Friday, 30 December 2011

Eircom Customer Support… not!

Or Eircom – a shower of useless shites...

I had a pop at Vodafone in the last-but-one blog post, as my Internet connection is giving credence to the idea of the "www" initials standing for World Wide WaitThing is, I now believe that the fault lies with Eircom, who supply the phone line to the house.

You may recall that an engineer, or technician - whatever they like to call themselves – paid a (second) visit before Christmas?

He first mistook a scanning device for a phone, and was puzzled when he couldn’t hear a ringtone. After that inauspicious start he pressed a button on some meter he had, and informed me that the line was “100% fine”.

What he never even bothered doing was taking a look at my ancient phone point – or whatever the genuine 70s object you see in the pic above is. Take the cover off this old yoke and you are confronted with a veritable Medusa of messy wiring, which doesn't look like the stuff of a "100% fine"  phone connection (below).

If the lazy shite had updated this antediluvian box with a modern one when he troubled my threshold, I’ll wager that my Internet connection would be functioning properly now.

Vodafone are trying to organize a third visit from Eircom, which they hope will rectify the problem.

Let’s hope they send someone who can at least recognise a phone when they see one.

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Ho ho woes of the Santa lookalikes

Something festive for you now:  an amusing video which describes the plight of some not-so-jolly gentlemen who look like a certain red-besuited denizen of the North Pole.

 Funnily enough, one of the characters in the video used to work in my place and I often remarked on the resemblence myself. Thankfully I never expressed it...

Happy Christmas all.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Vodafone Customer Support... Not!!!!

This morning, I found myself passing Glasnevin Cemetery on the way to work and thinking "hmmm, that looks quite comfy"

Why?  Well, over the past week or two I have been dealing with Vodafone customer care; in tandem with the devilspawn, illegitimate offspring of State-owned Telecom Eireann, Eircom.

If you are wondering why there have been so few blog posts lately, look no further than this desperate letter I  sent to Vodafone today.

Dear Madam/Sir.

I am sending you this email as I do not know where else to turn at this point.

My wife and I moved house two weeks ago and are Vodafone customers (phone and broadband).    Since we moved to the new address our broadband connection has deteriorated to that of a 1990’s dial-up equivalent. When we phone Vodafone customer support (which we have done many, many times) the representative invariably confirms that there is a problem with our broadband, and resolves to have the line checked.

The day before yesterday someone from Eircom came out and checked the line (at Vodafone’s instigation), before confirming it was in working order.   We still continued to have problems with our agonizingly slow connection so, again, we got back onto Vodafone Customer Support.  Again, they confirmed the connection was not correct and said they would send someone to check it.

This morning, a totally disinterested Eircom technician came out to check the line.  After first picking up my wife’s shopscan handset – mistaking it for a phone – he eventually concluded the line was “100% OK”.   He added that our internet connection was through Vodafone he could do no more.

You can guess the rest...   When we tried our connection again it was still the same.   Vodafone customer support ran a series of tests and confirmed there was still a fault.  They said someone (I presume from Eircom) would come out to check our line tomorrow.

It is beginning to resemble some Kafka-esque Groundhog Day at this stage, and I now fear we will be without a proper broadband connection all over Christmas.

If the matter cannot be resolved tomorrow (December 23rd), we would like to cancel our account on the grounds that the service we are paying for is not being provided to us by Vodafone.

I hope you, the person reading this email, can do what no-one else has succeeded in doing so far, and get our connection sorted for us.


***** *********

Let's see what happens then, shall we?  

Or not. 

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Speeding Biker does 150 mph (240 km/h) on Donegal regional road

Do you remember racing motorcyclist Barry Sheene? He had many crashes and spills during his illustrious career, so many in fact, that much of his body was held together with nuts and bolts by the time he hung up his leathers. 

Once, he lost control of his machine when he inadvertently drove over a slug while banked into a corner. It doesn’t take much to make you lose control of a motorbike, as you only have two small patches of rubber keeping you in contact with the road. 

Then throw in a lot of power and the fact that two wheels – unlike four – are inherently unstable. Leave a motorbike standing upright and it will fall over – it’s just your balance and the wheels’ gyroscopic effect keeping you perpendicular when in motion.

It would make you wonder what the guy (as I assume it was) who made this onboard video from his Yamaha R6 was thinking. You’ll notice the road, in Donegal, is rather narrow and is riddled with junctions and gateways to boot – each one offering the potential for a car or a tractor to emerge. 

Look, I’m no Gay Byrne. I’ve driven a car with four fat ZR-rated tyres at 250 clicks on a quiet, unrestricted Autobahn. Believe me, that was hairy enough, and it takes a bit of time to stop from that speed, should you have to.

I wouldn’t like to guess the braking distance of a Yamaha R6 at 240 km/h on a bumpy rural road...

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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Moving house IS stressful...

They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, along with coping with a bereavement, being made redundant, getting divorced, or phoning Vodafone customer support.

Moving house, I can vouch, is extremely stressful. Not the actual moving bit, like packing all your possessions into boxes and helping the man with a van transport them.

People make a fuss about that, in the same way as some folks do about making Christmas dinner… why?  Put the turkey in the oven, drink several units of alcohol, take it out, place it on the table. Sorted.

The worst thing about moving house is the financial worry of it all. Especially if you buy first, then sell. If you tell an estate agent you have to sell your existing gaff when make an offer on another one, they will laugh in your face. Chains are no-nos, you see.

So, after securing a millstone mortgage on the new place,  I had a personal news blackout (as well as a few beer-induced ones) as I hoped the buyers of the old manor were doing the same thing. I mean, think about it. The Euro is on the verge of implosion, and the Shinners think closer union with Britain  -  in the light of its veto on closer fiscal governance for the Eurozone  -  is the way forward. Strange times indeed.

Then you have other Little Irelanders talking about a return to the Punt, for pity’s sake. Do that, and our money – those of us who have any at all – would be as valuable as confetti at a League One footballer’s wedding.  Ibec would love it, as exports would be cheaper.   We would hate it (even its current advocates) as everything would be more expensive. It would be like Weimar Germany all over again, as people filled up their wheelbarrows with currency before heading off to the shops for a loaf of bread.

These were the thoughts filling – and wrecking – my head as I waited for the sale to close on the old house. That and the image of someone being swept out to sea in the mother-father-and-grandparents of economic rip tides, watching the safe and familiar shore disappearing forever, as the financial gap between buying and selling widened, with house prices sinking still further. Not nice.

Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. Oh… and the broadband is back.

Happy days, despite it all.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Santa attacked at IKEA store in Ballymun

A Yuletide story for you now.

I spluttered on my Weetabix earlier when RTE’s Morning Ireland reported that Gardai (Irish police) were investigating an attack on Santa that took place in Dublin yesterday.

It seems that ex-builder turned Father Christmas, Kevin Shiels, was doing his Santa slot in IKEA, Ballymun, when he was set upon and punched by two-fourteen-year-olds. An elf was at hand, fortunately, to call security.

Things are getting more surreally bizarre in this country every day, they really are...

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Political tee-shirts

Wear your political tee-shirt, with sacred college scarf; discussing the world situation, but just for a laugh.

The Specials, Rat Race.

Not that we have much to laugh about here, paddling deep in the ordure due to political shysterism and incompetence. Or should that be "incontinence"?

A friend of mine has started up a cottage industry making political tee-shirts that are very heart-felt indeed.  No showy studenty semantics here, these ones call a spade a f***king shovel. 

See for yourselves.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Enforced hiatus

Sounds painful, and it is.

The blog is undergoing an enforced hiatus at the moment, due to a house move.  Its seems that it can take up to 15 days to sort out your broadband with my provider, which seems a pretty long time.  Granted, not as bad as when you had to personally know a politician years ago, in order to secure a phone from the P&T (Department of Post and Telegraphs), a forerunner of Eircom. 

I have now been assured that a shiny new broadband line will be in place next week sometime, unless some dastardly conspiracy is afoot (well, it is the Internet after all!).  

Meanwhile, it's a case of only getting to a connection once or twice a day for now... so sorry that comments on the previous posts have been taking so long to appear.  Thanks for your patience...  please bear with it for a little bit longer.

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Teachers, poets, have much to answer for in Ireland...

"They think they have foreseen everything, but the fools! the fools! the fools! they have left us our Fenian dead; and while Ireland holds these graves Ireland unfree shall never be at peace."

Well… we’ve been “free” now for nigh-on 90 years, and we’re still not at peace. In fact it’s arguable that we are relatively worse off since blood-sacrifice headbanger Patrick Pearse made his signature oratory at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa in 1915.

There are people out there, perhaps in the majority, who still think those oft-quoted words constitute a profound statement.   The patriot living tend  to recall the following, penned by the same author, less frequently:

Little lad of the tricks,
Full well I know
That you have been in mischief:
Confess your fault truly.

I forgive you, child
Of the soft red mouth:
I will not condemn anyone
For a sin not understood.

Raise your comely head
Till I kiss your mouth:
If either of us is the better of that
I am the better of it.

There is a fragrance in your kiss
That I have not found yet
In the kisses of women
Or in the honey of their bodies.

Lad of the grey eyes,
That flush in thy cheek
Would be white with dread of me
Could you read my secrets.

He who has my secrets
Is not fit to touch you:
Is not that a pitiful thing,
Little lad of the tricks ?

Pearse, conveniently, was a schoolteacher – as was Dev himself (see pic above, kindly sent in by a reader). Quite a few other of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, with its two invocations to God, were self-proclaimed poets... as most poets are.

Then you had once-socialist-internationalist James Connolly (who had seen Esperanto as the future lingua franca of a liberated proletariat... language being a barrier to international unity and understanding) getting all disillusioned after the failure of the 1912 Lockout and the slaughter of the First World War, throwing his lot  -  and his Citizen Army comrades  -  in with the vanguard nationalists, Catholic supremacists, and Gaelic Leaguers of the emerging Irish bourgeoisie.

Is it any wonder things worked out the way they did?

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Children's allowance to be cut by 10 Euro?

A few years back – I think I mentioned it before – I played bass guitar in a rather mediocre pub/wedding covers band. It was an interesting enough experience, in its way, and brought me to such glamorous venues as the Drake Inn (Finglas), Hartstown House (yup, Hartstown) and The Furry Bog in Whitechurch, Rathfarnham (and if you think that particular part of south Dublin is the epitome of faux middle-class respectability, I dare you to check out Whitechurch).

They were the rougher ones. Some smoother places were The Tram, near Guinness Brewery in town, and the Clonsilla Inn. Even Tramco, Rathmines, brim-packed with 500 semi-naked young ones – an awful distraction altogether – was graced with our dubious presence one Paddy's Night. But the more coveted gigs were to be found on a certain day every month, namely the one when the children’s allowance money came in.

There has been much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth lately with the rumours that said allowance might be cut by €10 a pop. And no wonder - that’s two pints of beer or a 20-pack of John Player Blue and a packet of peanuts. Parents have a right to be indignant when the "mickey money" is under threat - "mickey" being a quaint Hiberno-English colloquialism for "penis".

In times such as these, however - when we are looking at a 2% VAT increase, yet more taxes for the motorist in a country with a desperately inadequate public transport system, another raft of “green” taxes and all the rest – why shouldn’t a cut in children’s allowance be countenanced? Especially when it is questionable how much of it is actually spent on children?

Having experienced a childhood of Frank McCourt-style poverty myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else – but surely, in the present climate, is there not an argument for at least means-testing the children's allowance?  And maybe distributing it in such a way that the little brats themselves are the beneficiaries - by means of vouchers or something similar?

Or is this another Irish sacred cow that nobody can even question?

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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Where Were You? Garry O'Neill's book comes highly recommended.

Those who like to ponder, or pontificate, on matters of “culture” could do worse than peruse Garry O’Neill’s “Where Were You? Dublin Youth Culture & Street Style 1950-2000”.

I have always had a healthy respect for people living in Dev’s Ireland of the 50s and 60s, who rejected the state-sponsored insularity and anti-modernity of the era, and swapped ideals of poker-arsed comely maidens jigging about at every crossroad in exchange for twisting, jiving and locomotioning to alien influences. Some might call it being defeated by cultural imperialism…. if so, I’m grateful for it.

The book goes beyond that however, and covers the period 1950-2000, right up to punk, the mod revival, and on to the more recent trends that I wouldn’t be so au fait with. You won’t see an Aran sweater anywhere, thankfully.

What you will see, is young Dubliners bucking the local trend by donning drapes, drainpipes, tonic suits, parkas, leather jackets, safety pins and other apparel that Dev and the Irish powers-that-be would have condemned. I’m sure brave souls outside the capital did so too – and they deserve even greater respect.

Anyway, have a look. You never know who you might see.

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Darren Scully and Kevin Cardiff - a Comedy for Europe?

The Fine Gael mayor of Naas, Darren Scully, resigned his post last Tuesday after stating in a radio interview with Kildare FM that he “would no longer represent black Africans”.

He apologised “unreservedly” for his comments, saying “I realise now that my remarks were open to an interpretation that I did not intend. I abhor racism in all its forms”.

Bloody hell… what kind of a place is it? An elected representative, a mayor no less, saying he wouldn’t represent a particular grouping of constituents on the basis of their nationality and skin colour. What other kind of interpretation was there? And how could someone occupying such a position say something so obviously stupid, and think it was OK?

The last person I heard making such a statement was Derek Beacon, of the British National Party, prior to his council election in London’s Isle of Dogs back in the 90s. Scully, however is a member of the senior mainstream party in Ireland’s coalition government. But he’s not a racist, OK Ted?  Apparently there were people phoning  daytime radio programmes (not at work then?) to voice support for his remarks.   

It is hard to believe some of the stuff that goes on in this place. Between that and the senior civil servant in the Department of Finance who presided over the economic collapse of the country, and couldn’t account for €3.6 billion in his own Department, being nominated by the Government to the European Court of Auditors - with the full backing of supposedly new broom prime minister, Enda Kenny.

When Labour MEP, Nessa Childers, spoke out against Cardiff’s nomination she was told to shut up by fellow Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa. She received dire warnings that she “could be sued” for Cardiff’s loss of earnings (a six-figure sum) should he fail to get the post. It sounds like something from the Haughey years, but this time the threats came from a smoked salmon socialist of the Labour Party against this own colleague.

Embarrassingly for the Government, and De Rossa, Cardiff’s nomination was last night rejected by a European Parliament Committee. Did they not see it coming? Or are standards so low here, that they expect the same to apply elsewhere.  Or were they just trying to provide some kind of comedy act to lighten the mood in these times of crisis?

In some other countries both Scully and De Rossa would be expelled from their respective parties. But here?

Best take that next breath when your face starts turning blue.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An Coimisinéir Teanga to be merged with Ombudsman

The Irish language lobbyists were up in arms (again) last Friday, protesting outside the Irish parliament on Kildare Steet. “What was the subject of their ire this time?” I hear you cry.

Well, make sure you are sitting down for this one, as this is serious shit. It seems that - hang on ‘til I check the spelling  - An Coimisinéir Teanga (The Irish Language Commissioner) is to be absorbed into the Office of the Ombudsman in Dublin.

Now. What do you think of that bombshell?

Never mind the Universal Social Charge, never mind 23% VAT, never mind the carbon tax, never mind the health cuts, never mind… you get the idea. This is the most shocking news since Lenihan announced the bank guarantee. It is catastrophic. We might as well all flee for the hills this very minute.

What is going to become of the country? What? An Coimisinéir Teanga was set up to enforce Eamon O’Cuiv’s (who has the blood of Dev himself coursing through his Gaelic veins) 2003 Official Languages Act.

An Coimisinéir Teanga does work that is tremendously important. For instance, if a Gaeilgeoir hobbyist notices that the letters making up “Guinness Brewery” on a Dublin tourist signpost are printed larger in English than in Gaelic, he/she can complain to An Coimisinéir Teanga. Or if the Gaelic translation of the words is not placed above the vernacular version. Then, Dublin City Council can tear down all the existing signs and replace them at considerable expense.

Or if a language hobbyist observes a bedraggled queue of people standing at a bus stop, looking for real-time information on when the next bus might arrive, he/she can complain to An Coimisinéir Teanga and have the signage delayed until they show the information as Gaeilge (first of course) and English alternately. It doesn't matter if this takes a decade or so.

A language hobbyist can also apply to An Coimisinéir Teanga on the subject of automated train announcements if he/she feels that Gaeilge is not being given enough prominence. Thus, we can all enjoy interminable bi-lingual (with Gaeilge first, of course) announcements from the minute we get on the train until we get off.

Or if a government or local authority document has not been printed as Gaeilge, our language hobbyist can get onto An Coimisinéir Teanga and make sure thousands fly off the presses. Even if not one is bought by the public.

An Coimisinéir Teanga fulfills a vital  role in Irish life, and my heart goes out to its dynamic, visionary staff who will have to vacate their lovely shiny building in Spiddal, Galway, to share a crumbly premises in Dublin with Office of the Ombudsman time-servers.

Shocking news.

There is no doubt about it. We are staring into the abyss.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Less fees more gees: the lofty aspiration of middle-class Irish students

While the Irish middle classes have no problem paying fees for little Oisin and Roisin’s secondary education, they feel that third level should be “free”.  That is, the ubiquitous “taxpayer” should stump up for their brats’ passport to economic advancement.

When third level fees were abolished in 1996, it was trumpeted as an initiative that would open further education up to all classes. It didn’t, of course, as a report by Dr Kevin Denny, in May 2010 found:

“..while all taxpayers, including those on lower income, end up paying for free education for third-level students, it is the children of the better off who literally cash in, getting their ticket to a better future and a higher income for free...
Meanwhile, disadvantaged students still enter third level education at the same dismally low levels."

Plus ça change.

It seems that third level education in Ireland will remain the preserve of the better off, given the lack of targeted, properly means-tested initiatives to increase the participation  -  and cultivate the innate intelligence  -  of those who don't traditionally make it to campus.

But we are in safe hands, as the future elite - as currently constituted - is certain to rescue the country from its present sorry state.  

Witness the thought-provoking placards you see here, with legends such as DOWN WITH FEE'S and LESS FEES MORE GEES
("Gee" being "vagina" in Hiberno English, for the benefit of the uninitiated).

Or perhaps it is time to simply put more resources into decent primary and secondary education? 

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Ireland 1, Estonia 1 (5-1 to Ireland on aggregate). Memories of Euro '88 come rushing back...

I remember what I was doing when the Republic of Ireland qualified for the European Championships in November 1987. I was hurtling down Stapleton Hall Road near Finsbury Park, London, on my Kawasaki GT750. I had the radio on – the aftermarket FLF fairing fitted contained such a luxury – and was listening to the Bulgaria v Scotland match on Radio 5.

If Bulgaria won, they would finish one point above Ireland, clinching qualification to Euro 88 in Germany. What happened, however, was Scotland’s Gary MacKay scored in the 87th minute. Ireland had thus qualified for a major tournament for the first time ever. I’m sure anyone walking down Stapleton Hall Road that evening would have been startled by my incredulous roar of celebration. One of those moments you never forget.

As readers will know, yours truly is hardly the most patriotic of people. The only time I come near to it is when football is concerned; and that is more about wishing well for the beautiful game in Ireland over the institutional distraction of the GAA… an organisation that forbade its followers even attending “soccer” matches up until the 70s. It only finally allowed the game to be played at Croke Park in 2005, when the ban on "foreign games" was lifted. (As an aside, soccer is the only form of ‘football’ that is played primarily with the feet, not the hands, so is most deserving of the description).

To make things more difficult for the world’s most popular ball game, Irish schools tend to promote either GAA or rugby – at least that was the case in my schooldays. Where I attended, soccer only officially got a few weeks towards the end of the term. It was, however, the game of choice in the schoolyard all year round… a succinct commentary in itself.

So, nice to see Trapattoni’s men qualify for Euro 2012. It should be a nice boost for the game and maybe, who knows, even the country?

Altogether now - olé, olé, olé, olé…

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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Chapters of Parnell Street - a worthy Irish institution

All right, the blog is often accused of "knockin' Ireland"

That's not altogether true, of course, as only the things that are deemed bad about our little land get "knocked".  Admittedly there are many such things.

One such thing that isn't, is Chapters on Parnell Street.  Never mind its indigenous competitors Easons, Hodges Figgis, and Hughes & Hughes  -  or Waterstones from the land o'er the wave.  Chapters is the best bookstore in Dublin.

I should point out at this juncture that I don't have shares in Chapters, nor have I received any dodgy brown envelopes, either real or insinuated.  But if you're looking to get a couple of gifts for Christmas - and you're one of the unfortunate souls who gets drawn into all of that - or if you are just looking to get a couple of good reads for yourself, like moi, I really can't think of a better place. 

As an example, I will cite the "Ultimate History of Porsche" hardback above.  208 colour glossy colour pages containing a comprehensive history of the German car manufacturer, whose founder gave us the famous - and once ubiquitous - VW Beetle, from whose rather humble lions spurted the present-day Porsche 911 Turbo S, with its 0-60mph time of 2.6 seconds (Road & Track Magazine test).  Yours Sir/Madam, for €6.99.   The book, I mean.

If you're not into automotive history - and I imagine many of you aren't - the store has plenty to offer by way of world, European and Irish history.   R.F. Foster's "Modern Ireland 1600-1972 " found its way onto the Gombeen Nation recommended reading bookshelf, and Tony Crowley's "Wars of Words - The Politics of Language in Ireland 1537 - 2004" (Oxford University Press) can be picked up for a very democratic price there night now... one of the best books I have read in some time.

Even more so than the first-mentioned tome on Ferdinand's best.  And that's saying something, for me.

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Compulsory Irish - a parent writes

Interesting article in the Irish Times on the subject of compulsory Gaeilge in our schools (a subject covered elsewhere on the blog).   It comes from a feature on the Education Today pages called  TBH -  To Be Honest, a slot that aims to "give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously". 

As a practical demonstration of the nonsense of compulsory Gaeilge  -  with its roots in late 19th / early 20th century Gaelic revivalism  -  which has been a failed policy for 89 years or so, it is hard to beat.   

'Wasted hours' on learning Irish

A parent writes : I can’t believe that children are still being forced to learn Irish in school. I spent thousands of wasted hours in primary and secondary school learning this language and now I can’t speak a word of it. If only, if only, that time had been spent learning maths, science, a modern language or even spent running around the yard I think it would have better served me in later life.

I often look back with dismay at all the time I spent banging my head against this difficult and useless subject that any reasonable education system would relegate to a minority elective for those with the specific interest and motivation to learn it.

Now I have children of my own. One of them, in particular, is having real literacy problems. We are slowly and painstakingly bringing him up to speed with the rest of the class in his basic reading and writing skills. We’re getting there, but as his classmates are moving ahead to read independently, he is still struggling to get through the most basic readers aimed at younger children.

Now he’s coming home with Irish homework. He’s grappling with whole new families of sounds and spellings, just as he was starting to get a grip on his mother tongue. For him, learning to spell and pronounce Irish words is like unlearning all the rules we’ve been working so hard to get into his head. I can see the poor child looking at me with utter confusion as I turn everything we’ve learned about letter sounds and spelling upside down.

And for what? To learn a language he will never use. Even if he wanted to use it, he won’t have the competence because Irish taught in the classroom is a complete waste of time. This is a child who desperately needs as much time as possible spent on basic literacy and numeracy. Instead, he is now spending his time on a confusing, pointless and empty exercise largely designed to keep Gaelgoirs in jobs.

When he comes home in the evening with his frankly impossible Irish homework I help him as much as I can. In fact, I’m well able to help him because believe it or not I was actually good at school Irish. I did honours for the Leaving Cert and got a B.

But there’s a big difference between learning for the Leaving Cert exam and actually being able to use a subject in the real world. Despite my honours Irish, I cannot even walk into a Connemara pub and order a bowl of soup.

What hope has my son, who is already two classes behind in basic English, in getting grips with, never mind making use of, this minority language?

Good luck to people who want to keep the language alive. Let them take their kids to classes after school or send them to Gaelscoils. Let the rest of us learn for the real world, please.

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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Alexandra Trotsenko fundraiser. Artist who had fingers cut off by skanger needs money for operation.

If you wanted to breed an underclass of superskanger, you could not have planned it better than the Irish authorities did.

Informed as they were by the Catholicism of the founding fathers which - along with Gaelic revivalism - was a key founding component of the 1922 state, they ensured that contraception remained an alien concept to the Irish up until relatively recently.

As a result, people popped them out like there was no tomorrow. Being able to provide, or notions of parental responsibility, did not crop up at all. Consequently, vast swathes of sink estates sprung up around the country's larger urban centres, as the nation's denizens were encouraged to breed without forethought. Or foreplay, as that was presumably sinful.

Then the state provided some generous incentives to perpetuate the paroxysm of procreation. You could only get a corpo place, for instance, if you had enough verminous devilspawn to form a football team.     Childless? Forget it...    Two or three kids?  Not enough, keep trying!

If you have a bit of imagination outside the bedroom department, you might be able to see how this social policy did not encourage responsible parenting. In turn, it might explain how we have some of the most vicious scumbags and skangers in Europe, despite having one of the most generous social welfare systems.

Here is an example. In 2009 a scumbag by the name of James Kenny (pic above) broke into the Finglas apartment of a talented artist, Alexandra Trotsenko (pic left). He assaulted her with two knives, cut off several of her fingers, and left her for dead before robbing her and making off with her cash cards.

Kenny was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment last week. Just for the record, he had previously attacked and stabbed a couple, in their fifties, in their own home back in 1998. He had received a four-year sentence for that. He had "form".

I could be making a very big presumption here, but it is quite likely that Kenny is not a diligent worker - unlike Ms Trotsenko, who was illustrating for a book around the time she was attacked. I will even push the boat out and make the assumption that Kenny came from Ireland's underclass of permanent "unemployed". If anyone has other information, please feel free to correct me.

Trotsenko, in contrast, came to Ireland to work.  Incredibly, however,  it seems that the Irish healthcare service will not provide her with prosthetic fingers to replace the ones that Kenny hacked off, as they are "very expensive".

The Adams Art Gallery in Blackrock is holding an auction of works donated by artists on November 27th, in order to raise the necessary finance. RTE Liveline has also set up a helpline, where people can donate.  See link below.

Alexandra Trotsenko fundraiser

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Nama pays failed developers €200,000 a year salaries - bonuses extra, of course

When Brian Lenihan ushered Nama (National Assets Management Agency) into our lives in 2009, he – and others in authority – denied it was a bailout mechanism for failed builders and developers.

Nama, for those of you who might have been on an Antarctic expedition over the past year or two, is an official scam whereby the “bad” bank loans of Irish builders and developers where bought (with taxpayers’ money) for a sum that they might possibly be worth some time in the future.  But won't be.

It means that stupid, greedy developers and speculators – with the collusion of dodgy bankers – who gambled and failed, will be rewarded by the public purse, rather than find themselves begging with no arse in their trousers beside every city centre ATM, as they might in the US for instance.

That is not the Irish way, oh no. The Irish way is to pay them a “salary” of €200,000 a year. Here is a list, cogged from Daniel McConnell in the most recent Sindo, illustrating how we do things in Ireland.


Nama is paying at least two developers €200,000 and up to 120 others between €70,000 and €100,000 a year in salaries.

Nama admits it is now realistically only chasing the amount it paid for loans – €31 billion – and not the original €78 billion amount.

Nama is now willing to pay bonuses, potentially worth millions, to developers on all “profit” made above what it paid for loans.

Nama has allowed €2bn to cover legal and other advisory fees during its 10-year lifespan.

Nama is currently paying about €100,000 a day on financial and legal experts according to its latest report.

Nama remains a secret society, and is not accountable under the Freedom of Information Act.

122 senior people at NTMA/Nama are being paid more than €100,000. Nama CEO Brendan McDonagh’s salary is €430,000.

The difference is we’re Irish, as the slogan goes.

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Patrick Nulty wins Dublin West by-election: capital now a Fianna Fail free zone.

Nice to see that Dublin is now - until the next election anyway - a Fianna Fail free zone.  

The party of chancers and cultural nationalists that gave us de Valera, his grandson O'Cuiv, Haughey, Lawlor, Ahern, Callely and numerous other shysters at national and local level is without a TD in the capital since... well, ever since its foundation,  I should imagine. 

That's good to see, so we should enjoy it while it lasts. 

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Friday, 28 October 2011

Irish presidential election ballot paper - Hobson gave better choice

Yesterday you will have voted for the presidential candidates you felt were less offensive, in order to keep out the ones you felt were more offensive.

It's a waiting game now, with the first results expected in the early evening.   Let's hope you made the right choice, such as the choices were. 

You know who they are... 

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sean Gallagher for president now, is it?

You may be surprised to learn that my inaugural baby word was “muttonhead”. Yes, most infant first utterances are “mummy” or “daddy” or the like, but mine was “muttonhead”. Apparently it was a favoured refrain of my old dear’s.

Now this might sound slightly uncharitable, but whenever I see presidential hopeful Sean Gallagher, I think of that phrase. If I was in charge of casting for a film, whose lead character was a muttonhead, poor old Seanie would be the main man.

To be honest, when I heard he was running for president I just laughed. “Not a chance”, I thought. I think I looked at two episodes of Dragon’s Den (recounted elsewhere on the blog) and formed the view that Gallagher was by far the most bland, most uninteresting dragon in it -  amid a cast of bland, uninteresting dragons.

Once, I remember, he berated a participant who had hoped to sell locks of leprauchans’ hair as making fun of Ireland. Yet the party Gallagher supports and organised fund-raisers for, Fianna Fail, did more than any O’Carroll’s Oirish souvenir shop to make fun of dear old Erin.

How is this guy top of the polls? I can only assume that people think of him as a friend because he appears in their living rooms on that awful RTE programme. But surely not that many people look at it? It might also be because he isn’t an actual politician as such, a much distrusted breed at present.

The president of Ireland is a nothing role really, so any talk of job creation or any of the rest of it is nonsense. We simply want someone who is presentable, urbane, and articulate, and who does not have past baggage - be it murdering people or organising Fianna Fail fund-raisers.

Sean Gallagher? I don’t think so.  

But that's who they are going to vote for.

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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Out and about at Kippure

The Military Road has featured before on this blog, namely as a route used by Yours Truly to get away from it all since the days, long ago, when a Vespa PX125 (bored out to 180 cc) was the means of propulsion.

The road, built by the British military under the guidance of Charles Cornwallis between 1800-1809, is one hell of a feat of engineering.  Parts of it lie over more than four metres of peat bog. 

According to Michael Fewer's "The Wicklow Military Road", the road was - in such places - constructed by first excavating, then  "laying down a bed of timber logs, on top of which layers of stones were compacted, and the surface finished in gravel".   Fewer cites a local sheep farmer who saw the road opened up some years ago to a depth of 4 metres, and observed that its base was filled with tightly packed bundles of rushes.  It has stood the test of time, though. 

The Military Road is still a great way of getting out of the big shmoke, and although the PX has long gone to the great scooter scrapyard in the sky, and Cornwallis' access route is a lot busier than it used to be in the (19)80s, it is not bad for something right on Dublin's doorstep.

The (very arty, I like to think)  pic above shows Kippure, complete with RTE transmitter, which marks the boundary between Dublin and Wicklow. 

A good place to switch off. 

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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Problems with "Blogger" comments

Sometimes I wish I'd picked Wordpress when I was starting the blog, I really do.  But no, I picked Blogger

Blogger is the tool that puts the "blogspot" behind Gombeen Nation, but it can be very flakey.  I've had emails from readers saying they can't  select a profile to comment (even anonymously), yet some others have been able to do so. 

The only explanation I can come up with - not being a techie at all - is that some browsers will get around a problem Blogger is experiencing and others won't.   Looking at the blog's log, it seems that those using Firefox, for instance, can do so without problems.

After looking in the (very busy) "Blogger Help" forum, it was suggested that one way of getting around it is to do away with the embedded comment window that usually appears under Gombeen Nation posts, so I have done that.

Now, if you comment, you should get a separate window opening up, with the current comments to the left.     It's not as neat a version we are used to, but hopefully it will - at least - allow comments from all browsers to come through.

So if you've been trying to comment without success (and don't fit under the "spamming / trolling / nutters" category) that is the reason why.  I hope that you might be able to do so now. 

This should apply to previous posts, hopefully - though moderaton is enabled so there will still be a delay as before.

Sorry about the inconvenience!


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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Hey!" say teachers, "leave those pensions alone!"

A couple of weeks back I turned on the radio to hear a teachers’ union representative gnashing her teeth at government plans to reform public service pensions, including linking pension payments to average -  rather than finishing - salary, along with the linking of post-retirement pensions to inflation, rather than pay.

It sounded like a good deal to me, considering the protection enjoyed by public-sector teachers due to FF's Croke Park Agreement.   Perhaps others in the private sector who have been paying into contributory pensions for years, the eventual value of which remain doubtful, thought so too. 

The teachers’ representative, of course, called the proposed reforms “larcenous”.  She cited claims from some teachers who said they "would end up paying more into their (defined-benefit) pensions than they got out”.   Laughable... and no wonder mathematics is a subject we do not excel at, with half-wits like these out in front of our classrooms.

The interviewer than asked if they would prefer to swap their pension arrangements for those in the private sector. Predictably, the “ we don’t want a race to the bottom” argument came out. Sure they don’t.  Interestingly though, they weren’t campaigning to raise the standards enjoyed  by those on “the bottom”.

They want those very bottom feeders in insecure jobs and ill-defined benefit pensions – where they have any at all – to continue to subsidise their unsustainable ones. Pensions enjoyed, not uncoincidentally, by retired TDs, gardai, judges and top civil servants.

The thing is, there have to be enough such private sector bottom feeders working to pour money into the black hole of such pensions (not to mention all the various other unworthy bail-outs for banks, investors and developers).

Maybe they should consider the plight of those turning up at Aviva today to see if they have jobs at all, and use their educated minds to make some kind of connection with the reality that exists outside their staffrooms.

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Oooh ah, up the Ra? Slow learners alert.

Pictured on the Carpenterstown Road, Dublin 15.   Far away from the "Troubles" of not so long ago. Good Friday Agreement, anyone?

Here's a joke, and a bit of light relief:  

Q "What's the difference between Dana and Martin McGuinness?"

A  "You can't remember Dana's hits".

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Martin McGuinness - "the people's president"? Please, please no.

Don't  worry, Gombeen Nation hasn't come over all Shinnery.  This came in the door earlier, addressed to my alter ego.

It is a leaflet for Martin McGuinness, publicising his bid to become "UACHTARAN NA nDAOINE" ("The People's President" as Gaeilge - a language he doesn't speak himself, of course). 

But that is typical of the cultural-nationalist bollocksology of Sinn Fein, who are really nothing better than Fianna Fail in embryo.  The difference being that as long as the Shinners are in opposition, they can be "radical" grandstanders.  

They profess to be socialist, yet they don't support a woman's right to chose a  termination in her own country - a basic tenet of  left wing parties. 

They didn't have a nationwide policy on the bin charges, but left it at local level to take an opportunist stance when it suited.

They are "nationalist and internationalist" according to their website - or at least they were the last time I looked. 

According to a recent Irish Times MRBI poll, McGuinness' strongest support comes from younger working class male voters...  his vote being three times stronger among the unfairer sex. 

The point has been made that this is the very demographic most affected by the downturn, and most likely to fall for those making the loudest noises from the far benches.  Then you have the whiff of old cordite into the bargain, which some find more alluring than the roar of an Impreza STi.  

More of the same.  Just another "Republican Party" attached to a narrow, neo-Gaelicist, vision of Irishness.  A vision that started with Dev, and has been an abject failure for 89 years.

And a waste of another generation that might otherwise have opted for change, given real alternatives. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

De Valera - Ireland's Hated Hero

Big thanks to John for bringing our attention to the documentary below, which is well worth a peek.

It is a rather unflattering look at Eamon de Valera, and alleges that the granddaddy of Irish nationalism actually refused Churchill's offer of a united Ireland in exchange for the use of the three Treaty Ports which Chamberlain - the master of appeasement -  had relinquished in the face of a looming world war. 

It seems that de Valera felt that taking in the Protestant/unionist population of the north would lead to a blurring of his vision of Ireland, which was an exclusively Catholic and Gaelic one.  As an illustration of the inherent bankruptcy of Irish nationalism, it is hard to beat.

It also deals with his opportunism around the issue of the Anglo Irish Treaty in 1921, in which he stitched-up Collins and the other plenipotentiaries who agreed to partition.  His rush to express his condolences to the German ambassador on the death of Hitler, when the rest of Europe was horrified by footage from the Nazi death camps, also gets an airing.

Get yourself a mug of coffee/cup of tea/can of beer/bottle of whiskey and have a look (preferably when you are not at work). 

DeValera - Ireland's Hated Hero

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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Taking Racism Seriously report - attitudes don't tally with Irish self image

We’re great, we Irish, so we are.   

We survived the 800 years of oppression and the Famine, so we have an inbuilt affinity with the underdog.   The whole world recognises this, of course, and all true lovers of freedom love the Irish. 

So the Irish patriotic delusion goes.  But patriots' delusions everywhere should be challenged, and in many other countries that process has taken place.  Jingoism is seen as distasteful and foolish.

Not in Ireland though, where patriotism is a continuation of the same unquestioning blind faith that the Catholic Church enjoyed for so much of the state’s history.  And the other side of exclusive patriotism and narrow nationalism is xenophobia, racism and an unhealthy attitude to “outsiders”. 

The following is from the RTE website report last Tuesday.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has said that racism is an everyday fact of life for migrants in this country and people must do more to challenge those who engage in racist behaviour in public settings.

The Council has launched a research report entitled 'Taking Racism Seriously: Migrants' Experiences of Violence, Harassment and Anti-Social Behaviour in the Dublin Area'

It worked with Dublin Bus, Veolia Transport (which operates the Luas), gardaí and the Integration Office of Dublin City Council in producing the research report.

Focus groups were held with African bus-drivers, Luas revenue protection officers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and Asian healthcare workers, all of whom had lived in Ireland for between six and ten years.

Many of those participating in the focus groups were naturalised Irish citizens.

The vast majority had experience of racist incidents, varying from long-term harassment and violent assault to anti-social behaviour that resulted in victims having to flee their homes.

ICI Chief Executive Denise Charlton said what was striking about the report is that the people interviewed believe racism is more prevalent in Ireland than in many other countries in which they have lived.

She said some of those they spoke with have lived in the UK, Holland and Sweden, but said they never felt as unsafe as they do in Ireland.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Eamon de Valera Crescent, anybody?

Just an amusing snippet from an Irish Times letter writer in today's paper:

"...My father used to say that the reason that nobody had named a street in Ireland after de Valera was it had proved impossible to find one that was long enough or crooked enough."

I liked that one, I have to say.

Funny how the most enduring patriots in the Irish popular consciousness are the ones who died gloriously, before they had a chance to live on and mess things up.

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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tesco's incorrect pricing policy - Maynooth an exception?

Years ago, the Irish customer was far from royalty.   Dunnes Stores, for instance, did not even have changing rooms... I kid you not.  It was only when BHS (now gone), M&S and the rest came in that they felt they had to supply such luxuries.  

Until then, you simply held your diamond patterned jumper up in front of your chest before the mirror - thoughtfully supplied - and made a rough calculation.  Dunnes had to catch up when the British chains came in.

Similarly, Tescos introduced a policy whereby anyone who was overcharged got the product concerned for free, plus their money back.  There were signs in their shops clearly stating this, and once again indigenous chains were left in the ha'penny place.  Superquinn only offered someone to pack your bags wrongly.  An irritating role some eejit collecting for the Grab All Association now does for Tescos, and whose services you politely - or maybe not so - demur. 

Now, it seems, things have changed.  Tescos Irish website does not carry any details of its policy in this regard anymore - at least not anywhere obvious that I can see... try it yourself.   My understanding though, from talking to people,  is that they now offer "double the difference".  That is, if you were charged €5 for something marked €4, you would get a "refund" of €2. 

Just try that in Tescos Maynooth.  Now Tescos is a pretty profitable company, so far as I know.  But if you buy something on, say, a "two for €4" offer, only to find you are charged €5.10 at the checkout, and then proceed to the customer service desk - which is the longest queue in Tescos Maynooth - you will have to fight tooth and nail. 

We went up to the desk, showed the receipt and the advertised price, and were told by the assistant "I will just go and check".  She came back and said "no, the wrong prices were put on them.  They are really €5.10". 

Natural forces know, shop assistants have pretty tough jobs.  They work all the hours there are for relatively poor pay, which is being further attacked since judges ruled against compensation for workers who are subject to unsocial hours (judges are not).

But bloody hell, how can a shop assistant, on the customer service desk, not be informed of company policy on overcharging?  Eventually a manager arrived, like the cavalry to the scene, and all was resolved. 

As dark Internet conspiracies go, this might be a bit low-rent...  but does Tescos Ireland now only carry out its not-so-clearly-stated policy on refunding overcharged customers, if they make a fuss?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Government to tax online gambling

Last week the Government announced it was "examining changes to taxes that could yield up to €100m annually from online gambling and betting shops". (Irish Examiner 22th Sept). The same Examiner article also quoted the Rutland Centre, a Dublin addictions clinic, which reported a "30% increase in people presenting for help" with gambling addictions.

I met a family some years back who had lost everything they ever had because the father, who was also the breadwinner, lost it all through gambling. When you think about it, it is possibly the most ruinous of addictions because of its insidious and limitless nature.

Even with alcohol addiction, you can only drink so much at one go. Footballers like Paul McGrath and Tony Adams even managed to have careers at the top of their sport while being alcoholics.  There are pop stars who have come through decades of drug abuse alive, though with no recollection of what they were doing at the time.

Alcohol and drug addictions are awful - don't get me wrong - but you can only physically drink so much before you fall over and go unconscious.  You can, of course, always die from liver disease or overdose, too.   I am just saying there is always the potential to wake up, having hit a particular low, and get sorted. There is only so much damage you can do at one sitting, so to speak - particular excess and hard drugs excluded.

With gambling, however, the depths you can reach through steady financial ruin are unplumbed. With the recent advent of online gambling, losing all your money has never been easier. There is no waking up the following day and saying "I think I'll scrub that lot I lost on the credit card last night and start afresh". You can even lose what you don't have... in a way.

Which is why we should be wary when we hear the Government looking to increase its tax take from the industry. Already the Irish horse racing industry is subsidised - bizarrely - by the taxpayer, with the Exchequer contributing "more than €31million to the [the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund] in 2009, and a further €28 million in 2010”. (Sunday Business Post, 1st May).

If our Government has such a vested interest in gambling, it is hard to imagine it doing much to protect its citizens most damaged by the industry, despite promising to introduce a "levy for help and education services" as part of the tax reforms.

What are the bets such promises don't make it past the first furlong?

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

McGuinness can count on the Cyclops vote

There was an interesting article in The Sunday Times last weekend, dealing with Martin McGuinness's bid to be president of Ireland and head of its official armed forces. 

McGuinness, you may have heard, has stated that he left the IRA in 1974.  Intelligence sources disagree, however, as do former comrades-in-arms, who claim he was the top man right up until the ceasefire negotiations and beyond.

According to the article, McGuinness dismissed those who question his paramilitary past as "west Brits”.  And in Shinner logic that deals the whole uncomfortable issue a knockout blow. Anyone who disagrees with the Shinners' brand of national socialism is a “west Brit”, of course. There are worse things though - like being a leading light in an organisation that killed protestant and catholic workers alike, if it deemed them to be “legitimate targets”. 

I know the IRA were not the only ones – there were also the sectarian murder gangs of the UDA, UVF and the rest.  There were bigots like Paisley stirring it since the late 60s civil rights movement, and making a career out of it.   Now they are all peacemakers - having got it out of their systems - and we should all fall over ourselves in gratitude to them.   And how many younger people who have no recollection of what things were like during "The Troubles"  will be rushing out to vote for Sinn Fein's candidate?

How many will vote for him because he is the “Ya-Boy-Ya!!!” candidate?  You know the type? The barstool republicans who have blighted every Irish generation since 1922, lemming-like in perpetuity, cheering on the boyos from a safe distance with their lumpen nationalist bollocksology.

That other hopeful candidate, David Norris - a man being hounded for far less serious past transgressons - might wistfully recall The Citizen from the Cyclops chapter in Joyce’s Ulysses – a character that summarised the above type so well.

He hasn’t gone away, you know.   He'll be out voting for Martin McGuinness on the 27th of October.

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