Friday, 27 February 2009

Tax is for the little people - Bono excluded

Is it Gombeen Man’s – admittedly fertile – imagination, or does Bono look even more egotistical, smug and more divorced from reality with every photograph taken of him? Is his band’s declining popularity forcing him into the role of chief clown in order to keep U2 in the fading spotlight?

If none of these, what else could explain his spirited defence of U2 taking its commercial operation out of Ireland after the Government finally introduced a tax on wealthy rock stars’ royalties? Even if they still pay no tax at all on the first €250,000.

Bono would seem to have lost sight of reality a long time ago… probably about the time his substantial head disappeared up the ample posterior of his PVC trousers. Most people would see the hypocrisy inherent in a mega-wealthy man haranguing governments on how their tax takings should be spent (namely to save the World and eradicate poverty, man), while he himself removes the bulk of his own income from the domestic tax net to avoid paying those very taxes. But not our Bono.

Bono sees himself as one of the wealth creators behind the Celtic Tiger…as if that was something to brag about. No really - it seems that Bono sees himself and his band of buddies up there with the US multinationals that were lured here by low corporate tax rates. “There are some very clever people in the Government and in the Revenue who created a financial architecture that prospered the entire nation – it was a way of attracting people into this country who wouldn’t normally do business here”, said the self-anointed guardian of the poor and the hungry in today’s Irish Times. Sounds like George Bush speaking there, Bono... you should be more careful of the company you keep.

You see, most people would consider your views very economically right-wing for an anti-poverty campaigner. In fact, Mother Theresa was probably well to the left of you in that respect. Most anti-poverty activists would see the multinationals you praise as one of the main drivers behind global inequity and Third Word debt.

In fairness, however, US conglomerates only set up in favourable tax regimes all over the world (and they’re not too fussy about the nature of those regimes in many cases) with one aim, and one aim only - to make money. Far from seeing themselves as the saviours of the world, they are simply out to exploit it. But at least they don’t pretend otherwise.

Bono. You’ve taken your business out of Ireland – just as the multinationals you admire so much are now doing. Is there any chance that you might go too, so we don’t have to listen to your tiresome twaddle any longer? And I don’t just mean your crap music.


See also:

It's offical - Bono is the artful tax dodger"

Is Bono a hypocrite"

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Hello? Mary Lou.

The wonderfully opportunistic and hypocritical mindset of the Shinners has been brought into sharp focus (again) by a statement on the Lisbon “guaranatees” by chief political opportunist and Gerry Adams doughnut, Mary Lou McDonald.

Sinn Fein, who campaigned for a “no” vote on Lisbon so that Ireland could “get a better deal”, still aren’t happy, even though the EU has been forced into offering the Irish “guarantees” on their imaginary concerns (see Lisbon Two addresses imaginary concerns). McDonald now wants the “guarantees” on “taxation, neutrality and abortion” published by the EU, with an explanation of how they will be made legally binding.

The Shinners are such shysters they put Fianna Fail into the shade. They are “nationalist and internationalist” according to their website. They claim to be “left-wing” (so presumably care about women’s rights), yet they want the EU to copperfasten domestic laws that deny women the right to choose in Ireland. They are against low corporate tax rates in the Republic (but have called for them in the North), yet they want legal guarantees that the EU don't get rid of them - even if every other member state were in favour. They decided their bin-tax policies at a local level, so that in some areas they were in favour, and in others they were against.

I think Danny Morrison once referred to the phenonomon of “lumpen nationalists” in the Republican movement. Well, that’s all the Shinners are, depite their proclaimed political progression – supposedly personified in the shape of McDonald, with her squeaky clean middle-class background.

But whatever the veneer, all they and their supporters will ever be is a nationalist rump of opportunists, with a bit of populist rhetoric thrown in now and again among all the Brit-hating bile.

I’d rather vote for Fianna Fail – and that’s saying something.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

An Anti Fascist Action (AFA) day out in London, Part One

The following is probably a bit self-indulgent of Gombeen Man. But it’s an interesting, true story, set in a time when he was an economic migrant in London and was in a group called Anti Fascist Action (AFA). At the time, fascist groups were gaining a foothold in working-class areas, carrying out assaults on minorities and political opponents, and getting councillors elected. It’s quite a long account, so for that reason it will be in two parts – the first today and the next tomorrow or the day after, if a bit of time presents itself.

Part One

Now and again, Gombeen Man likes to reminisce on days long gone. Not in a myth-making Gaelic Ireland kind of way, you understand, but on the past experiences that have made him the wistful, circumspect individual that he is. Also, because sometimes it can get a bit one-dimensional forever commenting on the plentiful supply of half-wits in Irish life and their dodgy doings. So… cue cinematic wavy, underwater-type screen effects as we go back in time to London, Saturday January 15th, 1994, and an anti-fascist day out.

Readers will know that I’m not the most nationalistic or patriotic of people, considering nationalism (including local variations such as loyalism), racism and religion to be the three greatest impediments to human advancement in existence. The National Front and the British National Party were the most glaring examples of the genre in Britain back then - the BNP also had its C18 offshoot (pronounced “one-eight” after Hitler’s initials). Then there was Blood and Honour, which was a musical front featuring far-right skinhead Oi bands containing members of all of the above.

I’m not going to exaggerate my part in this, as I joined Anti Fascist Action after the biggest rout of the fascists, known as “The Battle of Waterloo”, after which the boneheads were a lot more careful about organising, having developed a healthy respect for the anti-fascists of AFA, who presented a disincentive to them organising at street level; unlike many of the so-called left, such as ANL, who waved lollipop placards about and presented a soft target for the fascists.

First off, let me say that some of the most decent people I came across while in London were in AFA, and most of them were ordinary, decent working-class sorts, who cared enough for their class and their communities to stand up to the fash – putting themselves at considerable physical risk in the process. Indeed, one – a gentle, modest lump of a bloke (until he saw a fascist, that is) – had spent two years in prison for his pains, after a physical confrontation that left B&H poster boy, Nicky Crane (see pic), feeling the worse for wear.

But I digress. On this particular day we all met up in Islington, a motley crew of AFA, Red Action, and assorted anarchists, with a few freelance anti-fash for good measure. It was in the days before mobile phones were common, but someone got reports that the fash were holed up in a pub in the Bow Road, East London. So three of us hopped into the staff car, driven by your very own Gombeen Man (Ms Gombeen also in attendance), and set out on a scouting mission to the venue in question. We knew the area as we lived about a mile or two down the road from the pub.

A short while later, it was confirmed. We passed the Little Driver and the boneheads were visible milling about the environs – the pub being selected as their centre of operations for the day, with the aim of setting up a gig in honour of gladly departed Skrewdriver singer Ian Donaldson, and raise money for the neo-nazi scene. There were three of us in our battered old Nissan Bluebird, including a lad from Luton we had never met up with before, and the adrenalin was beginning to flow as we did a quick about-turn at the Bow Flyover, parked the car in a side road, and got the tube back to Islington (quicker) to confirm the rumours and gather the troops.

Once there, it was straight off to our nerve centre (also a pub... at least we had one thing in common with the fash) to report the news. It’s a weird feeling, to watch groups of anti fascists emerge from various hostelries in Islington, alerted by scouts bringing the message to mobilise, merging into one group of about 150 anti fascist militants. We made our way down the tube platform at Angel, and headed in the direction of East London, Bow Road, and the Little Driver.

It’s also a weird feeling, looking around the carriage at your anti-fash compatriots. Knowing that you are on your way to confront a pub full of fascists, and you might need to count on them, as it’s unlikely any resultant clash of opinions is going to be confined to a verbal debate…

Story continued on:

Anti-Fascist day out in London, part two

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Monday, 23 February 2009

McEvaddy praises our banking "talent"

We are all aware of the aura of scandal surrounding Anglo Irish Bank. Hot on the heels of revelations that its former chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, had hidden €87 million in loans from shareholders and auditors, we have the scam whereby 10 wealthy individuals bought €300 million worth of shares in the basketcase bank - financed by a loan from the very same institution.

However, a leading light of Ireland's business class, Ulick McEvaddy (also a supporter of Declan Ganley's anti-EU Libertas), sees nothing wrong with that.

The Independent reported McEvaddy as saying that “Anglo is a great bank… they [the 10 businessmen who are determined to hide their identity from the public despite four being named by Sunday papers] haven't done anything wrong . They should be proud of what they did…”. He then issued a dire warning for us all, stating that Ireland is going to “lose all the talent” in the banking sector. The banks, he claims, “built up the Irish economy” and were “architects of the Celtic Tiger”.

It's amazing how pure greed, corruption and skullduggery is often described as some kind of entrepreneurial genius on the part of our bankrupt Irish business class. It's also remarkable that not one corrupt businessman or banker will be taken to task for driving this rotten little country to the verge of ruin. That €300 million will never be paid back… it will have disappeared into the ether. And will any of them go to jail for defaulting? Not this side of a Monopoly game, they won't.

By the way, 54 people were imprisoned in this country last year for not having a TV licence.

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Crafty gardai catch Polish serial offender

The following was brought to the attention of Gombeen Man. It has been shamelessly lifted from The Irish Times, as it is just too good to ignore.

Dictionary helps crack case of notorious Polish serial offender

RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC, Migration Correspondent, THE IRISH TIMES,
Thu, Feb 19, 2009

HE WAS one of Ireland’s most reckless drivers, a serial offender who crossed the country wantonly piling up dozens of speeding fines and parking tickets while somehow managing to elude the law.

So effective was his modus operandi of giving a different address each time he was caught that by June 2007 there were more than 50 separate entries under his name, Prawo Jazdy, in the Garda Pulse system. And still not a single conviction.

In the end, the vital clue to his identity lay not with Interpol or the fingerprint database but in the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. Prawo jazdy means driving licence.

In a letter dated June 17th, 2007, an officer from the Garda traffic division wrote that it had come to his attention that members inspecting Polish driving licences were noting Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder’s name.

“Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence,” he wrote.
“Having noticed this I decided to check on Pulse and see how many members have made this mistake. It is quiet [sic] embarrassing to see that the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities.

“He can also be found on the Fixed Charge Processing System as well. This mistake needs to be rectified immediately and a memo sent to the members concerned. I also think that Garda Information Service Centre [in] Castlebar should be notified and some kind of alert put on these two words.”

In Poland, a booklet-type licence such as the one used in the Republic was phased out in 2004 and replaced with a pink, credit card-sized licence with an EU flag, the words Prawo Jazdy in the top right corner with (in admittedly smaller type) the holder’s name and personal details.

A Garda source confirmed that the issue of Polish licences being misread had arisen in 2007, but said the errors were spotted quickly and the problem had now been resolved.

It was not clear whether the confusion was due to licences simply being misread or officers being misled by their holders, he added.

To weed out any other inanimate foreign offenders who might be lurking in the digital depths, the Pulse system has since been updated, with a new section advising officers of the layout of foreign driving licences.

Notices were also sent to Garda stations alerting them to the error.
Expect the recidivist Mrs Library Card from the Czech Republic to have her cover blown.

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The pension levy

Ireland is full of vocal interest groups, who make a noise way out of proportion to their numbers or the gravity of their problems. The Irish Language Lobby is the best example. Doctors and consultants are another, and don’t forget property developers, lawyers, farmers and publicans. Then you have the Civil Service and the pension levy.

I just know I’ll be accused of being a neo-conservative now - and I’m aware of the of the employers’ tactic of pitting private sector against public sector worker - workers’ solidarity, make the bosses pay… I know all that. But sorry – this has to be said.

At a time when the tax base is shrinking as more and more workers in the private sector lose their jobs, funding for public services is not as plentiful as it was in the “boom” times. Many people in private employment are being transformed from tax contributors to social welfare recipients, meaning there is less money to fund the public service, as more demands are being made on it.

So, on the scale of things, is asking civil servants to contribute to their pensions really the end of the world? After all, if you’ve got a permanent public job you can, at least, ride out the recession. You’re less likely to find yourself on the dole.

All this is even more pertinent in the light of benchmarking, which brought civil servants’ pay into line with those in the private sector. Before then, civil servants’ remuneration was somewhat less than that of their private counterparts – who generally work in a far less secure environment. The payback, however, was job security.

It’s amazing then, that when private sector jobs are falling faster than a roomful of flies after a blast of Vapona, that this issue is the one about which the unions seem most vocal.

And let’s face it, some poor bugger who has been let go by Dell is hardly going to take to the barricades with a placard because civil servants have to contribute to their pensions… especially as most in the private sector have been doing that for years.

So how about it, brothers and sisters? A bit of perspective here?

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

House price drops and first-time buyers

Bank of Ireland is to launch a €1 billion “mortgage fund” for first-time buyers, which will have an interest rate .04 per cent lower than the current rate of 2.49 per cent. It seems that the Government's recapitalisation of the banks has come with a proviso for them to “increase new lending to first-time buyers by 30 per cent this year”, according to the Irish Times.

At the same time, property website, has revealed that rents are expected to fall by a further 20 per cent this year, having dropped by 12 per cent in 2008. This is due - according to Ronan Lyons, an economist with - to the market having become “flooded” with rental properties, and the fact that many people have opted to leave the country in the face of increasing unemployment.

The reasons for investor over-activity in the market have been discussed on Gombeen Nation many times - suffice to say Government interference in the form of tax distortions played a big part.

Given that falling prices, with falling rents, and an increase in empty investor properties that can't be let out means that more properties - suitable for first-time buyers - will inevitably come onto the market, leading to further price drops: why is the Government continuing to interfere with special treatment for targeted sectors? Haven't they made a big enough mess of things as it is? And is is not obvious that interest rates - which are very low, anyhow - are not the problem?

The best way the Government, and the banks, could help first-time buyers (and buyers in general), is to let prices drop to a level where your average Padraig and Mary can afford a mortgage that bears some relation to their salaries.

Such an approach might be a bitter pill for investors and the developers, but it would be sweet medicine for the rest of us.

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Property high flyer in crash landing

Thanks to Matt for sending an interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal to the Gombeen Nation mailbox on the demise of the Irish economic miracle. And miracles, as we know, have no basis in reality.

One passage in the WSJ piece encapsulates the present, all too predictable, economic mess:

In a way, Ireland offers a lesson in how not to handle your newfound riches.

Alan Ahearne, an economist at the National University of Ireland in Galway, worked for the U.S. Federal Reserve. When he came back to Ireland in 2005, he was unnerved. House prices had rocketed, outpacing incomes and rents.

In 2006, the census found more than 250,000 empty properties, in a country with a population of just over four million. Many were investments their owners didn't bother renting out, so good were the gains from rising prices. "That, to me, was a scary sign," Mr. Ahearne said.

It is obvious that “Padraig and Mary” (to use Bernd’s apt expression) created the property bubble though careless borrowing with the aid of careless lending from the bank - and with official Government encouragement in the form of tax incentives,

To illustrate, it was reported in the Herald last week that banks and building societies loaned an Air Corp pilot just short of €8 million, “turning him into a ‘property tycoon’ in his spare time.” It seems that this particular Padraig “owned” a total of 12 properties, but found himself in the Circuit Civil Court where it was revealed that his property empire “had collapsed”, and that his paper properties had reverted into the hands of the financial institutions that provided the loans, while the family home had been repossessed.

It is difficult to grasp the mind-numbing stupidity of the Irish property boom, and the part played in creating and perpetuating the unsustainable illusion by the authorities and most economists, who acted as facilitators and cheerleaders. But still none of this exonerates the greedy Padraig and Marys – who priced people out of homes through their greed - from the blame in their own downfall.

When the Banks are being asked to put a stay on repossessions, as part of the recapitalisation plan, it would be assumed that investors and speculators will not be included in the measures? Otherwise, how will they ever learn that speculation, by definition, is a two-way street.

But nothing would surprise me here.

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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

"Arrogant" judge bans "arrogant" farmer.

Mayo Judge, Mary Devins, has described a farmer who let a line of traffic build up behind his tractor as “arrogant and individualistic”. She banned the driver, Michael Nevin, for one year – though he maintained he had pulled over at the earliest opportunity to let traffic pass. Nevin, who is also an experienced Bus Eireann driver whose livelihood could be adversely affected by the ban, plans to appeal the sentence.

Mary Devins has something of a reputation for handing out sentences that could be perceived as disproportionate and controversial by those on their receiving end. Indeed, some of her victims might well have muttered the term “arrogant and individualistic” to describe her as they left her courtroom. In their more charitable moments, that is.

The same judge has repeatedly courted controversy by consistently parking on double yellow lines outside Ballinrobe Courthouse - a practice recently highlighted (according to the Western People), by local councillor Harry Walsh. It seems that the issue of a District Court judge blatantly flauting the law - while doling out sentences to others - has raised the hackles of some locals.

“Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers”, Walsh reasonably maintains, adding “I honestly don’t see why a judge, or any servant of the State, or anyone else going into town for business should be allowed to flaunt the law by parking on double-yellow lines... I can see why prison vehicles and garda cars need to be adjacent, but not a private car.”

It seems Devins flauts the law with the full co-operation of the local gardai and the Courts Service, who cite “reasons of security”.

Reasons of security? Is it any wonder?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Bank bail-out, part two

David McWilliams relates a story about a liquidator friend of his in yesterday’s Business Post. It seems that a “desperate man” arrived in said liquidator’s office last week, with debts of €48 million for which had had put up “a total of €400,000 cash".

All the debts were - of course - a result of property speculation over the past years, in a boom driven by careless lending / borrowing and Government property-based tax incentives and shelters. It seems that his string of paper properties were all cross-collateralised against each other, but the banks had been more than happy to hand the man out more money on this rather precarious basis.

Now the Government is to re-capitalise the banks with another bail-out, with figures of €7 to €8 billion of our tax money being quoted, to make up for the bad debts and losses incurred in cases similar to the example above.

McWilliams, who warned about the property bubble when other commentators maintained that there was none (and that the boom was driven by sound economic factors!) predicts that the bail-out will be a waste of our money, and that the banks will have an "even bigger hole in the balance sheets by summer". To give some idea of the scale of the mess, Bank of Ireland had a total of €145 billion owed to it last year, and €38 billion of that was in property.

This means that people have borrowed recklessly to buy properties that are now “worth” a fraction of the prices paid for them in the frenzy, and with house prices still nowhere near the bottom yet, there is no way these debts will ever be paid. Then factor in more defaulted loans as people lose their jobs, and it looks as though that money has simply disappeared into the ether, along with Ireland’s reputation in the financial world.

We are often told that top executives are paid the fortunes they are paid because we need to attract “the cream” to positions of importance and responsibility. But cream, we should know by now, can very often be rich, thick and chock-full of clots.

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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Eamon O'Cuiv and prudent use of public money

It is a great honour for an Irish public figure to make the digital pages of Gombeen Nation more than once – due to intense competition. Bono has managed it. Roy Keane is just one off a hat-trick. Charlie McCreevy has also featured twice. Soooo….. please step forward (again) Eamon O’Cuiv, Minister for the Gaeltacht.

In last week’s Independent, an article quoted O’Cuiv calling for the Government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on private consultants. It seems that State departments and public bodies were, according to Indo figures, “on target to spend €158.5m on private consultants in 2007 and 2008”, with some consultants being paid up to “€2,000 per day”. That's a lot of money on consultation, right?

But... Is this the same Eamonn O’Cuiv who purged the word “Dingle” from the map, despite local opposition? Is it the same man who banned “Stop” signs in the Gaeltacht – despite “Stop” signs being international – because English has no (official) place in that State-funded region? Is it the same fellow who supported Gaeilge being made an official language of the EU - after 34 years of us managing quite well without it? And just so those who desire to do so, can read about tenders for road works and pipe-laying contracts (in Chipping Norton and elsewhere) in the European Journal, through Irish?

Then there is his 2003 Official Languages Act, requiring public services and publications be provided in Gaeilge. Prior to its introduction, O’Cuiv is on record as saying "the English speakers of the country do not know about the Bill and if they did there is a good chance that we would not succeed in putting it through". Quite.

Interestingly, despite the enormous expense and effort of translation and publishing documents “as Gaeilge” (in print and online), the Irish Times reported this week that less than 0.5 per cent of Government websites were accessed by the public through their Irish Language versions.

0.5 per cent! You might not think that, when you look at some of the comments on Gombeen Nation whenever the Irish Language Industry is mentioned. Indeed, sometimes you’d think English speakers were in the minority. Nor would you think it from a brief cruise through cyberspace, where the TG4 Generation is most active, infused with their new Gaelscoil nationalism. (And apologies to Aonghus, I know I generalise).

All this came to mind as I wandered around town today, and noticed a poster in a public building, informing people of their unemployment benefit rights in Gaeilge. Given the size of the Irish Language Industry - with its compulsory Irish, attendant extra Leaving Cert points for doing subjects through Irish, smaller gaelscoil class sizes, and positive discrimination for Irish speakers in public jobs - it’s quite likely that 0.5% would be an optimistically large audience in this particular instance.

O'Cuiv's charter for legal obfuscation

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Driving through a Skanger Wonderland

There’s an amusing Father Ted episode in which the eponymous character discovers that one of the local priests, from whom he has borrowed a book, turns out to be a Nazi sympathiser with a rather dodgy WW2 souvenir collection in his cellar, comprised exclusively of Waffen SS artifacts.

After supplying a negative response to Ted’s hopeful “I don’t suppose you’ve got anything from the Allied side?” query, the fascist cleric (nothing new there) looks at a picture on the wall, reflecting wistfully: “Ah, there’s the Fuehrer signing a few death warrants...” An obviously uncomfortable Ted shuffles embarrassingly from foot to foot muttering “ha, ha… it’s funny how you get more right-wing as you get older, ha, ha…”.

As Gombeen Man, I like to think of myself as anything but right wing - especially given my spell as an anti-fascist activist. But I was nearly longing for some piano wire as the car came under assault by massed ranks of skangers in Hartstown the night before last. Worryingly, such feelings are becoming more common with the passing of time.

Due to the snow and the treacherous footpaths, I was taking someone to Hartstown Community College for a night course. As we turned onto Fortlawn Road, we noticed a makeshift barrier - presumably constructed by the local “hoodies” - who were pelting the slowing/stationary cars with missiles of compacted snow.

OK, a snowball is a snowball, and unless it contains a rock as its nucleus it’s not going to kill you. However, big enough, compacted enough, and thrown with sufficient force from sufficiently close, I imagine it could damage your car if it hit the wrong place, and at least could cause a dangerous distraction to inexperienced drivers. Certainly, when we emerged from the barrage, I checked for dents.

We took the precaution of waiting for a sufficient space to open up in front, before passing the skangers sufficiently fast to present a difficult target. But driving slowly, or stopping altogether, must have been scary - especially if you were an older person or a lone woman. Indeed, we’d noticed someone had skidded into the kerb, having lost control of their car, and were being barraged relentlessly.

The whole loop of Hartstown Road/Huntstown Way was the same, but when we got off it again, it was like we’d magically left a warzone. Predictably, despite the danger posed to road users (and pedestrians) by the welfare yokels’ activities, there was not a copper in sight.

It set me thinking about how these estates, with their large proportion of scumbags relative to decent working-class people, came into being. I remember my own parents going to Dublin Corporation as a kid, and being told that they didn’t have enough children to get a corporation house (they only possessed two wonderful kids at the time). So, if you wanted a house, you had to have children – regardless of your ability to look after them.

So now factor in the fact that contraceptives were banned by the State, and you surely had a lot of people reproducing for all the wrong reasons… not exactly a recipe for responsible parenting, and socially well-adjusted offspring. Last night, swathes of Hartsown - and I’m sure many other Dublin estates - were testimony to that fact, as is every Halloween. And boom or bust, I can't see it changing, as it is a self-perpetuating, generational culture at this point, and the same State incentives exist to encourage it. The worrying thing is that what I describe is one of its more harmless manifestations.

“Down with this sort of thing”, as Ted might well have said. Is it time for a mass sterilisation programme, to reverse the harm caused by Church and State down the years?

Or does that sound a bit right wing?

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Sunday, 1 February 2009

Save the Planet - wear a condom.

It might be unpalatable in Ireland, a country that only gave the green light to contraceptives as recently as the 90s, but a British government environmental advisor has suggested that the best way to save the ice caps is by wearing a cap (a diaphragm, that is), or slipping on a condom.

It’s interesting to note that while our Green in government, John Gormley, indulges in the tokenistic nonsense of forcing us to buy expensive light bulbs – even while he presides over cuts in public transport – some in Britain seem to be taking a more meaningful tack.

Jonathon Porritt, a former chairman of Britain’s Green Party claims in today’s Sunday Times that groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are “betraying the interests” of their members by “refusing to address population issues” as the question is seen as “too controversial”.

In fact, Porritt states that having more than two children is “irresponsible”, as overpopulation is creating an unbearable burden on the planet, and population control must “be at the heart of policies to fight global warming”.

Well, Gombeen Man is in the clear here, as the only two babies he has reside in the Gombeen Manor garage. And despite his love of motor vehicles, he cares enough about the Earth to take the train to and from work. Even more admirably, he’ll take the dreaded 39 bus when he misses that. If that’s not doing your bit to save the World, what is?

However, his heels and ankles still carry scars inflicted by the burgeoning battalions of buggies in evidence on his last foray to the Blanchardstown Centre. So despite contraceptives no longer being banned in this country, it seems that people still haven’t quite got the hang of using them yet. In fact, it would appear that the Irish are still popping them out like there’s no tomorrow – and the way they’re going, there might not be, if Mr Porritt it to be believed.

Look on the bright side, though. When the property "morket" recovers in 40 years or so, we might have the option of an attractive beachfront property on the shores of Carrantoohill.

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