Irish Whitefish Fleet to be downsized as EU Fishing Conference takes place in Luxembourg

June 23, 2008

The fuel crisis facing fishermen across Europe will dominate the agenda when EU fisheries ministers meet in Luxembourg later today.

Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg is expected to outline details of a financial package agreed by the EC to help fishermen struggling due to these costs.

Ireland’s Agriculture Minister, Brendan Smith, has also promised to also seek new regulations to prevent the import of illegal and unregulated fish into the EU market.

Meanwhile, Junior Agriculture Minister Tony Killeen has approved grant aid of more than €41m for the decommissioning of a further 46 Irish fishing vessels.

Approved applicants will have until July 18th to accept the offer, which is the latest stage in the Government’s Whitefish Decommissioning Scheme.

Fishermen lodged 69 applications before the April deadline for the first phase of the scheme — with 46 of the vessels deemed to have met the criteria.

It had been anticipated as many as 75 of the older and larger whitefish vessels could be removed from the waters under the plan to make the struggling fishing sector more viable.

Under the scheme, some 46 boats over 18 metres in length and with a combined capacity of 7,590 gross tonnes — an average size of 165 gross tonnes a vessel — will be exited from the whitefish fleet over the coming weeks.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, these vessels represent 68% of the overall removal target of 11,140 gross tonnes set for the schemes. These are in addition to the 27 whitefish boats which were “decommissioned” in 2005-2006.

The Department has given approved applicants until July 18th to accept the offer. If they do so they must surrender their licences by September 12th 2008.

The 2008 scheme, administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, was based on a recommendation from the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group.



EU Defence Plans will advance the moment Lisbon is ratified

June 10, 2008

Irish Government asked for discretion on new French plans for European defence.

A “confidential” of the Barber dated from May 21st states that “the white book on defence and security, which defines the big strategical orientations of France for next fifteen years, will not be made public before June 12th”.

The plan of the White Book the parliamentarians in France can consult the copy, is classified in effect ”confidential defence “.

According to The Barber, the postponement of its public presentation has as object to avoid scaring the Irish, very tied to their neutrality, in some weeks of referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon: ” It will be ready before this date, but the Irish government, which organizes a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon that day, asked in Paris to remain discreet. Dublin fears that the parties of the white book dedicated to the strengthening of Europe of defence nourish an antiEuropean vote and cause to fail referendum “.

It is the third time, after the reform of the European budget deferred in September and that of a report in the European Parliament on the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, deferred also to June, that it has been decided to be put back after the 12th June Irish referendum, “a subject which would risk awakening the attention of the only people called to pronounce on the European treaty.”

This appears to be main outcome of a confidential briefing by Daniel Mulhall, Director-General on the EU at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to a British diplomat Elizabeth Green.

The timing of the Irish vote (presumably mirroring a similar, though parliamentary, timetable in the UK) has been pushed forward to June 12 to avoid any inconvenient discussion over the implementation of the Treaty when France takes on the EU’s rotating presidency later this year.

“Mulhall said a date in October would have been easier from a procedural point of view. But the risk of unhelpful developments during the French Presidency – particularly related to defence – were just too great. Sarkozy was completely unpredictable,”  wrote Green.

The French will this autumn bring forward Treaty plans for increased European defence cooperation. Probably involving Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Poland and Italy (possibly with Hungary and Lithuania too), the new structured “European army” will be organised around euro-style convergence criteria such as defence spending. This is a dynamite issue in neutral Ireland, earlier moves to EU military cooperation in the Nice Treaty were blamed for a Irish referendum defeat in June 2001.

The memorandum notes (something that everyone just “knows” in Brussels), that the European Commission, and other EU institutions have a moratorium on new proposals that could spark debate – and we don’t want that, do we? Plans for an health services directive, harmonisation of corporate tax calculations, the EU’s COSI interior security committee, a job description for the new President and much, much more are all on hold – until after the summer, and ratification, are finished.

The memo is also littered (according to the extracts) with contemptuous references to the capacity of Irish people to decide on an EU Treaty that is largely incomprehensible to the lay reader”. “Most people would not have the time to study the text,” it concludes at one point.

During the French referendum, copies of the EU Constitution, a weighty and deeply dull document, became best-sellers as voters rushed to read it. Valéry Giscard D’Estaing, the Constitution’s architect, actually blamed Jacques Chirac, French President of the day, for encouraging people to pick it up. The discovery of this document was felt by many voters to be an aggression and a threat. It consolidated the negative attitude that the Constitution was too ‘complicated’, that reading it was reserved to specialists,” he wrote in Le Monde two weeks after the No vote.


(With Thanks to):……

US Government uses disortation of official statistics to conceal disasterous Economic Policies

June 5, 2008

American political analyst Kevin Phillips states that successive US administrations have undermined the economy by constant de-regulation. These include unparalleled credit card debts, the expansion of financial industries such as hedge funds, ballooning national debts, and deliberately altering statistics like inflation and unemployment to mask the accurate picture. Phillips has written a new book entitled: Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism.

Phillips directs attention to three statistical measures: the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI), the quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the monthly unemployment figures. Phillips convincingly demonstrates that the real unemployment rate in the United States is between 9 and 12 %, not the 5 % or less that is officially claimed. The real rate of inflation is not 2 or 3 percent, but instead, between 7 and 10 %. Real economic growth has been about 1 percent, not the 3-4 % officially claimed during the most recent Wall Street and housing crash.

Phillips argues that the US has massive debts, both public and private, up about 700% since the early 1980s, with $50 trillion worth of credit market debt, which is tradable debt. Government debts is not the problem, it is private sector debt, both financial and corporate and in the consumer sector with credit cards and then mortgage debt. US debt takes up 340 % of the gross domestic product. Debt only reached such levels —and it was less— in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Another problem is the collapse of home prices. There are now predictions that there will be a 15 to 20 % decline in home prices in the United States, the greatest since the Great Depression.

With global commodity inflation, particularly in the Oil and food sectors, consumers are as concerned about the price of milk as they are about the price of oil. This is a global problem, but it exposes as baseless the US Government’s pronouncements that there is no inflation problem in the US.

Soon after John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, he appointed a committee to recommend possible changes in the measurement of official joblessness. What soon followed was the use of the category of “discouraged workers” to exclude all those who had stopped looking for jobs because they weren’t available.

During the administration of Lyndon Johnson, the federal government began using the concept of a “unified budget” that combined Social Security with other expenditures, thus allowing the current Social Security surplus to disguise growing budget deficits.

President Nixon tried to tackle the “problem” of statistics by proposing that the Labor Department simply publish whichever was the lower figure between seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment numbers. This was deemed too brazen an attempt at manipulation and was never implemented.

Under Nixon’s Federal Reserve chairman, Arthur Burns, however, the concept of “core inflation” was devised. This became the means of excluding certain areas like food and energy, on grounds of the “volatility” of these sectors. The suggestion was that these prices jumped and then sometimes fell, so that it was best to remove them from the prices surveyed. In fact, food and energy together accounted for an enormous portion of spending for most sections of the working class and, as Phillips states, these two sectors are “now verging on another 1970s-style price surge.”

By January 2008, the price of imported goods had increased 13.7 % compared with a year earlier, the greatest leap since the statistics began in 1982. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have soared by more than 30 % since the beginning of this year.

The Reagan administration addressed itself to the problem of housing in the inflation index. An “Owner Equivalent Rent” measurement was created to artificially lower the cost of housing — from a purely abstract statistical standpoint. Under Reagan, Phillips also points out, the armed forces began to be included in the labor force and among the employed, thus reducing the unemployment rate, even though these same members of the military would in many cases have no employment in civilian life.

George H.W. Bush and his Council of Economic Advisers proposed the recalculation of inflation statistics to give greater weight to the service and retail sectors and, again, reduce the official rate of inflation.

This change was actually implemented during the Clinton administration. Clinton also carried out other changes, including a reduction in the monthly household sampling from 60,000 to 50,000, a decrease that was concentrated in the inner cities and had the effect of reducing official jobless figures among African-Americans.

The Clinton years were an especially active time for imaginative tinkering with economic data. Three other “adjustments” in the Consumer Price Index were implemented under the Democratic administration: product substitution, geometric weighting, and hedonic adjustment.

Product substitution means that, for example, if steak gets too expensive, individuals substitute hamburger. Steak is simply removed from the typical food basket even though it was used in the past to track price changes.

Geometric weighting is defined as lower weighting in the price index for those goods and services that are rising most rapidly in cost, on the assumption that they are consumed in lower quantities. This may of course be true, but the aim is to reduce the inflation figure, covering up the fact that some items are no longer affordable for tens of millions of people.

Phillips is particularly scathing about “hedonic adjustment,” also implemented during Clinton’s presidency. In this concept, the supposedly improved quality of some products and services is translated into a reduction in their effective cost. This is another blatent attempt to reduce official inflation. “Reversing the theory, however, the declining quality of goods or services should adjust effective prices and therefore add to inflation,” Phillips writes, “but that side of the equation generally goes missing.”

Phillips explains that every single one of the statistical revisions implemented since the 1960’s have become permanent. Once initiated by a Democratic or Republican administration, they were carried over to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies no matter who was the current President in office at the time.


Major Deficiencies with Electoral Register

June 3, 2008

    The Irish government has major difficulties with the electoral register as a result of problems with a €12 million update to the electoral register in 2006 that initially removed 500,000 people from the list. Former Minister for the Environment and Local Government Dick Roche launched the upgrade amid concerns that the lists were out of date and open to abuse.

    After the Department of the Environment estimated that 170,000 of the 500,000 removed could be entitled to vote, Mr Roche gave local authorities further time to update their registers. Subsequently more than 84,000 names were added to the electoral register. In 2006, constituents expressed concern about the removal of families and entire estates from the register. Environment minister Dick Roche, who had responsibility for the register, admitted that he knew of an entire estate in his Wicklow constituency that was erased for no apparent reason.

    Meath Fianna Fail TD Johnny Brady who stood in the new Meath West three-seater constituency came across huge numbers of voters in older communities who were wiped off the register without notice. ‘‘It’s crazy that, just because someone wasn’t at home, they would be moved off the register.
    Some of the field officers who called to houses decided that if they were not at home, they were taken off,” said Brady.

    ‘‘There is one estate of old people – these are people who were on the register for years – that were removed. The authority says they would have left letters informing them, but some people are telling me they didn’t get any letters.”

    The Department of the Environment state that about 170,000 people in 26 county council areas who should not have been deleted were removed. These figures did not include Meath County Council. Dublin City Council believed that up to 20 % of its deletions – 100,000 people – were ‘‘inadvertently’’ knocked off the register. South Dublin County Council reported that about 13,000 people – up to 33 % of its deletions – were ‘‘unintentional’’.
    Fingal County Council said 3,000 people – 9 % of its deletions – could reappear on the final register, and Cork County Council was aware of 6,000 corrections to its 40,000 deletions.

    Discrepancies emerged between figures on the draft register of electors and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimate of the adult population figures, which was carried out ahead of the electoral register update. A shortfall of 11,000 – or one-third of Waterford’s adult population – was found in one study comparing the draft register with the CSO figures. Cork city was missing almost 12,000 voters; Cork County had an excess of 23,531 voters, while Dublin was missing 80,000 voters. In Louth and Donegal, there were as many as 11,000 more voters than the CSO figures suggested there should be, though this trend is not unusual for border counties.

    The final register raised questions about the number of dead people not taken off the register by local authorities, and the strong likelihood of fraud in past elections.
    In Waterford alone, death accounted for 30 % of the deletions (1,400 persons) and 13.6 % (7,115) in Dublin. A spokesman for Minister Roche described the opposition’s claims that the government was disenfranchising people as ‘‘hysterical nonsense’’.

    Most of the electoral discrepancies were in urban constituencies. The official figures showed that the major urban authorities have a lower level of registration. In Dublin, it stood at 80 % , Cork 87 %, Galway 76 % and Limerick 81 %, while the rate of registration in Waterford was as low as 67 %.

    ‘‘There have definitely been mistakes with certain councils where people have inadvertently been taken off, but it is a very big exercise to get a voting register of 3.1 million people right,” said a spokesman for the Minister. He said that the 170,000 deleted had been informed that they had until December 9 to register. He noted that ‘‘in all of this, there has to be a form of civic responsibility as well’’.

    Minister Roche noted a estimated 300,000 ‘‘ghost voters’’. These were either deceased or duplicated on the register, increasing the risk of electoral fraud. He said he would introduce changes that would require voters to use their PPS (personal public service) numbers at polling stations in the next general election as part of a major overhaul of the register. Roche asked his officials to draw up a Green Paper as part of a discussion process to establish an electoral commission, which will take responsibility for all areas of voting, including administration and election rules. ‘‘There is no doubt that the electoral register has been allowed to fall into disrepair, but after this exercise, we will have the best and most accurate electoral register,’’ Roche said.

    Reports indicate that the electoral register was still highly inaccurate at the time of the 2007 general election, as County Councils struggled to cope with the level of changes.

It emerged that the extension to the deadline only came after former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern intervened in the controversy, which had been ongoing for several months. It had earlier been suggested the register would be as much as 20 per cent inaccurate. Despite the December 9th 2006 extension, thousands of people who had found they were not on the register after checking the website were told by their County Councils that they would not make it on in time to vote, as they could not deal with the volume of calls. Parts of Dublin, Cork and Wicklow had the highest number of people struck off the register. It emerged that a number of British subjects living in Ireland have been designated as Irish citizens as a result of the rushed amendments.

    After the May 2007 General Election, Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea conceded that there were major problems with the electoral register. Mr O’Dea said he was inundated with complaints from his own constituents about problems with voting.

I just can’t understand why the register is in such a mess but obviously there are huge problems. My office is lierally full of messages about the register,” he told Today FM’s Matt Cooper this morning. “I met people who have been voting in this constituency for the last 20 years who were taken off the register and were refused their right to vote for what reason I can’t understand. I just can’t understand why the register is in such a mess but obviously there are huge problems with the register. I have to concede that.” Mr O’Dea topped the poll in his Limerick constituency with almost 20,000 first-preference votes.

Minister Roche stated in 2007 year that the protracted process of updating the register had been a success and promised that there would be extra checks against electoral fraud on polling day in 2007.

“What we’ve ended up with is the most up-to-date register for a quarter of a century. It’s also the best register in Europe at the moment, and the basis for further improvements,” he said in February. However, he said there was “no doubt” that some voters were still registered more than once.

In 2008, in Co. Longford, the County Council could lose control over its electoral register in an effort to avoid serious mistakes and instances of fraud on voters’ lists. A report commissioned by the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Heritage and Local Government and scheduled for publication over the coming months is expected to raise serious question marks over the priority local councils such as Longford give to the register.

Now, the Oireachtas Committee which is chaired by Fianna Fail Laois-Offaly TD Sean Fleming found that “serious” errors have occurred due to “the lack of priority afforded” by local authorities to the registers’ upkeep.


Wiped out: The great voter fiasco
Sunday, December 03, 2006 – By Niamh Connolly


O’Dea concedes register ‘a mess’

Patrick Logue

© 26/05/2007

Council facing prospect of losing control over electoral register

Published Date: 11 April 2008

By Liam CosgrovePublished Date: 11 April 2008

By Liam Cosgrove

More than 500,000 names removed from electoral register: