Thursday, 31 January 2013

Paschal Mooney's "non-national" taxi driver remark not isolated example of official ignorance

Here's a little game for you.  Count how many days  elapse before some gobshite gombeen politician  councillor, senator or TD – says something really stupid (drink driving permits for tractor-driving rural types, for instance) or something incredibly Sixties-Deep-South bigoted (below).

The character pictured left goes by the name of Paschal Mooney –  I confess I'd never heard of him until last week.  

 Apparently he is a Fianna Fail senator for Leitrim and "a popular radio broadcaster and journalist" according to the following account from Sligo Today (24th Jan).  

Last week this fine public representative declared he would not get into a taxi driven by "an obvious non-national".   

When people objected to the nature of his remarks, he then "withdrew" any comments that might be "inferred as being discriminatory in any way".  He called it an apology.

Where else would you get a gobshite like this sitting in public office?   Comments that might be "Inferred as being discriminatory"?  

Here's the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word "infer":

verb (infers, inferring, inferred)

[with object] deduce or conclude (something) from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements.

In the light such a definition, Mooney's statement was as explicit as explicit can be – no room for inference.    

Amazing that a public representative and "popular broadcaster" can - one - make such a remark,  and – two – think such an "apology" is acceptable. 

Maybe it is?  At least by the standards we have set in Ireland?

Mooney apologises for non-national taxi driver remark

Leitrim-based Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney issued an apology to the Seanad yesterday for earlier stating he would not get into a taxi driven by an 'obvious non-national'.

The popular radio broadcaster and journalist said, “I made a personal statement to the house in which I withdrew any comments I made that were to be inferred as being discriminatory in any way and apologised. As far as I am concerned that is the end of the matter,” he said last night.

The Irish Times reported that earlier he indicated he would always seek out a local taxi driver rather than a non-national driver because of his concerns they didn’t know their way around.

“I wasn’t the only one who made reference to drivers particularly in Dublin... who didn’t know their way around,” he said last night.

His comments in the Seanad came when the house was discussing the Taxi Regulation Bill, which passed second stage.

Minister of State for Public Transport Alan Kelly took issue with a claim by Seán Barrett (Ind) that proposed new powers to prevent certain taxi drivers from obtaining or retaining public service vehicle licences amounted to double jeopardy.

Taxi Service Standards

Mr Barrett had criticised a provision in the Taxi Regulation Bill to withhold licences from operators convicted of serious criminal offences.

Mr Barrett contended that the wish of parliament to improve taxi service standards should not be used as a back-door method of reintroducing a limit to licence numbers “which gave us an appalling industry in the past”.

The Minister had stated there were about 6,000 taxi drivers who had some form of criminal conviction.

Mr Kelly said an economic analysis had indicated that there was an oversupply of between 13 and 22 per cent in the current taxi fleet.

The Bill represented the most comprehensive review of taxi regulation carried out in the State and he was confident that its new enforcement provisions would be broadly welcomed by the industry and consumers.

National radio stations ae reporting that Senator Mooney is 'unavailable' for comment this morning.

The following, from the same source, is worth a read too:
Show Racism the Red Card statement on Sen Pascal Mooney’s comments:
A year ago, Darren Scully had to resign as Mayor of Naas Town Council, after his position became untenable when he declared that he would not represent constituents from black African backgrounds.

Pascal Mooney took it a step further in his comments in the Senate where he declared that he would not be discriminatory but that he would not be using taxis driven by what he calls ‘non national’ drivers.

He said: ‘ I’ve been in taxis and I have to say, and I am not being discriminatory here, but it’s nearly always non-nationals.  And it’s got to the point where, quite frankly, and I make no apologies for it, that I will now go to a local driver in preference to somebody who’s a non-national – an obvious non-national, and that has nothing to do with the colour of their skin or anything of that nature’.

In a later statement he said: ‘It’s come to my attention that remarks I made about non- nationals during my contribution on the Taxis Regulation Bill 2013 earlier today have been misinterpreted’. He added: ‘I wish to unreservedly withdraw the remarks and apologise for any offence caused.  I fully acknowledge the contribution of non- nationals to the life of Ireland and I clearly stated at the time that my remarks should not have been misinterpreted as discriminatory to anyone’.

No misinterpretation of remarks

Co-ordinator for Show Racism the Red Card Garrett Mullan said this evening: ‘It seems as though Senator Pascal Mooney will need to make yet another statement of clarification.  While on the one hand he says he is not being discriminatory, on the other he says he will choose a ‘local’ driver over an obviously non- national.

At this point, I would state that the number of people who can be described as non- national is extremely small to the point of insignificance.  We can assume he is talking about drivers who are non- Irish born.

If he is to stand over his statement that he would choose a ‘local’ over a non Irish national, that would be racism and discriminatory action on his part.

If we were to infer that Senator Pascal Mooney would not have an issue with a non-Irish taxi driver, that would be somewhat welcome, if only normal.  However his second statement does not clarify this matter.

His second statement states he withdraws his remarks but states: ‘It has come to my attention, that remarks have been misinterpreted’.

There can be no misinterpretation of comments that are now on the Senate record’.

Mr Mullan added: ‘It is unfortunate that the issue of racism as it affects the taxi trade was not addressed in this legislation.  We have many reports of customers skipping by cars, as Pascal Mooney suggested he would do, to avoid obviously non-Irish drivers.  De-regulation of the taxi trade led to an explosion in the number of drivers.  

This measure happened when Senator’s party was in government.  One affect of this was to make earning living in the taxi trade a lot more difficult, to the point where drivers are working excessively long hours just to earn a living.  As to the issue of the issue of driver standards and knowledge of geography, if this is regarded as essential to the trade, which is reasonable, then it should apply to all drivers’.

Mr Mullan concludes: ‘Non Irish nationals represent over 10% of Ireland’s population.  They work in different areas including the taxi trade and they have the right to work without being subject to discrimination.  There have been repeated reports about how racism affects the taxi trade produced by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, NUI Galway and other media reports.  It would be more helpful to the taxi trade if politicians sought to address this issue, rather than exacerbating it with their own anecdotal notions’.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The hole at Oranhill Estate, Oranmore, Galway

You have to feel sorry for the people who took on massive mortgages to buy homes - as opposed to "investments" -  during Ireland's world-beating, government-sponsored property bubble.  

Priory Hall, where people are paying mortgages for death-trap properties they cannot even stay in, constructed by ex-IRA property developer Tom McFeely.  I wonder what Connolly would have made of it?

Barnwell, Hansfield, Ongar, where many occupants bought properties on Manor Park and Menolly Homes' promise of a train to Dublin city every 15 minutes.   The road to access Hansfield railway station has never been built, and the few trains that do run on the M3 Parkway-Dublin line go through it without stopping.

Glenn Riada, Longford, where people are in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and cannot light fires in their fireplaces for fear of explosion.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of other such examples - varying in degrees of severity - in our mad little country, run by gombeens and gobshites for gombeens and gobshites.

Here's another one from Oranhill Estate, Oranmore, Galway.  Posted on You Tube by three young residents.

Big thanks to Conor for bringing this to our attention.

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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Kerry publican councillors vote for drink-driving permits

In a country where one gombeen can often only be distinguished from another by the pattern on his flat cap, the following piece from the Irish Examiner should not come as too big a surprise to us..  

In short, the gombeen publican councillors of Kerry voting for special drink 'n' drive permits for their rural constituents/customers.

And no, it's not a joke.

Councillors back rural drink-drive ‘permits’
Donal Hickey,  Irish Examiner, Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A local authority has backed a call for "gardaí permits" to be issued to allow rural dwellers have a drink or two above the legal limits.

Kerry County Council approved a motion to allow "less severe drink driving regulations" for people in rural areas. 

The drink-drive limit is 50mg for all drivers and 20mg for learner or newly qualified drivers. 

However, the council supported a call for rural gardaí to issue permits to allow people in rural areas drive on little-used roads from their local pub after having "two or three drinks" and travelling at very low speeds. 

The motion, put forward by Independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae, was narrowly passed by elected members, although quite a number of councillors abstained. 

The councillor asked for "a special derogation" for rural drivers, including drivers of small tractors, to allow them to have two or three drinks. 

Mr Healy-Rae called for legislation which would allow rural gardaí to issue such permits. 

The councillor, who is a Kilgarvan publican, was supported by other publicans/councillors at the meeting, who insisted they were not acting as vested interests but out of genuine concern for elderly rural dwellers. 

The meeting heard strict drink-driving laws were leading to isolation which, in some cases, was a factor in suicide, said Mr Healy-Rae. 

It was unfair, he said, to impose the same restrictions on fellows with small tractors and jeeps as on commercial lorry drivers. 

"These vehicles wouldn’t be exceeding 30km/h on third-class tertiary roads and cul-de-sacs," Mr Healy-Rae said. 

"There’s no reason a fellow could not drive his small tractor to collect his messages, have a few drinks and go away home." 

Gardaí — if any were to be left in rural areas — would manage the permits, he suggested. 

Fine Gael’s Bobby O’Connell, a Castleisland publican, strongly supported the motion. 

"Rural isolation is a big problem. People are afraid to go out," he said. 

Fianna Fáil councillor and Milltown publican Michael O’Shea agreed, as did Michael Cahill, a Rossbeigh licensee and councillor. 

But Labour’s Gillian Wharton Slattery strongly objected to the linking of suicide with not being able to drink. 

Alcohol and drugs were huge factors in depression which, in turn, contributed to suicide, she stated. 

Most of the councillors abstained in the vote. 

Council officials are now to write to the Department of Justice seeking the introduction of rural permits.

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Friday, 18 January 2013

Marie Fleming and the right to die with dignity

Pic: PA
For you and me, sitting here in the best of health - or near enough - it is impossible to imagine the thoughts and emotions of Marie Fleming, the 59-year-old woman who is slowly dying from Multiple Sclerosis.

Marie recently lost her High Court case to secure her right to die an assisted, dignified death; having explained to the court how her life "had become totally undignified and too painful to bear". 

Her hope was that if someone assisted her put an end to her suffering, as she was not able to do so herself, they would not be prosecuted.

Given the inherently conservative nature of Irish society, still informed as it is by residual religious dogma (Reuters reports refer to "mainly Roman Catholic Ireland"), the court said no. It cited the default slippery slope/opening the floodgates argument of those opposed to other forms of rationality and social progress.

So, if Marie dies naturally she will, most likely, in her own words:

"choke to death, where my swallow would stop and then the saliva would dribble out of my mouth or choke me to death."

How must it feel for Marie, waiting for this to happen? Living, as she does, in a country that is not progressive or humane enough to allow her avoid it?

How better it would be for her to live in Belgium,  where euthanasia is an option for the terminally ill.   All out in the open, no nod-and-a-wink, as it is in Ireland.  Hoping your doctor has the moral courage, and has the compassion, to give  you an extra shot of morphine to end it for you - in defiance of the official position that you should simply suffer. 

Maybe in time Ireland will catch up, and allow euthanasia for its terminally ill citizens.  Marie Fleming's brave attempt to win this right will have been the first step, as Sarah Wootton of Dignity in Dying said:

"Dignity in Dying campaigns for a change in the law on assisted dying in Britain. Nevertheless, compassion, dignity and choice in dying are universal issues and we monitor progress towards more compassionate laws in other countries with interest. 

"This result is disappointing, but sadly not unexpected. I commend Marie's courage in working to change the law in Ireland and am pleased that they intend to appeal this ruling.  When the law does change in Ireland it will be in no small part due to the courage and determination of Marie and others like her who do not accept the status quo which forces some people to suffer against their wishes at the end of life.

"In 2013 we will see Assisted Dying Bills in Westminster, Holyrood and across the channel in the French Parliament.  With these parliamentary attempts to change the law, cases like Marie Fleming's in Ireland and Gloria Taylor's legacy in Canada, we hope this year will be one of progress in end of life choice for people across the globe."  

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Monday, 14 January 2013

RTE presenters' mistakes. No news really.

Who says that RTE doesn't do comedy well?  

It's just that the taxpayer-funded (and advertiser-funded) organisation  does its best comedy when you least expect it.  The News, for instance. 

Witness two classic clips below, both of which might have stretched the imaginations of Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, the writers of Father Ted. 

 Aengus Mac Grianna, the presenter in question laughed off his bloopers, saying it was good that the Irish national broadcaster had picked up so many hits on You Tube when these videos went viral.   

Thing is, Aengus, they are more likely laughing at you, not with you.

Then you have the petulance of overpaid, prima-donna mediocrities such as Pat Kenny, who threw a hissy fit when a competition entrant had the temerity to offer part of her prize  - a seat at RTE's execrable Toy Show - up for raffle, rather than attend in person.   

Ah yes.   Isn't your RTE Licence Fee well worth you forking out €160 a year for, to keep such top talent in extravagantly-paid employment? 

Not that you have any choice.

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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Garda on RSA board had penalty points removed

Here's an extract from an article in last weekend's Sunday Independent, by Philip Ryan, describing how Garda Eddie Rock, former head of the Traffic Corps and now sitting on the board of the Road Safety Authority, had three sets of penalty points quashed.  

The fixed notices were issued for breaking a red light, speeding, and parking in a clearway.

"A FORMER garda assistant commissioner who sits on the board of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) was forced to explain to its chairman Gay Byrne why he had had three penalty points terminated.

Eddie Rock, who was head of the Garda Traffic Corps before becoming an RSA board member in 2011, was named in a whistleblower's dossier which alleges that thousands of penalty points were written off illegally.

The report, compiled by a serving member of the force, questions the legitimacy of more than 50,000 penalty-point terminations over a three-year period.

The document alleges that points were cancelled for two judges and for one of their wives. Points were also, it is claimed, cancelled for an international rugby star and two journalists – a newspaper reporter and a television broadcaster.

It also alleges that gardai struck off points for their own families and that in one instance a member of the force terminated more than 1,000 penalty points in several counties across the country.

Current Garda Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney has been asked to investigate the allegations and will report to Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

In October, the report was sent to the RSA chief executive, Noel Brett, who brought it to the attention of the authority's board and its chairman, Mr Byrne.

The dossier alleged that Mr Rock, who is also a member of the Justice Department's Parole Board, had received two fixed-notice charges but later had them cancelled by gardai.

When the board approached Mr Rock, he revealed that in fact he had had three sets of penalty points overturned – but he said that he had followed the correct procedures for contesting the points in each case..."

"Correct procedures"?  What might they be, then?  Knowing the "correct procedures" might be useful should I pick up a few points myself, possibly thanks to gardai sitting in "safety vans" on stretches of road with improbably low speed limits (see pic above, used in an earlier blog).  

  Let's see now...

"...Mr Rock told his RSA colleagues, including former Late Late Show host Mr Byrne, that he appealed the charges as a private citizen by writing to the inspector who had issued the fixed-notice charges.

A source said that the board was satisfied with Mr Rock's explanations for the cancellation of the points but was awaiting the outcome of Mr O'Mahoney's report.

The source said, "The system seems to have been used properly and the time between the points seems to be significant."

So there you go then.  You just have to write to the Garda inspector who issued the charges, saying you would like to have the points removed from - or simply not applied to - your licence.

It might help your case if you are a garda (the higher-ranking the better, or on the board of the RSA even better still).  It might help your case  if one of your cronies is a copper, or you are the family of one.  It might also help your case if you are a judge, in which circumstance you can avoid the very sanctions you dish out to others as you righteously sit in your courtroom. 

It's easy to have faith in the system when you know how fair it is.

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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New year's resolutions and ignorant gobshites in the Phoenix Park

Yes, it's a strange title for a blog post alright.  

Truth be told, it's a strange blog post too when there are so many pressing issues out there, but it's taking some of us a bit longer than usual to get into this new year.   

That might only happen when  Blue Monday comes along on January 21st.  Maybe then we'll get back to serious blogging?

Blue Monday is officially the most depressing day of the year.  

It is, according to white-coated boffins who spend their time researching such things, the day when we wake up on a miserable, cold January Monday;  realise we have no money because we spent it all on pointless Christmas presents;  that we put on 20 stone from stuffing our faces with food and booze over the festive season; and that the prospect of a holiday away from this godforsaken kip is months distant.  Assuming we still have jobs by then.

It is  also a time when many of us realise we have failed in all of our new year's resolutions, and there is probably no prospect of us ever mending our ways for the better.  Useless, no-good, pathetic failures, and that's the way it is always going to be.  Happy new year.

To be honest, I can't wait for the 21st.  

For the past week the Phoenix Park has been packed with new year's resolutioners, rigged-out in gaudy tracksuits and headbands, all newly resolved to put one foot in front of the other in 2013 on my usual strolling route.   It is like Henry Street at lunch hour, congealed with people jogging or barely jogging, and walking or barely walking.  

To make matters worse many of them drive to the park, and then park their MPVs on the footpaths of the narrower roads, meaning people have to either walk on the roads or squelch through thick muck to get past them.  I'm kicking myself that I didn't take a photo, but I was far too engrossed in accidentally brushing against their wing mirrors, quite forcefully, to do so. 

It's not surprising, I suppose, that people who don't normally walk fail to grasp that footpaths are for pedestrians.  They are not places to leave a car, after it has deposited its lazy front-seat occupants and their retinue of vile, screaming, devilspawn brats into a place normally reserved for peaceful recreation.

And really, if they had to make a resolution to drive somewhere in order to walk, shouldn't they  just get themselves three dozen super-sized packets of crisps, switch on one of the many dreadful cooking programmes now clogging the TV schedules, and plonk their arses on the living room sofa for the whole weekend, like they usually do?   That's what's going to happen anyway.

Roll on the 21st, and a back-to-normal Phoenix Park.

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Friday, 4 January 2013

"Swimming in Ireland's biggest pothole" and the related issue of exorbitant road tax

We Irish pay the highest motor-based taxes in Europe, but it must be said we get a great return for our money.  Even the Germans, with ribbons of smooth, untolled Autobahns criss-crossing their country, cannot boast on-road jacuzzis for the tired motorist.

We can.  Liam Keane, of Cork, had a dip in one after he noticed a giant, water-filled hole sitting on a local road for one week, untroubled by the local authorities.  

His girlfriend, Stephanie, recorded Liam splashing about in the crater before posting the resulting video on You Tube.  Maybe co-incidentally, the council then dispatched a crew in a yellow truck to fill it in.

And back to the subject of road tax, have a look at the two tables below:

Irish motor tax rates

Band + Emission Rate
Motor Tax 2013
A0 Zero
A1 1-80g
A2 More than 80g/km up to and incl 100
A3 More than 100g/km up to 110g/km
A4 More than 110g/km up to 120g/km
B1 More than 120g/km up to 130g/km
B2 More than 130g/km up to 140g/km
C More than 140g/km up to 155g/km
D More than 155g/km up to 170g/km
E More than 170g/km up to 190g/km
F More than 190g/km up to 225g/km
G More than 225g/km

UK motor tax rates

Band CO2 emission (g/km) 12 months rate
A Up to 100 £0.00
B 101-110 £20.00
C 111-120 £30.00
D 121-130 £100.00
E 131-140 £120.00
F 141-150 £135.00
G 151-165 £170.00
H 166-175 £195.00
I 176-185 £215.00
J 186-200 £250.00
K* 201-225 £270.00
L 226-255 £460.00
M Over 255 £475.00

Quite a difference, even when you go to the trouble of currency conversion.

Being Irish (or living here) is an expensive business.

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Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy 2013?

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."

Bill Vaughan (American columnist and author).

You could probably substitute the word "pessimist" with "realist" in the above quote.

But if you're one of the hopeless optimists (or fantasists?) who think 2013 is going be the year of Irish economic recovery, you might consider Johnson's words concerning hope's triumph over experience

But you have to say "happy New Year", all the same. 

It's expected, isn't it?

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