Friday, 28 December 2012

"U2 tax dodgers" (graffiti spotted in Dublin)

Some time ago I read - and I'm damned if I have been able to find the article since - that Van Morrison, unlike U2, had not availed of Ireland's artists' tax exemption - a wheeze introduced by one of the country's most corrupt (and therefore most respected) politicians ever, Charlie Haughey.

If it is true, it is interesting, for the dour Belfast man is generally known for being a tetchy, grumpy so-and-so;  while the members of U2 - Bono in particular - are known for their vocal, and very public, devotion to helping eradicate poverty in the Third World...

Now U2 will point out that they are not tax dodgers, as the no-doubt libelous statement (left) proclaims. 

Indeed it looks like Bono or The Edge might even have been out with the paintbrush overnight in an attempt to erase the graffiti, spotted on Dublin's Benburb Street.

But we must tread carefully here.  Here is a group of leather-trousered philantropists who chased an ex-employee through the courts for a hat.

U2's decision to move part of their operation to Holland, when a cap (not a hat) was put on the amount of money rich artistes could avoid tax on in Ireland, was morally wrong. 

At least it should have been morally wrong by the standards of people who preach to governments' on how more of their tax take should be spent on eradicating Third World poverty, while denying their own exchequers of their contribution.

Give me tetchy and grumpy any day - much easier to stomach than posturing, holier-than-thou, pop star hypocrites.

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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

I wish it could be Christmas every day

"I wish it could be Christmas every day", the song goes.  

And, you know, as sentiments go, it's not a bad one.   Christmas day is a time of great meaning and significance.   

It is a day when you don't have to go to work (at least I don't) and you can slob around the house stuffing your face with food and booze and not feel too guilty about it.   

You can compliment this inactivity with sitting on your lardy arse all day looking at videos and You Tube - TV programming is deliberately worse than usual on Christmas day for this reason - and nobody bats an eyelid.


Maybe you're a bit more "spiritual" than me?   If so, that's your affair, and I hope you enjoy the day in your own way. 

For me, one of the best summaries of the significance of Christmas can be found in a book I received from my sister-in-law, when she visited us from Brussels a couple of years back.  It featured in 2010's Christmas Day blog.

I'll  repost it today, as I think it's very good.  

Happy Christmas.

Given the day that's in it, I've just been flicking through "There's Probably No God - The Atheist's Guide to Christmas", edited by Ariane Sherine.  A very good read I got from the sister-in-law. 

 There's a short story in it by Jenny Colgan, who expands on her idea of what Christmas is all about for the discerning atheist:

"In the northern parts of the world, the winters are long, and cold and dark, and people would get sad and miserable. So they have always in the very depths of winter, form the beginning of recorded time, celebrated light, and life, and the promise of renewal and new birth, just when they most needed cheering up.  

And they would store food, and eat, and drink and be merry.  And, in time, [I love all the "ands" - very biblical - GM] different cultures and creeds passed over the world, and changed and added to the stories about why we were celebrating, and said that perhaps we were celebrating because of a green man, or Mithras, or Sol, or that the Baby Jesus was being born, or because Santa Claus is flying over the world.  And now, like all the millions of people who lived before us, we too use midwinter to see our family and exchange gifts, and feast and be merry and carry on traditions from our ancestors."

Sounds good enough for me. 

Whatever your interpretation - merry Christmas.

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Operation Freeflow, Blue Flu, speed vans and driving at night without lights

Remember Operation Freeflow?

When the coppers would do a bit of worthwhile work  by helping to keep traffic moving coming up to Christmas?
You know, the sort of stuff they do 52 weeks of the year in most other countries?

They stopped Operation Freeflow last year, in protest at the Garda recruitment ban. That and the infamous 1998
Blue Flu duvet day says much about where their priorities lie. We'd be better off with the Keystone Cops. At least they made an effort.

On a vaguely related note, one of the lads at work described how he was zapped by a Garda "safety van" on the Arklow Bypass as he did 10 klicks over the speed limit on one of the best stretches of dual carriageway you will find anywhere in the country.  

 "Saaaving liiiives" my pert little arse - boosting their "gotcha" statistics more like.  

Fish, barrels and all the rest.  But it will look great come the next Garda/RSA report when people can read how many dangerous, speed-addled, reckless drivers the fuzz interecepted.  

What, though, about gobshites who drive around at night withouth their head/tail lights switched on?  

Imagine my surprise when, driving along Parkgate Street at about 9.30pm on Wednesday, the 19th of December, I was overtaken by an unmarked, speeding Ford Mondeo made visable only by flashing blue illumination.

Are Garda drivers deliberately leaving headlights off in protest at cutbacks? Are they trying to save precious financial and planetary resources?  Is it some kind of Bondesque, super-sleuth thing, blending in with the darkness?

Or are some of them just very bad, very inattentive - and potentially very dangerous - drivers who don't even notice they are driving at night with no headlights on?   See pic above.

I'll have my guess.  Call me a cynic.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Irish national anthem copyright scandal from the archives

Whilst flicking through one of the local freebie papers, I spotted the following reproduction from its "archives" feature:  namely an Irish Press article of 1932. 

It concerned a certain Peader Kearney -  who wrote The Soldier's Song, our little republic's national anthem -  and the issue of copyright when said ditty was given an airing in Dublin cinemas of the day..  

The Soldier's Song was later translated into Gaelic by our cultural nationalist leaders, who felt it wasn't Irish enough in its vernacular form, rendered as it was in a way that most of us could understand. 

And maybe they were right, for once? 

Most national anthems are jingoistic gibberish.  

Even the catchy Italian one  -  which sounds a bit like Rossini's Thieving Magpie crescendo from start to finish  -  is accompanied by bloodthirsty lyrics that might even have made Padraig Pearse blush. 

 It is probably for the best that people don't understand what is being said.

But copyright?   Have a read of the extract below.

And who said "republicans"  were fundamentally opposed to royalties?

See also:

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Friday, 14 December 2012

Residents to "share cost" of repairing roads

Remember a few years back when B-B-B-Bertie was giving lectures around the world on how to run (no, not ruin) economies, and Mary Harney was blabbing on about how Ireland was closer to Boston than Berlin?

When Paddy and Mary O'Gobshite, in general,  thought they had suddenly stolen a march over the best financial and entrepreneurial brains on the planet by discovering a way to make capital assets appreciate in value into perpetuity?  

All shite, of course.  

B-B-B-Bertie Ahern was just a dishonest, bribe-taking shyster ("I wun itt onna horse"),  Mary Harney was talking out of her far-from-insubstantial arse, and Paddy and Mary O'Gobshite's mad borrowing - replicated by thousands and thousands of Paddy and Mary O'Gobshites all over the country - made our crazy little country bankrupt.

Boston or Berlin.  That is: the US free-enterprise, low tax, scant-welfare model  –  or Berlin, the sluggish, state-dependent,  high-tax, abundant-welfare model.   The Irish political class, however, want it both ways:  high taxation while offering little in return.

Ireland - even during the bubble - was never a low tax economy, unless you were Bono, a US multinational, or one of the thousands of property speculators – amateur and "professional" – who destroyed the country with government assistance via tax shelters and incentives.  

Now we have Leo Varadkar, very much in the Harney mould, telling people who pay income tax, PRSI, property tax, the Universal Social Charge, credit card tax, insurance levies, RTE licence fees,  Deposit Interest Retention Tax,  cheque book tax,  road tolls, road tax, Vehicle Registration Tax and Value Added Tax will be given the opportunity to partake in a scheme which will

"allow people to help share the cost of repairing local roads – or do it themselves – from next year."

I'm not making this up.  See below, from last weekend's Irish Independent:

Residents may have to share cost of repairing roads – or grab a shovel

By Paul Melia
Saturday December 08 2012

THE public may be asked to get out their shovels and wallets if they want their local road repaired.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar says a new scheme will allow people to help share the cost of repairing local roads – or do it themselves – from next year.

Between €5m and €10m will be made available from the Government, with further funding to be sourced from the public.

He added it would allow minor works such as potholes to be repaired which might otherwise not be addressed.

"There are proposals to introduce a new community involvement scheme for regional and local roads on a pilot basis in 2013 involving an exchequer contribution of between €5m and €10m," he said.

"This revised scheme should allow communities and the State to share the cost, or the workload, involved in repairing minor roads which wouldn't otherwise be improved."
Similar schemes are already in place in local authorities.

Laois County Council has a Community Involvement in Roadworks Scheme, which applies to all public roads in the county.

This scheme allows residents who want to have road improvements carried out to part-fund the cost of the works jointly with the council.

In Roscommon, at least 25pc of the cost must be met by local residents who want the work carried out.

The Department of Transport said details, which were still being worked out, were due to be announced in a few weeks.

A spokesman said the community element of the scheme was not yet clear, but money would be available to local authorities to employ local contractors.

"There used to be a local improvement scheme, and it's a similar idea where there's community involvement but it's being developed," a spokesman said.
"It's being looked at, and funding is being provided. It's very early days."

The scheme is expected to apply to local roads, including country lanes and boreens.
Meanwhile, a €22m new road improvement scheme from Carrick Bridge to Clonfad Road (Dalystown) in Co Westmeath was opened yesterday.

The N52 improvements cover 5.6kms of single carriageway, and will reduce travel times between both areas by about one-third.

Mr Varadkar said it would "significantly" improve road safety, adding that the work was completed three months ahead of schedule.

He added that four road schemes would be completed next year: the Belturbet bypass, Cork Southern Ring Road interchanges upgrade, Tralee bypass and a section of the N4 in Co Westmeath.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Belfast City Hall controversy might flag problems for future

The current disturbances in Northern Ireland – provoked by Belfast City Council narrowly voting to fly the UK flag 15 days a year  - are a reminder of unpleasant days gone by, albeit on a smaller scale.    

It could also be a foretaste of what might lie further down the line should the united Irelanders ever get their way, and so bring about a sizeable unionist minority marooned in a country informed and inspired by narrow – and bogus – notions of Catholic, Gaelic Irishness.

It is not difficult to imagine a resurgent campaign of terrorism in such a scenario – the protagonists this time, however, being exclusively loyalist and their theatre of operations encompassing the whole island.

Despite the peace process the tribal divisions are as marked as ever in Northern Ireland.   The following piece from The Irish Times by former Alliance leader, John Cushnahan, contains some information that should – but no doubt won't – prove instructive to those entrusted with political responsibility north of the border, and those who beat the cultural nationalist drum here south of it.

Peace is a fragile plant that needs careful nurturing

Mon, Dec 10, 2012, Irish Times.

OPINION: We cannot afford to be complacent about the situation in Northern Ireland
In this part of Ireland – the South – many people, including some politicians, look at images beamed from Northern Ireland and conclude that the “ghosts of the past have been finally laid to rest”.

It is not difficult to understand their optimism when they see television footage of DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson sharing a joke with Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at a GAA match.

This “feel-good” factor is further strengthened when Peter Robinson says at his party’s annual conference that the party will now seek Catholic support and when Martin McGuinness strongly condemns the murder of policemen and prison officers by dissident republicans.

Unfortunately the events of the weekend and last week prove otherwise. As she witnessed the developments which occurred during her visit to Ireland, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton correctly warned that Northern Ireland’s peace process was still very much “a work in progress”.

The attacks on police and on the homes and constituency offices of Alliance Party elected representatives following the debate in Belfast City Council over the flying of the Union flag were followed by a death threat issued against its east Belfast MP, Naomi Long.

It is no coincidence that this was preceded by the circulation of 40,000 leaflets by DUP and Ulster Unionist activists in east Belfast in advance of the vote, which inflamed tensions. It is also no coincidence that east Belfast just happens to be the former constituency of Peter Robinson before he was toppled by Naomi Long.

Meanwhile, nationalist members of Newry and Mourne District Council voted to name a children’s playground in Newry after dead hunger striker and IRA terrorist Raymond McCreesh.
And to further remind the parties in Stormont of the threats that existed outside their cosy Stormont forum, dissident republicans were busy preparing a bomb attack in Derry. Thankfully, they were prevented from causing bloodshed by excellent police work.

All politicians throughout these islands should pause and reflect on the true state of the peace process, and ask themselves where it is in danger of heading. Peace in Northern Ireland is a very fragile plant. It needs careful nurturing and ever-vigilant protection.

Considerable threats remain and, as events of last week so patently illustrate, a chain of events still has the potential to derail the entire process.

The images of a smiling Robinson and McGuinness perceived to be working harmoniously together induces a dangerous complacency.

It is true that remarkable progress has been made in Northern Ireland – as illustrated by what is happening in the corridors of power. Unfortunately the situation is totally different on the ground.
Attitudinal surveys carried out since the establishment of the Good Friday agreement have consistently revealed that the gulf between Northern Ireland’s divided communities is as wide as it ever was. Some have found that the polarisation is worse now than it was even at the height of the Troubles, and is increasing.

Furthermore, we should not forget that five times as many so called “peace walls” – physically segregating Northern Ireland’s historically divided communities – have actually been built (rather than come down) since the signing of the agreement.

The carving up of power between the former political extremes will not, of itself, bring about the changes in attitude that are necessary to guarantee a permanent peace.

The sharing of political power at the top level must be paralleled by sustained political initiatives at community level designed to reduce fear, create trust, build respect for difference and bring about true reconciliation.

The war may be over but the battle for reconciliation has not even begun. Until it happens, incidents such as those that happened outside Belfast City Hall or that occur at sectarian flashpoints have the potential to spill over into something more serious, as has occurred in the past.

Those who share power at the top level have a duty of leadership. They cannot indulge in cynical politics which heightens sectarian tensions, either by raising false fears about flags or insensitively naming children’s playgrounds after dead terrorists.

Their responsibilities, because they hold the top offices in government, extend beyond their own immediate political base.

They have a duty to work actively to unite the community and stop pandering to their tribal power base. Otherwise the peace that has been won at such a terrible cost of life and limb will be in danger of dissolving once again into violent sectarian conflict.

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Friday, 7 December 2012

The RSA and icy roads. Mutually exclusive, it seems.

Someone I know rather well is employed in Meath - perish the thought - and encountered one van and a car nestling in the ditch on the way to work on Tuesday morning.   The reason?   Icy roads untroubled by a layer of grit.

Cutbacks, I assume. 

We'll still have the authorities taking down signs to replace them with new ones featuring Gaeilge predominant over the vernacular, and painting out the English on signs leading to the Gaeltacht, but we won't have property-tax/income tax/road tax  money spent on gritting the roads when they are covered in ice.   But this is Ireland, after all.

Any chance of opting out of your "services", Irish authorities, and keeping my money in my pocket in exchange?  No?   I didn't think so.  

  It also makes you wonder about the  RSA (Road Safety Authority) - the quango charged with "saaaving liiiiives" on our roads.   

What is that body for, apart from issuing expensive platitudes?

See excellent letter below, from the corresponding page of The Irish Times, November 30, 2012:

Cold comfort on icy roads

Sir, – Having driven on perilous icy untreated roads from Terenure to Ardee, Co Louth on Wednesday, I witnessed four accidents, five near-accidents and miles of treacherous untreated roads.

Having worked in UK where at the merest whiff of ice or snow a comprehensive management plans swings into action and local authority managers are accountable for their performance in relation to gritting and keeping roads open, I mistakenly assumed such performance standards would pertain in this country.

To this end I telephoned the relevant county councils only to be fobbed off and dismissed. The Road Safety Authority suggested referring the matter to my TD.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is tasked with improving safety on our roads in order to reduce death and injury resulting from road collisions. The legal basis for the RSA is set out in the Road Safety Authority Act 2006. An objective of the RSA is to bring Ireland’s road safety record into line with “best practice” countries throughout the world, another is “road safety research”, yet the response was to suggest that road safety is a political issue and not a statutory, civil or human right under the law, and it had no responsibility, merely to suggest that drivers drive “more slowly and with care”.

Only in Ireland, where we pay VRT, VAT, motor tax and excise duty, do we get nothing back but tolled icy roads. If the RSA doesn’t have a policy “remit” for the safety of the actual safety roads itself, what is its remit and why is it in existence?

Where is the joined-up Government performance management of this recurring health hazard? – Yours, etc,

Greenlea Drive,
Dublin 6W.

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Michael O'Leary calls The Gathering "The Grabbing"

Not a month after actor Gabriel Byrne described "The Gathering" – Irish officialdom's' attempt to celebrate "Irishness" by attracting gullible, spending-prone fools to Ireland in 2013 – as "a scam", another Irish public figure has spoken out on the coming event.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO, renamed the event "The Grabbing" while speaking at an aviation conference today in Dublin.

See Irish Independent report below:

RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary lashed out this morning at everybody from unions and business group to the government and the Dublin Airport Authority and labelled next year’s ‘Gathering’ as ‘The Grabbing’.

“May I welcome you to The Grabbing,” the outspoken chief executive told nearly 200 delegates from Ireland an abroad in blistering attacks at an aviation conference in Dublin. “Because this time, you’re screwed.”

He said the Dublin Airport Authority was raising charges at a time that will coincide with next year’s ‘Gathering’ event that the government is hoping will lure an additional 325,000 tourists to the country in 2013. The DAA has previously described the increases as “modest”, saying it hadn’t raised its core charges in two years.

“We like, actually, the Gathering. I thought it wasn’t a bad idea. There’s no reason not to welcome everyone back to Ireland,” said Mr O’Leary.

But he said that increasing charges at the airport and hiking bus and rail fares flew in the face of the efforts to promote the Gathering.

He also criticised government aviation policy – just as the government formally announced its plans for separating Shannon Airport from the DAA structure and making it an independent business.

Mr O’Leary told international delegates that it was his first visiting the National Conference Centre in Dublin.

“It’s my first time in the National Conference Centre – the second big white elephant building in this country after the DAA’s T2,” he said. “For those of you who are visiting this country and want to realise why we are broke, you’re sitting in it.”

- John Mulligan


O'Leary is always good for a quote or two, and delights in stirring it up.  Always in his and Ryanair's interests, of course, but he can be quite amusing with it. 

The country is going down the tubes thanks to the stupidity of those who sit in government, and who maintained a deafening silence while in "opposition" as Fianna Fail ruined the economy with capital gains tax reductions and property tax incentives during the country's crazy property bubble.   

A bubble that has saddled the taxpayer with massive debts, which Brian Lenihan made sovereign with his bank guarantee.

Now we have "The Gathering" – even as thousands are forced to emigrate because of the foolishness of their leaders, and large sections of the Irish population at large.  

The Gathering is nothing more than a shameless attempt to attract gullible tourists with shallow notions of "Irishness" and deep pockets full of wonga.

An embarrassing pukefest of Paddywhackery and gobshitery, to which Ireland's greedy publicans, hoteliers, restaurateurs and assorted gombeens will hope to add the soundtrack of ringing greasy tills.

"The Grabbing", is right.  

If they can find enough gobshites to fall for it.