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| THURSDAY MAY 21 2009

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Speaker’s exit fails to end clamour for UK clean-up
LONDON: Reformists called for a fundamental shakeup of Britain’s political system yesterday, saying the first ousting of a parliamentary speaker in 300 years was not enough to still public anger over an expenses scandal. Speaker Michael Martin (pix) stepped down on Tuesday, the highest-ranking casualty of a storm over parliamentarians’ expenses that has triggered outrage across recession-hit Britain and brought opposition calls for an early general election. “A very British revolution” said a headline in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which has rocked Britain’s political class with disclosures of how lawmakers used public funds to pay for everything from cleaning their moat to manure for their gardens. Senior Conservative member of parliament Alan Duncan told Sky News Britain had gone through “almost a sort of spring revolution over the last few weeks”. The controversy has tarnished the reputation of parliament and hurt all major parties, but particularly Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour party, in power for 12 years and due to face a general election by mid-2010. Brown, whose Labour party lags far behind the Conservatives in the polls, resisted opposition calls for an early general election on Tuesday, saying he was pushing through reforms to end the “gentlemen’s club” atmosphere of parliament. Brown called for lawmakers to submit their expenses in future to an independent body. “Let us clean up the rules so that nobody is ever in a position to make these judgments themselves again,” he told GMTV yesterday. Martin, under fire for his resistance to publishing MPs’ expense claims, was forced to step down after politicians from all major parties backed a motion of no-confidence in parliament’s top official. The last speaker forced from the post was John Trevor, who lost the confidence of the house in 1695 for taking a bribe. Many politicians and newspapers said the departure of Martin was only the start of the reforms needed to Britain’s tradition-laden parliament. Conservative leader David Cameron has called for the scrapping of a communications allowance and said the number of MPs should be reduced. There have also been calls for USstyle recall elections to oust MPs found to have abused the system. Anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell, a former MP, said the election of a new speaker, set for June 22, opened a “wonderful opportunity for our democracy” but he said it was “just a start”. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who signed the motion calling on Martin to go, called for fundamental reform to open up parliament and rid it of archaic conventions. “We have to recognise the scale of the task ahead of us in terms of rebuilding public trust and confidence in parliament.” – Reuters

Irish priests beat, raped children: Report
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DUBLIN: Priests beat and raped children during decades of abuse in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland, a report said yesterday. Orphanages and industrial schools in 20th century Ireland were places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse, the report said. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, established by the government in 2000, blasted successive generations of priests, nuns and Brothers for beating, starving and, in some cases raping, children in Ireland’s network of industrial and reformatory schools between the 1930s and 1990s. “A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys,” the report said. “Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.” The five-volume report, published after a nine-year investigation into institutions now closed down, also slammed the Department of Education for its deferential attitude to the religious orders and its failure to stop the abuse. The Commission interviewed 1,090 men and women who were housed in 216 institutions including children’s homes, hospitals and schools. Many of the children were sent into church care because of school truancy, petty crime or because they were unmarried mothers or their offspring. Tom Sweeney, who spent five years at industrial schools including two years at one where the report said sexual abuse was a “chronic problem”, said the Artane Industrial School continued to haunt its former residents. “Anybody that came into Artane did not come out a happy person and unfortunately there are a lot of people that have committed suicide, there are a lot of people that have ended up in hospitals and they have been forgotten about. You didn’t forget about Artane and you never forget about it.” – AFP