Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sinn Fein in cross-border talks

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sinn Fein will bring its strengthened team of southern representatives to Stormont on Monday for the first time since the party's General Election gains in the Republic.

Sinn Fein Assembly group leader John O'Dowd said the party's 14 Dail members will meet MLAs to plan their cross-border political strategy.

The meeting comes as deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness urged National University of Ireland graduates living north of the border to back a Sinn Fein candidate for the Seanad elections in the south.

The elections to the upper house of the Oireachtas follow Sinn Fein's General Election outing where it increased its 2007 tally of 4 TDs to 14.

Mr O'Dowd said on Sunday: "Tomorrow's meeting will see 41 Sinn Fein TDs and MLAs gather in Stormont for the first time since the recent southern election.

"This first meeting will focus primarily on advancing the united Ireland and all-Ireland political agenda.

"No other political party on this island has the depth and geographical spread of Sinn Fein elected representatives. We are the only party with a strategy and a team to deliver all-Ireland political change."

He added: "Others talk about the all-Ireland agenda. Sinn Fein are the all-Ireland agenda in action."

His comments came as the party hopes its political gains in the Republic will help boost its campaign in Northern Ireland ahead of the May 5 Assembly election and local government elections.

Mr McGuinness said he also hoped Sinn Fein could ensure a presence in the Seanad and urged northern voters entitled to participate in elements of the election to support party candidate, former Belfast city councillor, Eoin O Broin.


Eoin O’Broin is a writer and policy analyst based in Dublin and has been active in Sinn Fein politics for several years. In his recent book “Sinn Fein and the Politics of Left Republicanism”, he argues that Sinn Fein is part of a distinct left republican tradition in Irish society whose future lies in the “globally resurgent radical democratic left”. In radical left doublespeak, he is referring to Marxist Socialism.

Make no mistake about it, by their own admission it is Sinn Fein’s long held commitment to establish Ireland as a “32 County Socialist Republic”. As a proud citizen of both the United States of America and Ireland, the very thought makes me nauseous.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Friday, March 11, 2011

Irish government agenda may clash with church on schools, gay marriage

By Michael Kelly - Boston Pilot - Posted: 3/9/2011

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Ireland's new governing coalition adopted a legislative agenda that looks likely to put it on a collision course with Catholic leaders and other faith groups on gay marriage and plans to reduce church influence in schools.

However, at least one Catholic leader welcomed the coalition's commitments on social welfare and overseas development aid.

Fine Gael sought the support of the Labor Party after the former won the most seats but not enough to form an overall parliamentary majority in a Feb. 25 general election in which the predominant issue was the country's economic crisis.

The coalition's legislative program proposes a constitutional convention to introduce same-sex marriage and remove the crime of blasphemy from the statute book.

Commenting on the issue of same-sex marriage, John Murray of the pro-family think-tank the Iona Institute told Catholic News Service that the move "would mean there is no longer any social institution aimed at encouraging men and women to raise their children."

"Currently opinion polls indicate substantial support for same-sex marriage, but this support is likely to be soft, and much of it would evaporate when the issue is properly debated," he said.

Catholic bishops have yet to comment on the legislative program. However, before the election campaign began, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, warned that any move to undermine the family based on marriage between a man and a woman would be likely to face a Supreme Court challenge.

In education, the coalition proposes to "negotiate" the takeover of schools owned by the 18 religious congregations criticized in the 2009 Ryan Report, which investigated abuse into church-run government institutions, such as orphanages. A spokesman for the congregations refused to comment but insisted that the congregations retained all their constitutional rights to private property. The schools are owned and operated by the religious congregations but receive 100 percent state funding.

The coalition's agenda also includes plans to change the current exemption in equality legislation that allows the churches and other faith-based organizations to refuse to employ people whom they think may undermine the ethos of the religious group or institution. Catholic bishops and their Anglican counterparts successfully fought plans to remove the exemptions in 2008 and would be likely to form an alliance against the move again.

While the Labor Party campaigned on a platform that would see the legislation of abortion in Ireland, Fine Gael, which is opposed to abortion, appears to have prevailed. The abortion issue will be referred to an "expert group" for recommendations.

Abortion remains illegal in Ireland. However, a 2010 decision of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the country's law on the issue was insufficiently clear and needed to be clarified.

In a statement congratulating all new legislators, the Irish bishops' conference reminded them of the "obligation to defend the dignity of every human person and protect the common good."

"Strengthening the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, as well as promoting and protecting human life at all its stages is fundamental in this regard," the bishops said.

Missionary of Africa Father Sean Healy, a prominent social justice campaigner, welcomed the coalition's commitments to stop cutting social welfare rates and to reverse the cut in the minimum wage that had been introduced by the outgoing government.

The agenda also commits to reach the target -- set for years by developing countries -- of spending 0.7 percent of the gross national product on overseas development aid by 2015.


The only comment necessary is that this is but another testimonial to the fact that Ireland is well on its way to becoming another European secular society. Sadly, they are losing the moral compass that identified them for many years as the most Catholic nation in Europe.

Jack Meehan, Past National President Ancient Order of Hibernians in America Knights of Columbus - 4th Degree

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sum for outgoing TDs tops €13m
PAMELA DUNCAN and JOANNE HUNT - Sat, Mar 05, 2011
TD PAYMENTS : OUTGOING TDs from the 30th Dáil are to receive more than €13 million in pension lump sums and termination payments over the course of the next year according to figures compiled by The Irish Times.
This figure excludes any outgoing Ministers’ severance payments as the Department of Finance could not disclose individual members’ pension payments.
The €13 million figure is the total of “lump sum entitlements” for departing TDs as detailed in the accompanying graphic.
The outgoing TDs will also receive a cumulative total of more than €4 million annually, although TDs who are under the age of 50 will not receive their full pension entitlement until they reach this age.
Retiring and outgoing Fianna Fáil TDs will receive more than €8.5 million in pension lump sums and termination payments, not including ministerial severance/pension payments.
The two highest pension entitlement recipients are Taoiseach Brian Cowen and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern who will receive in the region of €350,000 in the year following their retirement once their ministerial pensions are taken into account. Each man will also receive about €165,000 annually once all lump sum, termination payments have been completed.
In addition to the pension payments, the two men will be entitled to a car and two garda drivers, two secretarial assistants for a period of five years and one thereafter, payment of mobile phone charges and a diplomatic passport.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach’s office said the arrangements had been put in place in 2001 to “facilitate former taoisigh in carrying out their ongoing public roles including as members of the Council of State (where they have a formal duty to advise the President), as well as their participation in public events, dealing with correspondence and contributing to public life, including co-operating with researchers in various areas such as history, administration and political science”.
Other high-ranking retirees include Minister for Health and Tánaiste Mary Harney who is entitled to about €320,000 in the next year if she chooses to draw down her ministerial pension on top of other pension entitlements.
Over the course of the next year outgoing TDs will receive payments.
The first, a pension lump sum, is worked out from a TD’s salary as per the 2008 rate, which is about 7.5 per cent more than the figure to which TDs are entitled, and depends on how long the politician has served in office. This figure is taxable.
A second payment, called a termination lump sum, is based upon two month’s of a TD’s salary: the basic salary for a TD is €92,672 although up until and including this tranche of retirees long-service increments applied to those with more than seven years’ service and more than 10 years’ service receiving €95,550 and €98,424 respectively. This payment is non-taxable.
On top of this a TD is entitled to a series of termination payments depending on their years in office. Those TDs with 14 years service or more are entitled to receive the equivalent of three-quarters of their monthly salary for six months and 50 per cent of their monthly salary. Those who have served fewer years receive fewer of these payments based on a sliding scale. These payments are taxable.
Only when all pension lump sum and termination payments have ceased does a TD receive his or her annual pension.
In addition, TDs who have served as ministers also receive a separate annual pension payment based on a percentage of their ministerial salary. Outgoing Ministers can, for the first two years, opt for either a severance payment or receive their ministerial pension entitlements now.
Commenting on the pension payments for outgoing TDs and Ministers last night a spokesman for Fine Gael said the party “will abolish severance pay for ministers. We will restrict the payment of pensions to politicians so that a pension can only be received after someone has ceased to be a TD and reached the national retirement age (currently 65). We will cap taxpayers’ subsidies for pension schemes for politicians (and indeed for everybody) that deliver income in retirement of more than €60,000.”
Figures are estimates based on guidelines provided to The Irish Times by the Oireachtas and Department of Finance press offices. The figures do not include pension payments arising out of years served in the Seanad or tenure as committee chairs. A TD’s pension is payable only once their termination payments have been completed.
Lump sum entitlement is calculated as the TD pension lump sum plus the TD’s termination pay.
Annual pension is calculated as the annual TD pension plus annual ministerial pension where applicable.
* To qualify for a full pension and lump sum a former TD must be 50 years of age while a reduced pension may be paid at any time between the ages of 45 and 49
** This TD/Minister is known to come under the old pension scheme. According to both the Department of Finance and the Oireachtas press offices, this older scheme applies in a minority of cases.
Is it any wonder that Ireland is in the colossal economic mess that they find themselves in? While beleaguered Irish taxpayers have been required to bear the burden of unbearable increases in every area of their lives, these “layabouts” are gingerly walking away with huge golden handshakes and lifetime pensions that the average Irish worker can only dream about. Surely, this would be a great place for the new government to prove that they mean business and make some of the necessary cuts in their attempt to bring the country back to economic solvency.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Protests at Military Funerals Are Protected Speech, Justices Rule

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that protests and picketing at military funerals are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee, taking precedence over the mourners' right to privacy.

The court decided 8-1 to uphold a lower court decision in favor of members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who frequently stage protests at private military funerals to promote the church's claim that God is angry at America for its tolerance of homosexuality, with signs bearing messages like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "You're Going to Hell" and "God Hates the USA."

The ruling was a defeat for Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2006, whose funeral at a Catholic church in Westminster, Md., was picketed by the Westboro group."


This horribly misguided decision by no less than 8 of 9 U.S. Supreme Court “justices” is so utterly appalling that it leaves one speechless. It is nearly impossible to imagine the devastating effect that this abomination will have on the family of this heroic young U.S. Marine who paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country. It is inconceivable to me and I am sure to thousands upon thousands of decent American citizens who believe that there positively are limits to the right to “free speech”, how the 8 people who made this horrible decision can look in the mirror this morning. They have brought shame upon the highest court in the land and, I believe, to the original intent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. May God Bless the family of this true American hero and all men and women who have answered the call to honorably serve our country.

Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America