Friday, 30 July 2010

Gaeltacht spokesman Frank Feighan "must do better".

Gaeilgeoir long knives out for man who "can't speak Irish".

I was alerted to the radio this morning by the sound of elongated, strident-yet-strangulated, middle-class Dublin vowels issuing forth.  Nothing new in that, you might say - but these ones were dripping with enraged indignation.  “Maybe it’s a McDonalds opening up on Shrewsbury Road?” I thought, “or a Dalkeyite who regrets spending all that inheritance money on property, and wants compensation?”.  Whatever it was, they were not happy.  Then I heard them utter the phrase “minority rights”, so I turned up the volume a bit.

Turns out it was one of the Irish Language enthusiasts who got a slot in yesterday’s Irish Times letters page to condemn Frank Feighan's appointment as Fine Gael’s Gaeltacht spokesman.  Feighan, it seems, has “very limited Irish (Gaeilge)”.  Poet Gabriel Rosenstock, who has a weekly column in the paper, as Gaeilge of course, was one of the signatories.

Feighan was then wheeled on to Morning Ireland to apologetically defend his position, pointing out that he wasn’t the first appointee, or indeed minister, so lacking.  He argued that the administrative and day-to-day running of the region did not demand such language proficiency, but was taking Gaelic grinds just the same - presumably to appease his purist foes.

Whatever about all  that, I find it truly, sickeningly galling to hear members of the Irish Language Lobby talking about “minority rights”.  It is a particularly tasteless kind of parody, and a base slur on the many people in this country who really do suffer discrimination on an everyday basis.   In contrast, members of the Irish Language Lobby in Ireland are anything but a put-upon minority – they are a privileged elite who use their chosen language to put those who do not speak it at a disadvantage in education and employment, particularly in the State sector.  But they do like to put on “the poor mouth”.

A report published by the University of Limerick in January of this year found that “Irish was the language of the elite in Ireland… with speakers enjoying higher income than the rest of the population” (Irish Times, Jan 9th, 2010).

Key findings were:

  • Non-speakers of Irish are twice as likely to be unemployed as their Irish-speaking counterparts.
  • 42 per cent of Irish speakers worked in senior professional, managerial or technical jobs, compared to 27 per cent of non-speakers.
  • Just 12 per cent of Irish speakers are in semi or unskilled jobs, compared to 20 per cent of non-speakers.
  • Irish speakers were also seen to enjoy the advantage of a network of social contacts and all of the perks that go with such a network.
  • 22 per cent of Gaelscoileanna sent all their Leaving Cert students to third level, compared to a progression average of 7 per cent (2009 Irish Times Feeder Schools List).

So much for “minority rights” then.   But I suppose elites are minorities too, in their own way.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Irish house prices could drop 70% from peak

Professor of economics at Trinity College Dublin, Kevin O’Rourke, has predicted that Irish house prices could fall as much as 70% from their peak valuations. Such a fall would “rival the steepest drops ever recorded in the advanced world” according to a report in Sunday’s Tribune.

While some might question the use of the word “advanced” in relation to Ireland, there is no doubt that economic gravity must make itself felt, and that "the more prices rose before the peak the more they have to fall after the bursting of the bubble”, as O’Rourke puts it.

It is always instructive to check the credentials and motives of economic forecasters, and to simply dismiss the utterances of any who are attached to banks, building societies, brokers, the government or any other vested interests.

When economists attached to such institutions – including the supposedly venerable ESRI – were telling us in 2006 that the housing market was in for a soft landing, it was only the likes of David McWilliams, Alan Ahearne (since gone over to the Dark Side and silenced by a job in government) and Morgan Kelly who were speaking sense  -  forecasting the landing would be anything but fluffy.  Tellingly, the former was an independent “celebrity economist” and the latter two were attached to universities.

So maybe this guy is also worth listening to?  Never mind Parlon, Lenihan and all the rest of them. Nama only exists because property loans were unsustainable. The banks are on public life support for the same reason. The only thing that makes sense for the housing market, and subsequently the economy, is serious deflation.

Add in the fact that the prospect of a property tax has not been dismissed, water charges are in the, erm, pipeline, the banks can’t lend what they used to, and migrant workers from the 10 accession states admitted in 2004 will have unrestricted working rights throughout the whole EU from next year – resulting in fewer potential tenants for buy-to-let investors – and that 70% figure might become a reality yet.

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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Do as I say...

Now, who would have thought anybody could get away with parking a motor veh-hic-le so inconsiderately?  Right on top of a traffic light on a corner?

Spotted outside the court buildings on Chancery Street, opposite the Bridewell Garda station.

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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Nenagh Feins Tipperary "boy racers" video - thank goodness for the RSA.

"Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear".

You can hear Road Safety Council chairman Gay Byrne saying it already as he dons his special glasses to look at the video on this You Tube thing.  "We need more speed cameras",  he'll sagely conclude at the end.

The video below features three boyos from the "city of Nenagh", Tipperary (and it's not "a long way away" enough, after seeing this).  The lads thought it would be a very good idea to film themselves proudly standing in front of their cars, registration plates and all, and then post footage of their adventures driving around the locality doing various, erm, death-defying stunts on You Tube.

Needless to say, it didn't take long for our super sleuth gardai to track them down while watching the whole thing over a few doughnuts in the station, after the Road Safety Authority had brought  the video to their attention.  "If a young child had cycled out on that road, if they had come around a corner and found a slow-moving tractor, it would have been mayhem", said the RSA's Noel Brett.   It would, Noel. Mayhem.  I wonder how many liiives you've saved by telling us that? 

Anyway, the video is causing a bit of a stir in Ireland at the minute - it even got a slot on RTE news the other night.  Much of the hysteria  is of the "we are all going to be killed by speeding, reckless hoodlums as soon as we venture on to the roads" variety.   Never mind the fact that these half-wits in their clapped out bangers - look at the windscreen on one of them - would probably have been overtaken by Gaybo himself. 

They are just eejits.  Get over it. 

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Animal cruelty in Ireland and Smithfield Market

 In a previous post  – the one dealing with the penguin stolen from Dublin Zoo  –  a friend of the blog quoted Kant’s statement that “we can judge the heart of man by his treatment of animals.”  Well, if that is the case, we are in a very bad place indeed. 

Last week, an article appeared on the front of the Herald Metro documenting the fact that “six horses in as many days” had been subjected to acts of cruelty that were “just plain evil”.

One horse had been painted head to hoof in red paint.  Yes, a horse was painted – such things happen in Ireland.  Another one was underweight and had severe leg injuries, while the animal rescue people had to destroy another one that was covered in wounds as a result of being “thrashed”.  A pregnant mare was put down after she had been “ridden to exhaustion” by skangers.  Sorry, youths.   The legs of another two horses had been tied so tightly that the rope had penetrated to the bone, and one of them also had to be destroyed.

Only a few weeks ago, Socialist councillor Ruth Coppinger called for “young people” to be allotted free grazing space for their numerous horses running wild in parts of Dublin.   Just in case any of you are not fully familiar with contemporary life in Ireland, I should inform you that it is “normal” to see horses, in various stages of degeneration, running/hobbling around certain housing estates.

What happens is local kids go into Smithfield Horse Market, buy a couple of  piebalds, take them back to their estates, and let them run wild.  This phenomenon is most prevalent in localities that seem to be permanently blighted by unemployment – even in the boom times.  Coppinger justified her request roughly on the grounds that horse riding is not that much different, recreation-wise, to playing football.  And we have football pitches, right?  The ones that have not been wrecked, anyway.

I disagree.  Far from encouraging people to go out and buy horses they can’t look after, she should be calling for the closure of Smithfield Horse Market – or at least demanding basic regulations on transactions carried out there.  The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has repeatedly called for the mandatory microchipping and licensing of horses.    I would have thought that this is a reasonable request, but it is one that has been consistently ignored by the authorities. 

There is a responsibility implicit in taking ownership of an animal that goes beyond handing over a few Euro at a dodgy market.

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Saturday, 17 July 2010

Alone in Berlin - Hans Fallada. Its application to Ireland.

Government is government, and government is force,
Left or right, right or left, it takes the same old course.

Crass. Bloody Revolutions, 1980.

It’s hard to know where to stand on politics really. The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848,  the time of the famine, and quite a period has elapsed since then in terms of manifestos and famines.

There was no exact timescale given in Marx' and Engels' work for the collapse of capitalism, other than it was inevitable. However, capitalism – with all its glaring faults - has survived the Russian revolution and the subsequent corrupt Stalinist states of the old Eastern Bloc.

But at least the idea of communism was a noble one, if you will excuse the paradox. It had the eradication of classes, along with exploitation, war, racism, sectarianism and all the rest at its heart. In sharp contrast to the idea of fascism - and Nazism in particular – with its hateful messages of race superiority, Darwinist nationalism, anti-humanitarianism, state oppression, and the promotion of war as politics by other means. Oh, and the little matter of the genocide of a whole, selected, mass of people. So the only thing you have left is to question authority.

 I have just finished reading “Alone in Berlin”, originally entitled “Jeder stirbt fuer sich allein”, written by Hans Fallada in 1947. Fallada lived in Nazi Berlin and was sent by the government of the day to an insane asylum for not meeting their expectations of political understanding. He survived the experience and subsequently wrote the book, based on the true story of resistance by two ordinary working class Germans, Otto and Elise Hampel.

It’s a great book, if written a little clunkily… though I don’t know how much of that is to do with the translation. It is based on the Hampels’ campaign of dropping subversive postcards around Nazi Berlin in the war years, after their son had been killed on the western front.

The postcards bore such messages as “German people wake up! We must free ourselves from Hitler’s supporters!”, “Hitler’s war is the workers’ death, there will be no peace with Hitler’s regime” and “Why fight and die for Hitler’s plutocrats?”.  It all sounds relatively harmless and, given the odds stacked against the couple, quite Quixotic. But these were the days before the Internet, where radio and the newspaper were the major means of information dissemination .

The saddest thing is, the vast majority of the postcards left around Berlin did not promote critical thinking of the Nazi regime among the public but, rather, were delivered by conscientious citizens straight to the Gestapo.  Now, it is all very easy to sit back and criticise the actions of such Berliners for carrying out their civic duty while the thinking, critical, ones were sent off to concentration camps. But they were doing what they thought was right - they didn't realise they were participating in one of history's most evil episodes.

The best thing, it would seem, is to take an Anarchist approach and question and criticise all orthodoxy and authority. That is the only thing that brings progress... no matter what country or what time you are born into.

Otto and Elise Hampel where beheaded in 1943 as enemies of the state.

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Thursday, 15 July 2010

ESRI says 120,000 will emigrate by end of 2011

There was a new sound on Morning Ireland yesterday. It was Brian Cowen’s newly animated, and painfully forced, upbeat “we’re out of recession” voice.

We know that the official “out of recession” stats are founded on GDP figures, based on exports created predominantly by the multinationals.  For the first quarter of 2010 GDP weighed in at +2.7% compared with the previous three months of 2009.  However, GNP - which measures only indigenous business - still fell by 0.5% in the same period (Irish Times report, 1st July).

Yesterday, the ESRI forecast that unemployment will continue unabated and predicts 120,000 people will emigrate by the end of next year.  But we’re out of recession, officially.  And what is official, as opposed to what is reality, is all that matters in Ireland.

It’s funny, the last time I heard, unemployment was increasing. So considering there will be more people on the dole, the banks are not lending, and fewer people are working - with a greater burden on public finances - you might wonder what will drive any real domestic recovery?

Also, according to the same ESRI report, Ireland’s budget deficit is expected to rise from a predicted 12% (last April) up to 20% of GDP figures, mainly due to Eurostat rightly reclassifiying the bank bail-outs as government expenditure rather than investment.  And remember that GDP figures are an exaggerated measure of the true performance of the real economy.

Cowen can sound as cheery as he likes, but it's only to drown out the fact that he's splashing about in brown stuff of his very own manufacture without the benefit of a paddle.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Public disorder - as Gaeilge.

I came across this one a few weeks back, but never got round to putting it up, between one thing and another.

A Leaving Cert student was found guilty of public order offences after a contested hearing carried out through Gaeilge with an interpreter present (Herald 25th June).

It seems the noble Gael was part of a group of shouting and roaring Celtic brats discovered by a passing squad car at 3.20 am in Lucan last December. The coppers got out only to be confronted by the student shouting “Ta se mo fucking ceart!! Ta se mo fucking ceart!!” (It is my fucking right!! It is my fucking right!!") and behaving in a threatening manner.

Whatever about the rights of Lucan residents to sleep in peace in the early hours, the cultured Gaeilgoir insisted on his constitutional right to be dealt with through Gaeilge and was arrested and interviewed in Lucan Garda Station by a suitably fluent officer.

Now, normally I’m all against police brutality, but…

See also:

Sweet theft accused draws out legal process through Irish

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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Mick The (Irish) Plumber touts for business.

There are some wonderful things about the recession, I have to say. Look at all the lawyers and estate agents scrambling around looking for work, for instance. And builders. And sparkies. And plumbers.

Now, some of us who interacted with any of the aforementioned groups during the “boom” years will, no doubt, have unhappy recollections of our dealings with them. The words barrel and over come to mind, as they made copious hay during what they imagined was the eternal summer of the good times  - for them.

How things have changed. Now you have ads on the radio for solicitors seeking to advise on how best to scratch your arse. You have estate agents viewing the inside of the social welfare office (needs some work). You have builders, sparkies and plumbers taking out small ads in the papers and putting notices up in the local supermarket. It’s great.

One unsavoury aspect, though, of the sudden competition for jobs is the thinly-disguised racism that is becoming ever more evident. Whether it is a taxi with a TACSAI sign on the top and a tricolor with Eire stuck on the back, or a builder or plumber proudly proclaiming their Irishness in a bid to win business from the more backward sections of the indigenous population who are quick to forget how much they’ve been ripped off by “their own” in the past.

I was out in Tescos Maynooth earlier and happened to notice an ad on the board bearing the legend IRISH PLUMBER AVAILABLE, as though it was some kind of recommendation. It bloody well isn’t, in my experience.

Funniest thing though – and making the heading somewhat gratuitous in my view - the ad finished off with the words “contact Mick on XXX XXXX”.

No thanks Mick. Think I’ll shop around, if you don’t mind.

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Penguin stolen from Dublin Zoo

Some years ago, there was an awful advert for a chocolate bar with a slogan that went “when you feel a little bit peckish, pick up a, pick up a Penguin”.   Well, despite Comical Brian Lenihan’s assurances that Ireland is out of recession, it seems that times are so hard that some people are taking that mantra literally. 

However, we are not talking chocolate bars here -  we are talking living, breathing penguins.   Now it’s long been known that the average Dublin skanger could steal the eye out of your head before you could blink, but you would have thought that the penguins in Dublin Zoo might be safe enough.  Not so.

It seems that three men hopped over the fence surrounding the said zoo's penguin enclosure, picked up Keli, a 10-year old female, put her into a sack, and made off with her.  You can check this on the RTE website if you suspect I’ve just come back from the local head shop. 

They then got a taxi  to Dublin’s north inner city, telling the driver that they had a rabbit in the sack.  As you do.  The taxi driver considered this statement credible enough and whisked them off to their destination without further ado.

The penguin was later found wandering around Rutland Street  - presumably in a bit of a flap - and was returned to the zoo unharmed.  Maybe they weren’t that peckish after all. 

Would you bill-eve it?

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Fingal County Council Bin Charges

You sometimes wonder why you bother to work, pay tax (inc. PRSI), bin charges and all the rest. Mrs Gombeen is a very organised sort, so she went to the council offices a while ago and bought a supply of yellow bin tags.

Yesterday, we got back to the Manor after a day’s Arbeit, only to find the unemptied bin standing like a bored sentry at the top of the drive. Mrs Gombeen today phoned the council to find out why.

Apparently, a local skanger (and there are many) had started an enterprise in duplicating the yellow tags, so Fingal County Council - useless arseholes that they are - decided to change the tags to purple, without telling anyone of course.

So now, any bins with yellow tags will not be collected.  It seems, however, that the facility exists for us to exchange our yellow tags for purple ones... the only problem being that the relevant council office is only open from 9.30 until 3.30.  Nice work if you can get it.

So now we have a binful of rubbish and nowhere to put it. Anyone know of a nice, nearby, beauty spot?  (The council offices have CCTV).

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tom Parlon - very close to the bottom.

"We're at, or very close to, the bottom now and it's turning around".   Tom Parlon, Newstalk Breakfast Show, 11 Feb 2008.

Maybe I’d better put this quote in context? The “bottom” that we are “close to” in this instance – Tom loves his bottoms – refers to house prices and the property market.  Parlon is an ex PD minister and current head of the Construction Industry Federation who regularly features in the press and on the radio exhorting young people to buy, buy, buy!

It is quite telling that Parlon’s political background was with the now - thankfully - defunct Progressive Democrats, a party that was supposed to clean up Irish politics while aping the policies of Thatcher and Reagan.  And what better personification is there of the unhealthy ties between politics in Ireland and the developers than Parlon, who jumped straight from his junior minister’s position at the Department of Finance to become head cheerleader for the CIF.

Mark Keenan had a piece on Parlon in the last Sunday’s Times which reported that he had directly lobbied fellow Offaly chancer Brian Cowen “to request that two-thirds of Nama positions be taken by those with recent relevant experience in banking or property.”  You would have thought these were the last people we needed running Nama, until you reflect that Nama is just a racket and those bad loans will all be forgotten about in 15 years time.

Parlon also requested that article 41 of the constitution (the gumpf about protecting the family) be invoked to safeguard developers’ private homes from seizure, and asked Cowen to make homes on up to 3 acres immune to repossession.  So will our wonderful constitution also protect families on the breadline due to the bankers, Government and developers squeezing them dry?  No, I don't think so.

The same doyen of the developers, according to Keenan, opposed the capping of development prices in 2003 which lead to developers and landowners pocketing “hundreds of millions” as the bubble inflated and house prices hit the stratosphere. Apparently he viewed such possible legislation as lying “somewhere to the left of Stalin”.   The same man was a huge supporter of the decentralisation fiasco, which resulted in land being bought and buildings being built in remote places that civil servants don't want to occupy.

But for all his apparent faults, Tom is generous with it. He once tipped a limousine driver €1,751.

Then wrote it off against ministerial expenses.

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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Germany v Argentina... glad we're not there?

Gombeen Manor is in the grip of World Cup fever at the moment. OK, it was a cheat and we didn’t qualify – but who is to say we actually would have, anyway? Whatever about that handball, the early exits of France and Italy from the tournament – both of them from our qualifying group – serve as a reminder of where we are, football wise, at the moment.

But what about Germany? You know how it usually is – dour, methodical and frustratingly effective Germany? Well this time they are the most entertaining, the most creative, and the most energetic team in the World Cup. 4-0 against Australia, 4-1 against England, and 4-0 against Argentina. Think about that. Argentina. Four bloody nill!

Messi looked like a lost soul as Germany, with two minutes to go, were still rampaging forward in search of a fifth. And Messi, unusually for football superstars, normally does his playing on the pitch rather than before the TV ad cameras.

Just imagine if we had qualified, and somehow progressed far enough to come up against this lot?  Maybe Henry did us a favour after all?  Maybe.

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Friday, 2 July 2010

Compulsory Irish - An ideological OG.

The following is a letter from last Sunday's Tribune from a Gaeilge-speaking teacher with 41 years' experience.  It is interesting because it is highly critical of the State continuing - regardless - its  failed Ireland policy of compulsory Irish. 

Before you read it, you might also like to bear in mind that although it is compulsory, 2,297 students avoided sitting Gaeilge in this year's Leaving Cert on the basis of a "disability".  1,326 of these enterprising folk did manage, however, to sit French, German or another language in the exam.   Then add in our new Irish population who originate from beyond these narrow shores, and are exempt from the exam (I don't have figures for these), and you can see that the Compulsory Brigade are kidding only themselves.  But they've been doing that since the 1920s.

So let's stop the pretence and bollocksology, and make Irish a subject for people who want to study it.  The letter is quite long, but it's well worth a read. 

National debate on Irish language now necessary

We have never had a national debate on compulsory learning and teaching of Irish up to Leaving Certificate level and also the necessity for students to pass Irish in the Leaving Certificate before they can register in the majority of third-level institutions.

"The compulsory Irish question" has become one of our romantic sacred cows and politicians, educationalists and the general public shy away from it while I believe that many students' education and lives are damaged because of their blinkered approach.

I speak the language, enjoy it and would dearly love to see it revived but I recognise from my work as a teacher and administrator for 41 years that the teaching of Irish has been an abject failure. Further, it certainly won't happen through forcing nearly all pupils to learn the subject (in most cases for 13 years) in an environment where adults are at best passive and in many cases hostile to it, due in the main to their own dreadful experiences in being "taught" Irish.

Our national aspiration in regard to the revival of the language is still, after 90 years, only an aspiration and students and teachers are the much damaged "guinea pigs" in the failed and failing carry-on around this aspiration. Certainly, those pupils and parents who want to have Irish as a subject should be facilitated in every way possible but hands off those who would choose not to take Irish as a subject.

Are students and parents not entitled to receive this type of respectful treatment from our legislators? Would someone please shout "stop" and be realistic about the language and admit to the huge gap between the aspirations and what is happening in our schools? Have we not had enough of this wishful thinking and pie in the sky about revival? The lives, education and welfare of our children has to come first. Would the politicians please take their courage in their hands and at least open up a meaningful and honest debate?

I know from my own experience that:

(a) Forcing students to learn Irish has not worked and I believe it impinges negatively on their attitudes and lives in school. The majority do not enjoy success in learning Irish in school and this hardly supports their other work.

(b) While many adults may like the language they rarely use it and are not prepared to put time and effort into learning and supporting it. It's a bit like parents who smoke and drink preaching about the evils of both to their children. This doesn't work either.

(c) For the majority of pupils the time spent on Irish would be more to their advantage if it was given to teaching them subjects which they want to learn. I know that the majority of students who leave school after Leaving Certificate cannot speak the language. In fact they cannot even engage in a basic conversation. After 13 years.

(d) All teachers at primary level have to teach the language, which is daft. I don't believe that all teachers can be effective in language teaching and if given the choice many would opt out of teaching it.
Why not have a national survey of primary teachers on this and also their views on how successful the teaching of Irish in our schools is?

(e) Many people (young and not so young) who want to train as primary teacers cannot do so because they haven't the necessary grades in Irish and they can't speak the language. This is unjust, unfair and discriminatory and has resulted in many potentially good teachers being driven away from the system. This, I believe, is a serious loss to the people themselves and to students in school communities. I have met many people who were barred from teaching because of this narrow and unfortunate regulation and I consider that the system is wrong.

(f) You can only enter one university in Ireland if you do not have Irish to Leaving Certificate level. This is unadulerated madness and beggars belief. It is really a type of apartheid which has official legislative support.

(g) I believe we should have a survey of the views and attitudes of 5th and 6th class students at primary level. Why not find out from them how they feel about being forced to learn Irish and how successful they think the "teaching" is? This type of survey would provide a golden opportunity to engage respectfully and meaningfully with our students.Lots more could be done with parents and adults with this type of work.

We need, our students need and the hoped-for revival of Irish needs new thinking, courage, honesty and change.The situation has to be looked at now. Please, politicians: get to work. There are many of us out there who will help.

David Fitzgerald Snr,
Co Dublin
June 27, 2010

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