Jumaat, 13 Mei 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

ANALYSIS - British Queen's Irish trip a century in the making

Posted: 13 May 2011 06:47 AM PDT

DUBLIN (Reuters) - It will take Britain's Queen Elizabeth less than an hour to fly to Ireland for a state visit next week but it has taken close to a century to deal with the historical and political baggage surrounding such a trip.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth (R) and Prince Philip travel to Buckingham Palace in a Semi-State Landau, along the Procession Route, after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey in central London April 29, 2011. (REUTERS/Kieran Doherty)

The British monarch's four-day visit will be the most important state sojourn the Irish Republic has hosted, capping warm diplomatic ties with its former colonial master and underscoring the success of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

A 1998 deal ending Irish nationalists' guerrilla war against British rule of Northern Ireland set the clock ticking on a royal visit but it was not until police and justice powers were transferred from London to Belfast last year, the last piece of devolution, that the diplomatic wheels could be set in motion.

It will be the first visit by a British monarch since King George V in 1911 before a bloody uprising and two-year war led to Irish independence in 1921.

"The word historic is being used justifiably for this visit," said Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin. "It is the last piece of a jigsaw that has been slowly put together over the last 10 or 15 years."

In the second half of the 20th century, Northern Ireland's continuing membership of the United Kingdom and its treatment of pro-Irish Catholics tarred relations between London and Dublin but problems between the two countries have an ancient heritage.

Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland in the 16th century and from then until independence in 1921, the crown was the symbol of oppression and Irish nationalism was synonymous with republicanism.

During the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict, in which 3,600 were killed, British and Irish relations hit several low points.

A crowd burnt the British embassy in Dublin in 1972 in fury over British troops killing 13 unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland's "Bloody Sunday".

Guerrilla group the Irish Republican Army (IRA) started bombing England and in 1979 killed the Queen's cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten while on holiday in northwest Ireland.

English people tended to avoid holidaying in Ireland and Irish people seeking work in London, a favourite IRA target, often tried to mask their accents for fear of being labelled a "terrorist".


Despite the IRA's campaign, which was not supported by the majority of people in the Republic, a flow of Irish emigrants to Britain and British broadcast media's availability in Ireland meant there was, and is, an underlying bond between the countries.

The UK is Ireland's largest trading partner and for some sectors -- fashion, food and drink - Ireland is Britain's largest export market.

One percent of the British population classifies themselves as Irish according to the last census but millions have an Irish grandparent entitling them to claim citizenship in the Republic.

Some of Britain's best-know names are Irish; from broadcaster Terry Wogan to milliner Philip Treacy, a particular favourite of the Queen. Television soap operas in Manchester and London are avidly followed in Ireland.

For British people of Irish descent, the relationship with the "old country" can be complicated.

John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten of punk group the Sex Pistols, remarked in an interview last year that he still gets abuse for having an English accent while travelling on an Irish passport.

Terry Hobdell, who came to Ireland in 1973 from London and set up a fencing business, said having an English accent was never a problem.

"You get the odd 'Plastic Paddy' thing but that's amongst people you know and it's an in-joke," said the 65-year-old, whose mother was from Co.Kerry and whose father was a fourth-generation London cockney.

"I don't consider racism the odd guy on a motorbike calling me an "English XXX" because I've told him not to drive up against my car."


During British colonial rule, sport was divisive. Rugby, soccer and cricket were dismissed as "garrison games" and until 1971 the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which represents Irish sports, banned its members from playing them.

In recent times, sport has brought the countries closer. Proud Irish republicans happily support English soccer clubs and the GAA has embraced the new environment in Northern Ireland.

In 2001, the association lifted its ban on members of the British security forces becoming members and last month, GAA members helped carry the coffin of a Catholic policeman killed by dissident nationalists in Northern Ireland.

For Irish people, the most amazing aspect of the Queen's itinerary is the plan to visit Dublin's Croke Park, the GAA's national stadium and the venue for the original "Bloody Sunday", when British troops killed 14 people in 1920.

As head of the British armed forces, the Queen's presence in such hallowed nationalist ground is controversial in some strong republican quarters.

But British Prime Minister David Cameron's apology last year for Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday in 1972, and the English rugby team's match against Ireland there in 2007, paved the way.

Dissident nationalist groups in Northern Ireland have warned the Queen that she is not welcome in Ireland but outside of small protests, neither government is expecting trouble.

Irish people take an interest in the royal family, as evidenced by the deserted streets during the televised April 29 wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

"There is no hostility towards it as far as I can see except in traditional republican circles," said Tim Pat Coogan, who has written books on the IRA and Irish nationalist leaders. "People will give her the usual Irish welcome once she gets here."

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Radiation found in seaweed near crippled Japan plant

Posted: 13 May 2011 06:47 AM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Seaweed collected from the coast near Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and sewage in Tokyo have shown elevated levels of radiation, according to data released by an environmental group and government officials on Friday.

Workers wearing protective suits stand after water stopped flowing at the pit near the water intake canal of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station No.3 reactor in this May 11, 2011 handout. (REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power Co/Handout)

The findings, released separately by Greenpeace and Tokyo government officials, underline the difficulty of containing the water-borne spread of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was seriously damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, triggering a still-unfolding crisis.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power has poured massive amounts of water on four of the reactors at the plant to cool the fuel they contain, but struggled to keep the radioactive water from leaking out to the sea.

Environmental critics have also raised worries about contaminated water seeping into the water table.

Greenpeace said that 10 of the 22 seaweed samples it had collected at sea near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had shown radiation levels as much as five times the standard set by Japan for food.

"Radioactive contamination is accumulating in the marine ecosystem that provides Japan with a quarter of its seafood, yet the authorities are still doing very little to protect public health," Ike Teuling, Greenpeace radiation expert, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Tepco sealed a leak of contaminated water found near the No. 3 reactor that may have seeped into the Pacific Ocean from the coastal plant. A previous ocean leak sparked international concern about the impact of the disaster on the environment.

Radiation in food and other substances is measured in Becquerel. The limit set for food by Japan is 2,000 Becquerel (Bq) per kg for radioactive Iodine-131 and 500 Bq/kg for radioactive cesium.

Greenpeace said 10 of its seaweed samples had shown radiation levels over 10,000 Bq/kg. Some types of seaweed are a staple of the Japanese diet.

Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the nuclear crisis, said the government would look into the finding by Greenpeace.

"I don't want to ignore this and the government will do its own follow-up study as needed," Hosono told reporters.

Separately, government officials in Tokyo said radiation levels in sewage had spiked in late March. The data was released this week in conjunction with a new government standard intended to contain the spread of radiation in sewage.

Combined radiation levels of cesium and others in waste burned at the sewage treatment plant in Tokyo spiked to 170,000 Bq/kg in the immediate wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, officials said on Friday.

The radiation level was measured on March 25, just over two weeks after the earthquake.

Akiko Matsumoto, spokeswoman for the Tokyo Bureau of Sewage said the radiation figure is a composite of cesium and iodine levels.

The Japanese government did not set a guideline for radioactive material in sewage until Thursday, when they announced that any solid waste with a cesium level of 100,000 Bq/kg or above should be incinerated and then sealed in a container.

Matsumoto said the bureau did not know the reason behind the sudden jump in radiation levels. "One theory is that the radiation from Fukushima was carried by rain," she said.

The overall radiation level in Tokyo sewage had dropped to 16,000 Bq/kg by April 28.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki and Mari Saito; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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