The 56th Infantry Group completed the first week of their ‘mission readiness exercise’ in preparation for their forthcoming deployment to the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights in October.
This phase of training is a culmination of three months of intensive preparation for deployment overseas. The Mission Readiness Exercise puts commanders and soldiers through a series of demanding scenarios based on potential threats that may be encountered in the mission area.
Troops secured, extracted and evacuated personnel involved in a complex scenario. The 56th Infantry Group will rotate into the mission area under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Dermot Hanifin. They have a wide range of capabilities including Armoured Force Protection, Patrolling and Mobility, Communications, Medical and Operational Expertise.
The Committee has urged “the State party” to, “within a specific timeframe” :
Amend article 41.2 of the Constitution in order to remove the stereotypical language on the role of women in the home;
Introduce legislative provisions that underline the obligation of the State to pursue actively the achievement of substantive equality between women and men; and
Amend article 40.3.33 of the Constitution (also known as the Eighth Amendment), which impedes the introduction of amendments to current legislation governing access to abortion…
…The Committee is particularly concerned that legislation which discriminates against women, or has a disproportionately negative impact on women, falls outside the scope of the Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2015.
The Committee recommends that the State party amends section 14 of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 to ensure that an effective remedy is available for discrimination that has a legislative basis.
I came across this the other day. The official plot of this movie made me think it couldn’t possibly be a real movie. Then I watched the trailer… It’s like a Trump fever dream. Now I can’t wait to watch this piece of poo movie. A fictional depiction of a future wherein a globalist terrorist organization aligned with the United Nations to disable the United States’ power grid and institutes Martial Law. It will take a dedicated family of patriots armed with strong survival skills and the remains of the Second Amendment to save America and reclaim its freedom.
From top: Amanda Mellet and her husband James Burke; Taoiseach Enda Kenny; and a video of Mr Kenny responding to questions from Ruth Coppinger TD yesterday
My view is that if we were to decide to have a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment in October, it would not be passed. I will explain why.
There needs to be a real discussion here. If we are going to attempt to remove this from the Constitution, people will want to know what we intend to replace it with. I have had problems with this genuine question.
With respect, I do not accept from the Deputy that we should make a rush to judgment in this instance.
The UN committee’s verdict in this sensitive and distressing case is non-binding. It is not like the European court. It speaks for the distress caused to this good woman. As the Deputy knows, another case is being processed.
It is right and proper for us to follow the route of having a properly selected citizens’ assembly that is able to do its business of reflecting on the eighth amendment and what it might mean.
The assembly will consider what changes, if any, should be made to the eighth amendment and how they might be made.
If we are to ask people to vote on this issue, at least we should be able to tell them what will replace the eighth amendment if they vote for its removal. People need to know the options and the consequences.
I genuinely believe people have a right to be able to discuss these things. This matter divided Irish society for over 30 years. I ask the Deputy to believe me when I say it is not a question of a lack of courage.
It is a question of understanding that the entire population has a responsibility and a role in this regard. It is not as simple as saying that a referendum should be held to take out the eighth amendment without saying what it will be replaced with.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking during Leaders’ Questions yesterday.
He was speaking in response to questions from AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, in light of the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings on the case of Amanda Mellet.
That really pisses me off. No hurry, says Enda, as even now Irish couples are living with the reality of a FFA.
On RTÉ’s Prime Time, presenter David McCullagh spoke to Gerry Edwards, of Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland, and Tracy Harkin, of Every Life Counts, about the UN’s criticism of Ireland’s abortion laws.
From last night’s discussion:
Tracy Harkin: “I think, myself, as a mother, who has a daughter who has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, I find this report from the United Nations disturbing for a number of reasons. Firstly, I suppose what’s deeply distressing for many parents involved in our support network, and other charities that work with families that have lost babies to these conditions is the language the United Nations has chosen to use.”
“Terms like ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, ‘incompatible with life’, they’re such harsh sounding, dehumanising terms. And I think for parents like myself and for the many parents throughout Ireland who have lost their little ones to these conditions, that’s not how they see their children at all.”
“Their experiences have not been heard by in this report which is deeply disturbing; parents have been speaking out, for example, in our organisation, Every Life Counts, for the last few years, calling for better support and services to be rolled out in maternity hospitals throughout Ireland to help them make the most of the time to parent their child, to love their child, to hug their child, to, you know, smell their child as any mother wants to.”
“And this is so important, such an important pathway to healing for these mothers and I think it’s alarming that the only option, or solution that the United Nations is fixated on is abortion. You know, these are children, human beings with severe disabilities and there’s not an agreed list, neither will be, and I think for us parents, for myself, before I had my little daughter Kathleen Rose, who’s now 9 years of age, you know she’s such a wonderful little character, she’s brought such joy to my life. Many of our parents didn’t have that time with their little ones and maybe only had minutes or days but they all said that that time was so important to healing. And there’s more and more research coming out to show that, in contrast, abortion increases despair and depression among mothers because they don’t have that closure.”
David McCullagh: “Tracy Harkin, sorry to cut across you, you talk about having services available to allow parents to spend time with their children, however short that time unfortunately may be. And I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that people shouldn’t be able to make that choice. But simply that others, who feel differently, shouldn’t be deprived of their choice, for what is best for their family.”
Harkin: “Well, I think the main thing here is accurate information and I think what’s missing from this whole conversation is also to look at what’s happened in other countries. What has the impact been of legislation in other countries. You look at the UK for example, over 90% of children with any disability whatsoever are aborted right up to birth. I mean most of us have their children with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, in our communities, we love them, we fundraise for them. There’s a chilling effect to legislation here which the United Nations has chosen to ignore, time and time again. And it’s also important to mention that this case was brought forward by the Centre for Reproductive Rights which are a large, wealthy organisation with many millions at their disposal and their only focus, worldwide, is to promote abortion…”
Gerry Edwards: “I think it’s very important, again in the interest of language, that we are quite clear that there is a difference between disabilities and life-limiting conditions and fatal foetal anomalies which are conditions which are not capable of sustaining independent life outside the womb.”
“Our son had a condition called severe anencephaly. Most of his skull was missing and his brain was missing. He could not sustain independent life, there was no question whatsoever of him surviving for any length of time. And that was confirmed to us by five different medical professionals in three hospitals in two jurisdictions.”
“My wife would have been forced to continue with that pregnancy for five more months in this country, not able to bear the social contact with other people, working with the people that she worked with, being stopped by people on the streets, in the full knowledge that our son would not die, or would not live, I beg your pardon. And this was the situation which was absolute torture for us and we made a decision which was in our best interest and in the best interest of our family.”
“And that decision required us to leave our carers, leave our family and travel to another state. We did spend time with our son, he was delivered naturally, he had an induced labour, we got to spend time with him but we would have got to spend more time with him had we been able to go through that process here in Ireland.”
“Our family members would have gotten to meet him, we would have had the dignity of having a funeral and a community to stand with us and support us in our loss. Instead we got a jiffy envelope, delivered by a courier a couple of weeks later. That’s unacceptable.”
Edwards: “It’s the responsibility of our legislators to legislate. They also have an obligation to uphold international human rights law. This isn’t imposed upon Ireland. This is something that Ireland signed up to. There was a discussion earlier on in the programme about upholding the law and Ireland is one of those countries that has pledged to uphold international human rights law and we’ll find out very soon whether our Government is going to honour that commitment it made and actually take steps to change our legal environment soon.”
During the newspaper review, the panel – Senator Lynn Ruane, Breda O’Brien, of the Iona Institute; Sinéad O’Carroll, of The Journal.ie and Ger Colleran,former editor of the Irish Daily Star – also discussed the UN’s criticism.
From the discussion…
Mick Clifford: “Breda, ‘Cabinet to defy UN on abortion reforms’ [the main headline on today’s Irish Examiner]. This is not going to go away and some people would say all roads to a referendum one way or the other.”
Breda O’Brien: “Well I’m absolutely delighted if that’s an accurate headline in the Irish Examiner because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to kind of, in a sense, the UN treaty say ‘do not give any right to abortion’ but these committees have been pushing this agenda for years. And they’re stuffed with people who share a point of view which is that the baby in the womb does not have equal rights with the mother. And of course they’re going to find that something is cruel and inhumane and degrading, but I had the privilege of accompanying a friend of mine when she had a baby with a life-limiting condition and..”
Clifford: “But there’s stories like that but there’s also the other side…”
Sinead O’Carroll: “Fatal foetal abnormality is different to life-limiting…”
O’Brien: “No, life-limiting condition is the term used by hospice, it’s the term used by…”
O’Carroll: “Fatal foetal abnormality is the term used by doctors when they give diagnoses to women with fatal foetal abnormality…”
O’Brien: “But also, people, I think fatal foetal abnormality is one that people who have had babies with life-limiting conditions have asked to have it removed because it is so offensive. Your child is not a fatal foetal abnormality, no more than somebody with leukaemia is a cancer.”
Ger Colleran: “It’s the condition, not the child…”
O’Brien: “But that’s what, people have actually said in the media, they’ve said things like, ‘the fatal foetal abnormality’ as if that were, it’s a child who has a life-limiting condition…”
Clifford: “Breda, do you believe there’ll be a referendum?”
O’Brien: “I hope that there will be good sense and that people will see that this is a matter of equal rights and that they should leave it as it is.”
Lynne Ruane: “There will be.”
Clifford: “Ok, well, we’re going to have to leave it for that because that’s it now, we’ve run out of time..”
Leslie Meral Schick is volunteering on the island of Chios in Greece.
On Tuesday, she wrote the following:
I’m really struggling to post about yesterday’s events and would much prefer not to, but they have to be told.
In the morning, I attended a coordination meeting of all agencies and NGOs involved on the island. The meeting was chaired by a UNHCR rep; the agenda was long.
Three huge issues – which should have been covered by multiple contingency plans a very long time ago – remained yet again unaddressed:
1. The unbelievable overcrowding in all three Chios camps and resulting inhumane living conditions in some; also plans for housing any new arrivals (which everyone believes is a matter of time; I personally think Erdoğan has his hand on the faucet and will deploy what he deems his most powerful threat against the EU whenever necessary).
2.Escape plans in case of emergencies such as a fire.
3. The fact that – as has been made clear for months now – the food situation is entirely unsustainable.
Currently meals for 1600 refugees are provided by volunteer-run and donation-funded kitchens; the funding is scheduled to run out on June 16.
The UNHCR has no plans in response to any of these three important issues. None.
Their representative pointed out that this is Europe, and that people will surely not be allowed to starve in Europe. Um.
The food has been entirely inadequate. It’s good — but insufficient. The living conditions in some areas, including much of Chios, are ungodly.
I was in Athens last week, struggling to find any housing with running water for a family with a hospitalised newborn and a one-year-old – and supplying people living in tiny tents with no running or drinking water, no electricity, no food, no services whatsoever, with food packages purchased through donations.
None of what is happening is permissible, or humane, or acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. So hearing that surely, surely Europe would not allow refugees to go without food, and waiting until the last moment for a magic wand or magic dust to be sprinkled, is not exactly satisfactory.
The UNHCR will not provide funding for food. There is no plan. Today is the 7th. The kitchens will run out of money in 9 days.
It was pointed out repeatedly that the situation is already dire, that nerves are already beyond frayed, and that serious issues were likely to ensue if food should not be provided.
I know that if any of us were living in these conditions and if our children were hungry and if we had no choices, we would be pushed to the brink too. There was unanimous agreement. Tongues were clucked. The meeting was adjourned.
About four hours later, a large fire was set in Souda Camp. Those responsible have not yet been identified, though they were obviously frustrated refugees at the end of their wits.
Several containers housing NGO offices and a large tent housing refugees were burned to the ground. Walking through the camp and talking to people later I found them not angry, but devastatingly sad.
I sat in someone’s tent as she told how they had escaped bombing in Syria only to find themselves in such horrible conditions – and now, this. She was crying.
A small contingent of local Golden Dawn members immediately took the opportunity to situate themselves at the entrance to the camp and to prevent already traumatized refugees from leaving the site; I heard that a few had been violent, and that some refugees were hit.
It’s just impossible to comprehend how this can be happening, broadcast for all to see.
There is huge need for support of all kinds. Rally your representatives, come and volunteer, donate funds to reliable volunteers and to small NGOs. Please help these desperate people in any way that you can.
This morning the UN will scrutinize Ireland’s record on children’s rights.
The hearing from Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland will be broadcast live online herefrom 9am.
Poverty activist Michelle Russel writes:
Today the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will review Ireland’s record on children’s rights. As they will sadly find, the state is dismally failing its children.
According to figures seen by the Irish Times in a report yet to be published, 1,638 children across Ireland were known to be homeless over Christmas 2015; a year in which the number of homeless families increased by 93%.
However, the actual number of families without a home is far greater than officially recorded, as this figure only reflects families who are not split up among relatives or couch-surfing with their children.
For those children who are not in a state of homelessness, 2015 saw 12% of children in Ireland living in consistent poverty, or 130,000; roughly similar to the entire population of county Mayo.
The poverty rate for children is higher than it is for adults, and in 2011, children were found to be 1.6 times more likely to be in consistent poverty than adults. This is partly due to the number of cuts made to child benefit allowances between 2010 and 2014, and to the cuts made to social assistance payments and unemployment benefits which also affected the finances of dependant families.
One of the ways consistent poverty is measured is by lack of access to necessities such as two decent pairs of shoes and adequate nutrition, and such cuts directly contribute to an increase in child poverty.
Children in marginal communities fare even worse; there has been an 85% cut in spending on accommodation for travellers since 2008, and an 86% cut in traveller-specific education supports.
These cuts directly impact traveller children, who have an infant mortality rate 3.6 times higher than that of the general population.
According to the 2011 Census, 33% of traveller families had no sewage facilities that year, and 20% had no piped water source.
In a report on his visit to Ireland in 2008, Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that ‘Travellers have been subjected to discrimination and racism in the fields of education, employment, housing, healthcare, media reporting and participation in decision making.’
Things are not better for children in direct provision. In June 2015 there were 814 family units in direct provision, and 1082 children; 594 of those children were born into it.
The average length of time a person stays in direct provision is four years, but many families have been there for seven years or more.
Parents in Direct Provision are not provided with extra food when weaning a baby, or with any specialist foods for a child with particular medical or dietary needs. The weekly allowance is €15 per child and this often is not enough to cover school or medical supplies, or indeed any other special requirements a child may have.
Furthermore, the setup of Direct Provision makes it difficult for a child to integrate fully with children outside the system, as they are not allowed to have friends over to play and they don’t have the resources to partake in other activities such as school trips & birthday parties.
These and other failures to children in Ireland are the direct result of policies that amount to the decision to neglect, for which they are the least culpable.
The most disadvantaged children in our society are bearing the brunt of austerity policies that contravene the country’s commitment to the UN principle that “for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality… a child… should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
These policies will affect these children long into their adult lives.
Michelle Russell is an activist and researcher with Dublin Central Housing Action and the Irish Housing Network.
Hundreds of thousands of lifejackets in a makeshift dump outside Eftalou, northern Lesbos in early December; and former chair of Goldman Sachs International and UN Special Representative for Migration, Peter Sutherland
Just before Christmas, Ireland’s former Attorney General and the current United Nations Special Representative for International Migration Peter Sutherland criticised the European Union for its response to the refugees and migrant crisis
During a speech, entitled ‘Migration – The Global Challenge Of Our Times’, at the Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture at the RTÉ Radio Centre on December 17, Mr Sutherland, said: “Ruinously selfish behaviour by some member states has brought the EU to its knees.”
In addition, the Irish Times reported:
‘On the way forward, Mr Sutherland said EU member states would be wise to take a “bold step” towards a single European border agency and, eventually, a single European asylum agency. Europe had to properly fund organisations such as the [UN’s] World Food Programme, which was feeding refugees in sprawling camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. He said it was immoral that the only pathway Europe offered to desperate refugees to access protection was to cross the perilous Mediterranean at great cost and risk of death.’
“According to Turkish government sources, only 15 per cent of Syrian refugees outside official camps receive assistance from humanitarian agencies and organisations. The need to provide basic food and shelter means that families resort to desperate measures to try and make ends meet – even putting their children to work.”
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) – referred to by Mr Sutherland in his speech – is described as the ‘food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security’.
In September of last year, the Guardian reported that the UN’s humanitarian agencies were “on the verge of bankruptcy and unable to meet the basic needs of millions of people because of the size of the refugee crisis in the Middle East, Africa and Europe”.
“The deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and Jordan, particularly the lack of food and healthcare, have become intolerable for many of the 4 million people who have fled Syria, driving fresh waves of refugees north-west towards Europe and aggravating the current crisis.”
“This year the World Food Programme cut rations to 1.6 million Syrian refugees. The most vulnerable living in Lebanon now only have $13 to spend on food each month, a figure that the WFP warned would leave refugees vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. “
In the same Guardian article, it was reported that the UN only received $0.9 billion of the $2.89 billion it requested for its Syria Regional Response Plan.
“The majority of the UN’s humanitarian work is funded entirely by voluntary donations from individual governments and private donors, with agencies such as the UNHCR and Unicef receiving none of the regular budget that member states pay into the UN’s central coffers.”
“[UN high commissioner for refugees, António] Guterres is leading calls from within the UN to change this system and ask member states to make more regular payments to the main agencies.”
More recently in a TED talk, Mr Guterres said the sharp increase in refugees arriving in Europe in 2015 was largely prompted by the dire conditions facing refugees – particularly in Lebanon and Jordan – which were, in turn, largely due to lack of UN funding.
“The living conditionsof the Syrians in the neighboring countries have been deteriorating.We just had research with the World Bank,and 87 percent of the Syrians in Jordanand 93 percent of the Syrians in Lebanonlive below the national poverty lines.Only half of the children go to school,which means that people are living very badly.Not only are they refugees, out of home,not only have they suffered what they have suffered, but they are living in very, very dramatic conditions.”
“And then the trigger was when all of a sudden,international aid decreased.The [UN] World Food Programme was forced, for lack of resources,to cut by 30 percent food support to the Syrian refugees.They’re not allowed to work,so they are totally dependent on international support,and they felt, “The world is abandoning us.”And that, in my opinion, was the trigger.All of a sudden, there was a rush,and people started to move in large numbersand, to be absolutely honest,if I had been in the same situationand I would have been brave enough to do it,I think I would have done the same.”
Such cuts in funding could explain the following.
Between January 1, 2015 and November 14, 2015, an estimated 387,340 people had arrived on Lesbos via rubber dinghies – with the vast majority of these people arriving on the north of the island and spending a night there, in ill-equipped transit camps, until travelling down to Mytilene in the south for registration the following day.
Since November 29 – when the €3billion EU/Turkey deal was struck – the majority of boats arriving on Lesbos have been arriving on the south of the island.
When people arrive off boats they are generally soaked, very cold and their few possessions are either also soaked, and therefore abandoned, or were lost at sea. Some arrivals say they haven’t eaten for days.
According to figures obtained from the UNHCR, as of November 13, 2015 – when there were four “roving” UNHCR staff working in northern Lesbos – the UNHCR had provided the following by way of food, blankets and clothes in the area:
– 50,400 high-energy or sesame bars. These included 19,600 high-energy bars in Skala Sikaminias; 12,300 high-energy bars and 3,600 sesame bars in Molyvos; and 14,900 high-energy bars in Mantamados. They were distributed via their partner groups Starfish, MsF, Eurorelief, Samaritan’s Purse and the International Rescue Committee.
– 16,390 blankets. These included the distribution of 2,810 blankets in Mantamados, 3,605 in Skala Sikaminias and 9,975 in Molyvos.
– 1,913 raincoats. These were distributed in Molyvos.
The UNHCR spokeswoman said:
“UNHCR has significantly ramped up its presence in Lesvos and UNHCR staffing is being increased. Thirteen additional staff have been deployed, many speaking the language of the refugees, and bringing the total staff on Lesvos to 30. As you are aware, the situation is very challenging in all areas. At the North, new arrivals neither stay nor get registered by the Greek authorities. Thus, it is important for us to also focus in providing them protection and assistance the accommodation/registration sites near Mytilene, where people stay for a longer time than in the north.”
“UNHCR staff engage in a range of activities. Among others, they provide information to the new arrivals as regards the situation on the island, the processes that they have to go through, their rights and responsibilities…”
Alessandra Morelli, regional operations chief for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, recently spoke of her appreciation of the efforts of volunteers on the island of Lesbos, telling the Wall Street Journal: “Everyone recognises [the volunteer efforts]. But “now it’s time to bring professionals.”
Further to this.
In an open letter to the former chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Mr Sutherland – that has been circulating on social media and Reddit in recent days – a man called Patrick Holland writes:
“This refugee problem was brought about by the so called policy of ‘regime change’ favoured by some members of the US government and their lobbyists and the military-industrial business people, banking and big oil interests, including the neo conservatives…”
“Massive amounts of money are being made from these wars, supplying all sides of the conflict. Many newspapers report increased revenues and profits for military industrial interests and large banking interests which are involved in these conflicts in the Middle East. Several of these neo conservatives, lobbyists and military-industrial business people, banking and oil interests, are personal friends of yours, Mr Sutherland, you have met them in Bilderberg meetings, Trilateral Commission meetings, European Roundtable meetings, Goldman Sachs meetings, BP meetings, and WTO meetings.”
“You should get these people to stop their wars, stop their game playing in the Middle East. Use your influence, your power, your position, the press and media, your political connections, and your Goldman Sachs, Bilderberg and Trilateral connections to do this. This would help end the refugee problem…”