At an extraordinary Ard Fheis (congress) of Sinn Fein held in Dublin on January 28, delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), long known for its discriminatory and violent practices towards the Irish republican movement and Northern Ireland Catholics. About 90% of the 982 delegates at the congress accepted the motion put forward by Sinn Feins Ard Chomhairle (national executive), paving the way for a devolution of power to the Northern Ireland Assembly as outlined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
On January 21, Prime Minister John Howard condemned the organisers of the Big Day Out (BDO) music festival in Sydney for asking those planning to attend not to display Australian flags at the events as an “insult to the freedom it represents”.
More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the past month in violence between Fatah and Hamas that flared up after Fatah-aligned President Mahmoud Abbas called on December 17 for new presidential and legislative elections. Hundreds more have been wounded in the violence, which intensified in the Gaza Strip late last year and has now spread to the West Bank.
In the lead-up to the November 7 US Congressional elections, President George Bush’s Republican Party tried to terrorise the US public into voting for the party responsible for leading the country into the disastrous Iraq war.
A Gaza ceasefire was negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian officials on November 26. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it is aimed at ending the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by armed Palestinian resistance groups, and providing the basis for negotiations regarding the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Palestinians, for their part, hope the ceasefire will provide some relief for the people of the sealed Gaza Strip, who have faced a relentless Israel Defense Forces (IDF) campaign since late June.
The new student organisation at the University of New South Wales, established as a result of the Howard governments voluntary student unionism (VSU) law, is forcing staff earning $40,000 or more per year onto individual contracts (AWAs Australian Workplace Agreements).
In the deadliest single attack on Palestinians in four years, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 19 civilians at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on November 8. Seven homes were bombed in the early hours of the morning as the victims slept and, according to the Gaza-based United Nations Relief and Works Agency, more than 60 civilians were injured in the attack.
The ABC announced on October 31 that it was axing the popular satirical TV panel show The Glass House one day after NSW Liberal Senator Connie Fierrvanti-Wells attacked the show in a parliamentary estimates committee hearing examining ABC bias.
Fadi Rahman from the Independent Centre for Researchs youth centre in Lidcombe, Sydney, spoke to Green Left Weeklys Emma Clancy about the impact on young Muslim Australians of the media attack on the entire Islamic community in the wake of Sheikh Taj el-Din Al Hilalys comments about women and sexual assault.
According to an October 19 media release from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), workers under the age of 15 are now signing Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs individual work contracts) under the Howard governments Work Choices legislation, which came into effect at the end of March.