Sunday, 31 July 2011

The decline of blogging and missing links

You would wonder what has happened in the Blogosphere.  Fellow bloggers are dropping off like flies from a Vapona stick and even the aggregators seem to be on the way out.  Then some of the bigger, more successful, blogs have become too high and mighty to give the rest of us poor plebs links from their sites any more.

Fewer links mean lower page rankings.  This blog recently went from PageRank 4 to PageRank 3 in the last Google cull.  Even Bock The Robber - a bigger, more successful blog with a massive number of hits every day, went from PageRank 5 to PageRank 4.

When I look at where visitors are coming from my main sources these days are from old reliables like the tenacious Bernd's Irland Inside - Gombeen Nation's first ever blog link.  Fellow German language blogger Harald has dropped the cudgels, for now anyway, and a lot of the bloggers you'll see on Gombeen Nation's links page have not posted in yonks.  If there are any others of you still left out there, don't be shy - ask me for a link swap. 

Even, the blog directory/aggregator, had its last update as long ago as May 18th.  That was a massive source of links and brought in many visitors to us all.  It's very regrettable really, making the unpaid work of the blogger an even sadder activity than it already is. 

But feck it... we've nothing else to do.

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Friday, 29 July 2011

Irish Gaelic Tattoo Book

I'm sure some of you have been there.   

You're wondering how best to proclaim your Irishness, and finally settle on the idea of a permanent tattoo.   That way you will have an indelible mark on your epidermis proclaiming to the world that you are a son, or daughter, of dear old Erin.

What's more,  you will also have to undergo a certain amount of pain and suffering too.  A touch of martyrdom into the bargain - what more could you ask for?

What is it to be?  A nice shamrock?  Or maybe a Celtic cross?  Or one of those dogs painted on the side of the Bus Eireann coaches?  "No", you think, "not Irish enough".

At length you settle on some kind of phrase in Gaelic - preferably in some bockety old script similar to the sort Dev used for this 1937 Constitution.   Perhaps something that Cuchulainn might have roared while going into battle or while belting his bronze hurley ball about, several billennia before hurling was even invented.

There is one problem though.  You don't actually speak any Gaelic other than 'Can I go to the toilet Miss/Sir?"

Fear not.  Help is at hand, in the form of the "Top 50 Irish Gaelic Tattoo Ideas" book from the USA ($12.95).  As the blurb that comes with it says:  

Don’t spend a small fortune on a permanent Irish Gaelic tattoo until you truly understand what it is you’ll be proclaiming to the world for as long as you live.

And, more to the point, don't spend a fortune on skins grafts if you suddenly discover your Gaelic slogan says something like "God Save The Queen", "Cromwell Forever", "Padraig Pearse Was A Paedo" or "What Was All That Fuss About The Famine, Anyway?"

You have been warned!    Further info here

Big thanks to C for telling us about this one.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Red Letter Day... the end of Section 23s?

Readers will know that the subject of property-based tax reliefs has been covered before on the blog, particularly their effect in inflating the real estate bubble and driving house and apartment prices to stratospheric heights before reality intruded in late 2006.

The way it worked was investors bought a property in a “designated area” – and the rationale for choosing areas to be designated seems to have been nebulous – and they could write off all their rental income against tax. This meant that apartments in godforsaken shitholes were going for Beverly Hills money, purely as a tax dodge.

Now it seems that proposed changes will allow tax relief only on the Section 23 property itself – and, needless to say, investors are up in arms.

Witness the following extract from an advert, placed by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers. The advert is styled as a letter to Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, asking him to preserve the existing tax shelters.  A selection of the "letter", below, is in green.  My own thinking-aloud obversations are in red type. 

“The people affected by these changes are tax compliant [never mind that such reliefs were created to avoid paying tax… legally of course] ordinary individuals, like me, who were encouraged to invest in schemes in specific areas in order to rejuvenate these areas [never mind rural areas blighted by empty apartment blocks and unwanted holiday home schemes.]...

..Like many others, I responded to the incentives introduced and paid a premium to acquire the tax relief attached to the properties although the project itself yields low rental income…. The withdrawal of these reliefs will mean that I will now suffer great financial distress….

….The proposed changes will further depress property prices, will increase repossessions by financial institutions, and will bankrupt investors thereby increasing the financial burden on the already stressed taxpayer..."

Nice to see tax-shy investors expressing such concern for the taxpayer, eh?

Given the number of solicitors and creative accountants who jumped on the Section 23 bandwagon, it can’t be long before they make a legal challenge, can it?

And like all powerful interests who have their day in the High Court – as they can afford it - we can be sure any changes to property-based tax shelters will be found “unconstitutional”.

Just wait and see.

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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Speed bumps... how to take them without a Marauder.

I am sick of “speed” bumps, I really am. They do not work.

Put it this way, they do nothing to deter dozy, unobservant, inattentive drivers... and isn’t driving without due care and attention one of the more serious charges that can be laid at a driver’s door sill?

I have lost count of the times that I have taken a bump with due care and consideration for my chassis’ transgress over said obstacle, with my rear-view mirror full of Renault. I have lost count of the times I have had to have my wheels re-aligned to make them safe for road use as a result.

So now I have two choices. I buy a car with sufficient go-anywhere capability and ground clearance to negotiate a Darndale-style speed bump without slowing down, or I develop a new technique.

The car in the picture above is called a Marauder. Although it only has a top speed of - at most, 115km/h - it can take speed bumps as though they do not exist, as it has enough ground clearance and under-body armour plating to distance itself from your average Taliban mine. The local council, nor the polar bears,  do not have a chance. Nor does anyone who blocks you in when you are shopping (see pic). However, most of us do not have the best part of half-a-million Euro to spare, after Irish VRT.

Most speed bumps were installed after some nosey, interfering neighbour requested them at a local residents’ committee meeting – which the vast majority of residents do not attend. Possibly scandalised by the sound  of “boy racers” driving slow Fiat Puntos with noisy exhausts, he/she – after a long spell of curtain twitching – decided to push the council to stamp out the menace in the interests of “safety”. Never mind the fact that road deaths are at an all-time low.

Here is my advice - though I am not saying I do this myself, garda:

When you come up to a speed bump that a residents’ group has demanded, simply change down to first gear and blip your throttle generously. Then, in order to put some distance between yourself and the idiot behind you who takes no notice of road conditions, mash your foot to the floor and rev your engine up to the maximum. This should give you sufficient momentum to piss off the locals who are keeping up to date with life by watching “Fair City” in their front-facing living rooms. It will also prevent you from being rear-ended.

Sadly, this means that you are forced to drive faster – and more noisily too - in areas with speed bumps, in order to distance yourself from such unwanted automotive intimacy. It entails more air and aural pollution, but it will keep the residents happy

 At least the ones on the committee.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Irish Credit Union survey says one in four have €20 to live on

A recent survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions found that one-in-four Irish people had less than €20 a week to live on, after they had paid their bills. Now I don't know what the methodology of the survey was, nor the sample of people interviewed, but it certainly is a shocking statistic.

Then Superquinn went into receivership on Monday, only to be snapped up by wholesale giant Musgraves - a development greeted with a sigh of relief by the chain store's workers.  Job losses, however are still to be expected. 

Nothing, of course, to do with weekend and shift pay entitlements for poorly paid workers; but everything to do with bad property-based investment decisions made by Superquinn during the boom.  A flagship store in Balfgriffin, for instance - now a ghost estate.

Lately, we have been treated to a steady drip-feed of job announcements from the coalition Government.  Fine Gael / Labour have been playing it quite well - Enda Kenny's Roscommon Hospital Cockup aside.  They certainly know a bit about choreography, and are making the most of the fact that they are not Fianna Fail. 

So (comparatively) slick are they, that I would not be surprised if they get a reduction in Ireland's bailout interest rate soon, as part of a new overall EU-wide deal, if recent pronouncements by Olli Rehn are any guide.

If they do, however, it will not mean the scrapping of the Universal Social Charge and the postponement of a raft of extra taxes and charges in the next Budget.   It will just mean Enda and the boys and girls can look good about it all.

The one-in-four people struggling for life's basic necessities are unlikely to notice much difference.

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Monday, 18 July 2011

The Euro Crisis Song (courtesy of The Guardian)

This is great.  So many suggestions and leads are dropping into the Gombeen Nation mailbox that I hardly have to write blog posts any more!  At least not when I'm pushed for time or (whisper it) am feeling a bit lazy.   So......

What with cash-rich Irish investors paying over the odds - on occasion - at Allsops, and Olli Rehn giving the Government a pat on the back for being able to push through austerity measures without a whimper from the great Irish public, you would think we were on the way back to 2006.

Today's Indo is telling us that house prices "have reached the bottom" only for the fact that the banks are not lending.  What?   Does that not mean they haven't reached bottom then?  Or are they seriously suggesting that the banks should - even if they could - go back to their old habits of handing out money as though it was confetti?
Then we've been treated to a continuous drip-feed of stored job announcements from the Government.  And exports are up too, you know!   Enda and the boys and girls have really turned it around, it seems.  Or so they would have us believe.

But we can believe what we like - its how people see us, and our economy, from outside that really matters.

Don't mention Moodys.  Don't mention impending job losses in the financial sector.  Don't mention interest rate rises.    Don't mention the next budget.

And don't mention the Euro Crisis Song from UK newspaper, The Guardian.   Big thanks to Gavin for this one.

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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Irish public cop the Cloyne Report - so why the Angelus?

It is nice to see that the great Irish public has finally accepted that child abuse by the Catholic Church - and the State that entrusted it [why the past participle?]  with running its schools - is wrong.  No flies on this lot, eh?

And let us not forget the Garda (Irish police force) which ignored complaints - I'm sure they now agree it is wrong too, even having kissed the clergy's ring for so long.  See pic.

We now also have a cross party consensus questioning the role of the Vatican in Irish affairs!  Great.  Took a while - 89 years - but we're there at last. 

One pillar of Dev's Official Ireland finally gone.  It's a start - albeit a very slow one.  Let's count another 89 years for the next.  "A haon... a do... a tri..........."    Now, there's a clue.

And with that awful thought, here's the Angelus. 

Not the official version still aired by Ireland's State broadcaster RTE, mind;  an entity that people of all religions - and none - are compelled to support with a licence fee.

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Mick Wallace and the Miss Piggy remark

Left-wing TD, Mick Wallace, runs the  risk of being labeled a muppet after referring to  Dail colleague, Mary Mitchell O'Connor,  as "Miss Piggy".   Doesn't he know that such terminology is ideologically unsound?

The Wexford ex-property developer socialist (where else would you get this?)  is renowned for his rightful disregard for dress codes.  However, as the Fine Gael TD entered the chamber, Wallace could not resist commenting on her choice of wardrobe to fellow Independents Shane Ross and Ming Flanagan.

In fairness, it seems that  Ross didn't have a clue what Wallace was talking about, but Roscommon crusty-wannabee Ming (Keep Irish Compulsory) Flanagan jumped in with "The Mary Mitchell O'Connor one. The one who drove off the plinth." 

Of course Flanagan seems to think that boasting he is/was a pot smoker is the height of rebellious cool... maybe it still is in Roscommon?   Anywhere else you would have to go back to the Sixties.

Wallace, at least, has apologised for his Fozzie moment:  “I’m not trying to defend myself. I’ve said I’m sorry. I was completely wrong. What can I do. Of course I shouldn’t say something like that. I have no right to say that. I have to learn from it.”

They're a funny lot, the Irish left.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Government's "comprehensive review of expenditure"

The Government is asking the public to suggest ideas on where savings can be made in regard to State spending.  Specifically, what practices the great Irish public consider to be "wasteful". 

Given the interest generated by the post "Complaints to Irish Language Commissioner continue, regardless of economic reality" - and it was substantial - perhaps readers might have some suggestions? 

Mind you, when you click the link below there is no dedicated category that deals with the wasteage and bureaucracy surrounding O'Cuiv's Official Languages Act.    The "Eilifint" in the room.

If you choose "Other" -  you can nominate your own.   

 For all the good it might do.

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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Man bids against himself at Allsop Irish auction.

Those folk at Allsop, the UK auctioneers, must be delighted with themselves having tapped into the Irish “fire sale” market.  It has been said before on the blog, but get enough cash-rich Paddies still infected with the lethal property-buying bug of a few years back, and it’s “going, going, gone!!! (to the half-wit at the front). Congratulations, sir!”

Witness the scene at the July 7th auction, again held at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. One bidder was so eager to bag a pub with a reserve price of €50,000 that he got a little bit carried away by it all. After some lively interest in the hall, with the price rising apace, he made a bid of €260,000. He then went one better and upped it by another €10,000.

It seems that this provoked some hilarity in the room, and the bidder got a bit thick with the auctioneer when he – in fairness – told the punter he was bidding against himself. “I want a bit of respect from you!” he is reported to have told the gobsmacked gavel-bearer. Sorry, respect is something you have to earn.  It went for €270,000.

Where else would you get it, honestly? It seems that Allsop personnel have reported higher sale rates in its two Irish events – higher than at auctions held in England. They must think they’ve really landed on their feet coming over here.

Witness a property featured on Gombeen Nation’s last Allsop report. Although it had a reserve price of €360,000 it actually went for €710,000. At the time of the auction there was another house on the same road with a private treaty asking price of €445,000 on My Home (see below). Go figure.

You also have to wonder – given the high proportion of cash sales at these auctions – what kind of a rotten little country Ireland is?

Lowly paid workers are being hit with wage cuts after wealthy judges found their pay negotiating mechanisms to be “unconstitutional” (while using the Constitution to protect their own salaries) yet you have people with – evidently – about two brain cells in their heads bandying large wads of cash about at events such as this. 

Maybe it is time for Revenue to finally get out of its PAYE comfort zone?

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Thursday, 7 July 2011

"Complaints" to Irish Language Commissioner continue, regardless of economic reality

Not long ago, plans to provide Dubliners with real-time signage indicating when buses were due had to be put on ice after complaints were made to An CoimisinĂ©ir Teanga (I think it means “The Language Kommissar”… there is no English translation of the title on the website).

This particular quango was set up to enforce Eamon O’Cuiv’s Official Languages Act, which stipulated that public signage and documentation must be in Gaelic as well as the spoken language of the country, English.  Gaelic must appear first of course.

As a result, crank complaints from Irish language careerists and hobbyists must now be taken seriously, and bus-using Dubliners must stand at stops in ignorance of when their transport will arrive.  The system, planned 10 years ago, would have used existing GPS data to inform those long-suffering customers of just how late their buses were running.

Now the HSE and the National Museum have also been reported as “being in breach of statutory language provisions” to the same quango (Irish Examiner, July 5th).  What the breaches are it does not say.  Maybe, in the HSE case, “Accident and Emergency Department”  signs being too prominent in our hospitals?

I am sick of this, I really am.

A few years back ASH, the anti-smoking body,  complained that forcing manufacturers to print health warnings in Gaelic and the vernacular would lessen their impact, as of necessity smaller point sizes would have to be used.

The Gaeliban – boosted by its very own Ayotollah O’Cuiv – is not interested in the practicality of signage as a means of communication though.  It is interested in using State legislation to increase bureaucracy so it can further bolster its own industry.

The same Examiner article also mentions that “a report outlining suggested amendments to a review on the official languages act has also been published”,  but no mention of what those amendments might be.

How about a complete repeal of the wasteful Official Languages Act, at a time when we can scarcely afford such an extravagance of Official Ireland nonsense? 

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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Save Ireland and win an iPad

It has been said here before  -  the spirit of Irish entrepreneurship never really developed beyond opening a pub, or stowing a bit of cash in some dodgy offshore account.  Or maybe getting leverage on a few shoebox apartments in 2006, which seemed like such a good idea at the time. 

Maybe what was missing was some kind of  incentive to evoke that "can-do spirit" hitherto so demonstrably absent from our caste of movers and shakers?  The Dublin Region Higher Education Authority Graduate Education Partnership might have the answer.  It is offering a prize of €500 and an iPad2 (16GB) for the PhD student who can come up with a plan to save Ireland. It is called "Future Voices: How Ireland's PhDs will Enable National Recovery".  See below:

"PhD students registered to any of the institutions in the Dublin Region Higher Education Authority Graduate Education Partnership (UCD, TCD, DCU, NUIM, DIT, ITT Dublin) are invited to submit an abstract and poster outlining how their research will influence national recovery.

The research can be in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary area and the PhD student can be in any year of their doctoral education."

If you are a student, and you think the solution to dear old Erin's woes is worth an iPad2, please submit your ideas through the link below:

Save Ireland for an iPad Competition

Big thanks to Fergus for telling us about this one.

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Sunday, 3 July 2011 Time to think the unthinkable?

Big thanks to a reader for bringing our attention to this one.

Anyone out there still want a united Ireland?  Maybe the spoof site has the answer?

Ireland is bust - It's time to think the unthinkable.....

"...For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. "
Jonathan Swift


More cutbacks and taxes.....    More borrowings....     More houses being repossessed...      More unemployment...      More emigration...     More Fire sale of State assets....     More corruption in the establishment...   and eventually National Bankruptcy........

Em.... this is not really what we had in mind is it?

Our eighty nine year old independence experiment from the United Kingdom has failed.

We could have used those years to build a true republic, based on the ideals and intent of the founding fathers.

Instead, we have created a bankrupt country, once dominated by a cruel and sadistic catholic church, now dominated by a talentless, self serving, corrupt establishment of gombeen politicians, unaccountable civil servants and self promoting hangers-on.

Unless someone, somewhere, has a better idea, Reunion of this island as part of the United Kingdom provides a clear path towards prosperity for our state and happiness for our people. We do NOT believe our politicians have any idea how to get us out of our financial crisis much else have the vision and courage to ensure Ireland has a viable future as an independent country. We are doomed to the status of a bankrupt County Council of Greater Germany, somewhere off the coast of an uncaring Europe.

Sign up to our newsletter today and find out how we at the Democratic Unionist Party of the Republic of Ireland intend to build a better future for the next generations of Irishmen and Irishwomen.

B. O'Neill

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Saturday, 2 July 2011

Wicklow County Council and "closed" car parks on Military Road

Much as I give out about the place, there are some things I have always liked about Dublin and, well, Ireland.

Not many, mind, but the ability to get out of the city relatively easily and into the rather grandiosely titled Wicklow Mountains is one – and all thanks to Alexander Taylor’s Military Road (R115), built between 1800 and 1809.

Although it is rather bumpy and bockety in places – I think its foundations are wood on bog, and maintenance is infrequent - it is a lovely road with great visibility due to the lack of hedgerows and trees. It has seen service as a Circuit of Ireland Rally stage, and it is easy to see why.

If you are coming out of Dublin, and do a right at the Sally Gap, the R759 is a lot smoother on its undulating descent towards Blessington and Kilbride. It is worth staying alert though, as the picture of the bridge across the infant River Liffey (above), and its sharp left turn, shows. You can see a small car park to the side of the road… an increasingly rare sight.

It seems that Wicklow County Council has taken to depositing piles of gravel in other car parks in the vicinity (see pic right).

It did it a couple of years back with the car park at Lough Bray on the Military Road - which is full of gravel to this day.  Now it has done the same with the one just to the left as you approach the Sally Gap (pic was taken coming from the other direction).

Given that there are no visible road improvement works – at least I did not see any – is it a council ploy, in conjunction with Failte Ireland, to prevent people (and I’ll even include tourists here, gullible fools that they are) stopping their cars and admiring the views?

Why create car parks and then fill them up with gravel? Anti-social behaviour? Well why not deal with that rather than closing off every bloody car park and viewing point in Wicklow?

Once again, it seems we are back to our lazy authorities, whose enthusiasm for effort stops as soon as they have taken our taxes from us.

Just as well Alexander Taylor was not as work-shy.

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