Crisis Management Centre would once again become fully operational within a half hour should conditions deteriorate significantly over the coming days. In the interim, an after-hours emergency number, 087.416.9496, has been set up by Clare County Council. For more information, please refer to its website:

For more information relating to the flooding, please refer to the relevant county website or contact the local authorities in the relevant counties. For more information on the roads affected by the floods, please refer to the information on the AA website:


Americans living or traveling in Ireland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Ireland. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy in Dublin. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. Embassy Information:

U.S. Embassy Ireland is located at 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. If calling from within Ireland, the Embassy can be reached via phone at 01.668.8777, after hours number 01.668.9612. If calling from outside of Ireland please use the country code +353 prior to dialing the numbers. The Embassy email address is


The information above was distributed to all American citizens known to be resident in Ireland. It underscores the very serious nature of the flooding and the fact that it does not seem to be receding but rather they are expecting it to worsen in the next few days. This drastic situation is reminiscent of the devastation suffered by residents of our own Gulf Coast Region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. I do not believe this is any time to drag our feet if it is our intention to do whatever we can to assist the victims and it certainly should be. We need to mobilize our efforts now in order to be ready to act as soon as our help is needed. Many thanks to our Hibernian Brother, John Shanahan who currently resides in Ireland for sharing this information with us.

For more up to date information on this and other items of interest, please refer to:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Majority of areas 'without funds for defenses'

Majority of areas 'without funds for defenses'

Only two towns had the cash for flood barriers
By Paul Melia and Aine Kerr Wednesday December 02 2009

ONLY two of the towns hit by flooding in the last 10 days have funding in place to build flood defense works.

Despite floods in towns and villages across eight counties, only Ennis in Clare and Clonmel in Tipperary have funding approved to carry out works which could have prevented millions of euro worth of damage to property.

Yesterday, the Dail Environment Committee heard that funding was not in place for schemes in towns identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs as being the "main areas affected".

Funding has not been approved for any works in Clonlara or Corbally in Clare, while none was earmarked for Cork city, Bandon, Clonakilty, or Skibbereen which were all under water; and no funding was available for Ballinasloe and Gort in Co Galway or Athlone, Co Westmeath.

Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Martin Mansergh said that €1.3m had been earmarked for minor flood works -- but that none of the projects approved were in towns or villages deemed as being among the worst-hit.

Of the "major" schemes currently under way, only Clonmel and Ennis have been hit in recent weeks. Defense works for both towns are also planned for next year.

No schemes have been approved in Roscommon, Leitrim or Kildare which were also hit by flooding; but much of the funding approved is for towns which were hit in recent years including Carlow, Mallow, and Fermoy.

Mr Mansergh told the committee that erecting defenses did not guarantee that people and property would be protected, and that some homeowners were likely to relocate to other areas.

He added that schemes for some towns would have to be prioritized. "I think relocations are inevitable," he said.

"In the case of some homes, people may say in a few weeks' time, when the floods are gone, they cannot go on and that's something that will have to be addressed."

Up to 1,700 people had to be evacuated from their homes in recent weeks, many of whom will remain in temporary accommodation until flood waters subside and the damage to homes assessed.

He added that flood defenses did not guarantee that property and people would be protected. "The death toll in the UK is six people. One-in-100 year defenses were overrun by 12 inches of rain in 24 hours. The Department of the Environment and the Government generally will have to prioritize schemes."


Meanwhile, it emerged that more than 400 flood victims have received €125,000 in emergency payments from the Government. The payments are separate to the €10m Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which is now drawing applications from flood victims countrywide.

However, the amount has been criticized by Fine Gael which said yesterday that more money should have been given to people in financial difficulty.

"That's just buttons," Jim O'Keeffe told the committee. "Shouldn't a better effort have been made? That's half the value of an individual home. Could we not be doing better?"

But the Department of Social and Family Affairs said the money would not be spent until damage was assessed and repair works carried out.

Application forms and information about the emergency fund were published yesterday on the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Community Welfare Service websites.


I am very much aware that it is easy for people to watch a 60 second news clip on television and say “Isn’t that awful?” Then when the news coverage is over there is not another thought given to what they just saw. If it doesn’t directly affect us, we tend to ignore it. This is human nature. Most of us have our own problems to deal with, however small they may be. But, there are times when, as members of a charitable organization, we must look beyond our own problems and offer our help to others. I believe this is one of those times.

The extensive flooding in Ireland is a tragedy of enormous proportions and it has caused thousands of Irish people to lose everything they have worked for all of their lives. Many of the flood victims were in dire straits already because of the collapse of the economy and the resultant widespread unemployment. I am very proud to say that members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians have always risen to the challenge and offered their help to those in need.

With the Holy Season of Christmas approaching, it is my sincere hope that we will follow our motto of True Christian Charity and continue our tradition of generosity to those in need especially those in the land of our beloved Irish heritage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Further chaos now inevitable

Further chaos now inevitable

Clean-up under way but more heavy rain is due

By Brian McDonald - Tuesday December 01 2009

HOUSEHOLDERS in flood-ravaged parts of the West and midlands were warned yesterday
that it's not over yet.

Met Eireann, the ESB and the Irish Farmers Association were all advising home and
property owners to remain on alert as further flooding is now inevitable.

And adding to the woes of families in parts of Co Galway was the issuing of a new
'boil water' notice yesterday following the discovery of e-coli and other
coliforms in the public system supplying thousands of homes.

Recent sampling of water quality in the Mid-Galway Regional Supply Scheme showed
that the treatment plant had been compromised due to the flooding. All users have
now been advised to boil water for drinking, preparing food, and brushing teeth.

The Mid-Galway Scheme serves an extensive area from Abbeyknockmoy to the north,
Ballydavid to the south, Brackloon to the east and Coolarne to the west. It also
includes Monivea and Colmanstown.

A number of group water schemes in the catchment area are also affected by the
Liam Gavin from the Water Services Department of Galway County Council said: "We
intend to flush out our mains and get the chlorine levels right again and take
further sampling over the next few days.


"When the sampling is satisfactory, we will advise consumers as to when the 'boil
water' notice will be removed."
A 'boil water' notice has already been in place in Ballinasloe for more than a

The water treatment plant in the town was under a metre of water at the peak of
the flooding. It is expected to take up to eight weeks to fully restore the

Around Co Galway yesterday water levels were receding, with some respite for
families in Ballinasloe and in south Galway.

In Co Offaly, vast areas of farmland have been submerged since the River Brosna

burst its banks over the weekend. Banagher and Shannon Harbour were worst affected
with dozens of farms under water.

Chairman of Laois, Offaly Westmeath IFA Aidan Larkin told the Irish Independent:
"It's not looking too good over the next few days as we are expecting more rain.
"Already, there are hundreds of acres flooded, as well as some houses in Shannon
Harbour and thankfully there is a great effort from all over to help farmers with
fodder and providing accommodation for cattle.
"If it was down to the farming community to lift this country out of the mess it
is in, then you couldn't pick a better group."


The Holy Season of Christmas, our traditional season of giving, is nearly upon us
and thousands of people in Ireland have suffered the loss of everything they owned
as a result of the recent unprecedented floods. Out of tragedy sometimes comes
hope and opportunity. This tragedy presents us, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in
America, with the opportunity to make a significant contribution to alleviate the
pain and suffering of our Irish brothers and sisters. In 2001, following the
attack on the World Trade Center, Sinn Fein in a very admirable and generous
gesture donated the proceeds of their annual fund raising dinner in New York to
the victims of our worst tragedy. Perhaps we should take a page from their book
and consider a similar donation to the Irish flood victims.