A ‘friend to Ireland’?

IN what way exactly? I realise that international considerations, and the sensitivity of the current situation, requires statements from Taoiseachs, Prime Ministers, Presidents etc to be couched in the language of diplomacy.. but, while Irish President Mary McAleese deploys a relatively standard response, when exactly did Arafat become a friend to Ireland” as Bertie Ahern claims?Debate his role in the Middle East all you want – whether he was an obstacle to resolution, or a figurehead that unified increasingly fractious elements in Palestine, or a major instigator of the continuing problems – but while various individuals here have taken to promoting their own view of that ongoing conflict, and their own favoured side, I’d be fascinated to hear what criteria Bertie used to arrive at that particular definition of a ‘friend to Ireland’.

Meanwhile the BBC has a report on the missing millions in funds that have been poured into the Palestinnian Authority, or rather siphoned into bank accounts in Arafats name. The report points out that “aid to the Palestinian Authority has been running at more than $1bn a year since 2000” and “In 2003, Forbes magazine estimated Mr Arafat was worth $300m”.

The report quotes Dr Gershon Baskin, director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, “Very few people have the actual facts” but suggests that “the delegation of senior Palestinian ministers that went to Paris will have made it their business to find out more.” and that “There has been speculation that the rift between Mrs Arafat and her husband’s colleagues may be partly to do with control of the accounts.”

According to an audit by a Palestinian Finance Minister, following pressure from the IMF and the EU, $900million of the aid they supplied, without taking into account other sources, is still missing.