Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Census 2011 questions on religion - or otherwise - leave room for error

The idea of the Census is to provide information. Yet, like any questionnaire, the quality of the data gathered depends very much on how the questions are asked.

Take the matter of religion, or lack thereof.  I happen to be an atheist, yet Question 12 baldly asks “What is your religion?”. The assumption is made that you have one.  Sure, way down the list – after all the various religious franchises have had a mention – comes Option 7: “no religion”.

Brian Whiteside, writing in yesterday’s Irish Times, describes the confusion that could arise as a result of the authorities framing the questions as they have:

“People who come from a religious background but no longer practice any religion and have no religious belief would most likely answer No to the question “Do you have a religion?” But when asked “What is your religion?”, followed by a series of options including the one the person was born into, that person may tick the box of the religion they were brought up in but no longer practice.

"But if people are in doubt, won’t they be helped by their enumerator, the person hired to distribute and collect the forms and answer questions about the census? Well, they’ll be helped all right; but on the question of religion the enumerators have been instructed to guide people to fill in the form to reflect their background rather than their current position. How does this help us plan for Ireland’s future?”

Whiteside’s point is that the authorities supposedly use the information gathered from the Census to plan for the future. If that information is not acquired in a straightforward, honest way it will be inaccurate, and will not reflect demand for non-denominational schools, for instance.

The same applies to questions concerning Gaeilge. Current census figures state that 1.6 million speak it, which is clearly nonsense as this figure includes children above the age of three in an education system where Gaeilge is compulsory. Was I a Gaeilge speaker when I was four then?

Likewise, any question that relies on self-assessment could be said to be inherently flawed. Does an ability to say “Can I go to the toilet” as Gaeilge make one a fluent speaker? You would wonder how many half-wits with a few words of Christian Brothers Gaeilge might think so when framing their Census responses.

The errant information, in this instance, serves only to put a rosy gloss on the supposed number of Gaeilge speakers in Ireland… something that might please the Gaeliban, as their concern is window-dressing.  Reality is something they have little time for.

More worrying, however, is the question on religion. If the Government claims to use Census figures to cater for future needs, how much does a badly asked question on religion - or none - skew the figures?

And if the feedback is inaccurate,  how can it meet the country's future requirements for inclusive, vernacular, non-denominational education?

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Sunday, 27 March 2011

"Irish" requirement in the Civil Service - ethnic cleansing?

Here follows a letter to the Sunday Indo a week or two back.  It raises the role of the cultural nationalist movement in justifying the formation of our, erm, beloved State, and its manipulation of the State apparatus since then:

Sir -- I have to commend Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, February 13, 2011). Eilis is courageous in her allegations. Being interested in this subject and a reader with 60 years' experience, very few journalists have tackled this subject.

It is a dangerous game, a bit like kicking a sacred cow in India. The "As Gaeilge" people are bigger dictators than the British who ruled before them. In fact, I would say De Valera's switch to Irish in 1932 was the most effective ethnic cleanser that was ever invented.

De Valera's "Big Switch" to Gaeilge had little to do with his love of Irish. He was a brainy man and also very observant. In the years 1922-1932 De Valera was not in power. He observed that the pro-treaty government had very little power, as all the business was done by the pro-British Civil Service which the State had inherited after the Treaty.

Dev realised that these people had to be shafted, and the only way to do it was with compulsory Irish. This broke the tradition of civil service jobs being handed down father to son.

Nobody realised that the cure here was as bad as the disease. It opened the door to a new breed of people to become our controllers. These people from the western seaboard, country peasants a lot of them, didn't know English, a handicap they had suffered from a time when they had to emigrate.

However, in 1932 this all changed. Dev put them on a pedestal, and boy did they glory in it. This ethnic move ruled out any competition for jobs in the civil service from the non-Gaelic-speaking part of the country.

This was a disaster as it barred people from parts of Ireland where people lived in a business background, farmers' families, the business people's families, people who paid rent and rates to keep the country going.

The "As Gaeilge" people had no background in the real world. These were people who were bred from people who never paid rent or rates -- ie poor land, small farms, fishermen; emigration was the only way out.

The sooner the better we get rid of this "sacred cow" and give equal chance to the best brains in the whole country rather than confining entry to the corridors of power to people from the western seaboard.

Keep at it Eilis, there are a lot of worms in this can.

Willie Spring,

Castlemaine, Co Kerry

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Friday, 25 March 2011

Forced ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) continues in Ireland. Senate debate adjourned without vote.

Anyone who saw the film “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”  will remember the dreadful Nurse Ratched and a practice known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), whereby electrodes were applied to either side of a patient’s – or transgressor’s – cranium and a powerful electric current was shot through their skull.

Wiki summarises it thus:

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock, is a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients for therapeutic effect. Its mode of action is unknown. Today, ECT is most often recommended for use as a treatment for severe depression which has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania and catatonia. It was first introduced in 1938 and gained widespread use as a form of treatment in the 1940s and 1950s.

Note the phrase, “its mode of action is unknown”.

As treatments go, it does not look terribly appealing – even less so when it invokes memories of Ratched and her strong-arm crew. So if running the blog and commenting on Ireland’s many depressing aspects ever got too much for me, I think I would prefer the Prozac option. Assuming, of course, that I had the option.

According to a report in The Irish Examiner, which a reader of the blog emailed, the forced use of ECT in Ireland was up for debate in the Senate this week.  It was proposed that the practice of using  ECT on patients "who are unwilling or unable to give consent" should be ended.  A practice, incidentally,  that Amnesty International describes as “a breach of human rights”.

The relevant section of Ireland’s Mental Health Act that allows it is Section 59b, which reads:

(b) where the patient is unable or unwilling to give such consent—

(i) the programme of therapy is approved (in a form specified by the Commission) by the consultant psychiatrist responsible for the care and treatment of the patient, and

(ii) the programme of therapy is also authorised (in a form specified by the Commission) by another consultant psychiatrist following referral of the matter to him or her by the first-mentioned psychiatrist.

According to another report in today’s Examiner, the Seanad debate was last night adjourned without a vote being taken.  Even if it had been, such a vote would only have referred the matter to the Dail (the Irish parliament).

A group called Delete 59b, one of whose members was once head of the Mental Health Commission, is currently campaigning to have the relevant wording of the Mental Heath Act changed.

It has an online petition here Delete 59b

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Moriarty Tribunal - Lowry helped O'Brien's Esat Digiphone

After 14 years' of deliberation, the Moriarty Tribunal has found that Michael Lowry "secured the winning" of Ireland's second mobile phone licence for Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone.   It detailed payments of €500,000 from O'Brien to Lowry and a loan of  £420,000.

O'Brien maintains that the findings of the Tribunal are based on "opinions" and "theories".  

So, we have had a tribunal of enquiry that has taken 14 years, at a cost of €45,404,054 according to O'Brien himself, and its conclusions are nothing more than "opinions" and "theories"?

The rest of Europe, and indeed the world - taking a special interest in Irish affairs at the moment - must be intrigued by our little land.  Not exactly confidence inspiring for anyone sinking money into the place, is it?

The Irish authorities must now send a clear signal to show that this country finally has some appetite to end its culture of clientism, chicanery and downright corruption. 

They must instigate criminal proceedings against those exposed by the Tribunal.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Gombeen Man in Irish nationalist Nissan Qashqai shock!!!!!!!!

One of the things I like most about doing the blog is reading the searches that lead into it.  Some are funny, some are sad, some are downright ignorant. They are all interesting, however, as they give you some idea of what is out there. Here are some examples from the last couple of days.


dublin 15 hell hole

compulsory Irish

kevin myers niggers

what happened to michael flatley and riverdance

knackers ireland

how to end a letter in Irish

nude on toilet

brian cowen naked

jobs in the gaeltacht

are the irish racist

abortion in ireland tax relief

pyjamas as day wear in dublin

skanger mothers

can irish speed cameras work at night

saint john statute head buried selling your house

gombeen nation gay marriage

gombeen nation hitler

gombeen nation islam

gombeen nation jews

The last few, you might guess, came from a right-wing Irish nationalist site. It seems they flagged and discussed Gombeen Nation in a “red alert” thread. As it happens, I kind of expect nationalists to be right wing – at least you know what you're dealing with there.

It’s the doctrinaire “republican socialists” pushing an exclusive homogenous Irish identity, while simultaneously spouting left-wing rhetoric, that I really can’t stand. They are the ones who most muddy the political waters here, and prevent any kind of progress. Right-wing nationalists espouse the most unappealing aspects of jingoism and chauvinism, but at least they are honest about their bigotry.

It seems our far-right friends were surprised that Gombeen Nation didn’t have any posts about gay marriage. Well, not being gay, it’s not something I’ve ever spent a great deal of time pondering. What is it, not secure in your sexuality lads? But for the record I support it.

They were probably a bit puzzled by the blog’s opposition to Islamic fundamentalism too. You see, I don’t consider the blog to be left-wing. Too many supposedly “left-wingers” are part and parcel of the establishment.

They might also be a bit puzzled by the blog’s consistent opposition to the safety commissars of the Road Safety Authority, who want to blight the land with speed cameras and suspension-wrecking road humps.  Similarly, they are disconcerted by the blog's opposition to the elitist promotion of "de language".

However, probably the most insulting thing they said about your beloved Gombeen Man was:

"The asshole went mad because people drive with lights during the daytime. The wanker in the same breath boasted about his shitty Qashqai."

I had a good laugh at that one. A Qashqai? Puh-leease!!!

Just shows how wrong their analysis can be.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Irish Blog Awards 2011

The Irish Blog Awards 2011 take place tonight at the Europa Hotel, Belfast. 

Gombeen Nation has been selected, for the second year running, as a finalist in the Best Political Blog category.  It goes without saying, that this is a great honour for a one-man operation such as Gombeen Nation, so a big "thanks!" to all who voted for the blog - it is greatly appreciated. 

Doors open at 7pm, and the event proper kicks off at 8pm.   When all the tears and thank yous are done by 10.30pm,  DJ Rick O'Shea takes the floor. 

It should be a great night.

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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Supermacs, Burger King and Eddie Rockets attempt to cut wages through Constitution

There was a protest outside Supermacs, O'Connell Street,  yesterday against an attempt by employers' umbrella group, the Quick Service Food Alliance, to have a wage-setting mechanism declared "unconstitutional".

The employers' group, which represents Irish fast food outlets Supermacs and Eddie Rockets, along with US giant Burger King, is questioning the right of the Catering Joint Labour Committee to safeguard a basic minimum rate of pay for those who work in the industry.

I took a leaflet from one of the protesters which you can read, or download, below.   It claims that all of these companies have seen profit increases, yet they want to drive down the wages of those who work for them. 

The Constitution has, in the past, been invoked and interpreted through the courts to back up the interests of the rich and powerful - be they landlords, judges, bankers or politicians.  

Protected tenancies, for instance, were done away after a landlord by the name of Madigan took a case in 1980.  More recently, overpaid judges hid behind the Constitution when asked to take a pay cut.   Bankers' bonuses had the same protection, we were told.   Cutting the minimum wage, of course, was not "unconstitutional".  

No doubt greedy, exploitative employers took heart when Fianna Fail - the Republican Party - cut the minimum wage by one Euro an hour in its last days of power.   They made it open season on poorly paid workers with one final two-fingered salute.  What a "republic" we live in. 

If the courts find in favour of the shysters from the Quick Service Food Alliance, it really is time to scrap de Valera and MacQuaid's 1937 Constitution through means of a constitutional review, and replace it with one which protects the interests of its citizens rather than privileged interest groups.

If people cannot find the wherewithal to question what is most rotten about this country in crisis times such as these, they never will. 

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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Another GoSafe (speed camera) van set on fire.

You might be surprised at some of the Google searches that lead to Gombeen Nation.  One that comes up regularly enough is “GoSafe jobs”.    

Lots of people are looking for work these days, it seems, no matter how immoral or dubious.    What doesn’t show in searches on the subject however, is the related phrase “danger money”.

Now, it is one thing to sit in the back of a darkened van all day or night to catch motorists exceeding  the speed limit.  It is quite another to be scrambling for your very life when some unappreciative wag sets your mobile photo-lab alight.

Back in November, Gombeen Nation reported on the roll-out of speed camera vans, operated by private consortium GoSafe.  It said how similar vans located in Britain -  a country with surveillance levels Winston Smith might have been shocked by  -  had incurred the wrath of some members of the public, with vans being burnt out as a result.  

It actually turned out to be quite prophetic, as since the vans came into operation in Ireland, two of them have been set on fire  -  one on November 26th (in Louth) and the other last Sunday evening (Wicklow). 

Now, much as I disagree with the deployment of  speed cameras and vans under the pretext of “road safety”,  I cannot actually condone setting them alight.  A human life is more important than a couple of penalty points, after all –  even a GoSafe operative's.   Fortunately, in both cited cases the occupants escaped unharmed.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan condemned the latest attack in yesterday’s papers:

"GoSafe are working on a daily basis to assist An Garda Síochána in reducing speed-related collisions and stop loss of life and serious injury on our roads,"  he said.  "Their work at the side of the country's roads helps to save many in our communities from the tragedy and pain of the loss of family and friends in road collisions….."

Very emotively put, Commissioner - but wrong nonetheless.   There is no evidence whatsoever to back up your claim that GoSafe have saved any lives on Ireland's roads.  None.   Last year, road deaths were the lowest recorded in this country -  the GoSafe snitches only arrived on the scene in the 11th month of it. 

Road fatalities have been on a downward trajectory for years,  even when there were only three fixed cameras in the whole country.   And this despite the fact that there are more cars on the road.  Yet the demonisation (and the fleecing) of the motorist continues on turbo setting.

Our roads are safer, simply because they ARE safer.  We have more motorways than we used to, and they are statistically the safest roads.   New cars are safer, as many are equipped with sophisticated safety systems (which the Government taxes).  Drunk driving is no longer the acceptable pastime it once was, especially in rural areas.

As a result,  there are  people who can see the GoSafe scheme for the racket that it is  -  It is just that some seem to get angrier about it than others.    Witness the rather unsympathetic comments on the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Forum after the November attack on the GoSafe van:

 “ A hero”.

 “I heard it went up in a flash”.

 “They said it was doing a 'survey' - but they said before that cameras would only be placed where there had been fatal accidents. So were they trying to decide instead where they could earn most revenue rather than save lives Huh? ... serves them right”    [ Good point about the "survey".  GM ]

“1 down a lot more to go”.

Whatever you think about taxi drivers – and I think their job is a tough and dangerous one, though perhaps not as much as a GoSafe operative's  – they are not boy racers.  They are people who drive for a living.

Maybe we should - just this once - listen to their opinions?

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fine Gael's Councillor Dennison bemoans "non-Irish" on housing lists

when I lived and worked in London, the Daily Mail - and other such rags -  were full of scandalous stories about the lazy Irish flocking over to claim social welfare and housing in Britain.  Presumably, welfare was more generous in Britain at the time, and it was possible to get local authority housing without having first popped out about 15 kids.

Anyway, I was there to work, and work I did.  I never claimed a penny from the social welfare in my nine years there, but paid a lot of tax into it.  Yet I - and other hard-working Irish - had to put up with lazy tabloid stories in the tabs, writing us all off as spongers and scroungers.

Just like Fine Gael councillor, Kieran Dennison, has done to the non-Irish nationals who find themselves victims of Ireland's economic meltdown.  It seems that of the 8,144 applicants on Fingal's housing waiting list, 4,108 are of non-Irish nationality ( according to a report in the current Northside People).   The good councillor drew the conclusion that the figure reflected the need for a crackdown on "welfare tourism". 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the number of migrants coming to Ireland has decreased in recent years.  So, it is fair to assume that the non-Irish "welfare tourists" of Dennison's lazy imagination are, in fact, migrant workers hit most by the downturn.  There is also the simple fact that Ireland is not the homogeneous place that it was 15 or so years ago.

Certainly those in the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland seem to concur.  A spokesperson from that organisation opined that Dennison's statement:

"could be seen as an attempt to score cheap political points and scapegoat migrant workers by claiming that they are somehow taking advantage of Ireland's social welfare system...  he fails to take into account the changing demographic of his constituency and jumps to unfounded conclusions regarding housing lists."

The fact is, migrant workers are more likely to have been employed in areas of the economy most hit by the recession.  Many of them worked  in low-paid jobs that the Irish did not want to do, or did not deem financially rewarding enough to get up out of the scratcher for... even when the economy was at its most buoyant. 

The very constituency most likely to be impressed by Dennison's remarks.

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

God save the Queen, eh Johnny? Royal visit set to shock Little Irelanders.

I bunked off school in 1980 to see Johnny Rotten appearing in Dublin District Court.   The ex-Sex Pistols frontman, real name John Lydon, had been refused service in a Dublin bar  known as the Horse and Tram.  Words were exchanged, the cops were called, and Lydon was arrested.  He later claimed it was because he attacked  a copper’s fist with his face.   

Whatever happened, there was a sizeable contingent of spiky tops in the gallery - including my teenage self - to witness the scandal of Johnny being sentenced to Mountjoy (he spent four days there).   The judge nearly wet himself with vindictive joy.  Here was a chance for the Irish establishment to punish punk's leading light - in his courtroom!  The figurehead of a movement that threatened Irish teenagers’ moral well-being. 

He might have been right on one level, depending on how you define moral well-being.  If moral well-being meant  young people accepting the mores they were “taught” in school, the guff they read in the papers, heard from the pulpit, and got from RTE -  punk was very threatening for them indeed.  It threatened to empower them and make them question things.

Punk had already caused much upset in Britain.  The Pistols stuck a safety pin in the Queen's nose (on their record cover, anyway).   They wrote an alternative national anthem to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, a key refrain of which was "no future for you".    They were Situationists - albeit contrived ones.  They spat and got sick on stage, for instance.  When questioned by the media about the latter, the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, responded:  “ People are sick all the time.  People are sick of this country”.

And being sick of your country is no bad thing.  At least having a healthy attitude to questioning its accepted orthodoxies isn't.  And the more interwoven with your country’s identity those orthodoxies are, the healthier it is to question them - especially when they are pure guff, as many nation-building devices are. 

For my part, I like nothing better than to imagine Dev, Paddy Pee and the rest of our founding fathers spinning – like underground dynamos – in their patriot graves.   In fact, I’d be for hooking them up to the National Grid, and making Ireland energy self-sufficient.

The orthodox, approved version of Irishness - promoted by the State since 1922 - was that our little land was a Catholic, Gaelic entity.   The Catholic component is nearly gone, but there’s still work left to dismantle the Gaelic one. 

Another institutionalised mindset - among a sizeable proportion of our otherwise docile public - is that the Head of State of our nearest neighbour cannot visit here, due to The 800 Years, Cromwell, The Famine, and all the rest.   It is incredible that there is still a debate on this issue now, even in 2011. 

There is no reason why the Queen of England – or the Head of State from any other EU country –  cannot visit here without howls of protest from the custodians of knee-jerk Irishness.  

Sure I might even pogo along myself just to piss them off, as I hope others do.

Now, where did I leave that safety pin?

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Labour Court reinstates Davenport Hotel workers. Reverse minimum wage cut now!

It has been said before on this blog.  No-one who gets up out of bed in the morning to work should be poor.  There has to be some incentive for people to do so - otherwise they might as well follow the example set by our indigenous dynasties of professional "unemployed". 

It is a subject on which I harbour very strong feelings.  My own parents worked hard all their lives, my mum a cleaner who got up at 6am every morning, and my old man on the radios of a taxi firm.  I'm sure the shifts he worked could not have been legal, and his remuneration was paltry.  We were piss poor, we really were.

Sure, our opinions are largely determined by our own experiences.  If your opinions fall within establishment parameters, they are called opinions.  If they don't, you are said to have a chip on your shoulder.   Well I have two supersized chips on both of mine, as far as the issue of the minimum wage is concerned, and the right of those who work not to live in poverty.

That is why, if the incoming coalition Government does nothing else, I will at least respect it for reversing Fianna Fail's one Euro minimum wage cut - something it has pledged to do within 100 days of coming into power. 

But why wait 100 days?  Fianna Fail cut the rate from €8.65 to €7.65 at a stroke.  Let this new Government send out a clear signal that it respects the dignity of lower paid workers in this country, and will protect them from exploitative, unscrupulous employers. 

Speaking of which, the Labour Court yesterday ruled that the Davenport Hotel (part of the O'Callaghan Hotel Group) must restore the pay rates of its housekeeping staff back to the old minimum wage rate.  The hotel's management had demanded staff agree to a one-Euro pay cut after Fianna Fail's disgraceful legislation came into being.  Some refused, and went on strike. 

The Labour Court noted that the hotel group had not pleaded inability to pay, and concluded that the employer's actions were not reasonable.  All staff must be reinstated and their wages must be back paid in full. 

So, Fine Gael/Labour, don't let any other employers try the same trick.  Reverse Fianna Fail's  - and John Gormley's, Jackie Healy-Rae's, Mary Harney's and Michael Lowry's -  minimum wage cut straight away. 

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Shootings at Smithfield Horse Market.

Last July, your intrepid Gombeen Nation had a post on Smithfield Horse Market.  It argued for the closure of the market - or at least some kind of regulation for the transactions that take place there.

Anyone who ventures from the more comfortable suburbs of Dublin will be aware of people buying horses at this dodgy fair, and then taking no responsibility for them thereafter. The green areas of places such as Finglas are cluttered with neglected - or ill-treated - horses running wild, once Anto has lost interest.

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has repeatedly called for regulation of the market, with micro-chipping of the horses traded there.  Some wag suggested micro-chipping of the people who frequent it might be a better approach. See Animal cruelty in Ireland and Smithfield Market

The authorities, of course, have done nothing, despite the existence of a free-for-all horse market in the centre of a capital city being an inherently dangerous entity.  I personally know of someone who was innocently driving down the quays a couple of years back, and was surprised to see a horse dash out and leave a few hoofmarks in the side of her car.  This is Ireland, after all.

Maybe this latest incident will make the Powers That Be take some sort of action?  

Big thanks to Irishforfecksake for the Shooting at Irish Horse fair video.

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

One in five girls too large for Communion dresses / My First Communion

I well remember the day I made my First Holy Communion. I was rigged out in a little grey suit with short trousers, aunt-knitted socks with the texture of marbles under my feet, and patent leather shoes that cut into the rest of them. I was taken up to Ross's on Grafton Street for a photo shoot, the results of which I possess to this day.

My old pair borrowed a car for the occasion – a Mini that belonged to another aunt who was in America with a showband.  For some reason – a tea break at Leyland or something – water swilled around the footwells of the car, and I had to keep my patent leather shoes to either side to avoid the puddles.

Then, as the car had been left lying in my evil grandmother’s front garden in Crumlin, we had to get out and push it now and again -  suit, socks, patent leather shoes and all.

Other than that, it was a good day. I managed to avoid mortal sin by making sure the host (a biscuit that we were told contained God) did not touch my teeth, and it all went smoothly enough.

Then it was time for the good part - off to the relatives to get some money for Corgi cars and other such coveted goods.  By the time we and the Mini, which got into its stride as the day went on, had visited all the relatives, I had the grand tally of six pounds in my inside pocket.

Six pounds was a lot, as the old man was only on about 20-odd quid a week at the time.  Quite a handsome profit, in fact.   I was well impressed with this God thing and was already looking forward to my Confirmation.

Anyway, when I got home I put my six quid into a drawer in the living room.  Now and again I opened the drawer and marvelled at it.  A James Bond Aston Martin, a two-tone Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, a London Transport bus with “Outspan” adverts on the side were pencilled into the budget. No Corgi was safe.

One day, however, I opened the drawer and found the money was gone. My brother was too young for thieving at the time (he was four) so the finger of suspicion pointed squarely at my parents. They were “minding it” for me, I was told. 

Apparently, there were needs more urgent in the young Gombeen Man household than Corgis – cigarettes and ESB bills, for instance. Whenever I challenged them on it thereafter, I was told I had “got it back by now”. Presumably by instalments.

I got over the trauma eventually (?) but still brought it up in conversation for years after - right up until well after my Confirmation, when I was more careful.   My parents are both dead now – natural forces rest them – and all is forgiven. 

But what about today’s kids?  I just heard on the radio that one-in-five seven-year-old girls are too large to fit into “standard sized” communion dresses. That is shocking. Seven years old, and already on the way to a lifetime of obesity.

Nowadays, of course, they are whisked away from the churchyard by helicopter in their Christian Dior Communion dresses (that's sooo Celtic-Tiger era) to get Ronaldo-esque sums of money from their relatives.  Sums of money that, even allowing for inflation, leave my six quid in the ha'penny place.

Perhaps - like Sergeant Pluck in Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman, who stole citizens' bicycles to save them from the perils of molecular degeneration - the most responsible thing the little dears' parents could do is rob them of their Communion money.

Otherwise, you just know they are going to spend it on sweets.

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Irish education authorities will learn the hard way.

It is easy to accuse someone of “being wise after the event”.  

But really, we at Gombeen Nation were ahead of  the posse on the subject of Ireland’s eventual economic collapse.  OK, the blog has only being going since 2007 (and there were only a few patchy entries that year), but we anticipated the crash  long before taking to the Blogosphere. In truth, anyone who wanted to see it, could.

Likewise now, with regard to education.  Ireland, having long been a country of net emigration, became a country of net immigration during the boom years. You can see it clearly in areas such as Dublin 15 where there is a large migrant population, many of them naturalised Irish citizens.

But what has been done by our lazy, or negligent, authorities to embrace and help integrate these New Irish - some of whom do not have adequate English - in the field of education?  Very little, it seems.

Out of a total of 31 countries studied in the International Migration Policy Index (part funded by the EU) 22 other states surveyed supported immigrant languages and 12 provided outreach to pupils' parents. (Irish Times, Ireland slow to integrate migrants into schools, 1st March).

Ireland, by contrast, has actually cut back on basic English language support in schools. And this in a primary school system of 476,000 children with 45,700 classified as “immigrant pupils”!

What the Irish elite/authorities are doing, in fact, is creating another underclass. They did it before with the country’s indigenous disadvantaged working class, mainly through poor educational policies, lack of opportunity, and ghettoisation.  Now they want to repeat the same sorry feat with the New Irish.

Ireland has already dropped from 5th in 2000, to 17th place in 2009 (out of 39 countries)in current OECD/PISA literacy rankings.  Yet the Department of Education is doing little to address the changing demographic of Ireland’s young school goers, with only 58 Educate Together primary schools nationwide, and little dedicated support in mainstream schools.   At secondary level, there is not one Educate Together school, despite vigorous campaigning. Not one!

As demonstrated before, our powers-that-be are notoriously slow learners.  But unless they become proactive on the issue of inclusive education, providing targeted English language support to those who need it  -  and a subsequently decent education - there are going to be big, big problems down the line.

But being wise in advance is not our authorities' strongest subject... they will probably have to learn the hard way.  Again.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Mary Harney paint protest and Two-Jabs Prescott egging - Different responses.

I don’t watch Top Gear that often these days. It used to be about cars but now it’s all about the burgeoning egos of Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May.  

I looked at it last Sunday, however, as it included a feature on the old Porsche 959, and I quite like Porsches – though Clarkson disparagingly refers to them as arsed-ended Hitler-mobiles. For the record, they aren’t all arse-engined; the Boxster has its engine amidships and the Cayenne… well the Cayenne is just a jumped-up Volkswagen Touareg and doesn't count.

Anyway, “what’s this got to do with Irish politics?”  you may ask. Well a bit, actually. You see Clarkson had a certain John Prescott on as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Prescott, an Old Labour stalwart, was previously known as Two-Jags Prescott, as he once owned two Jaguars.

Then, a few years back, his nickname changed to Two-Jabs Prescott.  Why?  Well, in 2001 a man with a mullet pelted Prescott with an egg as he stepped off his election campaign bus in Wales.  Prescott, presumably in the heat of the moment, hit out at the man who launched the missile, a farm worker named Craig Evans. There was an unseemly scuffle between the two and the protester was arrested.

In the end, it all blew over. No charges were pressed against Evans for splattering Prescott with egg yolk and no charges were made against Prescott for his rather puny pugilistic performance. And that’s how it should have been. The incident even makes a humorous advert now (see video below).

Contrast that with Mary Harney, who saw the protester who hurled red paint  at her last year in court. The demonstrator, from Republican sect Eirigi, threw the paint at Harney in protest at her record in charge of the health service. The court found her guilty of assault and imposed a two-month suspended sentence and fined her €1,500.

Now, I don’t know if Mary Harney actually pressed charges, or if the police just took it upon themselves to do so - but either way, they should have had more sense. All the more so, in view of the fact that people have actually died unnecessarily while waiting for treatment, scans, or colonoscopies in our awful public health system – Susie Long being the most high profile example.

Getting hit with a bit of paint is not such a big deal, and something any politician should be able to rise above.  

And is there not something inherently self-defeating, from an establishment perspective,  in giving the protesters another day in the national news?

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