What a year a difference makes
“ ‘Generous’ Ireland gives record sum in overseas aid” was an ‘Irish Times’ headline on 9th April 2008; “Irish Aid spending reached €869 million in 2007, an increase of 6.7 per cent on the previous year…..Only five other counties allocate a greater slice of their national wealth to aid.” As of April last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Ireland was still on track to reach 0.7% of GNP on aid by 2012 – the 2007 figure was 0.54%.
Then economic recession happened. NGOs – including those in multi-annual agreements who have allocated funding on this projected income to assist partners in some of the poorest countries around the world - have recently had across the board cuts of around 20% and cannot possibly make up for this without directly affecting their work and impact on some of the poorest of the poor. Overall Irish government spending on aid was cut by €100 million in the April budget when overseas development assistance was cut to €696 million, a disproportionate amount which NGOs complained about bitterly, while the responsible ministers expressed regret for a ‘difficult’ decision, and admitted it made achieving the 2012 target more difficult.
Personally I think 0.7% GNP is actually grossly inadequate, particularly when you take into account the unrolling and impending effects of global warming. Global warming is a problem created by the rich world which will be felt most by the poor world. Not to address the issue as urgently as possible while offering less than 0.7% of GNP in aid is simply adding insult to injury.
Say ‘Hard cheese’
A report in the ‘Guardian’ last May (6/5/08) detailed that despite massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK – which already has far more security cameras than any other European country - only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images. The report from a police surveillance overseeing body emphasised the need for training in police use of the equipment and commented that people didn’t fear it because they thought the cameras are not working. A rather higher rate of usefulness was reported where training had been carried out.
However we wonder how far the installation of CCTV cameras will go. Are we to be followed from cradle (hospital CCTV) to grave (cemetery CCTV)? Given the massive, unnecessary, and costly, surveillance of peace and other activists in Ireland and in the UK, we wonder whether CCTV will increasingly be used against the ordinary activist through tracking and profiling. Harassment of activists currently can be intimidating, even violent. If we get more right wing governments (is this possible you might think – well, unfortunately it is) will the camera in the street become another means to deny democracy?
A Bertie in the hand
I don’t know if you would buy a used car or bicycle from Bertie Ahern. Affable and very capable in many ways, undoubtedly, he presided as Taoiseach over the biggest boom in Irish history followed by one of the biggest busts, currently. The infrastructure in Ireland has improved but social division has widened and much unnecessary development was taking place, encouraged by stupid tax breaks for the rich who didn’t need them, and, partly as a result of that, sky high prices for property. Incidentally, carbon use has also grown exponentially in the era of the Cultic Trigger. The result of an unsustainable boom, of course, is one of the biggest nose dives of any European country, and many young people in seriously large negative equity on the first properties they bought, in the case of the mid-Eastern seaboard often in peripheral towns a considerable commute from Dublin. Put another way, the rich made money from young people trying to get on the property ladder who are going to be in hock for many years to clear that debt, with their properties worth much less than they paid for them. Previously Ahern had been Minister for Finance without possessing a bank account which may be unique in the world, certainly in Europe. He did of course get out while the going was good in May 2008 and just before the going became exceedingly bad.
His commitment to the Norn Iron peace process cannot be doubted, and he received much praise for that commitment in being in Belfast twice - before and after – the day of his mother’s funeral during the talks leading up to the 1998 ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Involvement in the ‘peace process’ did take a major commitment and exercise of skill.
Undoubtedly he is a skilled operator, whether you believe Charlie Haughey’s ‘accolade’ to journalists that "He's the man. He's the best, the most skilful, the most devious and the most cunning of them all." So does he deserve to have been made an Honorary Adjunct Professor of Mediation and Conflict Intervention in the School of Business and Law in NUI Maynooth? See here for their take on it. You, the jury, decide.
Niet to the nukes
The debate on Ireland getting nuclear power seems to have gone quiet. But there is always some news from across the nearest water. February, for example, saw a couple of news reports from Britain. One was that Sellafield’s amazingly unreliable ‘mixed oxide’/Mox plant could be closed – as the ‘Guardian’ put it (17/2/09) “The demise of the long-troubled Sellafield Mox plant (SMP) would be an embarrassment for ministers at a time when they are trying to persuade sceptics that a new generation of atomic plants can be delivered on time and on budget”. When it comes to nuclear power and such optimism there is only one response possible – ribald laughter. In another news item in the same paper (2/2/09) the headline was “We can’t check everything, admits atomic safety chief after 14-year leak”. This referred to the Bradwell-on-Sea atomic plant, close to London, where there had been a radioactive leak in a sump for fourteen years – the case only came to light through a breach of safety regulations case coming to court.
Of course Ireland, North and South, will be partakers of nuclear-generated electricity coming across the interconnector from Britain and, while that may be somewhat hypocritical it at least beats becoming increasingly and totally dependent on this expensive and dangerous white elephant. We don’t need nukes. We don’t need to be dependent on this expensive and potentially lethal technology which is built on the availability of suitable grade uranium – itself in shorter supply than oil. Some people are slow learners. Let’s hope Ireland remembers the lessons taught so aptly by the anti-nuclear movement of the ‘seventies – and furthermore gets off its arse to go straight to green, now……..
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Finally, it’s amazing the use of language in our society – from parents who will ‘murder’ their children if they don’t do/stop doing something, through to a job ad I saw in the last month declaring that a “Killer Sales Executive Required”. Oh yeah? And that wasn’t even for Thales, Raytheon or the British military….. Anyway, I hope all is well with you as we enter May, (usually) the driest month in Ireland and sometimes the month that contains a lot of what we colloquially but unrealistically call ‘summer’, certainly in the last couple of years. Though I must say at the moment it feels more like ‘early spring’ weather. As they say, ‘enjoy’, until we meet again, Billy.
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).