Friday, October 26, 2007

Pests and the European Parliament

European Parliament in Strasbourg
European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France
This week European Parliament MEPs proposed that spraying pesticides near schools or hospitals should be heavily controlled to safeguard health and food quality.

There would also be a general ban on aerial crop spraying, making it illegal to kill bugs using a method made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's movie North by Northwest.

No doubt, the highly protected agricultural sector would be provided with compensation.

For the pests in the European Parliament whose only exposure to tropical pests is in the rarefied atmosphere of 5-star hotels when on their regular junkets, and the anti-GMerrs, in the comfort of Europe, the mammoth UN environment report that was published on Thursday said:

Losses in total global farm production, due to insect pests, have been estimated at about 1 per cent.

Since 1987 the expansion of cropland has slackened, but land use intensity has increased dramatically. A hectare of cropland, which then yielded on average 1.8 tonnes, now produces 2.5 tonnes.

Unsustainable land use is causing degradation, a threat as serious as climate change and biodiversity loss. It affects up to a third of the world's people, through pollution, soil erosion, nutrient depletion, water scarcity, salinity, and disruption of biological cycles.

The food security of two-thirds of the world's people depends on fertilisers, especially nitrogen.

Population growth, over-consumption and the continued shift from cereal to meat consumption mean food demand will increase to 2.5-3.5 times the present figure.

By 2030 developing countries will probably need 120 million more hectares to feed themselves.

The loss of genetic diversity may threaten food security: 1 animal species make up 90 per cent of all livestock, and 30 crops dominate agriculture, providing an estimated 90 per cent of the world's calories.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

False Panaceas for Fools on Biofuels and Organic Food

Conventional wisdom is dangerous when it comes to climate change remedies and with politicians likely to follow the crowd, it's well to be on guard for what is termed the law of unintended consequences.

So for example, if you believe that you are contributing to alleviating climate change or protecting the environment, by buying organic food, you may be dead wrong. You may also believe that the European Union target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020, is a good thing. It may well not be. You may also regard Ryanair's Michael O'Leary's rejection of emission curbs on aviation as pernicious but just consider: Every year, the world loses a forest area the size of Ireland. This accounts for 18 percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions, more than from the world’s entire transport sector. Deforestation must be reversed not accelerated by for example biofuel production. (SEE: Finfacts article).

In recent weeks, there have been warnings that the greenhouse gas situation is being made worse by the emphasis on biofuels. Increased palm oil production in for example Indonesia will accelerate the destruction of the rain forests while in India and China, water supplies will be endangered.

The poor of the poor are at most risk from the jump in grain prices that the increase in subsidised biofuel production in the US has triggered.

The damage to the environment may in fact be worse than the disease.

Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914- ), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, is called the Father of the "Green Revolution" and in the words of US Senator Charles Grassley, has "saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

Last week, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, demanded an international five-year ban on producing biofuels to combat soaring food prices.

Switzerland's Jean Ziegler said the conversion of arable land for plants used for green fuel had led to an explosion of agricultural prices which was punishing poor countries forced to import their food at a greater cost.

"232kg of corn is needed to make 50 litres of bioethanol," Ziegler said. "A child could live on that amount of corn for a year."

Using land for biofuels would result in "massacres", he said, predicting a reduction in the amount of food aid sent to developing countries by richer ones.

"It's a total disaster for those who are starving."

Ziegler's proposal for a five-year moratorium, which he plans to submit to the UN General Assembly on October 25, is aiming to ban the conversion of land for the production of biofuels.

Ziegler said he hoped that by the time the moratorium was lifted science would have made sufficient progress to be able to create "second generation" biofuels, made from agricultural waste or from non-agricultural plants such as jatropha, which grows naturally on arid ground.

Taking Brazil as an example, Ziegler said he deplored the fact that sugar cane plantations, whose products were used for biofuels, were spreading at the expense of food-producing land.

He said ten hectares (100,000 square metres) of food-producing land could sustain an average of seven to ten farmers, whereas the same area could only produce enough sugar cane for one farmer.

The use of non-food plants such as jatropha, shows that it is not a simple issue of saying one solution is good, another bad.

Ibrahim Rehman, the director of action programs at The Energy and Resource Institute in India, says that in the absence of a global consensus on specific principles, criteria or standards for bioenergy production, there are indications - especially in the developing world - that the biofuels agenda is being pushed forward with limited understanding of social, environmental and economic implications.

A further complication is that the case for biofuels is often oversimplified. For instance, in India it is argued that crops for biofuels production can be planted on 106 million acres of wasteland - even though a major part of this so-called wasteland is under various uses, not lying vacant, as agricultural planners may assume.

Rehman says that in other situations, biofuels initiatives likely will involve planting on land already in production, or cultivating crops that would otherwise contribute to the food chain - with rising prices of U.S. corn and of cereals in China as cases in point. It will be crucial to properly assess and determine the economics of growing our fuel and its implications on food security.

To an extent, several pilot initiatives are addressing this lack of specific criteria for biofuels production, thus contributing to the nascent development of standards and practices.

In India, one such step in the direction of developing practices and standards is the joint biofuels initiative of BP and The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi. The project focuses on growing jatropha - a non-food crop that thrives in conditions where food crops tend to fail - on more than 19,700 acres of land in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The project encompasses and assesses the complete biodiesel production process, and very poor farmers are involved in measuring jatropha's benefits in augmenting incomes for marginalized sections of society.

The World Bank in its World Development Report 2008, (WDR) which was published on October 19, 2007, says that promising new opportunities for mitigating climate change and creating large new markets for agriculture have emerged through the production of biofuels, stimulated by high energy prices. But few of the current biofuels programs are economically viable, and many pose social (rising food prices) and environmental (deforestation) risks. To date, production in industrial countries has developed behind high protective tariffs on biofuels and with large subsidies.

These policies hurt developing countries that are, or could become, efficient producers in profitable new export markets. Poor consumers also pay higher prices for food staples as grain prices rise in world markets directly due to the diversion of grain to biofuels or indirectly due to land conversion away from food production.

What is the future for the global food supply?
From World Development Report 2008

Agriculture has been largely successful in meeting the world’s effective demand for food. Yet more than 800 million people remain food insecure, and agriculture has left a huge
environmental footprint. And the future is increasingly uncertain.

Models predict that food prices in global markets may reverse their long term downward trend, creating rising uncertainties about global food security.

Climate change, environmental degradation, rising competition for land and water, higher energy prices, and doubts about future adoption rates for new technologies all present huge challenges and risks that make predictions difficult.

To meet projected demand, cereal

production will have to increase by nearly 50 percent and meat production by 85 per cent from 2000 to 2030. Added to this is the burgeoning demand for agricultural feed stocks for biofuels, which have already pushed up world food prices.

Managing the aggregate response of agriculture to rising demand will require good policy and sustained investments, not business as usual. Sharply increased investment is especially urgent in Sub-Saharan Africa, where food imports are predicted to more than double by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario, the impact of climate change is expected to be large with little capacity to cope, and progress continues to be slow in raising per capita food availability.

The WDR says that Brazil is the world’s largest and most efficient producer of biofuels, based on its low-cost production of sugarcane. But few other developing countries are likely to be efficient producers with current technologies. Policy decisions on biofuels need to devise regulations or certification systems to mitigate the potentially large environmental footprint of biofuels production. Increased public and private investment in research is important to develop more efficient and sustainable production processes based on feedstocks other than food staples.

Dr. Norman Borlaug is presented the Congressional Gold Medal by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on July 17, 2007 - - Professor M.S.Swaminathan, President, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India, said at the ceremony: The impact of the Borlaug-led Green Revolution symphony will be clear from the fact that during 1964-68, Indian farmers increased wheat production in four years by an order greater than that achieved during the preceding 4000 years.

Organic Food

Peter Melchett of the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic lobby group, says that environmental concerns, rather than health benefits, are now cited by British consumers as their main justification for buying organic food.

The Economist says that there is no clear evidence that conventional food is harmful or that organic food is nutritionally superior.

The Economist says that not everyone agrees that organic farming is better for the environment. Perhaps the most eminent critic of organic farming is Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the “green revolution”, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and an outspoken advocate of the use of synthetic fertilisers to increase crop yields.

He claims the idea that organic farming is better for the environment is “ridiculous” because organic farming produces lower yields and therefore requires more land under cultivation to produce the same amount of food.

Thanks to synthetic fertilisers, Dr. Borlaug points out, global cereal production tripled between 1950 and 2000, but the amount of land used increased by only 10%. Using traditional techniques such as crop rotation, compost and manure to supply the soil with nitrogen and other minerals would have required a tripling of the area under cultivation. The more intensively you farm, Dr. Borlaug contends, the more room you have left for rainforest.

What of the claim that organic farming is more energy-efficient? Lord Melchett points out for example that the artificial fertiliser used in conventional farming is made using natural gas, which is “completely unsustainable”.

The Economist says that Anthony Trewavas, a biochemist at the University of Edinburgh, counters that organic farming actually requires more energy per tonne of food produced, because yields are lower and weeds are kept at bay by ploughing. And Mr Pollan notes that only one-fifth of the energy associated with food production across the whole food chain is consumed on the farm: the rest goes on transport and processing.

The Economist says that the most environmentally benign form of agriculture appears to be “no till” farming, which involves little or no ploughing and relies on cover crops and carefully applied herbicides to control weeds. This makes it hard to combine with organic methods (though some researchers are trying). Too rigid an insistence on organic farming's somewhat arbitrary rules, then—copper, a heavy metal, can be used as an organic fungicide because it is traditional—can actually hinder the adoption of greener agricultural techniques.

Norman Borlaug

Named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential minds of the 20th century, Norman Borlaug was born in 1914 to Norwegian-American parents outside Cresco in the north-eastern part of the American State of Iowa.

In 1944, Dr. Borlaug participated in the Rockefeller Foundation's pioneering technical assistance program in Mexico, where he was a research scientist in charge of wheat improvement. For the next sixteen years, he worked to solve a series of wheat production problems that were limiting wheat cultivation in Mexico and to help train a whole generation of young Mexican scientists.

The work in Mexico not only had a profound impact on Dr. Borlaug's life and philosophy of agriculture research and development, but also on agricultural production, first in Mexico and later in many parts of the world.

It was on the research stations and farmers' fields of Mexico that Dr. Borlaug developed successive generations of wheat varieties with broad and stable disease resistance, broad adaptation to growing conditions across many degrees of latitude, and with exceedingly high yield potential.

These new wheat varieties and improved crop management practices transformed agricultural production in Mexico during the 1940's and 1950's and later in Asia and Latin America, sparking what today is known as the "Green Revolution." Because of his achievements to prevent hunger, famine and misery around the world, it is said that Dr. Borlaug has "saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

Finfacts 2006 report: Enormous tasks ahead to feed the world, says former Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Finfacts Climate Change Reports can be found in the lower right-hand column of the home page.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ozone Man's Vindication

Al Gore's award as co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, is a worthy vindication for a man who has promoted environmental issues from his early years in politics.

In the 1992 presidential campaign, President George H.W. Bush nicknamed Gore, then Bill Clinton's running mate, "Ozone Man" and portrayed him as a threat to Americans because of his perceived wacky positions on the environment. Eight years later, Gore was contesting the presidency against Bush's son and "misunderestimated" him to use a Bushism.

American columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2004: Upon losing a game at the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament, Aaron Nimzowitsch, the great chess theoretician and a superb player, knocked the pieces off the board, jumped on the table and screamed, "How can I lose to this idiot?"

Within months of Gore's searing loss of the presidency as decreed by the Supreme Court, President George W. Bush exempted the US from emission targets that were set by the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

For many, the new president confirmed the view that he was an idiot. Bush in fact wasn't exactly the Neanderthal that his poorly communicated position suggested - see letter of March 13, 2001 to US Senators. A President Gore would also have had a serious challenge in selling climate change to the Republican controlled Congress at that time.

Al Gore Nobel Peace Prize Press Conference

Gore like the superrich Irish rock musician Bono, has been successful as an advocate. Advocacy however, is only the start of the process of reaction and it's the easy part.

Wealthy celebrities can promote their cause, without in any way risking their lifestyle and they often enhance their earning power. The New York Times says that Gore is a multimillionaire who has built a media and high-tech empire around himself and his environmental work. He is an adviser to Google, sits on the board of Apple and is the chairman and cofounder of Current TV, a cable network with 38 million subscribers. He receives up to $175,000 per speaking appearance, although he waives or reduces his fee for some non-profit companies and schools. Fast Company magazine has estimated his net worth at more than $100 million.

The rich like Bono and Gore can buy conscience salving carbon credits and solutions for climate change would be painless for them.

For others, the hard part is ahead.

The jump in the price of oil in the 1970's coinciding with environmental concerns moving up the political agenda in the rich world, ushered in significant advances in technology that has reduced both pollution and increased oil use efficiency. The emphasis on climate change will bring forward a technology leap in decades ahead that will prepare the world for a time when oil will be more costly and harder to extract - e.g. from tar sands - than it is conventionally.

The difficult choices ahead are exemplified by the impact of the ramping up of biofuel production has had on in pushing up grain prices in the US and the warning this week that India and China will face water shortages if they go ahead with their biofuel plans.

The poor of the poor in places like Africa may face the biggest threat from climate change but some remedies may hit them in the here and now. Where does most of the wheat for the World Food Program come from?

Politicians have had little to say on expected lifestyle changes ahead if any, so far and in Ireland, Green Party minister Eamon Ryan has called for a cross-party consensus on climate change measures, suggesting a reluctance to make hard choices. In an ideal world, it would be nice to get all politicians to agree on proposals that would sacrifice short-term popularity. However, where parties in power take credit for everything of a positive slant, apart from the weather,
Ryan's spread the responsibility strategy, will hardly work.

Al Gore Debates Global Warming

Ryan's ministerial colleague John Gormley does not engender much optimism either given the muddle that he has made of waste management policy. He plans to spend millions in hiring international experts to advise him, even though he has already set forth various versions of his own position.

Ireland is a very small part of the climate change issue and the people in Emerging Economies have much further catch-up in spreading the conventional carbon-rich first world lifestyle. More cars, more air conditioning, more showers, more clothes washing, are just part of the emerging scenario.

Just consider how hard it is to get a global trade agreement.

The first world could impose carbon taxes on imports from poorer countries but wasn't it precisely the deflationary impact of those imports that has kept our interest rates in the first world at single digits for the past two decades?

To borrow the words of Winston Churchill in November 1942: this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning

So let's give two cheers for Al Gore's prize!

Related articles on climate change can be found on the lower end of the right-hand column of the Finfacts home page.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Hidden Ireland and the Vested Interests with the Grip on the Public Megaphone

Tánaiste and Minister for Finance Brian Cowen TD - - After the last sham benchmarking, it is "likely" that the Benchmarking Body will take account of the public service pensions that would require the equivalent of 28% of salary for 40 years in the private sector! More...

This morning on RTE Radio 1's flagship news programme Morning Ireland, a representative of the Aer Lingus pilots/shareholders, outlined their case for the application of a model in relation to international bases, which the airline may establish, that is the antithesis of the model that has been the central pillar of Irish economic development for the last half-century i.e. principally American companies could set up operations in Ireland and operate in accordance with local market conditions.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on Tuesday had given the pilots' union a hope of a fudge on conditions for pilots at the new base in Belfast, by saying that both sides should resume talks. It's a tack that has worked fine for a while during times of plenty, with the likes of sham benchmarking, but sometimes a clear line must be drawn.

Some time later on Morning Ireland, a representative of the Irish Medical Association outlined why doctors are threatening a strike at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital because of the reduction in overtime. Not too long ago, the whinge was that junior doctors were expected to work too long. Surprise! surprise!

In both cases - excess and inadequate overtime, the ostensible concern is safety of patients.

Another morning it could be medical consultants carping about salaries of over €200,000 being "mickey-mouse" money or teacher unions whinging about some grievance, all on behalf of the patients again or the school children.

In the hidden Ireland, there are hundreds of thousands with no job security and on terms and benefits that pale in comparison with those of the vested interests that have a firm grip on the public megaphone.

IBEC, which represents large Irish employers, said on Tuesday that in the period 1999 to 2006, compensation per private sector employee in Ireland rose by 42%, compared to 15% in the euro area, and just 7.5% in Germany.

Politicians pay increased about 90% in the period and the rest of the public service in the period 2001-2006 saw their pay increase by 38% (additional staff are excluded in arriving at figure) compared with a rise of 19% in the average industrial wage which is €32,000 - not too much more than Trevor Sargent TD, who lives in Balbriggan, North Dublin, claimed in travel expenses last year.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen said last week that the Benchmarking Body in making comparisons is likely to give greater weight to the value of the public service pension package "in view of developments in relation to pensions across the economy in recent years."


A private sector worker can provide for the equivalent of a public service pension for a maximum of two-thirds of final salary for retirement. However, 28% of salary would have to be put aside every year for 40 years to do so.

In the private sector, there are 900,000 workers without any occupational coverage.

Having a grip of the public megaphone pays dividends big time and the politicians are good at feathering their own nests.

One can well ask, where is the outrage from the hidden Ireland?

Anyone for Benchmarking.....but perish the thought that there would be public sector reform.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Happy 10th Birthday Irish Planning Corruption Tribunal; Land Rezoning Reform: ZERO

Dublin Castle, the location of public corruption tribunals -Politicians were revealed to have sold their integrity for as low as €3,000.

The corrupt land rezoning system that makes multi-millionaire of farmers and others, is immune from reform.

Irish politicians are not known for political courage or conviction, whether in the area of social policy that is left to the Courts or economic issues that would challenge vested interests.

For more than four decades, the Irish population has been threatened with shame and embarrassment by being hauled before the courts for non-payment of a television licence - or let's call it a tax, for this purpose.

During much of that time, anyone who could evade taxes, did it on a massive scale and to borrow a line from the late Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, who recently hit the news by willing her dog $12 million: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

Some of our little people, were charmed by a political leader such as Charles Haughey and bought into a plot similar to the James Stewart 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life.

In our history, the name "Oliver Cromwell" and the word "landlord" has induced frisson in many an Irish person.

Haughey's mentor, current Taoiseach Bertie Ahern however has done a good makeover on the word "landlord" with another sequel to the James Stewart story. This time, the angel Clarence in the person of Michael Wall brings a case full of cash to the distraught "George Bailey." The angel as the landlord, not only wills his house to the tenant but in the event of the tenant's death, to the latter's children.

There are believers in UFOs and yarns but beyond stories of sterling and dollars, there are two striking aspects to the Irish Planning Corruption Tribunal that will celebrate its tenth anniversary next month.

News of the nexus between land rezoning - Ireland's crack cocaine - and politics is no news. Secondly, after a decade of public confirmation of corruption, the system that spawned the corruption, has been subject to ZERO reform.

The days of the brown envelope may be past but anyone who believes that the incentives for more subtle forms of corruption have abated, is an idiot, given the huge value changes that rezoning decisions, or the prospect of them, trigger.

Is there a prospect of change? Absolutely not.

My mother used to say to expect nothing and you won't be disappointed. In that regard, it is arguable that the Green Party leadership has done more damage to the reputation of politics in recent times, than anyone else.

John Gormley's Faustian bargain for power is not tied to measurable objectives such as changing the corrupt rezoning system but to more stellar ones such as saving the polar ice-cap. While important too, the reality is that an Irish politician, representing 4 million from a global population of 6.5 billion, has to comply with EU targets and piggy-back on the credit of others from more significant economies, if there will be anything to brag about.

The Irish Times reported last May: Green Party leader Trevor Sargent described the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as a political "dead man walking" and claimed no party would be willing to serve in a coalition government led by him because of the questions about his personal finances.

He said he could not "see any party to be honest accepting the moral authority which is expected of a taoiseach with Bertie Ahern in that office".

"I feel that Bertie Ahern as a result of the Tánaiste essentially calling him a liar is politically now a dead man walking. When people vote for Fianna Fáil the question will be on their minds as to who they are voting for as leader because it's very likely it won't be Bertie Ahern."

He added: "The questions of his own personal finances and his relations with individuals which he didn't want to make public but has been made public, does, I believe, call for a new start in Irish politics where standards are set at the very highest level which take out any confusion about vested interests and who controls decision making in Government."

Trust me? And the same people bewail widespread cynicism!

Within weeks, Trevor Sargent avidly drank the soup despite the cant on moral authority and became a Minister in Ahern's Government!

On September 26th, Green Party Leader John Gormley spoke in support of Bertie Ahern in a Dáil confidence debate: When the Green Party made the decision to enter Government last June, its members knew a process was in train and that the Taoiseach was due to give evidence to the Mahon tribunal. It has been our consistent line that we will await the outcome of that tribunal. It is important that the tribunal be allowed to conduct its work unimpeded and that no attempt is made to prejudge the outcome.

Consistent? Four months is a long time to be consistent!

Change does happen eventually in Ireland but don't doubt that it's at a slower pace than the glacial speed in the Arctic and the penny may well drop at some point for the Dr Faustus of modern Irish politics.

The message on the one tax - the television licence - that continues to get promotion on the broadcasting airwaves, has also changed in recent times.

Besides scaring the little people, business owners who may be dawdling the day away watching trash daytime TV, are now also under threat of shame and embarrassment not only in the courts but in front of staff, when an inspector calls.

That's progress at least, if not a little more democratic but dare anyone impinge on the potential bonanzas for farmers - who are already largely dependent for most of their income on European taxpayers, and continue to have the opportunity of a double-dip with the system of rezoning, paid for dearly by house purchasers!

John Gormley's Planet Bertie Speech Feb 2007

Irish Politics and the Value of "Values" - - Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader says in Feb 2007 that the Fianna Fáil party is "without vision or values" and that Michael McDowell, then PD leader was Bertie Ahern's Tammy Wynette - Stand by your Man - a role Gormley plays months later.

Gormley may well have done more damage to the reputation of Irish politics than Bertie Ahern because of the huge gulf between his words and actions.

Postscript: It will be reassuring that a poll apparently conducted by the Sunday Independent among 400 people on Friday, by a team of "professional telephone pollsters", has found that the public's support for Bertie Ahern has not wavered.

The identities of the "professional telephone pollsters" is not given in contrast with polls published by other newspapers. Readers have to make up their own minds if the poll is a figment of someone's imagination.

Whether it's the Wall Street Journal, the Irish Independent or the Irish Times, no serious newspaper has its staff call people from the phone book and then present it as a poll.

If the poll did take place, it's clear that it wasn't scientific.

Anyway, the Taoiseach's satisfaction rating "remains rock solid" at 50 per cent, five points ahead of Mr Kenny (45 per cent), with the new Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore at 43 per cent.

The Greens leader, John Gormley, "will be heartened" by his emergence as the second most popular leader (47 per cent), a possible reflection of his continued support for Mr Ahern (what a surprise???), and of his party honouring its deal to stay in Government, in the face of huge political and media pressure in the aftermath of the Taoiseach's evidence to the Mahon Tribunal.

The so-called "poll" appears to be another front in a newspaper war.

Sunday Business Post Political Correspondent Pat Leahy writes:

The Taoiseach’s future has become a sort of ideological battleground between two newspapers, neither of which takes prisoners.

The Sunday Independent has followed its abrupt pre-election u-turn by backing Ahern aggressively in its news pages and in many of its opinion columns. The Irish Daily Mail - and particularly its Sunday edition, a direct competitor for mid-market readers - has hounded Ahern relentlessly and mercilessly.

It is a brutal commercial conflict, personalised by the antipathy many of the journalists on each paper appear to feel for their rivals, an antipathy that is openly acknowledged. Recently one Sunday Independent columnist decried the ‘‘British newspaper’’ for trying to take down an ‘‘elected Irish Taoiseach’’.

The Mail responds by boasting of its scoops on Ahern’s finances and sneering at the Sunday Independent’s sudden conversion to Ahern’s cause.

The Mail says the facts are against Ahern; the Sunday Independent says the people are on his side.Maybe both will turn out to be right. But Ahern has fought his last election as leader of his party; the support of the people is not as important for him as it was before May.

And one thing is certain: Fianna Fail will not fight an election to save him.