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Maxim Real Issues No. 176

Maxim Real Issues No. 176, 29 SEPTEMBER 2005

A fragile peace

'Family friendly' initiative gains applause.

Justice shouldn't be forgotten

For further thought


A fragile peace

On Monday the IRA announced it has completed its final disarmament; a bittersweet victory for the people of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland as faced significant conflict, especially since the 1960s. At times its terror has reached as far as London. Thousands have died in the conflict and many more have lived in fear.

Northern Ireland's deeply historical and political roots have made it a disputed territory, with Catholics (broadly speaking) wanting to become part of mainland Ireland and Protestants (broadly speaking) wanting to remain part of Great Britain. Negotiations between the factions of both sides have tried and failed many times, but there is hope that the disarmament of the IRA's terrorist wing will meet with more success than past attempts.

Northern Ireland has gained more autonomy in recent years. The devolution of some powers to a Northern Irish Parliament in the last decade has helped matters considerably. There is speculation that the IRA disarmed in the hope that its political wing Sinn Fein would gather more traction. The disarmament has been overseen by a retired Canadian general, a Catholic priest and a Protestant Minister, but the leading Protestant group, the Democratic Unionist Party, remains sceptical about the IRA, questioning whether the disarmament has been a full one.

The situation in Northern Ireland is an example of how overcoming ingrained conflict is a complicated and difficult task. In order to move forward, regions like Northern Ireland must be prepared to compromise and negotiate, and past wrongs have to be forgiven. At the same time, this must be balanced against the demands of justice. It remains to be seen how this will play out and whether the recent disarmament will aid the region in moving forward from the last few decades of conflict.


'Family friendly' initiative gains applause.

This week Carters, a chain of New Zealand hardware stores, announced that all their stores will close on Sundays (bar one in Auckland). They have said: "The changes reflect Carters commitment to the building trade and our staff. Permanent employees will now have a dedicated 'family day' enabling them to spend more time with their families which is in line with our company values. The changes will reduce pressure on staffing levels which will flow through to improved employee retention and higher levels of customer service enabling us to have a stronger focus on the building trade."

Carters' initiative has been well received. Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Dr Rajen Prasad supported the decision, saying that families want to spend more time together. In the last Parliamentary term, Green Party co-leader Rod Donald introduced legislation, "The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill", which would pressure employers to accommodate flexible working arrangements.

Carters' decision shows that employers can implement initiatives which serve their employees interests without government coercion, as good employers know that sound business practice involves treating employees well.


Justice shouldn't be forgotten

Governments tend to act with their own self-interest in mind. This was clearly demonstrated after the Second World War when some nations found ignoring past crimes easier than bringing those responsible to justice.

Simon Wiesenthal was an extraordinary man who lost over 80 members of his extended family in the Holocaust. Sometimes called the "Nazi Hunter", he was determined to see justice done. Following the war, Wiesenthal set about chasing down Nazis, as he observed that the efforts being made to bring perpetrators to justice were insufficient. Wiesenthal and the Wiesenthal Centre were responsible for finding many war criminals, including the infamous Eickmann.

When tragedies occur, it is all too easy for nations to forget the past as they try to move forward. In the interests of building a stable future for their nation, governments must move on, but they are still responsible for giving public recognition to issues of justice whilst attempting to resolve them. Wiesenthal had personal reasons for not forgetting the horrors of the past. Consequently, he was able to motivate governments around the world to recognise the atrocities committed during the Second World War and pursue justice on behalf of those wronged.

Simon Wiesenthal died last week, but his legacy is a reminder that governments cannot always be relied upon to pursue justice and sometimes justice is only done when someone is prepared to fight for it.


For further thought

Tax became a defining issue of the 2005 election, and also featured strongly in the German elections. Unlike Germany, which debated how to tax, New Zealand's parties focused on how much to tax. In an article published in the New Zealand Herald last week, Bruce Logan argued that how we tax deserves attention.

To read the article, visit; http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/M050923.php

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

"'Cheshire Cat,' she began, rather timidly...' would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the cat. 'I don't much care where...' said Alice. 'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat."

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