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Five Must See Irish Acts in 2013

The-Strypes-300x192The Irish music scene has become a diversified space in recent years. We’re famous for our traditional and country music, with the odd U2, Thin Lizzy or Westlife thrown in the mix. But recently a wave of new young talent has burst onto the music scene.

We look at the top five Irish acts you must catch this year. Move aside Bono… Continue reading

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Humanists Offer Fresh Alternative To Traditional Ceremonies

HAILast month, a bill was passed through all stages in the Dail here in Ireland that will allow ‘celebrants’ to carry out humanist wedding and funeral ceremonies in Ireland.  The Humanist Association of Ireland has been campaigning for this bill to be passed for over a decade and they hope that it will be signed into law by the President before the summer. Before the bill was passed couples that sought a humanist ceremony would have had to combine it with a civil ceremony but now couples can legally be married by humanist ‘celebrants’. Announcing the breakthrough on their website, the HAI said, “This is a major victory for the Humanist Association of Ireland which has been campaigning for this change for the past decade…In addition to wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, Humanist celebrants conduct naming ceremonies to celebrate the arrival of a child into a family. They also conduct funerals that aim to balance the sense of loss with a celebration of a life ended.” Continue reading

North Africa “A Magnet for Jihadists” Claims Cameron

 

dcDavid Cameron’s recent parliamentary address following the end of the hostage situation in Algeria discussed the ever increasing volatility of the north-western region of Africa. The recent stirrings in the region suggested a migrated threat; much of the Jihadist threat used to stem from places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and still do to some extent, but Cameron now feels that the region in Africa is “a magnet for Jihadists”. Continue reading

CIRA Threatens To Murder Irish Personnel Serving In British Forces

 

CIRAThe recrudescence of rioting factions and paramilitary groups in this country should be a concern for all. In recent weeks we have seen rioting in the North against the decision by councillors in Belfast to only occasionally fly the Union Flag. And in the same week Continuity IRA prisoners in Portlaoise prison made a statement stating that any Irish citizen that serves in the British military is a ‘legitimate target’ for their organisation. A planned Loyalist protest this week in Dublin was scrapped but only because it was hurried and not planned. The group was to ‘sarcastically’ call for Leinster House to lower the Irish flag in a reaction against the Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the Union flag on certain days of the year.

The rioters in the North have caused unpardonable infrastructural damage, injured and maimed many PSNI officers trying to keep peace and brought parts of Belfast to a standstill. There has not been a night this week in which some form of rioting has not occurred in the city of Belfast. PSNI  officers have been at the forefront of the mayhem and have been exemplary. Rioting thugs have burned out many vehicles in the city including a double-decker bus in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey and have single-handedly caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage. Reports also suggest that the thugs who have closed off roads in protest have refused access to local individuals trying to go about their business. A number of disgusting reports have come to light; a local GP being refused passage to get to a cancer patients house; an elderly man refused access to the area where he lived even though his terminally ill wife awaited his return; and other reports of thugs attacking random cars as they passed through their imposed blockades.

The situation in the North had been improving but the recent snag has suggested a return to high tensions between factions.

The other issue of concern regards Irish citizens serving in the British Armed Forces. In a disgusting statement from Continuity IRA inmates in Portlaoise prison it was said that such Irish citizens were targets for murder. Inmates stated that “The moment you don a British uniform you become a legitimate target for the IRA”. The outlawed organisation has never so directly incited the murder of Irish citizens but recent statistics have suggested a rise in the number of Irish citizens joining the British Armed Forces. The number is still relatively low; around 400 Irish citizens serve in the forces. Many of them have served overseas fighting the fanatical Jihadist group the Taliban but now face a threat when they return home to their own soil.

In December Gardai foiled a plot by the Continuity IRA to assassinate an Irishman serving in the British army while he was home for the Christmas period. The man was supposed to visit family in Limerick but was advised not to return home because of the serious threat to his life. The would-be murderers had befriended the man, who is in his 20’s, on Facebook months beforehand and had acquired a gun to carry out the assassination. The sinister development of the CIRA’s decision to actively seek to carry out such murders is one of major concern.

The British Ministry of Defence duly condemned the statement, “We condemn any threat of mindless violence against members of the British Armed Forces. We are committed to protecting them and all Irish personnel are being informed about this specific threat. The statement made by the Continuity IRA is a matter for the Garda Síochána”. Gardai are continuing to investigate the threats and warn any Irish citizen serving in the British Armed Forces to be aware of such a threat.

By Shuki Byrne

The Religious Have Their Say On Final Day of Oireachtas Abortion Committee

 

 shThe Oireachtas Committee yesterday held their final day of hearings regarding abortion in this country.

Representatives from several Christian sects, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church, along with Ali Selim from the Islamic Cultural Center,  Rabbi Zalman of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation and Michael Nugent from Atheist Ireland, convened in the morning session to give statements regarding their respective organisation’s stance on abortion.

The morning’s proceedings began with a statement from Christopher Jones of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, who stated that “Abortion…is gravely immoral in all circumstances”. The representatives for the Catholic Church conjectured that if the Govt. decided to legislate for the X case, in which a young teenage girl was raped and consequently impregnated, then that would pave the way in the future for women to seek abortions unrestricted. It was stated that:

“Reassurances that the Government’s decision to legislate for the X case will lead to very limited abortion in Ireland are not reliable. It will be open to anyone who wants to avail of abortion on the wider grounds provided for by the X case to challenge any attempt to limit these grounds in legislation and/or regulation through the Courts.”

The underlying message is that abortion is morally wrong in any situation and allowing abortion at any level will inevitably lead to abortion on demand.

Church of Ireland representative Michael Jackson and Methodist Church of Ireland representative Heidi Good both opposed abortion on demand and realized that the issue is contentious and very complex. Although opposed to abortion on demand Jackson and Good both recognized that there is some cases where an abortion would be permissible, namely if there was a ‘real and substantial risk to the life of the mother’. Trevor Morrow of the Presbyterian Church stated that his church were ‘strongly pro-life’ and believed the unborn foetus should be treated as a person, but insinuated that if there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother then an abortion may be what is required. Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Center reiterated much of what was said before him and stated that “Abortion could be conducted as the last and only alternative to protect the mother’s life”. Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland enjoined the committee to legislate based on ‘human rights and compassion’…and not on religious doctrines.’ Nugent bypassed all dialogue about the legal and medical aspect of abortion, expressing the view that the decision should be entirely that of the pregnant woman’s and her medical team, and said:

“Please respect that individual ethical decisions should be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others. Please respect that individual ethical decisions about pregnancy should be made by a pregnant woman in consultation with her medical team.”

Refuting the decision to automatically include religious institutions in the debate Nugent went on to say the religious must be respected but they should ‘not impose their own religious values on pregnant women who do not share those religious beliefs’.

What is wholly apparent is that the religious agree on much more than they disagree on. But there are some discrepancies. The Catholic representatives tip-toed precariously around the issue of rape and incest, refusing categorically to state that the stance of the church meant that a pregnancy as a result of rape or incest is still a valid pregnancy and should remain. Ali Selim was agreed upon this, also. He stated that:

“Women who have victims of rape deserve due sympathy and help. But a child conceived in this unfortunate situation still has the right to live. The continuity of this pregnancy of course places a heavy burden on the mother, which may drive her, likewise many other economic and social scenarios, to think of terminating this pregnancy. But killing the foetus is not the right solution. In fact it is a crime against this innocent human being.”

Selim believes the foetus, however conceived, is sacred and should be protected.

Following the representative statements the committee was opened up for questions from TD’s and Senators, and the Catholic representatives were duly pressed on clearing up their stance on the X case. Christopher Jones, the second representative of Catholic Bishops, expressed regret over cases of pregnancy following rape but reiterated that the denial of life in these circumstances is still not condonable. There was also much dialogue on the issue of suicide. Rabbi Zalman stated that the Jewish stance on this is one of compassion; if there is risk to the life of the woman it must be addressed. The outspoken Ivan Bacik, a Labour member of the Seanad, wanted to know by what right the Catholic Church felt they could advise on such an issue regarding pregnancy and a woman’s body, their institution being made up exclusively of celibate men. Marc MacSharry makes a point that only 3% of pregnant women were deemed suicidal last year, a relatively low number he contends. The Methodist representative Heidi Good took issue with this and said probably the most memorable thing of the morning session.

She stated that the need for legislation was absolutely necessary and that if only 3% of women were deemed suicidal it would be wrong not to legislate for that 3%. She said “This country was founded upon respect for the individual… If there was only 1 murder in the last 100 years we would still have to legislate about murder. If one pregnant woman in the next 10 years is deemed to be suicidal it would be wrong of us not to legislate for that.” There will be much rumination in the following weeks regarding this contentious issue. With an ongoing investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar and this weeks proceedings, Ireland is likely to begin legislating in the near future.

By Shuki Byrne.

3 Day Oireachtas Committee on Abortion Begins Today

LHThe Oireachtas committee is today gearing up for 3 days of meetings, featuring expert legal and medical groups, to discuss the issue of abortion in Ireland. Pro-choice and pro-life organisations will also have an opportunity to lobby their cause. The issue has been propelled back onto center stage following the death of Savita Halapannavar in November. It has been an extremely divisive issue in this country for decades and because of governments precariously tip-toeing around the subject it has inevitably not been comprehensively addressed.

Topics of debate in the Oireachtas will centre on the legal issues of abortions in Ireland, on the medical aspect of the issue and the morality surrounding it. The imperative aim of the 3 day intensive meetings is to clear up the grey areas surrounding the legal facets of the eligibility, or lack-thereof, of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The law now states that abortion is illegal in Ireland. In Ireland abortion is currently prohibited under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act 1861.

Under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees to respect the mother in national laws. The 1861 Act puts women and doctors in fear of criminal prosecution regarding abortion. In the X case in 1992, the Supreme Court held that abortion was lawful in Ireland, if there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. No legislation regulating that right was ever enacted, a fact regretted by the Supreme Court in its 1992 Judgment.

Each day the committee will hear the arguments and evidences from the respective parties involved; today (08/01/13) the medical advisors will be heard in the Oireachtas. The committee will hear from the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Council in the morning. The second and third sessions will involve medical evidence from expert medical doctors from hospitals around the country. The fourth and final session will entail advice from Niall Behan, CEO of the Irish Family Planning Association, The Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and advice from Maternal Death Inquiry Ireland.

The Oireachtas will then hear evidence and advice regarding the legislation surrounding the issue of abortion in Ireland. The day will be a rigorous one because of the contentious debate around the legality of seeking an abortion and the contentious court cases that have rocked Ireland in the recent decades, most recently in 2010. Back in 2010 3 women went to the European Court of Human Rights with a complaint about the grey area surrounding the eligibility of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The 3 women had traveled to the UK to seek an abortion for reasons of health and/or well-being as it was unclear whether any of them were eligible for one in Ireland. The motion was brought to the ECHR over 2 years ago and the question remains why it was put on the back burner instead of being addressed there and then. The aims of the day will undoubtedly be to clear up the muddied waters and provide concise advice about further legislation.

The final day of the proceedings sees religious groups, pro-life groups and pro-choice groups have their say. Various Christian sects, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, take up the vast majority of the morning session, with the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and Atheist Ireland (a very late addition) offered the chance of submitting advice. Atheist Ireland were only recently invited by the Health Committee to attend the session and a post on their website states that, “Ideally, there should be no need to hear any specifically religious or nonreligious ethical views, but if they are hearing religious ethical views, then they should also hear nonreligious ethical views.” The decision to invite the group will be a bone of contention for the other religious groups in attendance, as they see the moral landscape of the issue of abortion as primarily religious. The group hopes to put forward their views regarding the issue from a humanist and a secular perspective:

Our policy is that society should address ethical issues based on human rights and compassion, and applying reason to empirical evidence, and not on religious doctrines; and that individual ethical decisions should where possible be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others… Also, as one example, Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady has recently asked people to tell their public representatives that the right to life is conferred on human beings by ‘the creator’. We want to explain why we believe the Government should not legislate or regulate on the basis of imposing such theological ideas on citizens who do not share them.

Although the group rejects the general decision to seek advice from religious groups the Atheist population will be glad that they have been asked to contribute to this contentious debate.

The final 2 sessions of the day will encompass advice from pro-life and pro-choice groups, and will hear advice and evidence from the Director of Action on X, a group that have been actively campaigning for the government to legislate on this issue. The decision to split the days up into medical, legal and ‘moral’ is a telling one. It illustrates the tendency in this country to afford religious groups the sole right to moralize for the rest of us; the first day is medical, the second legal and the third ‘moral’. The group Atheist Ireland would contend that the moral landscape of the question should be addressed within the legal and medical framework, and should not be afforded to religious groups.

Enda Kenny recently said that Fine Gael remains a ‘pro-life’ political party. The majority of Fine Gael backbenchers maintain that Ireland will remain a country in which abortion is illegal but they face a backlash from the Irish public who were outraged when Savita Halappanavar died in November. The public show of solidarity with Savita’s husband and the general indignation that this could happen in our country in the 21st century was wholly apparent. If Fine Gael stubbornly insist upon a pro-life stance following the reaction of the public they look set to drop in popularity. Popularity among the coalitionists is low following the budget in December and this will only cause Fine Gael a further setback. However, if Labour manages to push through with their goals regarding abortion here in Ireland it might give them a much-needed boost. Support for Labour is waning following their poor efforts to halt Fine Gael cutting benefits in the recent budget.

A Look at the Degeneration of Mali: the Military Coup and Barbarism

Islamic Jihadist groups have capitalized on Mali’s weak political situation to place themselves, by force, in power in northern Mali. In an area as vast as France the Islamic rebels have imposed strict Shariah, and as a result, it is reported that almost half a million people have been forced to flee their homes. Those who have stayed are subject to the imposed Islamic law; women are advised to stay indoors, smoking is punishable by whipping, alcohol is forbidden, theft (supposed) is punishable by amputation of the hand, which happened to a man some 2 weeks ago in Ansongo, and adultery is punishable by stoning to death, a fate which befell a couple some weeks ago in Bamako. The parents had a number of children, the youngest just 6 months…

As if forcing your barbaric religious law upon a peaceful region wasn’t awful enough, the group Ansar Dine recently demolished an ancient mosque in the historic city of Timbuktu. In what was reminiscent of the destruction of the OldBridge in Mostar, Bosnia, by Catholic Croats, members of the Islamic group, armed with axes, destroyed the building that was of great cultural importance to the region. “It’s very simple: it doesn’t correspond to the rules of Islam…What doesn’t correspond to Islam, we will correct”, said Sanda Ould Boumana, a spokesperson for Ansar Dine.

 

The Military and the Coup

A military coup in the south of the country in March has meant that the Islamic groups, Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), have been able to descend upon the region and impose Shariah. The military staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mali and to drive President Amadou Toumani Toure into exile. The coup left the northern territories vulnerable and the Islamic groups seized upon this niche. Some have said that Mali was a beacon of hope in Africa, the government being democratic and secular, but the truth is that the country was wrought with corruption. The question is posed whether it is justifiable to overthrow a democratically elected government by force? This raises some rather thorny questions; is it justifiable to leave such a corrupt government in place?  The trend of military coups has been an exponential prevalence in the past century. More often than not corrupt governments are replaced by a newly appointed government, but a new government with pro-military individuals taking seats in cabinet. And some may suggest this is what is happening in Mali. On Monday (20/08) a new government was appointed. Of the 31 ministers, 5 of them are perceived to be close associates of coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo.

In an article in March for Al Jazeera William Moseley wrote of the transition of the government following the coup, “If we are charitable and assume the best, then Sanogo may be a well-intentioned subaltern who unwillingly led a coup because he was fed up with rampant corruption, improper support of the military, and the declining welfare of the Malian people… Sadly, however, the ends do not justify the means. Coups are steely, double-edged swords, as one violent transition of power opens the door for yet another transition of power”.

The timing is somewhat suspicious. An upcoming election was due to be held some months after the coup. Instead of a coup, the military could have focused their efforts on eliminating the threat of militant Islamic groups in the north and let the civilian masses vote in the upcoming free elections. Their decision to undercut the government early may well suggest their intention to increase their influence in the cabinet.

The Northern Situation

Whatever the intentions of the military the threat of religious fundamentalism in the north is critical. The newly appointed government has stated the main concern is the situation in the north. The situation is indeed urgent; the groups, mainly Ansar Dine which is aligned with the Taliban, controls almost two-thirds of the country. The military commander of Ansar Dine, Omar Ould Hamaha, has said, “When we have finished conquering France, we will come to the USA, we will come to London and conquer the whole world…The banner of Muhammed will be raised from where the sun rises in the east to where it sets in the west”. The democratic and secular country of Mali has some work to do to rid its northern territory of these barbaric terrorist who hold imposed governance over the people and who seek to spread their horrific law. The newly appointed government of Mali also needs to counteract deep seeded corruption within the cabinet and may need to seek external assistance to aid them in the re-generation of their country, and the fight against barbarism in the north.

Shuki Sadan Byrne (22/08/2012).

Find Willaim Moseley’s Article Here: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/03/2012331124714249529.html

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