Thursday, 30 September 2010

Judge Mary Devins questions Polish interpretation.

Who judges the judges? And are there safeguards in place to ensure that those appointed to such responsible positions – they effectively have the power to ruin people's lives – are accountable and have some grasp of reality?  Should they be  required to be somehow in touch?

Witness, My’Lud, the utterances of Judge Mary Devins, sitting at Claremorris District Court, as recalled by the Mayo News of 28th September, questioning the rights of two Polish nationals before her having access to interpreters. "Why", asked the good judge, “when the country is on its knees do we have to pay for a Polish interpreter?”

The two, Rafal and Martin Justa, had the misfortune to find themselves in front of Devins, charged with driving offences.  Devins, of course, is famous for flouting the law in the past by repeatedly parking on double yellow lines outside Ballinrobe Courthouse. However, it would appear that those who apply the law don’t necessarily have to abide by it.     (see Arrogant judge bans arrogant farmer)

Devins addressed the defendants, asking them  how long they had been living in the country. “Seven years”, came the reply. “So you have been in this country for seven years and you haven’t learned at least one of our languages?” was her retort, though the fact that they had already responded to her question in the vernacular should have been answer enough.

I love the Official Ireland artificial indignation of  the “at least one of our languages” phrase.  I assume Judge Mary was not referring to Polish or forms of Chinese (our most widely spoken second and third languages) when she referred to the plurality of languages spoken in present-day Ireland? 

Sure, maybe after seven years living here it might be reasonable to assume the two lads had a fair enough grasp of English to express themselves adequately.  But then again, a courtroom is a very intimidating place, especially if Devins is in front of you, and if you are not a native English speaker it is more intimidating still.  And there is a precedent for interpretation, after all...

If Devins and her cohorts want to save public money in the courts, they might like to look at their own unaccountable, highly paid, jobs-for-life work culture.  While she is at it, and on a more general level, she might also look at the pervasive culture of Fianna Fail.  Her hubby, Jimmy, is an FF TD after all.

Finally,  she might consider how the courts' money is often squandered on defendants whose mother-tongue is English but who insist on having their cases heard “as Gaeilge” on the basis of it being their “constitutional right”, thanks to De Valera’s reactionary (and consequently out-of-touch) 1937 Constitution.

Let us be consistent, for once.

See O'Cuiv's charter for legal obfuscation

PS Thanks to Mike for this one.

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Jay Leno mocks "drunken moron" Brian Cowen

OK, I'm sure you lot saw this one already, but as I was on holidays I missed it.    It's American chatshow host Jay Leno, having an (alco)pop at our esteemed leader Brian Cowen. 

Now Leno is pretty famous in the US - his show currently averages about 3.8 million viewers, in fact.  And his ratings are down at the minute...

Before this edition of the Tonight programme aired, I imagine if you had conducted a vox pop on any American street, asking people who Ireland's prime minister was, they would have been as clueless as the  Alicia Silverstone character.  So fair play to Brian, he has raised Ireland's profile abroad no end in these difficult times.  Well done.

I wonder were there many US multinational CEOs watching?   I'm sure they were equally impressed.

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Sunday, 26 September 2010

You get what you pay for? Maybe not, if you're an Irish taxpayer.

So good to be back home again, as some other Tourists said way back in the 80s. 

Early hours arrival at Dublin Airport this morning, but still the work of Gombeen Nation never lets up. Tireless.

Over a sumptious McDonald’s breakfast, had a quick scan of the Sunday Indo (I assume it’s one of that paper’s many readership-boosting freebies).  And what’s this? The heads of many of our state and semi-state bodies are paid more than the head of the most powerful state on Earth?   You really do know you're back in Ireland, even if the sun is doing its best to deceive.


1. Maurice Manning, head of Human Rights Commission €237,000 per annum. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, €171,000.

2. David Gunning, top of the tree in Coillte (Forestry), €407,000. “More than Barack Obama gets”, as the Indo points out.

3. Tracey Cooper, Health Information and Quality Authority, €199,502. €50 grand more than US Federal Reserve kingpin Ben Bernanke.  Yes, not exactly like-with-like, I know -  but you get the idea.

4. Andrew Kelly, Blood Transfusion Board, €168,000; while his British counterpart gets €146,000. The British service caters for 2.1 milliion donors. Ours has 95,000. So much for economies of scale.

5. Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland, €163,000 (“about four times as much as a staff nurse”, according to the Indo). I don’t think there is an equivalent international body that injects state support into the gambling industy.

6. Eamonn Brennan, Irish Aviation Authority, €350,000 in 2008.  €125,000 more than the British PM. Dread to think what the British aviation head might be pocketing.

And, finally:

7.Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), which has lumbered us with the €200m great white elephant of Terminal Two, paid Declan Collier €638,000 in 2008, and €698,000 in 2007. Despite DAA losing a stonking €13m in 2009 and having its €1.25bn gross debt-pile downgraded by ratings agency Moody's over fears that tumbling passenger numbers might hamper its attempts to pay back loans, Collier bagged a €51,000 performance bonus as part of his €568,000 pay packet.

This was in a year when all staff earning over €30,000 were hit with a pay cut and the semi-state introduced a voluntary redundancy scheme to skim off excess staff.
The former oil executive has been at the front of a €2bn splurge to make Dublin Airport capable of handling 30 million passengers a year. But in the real world, passenger numbers have fallen from 23.5 million to the 17 million forecast for 2010.

Collier's salary is more than Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy's wages – combined.”

Let's hope we don’t have to wait three-quarters-of-an-hour for our bags to reach the luggage carousel when it finally gets up-and-running.

Home sweet home.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Toyosi Shittabey - Paul and Michael Barry charged with murder

On April 4th, this blog featured a post about an alleged racist attack on a young lad in nearby Tyrrelstown. Toyosi Shittabey was just 15 when he was stabbed to death on his way back from the nearby Blanchardstown Aquatic Centre. Paul Barry and Michael Barry were originally charged with manslaughter, but the charge was increased to one of murder at Blanchardstown District Court last Tuesday.

In the comments section of the original post Racist killing of Toyosi Shittabey in Tyrrelstown two people pointed out that one of the brothers,  Paul, had previous form as part of a group involved in a racist attack on Pearse Street, when a black Englishman was lucky to escape with his life having been racially taunted prior to being set upon. See Independent article

The comments were two of 149 published. Many others were not, and were instructive to me insofar as they indicated a disturbing undercurrent of xenophobia and racism in “modern” Ireland, and pointed to a subclass who believe that people of different colours or backgrounds can never be considered truly “Irish”, no matter how much they might attempt to assimilate.

All of this demonstrated that assimilation is a two-way street, and confirmed the crucial role of education in areas such as Tyrellstown and other parts of west and northwest Dublin, which have seen massive recent population growth including many migrants from beyond our narrow shores.

In short, education is the future, and such education must be inclusive and utilitarian. The authorities must see that in order to assimilate our new populations, we must educate and integrate not just them, but our own indigenous population.

To my mind, the best way of doing this is through the Educate Together schools, which are the nearest thing to inclusive, multicultural, multi-denominational (or secular) education we have at the moment.

Incredibly, despite the fact that these schools - driven by very real demographic factors - have had a considerable take-up at primary level there is still not one secondary Educate Together school in the country at the present time.

The authorities must appreciate the vital, socially cohesive, importance of this mode of education.

Or must we spell it out?

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Brian Lenihan, the new messiah?

Despite there being a 756% increase of flights from Ireland to Fuerteventura in the past year (and there’s me trying to get away from it all), it has not been possible to get the Sunday Independent in Corralejo. Anyway, I’ll just assume that Sir Anthony, being a lauded captain of Irish industry, has done his homework and figured that the cited 756% is functionally – or literally – illiterate. What other explanation could there be?

So, I’m reduced to brief snatches of wi-fi-ing in the complex lobby to catch up on news from dear old Erin. And it seems that you cannot go away for two weeks’ holliers without all Hell breaking loose. Well, accusations, at least, of our glorious leader Brian Cowen appearing on Morning Ireland, the worse for wear.

“Informed” rumours that Biffo will soon face a leadership challange from Brian Lenihan, no less. There’s nothing like having a leader like Brian Cowen to make even the most mediocre look like world-beaters. I gather Micheal Martin is in the frame too, and I suppose that is not unexpected, but Lenihan?

Isn’t Brian Lenihan the man behind the Home Choice scheme? The one designed to fob off developers’ ghost estates as affordable housing? Isn’t Brian Lenihan the finance minister who presided over Nama? Isn’t he the very man that signed the dotted line to pump billions into Anglo?

It is not that long ago since economic commentators such as David McWilliams and Matt Cooper where slating Lenihan for getting things consistently wrong. And they were right. Anything Lenihan predicted, the very opposite happened. So what has changed? Why has the public attitude towards Lenihan softened, to the extent that Fianna Fail might present him to the country as a future prime minister?

This sounds awful, but very occasionally the truth does. Could it possibly be that Fianna Fail is cynically capitalising on Lenihan’s well-documented health issues?

I wish Lenihan the very best in his battle against his illness, I really do. I hope he wins it.

But I’d rather see Cowen stay on as leader, as I think that is the best way for us to rid the cancer of Fianna Fail from Irish political life.

And don’t they know it.

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Friday, 17 September 2010

FAS decentralisation. How best to waste public funds.

Maybe we need an Irish Maggie Thatcher? OK, that’s a very provocative thing to say, but just bear with me. I worked in London, in the print industry, when Thatcher was in power.

She battered the miners, destroying whole communities, shutting down whole towns along with economically viable pits. It wasn’t just Scargill’s NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) that found itself pitched against Thatcher’s ideologically driven ambition to take miners’ livelihoods from them, but my union of the time, the NGA (National Graphical Association). I had good reason to hate her too – we had Conservative contributor Murdoch, the gravedigger of Wapping, to contend with.

But one thing I will say, she was consistent. And she really was a free-marketeer – no messing. Unlike the lamentable Irish politicians who passed (and pass) for right-wing ideologues: McDowell, Harney and McCreevy. These people did not support a free market, they used the state’s fiscal policies and the IDA to create an inverted socialism that favoured the wealthy and furnished them with tax breaks to distort and eventually destroy the economy. Gombeens all.

But what the hell do you do about the state and semi-state bodies that seemingly make a virtue out of wasting public money? I’d send Mags to deal with scandal-ridden FAS, for instance. This body, supposedly charged with training the workforce, is a disgrace.

National embarrassment, Charlie (eeeehhh) McCreevy, decided to decentralise the civil service many years back. The reason behind this was not to make the civil service more efficient, enhance its role as a public service, or make the lives of civil servants any better; it was to get votes for gombeen politicians around the country.

Witness this report from yesterday’s Indo:

“FÁS paid more than the recommended price for two offices for its decentralised staff in Birr, Co Offaly, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report. One case was for a vacant site and the other was a lease on office space.

The State training agency paid more than double the amount recommended by its own property consultants for a new head office. However, no site works have been undertaken pending the review of decentralisation set for next year.

FÁS agreed to pay €1.5m for a 5.59 acre site in December 2004, despite having received a valuation in August of that year recommending a price of €700,000. In 2007, FÁS entered into a ten-year lease on a 708sq.m building in Birr at an annual lease cost of €200,000, 77% higher than the upper benchmark for leased offices in the area.

Only one firm, the landlord's building company, was asked to provide quotes for the fit-out contract. FÁS had planned that 40 staff would move there, yet so far only 20 have.”


Overall, the State has spent €43.8m on 12 sites in locations where the decentralisation programme is currently not going ahead. Over 700 staff have been moved to locations where the full decentralisation programme has now been deferred.

Almost 11,000 civil and public servants were due to be decentralised, but the movement of 6,600 has been deferred. The Office of Public Works bought 22 sites to accommodate the staff who would be decentralised at a cost of €67.4m.

Six of these sites were purchased for a price higher than the benchmark set by the Comptroller and Auditor

It’s enough to make you want to privatise the whole lot. And while I’m not in earnest in the post’s opening statement, a sea change is needed in how state bodies such as FAS use public funds.

Contrary to what they might think, they are not an infinite resource.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

O'Leary: replace pilots with flight attendants.

Michael O’Leary is the Malcolm McLaren of the airline industry. His instinct for headline-grabbing and free publicity is just as unerring as the old punk manager. Just like McLaren, who (falsely) claimed that punk was an invention of his, O’Leary saw an existing business model and copied it. And, like McLaren, he did it well. Complain all you like about Ryanair – and I do – but until it came along you had to pay a small fortune to get in and out of this country by aer.

Most of O’Leary’s pronouncements are amusing, and you can see he relishes stirring things up. But you have to wonder about his latest ruse, which concerns replacing co-pilots with “specially trained” cabin crew capable of landing a plane in an emergency. In the past, he has described pilots as being glorified bus drivers, too busy tending their yachts at Malahide to go on strike. All very amusing, but nonsense of course.

Indeed, a senior pilot based in Marseilles, Morgan Fischer, who train:s pilots for the company, suggested in a letter to the Financial Times last Tuesday that O’Leary himself could be replaced by a flight attendant, thereby saving “thousands of Euros in salary, perks and stock options”. He might have a point. Thing is, even with modern computer systems, there is quite a lot to flying a plane. It isn’t something you learn doing a couple of evening classes in the local tech.

Years ago, I had a go in a microlight. It wasn’t one of the flexwing ones (they look a bit like a hang glider) but a proper little plane with elevators, rudder and all the rest. It was the sort of crate that might have been very high-tech in 1925, and you had to be careful where you put your feet to avoid them going through the canvas floor. It was a hoot, though, and the pilot/instructor let me have a go at flying it once we got to a safe height. It was easy.

Thing is, any eejit can direct a plane when it is up in the air. Witness the 9/11 bombers, who did a couple of courses and spent a bit of time on Microsoft flight sims. But they didn’t have to worry about making a safe landing – and that’s the hard bit.

The idea of Mary the air hostess leaving her trolley behind to take the controls and land several thousand tons of Jumbo jet in an emergency is not a scenario that would inspire paying passengers with confidence. And let’s face it – if there’s one thing people are pretty fussy about it is their lives. Even a €5.99 ticket won’t do the trick if people believe an airline has a cavalier attitude to safety.

Michael O’Leary should be careful he doesn’t get carried away by his own persona and, like McLaren, have a Matlock moment. Flying a plane, like playing the humble bass, is not something just anyone can do. And if you get it wrong, the consequences are far more Vicious. Enough Sid.

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Monday, 13 September 2010

Greetings from Fuerteventura

Greetings from Fuerteventura, south of Lanzarote, favoured Island of our president-elect, Bertie The Blameless. Or is that Bertie The Bollocks? We’ve been coming here for many years – our first visit being as far back as 1996 when most of the holidaymakers were Germans, with hardly a Brit or a Paddy to be found.

It was better then, if you ask me. As long as you were not in the market for a poolside sun lounger, that is. That first time, we were staying in an apartment near the pool of the complex, and derived considerable amusement from watching German couples sneaking down to the pool, late at night, to get their towels in place for Morgen. That Carling ad was not far off the mark, I tell you. We toyed with the idea of sneaking down ourselves and throwing the lot into the pool, but we never did.

Once, when we were in Jandia at the very south of the island, we saw a rock-built wind shelter (there are lots of them over the island, as Fuerteventura means “strong winds”) with the legend “besetzt bis 28. Mai” (occupied until 28th of May). Mad. Even a German guide book we bought at the time berated the idea. That said, at least there were plenty of opportunities to practice a bit of Deutsch, if you so desired, and we did it quite a bit.

As I say, it was better then as long as you had no territorial ambitions. Now it is all bulging Arnotts, Celtic, Rangers, and Man U jerseys. Sometimes it feels like Birmingham or, worse, Finglas in the sun. And what is it about the Irish and their aversion to condoms? Bloody hell, the number of Oisins and Roisins running rampant around the place we are staying is mind boggling.

They say we will all have to work until we are 90 because of the aging population, but I just can’t see that in an Irish context. Maybe we’ll have to work into our dotage just to pay the children’s allowances?

There was a famous quote from Groucho Marx, as he was presenting a programme many years back. The comic was interviewing a woman who had ten or eleven kids who said, presumably by way of explanation: “I love my husband”. Groucho replied: “I love my cigar too, but I take it out once in a while”.


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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Whoever thought rally driving could be so funny?

Amusing weekend post.

I came across this one on the web the other day, and wondered what Uncle Gaybo and the RSA would say about it.   "Dear oh dear oh dear", probably.  "If a squirrel had run out on that road"

The only experience I had of watching a rally was at a mate's house in Galway, when we were marooned there as one was talking place around us.  Sadly, we had no option other than to drink cans of beer in the garden and watch the cars buzz by.  It was quite enjoyable, actually.

But look at this video, where the driver of a Subaru Impreza WRX (I think) has his progress repeatedly impeded by older, slower, two-wheel drive cars.  As far as I know, circuits are usually timed, so it seems odd that the cars' starting times were not spead out a bit more. 

Whatever the cause, the driver's frustration is palpable.  I particularly love the "Oh look at him slowin' down.  Fuckin' straight road!!!"

Mrs Gombeen says the soundtrack is somewhat reminiscent of our last drive to Tescos, with yours truly at the wheel. 

She's such a wag.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

Man dances on Haughey's grave.

A 1994 Lotto jackpot winner, Vincent Keaney,  has posted footage of himself dancing on the grave of one of Ireland's best known corrupt politicans, Charlie Haughey.  He dedicated it to all of the Irish people "who hate the fucker", but presumably not to all of the fuckers who voted for Haughey - time and time again - during his overlong and corrupt lifetime. 

So is dancing on Haughey's grave an effective form of protest?  Whatever about that, it seems to have created a bit of a stir anyway, at least on Joe Duffy's Liveline programme.  As I work for a living, I didn't hear all the fuss when shocked layabouts phoned up Joe to express their disgust at the Boss's final plot being utilised in such a fashion.  I've no strong feelings on it one way or the other, aside from the fact that anything that causes indignation in Liveline listeners can't be such a bad thing. 

Haughey, though, wasn't the first slippery chancer and opportunist to defile our rotten little republic  -  that's a grand tradition that goes back to Dev.   And we all know that Haughey won't be the last, with plenty of them still stalking terra firma, rather than reposing below it.

If Keaney hangs around long enough, he'll be a busier man than Michael Flately.

Dancing on Haughey's grave.
It goes on a bit, but you get the idea:

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tony Blair Easons protest - "war" criminals on both sides of the barriers

Like the Citizen in Joyce's well-named Cyclops episode, extreme cultural nationalists have an inherently narrow field of vision.  By extension, their ability to see their own hypocrisy must be similarly compromised.

While I had no problem with people protesting at Tory Blur’s Easons booksigning, on account of his invasion of Iraq and all the civilian deaths and chaos his actions caused, I did find it ironic to see the 32 County Sovereignty Movement were among the demonstrators.

The 32 CSM, remember,  is the political wing of the Real IRA – the unreconstructed lumpen “republicans” who brought us the Omagh bombing, the atrocity that killed 29 innocent people going about their business in the town 12 years ago.

Despite their obsolete Marxist rhetoric, these people - and others on the on the so-called republican “left” - are as much about progressive politics and "freedom" as any far-right ultra nationalist grouping, and should be seen as such.

The only Real difference is that they are a lot more deadly and given to participating in wanton slaughter on a grand scale.

Just like Tony Blair.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Railing against bad spelling

We’ve already got extra points for doing Leaving Cert exams through Gaelic, and now our wise rulers are talking about bonus points for maths. Maybe they should also consider bonus points for English?

The picture (left) shows an advert spotted on the train earlier today, presumably dreamt up by some marketing whiz – at considerable cost – in an advertising agency. There are a total of 11 words in the ad, yet they’ve managed to spell one of them incorrectly: “Landsdowne” instead of “Lansdowne”.  

Now anyone can make a mistake, but you have to wonder how many pairs of orthographically-challenged red braces that one slipped past?

I hope Irish Rail got a discount for them. Or did they even notice?

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Nama, Versailles, Anglo, and Breathless Brian in denial.

First we have David McWilliams comparing the cost of the Nama bank/developer bail-out with Weimar Germany’s Treaty of Versailles war reparations:

“The Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany pay €318bn in today’s money. From a German population at the time of 58 million, this equates to €5,482 per person in today’s money. If bank bailout costs are €50bn, then this will work out at €11,235 per head — or more than twice the cost per head of the Treaty of Versailles to the average German.”  (Indo Sept 1st)

Then we have the gladdening news that the taxpayer bail-out of corrupt bank Anglo Irish, which reported a record loss of €8.2 billion for the first half of this year, is the biggest bank bail-out in the world, ever!  So far, €23bn of our money has been poured down this financial plughole.  The first-half figure of €8.2 puts the millstone bank well on course for beating last year's record losses:

LOSSES posted by Anglo Irish Bank are the worst by any bank in the entire world, according to new data from a prestigious financial journal.
The taxpayer-owned bank's loss in 2009 of €15bn was far bigger than those of giant US, Japanese and German banks, according to 'The Banker', an industry magazine listing the 25 biggest losses. 
(Indo Sept 2nd)
Then we have Brian Lenihan breathlessly telling us that the economy has stabilised because he and his idiot government have come marginally closer to matching their estimates of tax income in relation to government spending:

“Tax receipts fell by 9 per cent last month compared to a year ago, according to the latest Exchequer figures.
The State collected €18.9 billion in tax receipts in the first eight months of the year. This compares to €20.8 million collected in the same period last year, a drop of 9 per cent.

The €18.9 billion tax take is €141 million or 0.7 per cent below the Government’s target. However, this is an improvement on the comparable figure in July, when taxes were €247 million or 1.4 per cent below target.
The Exchequer deficit at end of August stood at €12.1 billion. This compares to an Exchequer deficit of €18.7 billion in August 2009.

The figures show that the budget is on target and economic growth is returning, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan insisted tonight.”  (Irish Times Sept 2nd)

The truth is, unemployment is increasing and the Nama and Anglo bailouts are costing us, the taxpayers, more each day.  Never mind the reports of improved consumer confidence - these are the same idiots who were full of confidence buying  investor apartments off the plans a couple of years back - and never mind the improved GDP figures which are down to the multinationals.  This country is in deep trouble.

Worst of all, we have a government and a finance minister permanently wading in denial.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pace railway station - a godforsaken hellhole, if ever there was one.

It’s a desolate, godforsaken place, Pace Railway Station - a bit like Ireland in microcosm.  Pace is the country's biggest dedicated park and ride facility and one of the new stops on the Docklands to Dunboyne line, which opens next Friday.

Due to a lying estate agent, I found myself out that way last Saturday looking – out of curiosity - at a house that lay “a quarter of a mile away” from the new facility. The house itself looked lovely.  It even had an air of Chesire about it, and I half expected to see nutjob Roy Keane emerging with his Labrador from a nearby driveway. Thankfully he didn’t.

When they say this place is a “park and ride” they are not kidding. The only possible way you can get to it is by car or motorbike. Maybe a pushbike if you are intrepid/stupid enough to negotiate the massive roundabouts feeding on and off the new M3. And are you really going to cycle down the M3 on a pushbike?

If you live in one of the “nearby” settlements (see second paragraph) you will need a good pair of wellies, as in true Irish style, any footpaths that head off in the direction of the new station fizzle out and turn into brambles and muck before they actually reach it.   There is even a clever touch in the form of what looks like a pedestrian walkway to the station (just as the path stops) but, alas, it just goes down to a waterlogged bog of a field by the railway sidings.

If, though, you managed to negotiate the muck and the roundabouts on foot, you would be faced with a choice of scrambling down an embankment to get to the station proper, or walk another mile or so to the car park entrance and then double back to the station.

If you work in the IFSC your pinstripe is going to be in a right state by the time you get there.

Best take your car - but allow lots of time for the traffic jams.

Gombeen Nation Special Effects Department note:

If you want to get the full effect, get a cup of coffee, tea, whiskey or whatever, play the music below, and lose yourself in the picture above.

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