By Kevin Myers
Wednesday December 19 2007 Irish Independent
There's something almost sweetly irrelevant about the latest Government proposals to insist on fluency in English before we grant Irish nationality to immigrants.
Because the vast majority of immigrants to this country don't need Irish nationality. They are citizens of EU countries and can come and go as they please. Of course the proposal isn't meant to be a realistic way of dealing with the issue of immigration, but is a nice piece of window-dressing to enable that cheery chappy at the department for immigration, Conor Lenihan, to declare that the Government is taking action, sorry, The Government Is Taking Action!!!!
It's not, and it can't -- not while we are members of an economic union which allows free movement of populations across national boundaries.
You cannot confine one kind of water to one corner of an open bath, which is what the EU now is. And this is the very reason why I would halt the advance of the European project before the lunacy becomes quite unmanageable: but that's just me. There are about four deep-dyed Euro-sceptics in Ireland, one of whom is Patricia McKenna, who is as barking as a Pekinese: so maybe I'm barking also. But I don't think so.
To be sure, it was only through Europe that our barbaric laws against male homosexual acts, or the discrimination against women in the workplace, or the ban on the sale of condoms, were reversed. Furthermore, the EEC/EU helped transform our economy; and we can't forget the debt we owe Europe from the 1970s onwards.
But merely because someone's our friend doesn't mean that we should stay shackled to them as they leap off the cliffs of Moher. And the European project is such a leap, which we are uniquely free to reject next year in the new EU Treaty referendum. Which is in essence, the Old Dead Constitution by another name; ie, Euro-Lazarus.
The Danish government, sickened by one reverse in a plebiscite, has already declared that it will not put the revised treaty to a referendum, because the new treaty will "not constitute a surrender of political sovereignty". This is rather like assuring the person you're manacled to that gravity doesn't exist one foot away from the edge of the cliffs of Moher. And once you've taken the leap, it really doesn't matter what you thought or said a second ago.
Charlie McCreevy has said that we'd be the laughing stock of Europe if we voted 'no' to the new Euro treaty: and if the price to be paid for ensuring the survival of a vaguely Irish Ireland is some hilarity at our expense, then so be it. For within a generation, as cultural miscegenation and mass population movements across mainland Europe spell the end of the old nation state, our children might be glad that we were prepared to put up with a bit of ridicule in order to protect some sense of national self.
I have been banging this drum futilely for years now, so much so that some weeks ago I decided to abandon the campaign altogether, and never mention immigration again. But I find at am drawn back to the subject like the bleeding tip of the tongue wriggles back to a broken tooth, to caress the razor-sharp shard just a little more. And I do so because almost every day, fresh and terrifying news about the consequences of uncontrolled immigration comes from our neighbouring isle.
Last weekend it emerged that English is the minority language in 1,300 English schools. In nearly 600 schools, English is the first language of less than 30pc of pupils. In the London borough of Newham, English is a first language for just 10pc of pupils.
In central London, only 10pc of the population are of white British ethnic origin. I don't
know the figures for here, because no one does. But one teacher told me pupils in her school in west Dublin share a total of 34 mother tongues. Now this is plain idiocy: you cannot educate children in the basic three Rs in such circumstances, when the primary (and virtually impossible) task of the teachers is to teach the children to speak English.
But, since we are an island, does it not make sense for the people of the entire island, from both north and south, to protect its distinctive and insular quality -- the one which makes people want to come here in the first place? This would require the DUP and Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael, agreeing that we must have an island-wide immigration policy, which would include controlling movement from Britain into Northern Ireland. This, no doubt, would be a political step too far for unionists, who are probably too stupid to realise that Irish nationalism is now their best and only friend.
Now, if we sign up to this European constitution, through demographics and population movements, the island of Ireland could well not be recognisably Irish in, say, 30 years' time. And you might consider such a future to be perfectly splendid, which is fine. But can anyone assure us that it isn't?
The Irish are treated as second-class EU citizens
17 February 2008 By David McWilliams
While the government may be appealing for a Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty, it consistently prevents us from benefiting from the common market.
Let’s make a contract with the government. We will vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty when it starts to treat us European citizens on a par with the other citizens of the union. The reason for such a contract is that we are treated as second-class Europeans by our own state.
Anyone who has tried to import a car into this country will know exactly where being a ‘‘good European’’ begins and ends in the eyes of the Irish government. Our state demands that we sign up to a treaty, yet every day it thwarts thousands of citizens who are trying to reap the benefits of the common market.
Forget all the lofty ideas which will be spouted in the next few months: for many people, ‘‘Europe’’ begins with small things. I recently explored the idea of importing a ‘‘jammer’’ into Ireland from Britain to save money and to avail of a better standard of car. The British market is huge, so the quality and range of secondhand cars is far superior to our own.
One would expect that, if the government’s rhetoric about Europe held any water, a citizen of Ireland would be treated the same as a citizen of Britain - or anywhere else for that matter. Try to import a car based on the underlying aspirations of the Treaty of Rome – the EU’s founding document - and you will quickly see that the idea of a free, flexible, trading Europe is not only years away, but is actually being frustrated by the very government that wants us to be good Europeans in the first place.
Let’s go back to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome. Robert Schuman and his mate Jean Monnet realised that some of the xenophobia of the pre-war years stemmed from economic patriotism.
Thus, they thought it essential that the European Economic Community - as it was then - should begin as an economic entity. Gradually thereafter, it would seep into national politics and sovereignty.
Accepting the primacy of economics as a healer was part and parcel of the original EU. So Schuman and Monnet outlined the fundamental pillars of the EU. These became known as the four freedoms:
1.The free movement of goods
2.The free movement of capital
3.The free movement of people
4.The freedom to deal in services and establish businesses.
This is what a common market means. Anything which contravenes these freedoms is against the substantive law of the EU.
In fact, article 25 of the EC Treaty indicated that member states were prohibited from levying any duties on goods crossing a border-goods produced within the EU or those produced outside. Once a good has been imported into the EU from a third country and the appropriate customs duty paid, Article 24 dictates that it shall then be considered to be in free circulation between the member states.
So far, so comprehensible. On the basis of the four freedoms, Ireland positions itself as a great location for US multinationals to set up.
No country in the EU could slap a tax on Microsoft’s software made in Ireland, nor could Irish-made Viagra be banned in France, just because a French company was working on an alternative aphrodisiac, nor could Intel processors made in Leixlip be banned in Italy just because the Italians might be trying to protect their own industry.
That’s the game and we all know the rules. Equally, any Pole or Lithuanian can come through Dublin Airport, because the four freedoms say that there has to be free movement of people and workers. The same applied to us years ago when we flooded into Germany to take up jobs.
The free movement of capital means that Irish banks last year could borrow 40 per cent of all the cash they lent from the EU money markets, when they inflated the Irish bubble to bursting point. The Irish government did not interfere in this ‘‘money go round’’ because the four freedoms stated that there could be no tax put on capital from within the EU circulating anywhere in the EU jurisdiction.
So if money can flow around, people can move around, hi-tech goods can be exported and imported freely - what about cars? Surely any Irish citizen can go to England and import a car freely without having to pay extra duty simply for taking the car over the border? Well, just try doing it.
Traipse over to Britain. You find your dream car for, let’s say, £18,000.You bring it back to Ireland. You are then confronted with the first tax - VRT. So already the state is bending the rules.
Resigned, you are then prepared to pay the tax on the euro value of the sterling cost of the car. So the first rule of the Treaty of Rome is broken the minute you get off the boat at Dun Laoghaire, because any tax on any good at the point of entry contravenes the original Treaty of Rome.
But worse is to come. The Revenue then judge that it’s not the cost of the car in Britain that counts for the tax, it is some Orwellian-sounding levy called the ‘‘open market selling price’’. The Revenue, in an approach which protects Irish car dealers, squeeze money out of the beleaguered Irish motorist with another, extra tax.
They calculate the difference between what the car cost in the free, unfettered market of Britain and what it might cost here in the protected, sewn-up kleptocracy that is Ireland and then slap another totally unjustified tax on top of the original totally unjustified tax.
If you want to see how this shameless infringement of EU law works, check out https://www.ros.ie/VRTEnquiryServlet/ showCarCalculator. Rather than enhance competition, our government smothers it. The motorist is being penalised twice to protect Irish car dealers who have being making a fortune in recent years by selling overpriced cars. The state, therefore, is not only breaking the rules of the EU but, more egregiously, is protecting an industry here which is actually doing nothing.
At some level, it is easy to understand protectionism, if you are protecting a domestic industry which is employing people, exercising brain power and creating value.
However, car dealers are just brokers who import at a low price and sell at a higher price. The state is supporting this vested interest over the people - yet again. Crucially, buying cars has been made commonplace because the public transport alternative is so poor. Therefore, the state, by not providing a public alternative, has funnelled us into the clutches of the car dealers and then, when we try to exercise our European constitutional right to buy abroad, the government hammers us with a tax.
Inmost other areas, Europe works well and the world is integrated. For example, I wrote this article from an internet cafe in Foxford, Co Mayo, run by a Dutchman named Kees - and I was there because of a tale from the first era of globalisation, when trade was free and people benefited from it.
Foxford is the birthplace of Admiral William Brown - the founder of the Argentinian navy and a man widely respected in Argentina. Back then, free trade drew Irishmen and women to Argentina from where they exported grain back to Ireland. If the present Irish government were in power now, it would probably have tried to halt this trade too. Today we have the ludicrous spectacle of our government urging us to vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty.
I’m sure there are good enough reasons for this, but how can we trust the government on one European treaty if they are prepared to tear up their obligations on another? They want us to vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty, even though they ignore the basic founding principles upon which the EU was constructed.
Until the iniquitous VRT scam is scrapped, we should argue that, on the basis of being good Europeans, we can’t vote for the Lisbon Treaty because it is supported by a government that is not European enough.
How an Italian Doctor tried to cope with a "refugee tradition" .By FRANK BRUNI
Published: February 1, 2004
Week after week, scarred women came to Dr. Omar Abdulcadir's gynecology clinic here for help, and while the ways in which they suffered differed, the reason was always the same.
They were immigrants to Italy who had been subjected back in Africa to a brutal girlhood ritual, common throughout much of the continent, in which part or all of their external genitalia had been sliced off.
Dr. Abdulcadir treated their infections or inflammation and then, earlier this month, took an unusual step -- intended, he said, to protect their daughters from the same fate. He publicly proposed that the hospital where he works let him perform a much less severe version of -- or alternative to -- female genital cutting.
His goal, he said, was to ease the physical toll of a tradition that was not going away.
''My proposal isn't ideal,'' he said. ''But is there a better answer for how to save the children?''
Health officials in the region of Tuscany are seriously considering that question and have yet to reject his proposal, which he says may prevent immigrants from bringing girls under 10 years old to Africa or to illicit places here for more extreme operations. Opponents have denounced the doctor's proposal, calling it an implicit endorsement of an unacceptable practice.
But as an intense debate plays out in Italy, it encompasses more than a medical issue and touches on the same quandary that France confronts in regard to Muslim head scarves and that other European countries face in other ways.
How far can, and should, Europeans bend to accommodate so many new immigrants with such a wide variety of cultural traditions?
Italians' difficulties in coming up with an answer were reflected in the positions articulated by Cristiana Scoppa, a spokeswoman for the Italian Association for Women in Development, an education and advocacy group.
She adamantly opposes Dr. Abdulcadir's proposal. ''It would undermine the fight of hundreds of thousands of women throughout Africa who have said that no form of genital manipulation can be permitted and that it symbolizes a culture that submits women to the control of men,'' she said.
But she also said she opposed a bill in the Italian Parliament that would explicitly criminalize genital cutting. She said that more general laws against violence covered the situation and that a law against genital cutting would represent ''a specific attack against a culture.''
Marzia Monciatti, a Florence city official, said certain cultural traditions were at such odds with Italian values that accepting them in any form was impossible.
Genital cutting was one example, she said. Marriages of Romanian Gypsy immigrants in their early teens, which also happen here, was another.
But she said she sympathized with efforts by some Muslim immigrants to have crucifixes removed from classroom walls. That, too, has been the recent subject of fervent debate in Italy, where an estimated 85 percent of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic.
Public buildings, Ms. Monciatti asserted, ''are places where people with diverse origins, cultures and traditions gather.'' That diversity warranted respect, she said.
Female genital cutting is practiced in more than two dozen African countries, as well as in countries with immigrants from those places.
It has become enough of a concern in Europe that Denmark, Britain and Sweden, for example, have enacted laws that expressly criminalize it. Broader laws in other countries also serve to ban the procedure.
Immigrants who want their daughters to submit to it either return briefly to Africa or have the operation done illegally, outside of a licensed medical setting, said Dr. Abdulcadir and other health officials who have studied the issue.
Dr. Abdulcadir said he did not know how frequently that was happening in Italy because most of the 500 new patients he saw yearly were grown women whose genitals were cut in Africa at least a decade ago. He treats them for menstrual problems, swelling and chronic infections, among other problem
Alert over female circumcision query
By Rita O'Reilly Irish Independent.Wednesday March 07 2001
THE Well Woman Centre has revealed that an official from a Government department contacted the centre looking for someone who could carry out female genital mutilation for a constituent of a junior minister.
Alison Begas, chief executive of the Well Woman Centre, told RTE radio yesterday that the centre had been contacted by "someone working with a Minister of State" to ask if the Well Woman Centre knew of anyone carrying out the procedure of female genital mutilation in Ireland.
She understood that the inquiry was made on behalf of an Islamic father living in the minister's constituency who wanted the procedure for his daughter.
The Well Woman revelation came as one of the country's leading gynaecologists delivered a stark warning that girls and women from African countries could be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) here if the Government doesn't step in to stop the practice.
Dr Valerie Donnelly, consultant gynaecologist, delivered the warning in a newspaper interview on Monday. Interviewed by Pat Kenny on RTE Radio yesterday, she said: "We would see now in the three main Dublin hospitals perhaps one woman every month who has had female genital mutilation performed on her"
Dr Donnelly expressed concern that Irish-born children could be subjected to genital mutilation here at the behest of parents keen to keep up the practice, which kills 10pc of the girls subjected to it and leaves the rest with severe health and birthing problems in later life.
Following the Pat Kenny show, Alison Begas of the Well Woman Centre confirmed that an official in a government department phoned the centre last autumn to make the inquiry but she refused to name either the department or the minister concerned.
She declined to name either the official or the minister or the department, saying that Well Woman Centre guaranteed confidentiality to clients, and that while neither the official, the Islamic father nor the Minister of State were clients, the official making the call "would have assumed his query would be treated as confidential".
Dr Valerie Donnelly is part of an EU Commission committee seeking an EU-wide ban on genital mutilation.
She told Pat Kenny yesterday that she had heard of cases where excisers were brought into the UK to perform mutilations and where young girls were brought on "special holidays" to African countries where the mutilations were carried out.
The 'surgery' performed in FGM can be done to girls as early as seven days of age, but more commonly when the girl has her first period.
It is usually carried out by women and can range from pricking with ritual dropping of blood in the genital area to the complete removal of the external genitalia.
In Africa, the girls are often stitched up in a crude manner, sometimes with thorns. The scar tissue that covers the genital area in the aftermath causes pain and difficulties in passing urine, having sex and giving birth, as well as leading to kidney and pelvic infections.
Ten per cent of girls die immediately after the circumcision, and over 100 million women worldwide have been subjected to it before reaching adulthood.
Dr Donnelly said that often, doctors don't find out women have been mutilated until they are giving birth.
The victims often get harrowing flashbacks in the middle of labour. She said health workers should ask all African women who come for treatment the key question, "Are you closed?."
Meanwhile, the returned development workers group, Comhlamh, has launched a campaign to outlaw the practice. Colm O Cuanachain, Comhlamh co-ordinator, said that not all parents supported female circumcision.
He pointed out that some parents were fleeing their country of origin because if they stayed, their daughters would be forced to undergo mutilation.
In some African countries, the percentage of children who undergo FGM is as high as 90pc, he said, and there were "already anecdotal reports" that the practice has been performed in Ireland.
"There is a responsibility on our government under international law to ensure that the practice does not happen here," he told RTE.
- Rita O'Reill
A cut less cruel
Sep 13th 2007 | OUAGADOUGOU
From The Economist print edition
An attempt to restore sexual sensation to women whose genitals have been cut
A QUARTER of a century after the start of campaigns to stop communities from maiming their young women, the practice still goes on. Female genital mutilation, to give it its proper name, ranges from a straightforward nick to the complete excision of the clitoris and labia with the remaining genitals sewn up, leaving only a small opening. It is done for cultural reasons in many African countries but also in Asia and the Middle East. The World Health Organisation estimates that some 3m girls are subjected to the procedure each year and that, in total, between 100m and 140m women have undergone it. But now surgeons are working to repair some of the damage.
Surgery to reopen the vagina and mitigate the medical complications of genital cutting has long been available. But in Burkina Faso, where as many as 75% of women are thought to have had their clitorises cut, a relatively new procedure is being offered. Clitoris-reconstruction surgery aims to restore sexual sensation to women who have been mutilated. A year after it was introduced, more than 100 women have elected to have it performed, according to Michel Akotionga of the Yalgado Ouedraogo University Hospital in Ouagadougou. Unlike surgery to reopen the vagina, which is free in Burkina Faso, clitoris reconstruction costs about $150 in a public hospital and up to $400 in a private clinic.
The technique is possible because most of the clitoris resides inside the female body. In cases where the entire external part has been severed, some 2cm is removed but a further 8-10cm remains embedded internally. Surgeons pull it out and stitch it to the skin. Nerve endings in the new protrusion help to create the secretion and engorgement in the genitals that prepare a woman for sex. Unfortunately the technique used by the Burkinabe doctors does not restore sexual sensation completely, because the pressure-sensitive tip of the clitoris is lost.
Pierre Foldes, who started pioneering the reconstruction method some 25 years ago, has now trained 15 surgeons to use the technique in France. Although he supports efforts to restore sexual sensation, he worries that improperly trained surgeons may cause more damage in attempting to repair mutilated women.
Other health workers fear that families unsure of whether to subject their young women to genital mutilation might go ahead on the grounds that a wrong decision can always be corrected later. While a partial cure is better than nothing, prevention would be best of all.
Jul 5th 2007 | CAIRO
From The Economist print edition
The government finally bans a cruel and ancient rite
BEDUR SHAKER'S parents did what good modern parents should do. Instead of hiring a traditional midwife, or the village barber, they took their 11-year-old daughter to a doctor's clinic to have her "purified", so as to improve her chances of a good marriage. But the routine $9 operation went tragically wrong. Before the scalpel could excise her clitoris, the girl died from the anaesthetic.
But Bedur's death late last month was not in vain. The ensuing outcry has prompted Egypt's health minister to announce a formal and absolute ban on female circumcision, more often known as female genital mutilation (FGM). Moreover, this secular ruling is being backed by the country's top Muslim and Christian clerics. The grand mufti, the most senior official issuing Islamic legal opinions, declared on television that circumcision is forbidden, repeating his words three times for emphasis.
Egypt's health authorities have talked of curbing the practice since as long ago as the 1950s. Eleven years ago, after shocking footage of one girl's suffering was aired on television, the ministry forbade doctors from performing FGM except under unusual circumstances. But the ancient rite, common in the Nile Valley and other parts of Africa, has remained particularly prevalent in Egypt. A nationwide survey carried out in 2005 revealed that 97% of married women claimed to have been circumcised.
Still, as elsewhere in Africa, there has been a slow change in Egyptian attitudes. Since 1995, the percentage of mothers who say that they support circumcision has fallen from 82% to 68%. Among educated and wealthier women, that percentage is now barely a third. But a more disturbing trend is that two-thirds of circumcisions are performed by doctors. Clearly, Egypt's medical profession has massively exploited the loophole in previous bans, which was left open due to concerns that parents would endanger their children by opting for traditional practitioners instead of trained clinicians.
A majority of Egyptians also believe FGM to be religiously sanctioned, a reflection of the power of conservative clerics who have portrayed opposition to the practice as inspired by hostility to the faith. But perhaps now, with doctors risking prosecution and mainstream clerics calling foul, the message will get through that a little less "purity" might be a bit more humane.
By Kevin Myers
Wednesday September 05 2007
All right, you know about the Government's latest move to outlaw beggars? Do you really think it's really about beggars? It isn't. It's about immigrant-beggars, who now throng our streets.
We could, of course, deal with the substantive matter, that of immigration itself, but instead we prefer to deal with its symptoms -- and in the usual cowardly way in which we address anything which is a little difficult or embarrassing.
Now look: I'm not a complete fool. People don't turn columnists to read the same stuff, day after day after day. Yet that's what I've been doing, endlessly writing on this same subject.
No doubt by this time, the one reader left is some old wino sitting in a doorway in his own personal pool of warmth, scanning these few column inches in the belief that these are the greyhound results. No matter. Here I go again.
Immigration is now not merely the dominant feature of Irish life, it is the greatest threat to the existence of the Irish nation as a coherent, and cohesive whole.
No country has ever accepted, never mind assimilated, the volumes of foreigners now present in this state. We have some 400,000 legal immigrants; but everyone knows that the army of illegals, especially Africans and Chinese, is vast, and probably tops 200,000. In all, Ireland has received at least 600,000 immigrants, most of them within the past five years. It could be many more. No one has the least idea.
In the US, such immigration would translate into an inward population movement of 45 million. In the UK, the figure would be nine million. Needless to say, neither state would be so idiotic or feckless as allow such vast numbers to enter.
Only Ireland would be so idiotic and so morally lethargic as to allow such massive inward population movements.
And of course, we haven't got the resources to cope with the consequences of such an influx. But worse than our lack of resources, is our lack of courage in confronting the issue.
We do not have policies, but inept evasiveness: and perhaps worst of all, we have a posturing gallery of home-grown jackanapes ready to shriek "racism" wherever and whenever they see that things are not going quite the way that immigrants want.
Thus, on any discussion on RTE, especially from its newsroom, immigrants are never held responsible for choosing to come here. Instead, we hear endless complaints that Irish institutions had not prepared themselves properly for their arrival.
On the News at One on Monday, African after African in Balbriggan complained there were no places for their children in the existing local schools.
Not once was the question posed: what was the real reason for the Africans not having places in schools? Answer: they'd only just come here.
Instead, Africans who were just off the boat were allowed to accuse us of racism for not having school places awaiting their children.
There's also the Paddy- factor in all this. It's impossible for any outsider to understand that this state is almost pathologically incapable of planning anything.
This is the land of the Red Cow Roundabout and motorways without service stations, rest-stops or toilets. So how could we be expected seven years ago to have planned school-building projects in north county Dublin for Africans as yet unborn?
If blaming ourselves for our failure to plan for Africa's educational needs were not fatuous enough, some poor spokeswoman from the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin had to defend the Catholic Church against an RTE journalist's accusations of bigotry.
Naturally, in this unprincipled liberal Ireland, for the Catholic Church to insist that Catholic schools have a primary duty to educate Catholics is nowadays both racist and sectarian.
But of course, no one on RTE would ever dream of proposing that Islamic madrasahs should take in Jewish, Catholic or Hindu pupils: in the new Ireland, the only people who are expected to bend their own rules are the Irish Catholic majority.
Accompanying this presumption is the pious and all-prevalent dogma that immigrants will on arrival abandon ancient loyalties, and will promptly don a Hibernian mantle: hence the brainless cliche, wittered endlessly by journalists and politicians alike, "the New Irish".
Sorry. This is conceited gibberish. Why would a Pole surrender something which the Polish people have fought for a thousand years to retain?
Why the presumption that an Asian Muslim who lives in Ireland is in any way Irish?
My mother lived most of her life in England, but never for a second thought of herself as English.
The media should be asking the big question, 'Why are we still admitting hundreds of thousands of immigrants?'
Instead, we are obsessing with the relatively trivial question of: Are the Irish people, who after all have admitted vast armies of strangers to their national home, racist?
This is self-hatred at its most pathetic, and its most self-defeating.
Whether Irish people are "racist" is irrelevant. We have created a society whose apparent cohesiveness is totally dependent on immigration-fuelled economic growth. That growth must one day come to an end.
Then what, in Darndale, Coolock, or even Balbriggan?