Sunday, 27 February 2011

Fianna Fail gets ha-ha hammered in Irish General Election 2011

What a shame, eh? Fianna Fail finally got the hammering it deserved from the great Irish public. It has, at last, been found out for the collective of corrupt, scheming shysters that it is.

The last I heard, only one FF TD was returned in Dublin – Brian Lenihan on a sympathy vote (he didn’t get any from here, I needn't tell you).  Even now, I have just heard the joyous news that Mary Hanafin has been turfed out of her Dun Laoghaire seat by, wait for it, Richard Boyd Barrett. How sweet is that?

Coughlan’s gone, Conor “Kebab” Lenihan is gone.  Predictably however, 10,715 Cork people gave Micheal Martin their first preferences because he is from Cork, and the good souls of Laois/Offaly voted for Barry Cowen because he is the brother of Brian. And what better recommendation could you get, really?

Too bad the local elections don’t take place until 2014, so Fianna Failures could be flushed out of our council offices as well.  It’s a start, though, and we have to hope that it is not just a temporary blip.  It would be nice to think it spells the beginning of the end of Fianna Fail as a force in this country.

It could happen. This is the first Irish parliament ever to have a strong left opposition, even if the Labour Party forms a coalition with Fine Gael, which it will. Amongst that company, Fianna Fail will not even figure among the dissenting voices of protest, even as the policies it created are forced through by the new Government with (hopefully) the exception of the reduced minimum wage, which Labour and Fine Gael have pledged to reverse. Let’s hope they do.

Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that.

Bye bye  Fianna Fail.

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Friday, 25 February 2011

Fianna Failure Monopoly set to ease investment pangs

Not long ago, an enthusiastic portion of the great Irish public was busy borrowing money - as though it was issued by Waddingtons - to invest in shoddily built hovels, shoebox apartments, and ghost estates.   You know, the money the banks and the Europeans were forcing on them?

That's all finished now, of course, and anyone who misses the buzz of viewing a Pyrite-rich newbuild on a Saturday afternoon, along with 30 other investor half-wits, might have to make do with a nice game of Fianna Fail Monopoly instead. 

There is always the option of making a night out of it, and getting a €12 Tescos Meal for Two (including bottle of wine).  Not as nice as the stuff they used to serve up in Rolys, of course - but needs must.

Don't you just hate this new austerity?

Big thanks to a reader who sent this one in.  I don't know who created it, but it's brilliant. 

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Andrew Higgins - the "Irishman" who won World War 2

It was an Irishman – albeit an American-born one – who won the Second World War. You may be surprised to hear that considering that other Irish American, de Valera’s, weasel “neutrality” during the struggle against Nazism in Europe - even as an estimated 130,000 Irish took part in the conflagration.

Amusingly, among their number was a Spitfire ace, Tony Lovell, who felt obliged to attend confession every time he shot down an enemy plane – something he was required to do 21 times.

I’m reading a fascinating book called “D-Day” at the moment, by Stephen E. Ambrose. In it, the author recollects how Eisenhower once asked him had he heard of a certain Andrew Higgins. The author replied he had not, to which Eisenhower responded “That’s too bad. He is the man who won the war for us”.

Higgins designed and built the specialised landing craft that took Allied vehicles and troops onto the fortified beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.   According to the book, he was a self-taught genius who was in the business of building shallow-draught boats for use in the South Louisiana swamps.

He foresaw there would be a demand from the Military for suitably adapted boats in a coming war and set about badgering them to buy his wares.   The US Military brass, being conservative, took some persuading. They saw Higgins as “a hot-tempered, loud-mouthed Irishman who drank a bottle of whiskey a day”.  They preferred to build their own boats.

For Higgin’s part, he maintained that the Navy didn’t “know a damn thing about boats” and persevered with his design, kept pressurising the Military and eventually was given the tender to produce the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel).

Higgin’s assembly lines in New Orleans employed 30,000 people at their peak, the first-ever integrated work force of men and women, both black and white, in that city. He paid top wages, regardless of sex or race.

His craft, moreover, won the war in Europe – if no less an authority than Eisenhower is to be believed – thereby sparing the detonation of nuclear bombs on that continent as was to subsequently happen in Japan.  Unfortunately, it did not spare hundreds of thousands of civilians the vindictive slaughter inflicted by Bomber Harris.

It is surprising we have not heard more about Higgins here in Ireland. Maybe some do not consider him a “true” Irishman?  Or even a true Irish-American?  Unlike George De Valero.

You might know him better by the name of Éamon De Valera, though that is not the name on his birth cert.

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Monday, 21 February 2011

End Compulsory Irish - an open letter to Enda Kenny

Dear Enda,

As someone who votes Labour, I caused considerable consternation among those who know me when I intimated I would give your party a vote of some sort in the coming election.

Why? Because you said you would make Irish a non-compulsory subject after Junior Cert level, leaving people with the option of taking it for the Leaving exam. Now this is a topic that has been close to my heart since my own schooldays.

In fact the bridge over the Dodder near my school had the legend “Make Irish non-compulsory” emblazoned on it in very large graffiti you could see from the third floor classrooms. I might have had some idea how it got there at one time, but it’s so long ago – 31 years – it is a bit hazy now.

By now, I am sure, you will have come under intense pressure from those who work in the Irish Language Industry who fear they will lose financially if the subject is made optional for the Leaving. The usual suspects such as Conradh na Gaeilge, Irish Language teachers, Gael Linn, those who run Irish language colleges in the Gaeltacht, and those who run student accommodation there.

These groups are only interested in feathering their own nests, and should be ignored. Given recent economic events, we should be very wary of lobby groups pushing their own interests over the common good, as the country has suffered enough because of them. They are not even doing the cause they espouse any favours, as compulsion wins the language no friends. It is a failed policy, one that has been failing for 89 years.

Despite the taxpayer spending €500 million a year on Irish language education, many students leave the education system with a – at best – very loose grasp of the subject.  Languages expert and fluent Irish speaker, Dr Kevin Williams, of the Mater Dei Institute, says that official policy has “been a manifest failure... I have come across young people who, after 11 or 12 years of being forced to learn the language, hardly know one single word of it. Young people have a right and entitlement to learn Irish, but the essence of rights and entitlements is the freedom not to exercise them. Therefore, after the Junior Certificate Irish should no longer be compulsory”. (Irish Times, Feb 19th).

I would have been one of those young people. The way Irish was taught, and its compulsion, engendered a hostility within me that has endured to this day. Ironically, I left school with honours Leaving Cert German – a non compulsory subject. What does that say?

The simple point is, if someone does not have a love of, or indeed a grasp of, Irish by the time they have completed their Junior Cert, they are not going to develop it in the two years that remain for the Leaving.  Forcing them to sit in classes twiddling their thumbs is a waste of their time, and possible talent for other subjects. It also ensures that they distract those who really do want to study Irish.

Despite what the Compulsory Irish Lobby may chose to believe, the reality is that last year 18% of students did not sit the Irish exam. This is the lowest number since records began, according to the IT article. Also, increasing numbers are seeking exemptions from the subject. At present, immigrant children are not compelled to study it, and other students seek exemptions on spurious grounds (many study foreign languages – a bit like me with my German).

But still too few students are coming out of education with proficiency in a foreign language, with only 8% learning two or more, compared with a European average of 60%. If less time and fewer resources were spent on compulsory Irish, it might free up more time for students to study languages they might actually be interested in learning.

I repeat – the policy of compulsory Irish has been a spectacular failure.  It has not worked on any level, save for perhaps engendering negative feelings towards the language in large sections of the population.

I think you should take note of the fact that despite the high-profile protests of the Irish Language Lobby, and their letters in the papers, all of the polls have shown large increases in your party’s support over the past weeks from ordinary people who would seem to have no problem with your plans to take the compulsion out of Irish. You’ll even get something from me, for the first time ever - despite the opprobrium I will attract from my peers.

So, please stand firm.  Face down the lobbyists.  Make Irish optional for the Leaving Cert.

Yours, Gombeen Man.

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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Fianna Fail - the anarchists' choice for change through chaos

It is a  long-established fact that Fianna Fail created cash from chaos for builder buddy, investor and banker friends during the boom, but who would have thought that the party of corruption would attract the anarchist vote at the next election?

A big thanks to Ponyboy for sending in the clip below, which features a prospective voter in Sligo, who feels that voting in Fianna Fail is the best way to run the country into the ground, clearing the way for an Anarchist Collective of Ireland to rise from the ashes.


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Friday, 18 February 2011

Try Votomatic, the lazy person's voting aid.

Came across this interesting little application on Slugger yesterday.

It asks you some questions on various topics, which you answer on a graded basis.  You know the type of thing -  "completely agree", "somewhat agree" and so on.  A bit like an MRBI poll.

The questions seem quite neutral in this, however, and when you've finished - it doesn't take long - it will match up your choices with the stated policies of the current five largest parties. 

Try it - it's good.  You might even be surprised with the answer you get...

Click here for the Votomatic voting app

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Slippery Brian Lenihan and the hazards of election posters

I've always said that Brian Lenihan is a slippery so-and-so, and here's the proof.  Walking down a miserable, wet, windswept Coolmine Road last night, I chanced upon him lying prostrate on the path ahead, staring up at the rainclouds.  

Unfortunately, it was only his poster, so I resisted the temptation to perform an impromptu jig atop his smug mush.  This was for three good reasons:  1) It would have been very immature; 2) There were some people about, and 3) Those things are bloody slippery in the wet  -   a shortcut to the nearest A&E, in fact.

Which makes you wonder about the hazards posed by election posters - not to mention the fact that we are sick of the sight of most of their subjects anyway.  And what's the point?  Does seeing a candidate's smarmy visage peering down from every lampost make you more likely to vote for them?  I doubt it.

I propose that they be banned on health and safety grounds, and saving the ecosphere or whatever.   And it's not just me.  Certain politicians do actually pose a hazard to life and limb - even in cardboard form.   Witness the following from a Kevin Lalor, of Naas, in the IT letters page a week back:

Madam, – I ride a motorcycle to work. On Thursday, in very windy conditions on the Naas Road, I was nearly beheaded by a calmly smiling Micheál Martin travelling at 100 kph, in the form of a poster. – Yours, etc.

It seems that Fianna Fail cannot help themselves.  They are still out to get us.

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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Huffington Post AOL takeover precedes GN buyout bid

You may be aware that AOL spent $315 million to buy American news website and content aggregating blog, The Huffington Post? Looks like there is money in this here blogging.

I had only finished reading this in one of the Sunday papers when I somewhat optimistically ascended the stairs to check the Gombeen Nation inbox. Lo and behold, there was an offer to buy our beloved blog! I’ll paste part of the message here for your edification:

Hi, I am interested in purchasing your blog .

I represent a firm that purchases entire blogs, that is, the URL as well as the content of the blog. We use these blogs to improve the search engine rankings of our clients.

Our firm requires that the blog has correct English and grammar. It must have original content (not duplicate content from other blogs or websites) as well as having no pornography or other distasteful content. In addition, the blog must be able to be found on Google.

If you are interested in selling your blog(s), please reply with your URL(s) as well as your asking price(s). An actual offer for your blog would happen after a detailed analysis of it that showed that it met all of our criteria.

Below is the typical pricing (in US dollars) based on the PageRank of your blog:

PageRank 1 - from $200. to $300.
PageRank 2 - from $250. to $400.
PageRank 3 - from $340. to $575.
PageRank 4 - from $475. to $700.
PageRank 5 - from $625. to $1,000.

You can contact me at (email address).

Thank you,


Gombeen Nation’s PageRank is 4, so that would make it worth between $475 to $700. Ok, it might be in the ha’penny place compared with Arianna Huffington’s cash coup, but it’s a start, eh?

Not that Gombeen Nation will ever, ever, sell out of course.

At least not for $700.

Now, if AOL was to come knocking…

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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ding Dong Denny O'Reilly's History of Ireland

MetroHerald had an exclusive interview yesterday with republican ballader parodyist, Ding Dong Denny O'Reilly.

During the interview, Ding Dong was asked about his best loved track, "The Craic We Had The Day We Died For Ireland", and when he first became involved with the republican cause.  He replied:

"I've been a republican since I was a child,  My mother used to laugh when she'd tell me how if ever I was given a red bus as a present I would smash it to pieces.  And I always ate my greens - whilst refusing to eat carrots.  Even to this day, I beleive anything orange has no place in a truly Irish dish.  You do realise that it was William of Orange who decreed all carrots should be orange?  Apparently they used to be all types of colours". 

Thus inspired, I had a quick look on YouTube for some Ding Dong Denny, and came across his excellent History of Ireland.

I'd gladly stand Ding Dong's alter ego, Paul Woodfull, a Guinness or two in appreciation of this fine animation.  Listen out for the line:  "There was no sex in 1916, I'll tell ya.  We were only interested in gettin' out of bondage in them days".


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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Compulsory Irish: survey commissioned by Irish language teachers supports their interests.

 Despite the country’s perilous situation, the loudest pre-election demands are still to be heard emanating from the usual suspects - Ireland's narrow interest groups.

And what more insipid, entrenched and damaging an interest group is there than the powerful Irish Language Lobby?

Some time back, Enda Kenny – a fluent Gaelic speaker – announced a plan to make Gaeilge non compulsory for the Leaving Certificate.  The party had commissioned a poll, carried out by MRBI, which found that 62% of Irish people believed that Gaeilge should be an optional subject after Junior Certificate. That is, close on two out of three adults believed that it should be made non compulsory.

Funny then, that a poll now commissioned though MRBI by Irish language teachers’ interest group, Comhar na Muinteoirí Gaeilge, came up with the diametrically opposite conclusion  -  that 61% actually favour the retention of compulsory Gaeilge instruction for Leaving Cert!  He who pays the piper calls the tune and all that.

Kenny is coming under intense pressure from those who work in the Irish language industry to do a U-turn on his non compulsion plan.  Yesterday he was besieged in the Gaeltacht by “bean an tís" (landladies) who run lodging establishments for students attending language courses there.  They fear for their businesses if compulsory Irish is scrapped. 

I would like to see Enda Kenny show some courage - for once - and stand up to these vested interests.   What is more likely, however, is that he will crumble in the face of the lobbyists’ pressure.   Sadly, it seems that Irish politicians are incapable of differentiating between the interests of lobby groups – be they publicans, developers, investors or the Irish language industry –  and the common good.

If Kenny did stand up them, and state so clearly, he and his party would get a vote of some kind from me for the first time ever - and others too, I imagine.  I am sure that will not happen, though.

For the record, 15.8% of students who sat the Leaving in 2009 did not even sit the Gaeilge exam (excluding exemptions), despite its compulsion in the curriculum, with the number of no-showers increasing by 600 a year since 2006. (Irish Examiner Tuesday, May 04, 2010).

Have Comhar na Muinteoirí Gaeilge bothered to take note of that very real, and incontrovertible, statistic? 

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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Reformcard initiative - a means to monitor political promises?

An email recently landed in the Gombeen Nation inbox from a Johnny Ryan and Joe Curtain, bringing news of a new initiative to monitor the implementation - or otherwise - of the various political parties' political reform promises. 

It works, as far as I understand, by means of a "scorecard" which will rate the parties in areas such as government reform, electoral reform, transparency, public sector and local government reform.  So if Fine Gael, for instance, said they were going to abolish the Senate in their manifesto (as they have promised), they would be marked "4".  Their subsequent performance in said issue would be monitored thereafter, and this would replicate across a whole range of issues.  See scorecard.

The idea, I believe, is to make it easier for the electorate to track how parties perform in relation to the promises they bandy about so freely, pre-election.   A team of academics and politcal scientists have, according to the publicity material, agreed to give their time to track each party's score in each respective area. 

I am not sure about the methodology - or the political leanings of those doing the monitoring - but if it is carried out in a neutral, objective manner, it could well  help encourage political accountability in Ireland, which would be no bad thing.


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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Irish Mail on Sunday mocks Sunday Tribune

Look at the picture on the left, taken at a Dublin 15 newsagent this morning. It’s the Sunday Tribune, right?

The problem there is that the Sunday Tribune is currently in receivership, with staff fearing for their jobs and livelihoods as any potential buyer would have to take on the title’s considerable debts.

If you look closer (second picture) you will see that all is not as it seems.  It is, in fact, the Irish Mail on Sunday masquerading as the Tribune. Note the strapline declaring “THIS PAPER IS A SPECIAL EDITION DESIGNED FOR READERS OF THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE”.

 Well, I have been a reader of the Tribune, on and off, for many years. I was indignant when its management sacked a journo for highlighting the overpriced, unsold, property of a leading estate agent who, incidentally, was a big advertiser with the paper.

It still has some good journalists however, and I started picking it up again after Ken Foxe’s good work on exposing the John O’Donoghue expenses scandal.

Campaigning, quality, papers are few and far between in Ireland, and if the Tribune goes under there will be quite a few pleased politicians, I should imagine.

But how cynical and inconsiderate towards the Tribune’s employees is the Oirish Mail on Sunday? Not to mention boorish.

As far as attracting readers from the Tribune goes (even if only for one day, by deception) the Irish Mail on Sunday has no hope at all.   I, for one, would not cleanse my pert bottom with it, never mind read it.  If any paper should disappear from the news stands, it is that rag.

I hope someone does take over the Tribune, but they would need deep pockets to absorb the debts. The current economic climate is against it too, not to mention the fact that newspapers are an increasingly threatened medium in themselves.  Believe me, I know.

Maybe some kind of new venture, run by existing staff, might offer the best hope of keeping good journalists’ jobs?

And, by extension, help keep our elected representatives in check.

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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Concern that Irish beggars could be fined €200,000


It sounds like something from the back catalogue of (thankfully expired) lard-arsed, Hitler-loving, racist, ignoramus "comedian", Bernard Manning.  

But no, it could yet become a newspaper headline - in the mind's eye of the Irish authorities anyway - if a recently enacted anti-begging law is ever enforced in Ireland.

The new law means that anyone found to be behind "organised begging" can be slapped with a fine for a cool €200,000.  That's the Irish authorities for you, always firmly grounded in reality.

No doubt the letters pages of the papers and the Internet forums will be flush with stories of beggars being dropped off at O'Connell bridge in gold-plated Rolls Royces to give public credence to such an inherently silly, unenforceable, nonsense law.

Having said all that, I know of one Fagin-esque ringleader whose obnoxious urchins are forever intimidating and hassling people for money on the country's streets.  They are dropped off at strategic points every day and will not take "no" for an answer, haranguing and pursuing their victims relentlessly.

Shady character that he/she is, I do not have the individual's name.  But I do have an address:
Concern, 52-55 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2.

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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Enda Kenny "drunk" video

You may recall a while back Brian Cowen did an interview on RTE radio during which he sounded the worse for wear?

People often say that Ireland has no effective opposition, and I imagine that whoever produced the video below might well subscribe to that view.

The video, which has been around for weeks but is only reaching Gombeen Nation now, features wonderfully remastered  (we hope) footage of the main opposition party's leader, Enda Kenny, expounding on his cure for Ireland's post-boom hangover.

We can all look forward to the future with confidence.  Hic.

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Gardai take part in illegal evictions.

Evictions are an emotive subject in Ireland. At least, the evictions carried out by British landlords in the 19th century are. Irish people don't appear to be too bothered by the phenomena these days - not now that we have our own indigenous class of bad landlords and willing rackrenters.

During the boom, when the new Irish Section 23 landlord class was living it up, it was not uncommon for a tenant to be hit with a large increase in the rent when their contract was up for renewal - usually after a year. Many people had to hastily look for new digs when this happened, as they were unable to afford the rent demanded. I think that's the definition of "rackrenting".

Irish landlords are amongst the worst in Europe, simply because they are allowed to be. People who rent all their lives on the continent enjoy a security of tenure that Irish tenants, in private rented accommodation, could never imagine.

There was such a thing as a protected tenant in Ireland up until the late 70s / early 80s, when a landlord called Madigan had the courts decide that the concept of a protected tenant was a breach of landlords' constitutional rights. As a result, the lot of the private tenant is a precarious one in Ireland.

Worse still, it seems that present-day Irish landlords are carrying out illegal evictions, and are getting a helping hand from members of the police force to carry out their dirty work. It is not clear in what capacity gardai are doing this, either as favours for friends or under public order pretexts.

According to yesterday's Irish Times, the Garda Ombudsman has received about "20 complaints or allegations that gardai illegally assisted in the eviction of tenants". The former Garda commissioner had to send a directive to superintendents last year “reminding members of the force not to attend or participate in illegal evictions”.

It seems that it is illegal to force a tenant from his/her home in the absence of a Circuit Court order, as evictions can only take place through the local county sheriff and cannot be carried out directly by a landlord.

The Irish Times piece quotes Kevin Baneham of Threshold, the tenants’ rights group, as saying that most people threatened with eviction have not breached their tenancy obligations: “in many cases they relate to tenants who say they asked their landlord to carry out repairs or provide their PPS number”. According to Threshold, many of its clients have ended up sleeping rough on the streets or in cars as a result of landlords' actions.

So the next time you hear some barstool bore banging on about the evictions of a century-and-a-half ago, you might ask them to explain how a State that ostensibly came into existence as a reaction to such injustices, pays such scant regard to the welfare of its tenants today?

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