Friday, 31 July 2009

BaNama Republic – NAMA bank bail-out

It will be interesting to hear how Brian Lenihan’s bank and builder bail-out, under the auspices of the newly formed National Assets Management Agency, will be received, as its costs and provisions become clear during the analysis of the weekend and beyond.

Lenihan has said on Morning Ireland that the tax-funded agency will not buy unsold, unfinished properties and plots of land from developers at prices that created the property bubble. Indeed he has said the toxic asssets/loans would not even be bought at "current market prices”.

Thing is, how do you arrive at a “current market price” for something that nobody actually currently wants to buy?

It’s quite likely – no, certain knowing Fianna Fail's relationship with the builders – that the taxpayer will pay too much for the unwanted assets, and they will be worth even less into the future.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sean Russell Monument gets Nazi flags

Tut, tut. Will poor old Seanie Russell's monument in Fairview ever be left alone? And after all he did for Irish freedom!!!

Or, as the anonymous supplier of this pic quite rightly says: "Proper Nazis deserve proper Nazi monuments...."

Thanks, for that Anon.

See also Sean Russell's memorial vandalised... again

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

U2 residents protest - hopes that Stockholm concert might be disrupted

Hopes are running high in Stockholm that a concert by pompous, posturing hypocrites and tax evaders U2 might be disrupted by a residents' protest outside Croke Park, the site of their three latest Dublin gigs.

A spokesperson for the band, when asked three times on RTE Morning Ireland if the Swedish concert might be disrupted replied somewhat apocalyptically “it will be affected… It will be affected…It will be affected”.

Well, if that’s the case, the good burghers of Stockholm should be grateful. Number one, because they won’t have to listen to U2’s bland, boring musical and verbal drivel; and number two because they won’t have to suffer the construction work surrounding their monstrous stage set, a prop that would have put the pretentiousness and bombast of a 70’s stadium-rock supergroup to shame.

But then again, it is unlikely that Bono and the boys will be allowed cause the disruption and inconvenience to Stockholm's residents that they inflicted on those of their “home town” (though their “home town” for tax-dodging purposes is Amsterdam), as Sweden is a country that has respect for its citizens.

You see, because there is some Gah match on in Croke Park next weekend, U2 were arbitarily given permission by the authorities to carry out continuous 44-hour construction work on the stage set, with its ridiculous “claw” feature. That's 44-hours - day and night - of building site racket, in a high-density residential area. Needless to say, this did not go down well with the locals who were trying to do things like, erm, sleep - so the protest ensued.

Bono, true to form, rescued the situation (in his own mind) by indulgently giving an unhappy resident a signed playlist – though sane people based on Planet Earth might see that as rubbing salt into the wounds. "Again, thank you to the neighbours. Difficult times in the world, difficult times in Ireland," he preached at the concert. "There is a very special spirit in this country, it is a spirit that won't easily be broken."

Yes, Bono, the residents who stayed up all night and into the morning to protest against your presence might agree with you there.

Now, please, please, just f*** off and annoy someone else! Even if it's those nice people in Stockholm.

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Civil (no)Service employee awarded €40,000

Interesting story in Liam Fay’s Sunday Times column yesterday about a civil servant, Tom Barrett, who was awarded €40,000 by the Equality Tribunal because “he had no work to do since 2005”.

It seems that Barrett, an assistant principal with the Department of Defence, made a complaint about bullying against a supervisor, which was subsequently dismissed. Since then, it seems that he was victimised, and was sent to an “unoccupied office” in Galway, where “he was given precisely nothing to do”.

The Department claimed his exile to what was effectively paid redundancy was an attempt to treat him fairly, as he could not work under the supervisor against whom he had made the complaint.

Nice work, eh?

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Nanny State: Puck Fair goat needs a passport

Sorry this is late, but...
Civilised people may not be aware of Puck Fair, so let me tell them that it is a quaint old Irish festival that takes place in the village of Killorglin, in picturesque County Kerry, once a year.

The origins of the tradition are lost in time, but one version traces it back to Cromwell, when a heroic goat alerted the good folk of Killorglin of the approach of the Roundhead army, giving them time to prepare themselves for any attempted invasion.

So, in memory of the goat’s village-saving deeds, locals show their gratitude every year by capturing a goat, crowning it a king, putting it in a cage and hoisting it to the top of a pole, where it remains suspended above the street while everyone gets pissed out of their heads below. The Puck Festival goes on for three days, and includes a horse and cattle fair, and everyone has a wonderful time –except the goat, of course, which is terrified out of its wits.

Things are so bad, in fact, that any goat with even a modicum of sense will be nowhere near Kerry – or anywhere in the Republic - come the 12th of August. In fact, the 12th of August is to Southern goats what the 12th of July is to Northern Catholics, and they generally flee the country for the duration of it all. *

The upshot is that the Fair’s organisers have been searching up North in Country Antrim for a goat this year, and eventually hunted down an unwilling candidate near Fair Head - the intention being to whisk him south over the border into the Republic.

Unfortunately for the organisers, they chose to go the official, rather than the Slab Murphy route, and have landed themselves in a bureaucratic nightmare over the issuing of a “passport” (an animal health certificate) which would allow it to travel south to Killorglin.

There were fears that the documentation may not be issued in time, but according to today’s Irish Times, Puck Fair chief (as opposed to king) Declan Mangan “expressed delight that at the news that the 400 year-old festival would have a goat to crown as King Puck” after assurances were received from the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. **

It’s been a tense time, but - hold the front page! I have just been informed by a very reliable source and regular contributor to the blog that the valuable certificates have been issued.

Disaster has been averted, and we can all sleep easily in our beds now. What with recent scandals about misspelt Gaeltacht road signs in Mayo, and RTE having the wrong name for 43 years in Montrose, the absence of a goat to torment at Puck Fair would have surely tipped the country right over the edge.

* This paragraph is made up.

** All the others are not.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

RTE has had the wrong name for 43 years.

Hot on the buckle-brogued heels of news that Mayo County Council must change 33 Gaeltacht roadsigns after a local broadcaster noticed some spelling mistakes, comes the revelation that RTE must change its name after it was discovered that it has been wrong for the past 43 years. Again, of course, without anyone noticing.

Pay attention there at the back! RTE will, from now on, stand for Raidio Teilifis Eireann - and not Radio Telifis Eireann. The reason? Well, apparently RadioTelifis Eireann is “grammatically incorrect”, according to those in the know at the tax-soaking organisation. (And before some gaeilgoir points it out, I know there are some fadas missing in my spelling.)

We are very lucky that someone in authority at RTE spotted this shocking inaccuracy, and that gaeilgoir RTE director-general Cathal Goan was “instrumental in pushing through” the essential change (according to the Sunday Times).

No doubt the quality of our lives will improve henceforth - but not, I imagine, the quality of RTE's dire programmes.

All official documentation will be changed accordingly.

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Monday, 20 July 2009

Frank McCourt dies

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes.

The author Frank McCourt has died in New York, aged 78. The writer of Angela’s Ashes had contracted meningitis having recently undergone treatment for skin cancer.

Angela's Ashes was written in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year. The book is the most famous of the genre now known as the MIM (Miserable Irish Memoir) and recounted McCourt's poverty-sticken childhood in the lanes of Limerick in the 1930s and 40s.

McCourt’s father was an alcoholic, and – when not completely absent - would roll home from the pub singing songs about Kevin Barry and the “800 years of oppression” having spent all his wages on booze, ensuring that his family continued to live in grinding poverty.

The family moved from one hovel to the other – each getting progressively worse – and were reduced to affixing bits of tyres onto their shoes to replace worn-out soles (an innovation of the father’s) and migrating to various sections of their living quarters to mitigate the damp and floods.

They were forced to seek charity from the Society of St Vincent de Paul and McCourt recounted the belittlement and humiliation inflicted by those in authority on the women (and it was the women) who had to take such desperate measures to clothe and feed their families.

McCourt was far from charitable about his childhood in Limerick, and was understandably unforgiving about the Church-inspired hypocrisy, parochialsim and soul-destroying deprivations suffered by him and others of his social class in the Ireland of the time.

Predictably, when the book was published, various half-wits sprang to the defence of 1930s Limerick (and Ireland) and claimed that McCourt had made it all up and that the Limerick of the time was, in fact, a lovely place; so proving that not an awful lot had changed in the intervening years and that although the bleakness of the poverty might have eased, the self-regarding small-mindedness, parochialism and hypocrisy was very much alive and well.

Despite everything, McCourt’s experiences are recounted with a wry, indefatigable black humour, and Angela’s Ashes is a very uplifting - and at times very funny - read.

So not only did McCourt “survive it all” - he did so with his spirit, humanity, sanity and humour intact.

He will be sorely missed.

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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bohemians v Red Bull Salzburg - why no RTE coverage?

Judging by the media coverage, or relative lack of it, you would never think that League of Ireland club Bohemians managed an excellent draw – getting an away goal in the process – against Giovanni Trapattoni’s old Club Red Bull Salzburg.

Instead, the papers have been full of pictures of Real Madrid diver and showboater, Cristiano Ronaldo, in training at Carton House, near Maynooth.

Incredibly, it seems that Ireland’s answer to Pravda, RTE, don’t consider the return leg of the Champion’s league worth covering either, when every Sunday their cameras can be found at obscure GAA grounds throughout the country.

RTE claim that they’ve “heard all the excuses” when it comes to people understandably not stumping up €160 a year for the licence fee.

What’s theirs?

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

House for sale with sky door. Only €1.35 million.

You have to wonder, don’t you?

The pic you see here is of a new semi-detached house down a lane in Rathgar. I think estate agents call them “mews”. It’s been on the market for eight months, and the builder is looking for a cool €1,350,000.

That’s a lot of money, right? But let's face it, if he wants to lodge that amount in his bank account these days he’d stand a better chance by buying a Lotto ticket. The days when builders and developers could command Beverley Hills money for ordinary dwellings in dreary Dublin are gone - and gone for good.

All that boom-time credit had all the real worth of Monopoly money - it was never really in the economy in the first place. And if it was never really there before, you can be pretty sure it won't be coming back. That’s why we have NAMA. But if you're a builder you probably wouldn't see that.

But speaking of builders. Have a look at the picture and tell me do you see anything odd? Bizarre even? Something funny about the door? Yes, that’s it - it’s on the second floor! So the only thing between anyone walking out of it and landing in a bloody, crumpled heap on the ground is the rarified Rathgar air.

There’s been some speculation on The Property Pin about this, much of it very amusing. Is the builder a visionary? Does he anticipate an earlier-than-forecast rise in sea levels? Or is it a special door for unwelcome guests, maybe the worse for wear after a few beers? “No, really. After you, I insist! Go ahead!”.

Or is it supposed to be some form of fire escape that our friend Bob simply has not got around to finishing off? And bear in mind the amount being asked.

€1.35 mill? I don’t think so, Bob. Stairs or not.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Make Noise for Free Choice - Abortion Rights Campaign (or The story of Paul and Mandy)

A long time ago, while living in England’s metropolis as an Irish immigrant, I got a phone call from an old school acquaintance. It transpired that Paul had failed to take precautions when fumbling about with his girlfriend, Mandy, and was now telling me she was pregnant.

Funny thing is, my girlfriend and I had seen them only the Christmas before. We had discussed the difficulty of obtaining contraceptives in Ireland at that time, but gave them a few tips on how to get them. Even how to get the morning-after-pill should it ever become necessary.

However, they piously assured us they were not going to have sex until after their big white wedding. “Saving themselves” was the term employed, I think.

Now Paul was on the other end of the phone asking us to us organise an abortion for them.

So, my girlfriend and I – atheists both, who had rejected the Catholic values Paul and Mandy apparently held so dear– found ourselves doing something for them we had ensured we would never have to do for ourselves: phone up an abortion clinic. And all because of their stupidity and hypocrisy.

Over they came, and did the deed. Again we advised them about contraceptives and again we got the same response – as though we were the “immoral” ones. What "happened" to them was a "one-off".

So they went home and we thought no more about it, other than to reflect on the irony of it all. In avoiding contraceptives – but not sex, of course – surely they had committed a greater evil (by their criteria) by plumping for abortion instead? A tough lesson for them, we thought.

Later that week, we were talking to Gary who lived in the flat upstairs. “I heard your mates at it like rabbits in the bathroom”, he said, “you Irish like your bit of the other, don’t you? Eh? Eh?”. “No”, we thought, “Gary’s a shit-stirrer, isn’t he? That can't be true. Can it?"

It was.

A couple of months later the phone rang again. You guessed it: Good old pure-as-the-driven-snow Paul and Mandy looking for another abortion.

“Here’s the number”, we replied.


The above is a true story, and I tell it because I want to put to you my own personal feelings on the subject of abortion – limited as they are by the fact that I am a male. Namely:

I don’t see it as an alternative to contraception. Contraceptives are readily available now even in Ireland. So if there was an excuse for stupid people like Paul and Mandy in the Eighties, there is none now.

However, there will always be crisis pregnancies for all sorts of reasons. And ironically, the lack of termination facilities in Ireland means that those who seek abortions will, as a result, do so at a later stage of pregnancy abroad.

Crisis pregnancies will always exist. Changed circumstances, foetal anomaly, complications in pregnancy, incest or rape. And who, but who, has the right to insist that a raped woman be forced to have a rapist’s baby?

An organisation called Make Noise for Free Choice is campaigning to make the right to choice available to women throughout Europe.

You can sign their online petition at


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Friday, 10 July 2009

Sean Russell Memorial vandalised… again.

A smashing new memorial statue of Sean Russell - Irish nationalist and Nazi collaborator - went up in Fairview Park just over a week ago. Monuments, by their nature, can usually rely on some kind of public support… at least in the times and places they are erected.

But so unpopular is the memorial to the IRA man who colluded with fellow nationalist fanatic Hitler (during a war in which Ireland was supposedly neutral), that the last one was repeatedly vandalised by anti fascists, most effectively in December 2004 when its head and saluting arm were detached from it.

Supporters of Russell, including Cumann Uaigheann Na Laochra Gael (The National Graves Association) claim we should not read too much into Russell’s little Nazi adventure - which culminated in him dying of natural causes on a U-Boat on the jaunt home - but it’s hard not to, isn’t it? Especially as Russell was looking for a Nazi-backed “free” Ireland, at a time when Hitler’s intentions towards the world’s Jews, including Irish ones, were well known.

Indeed, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre suggested after the last attack that the remains of the monument be left as a monument to why there should be no monument. “It’s a blot on the history of Ireland, but blots have to see the public light”, a spokesman said. And I can see the logic of that.

But Cumann Uaigh.... The National Graves Association, which looks after the (burial) plots of our numerous patriot dead, will have none of it. They are determined we will have a monument to Russell whether we like it or lump (hammer) it.

So determined, in fact, that the lastest version is made of bronze, on the basis that the durable material should resist attempts to hack bits off it. Not only that, the head actually contains a tracking device, in order to facilitate its recovery should anyone make off with it again. I kid you not! I mean, you could hardly make this up anyway.

Sadly, for supporters of the dubious “republican", all this high-techery (as opposed to high treachery) does not protect Russell’s effigy completely. Last Wednesday it was daubed with various uncomplimentary slogans such as “Nazi Scum” and “Hitler’s Friend”.

But you know, I don’t think Russell would have taken offence at any of that.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dermot Ahern's Criminal Justice Amendment Bill

Do you trust the police? Are you one of those people who believe that if you do no wrong, you will never find yourself on the wrong side of the law? Well, there is a tempting simplicity to such a view, but we all know by now that life isn’t temptingly simple.

Take the Birmingham Six, who had 16 years of their lives stolen from them by the police in Britain. They were convicted on the basis of concocted evidence and violently extracted confessions at the hands of the coppers, and it took British Labour Party MP, Chris Mullen, to bring attention to their case with his excellent book “Error of Judgement”, which led to a campaign that eventually saw their release.

Remember too, that high-profile cases like this are the ones we hear about. There must be countless other people in prison for crimes they did not commit - an injustice compounded by the fact that the real perpetrators of the crimes continue to walk free.

And don’t for a minute think that such miscarriages of justice are confined to other countries. The Birmingham Six were convicted under emergency legislation introduced in Britain in the wake of the murder of innocent civillians in the IRA “campaign” of the time. Moral of the story? Emergency legislation, carried on the back of understandable public revulsion, is not necessarily a good thing.

Which brings us to Dermot Ahern. This man seems prepared to stoop to subterreanean levels to distract the public from the real problems his Government have created, and has followed up his recent “Blasphemy Law” with legislation to extend the use of the Special Criminal Court to tackle gangland crime, which is the cause of much justified pubic revulsion here.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill passed its committee stage in the Dail (the Irish parliament) on July 7th, and will see jury trials “for gangland cases” abolished. It might be argued that any move to get around the intimidation of witnesses in cases of organised crime might be a good thing - so I’m open to persuasion on that one. However, the bill will also allow Gardai of any rank give “opinion evidence” about the existence of such a gang, which will not require corroboration.
There is a letter in today’s Irish Times, signed by 133 defence and prosection lawyers calling on the Government to withdraw the legislation. Their concern is that “opinion evidence from a garda must be understood as simply that – an opinion…… a garda on the beat – who may base it on a person’s previous convictions or from evidence upon which he/she will claim privilage and therefore not have to divulge where it came from – will be able to give and opinion which could result in conviction and sentence for a serious crime."
But maybe it all comes down to the original question: how much do you trust the police?

The Morris Tribunal found extensive corruption and criminal behaviour by gardai in Donegal, who tried to frame members of a family for murder. They also planted “evidence” on people, and hid guns and explosives which they “found” later and claimed as arms cache finds, to aid their promotion. Indeed, Morris himself reported that "The Tribunal has been staggered by the amount of indiscipline and insubordination it has found in the Garda Force.” And does anyone really think all this was a one-off, confined to Donegal? I think they would be naïve if they did.

So, if that is the case, is it really wise to allow the uncorroborated “opinion evidence” of a member of such a police force in a court of law? Could any conviction secured in this manner by considered safe?

It all comes down to how much you trust the police. And Dermot Ahern.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Another Lisbon Letter

Do a search on the Lisbon Treaty in Google Images. You'll be treated to a selection of hysterical pictures, each one pretending to be a valid reason to vote "no" to a treaty designed to streamline the running of an enlarged EU.

You will see pictures of aborted foetuses, images of stormtroopers depicting a militaristic "European Army" (which, of course does not, and will not, exist). There's even a swastika in there somewhere - have a look.

As a barometer of the ignorance of the Irish people - and the latest generation of spoilt, nationalistic, Celtic Brats, in particular - it is quite telling. But at least a sizeable portion of that odious genre will be taking the Ryanair emigration plane out of here soon - which is something that makes our economic implosion worthwhile, in my view.

Last week Gombeen Nation featured a letter from a John Hughes of Galway which summed up, for me, the level of debate on Lisbon here in Ireland. See Gombeen Nation: we should not be allowed Lisbon Vote

Contrast that with one of the best pieces of correspondence that I have read on the issue, below. It appeared in the Irish Times shortly after the "no" vote. For me, it shows why people should not be allowed vote on issues they don't - or don't want to - understand. It also shows how a narrow, nationalist perspective can never be a progressive one in an EU context.

Madam, - The supporters of a No vote in the referendum campaign have continually expressed outrage that people in other countries were not given the chance to vote on the Lisbon Treaty in their own referendums. Declan Ganley, Patricia McKenna and Mary Lou MacDonald have expressed the belief that other countries would have voted the same way as the French and Dutch did some time ago and the Irish did last week. Surveys in Germany have been quoted to support this view.

I have little reason to doubt this is true. However since, Sinn Féin prides itself on its insular "all-Ireland" perspective, Mr Ganley's business interest seem to lie largely in the UK and the US and Ms McKenna is no longer an MEP, these advocates of plebiscites may be less au fait with the reasons why other countries might vote No. I would like to acquaint them with some of the reasons why the Germans, for example, would have voted the Treaty down.

The majority of Germans are no different to the French, the Dutch and the Irish and look at this issue purely from a particularist, nationalist perspective: what's in it for me or us? Had they been asked to vote they would have said No for one or all of the following reasons. They are unhappy:

1. That Germany has been the paymaster of the EU for decades and massive funds have been transferred to other countries (such as Ireland, which has now even shown itself ungrateful for all this support), when Germany needed the money very badly herself to deal with the financial consequences of re-unification.

2. That some German banks have left Germany with the loss of hundreds of jobs and are taxing their profits in other countries (such as Ireland). The German government has done little to abolish these tax imbalances.

3. That a country of 82 million people like Germany is represented at Commissioner level in the post-Lisbon Treaty EU in the same way as a small country (such as Ireland, with only 4.5 million people).

4. That so little German is spoken in Brussels, although the German language community is actually the largest in the EU.

5. Given last week's events, that a country of 82 million people should be bossed around by a small country (such as Ireland) and be stopped from implementing its own policies, whatever they are.

All this is extremely simplistic of course, but the German electorate is no more and no less sophisticated in these matters than the Irish is. How fostering self-centred nationalist opinions such as these in Germany or in other EU countries can in any way be beneficial for Ireland and the Union as a whole is a riddle only the advocates of plebiscites can solve for me.

Thank God there are still parliamentarians, politicians and civil servants who take a broader view of European and world politics and inhabit the real world of political interdependence and extremely complex negotiations in order to keep every country and its interests somehow on board. If they work in Brussels they are usually denounced as Eurocrats. As to the view of another advocate of referendums, Mr Joe Higgins, that any No is also an expression of a deep unease about the neo-liberal, globalised, capitalist agenda increasingly taking hold of the world, I fully concur with this assessment.

It is, no, doubt as true for Germany as it is for France and the Netherlands. But this particular road map is being designed in Washington, Bejing, Moscow, Delhi and Abu Dhabi as well as in Brussels, with the EU arguably being among the less ruthless of the new superpowers. This brave new world is not a very pleasant one and it is very understandable that the electorate would like to wish it away by saying No and return to the certainties of a cosy, capitalist pre-1989 world where at least India and China knew their place.

But this is cloud-cuckoo land. Then again, electorates in all countries love to have their heads in the clouds and some at times even parade their ignorance. As some members of the "sophisticated" Irish electorate put it: I don't know what this treaty is about and don't understand the issues [as I did not bother to read a booklet with eight pages of text in plain English] and this is why I vote, and it's No.

Referendums such as these do not bring out the best in people, and certainly not the best thinking. If more than 80 per cent of the elected politicians agree on a point, especially if they comprise both government and opposition, who love to be at loggerheads, they could actually be right.

- Yours, etc,


Co Tipperary.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

A nice, relaxing drive on the Military Road

Somewhere in the Manor resides a copy of "The Military Road", by Michael Fewer. I say somewhere, because I've been looking for it for the past half hour but can't find it anywhere, inspired as I was earlier by a spin out in that direction.

The Military Road runs from the foothills of the optimistically named Dublin Mountains right into the wilds of Wicklow, over the boggy shoulder of Kippure on to the Sally Gap and out to Laragh (near Glendalough) before twisting on towards Glenmalure and beyond.

If I could find the book I could sound very authoritative here and give you some interesting little snippets, but sadly it is not to be. A quick google tells me it was constructed by the British military between 1800 and 1809 to flush out the remaining participants of the 1798 rebellion who were hiding out in the wilderness of the Wicklow uplands at that time.

It's not often that I can say many positive things have been achieved by rebellions in Ireland over the years, but the Military Road is one worthwhile consequence. Many were the times in my youth I'd head out that way on my trusty old mod scooter and be gobsmacked by the isolation of it all. Even now, after years living away, it still holds a fascination of its own, both for the vistas it reveals at every turn and for marvelling at the feat of engineering of its time that it was.

But hold on... this sounds too much like a Bord Failte article for comfort. So let me add that you are best going up there in winter time - as there are still far too many natives about in summer, despite the Redcoats' best efforts. If you venture up there on a day like today, you can be sure it will be populated by half-wits capable of spoiling the Zen-like composure of the Dalai Lama, inducing in that personage mouth-foaming fits of road rage akin to the ones I suffered earlier.

Examples? Try the following...

Pretend 4x4s coming around blind corners in the middle of narrow roads at breakneck (literally) speed, where two cars can hardly pass without sampling the flora and fauna of an obliging ditch.

Other "drivers" doddering along at 20 km/h with a serpentine trail of cars behind them, either oblivious to their presence or simply not of a mind to let them pass.

Cyclists going along two abreast - subjecting one to prolonged observation of their sweaty, male, lycra-clad arses (fine, if that's your thing, but it's not mine... Gwen Stefani's lycra-clad arse might just be about tolerable).

Verminous little brats spilling out of MPVs onto the road ahead of you, forcing you to test your anti-lock brakes (my car's work very well, by the way... and so does the horn, showing no signs of fade even after constant use).

And why, oh why, do the authorities insist on locking the carparks shut, so that people have to park on the narrow roads instead? And what does the guy driving around in the Jeep that says "Ranger" actually do?

A relaxing drive in the countryside? Don't get me started.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

We should not be allowed Lisbon vote

It's a vacuous boast often made by the Lisbon "No" voters. How "lucky" we are to be allowed vote on the Lisbon Treaty - unlike the rest of the EU's poor, unfortunate, citizens.

The thing is, I sincerely don't think the Irish should be allowed to have a veto on the development of the expanding EU - and I don't think that people should be allowed to vote on subjects they don't understand. It's a betrayal of democracy.

I think that the Irish electorate have consistenly made wrong decisions over the years by voting "yes" to Fianna Fail in general elections, and "no" in the abortion, divorce and Lisbon referendums. I don't think they can be trusted to vote on anything, to be honest.

Also, it's embarrassing enough having a half-wit Irish commissioner in Europe who pockets his substantial pay cheque and brags - yes, brags - about not even bothering to read the Treaty. But that's the calibre of politicians we produce in this country.

However, it will be even more embarrassing if the same half-wit populace come out and vote "no" to Lisbon 2 - even after their imaginary "fears" about European Armies / enforced abortion / immigrants taking over the country / losing the aforementioned half-wit commissioner / tax harmonisation have been addressed.

In true gombeen style, the only issue seems to be "what's in it for me?".

If you are looking for an illustration of the intellectual level of the Lisbon debate in Ireland, look no further than the following letter in yesterday's Irish Independent:


The new holiday homes tax [€200 a year per holiday home] is another bungling fiasco from this 'bull in a china shop' Government.

It equates the tax due on a full-time, rented Dublin 4 luxury apartment to that on a cottage or mobile home holiday-let in Connemara with maybe a three-month letting window if the season is good.

It is a totally iniquitous situation. The writing is on the wall for holiday-lets in the countryside as this tax will undoubtedly be ramped up perennially, like motor tax.

It is a total betrayal of all of us who have invested our time and money in this economy instead of buying homes abroad, where such owners are now scot-free of this tax.

With this knife in the back, I have to say that one bad turn deserves another, so here's to you Mr Cowen - I am voting "No" in Lisbon 2.

John Hughes, Galway.

If this was a joke letter, it would be funny. But it is not. This guy is voting "no" to the Lisbon Treaty because he is being asked to pay a €200 tax by on his investment property/properties by the Irish Government!

Well , John, you've got a vote and I'm sure you're going to use it - more is the pity, as I don't think you deserve it.

And doubtless, you won't be the only Irish person deciding his/her vote on the basis of every half-baked issue in their head, rather than on the Treaty itself.

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