29 August 2002 Edition

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Mala Poist

Immigration and Nice II

A Chairde,

Aengus Ó Snodaigh is right in saying (An Phoblacht, 15 August) that immigration was not an issue in the first Nice referendum. Unfortunately, the government has made it an issue in the Nice Re-run by its agreeing with its EU partners that most of them should retain immigration controls on the citizens of the ten East European Applicant countries for up to seven years after they join the EU, while this State proposes to follow an open-door policy from Day One.

This became public knowledge only last month, when the Sunday Business Post drew attention to the following statements by Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in a letter he wrote to Labour Minister Tom Kitt on 14 March last (The full text of this letter may be seen on the National Platform website at www.nationalplatform.org):

"Ireland took the decision to allow the citizens of new EU Member States full and free access to live and work here from the first day of accession. I took the opportunity to inform the Foreign Minister of each candidate country directly in a letter last June. I understand that three other EU Member States, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, have also taken a similar decision to us. The rest of the existing Member States have reserved the right to restrict the access of citizens of new member states(excluding Malta and Cyprus) for up to seven years from the date of accession. This position reflects the fact that certain Member States have serious concerns that immediate access could result in distortions to domestic labour markets."

Minister Cowen's letter means that after the Nice referendum last year the government, without Dáil discussion or public debate, agreed to accord Irish citizen rights to residence, work and social maintenance to whatever percentage of the 75 million East European citizens might chose to take advantage of its offer from January 2004, the likely date of coming into force of their EU Accession Treaties.

While migrants from Eastern Europe would naturally prefer to work in the EU countries nearest them, and especially in Big States like Germany, France and Britain, when they find that their doors are shut for up to seven years but that they can come to Ireland immediately without work permits, are many not likely to do that? If one percent of them do, it would be 750,000 people. If one-tenth of one percent do, it would be 75,000. When Ireland suffered unemployment rates comparable to theirs during the 1950s and 1980s, even though Irish real wages then were relatively much higher than current East European levels, net emigration from this country was between one-half and one percent of our base population PER YEAR.

I believe that this government decision, made without Dail debate, was recklessly irresponsible, in that it is likely to impose economic and social burdens on the Irish economy that we are quite unprepared for. It is likely to lead to significant undercutting of Irish workers' wages and living standards and impose heavy extra demands on our public services. It should be condemned by all progressive people. At the extreme, it could lead to the reimposition of border travel controls reminiscent of the last war, as Professor Paul Bew, adviser to David Trimble, warned recently. Minister Dick Roche's talk of xenophobia etc. is so much hypocritical cant, designed to distract attention from the folly of Foreign Minister Cowen's free-for-all immigration offer.

Last week's TV statement by Swedish Social Democrat Prime Minister Göran Persson that Sweden would not need significant extra immigration for ten years because the advent of new migrants could undermine the living standards of existing ones, raises another question over Mr Cowen's offer, for he quotes Sweden as one of the three other EU States being willing to allow migration from Eastern Europe from Day One.

It is still open to the Government to insist in the negotiations with the ten Applicant countries, which are still ongoing, that our EU partners should adopt an open-door policy for East European citizens from Day One of their EU Accession. That would entail far lower immigration flows to Ireland than the foolish course Minister Cowen has committed us to. No sensible person could object to that. The National Platform would positively welcome it. If that were done, there would be no immigration issue. The issue is one of equal treatment for all EU Members and their citizens, not immigration.

I believe that IBEC's new enthusiasm for the Nice Treaty, followed by a rapid EU enlargement, derives from its awareness - which was not the case in last year's referendum - that from January 2004, just 16 months away, it will be able to recruit from a vast pool of cheap, well-educated labour in Eastern Europe, without any need for work permits, people who will be anxious to come to Ireland because they will not be able to migrate to most other EU countries for up to seven years. Radicals, progressives and people on the political Left should be urging the leadership of ICTU to discuss the obvious implications of this with their trade union members.

Anthony Coughlan,
The National Platform
24 Crawford Ave,
Dublin 9

Neil Lennon

A Chairde,

The Neil Lennon saga once again highlights the sorry state of football at official level in the north of Ireland. Personally, I do not believe that a player of Neil Lennon's stature should simply have to hang up his boots and end international football prematurely because of sectarian bigots.

I believe the Football Association of Ireland should be encouraged to step in on this matter and launch an appeal to FIFA requesting Neil be allowed to register as a Republic Of Ireland player so that he may continue playing at the highest level of the game.

There is a recent precedent for such a development. In the former Yugoslavia, a number of players were permitted to change national allegiance in recognition of the geo-political realities pertaining to that region.

Ultimately, the Lennon situation points to another problem which must be acted upon by the two relevant football bodies, north and south, i.e. the fact that northern nationalists support for the Republic's side is not recognised by either organisation.

Anyone travelling through a nationalist area of the Six Counties this summer would have been struck by the sheer number of children wearing Ireland shirts. There is no doubting that for the overwhelming majority of young nationalists, the international team they aspire to play for is based in Lansdowne Road - not Windsor Park.

Yet the football authorities currently do not take this into consideration. Indeed, having contacted the FAI in the past, I discovered that the body has a policy of not approaching young footballers in the north, preferring to leave them with no option but to declare for the northern outfit.

This is an unacceptable situation which all involved in the sport (and politics) must seek to change. As a party with representation in Leinster House, surely we are in a position to seek a meeting with the football authorities (FAI and IFA) to insist they respect - and facilitate - the desire of young nationalists aspiring to play for the national team of their choice. Whilst ultimately our party must believe an all-Ireland team to be the best solution to our current predicament, in the interim it is incumbent upon our party to give a lead at this time.

Chris Donnelly


A sad day for football?

A Chairde,

The threat to the life of the captain of the north's soccer team is not the first. On walls in Neil Lennon's family home area, loyalists frequently daub the Words "RIP" after his name. It is an illustration of the deeply sectarian and anti-Roman Catholic culture at the heart of unionist politics. Here is someone who has declared for and is proud to lead his teammates on the football field. His thanks for being 'loyal' to the Northern Ireland team is to be booed by his own team's loyalist supporters and to be the recipient of loyalist death threats. Not even English racists would dream of booing black players representing their country. If it were not so tragic the situation would be regarded as truly farcical.

This is not an isolated event. Sectarian attacks directed at nationalist areas by loyalists are as motivated by religious bigotry as they are by opposition to the political views of the inhabitants. The problem is that loyalists, and many ordinary unionists, cannot distinguish the two and think that "taigs" should be in receipt of physical admonishment as much for their religious as for their political views. This view is not reciprocated on the nationalist side - who tend to be the victims of orchestrated campaigns of attack, hatred and brutality.

It is not an exaggeration to observe that in most of unionist politics these reactionary views are held and the intensity of their expression is only matter of degree. For instance, the Orange Order proclaims that members must prevent Roman Catholics from "playing games" on a Sunday - the LVF has merely extended this prohibition to the remaining days of the week.

It is traditional for unionist spokespersons to distance themselves from such events by deflecting responsibility away from the culture of sectarianism they themselves inhabit and appear fearful of confronting. Thus Unionist leader David Trimble said that this was a "sad day for football" and commented on the IFA's efforts to distance itself from sectarian supporters. Is it not more so a sad day for unionism and for those who proclaim loyalty to the crown to be associated in any way with such actions and views?

Where is the truly non-sectarian voice of unionism - is it a contradiction in terms?

Mick Finnegan
Dublin 7

Fluoridation is poison

A Chairde,

Carol-Mary Fraser's recent article (Fluoridation: Health democracy - or sick dictatorship, 22 August) articulates the dilemma faced by the Irish government, which contaminates the public drinking water with industrial waste chemicals from the phosphate fertiliser industry, under the guise of "a public health measure".

In the face of mounting criticism, Minister Martin commissioned a very costly "Fluoridation Forum" to investigate water fluoridation - and promptly filled it with a preponderance of fluoride-promoters! Its report has yet to be made public.

A high-profile Forum member (a dental professor) recently received an Eastern Health Board grant of €500,000 to conduct yet another study to add to the pile of 40,000+ studies which already exist?

The Briish government was very disappointed with the results of its own "York Review" on fluoridation, so it promptly threw more taxpayers' money into the jolly-pot and commissioned the Medical Research Council "to see what further research is required to strengthen the evidence base.

Approximately 50% of children living in fluoridated areas have dental fluorosis - visible damage to their teeth. Fluoridation is very definitely detrimental to them. Parents have to pay for veneers to cover up this damage - and the money goes to into the pockets of dentists. What kind of "public health trade-off" is this?

Water fluoridation is not about science. It is certainly not about the wellbeing of children. It is about politics - "saving face", maintaining positions, reputations, research grants - and providing industry with a legal way to dump and profit from its toxic waste. In other words - it's a scam.

Jane Jones,
Campaign Director,
National Pure Water Association,

Hawaii against fluoride

A Chairde,

Carol Mary-Fraser's article on fluoridation was excellent. We in Hawaii have also been fighting this issue for over 50 years and ours is the last state not to have any fluoridation chemicals added to our public drinking water system, with the exception of military bases.

The biggest advantage we have had against the proponents is that we grew sugar cane as a crop for many years and used sodium fluoride in the fields as rat poison. Hence, many in the population can make the association. Unfortunately, people in the mainland US, when told this is a rat poison, think you are a poisonmonger trying to scare them since sodium fluoride was discontinued as a rat poison back in the 1970s.

Keep up the good work. Hopefully, we will have a world free of poisoned water.

Aloha from Hawaii and we care about the water in Ireland.

Adrian Chang

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1