Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rugby World Cup-Argentina defeats Ireland.

Argentina defeated Ireland today at Parc des Princes to top the Pool of Death.

The Pumas display was based on greater tactical nous and superior skill levels. They forced Ireland to attack from deep. Their tackling was bone shuddering. In the first 15 minutes Ireland launched a furious onslaught. The Argentineans withstood the onslaught and went on to fashion a comprehensive victory. They moved forward in waves to attack the Irish line. The most exciting moment in the game was the build-up to Horacio Agulla's try. This was space age rugby. This scoring movement involved skill, combined play, power and tactical awareness. In reality the Pumas were far superior to Ireland. This performance is all the more amazing considering that the Pumas do not participate in the Six-Nations or the Tri-Nations. Hopefully they will be invited to join the Tri -nations or Six Nations competitions.

Today there were no weak links in the in the Argentinean team. Juan Martín Hernández was player of the match. It is not unreasonable to argue that he is the best number 10 in the world.
For a detailed account of the match read the Irish Times

It is time for the IRFU to reassess the approach to International Rugby in Ireland.

  • Irish teams must participate in World Sevens Competitions. This will improve ball skills.

  • Autumn Internationals must be used to blood new talent. To hell with the results of such games. Irelands successes against weakened South African and Australian teams last Autumn counted for nothing in the World Cup.

  • The next four years must be used to build a panel of 40 players. Players on the first team must feel that there is competition for places.

  • Coaching expertise from the Southern Hemisphere is a sine qua non.

  • It is possible that there may be some Rugby League players of Irish extraction playing in the UK and Australia who might possibly make good Union players if recruited well in advance of the next World Cup.

Burma-China's role in crushing pro democracy protests

The following is an excerpt taken from an article in the Timesonline
Diplomatic sources with access to military intelligence reports have disclosed that the United States and Britain learnt earlier this year of an intense programme of training and cooperation between Burma and China that focused on counterinsurgency and the suppression of street protests.
Diplomatic sources identified the key liaison man as Colonel Fen Lian Feng, a specialist in psychological warfare and counter-subversion who is stationed at the Chinese embassy in Rangoon.
Fen has overseen the supply of automatic weapons that fire rubber-coated steel bullets, new communications gear, teargas and other chemical agents used in crowd control. He has also given the Burmese access to tactical training in confronting crowds using methods taught by the PLA and China’s internal security forces.
The classic doctrine is to get informers into the movement, allow the demonstrations to proceed, break them up with the sudden use of force, identify and arrest the ringleaders and then clamp down hard to seize data, block information and stop people gathering again.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Burma needs action from the West, not cheap platitudes

Scotland's Sunday Herald has an excellent article - on the crisis in Burma- which laments the absence of deeds by the international community.
Here is a small extract:
"Earlier last week, our own foreign secretary, David Miliband, joined the fray. "I for one thought it was brilliant to see Aung San Suu Kyi alive and well outside her house last week. I think it will be a hundred times better when she takes her rightful place as the elected leader of a free and democratic Burma," said Miliband, addressing the Labour Party's annual autumn conference in Bournemouth.

It's easy to agree with Miliband's sentiments but rather harder to see exactly how much our own own government has been doing to ensure that "Mandela moment" arrives sometime soon for the resourceful and charismatic Suu Kyi, who has been the perennial symbol of resistance to the generals who run this impoverished nation despite being held under house arrest for many years. ................................................"
The full article is an eyeopener.

The Spencers-a fascinating family history

This 350 page book is a superb history of the Spencer Family -family of the late Lady Diana Spencer.It was written by Charles Spencer. The depth of research is breathtaking. It is the most interesting family history that I have ever encountered. As he says himself "In these pages you will find Spencers who are, by turn, ambitious, capricious, devious and pious. Simply because they are relatives , they will not receive any special treatment from me". He was certainly true to his word.

Lady Diana Spencer's grandfather claimed that "the word Spencer derives from the Norman word for steward or Head of Household:'Despenser,' " and that their ancestor was steward to the household of William the Conqueror in 1066. There was an earlier lady Diana Spencer who nearly married the Prince of Wales in 1730. She also died tragically at a young age. Sir Winston Churchill was a Spencer.

There is the story of George Spencer who converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism. He became a saintly Catholic priest. His religious name was Father Ignatius and he was a Passionist. He was the great-great-great-uncle of Princess Diana and was also the great-uncle of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He may soon become a saint.
On March 6th 2007 it was announced that papers relating to Fr. Ignatius' cause had been forwarded to Rome by the Postulator for his cause in hope that he might soon be declared 'Venerable'........

Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma-Repression of populace by Junta intensifies

The intensions of the military junta are crystal clear. It intends to smash the pro democracy movement by whatever means are necessary. Proof of this is the decision to cut internet access and to silence bloggers. It is suspected that some bloggers may have been arrested or murdered. The assumption is that the growing opposition in the outside world -to repression in Burma-can be stifled by a news blackout. The murderous junta is now going about its mission in a coherent and systematic manner. It appears to be intent on mass murder.
However information is still getting out. Read the Irrawaddy for an excellent account of the crisis. Also read Dawn a Burmese woman's blog.
Only the severest of sanctions by the International Community will throttle this satanic regime. Concern expressed by foreign leaders is useless.

Burma-Military Crackdown continues as junta declares war on its people.

The military crackdown which has been instituted against the pro democracy demonstrators in Burma emphasises clearly the relative powerlessness of the UN Security Council. Once more China as-in Darfur- is a major stumbling block. China will at best pay lip service. The International Community must pressurise China by withdrawing from the Beijing Olympics now. The juntas stranglehold on power must be smashed by stronger sanctions than are at present proposed. The UN must be reformed so that the veto can no longer be used in a cynical manner-by powers such as China. Chinese foreign policy is devoid of morality.
The International Community stands indicted on its failure to act meaningfully

Police and soldiers in Burma's main city opened fire for a second day to disperse demonstrators. A Japanese journalist is among the victims of the violence in Rangoon. Earlier, security forces raided monasteries and took away scores of monks accused of leading the protests, which analysts say are the biggest challenge the military government has faced in decades.
VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Protesters' sandals are scattered on the ground as Burmese soldiers look on after firing automatic weapons into a crowd in Rangoon, 27 Sep 2007 (Mandalay Gazette photo)There were conflicting news reports throughout the day on the number of people killed or injured in clashes with security forces on Rangoon's main thoroughfares. Thousands of people defied orders from soldiers and police to get off the streets.
Witnesses say demonstrators chanted their demands for peace, democracy, and an end to poverty. The slogans summed up the yearnings of people in a country ruled by the military since 1962, where per-capita income is less than $200 a year.......
The true death toll so far is unknown.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ireland- The Greens squirm as no confidence vote in Taoiseach is narrowly defeated

A motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been defeated by 81 to 76 votes in the Dáil. Nothing too surprising there. The vote was a foregone conclusion. However it is not without embarrassment for the Government on a number of fronts.

The Green party which - prior to the election-savaged Mr Ahern dutifully trooped into the lobbies to support the Taoiseach. The Greens have u-turned on incineration and co-location. They have lost out on the M3. Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan has now stated that he will be backing a yes vote in next year's referendum on the new EU treaty. Green politicians have sold out on the use of Shannon Airport by US military personnel. They have shed any remaining vestiges of credibility. FF now has a new mudguard. Unfortunately for our erstwhile environmental party the electoral guillotine may fall in the 2012 General Election.

Not unnaturally no FF TD voted with the opposition. Fianna Fail TDs may huff and puff but when the chips are down they are rarely found off side. That is the strength of FF. However Bertie must watch his back as aspiring Taoisigh jockey for position in advance of the inevitable leadership contest. Already Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey have been out of the blocks.
Brian Cowen who professes loyalty to the leader is biding his time. Micheal Martin , Mary Hanafin and Brian Lenihan wait in the wings. Bertie has been seriously damaged both by the appearances at the Mahon Tribunal and the narrowness of the winning margin tonight. Interestingly Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin and Overseas Development Minister Michael Kitt were away on business. However they were 'paired' with Opposition TDs to balance numbers. It appears at this juncture that 4 Government TDs may have been AWOL. IF so the writing is on the wall for Bertie.

Both Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore performed strongly. The opposition scents blood. Interesting times ahead on the Irish political scene.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Burma tyrants propped up by compliant Chinese - Timmins

New Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Billy Timmins TD has certainly hit the ground running. Today he issued a press release on the crisis in Burma. The following is the text of the press statement:

The EU must lean on China, India, Thailand who are all facilitating suppression of democracy:
Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Billy Timmins TD, has today (Tuesday) denounced the Chinese Government for its tacit support of the oppressive Burmese Regime and called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise the issue with his Chinese counterparts and bring it forward at an EU level.
Deputy Timmins added that, with the Beijing Olympics mere months away, a unique opportunity exists to persuade China to stop supporting the brutal Burmese junta.

"After eight days of mass protests across Burma, the courage and restraint of the protest leaders in the face of a despotic military junta is an inspiration to all those who wish to embrace democracy.
"However, the brutal oppression by the junta, as well as the continuing house arrest of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, demonstrates that the ruling military government has no intention to move towards democracy. International pressure through increased sanctions from the US and EU, as well as welcome comments today by George Bush and Gordon Brown, has been forthcoming but this has been hindered by the disgraceful stance of Burma's neighbours, particularly China.

"China props up the junta by developing an economic relationship as well as refusing to intervene with the junta despite the power the Chinese wield in the region. China has already prevented the adoption of a UN Security Council Motion on Burma in January and now Beijing is willfully turning a blind eye to the protests and suppression.

"Our Minister of Foreign Affairs must raise the issue of Burma with his Chinese counterparts, as well as India and Thailand and he must also demand that the EU intervenes with the Beijing Government. A unique opportunity exists with the Olympics just around the corner to put pressure on the Chinese and this must be grasped. Alongside this the EU should continue to expand direct humanitarian aid in the region as well as matching sanctions set by the USA.

"The march towards democracy in Burma has turned a corner with the addition of Buddhist monks. They have inspired a rekindling of mass peaceful protests and should be wholly encouraged. The only lasting solution is for the results of the free and fair elections in 1990 to be recognized - elections in which the National League for Democracy Party, under the leadership of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82% of the seats - and for democracy to flourish."
This is a powerful statement which should form the basis for Government policy on Burma. It is nice to see FG formulate a policy based on ethical considerations.
There is now a unique opportunity in the run up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to put pressure on China to change its policy not alone on Burma but also on Darfur. The Irish Government has been lax on this issue. Trade considerations alone must not govern Irish foreign policy. Failure to counter the the Nazi threat
in time encouraged Hitler and ultimately was responsible for World War 2. A policy of appeasement failed. The International Community must make it clear that it will not tolerate a violent suppression of the pro democracy movement in Burma. If the Chinese persist in supporting the Burmese junta and the oppression in Darfur, Western countries should pull their athletes out of the Beijing Olympics. The threat must be serious and the Chinese must be left in no doubt about the consequences.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Burma-The People versus the Junta

Burma is a country whose junta has been at war with its people. It has not been slow to put down popular uprisings. In 1988 soldiers killed 3,000 people. Murder rape and torture are some of the weapons used by the military against the pro democracy movement.

Protests erupted on August 19th when the Government raised fuel prices. Since then demonstrations have gained momentum. Up to 10,000 Buddhist monks walked Mandalay (Saturday). It is estimated that there were several thousand onlookers on both sides of their route.

Thousands of Buddhist monks and their supporters marched in Rangoon today. This is the biggest show of defiance against Burma's ruling junta in almost 20 years.
At least 30,000 people led by about 15,000 monks marched through the streets of Burma's main city. Some estimates put the number involved as 100,000.

This has all the appearances of a popular uprising against a repressive regime. So far the junta has held back hoping that the protests will subside. However there are indications that this approach is about to change. The ruling junta has now threatened to take action against Burma's Buddhist monks.
It is believed that over 200 pro democracy activists have been arrested. Some have been tortured and ill-treated in custody.
The United States and EU countries are preparing to challenge Burma at the United Nations General Assembly this week. Dramatic change in the country's political situation remains unlikely, due to support for the junta from major powers such as India, Russia and China.
Essentially the UN is a toothless tiger.

Meanwhile Burma teeters on the brink of disaster. The junta may be about to declare all out war on its people. At some point this tyrannical regime corroded by injustice and corruption must inevitably collapse in a manner similar to the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Hillary Clinton is a Socialist

Hillary Clinton's Health Care Plan will result in a major increase in health insurance premiums for the vast majority of Americans. Hillary is guilty of obfuscation on this matter.
Her proposals will become a major issue in the Presidential Election Campaign of 2008 if as appears likely Hillary is the Democratic nominee.

"Hillarycare" cost the Democratic Party dearly. In the 1994 elections the GOP won control of the House of Representatives and the Senate too. This victory has been largely attributed to "Hillarycare". Hillary Clintons new proposals could cost her the Presidency in 2008

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ireland-If there is a slump who talked us down?

Today the Sunday Independent hit out at those who it alleges are talking down the economy.
In an amazing article headed IF THERE IS A SLUMP WHO TALKED US DOWN?
There are quotations from David McWilliams and George Lee and Alan Ahearne. The implication is that all three are somehow economic saboteurs.
Ireland's economic boom was fueled by a number of factors:

  • The Irish pound was devalued by 10 per cent within the ERM at the end of January 1993. Bertie Aherne as Minister for Finance opposed this. However the power of the markets forced the FF/Labour government to back down. This gave Ireland a competitive advantage.
  • Membership of the Euro resulted in a reduction of interest rates. This boosted the property market. The country was awash with cheap money. The fact that the German economy was in the doldrums kept Euro interest rates low. We benefited from German difficulties.
  • A favourable Euro/Dollar exchange rate boosted exports to the US.
  • The 12.5% Corporation Profits Tax proposal of the Rainbow Coalition of FG/Labour/DL was a masterstroke.
  • Now conditions have changed. The German economy is picking up. Euro interest rates have risen. The Dollar has dropped because of economic difficulties in the US . This has major implications for US companies operating here.We are caught with a double whammy. The astronomical volume of private debt in Ireland is exacerbated by rising interest rates. The building industry boosted by cheap money has begun to contract as interest rates rise. An economy over-reliant on building and construction must restructure. Exports are under pressure further threatening jobs.
  • High levels of Stealth Taxes have also blunted competitiveness.
  • It is not economic sabotage to point out the facts. It is economic sabotage not to deal with the realities. In saying this I do not necessarily always agree with David McWilliams and George Lee and Alan Ahearne. However it is most unfair to demonise them.
  • This country has a great future if the correct decisions are taken.

In the Sunday Business Post today David McWilliams answers his critics with an article titled "Ireland has become a fat, flabby nephew of an ailing Uncle Sam".

Rugby Union World Cup-Irish expectations were unrealistic.

Amongst some elements of the media and supporters there was a belief that Ireland was a credible World Cup contender.

These expectations were built on a foundation of sand. Sure Ireland won the Triple Crown in 2006 and 2007. But it is worth remembering that the English team has been in free fall since 2003. The present English team is but a pale shadow of the World Cup winning team of 2003.

Scotland is in decline. Wales during this period had injury problems. So winning two Triple Crowns in successive years probably masked some glaring inefficiencies in Ireland's game.

Much is made of the fact that Ireland defeated South Africa and Australia in Autumn Internationals. Both South Africa and Australia sent experimental sides. They were more concerned with developing strong squads for the World Cup. This was the correct approach and is in marked contrast to the ill-advised policy pursued by Eddie O Sullivan.

A disappointing tour of Argentina and a shockingly poor performance against Italy in a warm up match ought to have sounded the alarm bells.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Aung San Suu Kyi appears at protest in Burma and prays with protesting monks

In 1990 the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won elections in Burma by a landslide. The military refused to accept the result.

Aung San Suu Kyi leads the pro-democracy movement against the repressive military regime. She is strongly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and is a strong believer in non violence. She has been detained at her home for 12 of the past 18 years. She has no telephone and little contact with the outside world.

She has said that "fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." She has won the Nobel Peace Prize and The Sakharov Prize.

Protests erupted on August 19th when the Government raised fuel prices. Demonstrations have been gaining in momentum. In their biggest march yet, at least 5,000 Buddhist monks walked Mandalay today (Saturday). Some estimates put the marchers at nearly 10,000.
It is estimated that there were several thousand onlookers on both sides of their route.

Witnesses say Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, came to the gates of her University Avenue compound, where the monks said prayers before leaving. The fact that the monks have been able to get through the barricades to pay Aung San Suu Kyi a visit is highly significant and indicates that the military regime is afraid to crack down too hard on the protesters for fear of triggering a massive popular revolt. In 1988 3,000 people were killed when soldiers fired on protesters. There are some 1,100 pro-democracy activists being held in jail or under house arrest throughout the country.

The following quotation from Aung San Suu Kyi gives an insight into her sufferings "Sometimes I didn't even have enough money to eat. I became so weak from malnourishment that my hair fell out, and I couldn't get out of bed." What a sad testimony to the barbarism of the military junta.

In his book, "Courage: Eight Portraits" (Bloomsbury), British Prime Minister Gordon Brown states:
"So Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her own happiness and a comfortable life so that, through her struggle, she might win the right of an entire nation to seek happy and comfortable lives. It is the absolute expression of selflessness. Paradoxically, in sacrificing her own liberty, she strengthens its cry and bolsters its claim for the people she represents."

Aung San Suu Kyi is a heroine extraordinaire.

Friday, September 21, 2007

World Cup Rugby-France defeats Ireland

Tonight Eddie O'Sullivan appeared to rest some of the responsibility for Ireland's defeat on referee Chris White's shoulders. White had an excellent game and was consistent.

Unfortunately for Eddie reasons for Ireland's defeat rest closer to home. In the four year period leading up to this World Cup he has been slow to introduce new players. He was not prepared to introduce too many new players and risk criticism. This has allowed him to maintain a high success rate. Good for the ego but useless for the future development of the International squad. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have experimented. They are now reaping the benefits of such a policy.

Eddie's selection policy is open to question. He dropped the highly talented Geordan Murphy and Denis Hickey. Why?

Tonight he he made his first substitutions in the 72nd minute. This was a pointless exercise as it was too late to influence the outcome. Contrast this with the policy adopted by France. The first strength Irish team has now played its third match in the World Cup- a suicidal policy.

Defence alignments left much to be desired. This has been glaringly obvious for some time. Why was this not rectified? Similarly with the forwards. Likewise the line out was a mess.

Flair has been squeezed out of the team to be replaced by a robotic approach. It is time to end this madness.

Ireland- Green Party spin cannot hide the truth

The Green Party has abandoned most of its core principles in the rush to join a coalition government with FF and the PDs.
In opposition it strongly opposed US military use of Shannon Airport. On entering government it made a u-turn. It has u-turned on incineration and on co-location. It has lost out on the M3. New building regulations announced today will require all new homes to be 40% more energy efficient from next year. However last week the Greens cut 'The Greener Homes Scheme' . Instead of slashing grants to existing householders who wish to reduce energy usage, funding should have been increased.

Green Ministers wax lyrical about the harmony between themselves and FF Ministers. We are informed that there is no interference from the FF side. This is easily explained by the fact that the Green Party sold out on its principles and accepted FF policies hook line and sinker.The Greens are being absorbed by FF. FF never looks a gift horse in the mouth. The Greens- having sold out on their core principles- are now busily endeavouring to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ireland-Government cut-backs begin to bite

A Winter of discontent is looming in the Irish health service.

Delegates at the Irish Nurses' Organisation (INO) annual conference have passed an emergency motion condemning a ban on recruitment introduced by the Health Service Executive (HSE) earlier this month.
The emergency motion put to delegates in Killarney was in response to cutbacks introduced by the HSE on September 4th in an attempt to reduce a €245 million financial deficit.

Fine Gael Health Spokesman James Reilly TD has condemned the extensive front line job cuts at Sligo General Hospital saying that it was clear that patient care would be adversely affected.
"Cutbacks have been the order of the day since Fianna Fail and the PDs were returned to Government with hospitals in Ennis, South Tipperary, the Midlands and now Sligo particularly hard hit
"The jobs cut today include 30 nurses and four consultants so once again we are seeing cutbacks hitting front line staff while the bloated bureaucracy within the health service remains untouched."

According to FG TD Joe McHugh:
Fianna Fáil has slashed funding for community childcare groups also. "Under the previous EU-funded programme, all working parents were entitled to funding towards their childcare expenses. But the Fianna Fáil Government has withdrawn this incentive for mothers to enter the world of work. The Government's new scheme penalises working mothers, as only those in receipt of social welfare or family income supplement are entitled to funding. If anything Fianna Fáil, is now encouraging them to go on social welfare."

Funding for rural roads has also been cut. Promises of funding for rural roads undoubtedly contributed to the election of many FF rural TDs. No sooner was the election over than the promise was binned. There is silence from these TDs.

So its hairshirt time once more for an electorate that has given FF a new mandate. On this occasion FF TDs are unlikely to rock the boat. We will have the ritual expressions of concern about cut backs from FF backbenchers. This type of posturing has traditionally served them well when they act simultaneously as Government and Opposition. Vote in the Dail for cutbacks and oppose them locally in the constituencies.

Prior to the election public expenditure escalated out of control as the Government sought a new mandate. It was party time. Now the hangover has set in. The Irish economy resembles a drug addict waiting for the next fix. Unfortunately it is a time for cold turkey .

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fine Gael- Enda Kenny introduces a radical reshuffle

Today Enda Kenny introduced a radical reshuffle of the FG front bench. This is quite a powerful and talented team which can be expected to put the Government under extreme pressure in the Dail.

Richard Bruton as Finance spokesman has greater economic expertise than Brian Cowen. Michael Creed has the political acumen necessary to make an outstanding spokesman on Agriculture. He has a greater depth of knowledge on the subject than most TDs in the Dail. He has the capacity outshine Mary Coughlan. Alan Shatter is an expert on family law. This is an excellent appointment.

Olivia Mitchell as spokesperson on Art Sport and Tourism is experienced. She has sound judgement.
Simon Coveney whilst not a great speaker is quite talented and not at all afraid of hard work.
Communications Energy and Natural Resources provides Coveney with plenty of opportunities to develop new policies.

Michael Ring is a renowned constituency worker and as a TD for Mayo is well acquainted with problems of the Gaeltacht and rural Ireland in general. Jimmy Deenihan should not encounter too many problems in Defence.

Brian Hayes has the capacity to be a creative spokesman on Education and Science. Newly elected TD Leo Varadkar is spokesman on Enterprise Trade and Employment. Already he has set out his stall. He will focus strongly on competitiveness.
Phil Hogan as spokesman on Environment Heritage and Local Affairs is highly experienced.

Billy Timmins has a opportunity to carve out a strong policy platform on Foreign Affairs. His military background should assist him in this task.
Charlie Flanagan as spokesman on Justice Equality and Law reform is experienced and is a solid performer. James Reilly is a doctor and has already spoken about the necessity to think outside the box He has the expertise necessary for health. He is more than a match for Mary Harney.

Denis Naughten is young and able. He will make an excellent spokesman on Immigration and Integration.
Olwyn Enright in Social and Family Affairs can carve out a new policy platform for FG on the Family.
Fergus O Dowd is now spokesman on Transport and the Marine. He was an outstanding contributor in the Dail on nursing home issues. He is a rising star.

Hopefully new roles can be found for John Perry,David Stanton and Michael Noonan. All three are talented. David Stanton would make an excellent Minister for Education. He is very much underestimated. John Perry was an outstanding Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

FG Front Bench:

Finance & Deputy Leader: Richard Bruton

Agriculture, Fisheries & Food: Michael Creed

Art, Sport and Tourism: Olivia Mitchell

Children: Alan Shatter

Communications, Energy & Natural Resources: Simon Coveney

Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs: Michael Ring

Defence: Jimmy Deenihan

Education and Science: Brian Hayes

Enterprise, Trade & Employment: Leo Varadkar

Environment, Heritage & Local Affairs: Phil Hogan

Foreign Affairs: Billy Timmins

Health: James Reilly

Immigration and Integration: Denis Naughten

Justice, Equality and Law Reform: Charlie Flanagan

Social & Family Affairs: Olwyn Enright

Transport and the Marine: Fergus O'Dowd

Chief Whip: Paul Kehoe

Leader in the Seanad: Frances Fitzgerald

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ireland- Cowen to slam the brakes on public expenditure

Mr Cowen yesterday stated that the increase in Government spending for 2008 will be half the 13 per cent planned for this year. The Government is facing a deficit of €1.5 billion.

Hard decisions on public expenditure are imminent. Expect a raft of stealth tax increases.
After the 2002 General Election the same scenario unfolded.

Richard Bruton FG spokesman on Finance has been a consistent critic of excessive public expenditure rises. He was ignored. A 13% increase in public expenditure was unsustainable. Nevertheless it served its purpose. It smoothed the path to election victory for FF.

With the housing market cooling and stock markets in turmoil uncertain times lie ahead for the economy. The 4.5% growth rate forecast last December is more likely to be 3%.

Not to worry. By 2010 the Government coffers will be sufficiently replenished to allow for another two year public expenditure splurge in the run up to the 2012 General Election. Ah sure the electorate has short memories.

Dermot Ahern opens Fianna Fail leadership campaign

The Fianna Fail leadership campaign has begun in earnest. Dermot Ahern -in a side swipe at the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern-stated that Bertie had jumped the gun in nominating Brian Cowen as his successor.

The fact that Dermot Ahern would express his opinions in such a trenchent manner is a clear indication that Bertie's authority is beginning to wane. This is reminiscent of Tony Blair in the UK. It was interesting to watch the smile on Mary Hanafin's face as Dermot made his statement.

It is by no means a foregone conclusion that Brian Cowen would win an FF leadership battle. Micheal Martin backed by a huge block of Munster TDs and Senators could mount a formidable challenge.

It is known that Noel Dempsey fancies his chances. Possibly Mary Hanafin could stand.

If the party splits a compromise candidate such as Brian Lenihan could emerge. Interesting times ahead for FF.

Monday, September 17, 2007

All Ireland Senior Football Final.

In one of the poorest finals for many years Kerry outclassed Cork. Cork gifted Kerry three soft goals. Northern teams such as Tyrone and Armagh introduced defensive tactics-clearly influenced by rugby- which appeared to threaten the dominance of Kerry. However Kerry managers Jack O Connor and Pat O'Shea have learned from Tyrone and Armagh. They have adopted the northern approach to a certain extent but have added an extra layer of skill also. If the hunger remains the Kingdom could win the three in a row in 2008.

Irish Rugby Team-Geordan Murphy Dropped

The decision by Eddie O Sullivan to drop Geordan Murphy is incomprehensible. Murphy is just the type of player needed by Ireland for the showdown against France.

The head coach has been unable to explain the poor performances against Namibia and Georgia. However in typical eddiespeak he demolished Geordan Murphy's claim to a place on the team. "Geordan's last few games against France haven't been a happy hunting ground. They have not been good days," he said. Is there an unwritten rule which states that there must be at least one Ulster player on the team. Rory Bests unavailability because of injury probably tipped the balance in favour of Andrew Trimble as the token Ulster player. One bonus for the Leicester Tigers is the fact that Murphy will return to the club fresh and uninjured.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ireland-Mahon Tribunal Sunday Newspaper Coverage

Interesting to note variations in newspaper coverage of Bertie Aherne's appearance at the Mahon Tribunal.
The Sunday Independent as befits a staunch FF paper takes a strong pro Bertie line.
The front page headline is "All-out war:Ahern takes on Tribunal." Willie O 'Dea has an article strongly supporting the Taoiseach under the heading "There isn't a scintilla of evidence to suggest Ahern did any wrong." Brendan O Connor's article is titled "How dare they treat our elected Taoiseach in this outrageous way". Jody Corcoran's article appears under the heading " The rattle of a simple , lonely separated man". The editorial is headed "Ahern cash trail may be troubling but not corrupt" . John Drennan in the article "Murder at the tribunal as Bertie's sums don't add up" hedges his bets. Ronald Quinlan has "Bertie's achievements will count for nought if he goes down as the last FF flawed hero" and is largely sympathetic.
Interesting to see a nonsensical article on FG from John Drennan where he vents his usual anti FG spleen. We can expect more of the same from John.
Gene Kerrigan in his Soapbox adopts a different tone from other Sunday Independent contributors.

The Sunday Tribune is more critical. The front page heading to an article by Mick Clifford is "The Incredibles".The sub heading is "Larkin, Ahern, Wall claim victim status but fail to follow the money". Inside in an article by Mick Clifford the heading is "Bertie, Man of the people vs Bertie, the €1/2 m in cash man" In Kevin Rafter's Inside Politics the caption is "Hit the road Bertie-politics is better off without you". The editorial is headed "Once more the victim, Ahern explains nothing".

The Sunday Times -in a front page article by Stephen O Brien - carries the following heading " Ahern may face a huge bill for costs". Inside there is a two page spread by Stephen O Brien captioned "Just follow the money". Matt Cooper's article has "You try excusing the muddle of Bertie's finances to a foreigner.."

In the Sunday Business Post Pat Leahy has "Tide is turning for Ahern" and concludes with "from now on it' s just a matter of how quickly the tide goes out for him [Bertie]" and Ian Kehoe has "Broadside raises more questions than answers" ." Last Thursday morning , the Taoiseach made a 15-minute statement of robust intent. But the discrepancies it contained may be his undoing". Vincent Browne leads with "Ahern's numbers game just doesn't add up".

Day for Darfur

This humanitarian catastrophe has left up to 400,000 or more dead and 2,500,000 refugees.
Russia and China have supplied arms and ammunition to Sudan. This hardware has been transferred to Darfur for use by the Islamo-fascist government and the Moslem Janjaweed militias thus violating a UN arms embargo against Sudan. The Janjaweed militias have unleashed a reign of terror in Darfur against Christians and animists destroying economic activity, burning villages,raping women and burning children alive.

China has huge investments in the oil industry in Sudan and has been criticized for watering down U.N. resolutions on Darfur. China is the main opponent on the U.N. Security Council of the argument by Western countries that sanctions should be held in reserve to force Khartoum to comply with peace moves. The Chinese on account of their huge oil investments in Sudan have sufficient political leverage with the Sudanese Government to stop the atrocities by the Janjaweed. In reality the Chinese are posturing. Actions do not match words. China has no intention of upsetting the Islamo Fascists. It is more concerned with maintaining control over Sudanese oil resources.

In 1983, the government dominated by northern Arabs tried to impose Islamic Sharia law across Sudan, even in areas where the majority is not Muslim. This is still its intention.

Today's 'Day for Darfur' is being marked by demonstrations in around 30 countries and the release of a charity record.

Britain, says it will not contribute soldiers to the 26,000-strong joint U.N. and African Union peacekeepers in line with Khartoum's demand for a predominantly African presence in Darfur.

However Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged technical support for peacekeepers due to go to Sudan's Darfur region.

This force is not sufficient to end the genocide in Darfur. It is a sticking plaster solution.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rugby Union-World Cup

One of the most encouraging aspects of the pool stages is the performance of the minnows such as the USA, Canada, Namibia, Georgia and Samoa. On the African continent Rugby Union is growing in popularity. The game is becoming a truly world wide sport.
Ireland's performance against Namibia was abysmal. Todays laboured victory against Georgia was scarcely much better. Ireland fielded its strongest team whilst Georgia introduced eleven new players. The part timers from the French second division outfought the Irish full time professionals.

On the field of play Eddie O Sullivans conservatism is smothering flair. In the course of games he is slow to alter tactics. Since he was appointed coach he has tended to use a safety first approach and has failed to blood sufficient new talent. In many cases there is an absence of real competition for places. In addition I suspect that some players are more concerned with the European Cup than the World Cup. Most of their income comes from club rugby. There appears to be an absence of hunger in the squad.

Georgian players are using the World Cup to showcase their talents. Undoubtedly some of them will secure lucrative contracts with European clubs. Their scrummaging tackling and line out work tonight were excellent. They dominated possession for much of the game and deserved at least a draw.

Ireland now face France. The omens are not good. Hopefully the team shakes off the conservative shackles and plays with flair.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Al Qaeda plans to make nuclear attacks on seven US cities?

The newly released book "The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World," (Prometheus Books) makes startling claims in relation to Al-Qaeda's nuclear ambitions.
Author Paul L Williams claims that Al Qaeda plans to explode nuclear devices in seven U.S. cities simultaneously. Williams says these cities are New York, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles.
The author presents evidence that that bin Laden sourced highly enriched uranium in Sudan and nuclear devices from the Chechens and the Russian Mafia. Radical Islamists believe that On the Day of Islam all mankind will bow the knee to Allah and the US will be be destroyed.
A nuclear attack on US cities by Al Qaeda-in the run up to the 2008 Presidential and Congressional Elections- cannot be ruled out. It is highly probable that Bin Laden is planning a spectacular attack possibly by indigenous supporters within the US. The Madrid train bombings in 2004-just prior to the General Election-were carried out by Islamists probably inspired by Al Qaeda. The US has been warned.
"The Day of Islam: Annihilation of America and the Western World" -with its explosive revelations- should be compulsive reading for all Americans.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zimbabwe-A Hell On Earth

Robert Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe's economy to its knees. His ill advised land reform programme- whereby productive land was seized from white farmers and redistributed to party hacks- has created an agricultural waste land.

Hunger is widespread. Foreign exchange earnings have collapsed. The tourist industry has been destroyed. Mugabe is a powerful exponent of loony bin economics. This has created a 5,000% annual rate of inflation. He is a strong believer in printing money. A loaf of bread bought today is about 50 times more expensive - in cash terms - than it was a year ago. Power cuts and petrol shortages are regular occurrences. The unemployment rate is 80%.

The regime has instituted a reign of terror against political opponents.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was beaten and tortured The flight into exile of up to three million Zimbabweans - almost a quarter of the population - has sapped the strength of the opposition.
The regime has systematically intimidated the judiciary. The media is censored. The international community has largely ignored the crisis. Neighbouring African States have adopted a Pontius Pilate attitude.

The regime's dirty tricks brigade seeks to frame and smear opponents.
Mugabe has bitterly attacked the Catholic Church. Pius Ncube, the archbishop of Bulawayo is a strong opponent of Mugabe. He was forced to resign over adultery allegations. It is believed that these are false and that the archbishop has been framed.

Mugabe has agreed to shed some of his powers in talks between his party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), however he has begun tighten his hold on his own party ZANU PF, ahead of a special congress where he will seek to crush factions vying to block his candidacy for the presidency. It was believed in some quarters that Mugabe would retire when his present term expired.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

US- Can Fred Thompson win the Republican Party nomination?

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll released Tuesday "the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani garners 28 percent nationally among registered Republicans, while Thompson is one point behind at 27 percent.

In a similar poll taken in August, Giuliani registered 29 percent, while Thompson, then not an official candidate, was at 22 percent.

Arizona Sen. John McCain comes in third at 15 percent, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney close behind at 11 percent. McCain was at 16 percent in the August poll, while Romney registered 12 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is at 5 percent, while no other Republican candidate pulls more than 2 percent." Mike Huckabee would make an outstanding candidate. His magnetic personality and original thinking are just what the Presidency requires. Lack of finance has hindered his campaign.

This is a strong performance from Thompson who has only just entered the race. Giuliani benefits from name recognition and the splintering of the GOP vote among the other contenders.

If Thompson's campaign can gain some momentum much of the conservative vote going to the other candidates could gravitate to him. It is a reasonable presumption that most of Mike Huckabee's vote would go to Thompson. As McCain and Romney have adopted anti-abortion stances and their supporters are largely conservative it is probable that much of that support could go to Thompson. "Forty-seven percent of the public say they have never heard of Fred Thompson or have an opinion of him. Only 14 percent have no opinion of Rudy Giuliani".On this basis Thompson probably has much greater potential for growth in support than Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani's policy on immigration-whilst mayor of New York may hurt him in the primaries. His pro abortion stance is anathema to the overwhelming majority of GOP voters. Thompson can win the nomination.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Conspiracy Theories Debunked

9/11 conspiracy theories are no longer the preserve of the lunatic fringe. They have gained ground among the Liberal Left in the US.

More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. To suspect is not necessarily to believe. Nevertheless the fact that such a high proportion of the American population would even contemplate such a possibility is testament to the effectiveness of Left Wing propaganda. Conspiracy Theorists on the internet have played a major role in fostering this illusion. How Bin Laden must laugh at such stupidity.

Elements in the Liberal Left propagate the the notion that 9/11 was a US government plot as part of a conspiracy to destroy Bush and the GOP. Sadly the Democratic Party panders to this group. A Hillary Clinton Presidency will be beholden to the lunatic fringe. The GOP has its faults but it is sound on security. This must be the number one political issue for voters in 2008.

The choice is clear: A Conservative Republican candidate strong on security or Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama who must pander to the Liberal/Left.

Debunking 9/11 dismantles the arguments of the conspiracy theorists. It is well worth a visit.

Ireland Needs Good Samaritan Legislation Urgently

In the US some form of Good Samaritan legislation has been enacted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Yet Ireland is without such legislation.

In 2005 FG introduced a bill in the Oireachtas to address the issue. The FF/PD Government voted it down on the spurious pretext that it was not properly drafted. That Government failed to introduce its own legislation.

Once more FG has returned to this issue.

Fine Gael Front Bench Spokesman, Billy Timmins TD has demanded that the Government finally
bring forward 'Good Samaritan Legislation' in order to legally protect those who go to the assistance of a person ill or injured as a result of accident from being sued as a result of their intervention.
Deputy Timmins added that Fine Gael brought forward such legislation in the last Dáil but, despite its overwhelming positive benefits and the recommendations from the Taskforce on Sudden Cardiac Death that it be enacted, Fianna Fáil refused to accept the Bill and instead forwarded the concept to the Law Reform Commission.
"The absence of this legislation is prohibiting members of the public from training in First Aid, CPR and the use of defibrillators and this is putting lives at risk.
"Over the last number of years, I have been approached by many groups and organisations who are querying potential difficulties with insurance companies if they purchase such equipment. Putting in place Good Samaritan Legislation would remove such worries. In March 2006, the Task Force on Sudden Cardiac Death recommended the implementation of this legislation but, despite pledging to bring it forward, the Fianna Fáil Government has done nothing to make it a reality. Another Broken Promise from a Fianna Fáil Government that puts lives at risk.
"The Task Force also recommended the roll-out of Community First Responder Schemes throughout Ireland. One such scheme is currently operating in Wicklow at just under 30 locations with almost 500 volunteers trained and its success should act as a blueprint for every county.
"However, despite Government commitments to enhance support for such schemes, there has been little progress made to date in rolling out and implementing them across the country. This is just not good enough, these schemes save lives, roll them out now."

The absolute necessity to enact legislation on this issue is underlined by the following contribution from Paul Gogarty (Green Party) who agreed with the FG proposal.

"In the context of my education portfolio, for example, it has come to my attention that even those qualified in first aid skills within schools are now advised not to come to the aid of children for insurance reasons. The example is often given of little Johnny who cuts his knee while at school. Most teachers in the majority of schools will apply some cotton wool and water and that usually suffices. If the wound is a little deeper, however, but not so much as requires stitches, the average teacher will not apply a plaster because of the risk of being sued by parents and others. This is a dangerous situation.
Whatever happens to this legislation, something must be done to ensure teachers qualified in first aid are able to come to the assistance of pupils without the fear of being sued. Another example is where a child is choking. If a teacher performs the Heimlich manoeuvre on a child and gets him or her to eject the offending object, the child’s teeth may break or he or she may suffer strain or crack a rib. We can bet our bottom dollar that certain unscrupulous parents would take advantage of that and try to sue the teacher for what he or she has done to save their child’s life. A Bill such as this is necessary to ensure that the good samaritans in society, those who try to help out of the kindness of their hearts rather than the other good people, such as doctors, who work for fees, do not suffer any liability."

It is time for the Government to accept FG proposals.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Bush winning the war on terrorism?

Whilst I have always doubted the wisdom of US military action in Iraq on the grounds that American forces could get bogged down in a prolonged war there are indications that in al-Anbar Province and some other areas, local Sunni sheikhs have switched their allegiance in recent months from Al-Qaeda to the Iraqi government and the coalition. This is a signal success for Bush.

The sheikhs originally viewed Al-Qaeda fighters as heroes. These fighters however attempted to impose strict punishments on the local Sunni population for smoking and drinking. They also began to forcibly marry Sheikhs daughters. The Sunni population has realised that life under Al Qaeda is hell.

Now some Sunni sheikhs are battering rams in the war against Al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda is being fought in the Middle East both in Iraq Afghanistan and Pakistan far away from US borders.

To a certain degree its energy is being sapped.

There has been no repeat of 9/11 on US soil. The US has beefed up intelligence gathering. There is intelligence sharing and cooperation between the United States European countries Australia et al. Also attacks have been averted.

Bush and the GOP can argue that they have successfully protected the security of the US. This is an important trump card in the 2008 Congressional and Presidential elections.

Rugby Union World Cup -Impressions

Ireland's performance against Namibia has been labelled a horror show and a shambles. These descriptions are probably too mild.

A full time professional Irish side struggled to defeat a Namibian side with just six professionals in its ranks. The 32-17 scoreline flattered Ireland. Jerry Flannery scored a late controversial try. The decision to award the try was incorrect. The Irish forwards fared badly. This does not augur well for the games against Argentina and France. Irelands back play is too stereotyped and lacking in originality. It is too easy to defend against. Nick Mallett and Alan Solomons and Robbie Kempson played a role in the coaching of the Africans. This performance will improve their career prospects.

Many of the Namibian players will use the World Cup to showcase their talents. Essentially they are hungry for contracts in Europe. The Irish players appear to lack hunger and some may be more concerned with avoiding injury. European Cup rugby is now their bread and butter. Club may be more important than country.

The lack of competition for places is probably a contributory factor. I dislike the conservative approach of Eddie O'Sullivan.
England's performance against the USA was unconvincing. Brian Ashton has inherited a mess. English club rugby may be strong but its strength is increasingly dependent upon an influx of players from the Southern Hemisphere.
Home grown talent is neglected. A similar position is developing in France. The situation will deteriorate further with a new influx of New Zealand and South African players post the World Cup. This will impinge strongly on the strength of International sides.

It is time to limit the number of foreign imports to two per club. This would aid the development of indigenous talent and help maintain the strength of European International sides.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ireland-Who will be the next leader of FF?

It has generally been assumed that- when Bertie Aherne steps down - Brian Cowen will be the next leader of FF and Taoiseach. Much of this belief is driven by the fact that he played a pivotal role in the General Election campaign.

He performed strongly in debates against Richard Bruton by seeking to sow doubts in the minds of the electorate about the Rainbow platform. To a certain extent he succeeded. He managed on most occasions to camouflage inconsistencies in his own position and to avoid questions posed by Mr Bruton.

Now these inconsistencies have returned to haunt him. The Government is facing a deficit of €1.5 billion. Hard decisions on public expenditure are imminent. The Finance Minister must learn to say no. Ambitious spending plans of Ministers may be slashed. This will cost him the support of some Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers. A slow down in the economy could cost him the leadership.

Micheal Martin as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment may escape much of the odium heaped on the Finance Minister. Presiding over factory openings is infinitely preferable to announcing cuts in public expenditure. In addition he will have the support of a huge block of Munster FF TDs and Senators. Mr Martin has been cultivating backbench support.

Dermot Ahern Noel Dempsey Mary Hanafin and possibly Brian Lenihan Jnr will also fancy their chances. Could one of these emerge as a compromise candidate?

Brian Cowen may be the favourite. However a surprise cannot be ruled out. There is many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rugby Union World Cup-Argentina shocks France

The defeat of France by the Pumas last night was quite a shock. Bernard Laporte erred grieviously in team selection. Since his appointment he has been dogged by criticism. The hype in France probably got to the team also. In addition the French probably underestimated Argentina.

There is an assumption amongst many Irish supporters that Les Blues are there for the taking. This is unlikely to be the case. Unfortunately Ireland may suffer a French backlash. Errors in team selection will be corrected. Generally the French can defeat Ireland on home soil. France may destroy Ireland in the scrums. French players will know that defeat to Ireland will result in an ignominious exit from the competition. Ireland can expect a torrid encounter. France will probably make a whirlwind start and attempt to destroy Ireland in the first twenty-five minutes.

Some analysts on the various channels were unwilling to give Argentina too much credit. The Pumas have problems in the line out. Also they resorted quite a lot to the garryowen. Panellists were of the opinion that overuse of the garrowen-against Ireland-would play into Girvan Dempsey’s hands.
The Argentinean front row is superior to Ireland's. They will probably pummel us in the scrums. Their confidence will be at an all time high. There is an assumption that the Irish team is stronger than it actually is. In several key positions there is a lack of adequate cover. There must be doubts about the fitness of Shane Horgan and David Wallace. Ireland can secure an advantage in the line –out. Also the Irish back division is superior on paper. Hopefully Ireland can eke out a win. It will not be pretty.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ireland-Has the Green Party a raison d'etre?

According to The Irish Independent GREEN Party Senator Dan Boyle has revealed that he came "close to losing his mind" in the tough negotiations with Fianna Fail.

He also said that Transport Minister Noel Dempsey provided the biggest "angry moment" of the entire eight days of negotiations to form a new government...

The Green Party is now a toothless tiger trapped in a coalition with FF and the PDs. It has little or no political leverage. The Government has sufficient support in the Dail to function without the Greens. Their main role will be to act as FF's mudguard for unpopular decisions. It was a major tactical blunder to enter coalition. FF negotiators completely outfoxed the Greens.

Core principles have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Co-location was accepted without a whimper. Greens in opposition have campaigned against the use of Shannon by the US military. This opposition melted in the negotiations with FF. Dublin City Council has signed a contract for the construction and operation of the Poolbeg incinerator under terms guaranteeing that a certain amount of waste will be burned there annually. John Gormley and Ciaran Cuffe have criticised this decision. This is a very weak and useless response.

The Greens have lost out on the M3. Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan has now stated that he will be backing a yes vote in next year's referendum on the new EU treaty. This may result in serious infighting. Has the party got any core principles? Has it got a raison d'etre?

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a split will ensue and that Patricia McKenna could lead a new Green party. FG and Labour can now hoover up disillusioned Green votes.
Quite frankly I cannot understand how Dan Boyle recommended the agreement with FF.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

US-GOP Debate At University of New Hampshire

Eight contenders -for the Republican Party nomination for President- gathered at the University of New Hampshire last night.

The number of candidates involved and time constraints reduced the effectiveness of the debate somewhat. However questions on Iran Iraq family values and tax cuts were quite effective in eliciting concrete responses from candidates.

Giuliani appeared to lose ground last night. He over emphasised his achievements in New York whilst ignoring the country at large. He is deeply distrusted by many conservatives. He favours abortion which is anathema to most Republican Party voters. He once supported ultra-liberal Democratic candidate George McGovern for President.

Romney and Giuliani faced tough questions on illegal immigration. Romney was questioned as to why he didn't do more to stop ``sanctuary'' cities of Massachusetts such as Cambridge, Orleans and Somerville. Romney said governors are not responsible for mayors who fail to follow the law.
Giuliani's approach to immigration in New York was roundly criticised.
Giuliani defended his record in New York city, arguing that he made fighting crime a higher priority.

Mike Huckabee performed strongly on an anti abortion platform. He is unlikely to win the nomination as he lacks sufficient funds. Nevertheless he would make a powerful Vice Presidential candidate.
Sen. Sam Brownback spoke strongly on family values.
Tom Tancredo of Colorado took a very strong anti illegal immigrant line. He fouled up somewhat on a question relating to the torture of terrorist prisoners.
Duncan Hunter of California spoke forcibly on the Iraq war and was quite knowledgeable. However he is highly unlikely to win the party nomination.

Ron Paul took a strong anti war line. His clash with Mike Huckabee -on the war issue- was one of the highlights of the night. He most certainly will not win the nomination.

John McCain probably won the debate. His military experience came to the fore in questions on Iran and Iraq. He scored strongly on the tax cuts issue arguing forcibly for severe curbs on wasteful expenditure as a means of funding a reduced tax burden. This is music to the ears of fiscal conservatives.

Last night Fred Thompson chose to announce his White House bid on an entertainment program, NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He bypassed the New Hampshire debate. He is a strong conservative candidate who could unite the GOP.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ireland-Uncertain economic outlook

Since the General Election there has been a growing realisation that the economic picture -as painted by the Government during the election campaign- is none too rosy.
In the course of the 2002 General Election campaign Charlie McCreevy denied claims from the opposition that cutbacks were inevitable. No sooner was the election over than massive cut backs and stealth taxes were introduced.
Roll on 2007 and we have a carbon copy of 2002. There is likely to be a €1bn shortfall in property taxes for the full year. There are predictions of a €1.5bn deficit for the central Government Exchequer this year. Election promises have been quietly shelved and cutbacks introduced. The Government has decided to slash up to €12 million worth of funding for rural roads as part of its programme of post-election cutbacks. The HSE is introducing cutbacks in an already underfunded Health Service. Patient care will suffer.
More cutbacks and stealth taxes are inevitable.
In 2002 the introduction of massive cutbacks and stealth taxes allowed the Government to accumulate sufficient financial resources to loosen the purse strings for a two year period prior to the 2007 General Election.
We can expect the same approach from the FF-PD-Green Coalition. Savage stealth taxes and cutbacks introduced in 2007 will allow the Government to accumulate sufficient financial wherewithal to produce a feel good factor for the two years prior to the 2012 General Election. The electorate has short memories.

The Irish economy is floating on a sea of credit. Rises in interest rates are hitting disposable income.
There was a significantly higher deficit of €3,271m on the current account of the Balance of Payments in the first quarter of 2007 compared to one of €2,325m for the same period in 2006.
The economy has been over reliant on building and construction.
Manufacturing industry is gravitating towards low cost economies. Much nonsense is spoken about Ireland's supposed advantages such as the English language and education system.
In India there has been a huge output of skilled graduates who are particularly attractive to Multinational Companies. The country with the largest number of English language speakers in the world is India. There is much waffle in Ireland about upskilling. There is an assumption that there is no upskilling in places such as India Hong King and Singapore.

When Government Ministers berated the opposition- in the election debates -they failed to address the issues that really matter.
The economic road ahead appears quite rocky. Brian Cowen will probably introduce a harsh budget in 2007.