Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Fiscal Treaty - vote "yes" or "no"?

"If we vote 'no' to this treaty, we're fucked.  Or even more fucked than we already are".

My local tyre dealer.

I suppose some people might say "what do you expect such a capitalist pig to say anyway?",  but when you see someone operating a viable business in a cut-throat industry for many years, you wonder if he hasn't got a very good reason for keeping his eye on the ball. 

What bothers me about the "no" side is their dishonesty.  A couple of examples:


Excuse me for asking, but who the hell are we to "demand" anything?  The country was bankrupted by the previous government, in cahoots with the Central Bank and an eager new Irish landlord class who swarmed like flies around ordure at every apartment launch in the country.

After we joined the eurozone McCreevy - who was hailed as a genius by the likes of Kevin Myers, then writing in The Irish Times - slashed capital gains tax from 40% to 20%.   The Irish Government continued to use property tax incentives to enable the building of apartment blocks that nobody would ever want to live in, in godforsaken kips all over the country.


Will voting "no" to the treaty end austerity?  No.  We will not be able to access European Stability Mechanism funds if we do so.  That means we will be reliant on the IMF.  The result can only be increased taxes or public service cuts.   And don't mind the Shinners saying we can default - they are only looking to get into coalition with FF in the next election, and will say anything to get a vote.  Until they get into power, of course.

So where is the blog on the Fiscal Treaty? 

Well, I can see why people want to give the government a bloody nose.  Then I can see the other cliche about dismembered noses and spited faces.  It would be nice to see the bollocks we all know and intensely dislike, Phil Hogan, reined back with his raft of not-so-stealthy stealth taxes for fear of upsetting the electorate until he can get a "yes" vote in a second, tweaked election, but will that happen?   Kenny has said it won't, but that means nothing, I suppose. 

But let's get back to the issue. Don't kid yourselves.  This is not about septic tanks, household charges and all the rest.  It is about making legal the fiscal parameters (which have been agreed) which eurozone countries must observe in order to preserve the currency in our pockets

The problem is it does not go far enough.  What is needed is closer fiscal and political union across the eurozone.   We need a proper eurozone, with tax harmonisation (no VRT, no allowing multinationals - and U2 - to dodge taxes) and the same conditions and rules for every member state.  Then we can have eurobonds, and stop the speculators targeting peripheral eurozone states on the markets.

That needs to happen.  Whether voting "yes" or "no" will hinder or help, I do not know with 100% certainty.  But it would be nice if people did actually vote on the issue in question, rather than heeding those who are being the  most disingenuous.

Will it be a "yes" or a "no" vote? 

It will be a  "no", I can see it.  

Let's see where that leaves us, and remember when the next election comes around.

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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sinn Fein cynicism promises more problems For Future

Sing along now: "Tommorrow belongs to us..."
Believe it or not, some tired old bloggers do have lives.  Even this one.   In fact, there has been so much going on lately, between one thing and another, that the blog has been greatly neglected the past few days.  

Plus, I am out of the Big Shmoke with my laptop, which features Internet Explorer.  Normally not such a problem, until Blogger decided to make its updated interface incompatible with IE with regard to some features.    It has taken me the past hour to make this type roman, rather than bold italic, for instance.  Yes, I know... you've told me a million times not to exaggerate.

But enough of all that.  I have to get a blog post up so here's something I meant to bring attention to ages ago. Namely, an Irish Times editorial on the opportunistic nature of Sinn Fein and the many, ever more evident, qualities they share with their future (junior) partners in coalition, Fianna Fail.  I think it makes some very good points about the cynical populism of this lot who promise less taxes, untouched public services, no bank debts, full employment and a reborn, Gaelic Ireland for everyone in the audience.

Sad thing is, they have many people suckered, as in times like these people are more likely to throw their lot in with a party that spouts populist shite louder than any other.  With a touch of anti-EU, Irish "patriotism" thrown in.  Especially bad news when you incorporate the most gullible upcoming generation since, since... the last one, I suppose.

Oh Jasus.  Do you remember that "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" scene at the end of Cabaret?    Imagine it with the pic above.


Shallow, cynical and wrong

IN THESE recessionary times, Sinn Féin has specialised in the blame game. In Northern Ireland, where the party shares ministerial power with the DUP, it blames a Tory-led British government for reducing the block grant and making life difficult. In this State, it blames the EU for the terms attached to Ireland’s bailout programme while, at the same time, fiercely opposing Government measures to grow the tax base. It operates as a quintessential opposition party, ignoring or misrepresenting economic and political realities in its quest for votes. And it is gaining support.

Fianna Fáil operated a similar tooth-and-claw regime during the economic downturn of the 1980s, before the realities of government and Fine Gael’s Tallaght strategy brought change to its fiscal approach. This time, Micheál Martin has offered constructive opposition to a struggling Government and, as a consequence, has created space for Sinn Féin and for politicians from the United Left Alliance. His support for the EU fiscal treaty has sharpened that divide, allowing Sinn Féin to lead the charge for a No vote in the referendum campaign.
There are major differences on this occasion. Rejection of the treaty could undermine the stability of the euro, while threatening greater austerity here and a flight of capital. Such negative outcomes are not recognised by Sinn Féin. Being prepared to dissemble brazenly, when the occasion demands, has become a feature of the party’s transition to mainstream politics.

Party leader Gerry Adams blithely insists that, in the event of a No vote, Ireland will be given vital funding by those countries that support the fiscal discipline of the treaty. The proposition is as flawed and disingenuous as his party’s selective use of comments made by prominent economists during the referendum campaign. Encouraging Irish voters to follow the example of Greece threatens economic and political chaos.

Defeating the treaty appears to be Sinn Féin’s sole objective, but it also seeks to cause terminal damage to Fianna Fáil. The prospect of a growth pact being added to the treaty at a later stage is dismissed as irrelevant. Mr Adams not only advocates a rejection of the agreed EU-IMF bailout terms but favours a default on Ireland’s debt. As for the €30 billion owed by the Government on Anglo promissory notes, it should not be paid. Fiscal fantasies of that nature, dismissing any nasty consequences and ignoring national commitments, were successfully peddled to the Greek people by the left-wing Syriza party. The outcome may yet be catastrophic.

In the 1980s, Irish people learned the hard way there is no such thing as a free lunch. Following years of political prevarication, painful but necessary fiscal adjustments were made. The economy recovered and living standards rose. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble remarked, in relation to Greece, that people who offered a discipline-free recovery were “spouting nonsense”. Ireland learned that lesson 30 years ago. Have we forgotten?


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Monday, 21 May 2012

Northern Ireland Gaelscoils - integrated education receives another blow

It is notable, even after decades of inter-communal murder and mayhem, that some people in Northern Ireland still haven't grasped the importance of expressing the commonality of the province's "two tribes", but prefer to promote and encourage difference.

There has been an ongoing debate up there on the merits of non-denominational education for as long as I can remember. 

Given how there is still much hatred and distrust between the "Catholic" and "Protestant" communities - I use quotation marks as even the relatively irreligious, in a normal sense, might describe themselves as such up there  - most might imagine that properly integrating these communities would be in everyone's interests. 

Sadly, however, there are those who make a living from sectarianism on both sides.  In the past, whenever workers from the two backgrounds showed signs of uniting on a class basis, the bosses used the politicians and preachers to stir up old sectarian hatreds.  

Apart from a few neanderthals such as Óglaigh na hÉireann/Continuity IRA and the Real IRA, who brought us Omagh, very few people have a desire to return to the era of day-by-day sectarian murders.  However, there is still a distinct distance between the two communities in general and a lack of mixing that any continent-dwelling denizen,  for whom the religious wars stay firmly in the history books, would find puzzling.

It is plausible that properly integrated education could bring the communities together within a few generations, so surely non-religious, secular schools would make sense in that regard?   People can have their religions - anachronistic as they are -  if they like, but they don't have to be promoted and funded by the State. 

Now we have another distraction, as evidenced by this article about a gaelscoil in Cookstown. Cultural nationalist party Sinn Fein is in favour of these, as they promote difference.  If that "difference" had not been carefully cultivated in the past,  the Shinners - and loyalist counterparts such as Paisley, the IRA's best recruiting agent in his prime - would never have had a look-in.  

It is ironic that the neo Gaelicism promoted by the Shinners and other cultural nationalists makes the prospect of their dream - a reunited Ireland - ever more unrealistic.  While at the same time making the prospect of one peaceful, united community in Northern Ireland even less likely.

What's next?  Ulster-Scots medium schools?  

Then we will know there really is no hope.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Irish taxi drivers "green light" for "Irishness". Or should that be "Tacsai"?

“Bricklayer needed ASAP. $250 a day, no part-time workers and NO IRISH”
Classified ad, Gumtree, Perth, Australia.  2012.  (Irish Independent, March 12th)

"Diversity is another euphemism for submission to an occupying force."
(Hippocampus, Irish Taxi Drivers' Forum, 2012.)

You can’t have it every way can you?  Some can’t have it any way at all, especially where brain cells are in question.

There was some – rightful - consternation here in Ireland about an ad that appeared in the Australian version of Gumtree, specifying that no Irish need apply for a bricklaying job. 

Here at home, it  was soon superseded by claims that Irish taxi drivers are using green lights to advertise their Irishness, and hopefully gain an advantage over their foreign competitors.

This is a trend that has been growing over the past few years.  First we had “Tacsai” signs.  A cod-Gaelic bastardisation of the international word “TAXI” to denote real Irishness.

Then we had taxis infected by green-white-and-orange stickers as though by a rash;  well in advance of the 2012 European Football Championship – claimed as a defence by one taxi driver in the video above.  I recall this started long before the qualifying games even began.

Pause for reflection

Now. Many people go off the deep end when taxi drivers are mentioned.  The soundings: “they are all ignorant bigots”. 

Can I suggest that is an ignorant assertion  in itself?

My own oul’fella was a taximan way back when a plate cost a few bob-and-a-bit.  I have been seated in many taxis where the driver – doing a bloody difficult and sometimes dangerous job – has been a perfectly sane, balanced individual, devoid of any racist ramblings.

I was captive once, however, to an ignorant individual who did not grasp that the best way to promote his xenophobic views was to keep his mouth shut.

But you get them in all walks of life.  And from all nationalities.

But as far as the professed innocence of this green light thing goes, let’s concentrate on the quote from one particular taxi driver on the newsreel above. 

“I’ve only heard about this thing about racism, that a green light is racism.  Guaranteed Irish on a package of sausages. Is that racist?”

If I ever see his green light, I will wait for the next taxi that does not have one.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tesco Grolsch offer sign of times ahead?

It looks like Roisin Shortall has had her way in increasing the cost of "low price" beer.  To save us from ourselves, you see.  And simultaneously raising yet more taxes, of course.

The (badly taken) pics you see were captured at Tescos Maynooth.  They boast of 300 ml Grolsch 12-packs on offer for the princely sum of €15.  Or, if you read the small print which you can't really see due to my challenged snapper skills, €43.44 per litre.  

OK, Tesco's mistake - but it could be an awful portent of things to come given our government's penchant for taxation, and Shortall's stated desire to increase it on booze in particular.

If it comes to that, we may as well plump for Sweden as an emigration choice in the years ahead.

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Friday, 11 May 2012

Traveller horse / sulky / racing in Limerick or Cork

 The heading on the video is not mine, by the way -  nor am I sure if it's in Cork or Limerick, as sources differ.  

I had to think before posting this one, for fear of being seen as jumping on the anti-Traveller bandwagon, so to speak.

If you want to test the self-espoused liberal credentials of an Irish person, just say the word "Traveller".    Watch their tolerance and understanding disappear in a volley of expletives through a foam-ringed mouth.

Not that there isn't anything to criticise in Traveller culture - there is.  But there are a lot more things that annoy me to a far greater extent.   If you read the blog at all, you'll know what they are.

I posted the video above as there is such a big fuss about it, on the airwaves and in the papers,  at the moment.   I think it is funny.

Funny in the "where else would you get it" sense, and funny in the sense that - apart from the pathetic Keystone Cops bit at the start with the Garda patrol car weaving ineffectually - our brave boys and girls in blue are keeping a very low profile indeed.

It seems they are adapting Falstaff's philosophy:

"The better part of valour is discretion, in the which better part I have sav'd my life."

And to think that I know someone who is having sleepless nights for going 5 km over the speed limit on the Dublin quays in the vicinity of a sneaky Garda speed camera van.

That's more their style.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

More Lottery funds for Enda backyard

Enda and Co came to power on a wave of reform promises.  Scrapping compulsory Gaeilge after Inter Cert,  abolishing the Senate, being the new broom to sweep away the corruption and cronyism of the Fianna Fail years.  

But Irish politicians can't help themselves, it seems.  Or maybe it's just the Irish in general - the public that sets the bar so low for its political class in the first place?

Only last week we had the crooked Lowry boasting how his political machine would continue even if he was hit by a bus (if only... and Bus Eireann has cut back on services).   The arrogance is incredible, but his public love him.  They vote him in because, it may be assumed, they are shysters too.

And now, according to the Indo, we have a disproportionate amount of National Lottery money winging its way to Mayo - old stamping ground of Pee and Bev Flynn.  Oh, and Enda Kenny.   

Plus ça change


Kim Bielenberg

Tuesday May 08 2012

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny’s home county has hit the jackpot with funding from the National Lottery since he became Taoiseach, an Irish Independent investigation can reveal.
The constituency was the biggest winner of Lottery-funded capital sports grants last year – getting double the allocation of Dublin city.

Lotto grants to Mayo surged by 70pc to €1.8m – leading to accusations that the funding scheme is open to being operated as a political slush fund.
Mayo moved from ninth to fourth in the rankings of total Lottery grants paid per head of population after Mr Kenny became Taoiseach.

The funding covers sports, youth, education, environment,health and Irish language projects.

It jumped from the equivalent of €8.36 for every person living in Co Mayo in 2010 to €14.03 per head last year.

And €678,000 of the €1.8m the county received was channelled through the department of Mr Kenny's constituency colleague – junior tourism and sport minister Michael Ring.
The biggest Lotto bonanza was bestowed on Westport, which is Mr Ring's home town.
The junior minister's department approved three sizeable grants totalling €230,000 for the town last year, a bigger allocation than the whole of south county Dublin.

Meanwhile, some other counties received no grants from the sports fund at all.

A spokesman for the minister last night denied he had favoured Mayo and his home town or that the capital sports programme was used as a slush fund. Although his department approved them, the spokesman said: "Minister Ring did not have responsibility for selecting individual projects.''

The Westport sports grants have been gleefully announced by Mr Ring in local media, where he was recently dubbed the "Minister for Fun".
They include:

- €85,000 for an outdoor fitness trail.

- €70,000 for the upgrade of sports facilities at Westport Leisure park.

- A further grant of €75,000 for the minister's local park.

Castlebar, the home town of the Taoiseach, has also received grants of more than €100,000 for an outdoor gym and games area. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht approved a grant of €120,000 to Gno Mhaigh Eo, a Mayo group supporting local businesses that want to use the Irish language...


If you buy a Lottery ticket, you might think you are buying a dream.  It could be you, and all that.    But it's a lot more mundane, I'm afraid.    

The only real beneficiaries are those nurturing themselves from the local parish pump. 

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Latest Allsop auction provides usual amusement

The dysfunctional relationship of the Irish with property continues apace.

 Some readers will be familiar with the hilarity that the regular Allsop auctions in this country can provide, including the sad case of a participant bidding against himself last July.

The latest, last Thursday, raised a reported  €12,974,000 with a sell rate of 91% from 98 properties on offer.

But you really must wonder if some people should keep clear and stick to My Home, with at least one property  -  Lot 3, 24 Obelisk Rise, St Augustus Park in Carysfort, Blackrock - going for a higher price than had previously been asked by private treaty.

A result that even Allsop themselves described as "interesting".  

Where else, eh?

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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sinn Fein Fiscal Treaty cartoon sums them up

And I thought it was the Unionists who were forever saying "no".   The Shinners aren't far behind it seems, especially when it comes to Europe.  They've been urging "no" votes in every referendum I can remember.  

You'll have heard, no doubt, how they recently used quotes from various economists on the subject of the  Fiscal Treaty, which takes place later this month? 

Never ones to bother too much about matters such as the truth, they failed to acknowledge that the quotes were conditional ones... each of the economists behind them had concluded a 'yes' vote was in Ireland's best interests.

Last Thursday's Martyn Turner cartoon, which made the front page of the Irish Times, captured it very well.


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