Monday, 28 February 2011

Saint David of Wales

St David’s holiday set for debate

PARLIAMENT is set to debate whether St David’s Day should be made a bankholiday in Wales.
In 2000, the National Assembly voted in favour of making March 1 a publicholiday, but the idea was blocked by Westminster.
The debate will now take place on March 2 after being secured by Ceredigion Lib Dem MP Mark Williams.
He said: “St David’s Day has massive cultural and historical significance in Wales and there have been calls for a public holiday for many years, so it is a real honour to make the case to the Government.
“A St David’s Day holiday would be a great opportunity to showcase our culture and heritage and could provide a boost to tourism.
“There is a great deal of support for a bank holiday, and I hope that we will soon be able to follow Scotland in making our national saint’s day a public holiday.”
The Scottish Parliament voted to make St Andrew’s Day a holiday in 2006 and St Patrick’s Day has been one in Ireland since 1903.

Read More

Love Thy Neighbour

UK disrespect for Scots Law

Commenting on the report in today’s Herald newspaper that the UK Tory/LibDem government’s Advocate General Lord Wallace secretly tabled clauses to the Scotland Bill to move appeals for Scottish criminal cases to the UK Supreme Court, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – said the move not only threatened the independence of Scots Law but put David Cameron’s so-called “respect agenda” at breaking point.

According to today’s report the Tory/LibDem UK government plans to usurp the Scottish High Court of Justiciary as the ultimate court of appeal in criminal cases and that they drafted a new clause on the role of the Supreme Court in Scotland last month to do so. Under the plans, the Advocate General would be able to refer such appeals to the UK Supreme Court, but the Lord Advocate would not.  The move would end centuries of tradition of appeals being held in Edinburgh.

Commenting Mr Maxwell said:

“So much for David Cameron’s ‘respect agenda’ and the Advocate General’s role as Scot’s Law’s man in the cabinet. This move just shows that the old centralising tendencies of the London-led parties are alive and well and have no respect for the independence of Scots Law.

“Traditionally, in criminal matters, the High Court of Justiciary had the final say but, as we have seen with the Cadder case, the route of raising devolution issues is already undermining its final authority. The UK Supreme Court is already taking on a much greater role in criminal matters than was anticipated at the time of devolution.

“It is unbelievable and astonishing that the Advocate General – who is meant to put the point of view of the Scottish legal system – is conniving in a move that will yet again erode that independence. Just what is he playing at?

“It is the SNP’s view that the centuries-old supremacy of the High Court of Justiciary as the final court of appeal in criminal matters must be restored and maintained.

“If David Cameron wishes to restore the respect agenda, and the Advocate General wishes to be seen as the spokesperson for Scots Law, they would drop this idea immediately, and I am calling on them to do so.”

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Drivers of Change

Sinn Féin are the drivers for
change across the island

Hundreds of Sinn Féin activists from across the nine counties
of Ulster gathered for the Annual General Meeting of Cúige
Uladh on January 22 to discuss the political situation. The
keynote speaker was Assembly member John o’Dowd.
Addressing delegates, Mr o’Dowd said: “This year we mark with
pride the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike. We remember the
struggle within Armagh Jail and the H Blocks. in doing so we should
not only honour the men and women of that era – we should also expose
a new generation to the principles of republicanism.
“But republicanism is not a spectator sport – we are not a historical
society, or a debating society.
“The most appropriate form of commemoration is to continue and
complete the task of comrades who have sacrificed everything in pursuit
of an idea, a belief that ireland can be united, independent and free.
“We are the drivers for change across the island of ireland.
“The calling of the elections in the 26 counties can be directly traced
to one thing – to Sinn Féin’s refusal to be diverted away from the task
of challenging the failures of the Fianna Fái/Green government.
“Pearse Doherty’s historic victory set the events in motion. This victory
did not come about by chance. it came about because the party in
Donegal made it happen. They worked over many years to build a base,
they made themselves relevant to the people, they showed leadership to
the people and only then the people of Donegal endorsed them.
Elections North and South
“The election in the 26 counties has been called for February 25. The
elections in the north to the Assembly will be on May 5, with Council
election most likely on the same day.
“These elections across ireland over the next three months could define
a generation; each republican has an individual responsibility in the
next few months to reshape the political conditions on this island.
“Sinn Féin will be fielding literally hundreds of candidates across ireland
and will be offering the alternative that many citizens seek.
“We offer credible alternatives to Tory polices regardless of which side
of the border they are delivered.
“We have produced economic polices which offer credible alternatives
to the Fianna Fáil/Green government, and to the simplistic economic
dogma which told us we just had to accept the British Tory budget.
“Sinn Féin refused to simply play along with the partionist economic
philosophy being enthusiastically broadcast by Unionist politicians and
the SDLP.
“We led the way in producing economic proposals – in showing there
was an alternative to the British government’s agenda.
Economic control must be transferred to Ireland
“The draft budget produced by the Executive in the Six Counties in
December is not ideal. it is not what we as republicans ultimately aspire
to achieve. However, by seeing alternative sources of revenue, it has
the potential to be £1.6bn better than if Sinn Féin had simply taken the
advice of the so called economically literate and laid down.
“We demand the return of fiscal powers across ireland – the people
of ireland have the right to be masters of their own economic destiny.
“in the Six Counties the economic powers are held by Britain and in
the 26 counties they are held by the iMF. We demand them back.
“The election campaigns, north and south, have begun.
“The task for republicans is to go out to work harder than we ever
have, to be more creative than we ever have, and to make ourselves relevant
to the people of ireland to make these elections the elections which
define a generation of politics.”
Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Wales Begins with a "Yes"

From Ray Bell - Bella Caledonia

Wales begins with a "Yes"

On the 3rd of March, people in Wales shall be voting on greater powers for the Assembly. This is a huge step forward for the country, and another nail in the coffin of the UK. Despite some narrow-minded gibes about Wales being the “slow boat in the convoy”, by Scottish activists, this is in fact not the case. Wales is unlikely to overtake Scotland, but for the last ten years, it has actually travelled further and faster than Scotland has in that time.

1979 was a grim year for Scotland and Wales, and so were the 1980s. Not just the Referendum failure, but because of Margaret Thatcher’s election in England. It looked as if Wales would never achieve self-government. Pessimism was prevalent, Welsh industry in heavy decline in the Valleys, the Welsh language in a perilous state, rural Wales devastated by high housing prices and holiday ghost towns. Even the Welsh rugby team went into a form of hibernation for the best part of twenty years.

The only ray of hope came in 1982 when Gwynfor Evans and Cymdeithas fought a brave fight, and held the Tories to their pre-election promise of a Welsh language channel. Billy Kay has described this victory as “kicking in the door” on the language issue. But this came in the wake of the Falklands War, in which Welsh troops had taken disproportionate casualties. More ironically, many of the Argentine aerial strikes had been launched from Trelew, in the Province of Chubut, which had been founded as a Welsh-speaking colony. S4C still exists, but other than receding memories of the war, the Falklands have faded back into obscurity.

I mind well, visiting Cardiff with my parents in the 1980s. The place seemed dark, the people despondent. And no wonder. It had been built on the coal mining industry. When I visited there in the early 2000s, it had changed for the better. The city was brighter, and it seemed happier. It still had one or two rough areas, but the effect of the Assembly on the city was much more noticeable than that of the Scottish Parliament upon Edinburgh. The new Millenium Stadium, and Millenium Centre, also made the city better, and unlike the Dome on the Thames, seemed to have a purpose. The city’s resounding “no” in the two referendums was now being counteracted by a growing confidence in devolution, even if support for independence and Plaid Cymru, Forward Wales etc was fairly low. Wales as a whole seemed to have a new self-confidence beaming out of it.

1997 was a better year for Scotland and Wales. Labour was closer to the Welsh heart than the Tories, at least Welsh people voted for that party in larger numbers. Welsh Labour had ceased to be quite as anti-Welsh as it had been under Neil Kinnock (aka “Kinnochio” in his home country) and George Thomas, even if it had a way to go. Cardiff voted “no” again, but the rest of Wales was less hostile, and the devolution referendum slipped through by the narrowest of margins.

So where does 2011 find Wales? The deprivation is still there in some places. The grimness has not completely gone away – the suicides of young people in Bridgend and its surrounding communities in recent years bear testimony of this. But there is still vast improvement. The One Wales coalition – Labour-Plaid – has proven itself more progressive than the Westminster governments of Brown and Cameron. It’s not ideal, but it has fought to keep medical care free, and is currently trying to pass an Affordable Housing Bill, to protect council housing stock from depletion by “right to buy”, and to ensure people in rural Wales can afford to live in their home areas. There are also plans afoot to pass a new language bill. The housing bill has already been blocked once by the current British set up (see appendix), which is a good reason why Wales needs this.

So why more powers? Devolution has proven more popular in practice than it ever was at the referendum. It’s actually grown on people there. Certain powers have already been passed over to the Assembly, so it’s in a stronger position than it was on foundation. However, it’s still pretty toothless in many areas. As Ieuan Wyn Jones, the deputy first minister, and leader of Plaid Cymru says:

“Just imagine how much more effective and transparent our process of making laws would be if we didn’t have to steer them through the various offices of the Sir Humphreys in Whitehall? So the question remains – why on earth wouldn’t we want to move to a more efficient, less costly and less bureaucratic system? I have yet to hear a plausible reason to vote ‘no’ in this referendum.”

The campaign has united the leaders of all four main parties in Wales, even the Conservatives, who were utterly opposed to devolution in ’97. Unlike the proposals of the Calman Commission in Scotland for greater powers, the Welsh proposal holds genuine merit and benefit for the country.

I dedicate this piece to the memory of Rhobert ap Steffan, who died recently after a long illness. He was a shining example of Wales' potential.

And here’s why Wales needs a “yes” vote, and a less complex system.

Although the Assembly has the power to modify legislation from Westminster, and to legislate in twenty different areas, any other bills proposed by it have to go through a torturous system known as “Legislative Competence Orders” (LCOs). Here are the stages which an LCO has to go through to be approved:

1 – Instigation by Assembly.
2 – Draft order discussions with Whitehall (i.e. the unelected Sir Humphreys)
3 - Draft order discussions with the Welsh Office (proving that it still has a purpose, unlike the Scottish office)
4 – Publication of draft LCO.
5 – Examination by Committee at the Assembly.
6 – Examination by the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster (currently Tory-heavy)
7 – Examination by the Constitutional Committee of the House of Lords.
8 – Report and proposed amendments by Welsh Affairs committee.
9 – Ditto by the Constitutional Committee of the House of Lords.
10 – Examination and amendments by the Secretary of State (House of Commons) if s/he wishes it.
11 – A formal LCO approved in Cardiff, and presented to the Welsh Assembly.
12 – Consideration by Welsh Affairs Committee (Westminster again)
13 – Examination by Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
14 – Approval by House of Commons.
15 – Approval by House of Lords.
16 – Royal Assent.

And yet we hear all the time that it’s Brussels which is bureaucratic! The referendum would cut down all of these stages into an easy handful, sorted and decided in Wales.

As you may have noticed, several of the stages include unelected sections of the British legislature, such as the Civil Service, the Lords and the Monarchy. It also includes several ones which are self-selected by Westminster, i.e. committees, the Welsh Office and the Palace of Westminsteritself, which has an inbuilt English majority (which notoriously voted for Treweryn and other Welsh communities to be drowned in the 1960s).

It is unlikely the royal part will go, but roll on the “yes” vote…

Friday, 25 February 2011

A New Era Begins for Ireland

As a thousand a week of the flower of Irish

youth emigrate from Ireland in search of 

a job.....

Sinn Fein on the cusp of new era in Irish politics

By Ed Curran
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Ads by Google

It is Election Day
Vote for the Full Fine Gael TeamIn Your Constituency
It's almost 40 years since I first met Gerry Adams at a time when he was seen as the mastermind of the Provisional IRA's Belfast brigade.
On one particularly memorable occasion, on a snowy February day in the mid-1970s, I sat warming myself before a two-bar electric fire while Adams produced tea and toast for us both in the tiny kitchen of a spartan ground-floor flat in Divis Towers.
Laid-back, pipe in mouth, bearded and wearing his baggy tweed jacket, he looked more like a university lecturer than a champion of the most ruthless terrorist group in Europe.
Four decades on, I find myself writing about Adams in his latest incarnation - as a likely TD and as leader of a party which in 2011 could hold the balance of political power in Belfast and Dublin.
Gerry Adams does not have the same sureness of foot about him in the Republic as he had in Northern Ireland.
Is he truly at home with the south's domestic political agenda, given his poor grasp of its economy which he showed when he led Sinn Fein into the last Dail election?
It remains to be seen if he can avoid a similar pitfall in this month's bitter pre-election campaign, but only another dubious performance from him looks capable of stopping the Sinn Fein bandwagon in its tracks.
The spectre of a Sinn Fein First Minister for Northern Ireland has long been the ultimate unionist nightmare. The slumber of Dublin's politicians and the southern media is disturbed by another bad dream - the prospect of Sinn Fein winning so many seats in the Dail that it might even hold the balance of power.
Who would have believed that events in Ireland, north and south, would turn so swiftly, if ever, in the party's favour?
But turn they have and come February 25 down south and May 5 up north, the world of politics on this island could well take on an extraordinary new order.
Its terrorist war long over, without victory or defeat, the republican movement is well on its way to winning the peace as the fastest-growing party on this island.
It has already made its mark in Northern Ireland. Now, the collapse of the Republic's economy has played into the hands of Sinn Fein, but the battle on votes shows the perplexing divergence of attitudes to the party north and south.
In Belfast, unionists and republicans share power and adjoining offices. In Dublin, nationalists and republicans profess little or nothing in common.
Once-sworn enemies in the north smile amicably at one another on a daily basis at Stormont, while blood brothers in the south can hardly bear to pass the time of day. How true is the old saying: the more one looks at Irish politics, the more complex it becomes.
What would the man from Mars make of it all? Owen Paterson, a Tory Secretary of State says a Sinn Fein First Minister would be another example of political progress in Northern Ireland. Martin McGuinness behaves at times as if he already had the job.
We should anticipate that, if Sinn Fein do well down south, the other parties in the Dail will have no option but to change their attitude and do business with Gerry Adams - for all their opposition to his Marxist policies and violent past.
Sinn Fein is re-inventing itself in the Republic, just as it has done up north. It must know that success in the south is likely to make it even more attractive to northern nationalists and cause more problems for the SDLP.
The new generation of Sinn Fein candidates has none of the baggage of the old guard, such as Adams. They look well-placed to win support from a disgruntled and despairing youthful population with little option but to emigrate in their tens of thousands to find work abroad.
The Republic does not display the flames of Tunisia or Egypt, but it harbours the dangerously glowing embers of public distrust and unease with mainstream politics. We can sense from this distance that this could be a major turning-point. We will only know the extent when the votes are counted, but we should brace ourselves for a shock.
No tumult on the streets. No St Stephen's Green or O'Connell Street becoming like Cairo's Tahrir Square. More a quiet political revolution on our doorstep.
Not a shot fired in anger, but the face of politics on this island changed as it hasn't been since partition nearly a century ago.
What a long way we have all travelled since Gerry Adams made tea and toast on that February day nearly 40 years ago in bleak and bloodied Belfast.

Read more:

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Getting Closer to Autonomy

Stronger speech  Ie logo
No time for complancency with one week to go                                         
Dim amser i laesu dwylo gyda dim ond wythnos i fynd
Dear supporters,

Only a week to go and things are hotting up.

Tomorrow on Radio Wales there will be a discussion on the referendum between 12 and 2pm. Listen in and contribute by phoning to declare your support for a Yes vote.

Also remember to fill in this poll on the Wales Online website:-

'Yes for Wales' Chair Roger Lewis has issued a warning to supporters of a 'Yes' vote not to relax their efforts in the final week of the campaign.

"We're winning this argument when it comes to this referendum but we need to keep focused and not be complacent. Every vote counts on March 3rd", Roger Lewis said

"We still need to raise money. The more we raise, the more we can spend to make sure we win for Wales. Donating is easy through our and every pound is important.

"In the past week we've delivered a million leaflets but there's more to get out between now and polling day. Let's not be at all complacent - come and help the thousands of volunteers win a 'Yes for Wales' on March 3rd."


Caryl Wyn Jones
Yes for Wales