Saturday, 31 October 2009

Ireland – the land of scumbags and skangers.


It’s an interesting word, and one with several meanings. Beyond these shores it is someone who slaughters horses, en route to the manufacture of equine glue, or suchlike. Within them and beyond, it can be used as a verb, as in “to knacker” something, or an adjective as in “the whole country is knackered”.

Exclusively in Ireland, it is predominantly utilised in reference to an individual member of the travelling community (those of you abroad who are unfamiliar with Ireland's travellers might look at the film "Pavee Lackeen" to get some idea). Sometimes the term is employed as an ersatz word for “skanger”, a distinctly urban Irish underclass of scumbag who lives on the dole (though some do work), steals your car, and sticks bangers up your cat’s arse at Halloween . Whenever I use the term it is always in the latter sense, never the former - but it’s probably best to just to use the term “skanger”, as that avoids any possible confusion.

Some time ago, I played in a pub covers band which contained a sizeable proportion of skangers who you would trust as far you could throw (definitely not far). Funny thing is, they would refuse point-blank to perform at traveller weddings. At the time, I mused on what was it, exactly, that made these people feel they were superior to anyone else? Knowing some of them, it certainly wasn’t honesty or integrity.

The subject of travellers is quite a heated one here in Ireland, but it’s one of the few things I would not get hot and bothered about. In short, travellers have never actually bothered me throughout my life to date, whereas skangers have – and there are lots more of them, particularly here in Blanchardstown.

There’s a Traveller halting site not too far away from me on the Porterstown Road, but I have never heard any reports – or experienced – any problems coming from that quarter of Dublin 15. Can you say the same for many of the “settled” estates in the area? No. Skangers are the problem for me, not travellers.

Sure, sections of the travelling community feature disproportionately in reported crime – just as they are underrepresented in education – and some of their internecine feuds are unimaginably vicious and entrenched. But you also have to wonder if an individual traveller attempted to get a job and live and work with settled people, would he/she ever be accepted by the wide majority? My guess is no.

Not even by the skangers.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Blessed Virgin / Our Lady appears at Knock

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou… Sorry, you caught me unawares there …amongst women and blessed is the fruit… Anyway, it does not matter any more as I am renouncing the blog and all its works ...of thy womb Jesus... I have just seen YouTube footage, filmed on October 11th, which plainly shows the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing in the sky over the fields of Knock, just as visionary Joe Coleman said she would ...Holy Mary, Mother of God.... This is conclusive proof that there is a god and there is a Blessed Virgin and that everything they told me during my Marist Brother Catholic schooldays was in fact 100% correct ...pray for us sinners now.... So, I’m off to Knock next weekend and maybe the Gaeltacht the one after... and at the hour of our death, Amen.

See you all there.

God bless.

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Monday, 26 October 2009

€30,000 lost in translation by Clare County Council

The high mullah of Ireland’s Gaeliban, Eamon O’Cuiv, has a lot to answer for.

His Official Languages Act came into force in 2006, three years after he disclosed to a gathering of Irish Language enthusiasts in Spiddal that “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" (Sunday Tribune, of 22nd June, 2003).

Now, though the boom money is long gone for such frivolities, we are left footing the financial "bill" to publish documents in Gaelic which will never be read, and which constitute a further financial burden on the taxpayer.

One example appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times, where the Bar Council was reported saying that the requirement to translate new laws and legislation into Gaelic had resulted in hold-ups, meaning that lawyers were “not able to advise clients properly”.

Another was reported in The Irish Times of Thursday, October 15th, in relation to Clare County Council spending €30,000 to have three development plans translated into Gaelic. Not one was bought, while 190 copies of the English language version were purchased.

Green Party councillor Brian Meaney is quoted as saying that “It is insane that the council has to spend this money to comply with the Official Languages Act 2003… If the council is given a choice that has to be made in the future: spending €10,000 on translating an annual report into Irish or providing €10,000 in grants in improving homes for the elderly or people with disabilities, I know which choice I would make.”


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Friday, 23 October 2009

Irish union leaders' pay, and striking for the teachers

With all the posturing by union leaders on the subject of impending pay cuts for their members, it’s quite shocking – I think – to note the income disparity between the union heads and the majority of workers. It also asks the question: how out of touch with reality are union leaders with ordinary people, especially after years of “social partnership” and hob-nobbing it with TDs?

There’s also, of course, the glaring absence of a union presence where it should be: in the low-paid and exploitative regions of the private sector... the very workers the union bosses should have organised and signed up during the boom years. They chose, instead, to ride the gravy train - sticking to the cosy option of pursuing public service benchmarking.

Now it’s all “workers unite – private and public!” if you listen to them. But am I – or any other poor sap in the private sector - going to walk out of my precarious job to march shoulder-to-shoulder with a phalanx of pampered teachers, whingeing about taking a moderate pay cut? My arse I am. Let alone the fact that I’ve always hated the bastards. Formative reasons for that, I suppose.

But I digress. Of 16 unions contacted by The Irish Times on the subject of their leaders’ nemuneration, seven refused to disclose any details. Teachers’ union boss, John Carr, was found to be the highest-paid of those who fessed up, chalking up €172,000 a year, while IMPACT’s Peter McLoone banked €171,000.

Three national executive officers of SIPTU were paid €125,000 last year; and John White of ASTI, Peter McMenamin of the TUI, and ICTU general secretary David Begg were paid €144,000, “between €132,000-€150,000”, and €137,000 respectively.

We need a revolution in Ireland, but I think it’s highly unlikely it will come about through any form of anarcho-syndicalism.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Enda Kenny on abolishing the Seanad (Senate)

Kenny wants to Enda Senate shock

nda Kenny may well have the personality and charisma of a newt, but he deserves credit for his proposal to abolish the inherently undemocratic body that is the Senate (or Seanad).

Kenny has shown an ability to surprise in the past, such as when he called for Gaelic to be made a non-compulsory school subject – attracting predictable howls of protest from Ireland's powerful Gaeliban (Irish Language lobby).

So let’s look at the Senate, the chief purpose of which – like the British House of Lords – is concerned with giving privileged, but otherwise insignificant, blusterers some kind of nominal function and Gormenghastian status.

Eleven of the sixty blusterers are appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister) of the day. One example being Sunday Independent bore and waffler Eogan Harris, who was rewarded with a senatorship by Bertie Ahern for defending him and his dismal Government on the eve of the last election… just when some sections of the electorate where showing faint signs of getting wise.

A further six are “elected” by the graduates of TCD and NUI. Naturally, given the self-perpetuating nature of the entrenched class system and third level education in Ireland – populated as it is by the middle-class brats of the well-off (whose fees are paid by the taxpayer) – this too helps ensure an innate conservatism.

Finally, 43 blusterers are elected by “Vocational Panels”, which for the life of me, I cannot figure out. But let’s just say it involves sitting Dail members, selected council members and others, arranged by “vocational interest”. And some people here had the neck to give out about Lisbon and the EU??

Today’s Irish Times reports that the salary of a senator is €70,135, topped-up by a further €45,000 in “unvouched expenses”. They sat their privileged bottoms on the Senate benches for only 93 days in 2008, and the whole charade costs us a whopping €25 million a year to run.

Kenny is talking about calling a referendum to abolish this elitist talking shop. Bring it on.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

West Dublin gardai in drugs investigation

Judge Morris, head of the tribunal investigating corrupt Donegal gardai, has spoken of a culture of dishonesty in the force. It's fair to assume that such a culture is not geographically confined to Donegal - and so it seems. The Herald reports below on an investigation into criminal collusion, involving two Garda stations, with a leading drug dealer.

West Dublin has serious problems with regard to drug-dealing criminal gangs, who are active in areas such as Blanchardstown and Clondalkin. Looks as though it also has problems with its gardai.

Friday October 16 2009

THREE plain clothes gardai are the latest to be questioned over their links to Ireland's biggest drugs dealer, 'the Don'. The three officers were questioned about passing information to the criminal. The trio, all based on the west side of Dublin, were not arrested. A fourth officer was arrested and quizzed last week. Files on the corruption inquiry have already been sent to the DPP.

'The Don' has been blamed for several murders on Dublin's westside and has access to large amounts of money. The three officers work in two West Dublin stations and are involved in drugs investigations. This follows the arrest last week of a uniformed officer and the discovery of a shotgun in his home. The shotgun is said to have been taken from an evidence room in a garda station. That officer's girlfriend was also arrested.

The investigation has been growing as the suspected corrupt officers tried to drag innocent colleagues into the mess. "When they were off duty they would ring members who were working looking for information about suspects," said a source. "They would then pass the information on to the Don -- but it could not be traced back to them; rather to their colleagues who were working at the time," the source continued.

The garda who was arrested last Friday along with his partner, has 20 years' service with the force under his belt. Detectives are looking closely at the activities of his girlfriend. It is believed that this woman could have been involved in a number of criminal dealings. She is also suspected of being involved in a scam linked to the security industry. Gardai raided her workplace in recent days. Her garda boyfriend strenuously denies any wrongdoing. He is, however, suspected of accessing the Garda PULSE system, which holds information on criminals and ongoing investigations, on her behalf.

Sources believe that the officer may not have realised that his girlfriend was allegedly passing on the information to known criminals. The activities of four gardai and the woman are now at the centre of this investigation. It has been alleged that the three officers were receiving money and favours from criminals, who then used the garda intelligence to target and intimidate rivals and innocent members of the public alike.

The four officers at the centre of the investigation are suspected of providing information to a number of criminal gangs in north and west Dublin, including tip-offs about potential raids. It is believed details from hundreds of internal and top secret garda reports may have been leaked. Up to a dozen officers could face trouble if the allegations are proven. "Anything up to 12 members of the force may have been given information of the corrupt trio, not knowing the true purpose of their request," a source said.

With "lawkeepers" like these, who needs criminals?

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Morgan Kelly and NAMA

There is much debate taking place on the subject of NAMA, with Lenihan now claiming it will make a profit for the taxpayer within 10 years.

Which prompts the question: If these loans are so potentially profitable, why do we "need" NAMA?

As an analysis of the folly of NAMA, and the Government's Homer Simpson-like inability to learn from its mistakes when interfering in the property market, the following is hard to beat. It's pretty long, but worth the effort.

Overpaying for Nama may hit taxpayer for €30bn

Professor of Economics, University College Dublin, writing in THE IRISH TIMES on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Government estimates of Nama valuations appear implausible, are out of line with other property collapses and may impose massive losses on the taxpayer

WHAT HAS been dismaying about the recent acrimonious exchanges over Nama is that neither side seems to feel it necessary to produce any evidence to support its assertions about its likely cost to the taxpayer. Like most discussions in Irish public life, the Nama debate seems set to generate more heat than light.

If we want to make sensible predictions on the likely course of Irish property prices over the next decade, we need to see what has happened historically in the aftermath of similar booms. In other words, we need to find property booms where sharp increases in bank lending caused real prices to more than double.

In Ireland, between 1995 and the peak of the boom in 2007, the average price of housing and commercial property roughly tripled, adjusting for inflation, while disposable incomes increased by one half.

Two previous booms fit this pattern closely: Japanese urban land in the 1980s, and Irish agricultural land in the late 1970s.

In Japan between 1985 and 1990, the real price of commercial land in major cities tripled, while the price of residential land doubled. What makes the Japanese case particularly relevant to Ireland, as I pointed out here two years ago, is that at the peak of their bubble, Japanese banks had the same extreme exposure to development and construction loans – 30 per cent of their lending – as Irish banks did in 2007.

As Japanese banks buckled under bad property debts, lending fell sharply and prices with it. By 2005 – 15 years after the peak – residential land had fallen back to its pre-bubble level, while commercial land had fallen by nearly 90 per cent. Given that many people are claiming that Irish property prices will recover once the economy starts to grow again, it is interesting to note that Japanese property prices collapsed while the economy continued slowly to expand: real output in Japan rose 20 per cent between 1990 and 2007 and did not fall in any year during this period.

The next case is much closer to home but almost forgotten: the boom and bust in Irish farmland prices in the late 1970s. After joining the EEC in 1973, Irish banks began to lend heavily to farmers. As a result, the inflation adjusted price of agricultural land tripled between 1975 and 1977, reaching a peak equivalent to €14,000 per acre in 2009 prices. Real Irish GNP in 1977 was about one third of its present level, so this price is roughly equivalent to €50,000 per acre in current purchasing power for land with no development potential. For comparison, during the recent boom, when agricultural land prices were driven by demand for potential development, prices peaked in 2006 at an average of €21,000 per acre nationally.

The bubble quickly burst as farmers ran into difficulties servicing loans: between 1977 and 1980 real prices fell by around 75 per cent, and remained at this level, more or less where it had started in 1973, until 1995, 18 years after the peak.

These examples illustrate a general principle: property bubbles are the consequence of abnormal levels of bank lending. Once the bank lending that fuelled the boom returns to its usual levels, prices return roughly to where they started before the boom.

In ordinary times, property prices grow at the same rate as national income: people in industrialised economies spend much the same fraction of their income on housing as they did a century ago.

However, a surge in prosperity, which drives property prices higher and encourages banks to lend more on appreciating assets, can lead to a self-reinforcing cycle of rising prices and rising lending.

Eventually, banks get a fright and return to levels of lending they used to regard as prudent, causing prices to fall back to where they were before the bubble. Just like Irish farmland in the 1970s, and Japanese property in the 1980s, our recent property boom was the product of unsustainable bank lending.

Between 2000 and 2007, while nominal GNP rose by 77 per cent, mortgage lending rose from €24 billion to €115 billion, lending to builders from €2.4 billion to to €25 billion, and to developers from €5 billion to €80 billion. Should the usual post-bubble correction occur in Ireland, it would suggest that real prices of residential and commercial property would return to their levels of the mid-to-late 1990s, two thirds below peak values.

Already the Irish property market has seen unusually sharp falls by international historical standards. The Sherry FitzGerald house price index is down 35 per cent nationally, and 42 per cent for Dublin; while the Society of Chartered Surveyors estimate that commercial property prices have fallen 48.6 per cent from their peak; and Knight Frank estimate that farmland prices, which were driven by their development potential, are down 45 per cent from their peak but are still twice those of comparable UK land.

Despite these large falls, which already exceed the one third haircut on Nama assets rumoured to be proposed by the Government, the property market remains moribund. Property transactions, measured by stamp duty receipts, are two thirds down on this time last year, and 80 per cent lower than two years ago.

In other words, if nobody is buying despite large falls in price, then price needs to fall considerably further to reach its long-run equilibrium.

The impression that Irish property prices are still considerably above long-term value is reinforced by rental yields: the ratio of the rent you get from a property to the price you paid for it. As many of you have discovered to your cost, property is a risky asset that performs particularly badly during economic downturns. To compensate for this fundamental risk, property should earn a long run rental return of at least 8 per cent.

Despite some of the highest rents in the world at the peak of the bubble (according to Lisney, Dublin ranked as the second most expensive location for industrial property and ninth for offices, with Grafton Street coming in as the fifth most expensive retail street on earth), new residential and commercial property was earning a paltry rental yield of 3-4 per cent.

This means that, to restore long-run equilibrium, prices needed to halve from peak levels, or rents to double.

Suppose for a moment that the Government’s assertions are correct, and the long-run value of Irish property is two thirds of its peak value. In order for rental yields to rise from an unsustainable 4 per cent to a long-run equilibrium of 8 per cent, the Government needs rents to rise one third from their already extreme peak values.

In fact, instead of rising, rents have fallen, and nearly as sharply as prices. The Irish Property Watch website estimates that residential rents have fallen by 32 per cent since May 2008; while Lisney estimate that commercial rents have fallen 24 per cent from peak, with office rents down 35 per cent and now lower than they were a decade ago.

Again, these large falls have not been sufficient to restore equilibrium. The number of rental properties listed on has risen from 5,000 at the start of 2007 to nearly 25,000 now, while the average time to rent a property is now 76 days.

For offices, HWBC estimate that lettings are running at one fifth of their rate last year; while Lisney calculates that one fifth of Dublin offices are now empty (something they describe as “startling”) and one third in west Dublin.

The usual post-bubble correction in property prices is likely to be aggravated in Ireland’s case by large falls in national income, and the dislocation in the banking system and Government finances, caused by the collapse of our unusually large construction boom.

The effective ending of new construction activity, collapsing consumption, rising taxes and cuts in Government spending all make the 15 per cent contraction in GNP forecast by the ESRI and others look optimistic. The fall in national competitiveness and likely continuing difficulties in the banking sector make the prospect of a swift national recovery seem problematic.

What we have seen then is that as the abnormal lending that fuelled the property boom returns to its normal level, Irish property prices should fall back to their pre-bubble values, at around one third of their peak values.

In the absence of evidence to support it, the Government’s claim that €90 billion in developer loans are backed by €120 billion in assets appears implausible. While five-year developer loans were the norm, properties were usually flipped on after two years, meaning that existing loans were mostly taken out at peak prices.

In addition, while loans were supposedly 70 per cent of property value, the collateral supplied was usually equity in other property or personal guarantees, both now worthless.

It appears, therefore, that, by paying an average of two thirds of the face value for Nama assets, the Government is likely to impose severe losses on taxpayers of the order of €30 billion, or one fifth of national income.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

On the one road, singing the wrong song.

"We're on the one road, maybe the wrong road, we're on the road to God knows where... we're on the one road, maybe the wrong road, but we're together now who cares..."

Oh Jesus - what complete and utter shite. Sorry, there's no other way to describe the Wolfe Tones’ Shinner anthem. But, patent drivel as the song may be, there are people out there who think it's a profound expression of Irishness. And maybe it is?

What is Irishness anyway? Is it playing GAA or the tin whistle? Is it speaking the Gaelic they forced on you at school? Is it singing along - preferably through your nose - to the Wolfe Tones after a feed of pints? Is it just hating the Brits?

Or perhaps it's more practical than that? Maybe it's denying abortion rights, on the grounds that such a need does not exist? A bit like sex didn't exist in Ireland before the Late Late Show, when people were forced to find new ways to amuse themselves. "Ah sure they can always go to England for that type of thing."

Or are we a nation of devil-may-care rebels, who care not a whit for authority? You know the hoary old chesnut: we have an ingrained disrespect for authority as a result of our colonial past. But that does not tally with the deep conservatism of the Irish, and their unquestioning, prostrate obedience to the authority of State and the Church in the not-so-distant past even as young lives were destroyed in institutions that Dickens would have been shocked by, and child abuse by the clergy was first ignored, then covered up. Where was the anti-authoritarianism then? Well?

Maybe being Irish is just being dishonest and corrupt, and blaming the 800 years for it all? So many Irish patently see nothing wrong with voting for corrupt politicians. Wait and see how many votes John O'Donoghue gets in Kerry next time round - just as Michael Lowry, Charles Haughey and Beverly Flynn prospered, despite all their dodgy dealings.

There was much talk about our sovereignty being diminished by Lisbon. Well, I think sovereignty is greatly overvalued and it can't be diminished enough in our case. A strong, accountable Europe – and I hope one day it’s a federal one - is our best hope for self improvement.

For the past 80-odd years we’ve been on the one road. And yes, it was the wrong one.

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Joseph Stiglitz, NAMA, and the Greens

It has long been said that power corrupts, and we in Ireland know that more than most – given the overwhelming number of corrupt/dishonest politicians in relation to our population size.

The Greens went into coalition with Fianna Fail (which translated from the Gaelic means “Party of Corrupt Shysters”, I think) full of bluster and big ideas – including saving the planet, of course.

Much was made in the lead-up to their “Programme for Government” conference, and the vote on whether they would support the implementation of NAMA, the Government's plan to bail out the banks and keep property prices artificially high by using taxpayers’ money to overpay for the banks' bad loans. No surprise that they voted overwhelmingly both to stay in power and to implement NAMA.

Interesting that Nobel Prize winning economist Joeseph Stiglitz, when asked about the scheme, thought that “the principle of overpaying banks for loans is criminal” and that NAMA was quite simply a bad idea.

But who cares about what a Nobel Prize winning economist thinks anyway? The main thing is that the Greens get to cling on to power for a little bit longer.

Joe Stiglitz RTE interview below, courtesy of You Tube.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

John O'Donoghue Mastercard - Irish Taxpayer picks up tab

This one came into the Gombeen Nation email yesterday. It's a bit late in another sense too, I suppose, but the gist of it still holds true.

It would be funny if it wasn't true. Sad thing, RTE interviewed some of his constituents yesterday and they felt "the poor man" was "being hounded out of his job". Another stupid fool has a letter in the Metro this morning saying what a great man "The Bull" is... that he "worked hard to get a good job" and that he was "entitled" to his expenses... that we are all just "jealous" because we haven't got a pot to piss in now that there's a recession.

If you are wondering why so many Irish politicians are so corrupt, look no further than the people who vote them in and think it's alright for them to bleed us dry.

As the Dunnes Stores people say (and somehow think it's a selling point): "The difference is we're Irish."

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O’Donoghue resigns… kicking and screaming.

It took a long time, but the Dail’s chairman was finally asked to resign by the "opposition" after spending €90,000 of taxpayers’ money since taking office in 2007. Prior to that, the Fianna Fail politician had submitted expenses exceeding €500,000 when Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. Expenses.

There are two very telling things about this saga.

1) It was only due to Tribune journalist Ken Foxe and the tireless work of Gavin Sheridan, of Gavin's Blog, that these details saw the light of day via the Freedom of Information Act.

Interestingly, another well-known political chancer - Charlie McCreevy - introduced fees in 2003 for information sought under the FOI. He also increased the exemption period for cabinet records for five to ten years. So information that was once free, could suddenly be very expensive indeed. I quote Gavin below:

“Curious how the Tribune, I believe, only managed to get access to the information just as the Dail was going into recess. But what is perhaps more important is the attitude of the FOI officer. At first they looked for €600 to get the information requested, which was later reduced to €200. This is clearly unacceptable.

Let me be very clear. As a citizen, I have a right to know about how every cent is spent by every Minister, TD and Senator. I have a right to know how taxpayers’ money is spent. It really is that simple. I want details of every single expenditure. For the moment only ministerial expenses can be accessed in this almost detailed way. TD expenses simply fall under broad categories. This has to change, and I will be pursuing this through every means necessary.

And one thing for the Tribune. Publish all the documents you received in the FOI to the web. This isn’t just your data, it’s our data.”

2) Why did it take so long for the opposition to demand O’Donoghue’s resignation?

Are they afraid of similar scrutiny?

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Monday, 5 October 2009

54 billion mind-boggling reasons to oppose NAMA

Everyone knows by now that we, the taxpayers, have been elected by Brian Lenihan to bail out the banks’ bad loans to the tune of €54 billion (€54,000,000,000). And as Ali G might put it, should he ever do an interview on the subject, “€54 billion is a lot of money, innit?”

But how much is it exactly? If you are not playing Monopoly or you weren’t one of those developers “using earth-movers for dice” in 2006 (as wonderfully put in one of the Sunday's) it's a difficult figure to get your head around.

With that in mind, Gombeen Man has done an enormous amount of painstaking research to contextualise one billion for you. OK, OK, it was a quick websearch leading to Wiki, then.

So all you have to do is multiply what you read below by 54 (don't ask me to contextualise that) to get some idea of what kind of debt we have been signed up for.

In terms of time:

  • One billion seconds is about 31.7 years.

  • About one billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was flourishing.

  • About one billion hours ago, modern human beings and their ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

  • About one billion months ago, dinosaurs walked the earth during the late Cretaceous Period.

In terms of distance:

  • One billion metres is almost three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

  • One billion kilometres is over six times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

In terms of volume:

  • A billion grains of table salt or granulated sugar would occupy a volume of about two and a half cubic feet.

Get the idea?

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Saturday, 3 October 2009

Kwik-Fit Newry. Highly recommended

Back in PriceWatch mode here, having made the trip to and from Newry yesterday - enticed by a couple of tyres that cost €200 less there than in Fast-Fit, Coolmine, Dublin 15.

What do they say on those programmes? “Highly recommended”? After just 1 hour and 10 minutes, we were greeted by MPH speed limit signs, shortly after which we peeled off for Newry itself.

There was a bit of a tailback into the town (they are building a bypass) but we got to Kwik-Fit on Monaghan Street in no time, where the job was done in half-an-hour with the kind of friendly and efficient service that’s all too rare down here, I’m afraid. So full marks to Eddie and Kwik-Fit Newry.

Then it was off to The Quays to spend part of the saved €200. There’s something nice about that, there really is. Old mods might be interested to hear that Fred Perry tops are €20 cheaper than Debenhams, Dublin. Beer connoiseurs might be tempted by the offer of 8 large (568ml - 1 pint) cans of Stella Artois for €9… you have to get more than eight with that kind of value, of course.

A litre bottle of Sainsburys vodka can be had for €13. Kelkin muesli (made in the Republic) costs £2.79 - as opposed to €4.89 in our local Tescos - which you must buy to kid yourself into thinking you're atoning for your shopping trolley's more decadent contents.

In short, I can’t recommend it highly enough. So don't mind Brian (NAMA) Lenihan accusing you of being “unpatriotic”. There are far worse things after all... like being in Fianna Fail.

No, I’d suggest you take Mary Harney’s and Smokey Robinson’s advice - get yourself up there and “shop around”.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Llamas block M50 at Dublin's Red Cow Interchange

Just a quick check of the calendar before I post this one. No, it’s not April 1st.

Dublin’s traffic problems just get worse, it seems. I was listening to the news when AA Roadwatch reported that the Red Cow interchange on the M50 had been closed due to Lambos blocking it. “What’s this?” I thought, "a long overdue protest by Lamborghini drivers against extortionate road tax and VRT?" But hang on, not even a senior civil servant can afford a Lamborghini in Ireland.

Lammers, then? A gang of Lambretta-riding mod revivalists re-enacting a 60’s battle with the rockers on one of Dublin’s busiest junctions, with scant regard for harried commuters?

No. Not Lammers either - but llamas. It seems that the Red Cow was closed around lunchtime due to a herd of llamas wandering onto the road. As they do. See AA report:

Updated: 01/10/2009 14:08:25
*MAIN TRAFFIC* * All lanes have reopened at the Red Cow Interchange where a herd of 6 loose Llamas have been removed from the road. * The M50 is moving well in both directions. *

Speculation that it was a publicity stunt was denied by the spokesperson of a nearby circus, who claimed the animals escaped when a delivery of diesel led to a gate being left open.

Makes a change from loose horses, I suppose.

Llamas M50 You Tube Video Clip Footage (big thanks to Postmodhermit!)

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Bertie’s sympathy for the builders

News of the World sports writer, ex dodgy Taoiseach, and prime architect of the economic mess the country finds itself in, Bertie Ahern, just can’t help himself. The shifty little bollix - who still enjoys immense popularity with large, inherently shifty sections of the Irish public - was spouting forth on the demise of the Galway Tent in the most recent Sunday Times.

Still unrepentant about Fianna Fail’s incestuous links with the Irish developer caste, he painted the famous symbol of Fianna Fail’s clientism as a melting pot of all social classes, out for a day at the races.

It was a “misnomer” (sic) that the tent "was full of big developers". The media, it seems, made an issue of out the “high-flyers” bending the collective FF ear “with the help of Joe Higgins and other looney lefts (sic)” .

It’s nice to know that Bertie hasn’t lost his “common touch” at a time when we are bailing out the banks and buying the developers’ bad loans for more than they are actually worth. He still has his priorities right and feels a deep sympathy for his builder buddies:

“You meet the Baileys at Croke Park every time you go there. You can’t avoid getting a slap on the back going in from them (sic). Most of these guys lost their shirt. I feel sorry for them. You know, they employed 270,000 people in the Irish economy.”

Well Bertie - why don’t you just get out your violin there?

Or should that be your fiddle?

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