Monday, 29 October 2012

Right Price - wrong spelling

Most of us are guilty of the odd typo now and then - anorak wearers have even spotted one or two on this illustrious blog over the years - but a ratio of 1/7?

Wasn't there a spell-checker availeable?

Snapped at Right Price Tiles, Fonthill, Clondalkin.

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Irish Rail announcements and the Brussels experience

Between one thing and another, I've had reason to spend a lot of time in Brussels over the past three-and-a-half months.  I doubt  I will be back again, as it happens.

But being here has given me time to see how a genuine city - as opposed to an overblown village like Dublin, surrounded by a vast swathe of housing estates - should be.

Brussels is relatively clean, has a good transport system (see pic above, with metro trains arriving every four-or-so minutes).

It is also interesting to observe a truly bi-lingual city/country. Belgium - composed of two mutually distrustful linguistic groups, the Flems and the Walloons - came about because... you can wiki it if you are really interested...  I can't be arsed.

Anyway. Belgium's bi-lingualism is very real (it is officially tri-lingual, including the German-speaking bits to the east). Ireland's official bi-lingualism, as opposed to its true bi-lingual communities who speak our English along with Polish, Latvian, Cantonese or otherwise, is a State-sponsored sham by contrast.

 Funny then, when you are on a metro train in Brussels, one thing that is immediately noticeable is the unobtrusive nature of the recorded announcements. "Vandervelde", "Josephine Charlotte" and so on. Just enough information to let visually impaired people who step on the train know where they are going, or what station is coming up next.

 In Ireland, an officially faux bi-lingual country, people are subjected to whole tracts of Gaeilge-only announcements on our commuter trains – the DART crowd would never stand for it, despite the sizeable Gaelscoil-for-educational-advantage supporting minority amongst them.

 On the Maynooth line, it is possible to step on a commandeered intercity carriage and have a Gaeilge-only announcement tell you where you are going. It is quite funny to watch the consternation of tourists who must disembark at Broombridge Station, having listened to a welter of gobbledygook since they left Connolly, only to realise that they are heading west instead of north. Welcome to Ireland. And watch out for the muggers. Next train back to Connolly - sorry, "Stáisiún Uí Chonghaile" -  in an hour or so.

There was some controversy about the inadequate nature of the announcements on Irish Rail trains there a while back. Apparently they are inaccurate much of the time, but little was said about the intrusion of Official Ireland Gaelic and its contribution to the confusion.

If you ever take the 18.10 train from Connolly to Maynooth you will find the announcements are in a language most of us do not understand. Due to the incompetence/indifference of CIE personnel the Gaelic announcements on the inter-city trains have not been abridged to take account of the shorter journey times between stations of a commuter train.

 So we get interminable announcements – Gaelic first of course, thanks to the obnoxious heap of shite that is Eamon O’Cuiv and the whole parliament of genuflecting gobshites who could not stand up to him – which do not allow the vernacular to get a word in.

But this is Ireland.

If you are visually impaired, best make sure you are a Gaelic hobbyist before travelling on the Maynooth line with Ionars...Iarnord...Inroaad... Irish Rail.

Otherwise, make sure you have nothing in your pockets when you disembark at Broombridge.

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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fish farms planned for Galway Bay

Years back, I did a one-week, live-on, keelboat sailing course around the west Cork coast which played havoc with my lower back.  Headroom 5 feet + height 6 feet = lower back agony for weeks.  
One day, when I wasn't bent double in pain for about 10 minutes,  we dropped a fishing jig into the ocean.   As a reward, we got platefuls of wild mackerel for our dinner, cooked on board.  Lovely. 
I was warned by Andreas (the instructor), however, to avoid - when I went back to my landlubber life - the mussels of one particular bay.  Farmed, he said, not far from a sewage outlet.  Seasoning, I suppose. 
Things are seldom done properly in Ireland, so perhaps we should pay heed to the sender of the email below, who warns of the consequences of two massive fish farms in Galway Bay.  The fella seems to know what he is on about, and has - as far as I can see - no vested interests, other than to stop the place from being destroyed.
Dear GM,

I am very concerned about the plans to create two salmon fish farms totalling 456 hectares in the Galway Bay area. The long term potential negative impact on Ireland's environment and the dire consequences for angling and tourism in the vicinity are all too clear to many -except the Minister responsible - Simon Conevey TD

This issue first hit the national press again in August this year - see

Despite the clear outline of the damage salmon farming operations do to the environment, Simon Conevey has pressed ahead with his plans to create up to 350 jobs in the new proposed farms. No account seems to have been taken by him of the potential jobs that will vanish in the angling, tourist and hotel industries when people stop coming to fish because there are no sea trout and fewer salmon.

Some might ask why salmon farming is such a threat to native species. It is quite simple. The young salmon and sea trout follow the coast on their outward journey to feed at sea. When they reach where the proposed Salmon Farms are to be situated, they will stop, munch on the pickings and then get infested by the amazing numbers of sea lice that are attracted to these farms. Weakened by the parasites, the next generation of stock will lose strength and die. And then people will ask " Why are the salmon and sea trout not running this year?" Bookings will drop away, hotels will fail and the entire edifice will come crashing down. There will even be a reduction in income from Salmon Fishing Licences. But the Minister will say, "Hey, I have created jobs and helped produce food"

It is a bit like having a nuclear power station on your doorstep to keep the peat fires burning. The immutable Law of Unintended Consequences will have done its work again.

I know times are tough and jobs are hard to come by but surely Ireland deserves better than having these Salmon Farms on its doorstep with all the proven risks etc. It is not as if there are no precedents for the devastation caused by Fish Farming. Scotland, as ever, leads the way in grandiose job creation schemes which wreak havoc on the environment Anyone interested can easily research the issue by Googling as follow : Scottish west coast + west coast + sea trout stocks devastated.

It's not rocket science - it's aquaculture and false job creation or as Uncle Anagram puts it so nicely - Quarrel, obfuscation, ejaculate.

Come on Ireland, you deserve better and so does Mother Nature.

Tell Simon Conevey where to get off on this one. Who's creature is he, anyway? Those who enjoy what Ireland has to offer the visiting angler or the Boardroom of Marine Harvest? A company who, incidentally, seem to be adept networking with policiticians across the globe. Check out their track record in Peru where many communities were devastated by similar Fish Farming set ups.

Finally, I have left the Chemical bit to the end - how do the Fish Farms get rid of the Sea Lice from the Salmon in the Cages? Yes, that is correct. Chemicals. Stronger and stronger ones as the parasites become more and more resistant. Fancy a (sheep) dip, anyone? Farmed Salmon? It is enough to put me off my chicken nuggets.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Irish patriotism. Best not to think about it.

Bloody hell. What a reaction that last post on the pipe band  provoked? I haven't had so much fun in... well, a few days anyway.

With that in mind, it's time for another rather trivial post, which little Irelanders are invited to take offence at as much as they like.  

You see, any criticism of things "Irish" - as ordained by the ruling class that took power in 1922 -  is met with some rather extreme and bizarre reactions by sections of the Irish population.

You can't question things in Ireland.  It's unpatriotic. 

Even if you noticed your little Seanie walking back bandy-legged from his altar boy stint at St Marys in 1980, complaining of an inexplicably sore bottom, while the local priest was reputed to be "fond of the boys", you would not say anything.   You would not even think about it, for thinking would be unpatriotic.  

The corruption and stroke-pulling engaged in by much of our political class was also ignored.  Indeed, it was admired.  Ask anyone who voted for Dev, Haughey, Lawlor, Ahern and many others too numerous to mention in a blog post confined to about half-an-hour's gestation.    It was because these patriot politicians had an inherent contempt for due process  - a legacy of disdain for past British rule.  That's what it was. 

Likewise, we were supposed to feel a surge of patriotic pride when Irish builders and developers were buying up London landmarks - on tick, of course.   Revenge for Cromwell and The Famine and all that .  The 800 years and all the rest.  Jasus, it's great to see an Irishman sticking one up to the Brits!

Now we are paying off their loans, in some form or another, while crooked builders and solicitors have fled the country.    We have swapped absentee landlords for another variety of shyster.   

But they are Irish shysters, so it's OK.  

Doesn't it bring a patriotic lump to your pants?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Clew Bay Pipe Band - their part in Ireland's downfall.


1-6... it could nearly be a GAH score, except in this case you had to get the ball past a goalkeeper into a 17.86 metres space.  


I wonder what part the Clew Bay Pipe Band played in this debacle?    

 Pipes, whether the windblown or armpit perpetuated type, are intrinsically annoying instruments.   They were the only things that stopped the Romans from invading Jockland.  Fact.

 Just before the Ireland v Germany match started, you could see the Germans bristling as their national anthem was debased by the squawlings of the pipers.  

 Pipes, you see, don't seem to consider octaves.  Either they are within one register, or at the point  just north of where human ears mercifully give up, and dogs take over.   

I have never heard such a debased version of the German national anthem, nor the Irish one  -  but we are used to that kind of parody. 

The Germans aren't.  They were out for revenge, and justifiably got it.

Whatever about all that, if we are to progress as a (world) footballing nation, we need to get rid of Trapattoni.  He was well past his sell-by date, even when appointed. 

It will cost John Delaney, head of the FAI.

He might have to ask some questions of the the Clew Bay Pipe Band, or even more painfully,  take a cut in his overblown salary to pay Trap off.


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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Gleann Riada. Our little statelet in microcosm - it should never have been allowed

Perhaps if you never lived anywhere else in your life, you will think the following is quite normal? Run-of-the-mill even?

It is an RTE news report telling us how residents of a Longford housing estate - Gleann Riada - cannot light fires in their living rooms due to the possible inconvenience of a very large explosion.

Other residents, who are mortgaged way over their heads for what they once thought were their dream homes, are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and have had to evacuate the place.

It seems that the estate was constructed in rather a slapdash fashion during the Government-sponsored property bubble. It seems it was also built on a floodplain, and the foundations on which the sewers were laid are cracking to pieces, resulting in the widespread emission of "noxious" smells and gases throughout the dwellings.

The phrase "where else would you get it" is a very well-worn one here on the blog. But really? This is bizarre and grotesque even by Irish standards.

But not maybe not unprecedented, as those who bought houses during the bubble on other floodplains, or in crumbling estates riddled by pyrite, might testify.

What a madhouse.

HSE calls for urgent assessment of Longford housing estate

RTE, Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The HSE's National Director of Health Protection has said that all remaining houses on the Gleann Riada housing estate in Longford are unsafe to live in unless urgent assessments are carried out.

Dr Kevin Kelleher was speaking after a meeting with residents in Longford this afternoon. He said the HSE did not have the power to evacuate the remaining 79 houses in the estate.
However, he said there was clear evidence of the effect of carbon monoxide, methane and hydrosulfite in the area and the gases from the sewers were dangerous. Dr Kelleher repeated his warning that residents should not light open fires in their sitting rooms.
He said he has been told by residents they were suffering from symptoms, such as headaches and nausea, and there was an urgent need for each resident to have an assessment carried out on their home.

Dr Kelleher said he will pass on the information to Longford County Council.
In a statement, Longford County Council said it is constrained in what it can say due to legal proceedings undertaken by some of the residents.

However, it said all residents should ensure adequate ventilation in the house, do not light open fires, install carbon monoxide alarms in each house and maintain water traps in all toilets. It said the council will continue to work closely with the HSE in relation to this issue.
Meanwhile, the HSE primary care centre for Co Longford has been located on a site adjacent to the Gleann Riada estate.

The developer behind the primary care centre, Frank Kelly, told RTÉ News that even though the centre is built on the same floodplain as Gleann Riada, he is "100%" satisfied there will be no issues with gases or smells.

Mr Kelly said he has replaced the entire sewerage pipe network in the building. He said that even though the primary care centre would use the same mains network as Gleann Riada, he was certain there would be no adverse effect on the residents who were experiencing noxious smells and gases. Mr Kelly said Gleann Riada had been developed by a separate company. 

The HSE began an investigation into levels of noxious gases in the area after an explosion at a house in the estate. Engineers have blamed it on serious faults discovered in the foundations of the sewers, which have resulted in high levels of methane and carbon monoxide.

The initial explosion in the estate blew out a front window of one house and caused major internal structural damage. After a second incident on Friday, an engineer representing over 30 residents called for the development to be evacuated.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Autoworld Brussels - not a place for crusties or Young Shinners

Ireland has never been a motoring nation.  Apart from bolting together VW Beatles which arrived in crates from Germany between 1950 and 1980.  That was Ireland's car industry.

Cars have always been treated with suspicion in Ireland, a place whose inhabitants still - subliminally or otherwise - hanker after donkeys and carts, piebalds and sulkies.  I think it goes back to Dev and the rest of the statelet's founders, who treated urbanisation, technology and modernity as threats.

When young American guys were motoring off to the drive-in movies with their broads by their sides, young Paddy and Mary could only aspire to a bit of chaste stick-fighting, bogball or camogie at the local crossroads. Strictly segregated, and supervised by a priest.

It is no surprise that the only car assembled in Ireland - as far as I know, but am open to correction on this detail - was designed for a nationalist dictator whose vision (if not his interest in technological innovation) was a reactionary myth-based one.  Just to clarify - I am talking about Hitler here, not Dev.

I had a look at one of the Irish Internet forums recently  - Boards I think - on which a debate about VRT raged.  VRT is the government's punitive "vehicle registration tax" which makes we Paddies pay over 40% more for our wheels, in some cases, than our lucky neighbours up north.

Some arsehole young Shinner (for they are young, and they are the future of this little shithole, natural forces save us) on Boards defended the tax on the basis that money spent on cars was "money flowing out of the country spent on luxuries".

 I'm sure Dev would have approved.  I hope the same poster uses public transport or, if he lives in the majority of places in Ireland with no such thing, uses his sturdy Gaelic feet to move about the crust of dear old Erin while denigrating the trappings of modernity and materialism.   Gobshite.

Anyway.  I've just come back from a visit to Autoworld in Brussels and have a few nice pics from automotive history for your delectation.  

Young Shinners, crusties and Devonians look away now.



Thursday, 4 October 2012

Real life v "pro life"

Back in 2009 ,12 women a day travelled from Ireland to the UK to have crisis pregnancies terminated.

 4,422 patients gave an Irish address to UK clinics in that year,  with 142,060 women thought to have travelled to Britain for abortions since 1980 overall.

It would be interesting to hear if such people's voices are being heard in Ireland's latest abortion rights "debate".   Somehow I doubt it.

One of the best things I have read on this heated issue appeared in the Irish Times last month.  Well worth a read:

Real life demolishes absolutist stances on abortion


The Irish Times, Thu, Sep 13, 2012

I FIND the debate on abortion in this newspaper fascinating, not least for the personal reasons that I outlined in a previous column.

In line with a basic human inclination, both sides to the argument are guilty of trying to reduce an extremely complex issue to black-and-white absolutes, where principles seem to be of more importance than the people affected.

Yet each decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy is taken in isolation from all others, and is predicated on a human tragedy that has arisen from a particular set of circumstances. Most people on the “pro-life” side argue that abortion is always wrong, irrespective of extenuating circumstances: that such an act may even be on a par with murder.

Within this stricture, one can only presume, fall rape victims (including girls barely out of childhood and victims of incest); women and girls whose mental and/or physical health could be irreparably damaged by giving birth; foetuses so malformed that the baby’s chances of survival outside the womb would be negligible; and children who might survive but have only a short lifespan with little or no quality of life.

I sometimes wonder how a typical fundamentalist’s pro-life position would fare in a head-on collision with personal experience. Would it remain intact even if, for instance, instead of abstract woman it was oneself or a wife, daughter, mother or sister left pregnant by rape, or found to be carrying a hopelessly malformed foetus?

On the other side of the debate is the equally trenchantly held view that a woman alone should have the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy, regardless of the wishes of the prospective father. So vocal on this point are some pro-choice advocates, one might easily imagine that if they had their way the first question every just-informed father-to-be would be compelled to ask is, “Are you going to keep it, my love?”

It is worth bearing in mind that, even in countries where abortion is readily available, for the overwhelming majority of pregnant women the issue never arises. Abortion is only ever a last resort. Despite what many anti- campaigners like to suggest, no woman regards abortion as a means of birth control. And no one who has ever been privy to the traumatic after-effects of the termination of a pregnancy could possibly believe otherwise.

Should it be for a woman alone to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy? I would argue that, all things being equal, it shouldn’t be. But that position is rendered meaningless – merely rhetorical – by life’s realities. No woman in a loving, stable relationship would consider not consulting her partner before having an abortion. For those not in a stable relationship the decision falls by default upon the woman alone.

What if loving partners fundamentally disagree on whether an abortion is the least-worst option? Then, I’m afraid, no matter how strong the relationship, it has little hope of enduring, regardless of who finally acquiesces to the wishes of the other, as one partner will be left bitter and resentful.

For me, logic dictates that, in the event of a disagreement, it should be the woman’s wishes that prevail. It will be she, after all, who is left with the baby or the emotional scars.

The above does nothing to address the plight of a youngster or person with learning difficulties who has fallen pregnant. All one can hope in such an instance is that any decision taken by parents or guardians will reflect the wishes of the expectant mother, which might include a desire to carry the baby to full term and/or raise her or him.

Of course, most “pro-life” campaigners are driven by religious conviction and, outside of personal circumstances forcing a change of mind, they are unlikely to be swayed from their position. The churches and believers in general have as much right to their views as anyone else, and are as entitled to try to influence decision-makers as any other members of society.

However, while we all have a right to be heard, no one is under any obligation to act upon what we say. It isn’t even as though the Catholic Church, the most vocal opponent of abortion, is entirely at one on “sanctity of life” issues. Until recently, it was totally opposed to any use of contraceptives. However, this didn’t stop missionary nuns and priests who had to deal daily with the realities of HIV and Aids from distributing condoms in developing countries.

The church’s official position is now confused on the use of condoms, proving that even with religion, nothing is set in stone. As The Book of Mormon, a musical by the creators of South Park apparently puts it (in reference to a change in Mormon teachings that allowed non-white people to be priests): “I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.”

Perhaps He will change his mind again, in response not to clarion calls, but to the human tragedies that sometimes make abortion the only viable option.

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Monday, 1 October 2012

The streets of Dublin - full of stupid, snarling scumbags

Working in town, and putting an evening shift in every third Sunday or so, you get a good picture of Dublin, especially at night.   And do you know what?  It's not a very nice place.  

In fact, Dublin is scary  on a weekend evening if you do not have a bellyful of beer to buoy you up and give you a false sense of security.  

I just popped out for a kebab around 8pm and the streets are full of roaring, snarling scumbags whose inarticulate utterances would embarrass a family of apes.  

The only people you will see on the streets who are endowed with any tint of a civilised demeanor are the foreign workers and the tourists.  And the occasional stunningly handsome gent picking his way over to Abrakebabra.  

It really looks as though evolution has kicked into reverse in Ireland, though that can't really be the case, can it?  More than likely, it is because the Irish continue to breed like promiscuous rabbits - as if the world actually needs any more of their leprous devilspawn.  

It is also because Ireland has an education system which fails to instil any real education, or any sense of civic responsibility, into many of the people who are processed by it. 

Rote learning continues, with large periods of time devoted to nonsense subjects such as religion and Gaeilge.   Many maths teachers are not qualified, and many graduates take bullshit arts subjects and their third-level participation is more a reflection of their privileged social background than any intellectual abilities.  

Then there are areas where people simply do not go to university - ever.   These people make up Ireland's very large underclass - undercaste might be a better word - who will never have the opportunity to break out of their sink estates and make something of their lives, so self-perpetuating is the cycle they are trapped in and so complete is their exclusion from sampling the fruits of middle-class Official Ireland, such as they are.

Then again, as a fifth-generation Dubliner (at least), my own parents were from tenements in the inner city, and lived in such unglamorous spots as Fatima Mansions and Sean McDermott street.  But they were not ignorant, and nor were they scumbags.  Real, old Dubliners - the likes of whom seem to have died out.

As some of you may know, I've had reason to make a few trips to Brussels in the past three months, and it is another world.   No roaring gangs of scumbags staggering the streets, hurling abuse at people.  Pavements unsullied by copious deposits of phlegm, vomit, and spat-out chewing gum.   Plentiful litter bins that are actually emptied by the authorities.   It is, as I said, another world.

I'm going to sound like a right old fart now, but what is it with this upcoming generation of loud, ignorant morons?   And it seems to be a cross-class thing as well - say it loud, they're ignorant and proud.   Maybe those thrashy American TV programmes like Jackass and so on, where the object of the participants seems to be to behave as loudly and obnoxiously as possible, are partly to blame?  Or is there a post-bubble factor, with a generation many of whom were used to being spoilt rotten by their credit-swamped parents? 

Empty vessels make the loudest noise and all that.  

And Dublin's lamplit streets are full of them. 

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