Aid ship says determined to continue journey to Gaza

(Reuters) – An aid ship carrying cargo to Gaza is determined to finish its journey despite a naval blockade and expects to reach the point where Israeli commandos raided a flotilla later this week, a crew member said.


The MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship bought by pro-Palestinian activists and named after an American woman killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, set off on Monday from Malta.

It is carrying 15 activists including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate and expects to be at the point of Monday’s deadly raid on a Turkish-backed aid convoy between Friday evening and Saturday morning, crew member Derek Graham said.

The Israeli navy stormed a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship convoy on Monday, killing nine people in what authorities have said was self-defense. The killings have sparked a world outcry and condemnations of Israel.

“We had a meeting after what happened on Monday morning and we were more determined than ever to continue with our mission,” Graham told Irish state broadcaster RTE on Wednesday.

He said he would be inform Israeli authorities of the exact positions of the ship’s passengers and urge those on board to remain peaceful.

“I will advise the passengers and crew to sit quietly with their hands shown so they cannot do like they did on Monday and claim we attacked them,” he said. “We are a peaceful mission.”

The Israeli government has offered to escort the vessel and deliver the civilian aid for it. It has said Egypt is prepared to do the same.

However Graham said he was concerned not all the cargo would be delivered. The ship is carrying medical equipment, school supplies and cement, a material Israel has banned from entering Gaza.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who described the vessel as Irish-owned, said it should be allowed to finish its mission.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Noah Barkin)

Support for Irish PM, party down in polls

Support for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is less than half what it was when he took office in May 2008, an opinion poll published on Sunday showed.

Only 31 percent of those questioned for a Red C/Sunday Business Post poll said Cowen was “a safe pair of hands”, down from 74 percent in April 2008, before the collapse of the property market plunged Ireland into a record recession.

Support for the ruling Fianna Fail party, which got a boost after an austerity budget adopted in December, fell to 24 percent, a drop of three percentage points from a 27 percent approval rating in January and February.

Backing for the junior coalition partner Green Party held steady at 5 percent, the poll found.

Among the opposition parties, Fine Gael’s popularity increased by a point to 35 percent and Labour’s was unchanged at 17 percent.

The Irish government’s tough measures, including harsh public spending cuts, have won praise across Europe as decisive action to turn around the economy.

They also won the backing of the public, whose support for the government rose by four points in Red C’s January opinion poll and stabilised in February.

But a cabinet reshuffle last week failed to impress and the government faces huge challenges, with major announcements on how the ailing banks will be shored up expected this week.

Unions have been waging a campaign of low-level disruption against the austerity measures, but there is little public sympathy for the inconvenience caused, with only a fifth surveyed backing the industrial action.

Red C interviewed 1,000 adults by phone.

In a poll in the Sunday Independent, carried out by Quantum Research with a smaller sample of 200 homes, 66 percent said Cowen should resign as prime minister and 79 percent said they did not believe they could depend on parliament to solve the country’s problems.

Another general election is not scheduled until 2012.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Obama In St Patrick’s Day Teleprompt Blunder

Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder

Obama and the Irish PM share the joke during their joint address

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was just a few paragraphs into an address in Washington when he realised it all sounded a bit too familiar.

It was. He was repeating the speech President Barack Obama had just read from the same teleprompter.

Mr Cowen stopped, turned to the president and said: “That’s your speech.”

A laughing Mr Obama returned to the podium to take over but it seems the script had finally been switched and the US president ended up thanking himself for inviting everyone to the party.

Mr Obama is an accomplished orator but is becoming known in America as the “teleprompt president” over his reliance on the machine when he gives a speech.
Earlier in the day, the president claimed an Irish ancestry, saying his mother’s family could be traced back to Ireland.

He joked to Cowen: “We may be cousins. We haven’t sorted that through yet.”

Speaking in the Oval Office, he told the Irish premier:”Not all Americans are Irish but all Americans support those who stand on the side of peace and peace will prevail.”

The fountains at the White House were dyed green for the day at the request of the First Lady and guests at the cocktail reception drank green sparkling wine from a Californian vineyard.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon from Northern Ireland and Maggie McCarthy, a traditional Irish dancer and musician from Cork, and the vocal group Celtic Thunder all attended.

Mr Obama joked about the free-flowing bar and warned his guests not to wear lampshades on their heads in front of the cameras.
Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder
Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder
Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder
Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder
Obama In St Patrick's Day Teleprompt Blunder

White House fountains runs green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Washington, Mar.18 (ANI): The fountains on the north and south lawns of the White House turned to a magnificent green colour to mark the Irish national holiday of St.Patrick’s Day, during the visit of the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

“This is an affirmation between one of the strongest bonds between peoples that exists in the world,” Obama said as he met Cowen in at Oval office.

Michelle Obama ordered the White House fountains to run green for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, The Telegraph reports.

The First Lady said she was inspired by the celebrations in her hometown of Chicago, where the city marks the holiday by dyeing the river green.

The green dye is being used across the US in food and drink to mark St. Patrick’s Day

Obama said his mother’s background could be traced to Ireland, so he was very much interested in the celebrations.

“We may be cousins. We haven’t sorted that through yet,” Obama told Cowen jokingly. (ANI)