Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Silicon Valley of Europe? Right so.

According to a recent statment by Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications and Energy, Ireland could become the Silicon Valley of Europe and be at the forefront of the “green technology”.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and fancy that I am living on the set of a Father Ted episode, and plainly ludicrous statements from those in authority - like Minister Ryan's - do little to dispel that Craggy Island feeling. But there's nothing new there. I remember reading, some years ago, a compilation of Myles na gCopaleen's satirical pieces which appeared in the Irish Times from 1940 until the writer's death in 1966. The same writer, incidentally, was also known as Flann O'Brien, and his "Third Policeman" has recently enjoyed renewed interest through an episode of "Lost", a programme I've never seen - so I've no idea of the context.

Anyway. One of O'Brien's columns touched on the subject of a contemporary crisis of some sort in the agriculture industry, and a shortage of animal feed or something similar - I don't profess to be an expert. It seems that the minister, whose name I forget, had the bright idea of feeding cows - or was it pigs? - on the foam from pints of Guinness. I kid you not!

O'Brien, of course, pointed out that whatever the dubious claims of Guinness about the supposed "healthy" benefits of their product in the past, it was a fact that the foam - or the head - of the black stuff has no nutritional value whatsoever. Then, more recently, we had a minister, Ned O'Keefe, calling for banning of the film "Babe", on the grounds that it might pose a threat to the Irish pork industry (an industry in which the minister is involved). But that was a just a joke, right? Right?

So idiotic statements are nothing new, but the idea that Ireland - a country that lags behind most of Europe on broadband takeup - could become the Silicon Valley of Europe is something that even Father Dougal might have thought too ridiculous for words. According to an EU report last year, DSL coverage is still unavailable in 30% of rural areas. Broadband takeup is 17%, while in the UK it is 26%, and in the Nordic countries it is over 30%.

Just to illustrate this point, a young and eager representative of Smart Telecom knocked on the door of Gombeen Manor last week to sell that company's broadband product. As some of you might know, I have been singularly unimpressed with Perlico, and have been looking for alternatives, so rather than set the rabid dogs on the intruder I listened attentively and agreed to a follow-up call to make the switch.

A few days later, someone called from Smart called me on my mobile, asked for my land-line number, and promptly told me that Smart broadband was "unavaliable" in my area, due to "porting" problems. So they had some poor sod traipsing around Blanchardstown, trying to win customers for a product in an area in which the product is unavailable. An area, I might add, that is one of the most populous in the country!

The Silcon Valley of Europe? Right so.

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Harald75 said...

Hey, Gombeen Man, but on the other hand: At least you have been called back ;-) That's surprisingly enough I would say.
Still waiting here for the call of the Satellite-Internet Company which I booked I think around November the 20th of 2008 - for the next day of course. Maybe you could send the next "Smart-Guy" on to me?
Ireland Europe's Silicon Valley? Good joke. I think pigs will learn to fly and I will use my old Commodore 64 to read your blog before that will happen.

Marcus said...

Hi GM, I just read this and had to lough out loud about the quotes "Foam" and "Babe". But they where just a joke, right? Right?
I cannot believe this. Or rather I do not wish to believe, this came from the mouth of anybody important in the government!

I believe the salesman story though.

Bernd said...

As to "The Third Policeman" and "Lost" ... one of the characters in the series is seen reading the book (or at least handling it). This alone was enough to spark renewed interest in the US of A. And they had Fionnula Flanagan in there as well ...

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes folks... I think it will be a long time before the occupants of the real Silicon Valley feel compelled to look over their shoulders in trepidation at us. Harald will have his broadband, and the guy that Bernd refers to in "Lost" will actually have read Flann O'Brien's book. It's a great read, by the way.

Marcus, I read about the Guinness foam one a good few years ago, but I think it referred to an earnest suggestion! It was made some time in the 50s, I think. Ned O'Keefe (not Batt, as I wrote earlier and have since corrected) did call for "Babe" to be banned, but I imagine it was a joke, because - as you have intimated - any other explanation would simply be too frightening to contemplate!
Then again, nothing would surprise me.

Locky said...

It seems like only yesterday that Mary "Eircom" O'Rourke was lisping on about Ireland becoming the "e-hub of Europe".

I can only assume in hindsight that the "e" stood for "eejits", which was what we were to swallow the guff coming out of O'Rourke, Bertie Ahern and Alfie Kane (remember him?) at the time.

Some things never change, do they? In particular, the ability of Irish politicians to spout utter shite at the drop of a hat.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Locky. No-one can say we don't produce real talent in this country. I like your blog, by the way - very good.