Thursday, 31 December 2009

Have a happy (as possible) new year.

Look, let’s be realistic.

There’s no point in saying “happy new year” because it’s not going to be, is it? It’s going to be more of the same, and possibly worse, if you live in our little gombeen land.

So it's probably best if you get your slippers on, don your fleecy pyjamas (unless you have them on already, as day wear) and go to bed at 11pm tonight. That way at least you'll be starting 2010 with a clear head.

Let’s start the new year by looking back at how our spendthrift rulers wasted our money in 2009 - at least as it came to light in 2009 - culled from last Sunday's Tribune.

  • Average salary at Udaras Na Gaeltachta, the regional authority for promoting the Gaeltacht, was €75,893. The body’s wage bill for just 112 people is €8.5 annually. It spent €170,000 of taxpayers’ money on overseas travel in just two years, and its job creation policies have shown a recent bias towards call centres. Call centres? What language do they use then? English I presume - and I thought it was forbidden?

  • Senior and junior ministers employ over 300 public servants to assist them in their private Dail and constituency offices at a cost of over €16m a year. The Tribune article states that “…while 5,000 public servants have been cut from the payroll this year, many in frontline services, most ministers have failed to cut back on their private backroom staff.”

    Mary Coughlan’s 18 private and constituency staff alone cost the exchequer over €1 million, while Mary Harney’s Department of Health weighs in at €2 million a year on 40 public servants for her and four junior ministers.

    And all this despite requests from Cowen for ministers to cut down on such expenditure.

  • Mountjoy prison received a €400 million refit to improve conditions in the Victorian jail. Fair enough. But how come Thornton Hall, which should provide humane conditions for those incarcerated by the State, is taking so long to build? Especially considering how much was paid for the site.

  • The Central Statistics Office – the people who now tell us how deep in the shit we are – spent €29,075 on sending 10 of its officials to a conference in Durban in 2008, this year's accounts show. An exhibition stand used by the government body at the conference cost €6,720 to fit out.

    Note to CSO accountants: Give me a shout next time, I’ll get some B&Q chipboard and do it for €6,000.

  • Our old friend John O’Donughue spent €126,000 on expenses in less than two years, including €180 on hat hire for a race meeting, €250 for water taxis in Vienna (should that be Venice?) and an €80 tip to “the Indians moving the luggage”. Generous John, eh? But not with his own money I imagine.

  • And, of course, we all know that taxpayers paid out €54 billion to buy the banks’ bad loan book of €77 billion, even though the current market value of the properties underpinned by the loans was estimated at €47 billion.

    You can be sure it’s even less now.

Regular readers will know there were lots more examples of waste and Official Ireland stupidity that came to light last year, but it’s been a long year and I don’t have the energy to list them all here now. If you’re still up to it, you’ve always got the archive on the left. Anyway, we’ll have plenty of fresh material in 2010.

In the meantime, if you're a supporter of the blog, I hope your personal new year is as happy as it possibly can be.

At least you know what you're up against.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Madness - part of what we are.

You’ll read a lot about “culture” on this blog - usually in the comments section. Much of it concerns a contrived, selective, orthodox brand of official Ireland “culture”, which if we weren’t told about all the time, we’d probably know nothing about. Gaelic, Aran sweaters, tin whistles, Peig, those bagpipe things you play with your armpit. But let’s get on to culture as it really applies in the real world. And Ireland.

I was at Madness in the O2 last night, and was very impressed. Not by the O2 or many of the people present – particularly in the row of seats I was in, hopping up and down like a jack-in-the-box to allow egress to those more interested in the bar and the pop-corn than the band. There are two few aisles, you see, and there’s more legroom in a Ryanair jet than in the O2. Throw in the Irish propensity for face-stuffing and that meant I was paying for a seat I wasn’t actually sitting in most of the time. That’s fine if you’re a dancer, but I’m not.

Back to Madness, though. I know they’ve had 30 years to perfect their set, but they were excellent. The light show was superb too, though sound-wise the bass was a bit muddy - and the bass player had a lovely Stingray, so it wasn’t that. Well-crafted, classic ska and pop hits played excellently - with Suggsy the consummate front-man.

As a bonus, Jerry Dammers was there doing DJ, playing an eclectic selection of Blue Beat, reggae and original ska sounds. Dammers, of course, is the man who set up the Two Tone label in the late seventies, a label that included his band The Specials, The Selector, The Bodysnatchers and (initially), Bad Manners, Madness and The Beat.

And while the punk of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Jam and others had an important message before and during the ska explosion, the practical anti-racist ethos of Two Tone is hard to beat - and is possibly the most durable. This is simply because it united black and white youth around a common culture consisting of a love of music that transcended other so-called cultural divisions. All the more impressive, as it happened just as unemployment, government policy, racism and rioting had indeed transformed some British cities into “ghost towns”.

The open, accessible and inclusive culture of Two Tone is one that’s well worth us all celebrating.

And the music’s not bad either.

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Friday, 25 December 2009

Keep your Christmas Happy... stay away from the Forty Foot

Look at the picture on the left, taken at the Forty-Foot near Sandycove – presumably last year. The Forty Foot Swim is a tradition with some elements of south Dublin on Christmas Day, who congregate at the location to submerge themselves in the freezing drink. It’s something to do with masochism or penance, I think... if you want to make a distinction between the two.

I've been pondering this for some time, and honestly can’t think of a worse thing to do. For my part, I’ll be submerging a few drinks today, but rest assured I won’t be anywhere near the Forty Foot… not even to look and give encouragement to the eejits.

No, things will be a lot more sedate and sensible in the Manor. A bucks fizz breakfast, for instance. Then a search of the TV listings to see if Chitty Bang Bang is on. Maybe a can or two of Newry lager, then a Bernard Matthews synthetic turkey dinner, washed down with bucks fizz and maybe a Guinness just to be patriotic, and a few bags of Tayto for good measure. You get the idea. OK, not very sensible at all - but what other day can you do all this on?

Anyway, it certainly beats splashing around in the Forty Foot, your skin roaring red raw from the bitter cold, doesn’t it?

Happy Christmas.

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Driving in Ireland. R755 - the Green Hell

I went for a spin again the other day towards the Sally Gap and yonder without using the M50, due to an aversion to handing money over to National Toll Roads. I could have just avoided it by cutting around the back of Clonsilla, but decided to see how people managed pre-M50, going via Leixlip, Celbridge, Newcastle and Saggart.

I’m always amazed by the traffic in these commuter towns, and even more amazed that no effort has been made in improving the local roads for the increased population who need their cars to get about.

We’re not talking six-lane dual carriageways here, but simply for the authorities to make the roads safer. For instance, I encountered three busy, narrow bridges with room for only one car in either direction. Head-on collision, anyone? It might have been fine when we went about on donkeys and carts, or when traffic was light - but not now.

Why, oh why, can’t the local councils or the NRA simply knock down these death traps and replace them with nice, wide, shiny bridges where people don’t have to take their lives in their hands? It would be easy, and would “save lives”. Heritage is the reason, I imagine - “It was on this bridge that Cuchulainn stopped for a pee on his way to fight the Brits at Cooley”, or some such nonsense. Or “It was on this bridge that Gombeen Man had a head-on with an SUV, bad cess to him”.

Then you have the R755 from Laragh to Rathdrum, through the Vale of Clara. Now that is a road on which you need to have all your wits about you. It's very beautiful, granted, but if you spend too long looking at the scenery you'll find yourself in it. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. The Nordschleife – the German racing circuit known as the Green Hell - is in the ha’penny place by comparison.

You’ll be driving along, minding your own business, and suddenly find yourself in mid-air over the crest of a hill, right on a bend, noting that the road has suddenly shifted twenty feet to your right. And you are heading straight for a tree where the road once was – with not a barrier in sight.

I kid you not. I am sure this has actually happened to people. In fact it’s impossible to imagine it hasn’t. Just go out that way and see for yourself - but be careful, if you don’t want to get too intimate with the green stuff.

Take the M50 though. You might get ripped off crossing the toll bridge, but at least you won't get killed.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

YouGov survey shows the Irish are not happy anymore

Remember all the surveys, not that long ago, finding we were the happiest nation on Earth? That the whole world wanted to live here and that Ireland’s population would be 50 billion by the year 2020? And, accordingly, we’d need tax breaks and shelters in place to build all the apartments required to cater for the coming population explosion? And how there would be a wealthy new Irish landlord class that could sit back and live off the income from their investment properties, funded by the influx of drones, assuming they had bought enough apartments?

Well, all that is no more, it seems. A poll by YouGov featured in today’s Metro now tells us that the Irish are not happy campers at all, with nearly 60% worried about “debt, money and their bank balance” - and negative equity I presume. The corresponding figure in the UK is 48%. Surprisingly, only 28% were worried about “the state of Irish politics”. Maybe that statistic alone says it all.

Another finding, in the land of eternal friendliness and gregariousness, was that loneliness was a big issue – with 17% of 18 to 24-year-olds citing it as a top concern. 32% were worried about health issues: not surprising, as if anything happens to them they will probably find themselves on a hospital trolley in a busy corridor, while the highly paid consultant they need is out playing golf. Ah, it’s a great little land altogether.

First thing to do when you read a survey is find out who commissioned it. If it’s about the demand for houses and the Construction Industry Federation (or Fianna Fail) have paid for it, you need to be sceptical.

If, on the other hand, it was carried out on behalf of the Samaritans – as was this one – it might be worth taking a bit more seriously.

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Sunday, 13 December 2009

Anarchy is virtually dead – we've not evolved enough.

If the Internet is an expression of anarchy – no rules, regulation, policing and whatnot - it just affirms the suspicion that anarchy could never work, simply because we are not evolved enough.
You only have to take a look at some of the sites and blogs to see it: Ignorance, racism, prejudice, myths taken for fact, sickos and worse. Not all sites are as informative, authoritative and respectable as Gombeen Nation and the blogs listed to the left, you know.

Being a bit of a petrolhead, I did a search the other day on the subject of the oversteering tendencies of a particular chassis/engine configuration. It lead me to a sick site that gloated about the death of an 18 year-old girl in the US who had taken her parents' Porsche and crashed it.

Not only did it gloat (LOL was the term employed): it featured pictures of the poor kid’s corpse in situ. The pictures were released by some scumbag from the local police department and put up by another (?) scumbag for the entertainment of scumbags the world over, who enjoy such things. The girl’s family were confronted with these pictures, and the other kids had to be taken out of school in order to avoid being goaded by fellow students about their sister’s death.

Where am I going here? Well, this is not about class, nationality or any of the rest – it’s about how far we have evolved as a species. Some of the comments on these sites shocked and filled me with a sad unease – and that does not happen very often, I can tell you. It seems there are quite a few of our species who, at best, don’t have any ability to emphasise - the very quality that distinguishes us from the other animals.

You’ll see it here too, in other forms. I don’t post all the comments I get on the blog – some are too vile and some are simply too ignorant – and I suppose that’s the nearest you can come to self-regulation on the Internet. I always publish a certain amount of them, of course, but if I published each and every one it would just get too tedious reading the same mindless drivel, that adds no value to the topic under discussion.

The post here about rug-headed Limerick mayor, Kevin Keily calling for the deportation of non-nationals was one example. “Fair play to Mayor Kiely – send them home” was typical, but sometimes in less civilised terminology. Stunningly, I even had such comments from (presumably) Irish people living abroad asking for deportations... some from the States (I wonder were they legal?). But the Irish capacity for hypocrisy and self-deception is legendary. More legendary than Cuchulainn, in fact.

But that’s what you’ll see here is mild. Search out a “contentious” issue on You Tube and read the comments - you’ll be stunned at the level of debate. Put it this way, it’s not the kind of stuff that would get past the letter’s page editor of The Irish Times, The New York Times, Die Welt, or whatever else.

So despite whatever objectionable content we might occasionally come up against, calls for increased state regulation should be resisted - especially given Irelands record of censorship. After all, what’s out there was always out there.

The only difference is we are all aware of it now.

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Friday, 11 December 2009

Wind up Anglo Irish Bank... save €7 billion?

Interesting idea in the Metro letters page the other day, of all places, from Ken who suggested that the Government could have made all the Budget cuts and more, simply by winding up bad bank Anglo Irish.

"Last week when all the attention was on talks between the Government and unions, the Department of Finance published estimates for 2010, in which €7 billion of taxpayers' money is expected to be spent on Anglo Irish Bank.

Simple solution: wind-up Anglo Irish Bank and transfer the staff not involved in the corrupt practices of the bank to work for Nama. The Government says it needs to save €4 billion, well wind up Anglo and we'll save €7 billion."

I'm no economist - and maybe that's not a bad thing in an Irish context- but does that suggestion not sound quite sensible?

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Compulsory Irish placenames for Dublin - Brabazon and Ni Dhailaigh decree

This is not a joke, right? This is for real.

All future building developments and street names in Dublin will be compelled to have Gaelic names, Dublin City Council has ruled. The council - which obviously has little else to do - supported a motion to that effect proposed by Fianna Fail’s Tom Brabazon and Shinner Criona Ni Dhailaigh.

The move, inspired by Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League), an Irish language lobby group, means it will be illegal for builders to use English when naming new housing or commercial units – whenever they get round to building them again. New estate names will be required to “reflect local history and topography”, but “as Gaeilge” only.

The Gaelic League's chairperson Seán Ó hAdhmaill believes that the edict will “normalise” the use of Gaeilge in Dublin. "I am sure that this initiative will increase the use of the national language in this our capital city".

Maybe someone should point out to these clowns that the extent to which Gaeilge was ever in common usage on the eastern seaboard is highly debatable – certainly in the Viking city of Dublin and surrounding counties (the much-maligned Pale, which I am in favour of reinstating). Indeed, it might be more apt for these jokers to decree that we use Hiberno-Norse, Norman or Anglo-Saxon monikers.

Sure, there may well be an argument for avoiding portentious names such as “Tuscany Downs”, but that does not justify a blanket ban on the use of the city's vernacular. After all, there is a housing estate somewhere in Meath called “Tir na Nog” (The Land of the Young). How embarrassingly, cringingly crap an address is that, then?

If a placename is to reflect “local history” it should be in the local language of Dublin – not Government Gaelic, as Dublin's heritage and influences are far more multifarious than that.

But that would be at odds with the spirit of Official Ireland and our idiot rulers.

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Saturday, 5 December 2009

IFA urge Paul McCartney to let it be on global warming

Listen. Do you want to hear a secret?

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is an organisation not known for narrow self interest, whingeing and self-promotion; so we really have to sit up and take notice when its members request Paul McCartney to Please, Please Let it Be on climate change.

Macca, as you may know, has been banging on about the world’s livestock herd for some time, and has made the point that if we all stopped eating animals that it would Help reduce greenhouse emissions considerably.

"The biggest change anyone could make in their own lifestyle would be to become vegetarian… I would urge everyone to think about taking this simple step to help our precious environment and save it for the children of the future”, the former Beatle has said.

And if you’re into that kind of thing – saving the world and all that – it makes sense. Indeed a 2006 United Nations report on climate change found that cattle-rearing generated more greenhouse gases than transportation. Speaking personally, I'll happily forego the odd Whopper meal if I can continue to Drive my Car and the eco police leave my 0-60 times alone.

But the IFA is having none of it. With incisive insight, it claims that the multi-billionaire (even after Heather Mills) is only campaigning to sell more of late wife Linda’s veggie pies. Indeed, all IFA president Padraig Walshe is saying is that we should give meat a chance. "He has an agenda, and it’s annoying to see the hype that’s around somebody like him coming into the EU Parliament to promote it”, says the farmers' spokesman.

Something tells me the IFA's members have an agenda here themselves, and I'm sure if we think about it long enough We Can Work it Out.

When it comes to agendas the IFA is out standing in its own field.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Virgin Mary, Knock, and eyesight damage

You'll all know by now that Gombeen Man is a great fan of religous visionary Joe Coleman, who regularly conducts conversations in his Ballyfermot living room with the Virgin Mary. Joe, of course, has predicted "Yer Wan" will appear again at Knock this coming Saturday, the 5th of December.

Needless to say, the cynics have been having a go once more. This time it's some big-shot eye surgeon fella who is putting the mockers on the great forthcoming miracle by claiming that the faithful are not - in fact - seeing the Virgin Mary, but are having the backs of their eyes burnt out by the Sun's rays.

Dr Eamonn O'Donoghue claims that staring at the Sun can cause you to see a "great variety of bizarre visual phenonema". The Galway University Hospital surgeon says he has already treated five Virgin Mary enthusiasts who followed our Joe's advice to hot-foot it down to Knock. This is ridiculous, of course! The man is talking rot as he obviously has no faith and his soul is clearly damned for all eternity for suggesting such nonsense! It will be more than his eyes burning in the fires of Hell, the bowsie!

The video below "appeared" on RTE tonight (in the form of a video) and gives the real facts of the matter through an interview with a female veteran of previous Knock miracles. After looking continually at the Sun for a while, she recounts how it started "dancing" before taking the "form of a host" in the sky. Once again, this is conclusive proof on Gombeen Nation that the clearly intelligent people standing in the mucky fields of Knock, gawping at the heavens, are indeed witnessing apparitions of "Our Lady", and are not blithering half-wits burning their eyes out.

Doctors eh? Who needs them?

RTE video on sun damage to eyes at Knock

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Police and Priests

During the very time that the Catholic Church was telling us that divorce was scandalous immorality altogether- and that Irish people should be denied it to save their eternal souls (even those of us who had none) - a considerable number of its clergy were engaged in systematically abusing children throughout the land, and covering up their crimes with the help of gardai, either through collusion or inaction. Which amounts to the same thing, I suppose.

So it came as no real surprise to read the following in last weekend's Sunday Tribune.

Ken Foxe, Public Affairs Correspondent. Sunday Tribune. November 29, 2009
A GARDA who admitted downloading child pornography at Garda Headquarters is still serving with the force more than seven years after first being arrested.

Garda Darach Kennedy, who had a nolle prosequi entered against him on the day his trial was due to begin, is currently the subject of disciplinary proceedings. He continues to serve at a station in Co Meath despite admitting during questioning he had downloaded sexual images of boys as young as eight. The Garda Press Office declined to comment on the matter, and refused to even confirm that Garda Kennedy was still a serving member.

"We do not comment on matters of internal discipline concerning named members of An Garda Siochana," a spokesman said. "We cannot comment on ongoing matters of discipline involving individuals. We are not in a position to confirm whether a person is still serving or not."

In December 2002, Garda Kennedy was interviewed by then Det Insp Dominic Hayes of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He was asked whether he had ever accessed the internet to download pornography while on duty at Garda HQ and Garda Kennedy admitted that he had.

An investigation later concluded that Garda Kennedy had been accessing hardcore pornography over the course of three years on a computer in the purchasing support office of Garda HQ, where he worked.

In November 2002, staff at the office noticed the computer was running slow and a technological check discovered material from pornographic sites. Further investigation uncovered thousands of images in the computer's recycle bin as well as written stories involving paedophile activity. A full technical examination then took place.

In April 2003, gardaí submitted a file to the DPP and a month later Garda Kennedy was served with two summonses under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act. Two days later, he was suspended from the force. An internal inquiry was also put in place but it was temporarily halted whilst criminal proceedings went ahead.

In February 2005, for reasons that have never been clarified, a nolle prosequi was entered by the state and Garda Kennedy returned to the force. Gardaí immediately reactivated their internal inquiry and it is understood that process is still underway more than four years later.


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