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No-one comes out well in Ireland’s political posturing

IRELAND-POLITICS/Poker, chess, chicken. Pick whichever analogy you like: there’s a high stakes game being played in Irish politics and it’s not a game their international partners much like. Since Ireland said on Sunday it would be asking for help from the EU and IMF –  little more than  two days ago, though it seems like a lifetime — the pieces of the political game have moved almost without cease. Ironically, though, the net result may be little different to what was forecast before the tumultuous events of the past 48 hours: a four-year austerity plan outlining 15 billion euros in savings, a by-election Fianna Fail are set to lose, the harshest budget on record on December 7, and an election in early 2011.

It started with the government’s bailout appeal. What should have led to a few weeks of EU/IMF negotiations was immediately overshadowed by the surprise move of the junior coalition party, the Greens, who stunned voters – and, it appears, their partners Fianna Fail themself, itself, when it announced it would not continue to be part of the government once 2011 budget measures were implemented.

Next move came from two politicians that few knew were even playing in the game: the independent lawmakers on whom the government relies for parliamentary majority. Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry threw the success of the budget – and the immediate future of the government – into doubt after saying they might not back the budget after all. This threw the ball to opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour who took it, ran with it, and demanded a snap election.

Back to Prime Minister Brian Cowen, whose poker face kept everyone guessing for several tense hours. He was to make a statement, the government reported. The Twittersphere ignited with rumours he would resign, markets wobbled. But no, Cowen stood firm and swatted the ball  back to the opposition. I’ll call an election, he said, but not before the budget is passed and implemented — effectively daring Fine Gael and Labour to vote it down and so be branded unpatriotic and self-interested in the process.

from Breakingviews:

Irish politics could complicate EU bailout

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

LONDON -- Ireland's politics could complicate its bailout with potentially devastating consequences. Even though the ruling coalition has applied for financial aid, political turmoil means it may not survive long enough to negotiate a deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. With years of painful austerity on the way, the desire for a political fresh start is understandable. But any delay could further undermine confidence in the country's fragile banks.

from The Great Debate:

It’s time for a wider European policy debate

AUSTRALIA/By Mohamed El-Erian
The opinions expressed are the author's own.

It is safe to say that there is broad agreement on what is most desirable for solving the Irish crisis -- namely a mix of domestic policies and external financing finely calibrated to enable the country to grow strongly, create jobs, stabilize the banks, and overcome large and mounting indebtedness.

Unfortunately, what is most desirable is not feasible given the path Europe is embarked on; and, to make things even more complicated, what appears feasible to Europe is not necessarily desirable. As a result, Ireland finds itself stuck in an unstable muddled-middle. It can't get ahead of the crisis; it is far from a first best solution; and it confronts choices that are painful to implement and uncertain in outcome.

from Global News Journal:

Quadriplegic in an age of austerity

Every time I write a story on European countries cutting public spending, I feel a frisson of panic. I can't help but fear my health, lifestyle and liberty could be a casualty of the "age of austerity".peter

On assignment covering the Sri Lankan civil war for Reuters four years ago, I broke my neck in a minibus smash. It left me quadriplegic, almost entirely paralysed from the shoulders down and totally dependent on 24 hour care. I was 25.

from FaithWorld:

Pope apologizes for “unspeakable crimes” of sexual abuse

papal flag (Photo: Girl waves papal flag before a Mass with Pope Benedict in London September 18, 2010/Kevin Coombs)

Pope Benedict apologized to victims of sexual abuse on Saturday, saying pedophile priests had brought "shame and humiliation" on him and the entire Roman Catholic Church. It was the 83-year-old pontiff's latest attempt to come to grips with the scandal that has rocked the 1.1 billion-member Church, particularly in Europe and the United States.

"I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes ...," he said in his sermon in  Westminster Cathedral, the mother church for Roman Catholics in England and Wales and a symbol of the struggle of Catholics here in the late 19th century to assert their rights after the Reformation.

from FaithWorld:

Catholic Church and UK colluded in Northern Ireland bomb cover-up: report

northern ireland (Photo: Nationalist youths set a car alight in Belfast on July 13, 2010/Cathal McNaughton)

The British government and the Roman Catholic Church colluded to protect a priest suspected of involvement in a 1972 bombing in Northern Ireland that killed 9 people, an official report said on Tuesday.

The Police Ombudsman's report revealed that an Irish cardinal was involved in transferring Father James Chesney out of British-ruled Northern Ireland, highlighting again the role of the Church hierarchy in protecting priests against allegations of criminal activity.

Irish lesson for Clegg: get coalition right or face oblivion

Photo

If the Irish experience of coalition politics is anything to go by, Nick Clegg risks a lot more than unpopularity if he strikes a half-baked coalition deal with the Conservative Party. He also faces electoral oblivion should he fail to win enough concessions and power to carry his grassroots supporters with him.

Ireland’s pro-business Progressive Democrats (PDs) — relatively loyal junior coalition partners in successive administrations led by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern — imploded at the last Irish general election, winning just two seats in parliament. They subsequently disbanded altogether.

from Left field:

What are the odds on getting the Six Nations winner right?

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Picking the winner of the Six Nations championship is always a tricky task as the vagaries of form and the fixture list ensure that no two seasons are the same.

France, who finished third last season, are rated 6/4 favourites by Ladbrokes while grand slam champions Ireland are only second-best at 9/4.

from FaithWorld:

Could Irish abortion case lead to a “European Roe v. Wade”?

echr

European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler

Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights.  The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother's life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday's hearing here.

The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

France break Irish hearts to seal World Cup slot

France ensured the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry will be at the World Cup in South Africa next year after winning through with a goal that has left Irish fans seething.

There was nothing wrong with the finish from William Gallas, but Thierry Henry admitted using his hand to keep the ball in play and commentators and Irish supporters are already talking of "The Hand of God II" and "The Hand of Henry" in reference to Diego Maradona in 1986.

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