God knows it's not often I side with the PDs, but I find myself reluctantly agreeing with them against the accusations Fine Gael and Labour are making today.

The horrific 'A' incident took place in May 2002. This was, I believe, well before the start of the constitutional challenge to the statutory rape law. Even had the Government changed the law immediately upon the instigation of this challenge, 'Mr. A' would still have walked free yesterday. He could only ever have been convicted on the basis of the law that was in place at the time of his offence. No subsequent change in the law could be applied retrospectively.

The current Government is to blame for ignoring the Law Reform Commission's 1990 recommendations and not changing that law before the 'A' offence took place, of course. But so were all other governments from 1990 on - including those which Fine Gael and Labour were part of. Their credibility on this issue is wafer-thin.

Ahern: undocumented Irish "entitled" to remain in US

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern is quoted in today's Examiner as saying that the undocumented Irish are "entitled" to American residency on the grounds that they have "built up the US".

What an immensely stupid thing to say. Although it may play well at home, the use of such a presumptuous word as "entitled" will do nothing but get the backs up of those Americans not naturally inclined to be sympathetic to the reform proposals. That includes the Republican legislators on whom these proposals depend. Besides which, there is absolutely no objective observer who would consider the Irish undocumented to be any more entitled to US residency than the Chinese undocumented, the Mexican undocumented and all the other ethnic groups who have contributed at least as much to the United States.

I support the campaign for US immigration reform (although not the essentially right-wing McCain/Kennedy Bill, but that's another subject) on the utilitarian basis that there is more to be gained all around by allowing these people to stay than by throwing them out. But to argue that one particular group of immigrants is more deserving than others is asinine, racist, and completely unhelpful to the campaign.

May 21, 1994

Dublin republicans gathered today to mark the 12th anniversary of the death of Vol. Martin Doherty, who was killed in the act of preventing a UVF bomb attack on a Dublin pub.

Despite torrential rain, well over a hundred people turned up to pay their respects - and rightfully so, as many of them were among those whose lives Doco saved.

Had the UVF succeeded they would have caused an atrocity to dwarf Omagh and Dublin-Monaghan in scale. Everyone inside the crowded pub, everyone in adjacent premises, anyone walking by at the time could have been killed. It's important for non-republicans to remember that, when they're tempted to focus in on the "Volunteer" title in front of his name. His actions were heroic and should be viewed as such by all Dubliners regardless of political persuasion.

For all my friends and comrades whose lives you saved, Doco, thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Government admits: Afghanistan too dangerous to go to

At least the Department of Foreign Affairs admits it, if the Minister for Justice won't. From the Foreign Affairs website:

AFGHANISTAN - updated 3/5/06
The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all non-essential travel to Kabul and against all travel to other parts of Afghanistan. The security situation in Afghanistan remains serious and the threat to Westerners from terrorist or criminal violence, including kidnappings, remains high. Irish citizens travelling to Kabul are urged to exercise extreme caution and vigilance throughout their visit.

RTEngland strikes again!

Morning Ireland's coverage of the Champions League Final consisted entirely of Arsene Wenger and some Arsenal player complaining that Barcelona's first goal was offside. Not a mention of the wrongful disallowal of the first Barca goal, or that Arsenal scored from a free kick which should never have been given.

What on earth are the poor souls at RTÉ going to do when England get knocked out of the World Cup?
Whatever one thinks of the Afghani hunger strikers - and I'm of the view that Afghanistan is one of the last countries that anybody should be deported to - it's hard to argue with the logic that their predicament is far more serious than that of the undocumented Irish on whose behalf the Dublin Government has exerted such effort. The Government's position is that to grant these 41 men the right to stay here would undermine the immigration and asylum system. And allowing 40,000 or so undocumented immigrants to stay in America just because they're Irish wouldn't?

Bertie obviously thinks it's hard to argue, too, because yesterday in the Dáil he simply refused to answer the question when Joe Higgins put it to him, twice.

Edit: I've just seen this in today's Indo: "The Government is to give an additional $50,000 (€39,000) to an influential lobby group working to ensure undocumented Irish can stay in the US."

Hypocrisy, pure and simple.

Well, colour me surprised

Paisley has moved the goalposts again, now insisting that there will be no Executive until Sinn Féin accepts the PSNI.

No doubt the SDLP will soon be agreeing with him, followed by the Irish Government (it suits both of them better if we, rather than the DUP, are the obstructionists) and before you know it it'll be those bloody Shinners holding things up again, just as it was when the words of the GFA were mysteriously rearranged to reveal a "prerequisite" of total IRA decommissioning.

None of this is surprising. What I find disappointing, however, is how Sinn Féin are playing right into our opponents' hands by accepting the premise that Stormont actually matters.

Let's cast our memories back to 1998 and the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Who was pushing for a devolved government in the North? Not us. We accepted it because we had to - it was created as a sop to unionism. Now we're going around saying that the Assembly has to be restored, that it must have real powers, that the formation of an Executive is crucial. What, precisely, has changed?

A couple months ago either Adams or McGuinness, can't remember which, said something along the lines of: If we can't get a proper Assembly up and running, we may as well scrap the whole thing and focus on the implementation of the rest of the Agreement. I would agree 100% with that, but I haven't heard any of our party leadership repeat it since. Instead we're giving out about the absence of an institution which we never wanted to begin with.

Now I'm not saying that devolved government is a bad thing, in and of itself. I accept that there were and would be some benefits to it. But I completely disagree with the extent to which we have allowed its restoration to be equated with "progress". First, because I think it's largely irrelevant to our long-term goals and second, because it's the one area where the DUP actually can block progress and of course, as long as they can, they will.

How many more concessions from us is it going to take before we realise this?

Labour supporters - here are your coalition partners!

Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan in the Dáil today singled out trade union members as stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment. Well done Phil.

"I trust the Minister will bring forward new measures and regulations in due course arising from the partnership talks that will not only assist us in regard to the assimilation of migrant workers into our economy but will also contribute to removing some of the prejudice that has built up, particularly due to some union members in recent times ..."

How on earth can any self-respecting Labour Party member vote for a coalition like this?

Immigration rights for gay couples - unless one of them is Irish

On another matter, I see that Michael McDowell has finally signed into law an EU directive on freedom of movement which obliges him to allow the non-EU partner (married or otherwise) of an EU citizen to take up residence here.

This is good news.

However, there's a curious anomaly here which needs to be rectified. "EU citizen" in this context means "citizen of an EU country other than Ireland". Irish citizens are still denied the right to be accompanied by their non-EU partner. How does this make any sense?

This is not the only situation in which this anomaly occurs. Currently, an application for residency on the basis of marriage to an EU citizen (other than a citizen of Ireland) must be processed within six months. Another EU directive, you see. However, Irish citizen marriages are not subject to this directive. Their spouse's application will take approximately 14 months to process.

This is lunacy.

It gets worse. During this processing time, the noncitizen spouse is not allowed to work without a work permit - which are practically impossible for nonskilled workers to obtain these days. However, if the couple are forced to avail of social welfare during this period, the same Minister will use this fact to deny a citizenship application filed by the non-EU spouse, on the grounds that they have been a burden on society. I'm not making this up - we have written confirmation of this from the Minister.

The Minister also says that one of the requirements to grant residency is that the couple are living together. But how are they supposed to do that before he grants the non-EU spouse residency?

It's just one of many examples of how messed up the immigration system here is. It needs fixing as a matter of urgency.

The immediate introduction of legislation or a statutory instrument, as necessary, to put Irish citizens on the same level as non-Irish EU citizens would be a good start.
I was very sorry to wake up to the news that Michael McIlveen lost his fight for life overnight.

Nothing more to say about it. Just RIP, Michael.
...and speaking of hypocrisy, I see Fianna Fáil are at it again with their accusations of SF involvement in voter fraud. In the North Inner City, Fianna Fáil have personation down to an art. Everyone here knows this - and I doubt our constituency is unique.

The Tribune article is ludicrous, anyway. It starts off by announcing "the first direct evidence that Sinn Fein may be involved in electoral fraud" and goes on to provide no such thing. A Fianna Fáil backbencher's allegations that there are names on the register that don't match the council's records, and that three of those people were on the register at the same address as a "Sinn Féin figure" (whatever that means), hardly constitute "direct evidence" of us being involved in fraud.

It is unbelievable sometimes what passes for journalism in this country.

The Fine Gael Ard Fheis

Delegates have just voted to use the tagline "The United Ireland Party" on all their publications. Har!

While it's obviously deeply hypocritical of them, it is nonetheless a move to be welcomed. Not only because it demonstrates Sinn Féin's success in returning the issue to the top of the agenda - and when we've got Fine Gael, of all people, compelled to assert their pro-reunification credentials, we've definitely accomplished something - but because they will either have to (a) start actively promoting reunification, or (b) leave themselves open to even more ridicule. I'm always happy to ridicule Fine Gael, but I genuinely hope they choose the first course.
I was disappointed but not altogether surprised to see that the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform opposed the work stoppage in the US yesterday, which highlighted the contribution of immigrants to the American work force.

This appears to me to be something of a pattern. I was in Washington a couple weeks ago, when close to half a million immigrants, mostly from Latin America, and their supporters rallied in support of legislative reform, and I took part in that demonstration. Obviously with a crowd that size it's not possible to speak definitively about who was or wasn't there - but I walked in and out and all around the crowd a dozen times, over the course of a couple hours, and I didn't see one single bit of evidence for an ILIR presence. In such an important march on the nation's capital, I would have expected all interested groups to be in attendance.

I suspect - and I would love to be proven wrong on this - that this is part of a concerted effort by ILIR to distance themselves from "those" immigrants. To gain support from those segments of American society (and Congress) whose opposition to immigration reform is motivated primarily by anti-Hispanic sentiment. If I am correct about this, and again I would welcome evidence (evidence not assertions!) to the contrary, it is nothing less than a coded appeal to racism. And it is disgraceful.

Irish immigrants should be trying to change the law through solidarity with other immigrants, not by portraying themselves as somehow different or more deserving than the rest.
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