Friday, December 31, 2010

Bertie bails out

Bertie bails out

Ahern refuses to apologise for downturn as he retires on €151,000-a-year

Irish Independent - Friday December 31 2010

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night dramatically announced his retirement from politics and conceded he could have done some things differently.

But he said those asking him to apologise for policies during his time in power also have to give credit "for all the gains" the country made during the Celtic Tiger.

He also refused to rule out a campaign to run for President.

Mr Ahern now stands to draw down a huge pension. He will get a ministerial pension of around €98,000 and one for a TD worth €53,000 -- a total of more than €150,000 a year. He is also entitled to a once-off lump sum of around €160,000 based on his years of service as a TD.

Last night, he issued a statement confirming his intention to step down ahead of the next General Election. Later, he spoke at his headquarters in St Luke's, Drumcondra, about his regrets that we're now back to 2005 economic levels. He also hit out at the failure of financial advisers or economists to warn him that Anglo Irish Bank could cause future problems.

"I don't think it's a question of an apology," he said when asked if he felt he should apologise for any of his economic policies.

"What I've always said is I feel that all the gains I created . . . when I brought the country to full employment, I brought it to immigration instead of emigration, I brought it so we were spending billions on infrastructure.

"So I do take credit for the gains and I say I'm sorry we weren't able to keep the gains at the same level, that we did go back a bit," he said, adding that the "international recession" helped wipe out those gains.

He had gathered with the O'Donovan Rossa Cumann in St Luke's earlier in the evening and was joined by his former wife Miriam.

Flanked by his brothers Noel and Maurice, and local Fianna Fail TD Cyprian Brady, he said nobody advised him that a banking crisis could be coming down the line.

"I can honestly say, not once did any official or any delegation who was in to see me, and everyone was in to see me, not once did anyone ever say to me, watch out for Anglo (Irish Bank).

"Never ever, ever, once. Not from anyone . . . I wish they had."

He declined to rule out running for President, saying: "Everybody would love to be in the Aras, but only one person will end up there."

Mr Ahern plans to canvass for Fianna Fail in the next General Election but admitted that the people will be tough on Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his colleagues.

"I hope they do better than all the opinion polls, and I think they will. But we're not doing great because we've had to make hard decisions, we've had to make tough decisions.

His decision to retire after 40 years in politics means he will now be financially better off than if he had returned to the backbenches after an election.

In his formal address to his local cumann Mr Ahern acknowledged the economic turmoil being endured and the difficulties being faced by so many people across the country, saying he "dearly wished there was no crisis".


"I realise that it would have been better if some things had been done differently.

"But I will not denigrate the good that has been done, or belittle the effort it took to achieve it."

He added that he believes our economy will recover.

As a former Taoiseach, he will still be entitled to a state car, a garda driver and garda protection for his home for life, as well as a secretarial assistant and a mobile phone -- also paid for by the State, for life.He said last night that he sees the car as a "security issue".

Mr Cowen paid tribute to Mr Ahern, who now joins Noel Dempsey, Dermot Ahern, Jim McDaid, Rory O'Hanlon, Martin Cullen, MJ Nolan and Sean Ardagh in bowing out of politics ahead of the General Election.

Mr Cowen described his predecessor as "without question the consummate politician of our generation in this country".

"He is a person of rare ability and extraordinary talent," Mr Cowen said.

"He has an immense work ethic and he is a superb negotiator."

Mr Ahern said it had been an "incredible journey" since 1977 and an extraordinary privilege to represent the people of Drumcondra and Dublin Central for over 30 years.

He said he now plans to spend more time with his family and in the gym.


Mr. Ahern is not only a “wily, crafty, and consummate politician”, he is also a very wealthy one at the expense of the beleaguered Irish taxpayer. Shame on him and his colleagues for walking away from a deplorable situation that they created through greed and incompetence.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Plan could treble number speaking Irish, says Cowen

Plan could treble number speaking Irish, says Cowen

DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN – Irish Times - Wed, Dec 22, 2010

THE NUMBER of daily Irish speakers could be increased from 83,000 to 250,000 if there was a unified approach, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said at Government Buildings yesterday.

Announcing the Government’s 20-year strategy for the Irish language, Mr Cowen said it was a historic occasion and one that “lifts my heart”.

“I believe this strategy is a historic one and that this is a historic day for the Irish language. For the first time since the State was founded there is a comprehensive, long-term plan for Irish,” the Taoiseach said, speaking in Irish.

“Under this plan, it is intended to increase the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis from 83,000 to 250,000 people within 20 years.

“Bringing that about will be an enormous task but I am certain we can succeed. As the old proverb says: “There is no strength without unity .”

He added: “We should never make excuses for defending Irish nor for promoting the language, inside or outside the Gaeltacht.” Mr Cowen said the cross-party support that had been shown for the strategy was very encouraging: “This is a good development because Irish belongs to us all.”

His own family had attended an Irish-speaking school: “It is wonderful how proud of the language they are; they never have any issue about speaking Irish.”

Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey said it was “a cause for celebration” that the strategy would ensure the State, the language organisations and the general public were working together.

Speaking in Irish he said: “Irish is still identified by Unesco as a language of fragile status. If a language is lost, it is virtually impossible to revive it.”

“Irish is like an unbroken chain which reaches back through 2,000 years of our history. A modern, up-to-date plan for Irish is being launched today for this millennium – a plan whose aim is to ensure that the chain is not broken.”

He said that, “although it is a Government plan, it does not belong to the Government, it belongs to you and to us and it is up to us and to you to ensure it is put into practice”.

Speaking in English, he said: “I am pleased to see members of the English-language media here today. The English-language media have an important role to play in increasing awareness of the Irish language.

“While I am not in any way suggesting that the media become cheerleaders for the Irish language, I do feel, however, that certain media do not always treat Irish language issues with the same seriousness that they treat other issues.”

Fine Gael spokesman on the Gaeltacht Frank Feighan said his party supported the 20-year plan “in principle” with the reservation that the party believed the teaching of Irish should be obligatory until Junior Cert level only and not until the Leaving Cert stage as at present.


* Increase the number of daily speakers of Irish from 83,000 to 250,000 and the number of daily speakers of Irish in Gaeltacht areas by 25 per cent.

* The strategy proposes to reconfigure Údarás na Gaeltachta as a new Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Its headquarters will be based in the Gaeltacht.

* It will retain an enterprise function and it will also have responsibility for Irish language matters throughout the State in the context of the new Strategy.

* Foras na Gaeilge will continue to be supported and will maintain its existing responsibilities for the language on an all-island basis.

* The Cabinet committee on Irish and the Gaeltacht will maintain oversight of progress of the strategy.

* A total of €1.5 million has been set aside by the department from within existing resources to support the strategy, as required, during its first year.

* The first steps have been taken in establishing a strategy unit in Pat Carey’s Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that will direct the implementation of the strategy and draft the legislation.

* Up to 20 per cent of places in colleges of education to be retained for students educated through Irish in Gaeltacht schools, in gaelscoileanna and for those attaining a high performance threshold in Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

* Under a new Gaeltacht Act, Gaeltacht status will be based on linguistic criteria. Communities that cannot comply with the criteria will be given two years to develop language plans to maintain their status as Gaeltacht communities.

* New areas may also be included in the Gaeltacht if they meet the linguistic criteria under the new Act.


Tir gan teanga, Tir gan anam. Gaeilge go deo!

Sean Og O’Miadhachainn

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shinnernomics is nothing but empty rhetoric

Shinnernomics is nothing but empty rhetoric

Willie O’Dea – Irish Independent – 19 December 2010

Where Sinn Fein is not being economically reckless, it is being utterly hypocritical, writes Willie O'Dea

Poor Gerry Adams. I never expected to find myself uttering these words, but I cannot help it.

His first attempt to be added to the electoral register for Louth ended in failure when the local returning officer found a lack of evidence that he was living in the Louth-Meath East constituency on the dates required.

As his primary home in west Belfast, his rented flat in London and his holiday home in Donegal did not qualify, he may now have to add a home in Co Louth to his burgeoning property portfolio.

But this is not the reason I talk of poor Gerry Adams. I do so as he seems to be developing a condition I suppose may eventually be diagnosed as parliamentophilia: an unnatural obsession with being in as many parliaments as possible.

He wanted to get into Westminster -- well, to get into the building, restaurant, bars, and offices, but not the actual chamber itself. He wanted to get into Stormont (this time actually managing to show up in the chamber occasionally). Now he is fixated with getting into Dail Eireann.

Like other obsessives, he attempts to rationalise his compulsion as something he must do for the good of others. The reality is not so noble. His retreat from west Belfast reflects Sinn Fein's need to get him out of mainstream Northern politics before the May 2011 Assembly elections more than any desire to see him take the lead in Dublin.

Memories of his stumbling and clumsy performances in the 2007 General Election debates, particularly his routing by Michael McDowell, still linger. Are we to believe that the economic illiterate of 2007 has now metamorphosed into a Sinn Fein Joseph Stiglitz?

Of course not. While the party has improved the quality of its rhetoric with people like Pearse Doherty, the absolute vacuum at the heart of its economic approach has not diminished one iota. It is still the same old Shinnernomics.

Remember, these are the people who, back in 2007, demanded increases in mortgage interest, said that the social partnership deal did not go far enough and wanted even greater increases in the public sector pay bill. Now they tell us they saw the whole downturn coming.

They even try to reinvent their present. They may offer the rhetoric of being the only alternative in the South, but they are in government in the North. In Stormont, they impose cuts even though there are alternative revenue-raising opportunities. In the Dail, they reject all cuts even though there are no alternatives.

The Sinn Fein Education Minister in Stormont is cutting almost £70m (€82m) from the education budget without a whimper from Gerry, Martin or Pearse. So much for a united Ireland approach.

Their economic duplicity goes even further down here. They want to dump the IMF/EU rescue package, claiming that it hurts the poor and unemployed.

We borrow a third of the current €21bn social welfare budget in order to assist those most in need.

Rejecting the EU/IMF package would leave a €400m-a-week black hole in social welfare. That is €400m Sinn Fein would have to take back every single week from widows, pensioners, the unemployed and disabled to pay for its euroscepticism.

It is too big price a pay for Sinn Fein recklessness -- and that is before you add in how it would replace the €130bn the European Central Bank has loaned to Irish banks.

Where Sinn Fein is not being reckless, it is being hypocritical.

It opposes the wage and pension reductions for the Taoiseach and ministers, while conveniently forgetting that its MPs milked Westminster's second-home expenses system for nearly £500,000 though refusing to take their seats.

As reported in The Daily Telegraph in May 2009, Adams and McGuinness jointly claimed expenses of £3,600 a month for a two-bedroom flat in north London, though a local estate agent said similar flats in the area fetched only £1,400 a month.

Maybe this is what Martin Ferris meant when he said: "Be guided by your conscience."


Although the argument could be made that no politician in Ireland is without sin, this is a rather damning statement of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein’s total lack of understanding regarding the basic economics of government. Frankly, after reading about the collapse of the once vibrant Irish economy, I would not care to have any Irish political party controlling my finances. God save Ireland from the inability and incompetence of the current administration as well as the potential field of candidates that they will have to choose from to lead the country in the upcoming general election.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Northern Bank robbery finished IRA

Northern Bank robbery finished IRA

LIAM CLARKE – 14 December 2010

"YOU can't rob a bank on charm and personality" is a truth spelt out with some patience to the Readers Digest by "Slick" Willie Sutton, one of America's most charming and successful bank robbers, who, unlike the equally charismatic Gerry Adams, could be disarmingly frank in interviews.

Of course Sutton had far less to hide than the republican movement which Adams led. The nattily dressed American's 40 year career as a stick up artist netted him just $2 million. That is £1.27 million at today's exchange rates, a small fraction of th e £26 million taken by the IRA from the Northern Bank in a single day, not to mention the series of high value heists which proceeded it.

Now it has all turned up in Wikileaks, with cables from James Kenny, the US Ambassador in Dublin at the time of the 2005 Northern Bank robbery, reporting that the Irish government had '''rock solid evidence' that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the Taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery."

Adams' attempts to talk his way out of the accusations in radio interviews yesterday were as laughable as the Sinn Fein statement claiming that there was "not a shred of evidence" of IRA involvement in the robbery. Tell that to Ted Cunningham, the ageing Cork moneylender left serving a long prison sentence after laundering money, some of which was given to him in brown cartons by Sinn Fein members.

Yet they, and he, have to keep denying it. Sinn Fein are attempting to market themselves in next year's Irish general election as the clean party, the one which had no involvement in the culture of money in brown envelopes which they claim characterized Irish political funding in the last decade.

The idea that, as the Wikileaks cables allege, Sinn Fein was itself funded by the proceeds of outright robbery, has the capacity to blow a hole in all that. Denial may not be plausible, but admission would open up a still more terrible vista about where the money went. It would open up questions of what the party thought of the tiger kidnapping of bank employees in which one terrified mother was dumped in the countryside after being held hostage.

That, together with the links to organized crime and sleazy finance which accompanied the robbery, is considerably worse than anything which emerged about backhanders and political payola during the Celtic Tiger years.

It is a can of worms which Sinn Fein dare not open. Denial may be implausible but stops the questions getting past first base. After the first skirmish, Adams' standard procedure is to remind interviewers that he is hardly going to answer a question differently on the second or third asking. Yesterday on Radio Ulster, he used this tack to change the subject to another Wikileak showing that MI5 had promised to release files on the murder of Pat Finucane to a public enquiry held under the most recent legislation.

Adams introduced the topic at the very end of the interview so that Conor Bradford, the journalist, had no time to explore his inherent inconsistency. If he was arguing that Wikileaks and the Irish government couldn't be believed about the IRA then how could he rely on something which Wikileaks claimed a former head of MI5 said in private to Mitchel Reiss, the US envoy? If Bertie Ahern wasn't to be trusted on Sinn Fein then why was his assertion of collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane credible?

In fact Wikileaks is credible on both counts. Lord Stevens has already found, in inquiries drawing on MI5 files, that there was collusion in the solicitor's murder. He implicated a Military Intelligence agent, Brian Nelson, and secured the conviction of an RUC informer, Ken Barrett for the crime.

Similarly we knew about the IRA and the Northern Bank robbery and the Irish government's belief that Adams and McGuinness were IRA commanders. At the time Bertie Ahern dismissed Sinn Fein's denial with the question "What kind of eejits do people take us for?"

The Northern Bank robbery had at least one positive effect. The fact that it was carried out during negotiations put backbone into both the British and Irish governments to face down Sinn Fein's excuses and demand an end to IRA criminality.

The concerted political pressure on Sinn Fein sounded the death knell of the Provisional IRA in its new guise as a covert fund raising arm for Sinn Fein and pension fund provider for IRA veterans. We can be thankful for that, even if Adams' denials of the obvious undermine the credibility of any statement he makes on any subject.

As Slick Willie said, charm and personality can only go so far.


Whether or not the IRA was responsible for the bank robbery, is of absolutely no interest to me. The only reason that I would have any interest in who the actual perpetrators were would be if I had money on deposit there and I did not. The question here is how long his audience is willing to listen to the very questionable statements of Gerry Adams about the involvement of the IRA in the robbery. As they say in the North, even the dogs in the street know the truth. Also, Adams has been known to tell a “fib” or two on occasion. Will his consistent denials about this and other incidents that were attributed to the IRA have a negative effect on his candidacy for Dail Eireann in the upcoming general election? That remains to be seen, but, as Willie Sutton said, “charm and personality can only go so far”.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Leave taxes alone and cut spending, warn public

Leave taxes alone and cut spending, warn public

By Conor Ryan – Irish Examiner - Saturday, December 04, 2010

CUT spending, don’t touch taxes and scrap the Croke Park Agreement, that’s the message from the public to the Government ahead of Tuesday’s Budget.

Given options for bridging the gap in the public finances, a poll showed 70% thought taxing or means-testing child benefit for high earners was the fairest.

The introduction of a property tax and cutting the minimum wage were the next two most popular options.

However, there was strong opposition to any planned cuts to the old age pension, with 43% saying it was the least favourable option.

The Irish Examiner /Lansdowne Millward Brown opinion poll also revealed:

- 80% agreed that at 166, we have too many TDs. Separately, Irish Examiner journalists interviewed 100 people face-to-face on streets across the country.

The overriding message was that politicians and ministers should cut their pay before looking for savings from the rest of the country.

- Eight-out-of-10 people thought the agreement not to cut jobs in the public sector under the Croke Park Agreement was unrealistic and should be scrapped.

- Almost half of those surveyed rejected the suggestion that the presidency was a luxury the country can no longer afford.

- More than 75% believe the €25 million-a-year Seanad is excessive and should be abolished.

- More than two-thirds do not want the 12.5% corporation tax raised under any circumstances.

- 60% believe Ireland no longer has the power to make its own financial decisions.

Although 75% of people surveyed believed the country is heading in the wrong direction, they had little faith in the political parties most likely to be charged with leading the country out of the crisis.

Less than 25% thought Fine Gael’s economic policies would solve the economic turmoil. Some 23% considered the Labour Party’s policies would work.

To make matters worse for Fine Gael, only 20% thought Enda Kenny would make a good Taoiseach. One-in-three thought Eamon Gilmore was a positive option but this is far less than the personal approval rating suggested in other polls.

Despite reservations about the two main opposition parties’ policies, there was still a widely-held belief that the two groups could work together to form a stable coalition after the election. But this was not the preferred option.

More than 60% of people thought a national government involving all parties would be the best system for the country.

This was a poor showing for the opposition partners because the survey of 1,000 people began the day after the Green Party announced it wanted a general election and continued until after the Government revealed its devastating Four-Year Plan to save €15 billion.

Claims that the Croke Park deal will still be in place to protect public service workers have been dismissed by the vast majority of people.

They believe that whoever forms the next government will have to tell those employed by the State that their pay will be cut again.

Some 81% of those surveyed thought the notion of the partnership deal maintaining jobs was unrealistic. Just 13% felt it was liable to remain intact for the lifetime of the Four-Year Plan.

The dismissive attitude towards the deal was strongest among richer people, where just less than 90% reckoned the agreement would have to be revisited.


The new 4 year budget which is expected by most to include savage cuts in all areas of the Irish economy will be announced on Tuesday 7 December. As usual, it will be the middle income tax payer who will bear the brunt of these Draconian measures. I, for one, have been absolutely appalled in recent weeks having read in the Irish papers of the “sweetheart deals” which continue to be lavished upon both current and former politicians while these drastic cuts are borne in every other sector of the very severely battered Irish economy. Although the Irish have proven time and time again what a resilient and resourceful people they are, I can’t help but wonder about the outcome of this attempt to recover from the collapse of their once vibrant economy.