Irish Time

Monday, December 17, 2012

IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS : Clashes Follow Traffic Chaos in Belfast






National Identity: 
39.89% = British only
25.26% = Irish only
20.94% = Northern Irish only
00.66% = British and Irish only
06.17% = British and Northern Irish only
01.06% = Irish and Northern Irish only
01.02% = British, Irish and Northern Irish only
05.00% = Other
Aggregate National Identity: 
47.26% = Irish
46.72% = British
01.02% = British/Irish/N. Irish
05.00% = Other
Religion: 
48.36% = Protestant / Other Christian
45.14% = Roman Catholic
00.92% = Other Religion
05.59% = No Religion

IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS

   http://republican-news.org

    Friday-Thursday, 7-13 December, 2012



>>>>>> Clashes follow traffic chaos in Belfast


 Trouble broke out tonight in several areas after Belfast was again
 brought to a standstill by groups of loyalists demanding the return of
 the British flag on Belfast City Hall.

 The blockades caused the worst traffic situation in two weeks of
 protests. Cars were stopped by as few as three or four flag-waving
 loyalists while the PSNI refused to intervene, infuriating motorists.

 As the night wore on, violence erupted on the Sandy Road in Belfast,
 where hijacked cars were set on fire and fireworks were thrown; and in
 east Belfast, where 200 loyalists had massed outside the offices of the
 Alliance Party.

 The protests began two weeks ago following the decision of Belfast city
 council to reduce the flying of the Union Jack.

 The cross-community Alliance Party has become a particular target of
 intimidatory loyalist 'protests'. Its support for the decision the
 Union flag to fly above City Hall on only 15 commemorative days
 triggered the recent trouble. East Belfast MP Naomi Long, who won her
 Westminster seat from DUP leader Peter Robinson at the last election,
 has become a particular hate figure for unionists.

 While the street actions were clearly coordinated, trouble broke out in
 an unpredictable manner.

 In Carrickfergus, County Antrim, over a hundred shoppers had to be
 locked into a Tesco store as a loyalist protest erupted into an intense
 riot.

 Clashes were also reported as loyalists attempted incusions into
 nationalist areas, including the intersection of the loyalist Glenbryn
 and the nationalist Ardoyne in north Belfast; and in Portadown, where
 loyalists threw fireworks and other missiles towards the nationalist
 Garvaghy Road area.

 Other areas which saw blockades included the Upper Malone Road,
 Dundonald, Finaghy Cross, the Dublin Road, the Ormeau Road, the
 Beersbridge Road, the Cregagh Road, the Donegall Road, the Shore Road,
 the Limestone Road, and the Crumlin Road in Belfast; Lisburn,
 Broughshane, Ballyclare and Greenisland in County Antrim; Clough and
 Bangor in County Down; Coleraine and Campsie, County Derry; and Lurgan,
 County Armagh.

 The Glendermott Road in Derry city was also blocked by 50 loyalists for
 a period.

 The size and nature of the actions varied significantly, with masked
 men hijacking vehicles to block roads in some areas, while others saw
 young children involved in small protests.

 A joint statement earlier today by DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn
 Fein's Martin McGuinness, calling on the loyalists to end their
 actions, failed to have any effect.

 Traders have warned that the protests are endangering business,
 particularly in the run-up to Christmas, although shops in nationalist
 west Belfast were said to be busy.

 In a statement, Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly said "Unionism
 needs to show leadership" to those they represent and "stop retreating
 to the trenches of sectarian coat-trailing".

 He said there had been a misrepresentation by unionist politicians
 about "a chipping away at everything British", which he said needed to
 be exposed "as the lie that it is".

 "Anyone that walks through the City Hall or indeed the surrounding
 streets of Belfast will realise that we are coming down with symbols
 representative of Britain's past," he said.

 "We had the same nonsense from unionists over the marching season when
 they described a handful of contentious parades as a conspiracy to stop
 all Orange marches.

 "No mention of the fact that thousands went ahead without any need of
 determinations from the Parades Commission.

 "Belfast is no longer a unionist city and it needs to reflect both
 Irishness and Britishness with an equality of treatment for each as
 envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement.

 "Unionists need to get their heads around the fact that Belfast and
 indeed the North is a new place and will continue to change."



1.  SPIN AND SHADOWS
2.  PSNI facilitating loyalist roadblocks
3.  Unionists feud in flags blame-game
4.  Nationalists arrested amid loyalist disorder
5.  Labour party in crisis
6.  Protestants decline as 'Northern Irish' increase
7.  Analysis: Change comes dropping slow. Oh so slow.
8.  Analysis: Catholic tide can't be held back


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>>>>>> SPIN AND SHADOWS


 Most of the 500-page review of the 1989 murder of Belfast defence lawyer
 Pat Finucane released this week has been heavily censored "in the
 interests of state security", the Finucane family has been told.

 Some of the documents have been so heavily edited that they have been
 rendered completely unreadable.

 Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine said the family had been given no chance
 to examine the documents themselves, and the report by British barrister
 Desmond de Silva was a "sham".

 "The report doesn't tell me much more than previous inquiries," she
 said.

 The heavily redacted pages include copies of documents from the British
 army's shadowy Force Research Unit, the Stevens II investigation and
 Special Branch and British Home Office documentation.  Little of what
 was revealed has not been made public before, although the report still
 had the potential to shock -- particularly in the British political
 establishment, which had hitherto largely ignored the collusion between
 loyalist killers and British forces in the North of Ireland.

 One statistic summed up the level of collusion, in that 85% of the
 intelligence received by the loyalist paramilitary UDA in the late 70's
 came via the British Crown forces; and that in an 18-month period in the
 late 80's, there were 279 "leaks" to the organisation.

 Central to the collusion was British army agent Brian Nelson, who became
 the intelligence chief of the west Belfast UDA and organised the murder
 of Mr Finucane. He is believed to have been involved in at least 15
 murders and probably many more and scores of attempted killings.

 It emerged from the de Silva report that days after the assassination,
 leading members of the west Belfast UDA met in a Shankill Road social
 club to discuss killing two more top Catholic lawyers, Oliver Kelly and
 Patrick (PJ) McGrory.

 An RUC report of intelligence dated February 17, five days after Mr
 Finucane was murdered in front of his wife and children, contains
 information of plans to attack the two men by the very same death squad.

 Next to Mr McGrory's name on the printed British document are the
 handwritten words "PIRA/INLA solicitor". Comments made under Mr Kelly's
 name have been blacked out by censors. It is clear both men were lucky
 to have avoided Mr Finucane's fate.

 Other details which are confirmed by the document include;

 * How British propaganda had set up Pat Finucane as a target;

 * How the RUC suggested Mr Finucane as a potential target and then
 failed to act on threats against him;

 * How British agent Brian Nelson produced an intelligence report on Mr
 Finucane used by the murder gang, carried out a reconnaissance operation
 at his home and gave killer Ken Barrett the
 lawyer's picture;

 * How Nelson was allowed to carry out the Finucane assassination and
 other deadly attacks without objection or interference from his
 handlers.

 * How Ken Barrett was himself recruited as a British state agent in
 1991, and how his briefing to the RUC on the Finucane killing was recorded but
 the tape "disappeared".

 * How after the murder, the British Army and the RUC continued to give
 "highly misleading" information on Nelson and his activities to British
 officials and prosecutors.

 ASSASSINATION SQUADS

 It was confirmed in the report that information provided by Nelson could
 have prevented attacks on the life of Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey in the
 late 1980s, including one in which he was wounded and another in which
 he escaped a murder bid by just 20 seconds.

 One detail which emerged is that at attack against Sinn Fein leader
 Gerry Adams was prevented and another cancelled in 1987, ironically
 thanks to Nelson's efforts.

 Nelson wrote in his journal: "It was told to me by my handlers that the
 assassination of Adams, had it gone ahead, would have been
 counterproductive, particularly given the delicate balance of power
 within Sinn Fein."

 One intelligence report author said he feared at the time that the Force
 Research Unit, a murderous offshoot of MI5, was pushing for Mr Adams's
 murder.

 The report said the FRU had paid "insufficient regard to the wider
 implications of this operation... If the attempt on Adams is to be
 repeated particularly before the general election (and Nelson's links to
 the army revealed)... then British intelligence and (the government)
 could face accusations of having conspired in the murder of a
 prospective MP with all the attendant adverse consequence."

 SLANE

 It was confirmed that information passed to the Crown forces could have
 saved the life of west Belfast man Gerard Slane, who was killed by the
 UDA colleagues of Nelson in 1988.

 Teresa Slane said PSNI chief Matt Baggott owed it to her family to
 "correct the injustices of the past" and bring members of the Shankill
 UDA before the courts.

 Mrs Slane said the de Silva made for difficult reading.

 "Some of the details I was aware of but it was difficult seeing it in
 black and white," she said.

 "We know now that the British government and security forces, which are
 meant to uphold the law, could have prevented Gerard's murder.

 "The chief constable has an opportunity to do right by my family by
 arresting and charging the people whose names have been known to the
 authorities for the last 24 years."

 'CONFIDENCE TRICK'

 Despite providing solid confirming a good deal of information about
 collusion which is already in the public domain, the family of Mr
 Finucane dismissed the British barrister's report.

 At a press conference, his widow Geraldine described it as "a sham... a
 whitewash... a confidence trick".

 She told journalists in London: "This report is not the truth." and
 renewed her call for a full public inquiry.

 She said the British government had suppressed the truth and attempted
 to put all blame on dead individuals and disbanded organisations while
 exonerating ministers, serving officers and existing security agencies.

 "Yet another British government has engineered a suppression of the
 truth behind the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane," Mrs Finucane said.

 "At every turn it is clear that this report has done exactly what was
 required - to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its cabinet
 and ministers, to the army, to the intelligence services and to itself."

 MORE QUESTIONS

 Examinations of the de Silva report by journalists has raised more
 questions than answers as they struggle through page after page of
 blacked out paragraphs.

 Journalist Ed Moloney has insisted that, contrary to the report, the
 threat to Mr Finucane had been documented by the Dublin and London
 governments months before his assassination.

 Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he has written to the Taoiseach
 Enda Kenny urging him to "initiate an extensive examination" of all
 relevant documents to identify those which could assist the Finucane
 family's demand for a public inquiry.

 He said the then Haughey government had been involved in efforts to
 protect the three threatened lawyers, and that reports of these
 exchanges should be examined.

 "The Irish government needs to shift into a higher gear in support of
 the family," he said.

 "A strategic approach is required that would see the government use its
 diplomatic services across the globe and its influence in the USA, in
 the EU and at the United Nations, where the Irish government now sits on
 the Human Rights Council, to win support for the Finucane family."

 'MINISTERS KNEW'

 The Sinn Fein leader was also dismissive of the British Prime Minister's
 claim that British government ministers were not aware of the extent of
 Brian Nelson's role as an agent.

 "Far from prosecuting Nelson fully and in order to prevent the detail of
 Nelson's role as an agent being scrutinised in court [then Attorney
 General] Patrick Mayhew did a deal with Nelson. The murder charges
 against Nelson were dropped.

 "It was agreed that Colonel Gordon Kerr, the head of the Force Research
 Unit, which ran many of the collusion operations, would give evidence
 supporting Nelson.

 "The British Minister of Defence Tom King, who was Secretary of State
 for the north at the time of the killing of Pat Finucane, provided a
 letter of commendation for Nelson.

 "And the British Prime Minister John Major held a meeting just before
 the trial with the north's Lord Chief Justice Brian Hutton and the trial
 judge Basil Kelly.

 "It is clear that there was significant knowledge among senior British
 Ministers about the role of Nelson, working as an agent of the British
 government, and that they moved to cover it up."

 DAMNING INDICTMENT

 In addition, a chapter of the Stevens III Report on collusion, released
 separately this week under a Freedom of Information request, has
 revealed that a British Army murder weapon used in the Finucane murder
 was subsequently returned to the British Army (by the RUC) and
 destroyed. Nationalists have demanded that the evident attempt to
 destroy evidence of murder be properly investigated.

 eirigi's Breandan Mac Cionnaith said the de Silva report was "a damning
 indictment of British state collusion in the murder of Irish citizens",
 but that it refused to acknowledge the organised, structured and
 systemic nature of collusion.

 "By doing so, it tries unsuccessfully to exculpate those in the highest
 echelons of the British government and its agencies who sanctioned the
 use of state-controlled death squads," he said.

 The involvement of MI5 in a number of murders was now well known, he
 added.

 "However, deliberately hidden from the public eye is the fact that,
 today, MI5 continues to extend a malign influence in the Six Counties
 with up to one third of PSNI personnel under its direct control.

 "That fact, like the failure to allow the full truth to be told about
 Pat Finucane's murder, should be a major cause of concern to everyone
 concerned with justice and the protection of human rights."


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>>>>>> PSNI facilitating loyalist roadblocks


 The failure of the PSNI to move small numbers of loyalists from busy
 public roads has brought Belfast and nearby towns to a halt for several
 hours at a time this week during some the busiest days of the year.

 Rush hour traffic continues to be blocked every evening by groups of
 loyalists protesting against the decision by Belfast city council to
 sharply reduce the number of days the British Union Jack flag flies over
 City Hall.

 The PSNI has been accused of pandering to loyalist mobs -- in sharp
 contrast with their heavy-handed response to republican protests.

 Some of the worst street violence for years has followed the vote to fly
 the Union Jack on only 15 days annually above Belfast City Hall to mark
 royal events and other commemorations, even though the move only brings
 Belfast council into line with other councils in the North as well as
 those in Britain.

 While the violence has subsided over the course of this week, masked
 paramilitaries continue to organise blockades to coincide with the
 evening rush-hour. Women and children are often used to block the roads.

 But most infuriatingly for commuters, the PSNI are routinely allowing
 the loyalists to break laws against blocking roads and blocking
 footpaths.  Laws against wearing masks,
 as well as more serious breaches of the peace
 and acts of violence, are being ignored.

 Millions of pounds has also been lost to the North's economy with
 Christmas shoppers avoiding the city centre.

 A small number of arrests have already been made, but it is tiny in
 relation to the scale of the law-breaking involved in two weeks of
 widespread disturbances.

 The largest crowd was seen in Belfast city centre on Saturday for a
 chaotic and openly sectarian protest which saw Irish tricolour flags
 burned.  The protest was addressed by a British right-wing extremist Jim
 Dowson and was followed by rioting later in east Belfast.

 A large crowd of loyalists also closed the Peace Bridge in Derry for a
 protest on Monday afternoon.

 On Monday night, loyalists mounted 43 illegal roadblocks across Belfast,
 and violence flared in four areas.  Some schools were forced to close
 and the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald was inaccessible for a short
 period.

 Protests have diminished in size and number during the week, and by last
 [Thursday] night the number of roadblocks had dropped to around a dozen,
 and without serious disorder.

 Almost all of the protests have been organised to disrupt rush-hour
 traffic by blocking main roads. Most, but not all, have been advertised
 on the internet.

 Villages and towns have also seen one-off protests this week, including
 Garvagh and Limavady in County Derry, Rathfriland, Ballygowan and
 Kilkeel in County Down, Portadown and Armagh in County Armagh, Cookstown
 and Magherafelt in County Tyrone, and Carrickfergus, Ballyclare, Lisburn, and
 Ballycastle in County Antrim.

 An SDLP constituency office in Limavady was vandalised in an expansion
 of the attacks against the offices and homes of politicians.  But it is
 the cross-community Alliance Party which continues to be the focus of
 unionist aggression.

 The constituency office of Alliance MP Naomi Long on upper Newtownards
 Road in east Belfast has been a regular target for vandalism and
 protests. On Monday, it was the scene of a loyalist petrol-bomb attack
 on a PSNI patrol car, while the nearby home of an Alliance councillor
 was also attacked.

 Ms Long described the violence as "fascist" and "a pogrom".

 "It is completely unacceptable in 2012 that elected representatives of a
 [political] party are receiving death threats, their offices being
 burned, their homes being attacked, their families being threatened,"
 she said.

 "This is not what democracy looks like; it is not what loyalism looks
 like either. It is what fascism looks like and we need to stand firm in
 the face of fascism - united across these islands to say that this is
 not acceptable."

 The Alliance Mayor of Larne was today
 told by the PSNI to evacuate her own home this weekend amid fears of
 further violence.

 On Tuesday, up to 100 loyalist protesters staged a demonstration outside
 the offices of Limavady borough council while a meeting was
 taking place inside. Sinn Fein members of the council had to be escorted
 from the building by PSNI.

 And in County Armagh, the husband of a Sinn Fein councillor said his bar
 was left defenceless as the PSNI ignored his pleas for help. Bernard
 Rafferty says a PSNI patrol initially ignored his call for help when the
 Cuchulainn Bar in Armagh was attacked by a large loyalist mob at about
 9pm on Monday.

 Two fireworks were thrown into the popular pub and windows were smashed
 by masked youths carrying Union flags.

 The well-known landlord, whose wife Cathy is a local councillor, said a
 tourist who was in the Thomas Street bar was so terrified that he vowed
 to return south.

 "He just sat there and when it was all over he said 'My God, this can't
 be happening'," he said.

 Local Sinn Fein representative Roy McCartney said the PSNI was
 facilitating "mob rule".

 "The message has to come down from Matt Baggott to stop facilitating
 these protests and start policing them," he said.

 At a Sinn Fein Mid Ulster selection convention on Wednesday night,
 Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the decision reached by
 Belfast city councillors last week was a "vote for compromise" and not
 a "victory for nationalists".

 "Sinn Fein councillors proposed that there should be no flag flown," he
 said. He said the subsequent violent protests were "orchestrated in a
 very cynical way".

 "Both the UVF and UDA have played a significant role in this
 orchestration," he said.

 "Unionist leaders, for some reason or other, may now pretend otherwise.
 We have yet to hear a unionist leader question the role of loyalist
 paramilitaries in all of this."


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>>>>>> Unionists feud in flags blame-game


 The former Ulster Unionist First Minister David Trimble has accused DUP
 leader Peter Robinson of cynically stoking tensions over the flying of
 the Union flag at Belfast City Hall in order to win back his
 parliamentary seat in its former East Belfast stronghold from the
 Alliance Party.

 He said that British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers may have to issue a
 decree on the issue to require Union Jacks be flown on designated days
 on the North's main civic buildings.

 Last week's decision to limit the number of days the Union flag is flown
 at City Hall has seen direct attacks on the homes and offices of the
 moderate unionist Alliance Party and other parties.

 Now, a move is underway by the larger unionist parties at Stormont to
 force the flying of a British Union Jack to fly over the Assembly
 building 365 days a year, as a counter to the Belfast city council
 decision.  The plan, involving a vote by the little-known Assembly
 Commission which controls Stormont procedures, is grounded on the fact
 that the commission is composed primarily of unionist Assembly members.

 But David Trimble said the main unionist parties had never previously
 objected to flying the Union Jack on designated days only.

 "I cannot avoid looking at the fact that the Alliance Party, who
 provided the majority for this compromise at City Hall, is the party
 that defeated the DUP in east Belfast in the parliamentary election," he
 said.

 "I wonder if this is something to do with trying to regain support that
 went to the Alliance Party at that stage. In which case I think it's a
 really quite cynical thing for them to be doing."

 DUP DUPLICITY?

 The leaders of the DUP and UUP have said they will announce a new
 initiative when their discussions on the unionist identity and the flags
 issue are finalised early next week.

 In a joint statement today, Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt said they "share
 the stated aim of the protests to defend the Union Flag", but called
 again for an end to the protests.

 They said they were drawing up "a new initiative, involving people from
 across the unionist community, that will chart a positive way ahead to
 address many of the issues of concern that have been raised in recent
 days."

 But the two parties have been accused of continuing to send out mixed
 messages as they gave tacit approval for their members to continue to
 attend the protests.

 "We.. have indicated that if, in spite of our advice, protests are
 organised by others and where our representatives are certain that a
 protest will be conducted in a completely peaceful and lawful manner, it
 is a matter for their own judgment as to whether or not they should
 attend," they said.

 While some unionist politicians have called for an end to the protests,
 others have taken part.  North Belfast DUP sssembly member William
 Humphrey claimed to have the support of Peter Robinson in attending the
 protest that resulted in the road being to traffic for over an hour.

 Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP has called for
 "an unequivocal message" from the unionist leaders on ending the
 protests, and called for talks.

 "A way forward on how best to represent and protect the identity and
 symbols of both nationalists and unionists can only emerge from
 cross-party and cross-community discussions. Ultimately, any workable
 proposals needs cross community support."

 He said these discussions need to address the meaning of mutual respect,
 parity of esteem and how to ensure that symbols and emblems are not used
 to promote division.

 "I am confident that we can map a way forward on this basis. What we
 need in the coming days is all-party discussions on this issue. Any
 proposals which have the potential for moving us forward on this issue,
 will require cross community support. The sooner therefore that these
 discussions begin the better."


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>>>>>> Nationalists arrested amid loyalist disorder


 A PSNI operation against the nationalist residents of Ardoyne has
 heightened tension at a time when the Six-County police have openly
 facilitated loyalist roadblocks and disturbances.

 A member of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) was arrested
 and sent to Maghaberry prison this in connection with an unpaid fine
 relating to a sit-down protest by nationalist residents two years ago.

 Rab Jackson, the national vice-chairperson of the socialist republican
 party eirigi, was also arrested and taken to Maghaberry.

 The PSNI formally "cautioned" other residents for taking part in recent
 protests against sectarian marches.

 Dee Fennell, a father-of-four and a leading figure in GARC, was among 29
 people who took part in a brief sit-down protest in July 2010 against a
 controversial Orange Order march past the Ardoyne interface.

 Spokesman for the GARC residents group Aidan Ferguson said the arrests,
 coming at a time when parts of Belfast were being brought to a
 standstill by loyalists, had created a lot of anger in the Ardoyne area.

 It showed "if proof were needed" that the two-tier sectarian society in
 the North of Ireland has not changed, he said.

 "The arrest of Dee Fennell, taken from his family in the mouth of
 Christmas, for peacefully protesting shows equality, fairness and PSNI
 impartiality is a myth."

 Both he and eirigi's Rab Jackson are expected to serve around five days
 in Maghaberry for refusing to pay their fines.

 eirigi's Padraic Mac Coitir said nationalists had been arrested for a
 peaceful protest in which traffic had not even been blocked.

 "The residents' protest in question was a totally peaceful one which was
 confined to the footpaths and did not in any way impede traffic.
 Nevertheless, the PSNI are now cautioning residents with a view to
 charging them," he said.

 "During the past week, senior PSNI officers have repeatedly said in
 broadcast interview and media statements, made in relation to loyalist
 protests in Belfast and elsewhere, that they would facilitate peaceful
 protests.

 "Those statements were made as unionists blocked roads and traffic,
 organised illegal marches, engaged in widespread violence and attacked
 people and property in an orchestrated series of Drumcree-style actions.

 "Unionist paramilitary leaders also made veiled threats against
 nationalists living in interface areas.

 "Time and time again, the PSNI has shown that it uses one set of laws
 for unionists and another set of laws for nationalists.

 "The PSNI actions against residents in Ardoyne contrast strongly with
 their inactions when dealing with unionists."

 eirigi general secretary Breandan Mac Cionnaith said the arrest of Rab
 Jackson formed part of a pattern of deliberate harassment against his
 party.

 "It is very obvious that police forces in both partition states have
 been given some sort of political direction to initiate a co-ordinated
 campaign of harassment against party members and supporters," he said.

 "It could well be their assessment that the various campaigns and the
 extensive local activism which our members are involved in are having an
 impact.

 "However, this campaign of harassment and arrests will not deter our
 party members and our supporters from continuing with their activism,
 nor will it disrupt the party in any way.

 "In fact, it will have the reverse effect - it will encourage our
 members to continue and increase the levels of political work that they
 are engaged in on a daily basis."


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>>>>>> Labour party in crisis


 The chairman of the 26-County Labour Party Colm Keaveney has called for
 a special party conference amid upheaval within the organisation,
 founded by Irish socialist heroes James Connolly and Jim Larkin, over
 its support for a swingeing right-wing Fine Gael budget.

 Mr Keaveney voted against the coalition government on the Social Welfare
 Bill last night, including a range of cuts to child benefit and respite
 care, and was immediately expelled from the Labour Parliamentary Party.

 Despite intense public anger at austerity measures directed against the
 poorest and weakest members of society, Keaveney was the only government
 TD to vote against the Budget. But there have been reports of secret
 disquiet among government back benche.

 Meanwhile, there has been a furious response by the left-wing opposition
 parties Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance, and the independents.

 The Dublin parliament has been suspended twice amid rancourous exchanges
 between Fine Gael Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
 In one extraordinary scene on Thursday, the Sinn Fein TD Padraic Mac
 Lochlainn was refused entry to the Dail to cast his vote on the Budget,
 his path blocked by Leinster House staff.  On Wednesday, the Dail was
 suspended for 45 minutes because the Donegal Deputy refused to obey an
 order to leave the chamber by the Dail speaker, the Ceann Comhairle.

 Keaveney's decision to oppose his party in Thursday night's Budget vote
 took many pundits by surprise.  Others said he had little choice but to
 jump ship after coming under intense pressure from supporters in his
 rural constituency of Galway East TD, where he has campaigned on social
 justice issues.

 Joining a sizable group of former members of Labour parliamentary party
 now on opposition benches, he defended his desire to stay on as Labour
 chairperson.

 "The graceful thing to do is to honour the mandate I was given by the
 grassroots of the Labour Party and I said I would honour Labour values.
 It is a gift of the members of the Labour Party and not of the leader,"
 he said.

 "I will put myself in front of a conference if Eamon Gilmore believes
 that we need an early conference to talk about the chair. I think we
 need an early conference on the direction of the Labour Party."

 As he ordered references to Mr Keaveney to be removed from the party's
 website, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore declared his position as party chair was
 "untenable".

 Labour's Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte accused Mr Keaveney of
 "political narcissism" and "selfish acts of departure when the going
 gets tough".  And he insisted Labour TDs who voted for the budget had
 been "courageous".

 But Mr Keaveney said he had "deep misgivings" about the social aspects
 of the budget. Labour's Fine Gael Coalition partner was seeking "to
 become an Irish Tory party", he said. He was strongly critical of the
 cabinet 'gang of four' -- Kenny, Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael
 Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin -- who
 together control economic policy under the so-called 'Economic
 Management Council'.

 "They sprung an odious budget on people like me who are new to the Dail,
 new to budgets," he said. "I wasn't elected for this and it isn't what I
 promised."

 Mr Keaveney becomes the fifth of the 37 TDs returned for Labour in the
 general election to lose the party whip since the government was formed
 just 21 months ago, joining Roisin Shortall, Willie Penrose, Tommy
 Broughan and Patrick Nulty, all of whom have been similarly expelled.

 'ECONOMIC SELL-OUTS'

 Republican Sinn Fein's Des Dalton this week described the Labour Party
 as "willing collaborators in the political and economic sell-out of the
 Irish people".  He called on the trade union movement to drop its
 traditional strong links with the party to salvage its own credibility.

 Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald said the only surprise in Keaveney's move
 was the fact that "bar one" the Labour and Fine Gael deputies were
 "prepared stand over this budget".

 She accused Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore of making liars of his TDs because of
 the budget measures.

 She said the government intended rushing through cuts which, in real
 terms and real time, would cause real hardship to families, children and
 women.

 "They are the very sections of society that you solemnly promised
 protection to," she told him in Dail exchanges.

 Mr Gilmore, she said, had comprehensively made liars of his TDs,
 Ministers, senators and himself.

 When Leas [Deputy] Cheann Comhairle Michael Kitt said the word "lie"
 would have to be withdrawn, Ms McDonald said she would substitute
 "untruth" and "porky pie".

 PROPERTY TAX

 During a debate on the new property tax later, she warned the coalition
 government "intends to tax people from the womb to the tomb".

 She pointed to new figures which show that one in four residential
 homeowners in the 26 Counties are unable to make their monthly mortgage
 repayments, and said there were tens of thousands of additional
 homeowners who are making the monthly payments but were doing so "at
 huge personal cost".

 "We cannot even begin to imagine their stress at this time of the year
 as they try to make sure their kids have a half way decent Christmas,"
 she said.

 "So what's Fine Gael and Labour's response to this crisis? The
 introduction of a property tax! You actually couldn't make this stuff
 up.

 "Of course it's no skin off any Minister's nose - on a salary of 169
 grand a year they are well able to pay up.

 "But for the average family trying to keep their head above water this
 is an absolutely devastating blow."


-----------------------------------------------------------------------


>>>>>> Protestants decline as 'Northern Irish' increase


 The Protestant population is continuing to fall with the gap between the
 two religious traditions narrowing further.

 The 2011 census shows that 48 per cent of the resident population is
 either Protestant or brought up Protestant while 45 per cent is either
 Catholic or brought up Catholic.

 The figures represent a continued decrease in the north's Protestant
 population.

 In the 2001 census the proportion of Protestants stood at 53 per cent,
 compared to a Catholic population of 44 per cent.  Almost all the rise
 in the Catholic population can be accounted for by the relatively
 high rates of
 immigration in recent years. Polish speakers now make up almost 1%
 of the North's population.

 A breakdown based on religion will not be published until next year, but
 census chief Robert Beatty said the trends identified in the 2001 census
 were instructive as they had highlighted an ageing Protestant community.

 "If you look at the age profile of the Protestant people - those who
 belong or were brought up as Protestant - in 2001 and the age profile of
 the Catholics in 2001, given the older age profile of Protestants you
 would expect mortality to have a bigger effect on Protestants - more
 Protestants will die proportionately than Catholics," Mr Beatty said.

 "And also we have the [separate] publication of the school census which
 shows a Catholic majority in school-age children.

 "So if you bring those two together I think the expectation would have
 been a narrowing of the gap."

 Other factors include migration and an increase in those describing
 themselves as having no religion.

 A decade ago 3 per cent of people said they neither belonged to, nor had
 been brought up in, any religion but the figure has doubled with the
 highest proportion of those people living in North Down (12 per cent)
 and Carrickfergus (10 per cent).

 Almost 6 per cent of people belong to another Christian or
 Christian-related denominations while just under one per cent to other
 religions and philosophies such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.

 The census also shows that just 25% of residents consider themselves
 Irish only.

 The 2011 census contained a new question on national identity which
 showed that nearly as many people described themselves as 'Northern
 Irish' as 'Irish'.

 The census revealed that 40 per cent categorise themselves as British,
 25 per cent as Irish and 21 per cent as Northern Irish.

 Respondents could choose more than one national identity and of those
 who did 6 per cent described themselves as British and Northern Irish,
 one per cent Irish and Northern Irish and the same percentage picked all
 three -- British, Irish and Northern Irish. Five per cent categorised
 themselves as other.

 A breakdown of the figures relating identity and religious background
 should be available next year, with most interest around those who
 describe themselves as "Northern Irish".  It is thought this group could
 be influential in any constitutional change in Ireland, similar to those
 supporting further devolution ("Devo Max") over independence in
 Scotland's constitutional debate.

 The answers to the national identity question varied across the council
 areas.

 In Carrickfergus 62 per cent of people have a British-only national
 identity, followed by Ards at 59 per cent.

 In Derry, however, 52 per cent of residents consider themselves Irish,
 as do exactly half of Newry and Mourne residents while residents of
 Omagh (28 per cent), Down (27 per cent) and Strabane (27 per cent) are
 most likely to call themselves Northern Irish.

 The census also revealed that 59 per cent of people hold a British
 passport, 21 per cent have an Irish passport and 19 per cent do not hold
 a passport.

 Demographically, the North's population has increased by 7.5 per cent to
 1.811 million since the 2001 census.

 Sinn Fein has called for a border poll to be carried out in response to
 the results.

 Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy said there would be "claims and
 counterclaims" about what the national identity statistics mean "when it
 comes to the constitutional position of the north and what the
 population are for or against".

 "The way to have a definitive result for that question is to hold a
 border poll," he said.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------


>>>>>> Analysis: Change comes dropping slow. Oh so slow.


 By Jude Collins (judecollins.net)

 One minute you're up, next you're down. Peter Robinson was just hitting
 that expansive
 unionism-is-safe-with-us-and-Catholics-are-lining-up-at-our-door note
 when boom!  Mein gott, donner und blitzen!  What kind of democracy is
 this, that votes to not have a 365-day flag at City Hall?  This is a
 crisis, a political tsunami!.. Except. Don't the Chinese have the same
 word for crisis as for opportunity?  So let's send out 40,000 flyers and
 blame the whole thing on Naomi Long!  Perfect. We impress on the
 Shinners and their fellow-travellers that we're not going to have Our
 Flag tampered with and we fatally undermine your woman Long's
 Westminster seat! Great stuff. Get cracking, lads.

 So the lads got cracking, the back of City Hall became a bear-pit of
 sectarianism and mob rule, and a wee woman stuck her face up to a broken
 window and made  herself part of a hilarious video that has gone round
 the world. There will be a cost, of course, and not just for a damaged
 gate and a broken window.  Foreign firms will turn decidedly frosty at
 the notion they might want to invest in a place with such obvious
 nutters in it

 Oh dear. How can someone as shrewd as Robinson hatch a plan with such
 self-destruct potential? If he'd thought the thing through he'd have
 known that as soon as you say 'Demo - back gate of City Hall,' the rest
 of the script is already written. Remember when they came baying for
 Niall O Donnaighle's blood? Remember the protests against the
 Anglo-Irish Agreement, with the late George Seawright trying to scramble
 up the side of the back gate and the air thick with curses and missiles?
 Peter has lived through all that and yet he didn't see this coming. Or
 maybe he thought there'd be a wee bit of violence, which'd put the
 frighteners on the Shinners and the Stoops and that bloody woman Long's
 party.

 Certainly limited vision seems to afflict a lot of our unionist
 fellow-countrymen. Like, hasn't even one of them noticed how
 irrevocably, totally and absolutely drenched in Britishness the Belfast
 City Hall is?  And yet it's loyalists ( a  loyalist, Virginia, is a
 unionist with a Rangers scarf round his mouth) who spent the past week
 burning cars and pelting the police because their identity wasn't being
 given clear enough expression.. Maybe go to Specsavers, lads? You get to
 hoist your flag over City Hall 15 or is it 17 times a year.
 Nationalists, who are probably now a majority in Belfast, get to hoist
 their flag over City Hall...um... no times. Never. Never never never.
 Inside City Hall there are stained glass windows to King William III,
 Queen Victoria, the UDR, the RUC,  a bust of Carson, your woman Victoria
 out front again, all 11 feet of her. And in the city itself - clocks,
 hospitals, bridges, buildings, hospitals,  all bear the royal name.
 Belfast is knee-deep in royal and imperial memorials. So remind me
 again: whose identity is getting a hard time here?

 Most shameful of all is that disorder arose because  nationalists and
 republicans engaged in a democratic act of decision-making.  Remember
 when unionists used to lecture republicans about following the
 democratic political path?  Last week they did just that, as they voted
 in Belfast City Hall. Their reward? See above re burning cars, missiles
 at cops, demented screeches of 'No surrender!'  A police officer in her
 car has a petrol bomb thrown inside it. Peter says 'suspend' rather than
 'stop', because 'stop' would make him a tyrant.  And the census figures
 now suggest that in ten years' time, taigs will be in a majority in the
 state. That is, if they don't join the DUP, which Peter is confident a
 lot will want to do. Or should that be 'was confident'?


-----------------------------------------------------------------------


>>>>>> Analysis: Catholic tide can't be held back


 By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)


 It's not so the much the growth in the Catholic population revealed in
 yesterday's census figures that raised eyebrows. After all, it was tiny,
 just over one per cent, bringing it to 45 per cent. No, it was the sharp
 drop in the Protestant population down from 53 per cent to 48 per cent.
 Falling below that 50 per cent figure was a staggering psychological
 shock for unionists many of whom still have it fixed in their head that
 they amount to two thirds of the north's population.

 That's the real headline, the fact that the gap between the two
 communities has narrowed to 3 per cent. Given the experience of the
 disgusting political dishonesty and irresponsibility of unionist leaders
 over the years, reinforced by their performances over the past
 fortnight, it's too much to expect that they will propose any changes to
 deal with it.

 On the contrary, already within minutes of the census breakdown being
 revealed (and why does it take 18 months to crunch these figures for
 only 1.8 million?) unionists were clutching at percentages for people
 declaring themselves Irish (25 per cent) or northern Irish (21 per cent)
 and speculating about the religion (sic) of people who declared no
 religion. Wishful thinking. It doesn't, and won't mean they'll vote
 unionist. Never have in the past and after the behaviour of the DUP and
 their Little Sir Echoes in the UUP about flags, they certainly won't in
 the future.

 If he didn't have wind of the exact figures it looks as if Peter
 Robinson had some inkling of the dramatic narrowing of the gap when he
 spoke to his party conference last month. As you read here at the time
 he was trying not to startle the horses by trying to convince supporters
 that even if the number of Catholics was rising it didn't mean they
 wanted a united Ireland. What made the horses laugh was his suggestion
 they might vote unionist if unionists courted their vote. You can put
 any such notion to rest after Robinson's stance about marches last
 summer and his evident desperation over the flag wars his party
 councillors initiated with their inflammatory leaflet.

 It has all gone horribly wrong for him. If he imagined his chosen
 candidate could win East Belfast the attacks on Naomi Long and her
 steady, coherent, rational response to them may have guaranteed her the
 seat for life. His own party members have scuppered the ploy he had
 worked on of trying to separate religion from identity. Yes, of course
 you'll hear DUP people harping on about how many people declared
 themselves Irish as if that matters. What you won't hear until the next
 election is how many Catholics declared themselves unionist. The answer,
 if you want to know, is one per cent and how many of those were spoiled
 votes it's impossible to say.

 What all the parties will be poring over now are the figures for
 electoral wards because the truth is they know perfectly well
 yesterday's figures announce a huge sea change in the political
 landscape which has been coming for decades. The rise in Catholic
 numbers is not uniform across the north. It's like a tide coming in,
 long thin fingers rippling in between rocks in some places, bigger
 volumes rushing in faster to cover other parts of the beach and
 eventually the water covers the whole beach except for little outcrops
 like Ballymena and Larne.

 What you've been watching in the past fortnight is Robinson acting the
 part of King Canute with Nesbitt playing the role of Baldric, all mouth
 and no trousers, trying to halt the tide of change coming in. You wait
 in vain for a wee bit of political honesty, of straightforwardness, a
 forthright admission that the terms of trade in politics here have
 changed. Instead Robinson lets his minions in the assembly try to
 inflame the situation by proposing changes to flag-waving at Stormont.

 And what do they want to do? Impose their will on another political
 community when the overall gap between the two communities is 3 per cent
 but west of the Bann it's 80 to 20 in favour of nationalists in many
 places. The logic of Robinson's inaction is to leave his fellow
 unionists there high and dry as his forebears did when they shafted
 their kith and kin in 1921.

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