30 April 2008
David Duffy of the ESRI blames the drastic fall on concerns about job losses, rising prices and the gloomy outlook for the property sector.
The Index of current economic conditions also dropped - from 83 to 75.1 - while the forward-looking index, which covers expectations about the coming months, was down from 50 in March to 43.1 in April.
IIB Bank's economist Austin Hughes said the survey details indicated that people were more worried about the general economic climate than about their own personal finances.
"This may suggest that consumers have braced themselves for a difficult period, but are not experiencing acute problems," he added and explained that 88% of those surveyed expected unemployment to rise in the coming year, the highest figure in the survey's history.
This follows a report by RTÉ's Prime Time TV programme, which found that newly built homeless accommodation is not used because the HSE says it "could not afford the staff needed to operate them".
Last night's programme reported that the HSE's decision to cut this year's funding for the homeless services is jeopardising a government plan, aimed at eliminating the problem.
Seven homeless people died in Dublin alone in a two-week period over Easter this year, and at the same time at least five major homeless facilities in Dublin were either lying idle or being totally under-utilised due to a lack of HSE funding!
A 30-bed facility in James Street was due to open earlier this year but remains closed, while in Brunswick Street only seven of 17 family units have been used since January.
Prime Time also reported that a new homeless service in Middle Abbey Street has been denied HSE funding for its running costs, and in Cork Street an emergency accommodation facility for homeless people with special needs remains still under-utilised. And in Bolton Street, the future of a proposed accommodation facility also hangs in the balance. And this is only the situation in Dublin. There are also homeless people in other Irish cities and towns, where there is often no facility for them at all.
So while the Taoiseach and his extensive traveling party, which includes old party chums and family members, is staying at one of the most expensive hotels in Washington D.C. - at taxpayers' expense - the homeless of Dublin, who were always one of Bertie Ahern's concerns, are neglected because the HSE claims a lack of funds. What a den of hypocrites we are... and a real banana republic without bananas.
The Emerald Islander
After the alarm sounded, members of the U. S. Secret Service escorted the Taoiseach from his suite on the tenth floor down to the street, where he joined about 600 other guests who gathered slightly puzzled and half asleep on Connecticut Avenue in front of the Mayflower, one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in Washington (with the cheapest room costing $ 400 a night).
Early speculations that the alarm was a hoax to interrupt Bertie Ahern's sleep were proven wrong, and Pat Kenny's suggestion that someone in the Irish party might have lit a cigarette in his room against the rules also turned out to be incorrect. Apparently an electric generator on the eleventh floor - one above the Taoiseach's suite - caught fire and caused minor damage.
Shortly after 5 a.m. local time the "all clear" was given and everyone was allowed back into their rooms. This gives Bertie about five more hours to rest and get ready, as he is due on Capitol Hill shortly after 10 a.m. local time.
The Emerald Islander
29 April 2008
Redmond is charged with receiving a corrupt payment of £ 10,000 between October 1985 and June 1989 from a former Fianna Fáil Councillor, the late Pat Dunne. The money was given in relation to the compulsory purchase of land at Buzzardstown near Blanchardstown in Dublin.
George Redmond, who will be 84 in June, has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecuting lawyer Pauline Whalley told the Jury of nine men and three women that the prosecution does not have to prove that Redmond did anything dishonest as a result of the payment, but simply that he received it. She said that George Redmond was promoted to his position of assistant city and county manager in the 1970s. It was a position of extreme power, influence and status, she added.
She explained that in March 1999 Redmond told two senior Garda officers that he had received the money from Cllr. Dunne in relation to Buzzardstown. He said he had signed a compulsory purchase order relating to the land at the direction of the city and county manager. But the prosecution says he told the Gardaí that Dunne did not have known that.
Redmond's defence counsel, Brendan Grehan, told the Jury that Redmond had said on oath in May 2000 that he had not received any money from Cllr. Dunne. The trial continues.
About 180 to 200 jobs will be lost at Dell's Cherrywood plant in South-Dublin, and the remainder in their plant in Limerick. Dell staff were informed about the job cuts - which will be compulsory - during a meeting with senior management this morning.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Dell said it regrets the impact the move will have on its employees, but it is "confident that the changes will position the company strongly for continued future growth". This might sound good, but is certainly little or no comfort for those who will be made redundant.
The development comes after Dell's plan to cut 10% of its entire workforce of currently more than 95,000 worldwide.
It is thought that the slowing US consumer demand for new computers amid its faltering economy and first signs of a recession are to blame for the job cuts.
Once again we see that economic problems are created through greed, speculation and mismanagement in the USA, and Irish people are losing their jobs as a result. As long as capitalism rules the world, such will happen again and again.
The Emerald Islander
Three police vehicles were damaged during the trouble near the interface with the nationalist Short Strand area in east Belfast.
The rioting involved up to a hundred youths at its height, and continued intermittently for several hours, forcing the closure of a number of roads. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that it had not established what sparked the clashes.
The PSNI also warned motorists to stay clear of the effected areas, as both the extent of the violence and the numbers of people involved increased. Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have condemned the violent clashes.
The Emerald Islander
Polish officials closed the airport at around noon, while groups of technicians prepared to pull the trapped aeroplane back on to the runway.
Meanwhile the passengers were bused 130 km eastwards to Warsaw, where they were put on another flight to Nottingham.
Other flights from and to Lodz were being diverted to Warsaw, and a bus service was provided.
Michael O'Leary will not be pleased tonight...
The Emerald Islander
It says that the number of surgical procedures in Ireland each year is low, while on average patients who are admitted spend more time in hospital than they would in most other countries. This is possibly due to serious difficulties in finding adequate convalescent or nursing home care in Ireland.
The report says that the Republic of Ireland has around twice the OECD average of practicing nurses, and that between 1995 and 2007 the number of employees working in the health sector rose by 73%.
It calls for stronger governance arrangements and the sharing of information between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health, so that the Health Minister is fully aware of developments when making statements. This is not more than common sense, but sadly it is exactly one of the traits Mary Harney lacks.
In relation to the planned hospital re-organisation in the Northeast, the report says that primary care teams need to be put in place before services are removed from hospitals, and that the government could look at having two hospitals, one regional and one general, in the region.
The report states that the HSE may be "trying to do too much at once" and is not actively looking at what it can achieve and deliver in the short term. It also needs to sell policy changes to the population.
Overall, the report says that the health of the population is good and improving at an exceptionally rapid pace. So it seems that despite all our problems in the health sector there is still some hope then...
However, one has to read the OECD report on reform in the Irish public sector with a pinch of salt, since it was commissioned by the current Irish government.
The Emerald Islander
The Captain of Flight RE 231 had to shut down one of the two turbo-prop engines of his aircraft because of a technical fault detected shortly after take-off. There were 30 passengers and five crew members on board.
Airport emergency services, backed up by local authority fire and ambulance crews, were on standby when the aeroplane landed safely at Shannon, shortly after 10 a.m. this morning.
The passengers have since been transported to Galway by bus.
The drugs have been discovered yesterday afternoon, hidden amongst legitimate cargo in a 40 ft container that had arrived by ferry from Cherbourg in France. The cannabis was packed on two wooden pallets marked as 'footwear'. It is understood that there were in total 1145 kgs of the drug hidden in the container.
Customs officers say they made the seizure after risk profiling the cargo. They were also assisted by a specially trained drug detection dog.
Last night a 27-year-old man and a woman aged 20 have been arrested by Gardaí in Wexford in connection with the drugs find in Rosslare. They have been questioned and are still being detained at Wexford Garda Station. They can be held for up to seven days.
28 April 2008
But yesterday I had an outside appointment and thus missed my usual two hours in front of the wireless.
Thankfully RTÉ repeats the first half of Marian's programme on Monday morning at 2 a.m., for all those who missed it live. So I only heard early this morning what Marian was discussing with her guests this Sunday. And I am glad that I had the chance to hear it.
One of the subjects discussed was - not surprisingly - the Lisbon Treaty, the up-coming referendum on it, and the latest Red C poll that showed a clear increase in people who said they would vote 'No'. (for details see my entry from yesterday)
Representing the 'Yes' campaign in the studio were two TDs from Co. Mayo, who both represent Dublin seats. There was former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte (left), now speaking for his party on Justice. Despite the fact that Labour is in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, he kept his personal statements on the matter to an absolute minimum, saying that he hopes people would vote 'Yes' and that he would advise them to do so. But this is all he really said. No enthusiastic appeals or gloomy warnings, as one hears them now from both FF and FG. Maybe Pat Rabbitte is listening to some of his old friends. The former ITGWU official and TD for the Workers' Party and Democratic Left (before they merged with the Labour Party) will have noticed that his former comrades in the UNITE trade union (formerly ITGWU) have meanwhile joined the 'No' campaign. As have all parties and most organisations of Ireland's political Left, with the sole exception of the Labour Party...
There was also - way more vociferous and beating every available drum for the Lisbon Treaty - Fine Gael's new spokesperson on European Affairs, another Mayo-born Dubliner called Lucinda Creighton (right), who won a seat in Dublin South-East in the last election and is now one of the youngest TDs in the Dáil.
I had never before even heard her name, left alone anything she stands for. So I followed her words and arguments with special interest, in order to find out how Fine Gael sees the future of Ireland and Europe.
I have to admit that I was disappointed by her approach of the subject, her line of argument and especially by her diction and way of speaking. Having the appearance of a happy-go-lucky girl that enjoyed the benefits of the "Celtic Tiger", her voice could not be more contrasting. When one hears her speaking on the radio - without the benefit of a picture or knowing her - the voice of the 30-year-old sounds more like that of an old political "warhorse", well past the fifties and slightly on the rough side. And at times one also wonders if she is trying to impersonate senior Fianna Fáil TD and former minister Mary O'Rourke. There is definitely a strong resemblance, in the voice itself as well as in the way Lucinda Creighton speaks.
But as much as the way Ms. Creighton spoke was of interest to me, what she actually said about the Lisbon Treaty was almost unbelievable. Either she is extremely naïve (in which case she is neither suitable as a TD, nor to speak on Europe), or devious and misleading (which is not a rare trait among lawyers).
When questioned by Marian Finucane (left) over the really hair-raising text of the Lisbon Treaty and the impossibility to make any sense of it, Lucinda Creighton reacted with legalistic arrogance and said that it was "a legal document" and as such it had to be written in this way, so that "courts could understand and interpret it in the right way".
Well, I have seldom heard such a complete nonsense. Any text can be written in a clear and understandable way, or - as the Lisbon Treaty - in a form that is unintelligible. And while the government advises us ever so often in sponsored ads "never to sign any contract you don't understand", it expects us to do exactly that with a far more important document: the Lisbon Treaty.
What I don't understand is why Fine Gael, the largest opposition party, is not only supporting the government on the Lisbon Treaty, but is actually doing a great deal of its work in the well organised and financed 'Yes' campaign. It appears that Fine Gael is actually even more enthusiastic in support of the treaty than Fianna Fáil. At the same time it is strange that they cannot come up with any proper argument for it. All they tell us is that the treaty is "good for Europe and good for us", that we - the great unwashed people of Ireland - are too stupid to understand it, and that "nothing really changes for Ireland anyway".
Lucinda Creighton also insisted several times that "this is a treaty, and not a constitution", despite the fact that one of its main authors - former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (right) - has declared many times that more than 90% of the text of the Lisbon Treaty is "still the same as it was in the Constitution", which the people of France and the Netherlands defeated in referenda.
Who do you think knows and understands the treaty better: the man who wrote it, or a very arrogant and very junior TD who is so full of herself that she cannot even see reality? Ms. Creighton also failed to explain what - in her opinion - is the difference between a treaty and a constitution, despite the fact that she is a law graduate from Trinity College, Dublin.
But Lucinda Creighton, whose short record on Dublin City Council (before she won her Dáil seat) is rather mixed and far from distinguished, went further in her zealous attempt to sell out Irish freedom and democracy. She launched a completely uncalled-for verbal attack on Irish businessman Ulick McEvaddy (above left), who recently joined Libertas in the 'No' camp, accusing him of doing it on the orders - or at least at the behest - of US interests "who are opposed to a stronger EU".
It is correct that the former Irish army officer and airline tycoon has based his company Omega Air in Washington and does a lot of business with the US government, but it is also important to know that he is a staunch Fine Gael supporter and a very close friend of the Bruton and Mitchell families. Being one of Ireland's wealthiest men, his donations to the 'No' campaign will surely be missed by his friends in Fine Gael. This is the real reason for Lucinda's anger.
Apart from that, look who is the pot to call the kettle black! Ms. Creighton herself is registered as an attorney-at-law in the state of New York and has worked in the USA as a campaigner for the Democratic Party, despite being a Councillor - and now a TD - for Fine Gael in Ireland and also heavily involved on several levels of Young Fine Gael and YEPP (Young European People's Party). One wonders how she is dealing with her own conflict of interests on both sides of the Atlantic...
For Ireland and the Irish people she is certainly doing a poor job, and one wonders why she - a very junior TD - was appointed to the important European portfolio, especially at a time when Europe is one of the main elements in Irish politics. But that is for Fine Gael to answer. It is, however, clear that Fine Gael is taking us - the Irish people - for complete fools. I remember the speech their MEP Gay Mitchell gave in Liberty Hall in Dublin (photo below) on March 4th, during the meeting of the National Forum on Europe (NFOE). His arguments for a 'Yes' vote in the up-coming referendum included World War II and "the good things Ireland has received from Europe". In other words: Ireland was given a lot of gifts by the EU, and now is time to pay for them with our freedom and the right to properly participate in the democratic process.
I wonder if people like Gay Mitchell and Lucinda Creighton do actually believe themselves what they are telling us. But while Mr. Mitchell was preaching at us in Dublin with his well-known silver tongue, trying to persuade us to just follow him and his party down the river (and in the process even bringing Maurice Hayes, the experienced chairman of the NFOE, to despair - as you can see above), Ms. Creighton is more a "straight into your face" person, accusing all those who campaign for a 'No' vote as being part of an "anti-European conspiracy" and warning us of unspecified "consequences" if Ireland should vote the treaty down.
Well, the only consequences Ireland can expect after rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in the referendum is an increase in political power in Europe and being taken seriously by large EU member states. Right now we are seen as a push-over and a little country at the fringe that does not really matter. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party want to keep it that way, and in fact make it even worse. It is time to call their bluff, be independent and vote 'No'.
And to Fine Gael we should send the clear message: Stop taking us for fools, and while you are at it, stop Lucinda Creighton from making an even bigger fool of herself. She might well have her qualities as a trained lawyer, but she has not a clue about the EU and certainly no skills at all when it comes to public speaking. A course in oratory might help her performance, but given her lines of argument, some extra education - especially in the areas of history, philosophy and common sense - are also advisable.
In the meantime, forget the big parties who want to sell out Irish democracy, get behind the 'No' campaign and help to defeat the Lisbon Treaty, which is unintelligible, dangerous and full of undemocratic measures. Because if the treaty is accepted, this might well be the last time ever Ireland had any say in European affairs. Use your own common sense on this, and send a clear message to those who take us for fools!
The Emerald Islander
The residents include three of the men from the "Shell to Sea" campaign, who were jailed for three months in 2005 for opposing a planned pipeline.
The loosely organised group says that all of the problems surrounding the project would be "solved in one move" if the company agreed to its proposal to relocate the terminal.
The Mayo residents stated that they are "not anti-gas", but are very concerned about health, safety and the environment. They say their proposal represents an opportunity for resolution, and the conflict can be resolved by agreement and respect.
A spokesman for Shell E&P said it would be making no comment on the proposal.
The € 200 million refinery (left) is already one-third built, and sources say that there is "little to no likelihood" the plant will be relocated.
Residents of North Mayo, however, are not giving up hope and believe that there are still options to achieve a compromise that could lead to a good and peaceful co-existence between the refinery and the local people.
The Emerald Islander
27 April 2008
A man in his fifties is in a serious condition in hospital tonight, after a shooting incident that occurred in the western part of County Waterford this afternoon.
The man received a blast from a rifle while walking in a wooded area at Coolbeggan near the village of Knockanore at around 1 p.m.
It is believed that the man may have approached the occupant of a jeep in a secluded area where the shooting incident happened. The injured man staggered about 50 metres before being found on the roadside by a local person.
He was taken by ambulance to Cork University Hospital and his condition is described as "serious but not life-threatening".
Gardaí are carrying out an investigation and are appealing for information from anyone who may have been in the area at the time, or who may have seen a blue jeep in the area.
Anyone with information should contact Dungarven Garda Station on 058 48600 or the Garda Confidential line on 1 800 666 111.
The Red C poll in today's edition of the Sunday Business Post has been welcomed by anti-Lisbon campaigners, while the Irish government says the result was "disappointing, but not entirely surprising".
Up to now, opinion polls had suggested a two-to-one majority in favour of the treaty.
The poll for the Sunday Business Post says that among those entitled to vote, 35% are backing the Lisbon Treaty, a fall of 8% since the last poll two months ago.
31% are opposed to the treaty, an increase of 7%, while 34% - more than one third of voters - do not know what to make of it and are yet undecided.
When those undecideds are excluded, the 'Yes' side leads by 53% to 47%, a very narrow margin with seven weeks to go to polling.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had confirmed officially during the week that the Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will be held on Thursday, June 12th. Today, after hearing of the new Red C poll, he said that it "would be disastrous" if the Lisbon Treaty would be defeated. Well, yes, it would be - but only for him, since that would end his hopes of ever becoming the new permanent President of the EU. For Ireland as a country and for every Irish person it would be positive and give us in fact more influence in the political process if the treaty is defeated.
Less scientifically controlled polls are even more in favour of a 'No' vote. On an anti-European website I saw today only 11% were for the treaty, while 83% were against, with 4% undecided and 1% who had no opinion.
On this site I also have a poll running with the same question (and it is still open). So far 25% of my readers are for the treaty and 62% against it, while 4% "don't know" and 2% "don't care".
The new Red C poll, as well as the less sophisticated one from this site, reflect clearly the growing unease of many Irish people with the way the new treaty is being pushed and almost forced on Irish people by the major parties and their politicians, with no proper explanations and with the full text of the very important document not available to every voter in the country.
Not long ago our government has sent a copy of the "Rules of the Road" to every household in Ireland, including all houses where there is no car and no-one who drives. Now the government is sending a second booklet to every house, in order to inform us about national "Emergency Planning", with scenarios that will never happen and some that are so unrealistic that they can only be described as pure fiction, or even science fiction.
However, the government does not send a copy of the Lisbon Treaty to every household in Ireland, and for a good reason. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has given the President of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso (right, with his friend Bertie), the promise that "Ireland will deliver", so the last thing the government wants is that people will read - and perhaps even understand - the Lisbon Treaty. If they would read and understand the treaty, it would be clear to them that Ireland is losing out in every part of it, giving up rights and entitlements that the nation has had so far. But in order to please the large member states - especially Germany, France and Britain, whose share of influence will grow over-proportionally - our government and the two largest opposition parties are willing to sell out the little share Ireland still has in the EU.
At present, the voting power of Ireland in the European Council (where the 27 member states meet and discuss all important matters) is 2%, which is not much, but simply reflects our size in comparison to the other members. Under the Lisbon Treaty the voting power of Ireland would be reduced by almost two-thirds to a mere 0.8%, which means that we would in future have really no say at all and just sit in the Council as a kind of superflous room decoration.
The Lisbon Treaty would also take away our right to have a permanent EU Commissioner, and we would agree to have no Commissioner for every five years within a cycle of fifteen years. And to shrink our already meager influence even further, we would also lose one of our MEPs, reducing the number of people we elect to the European Parliament from currently 13 (in the Republic) to 12. (There are also two Irish MEPs elected in the North.)
And these are only the most significant points of the treaty. There are a lot more, way too many to list them all here. But having read the text of the Lisbon Treaty - as far as it is available to ordinary people without paying the extortionist sum of € 42 that is charged for a complete copy - I have found not one positive change for Ireland. In fact, the whole treaty is geared to increase the power of the large member states, while the smaller ones - and not only Ireland - are reduced in their influence and participation. It also opens the doors of the union wide for all sorts of privatisation, including in the areas of health, public services and education.
According to the Red C poll, the change in opinion is particularly marked among Ireland's farmers, who seem to have woken up just in time to recognise the damage that the Lisbon Treaty and various options it gives the (unelected) EU Commission in regards to international negotiations will do to them and their businesses.
IFA President Padraig Walshe said this was not surprising as his members are very worried about the position being taken in the World Trade talks by British EU Commissioner (for Trade) Peter Mandelson (left).
Well, at present Mr. Mandelson can talk as much as he likes, the decisions are still made by all member states together.
If a majority of Irish people would vote for the Lisbon Treaty, these safeguards are no longer in place and the EU Commission could do whatever they like, with no democratic control or any mechanism to stop them.
In history it has so far happened only once that a whole nation voted voluntarily and willingly for the total abolition of a democratic republic (as they had it between 1919 and 1933) and the introduction of a dictatorship with absolute powers. This nation was Germany, and the year was 1933. The rest, as they say, is history. The German nation has been paying for their mistake ever since, still is, and will be most likely for several more centuries.
We Irish have lived under foreign rule for 750 years, and partly because we were too divided into tribes in the late 12th century, so we were not able to offer proper armed resistance against the invading Normans. And again - the rest is history.
After centuries of suffering and struggle, we achieved limited autonomy 86 years ago. And only 59 years ago we became a fully independent sovereign republic. Has that been too much for the Irish nation? Too much freedom and decision-making? Well, if you want to go back into a state of national hibernation with others deciding what happens and telling us what we can do and what not, then vote for the Lisbon Treaty.
If you, however, like Ireland's freedom, independence and opportunities, and want to keep them also for the future, then there is only one way to vote in the up-coming referendum: No.
Dick Roche (right), wrecker of the Skryne Valley, fool of Beijing and now Minister for European Affairs, said a political campaign will get underway once the referendum bill is through the Oireachtas, and that it is all "very much to play for". Oh yes, Mr. Roche, there is very much to play for. Our all future and happiness, to start with. And as things are looking now, it is possible to defeat you and the Lisbon Treaty (and with it all the selfish and arrogant politicians who want to talk us into voting for it). Let's do it!
The Emerald Islander
There was just one winning ticket for a super-jackpot of € 15.65 million, and it was sold in Clondalkin, a district of Dublin, yesterday evening. According to a spokeswoman of the National Lottery the winning ticket was a € 6 quick-pick bought in a local news agent's shop only about an hour before the draw.
The National Lottery estimates that in the final hours leading up to the unusually attractive draw about 330,000 people an hour bought a ticket somewhere in Ireland. This means 5500 people a minute or 90 people each second. Quite some lotto fever for a country with just 4.25 million inhabitants...
The Emerald Islander
26 April 2008
Tonight they said that Dermot and Lorraine Flood, whose bodies were found along with their two children in their burnt-out home in Clonroche, Co. Wexford, had "injuries other than those sustained in a fire".
Speaking outside Enniscorthy Garda station, Superintendent Kevin Donohue from the Garda Press Office said that all four family members had injuries from the fire. He added that the bodies of 41-year-old Dermot Flood and his 38-year-old wife Lorraine had also "other injuries". What those injuries are and how they were caused will only become clear later, once the post-mortem examinations have taken place.
According to a report by RTÉ News both adults suffered apparently gunshot wounds.
Superintendent Donohue said the bodies of the two children, six-year-old Mark and five-year-old Julie Flood, did not have injuries other than those sustained in the fire. He also confirmed that a shotgun was located in the house and said that it was "licensed to a member of the wider family".
The Superintendent said it was not clear yet whether or not there was third party involvement in the deaths, but at the moment Gardaí were not looking for anyone else specifically.
He confirmed that the bodies of Lorraine and Julie Flood were found in their upstairs bedrooms. Mark Flood's body was found on the landing and Dermot Flood was located in a downstairs room. The technical examination of the scene will continue for a number of days, he added.
Meanwhile the bodies of the family have been removed from the scene and are being taken to the Dublin City Morgue in Marino. Post-mortem examinations will take place tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.
The fire in the two-storey house on the Enniscorthy road was spotted by neighbours of the family in Clonroche just after 5.30 a.m. this morning. At least one neighbour entered the house to attempt to rescue the family, but was beaten back by flames and smoke.
Personally I use my mobile phone wisely. Most of the time I text, which is not only a lot cheaper than talking, but also much less intrusive. While a voice call interrupts one at any time and in any situation, a SMS text message announces its arrival with a beep and can then be read and answered whenever one has the time for it.
But yesterday an unexpected situation required me to use the voice option, and for longer than I would do normally. I spoke nearly half an hour on my mobile, but it was a local call, from one part of the city to another. Guess how much this phone call has cost me?
When I checked, I noticed with a little shock that I was charged more than € 20 for about 28 minutes of conversation. Further investigation of the matter established that my call would have cost a lot less if the person I called would have been using the same network that I use. But since it was a call from Vodafone to O2, apparently a much higher tariff applies, even for local calls within the same small community. This is in my opinion outrageous and an absolute rip-off!
Some months ago the European Parliament forced the large mobile phone companies to reduce their costs for "roaming" (calls from one EU country to another) and for international calls in general. They did follow the parliamentary order, as they had really no other choice, but not very happily. It appears that they have found a way of compensating themselves for the loss of extra revenue on the international calls by increasing the costs of local calls between different networks.
I think everyone should be aware of this and watch the costs of local calls. I certainly will.
The Emerald Islander
A spokesperson for Aer Lingus said that they would consider their position over the coming days. The airline has spent the last 15 months trying to secure € 20 milliom in staff cost savings, and has already done deals with pilots and cabin crew.
A flexibility and mobility deal for 1800 ground staff represented by SIPTU would have delivered "productivity changes" (what ever that means in proper English), including earlier start times, roster changes and transfers between different kinds of work. There would have been no pay cuts or compulsory redundancies under the plan.
However, staff emphatically rejected those proposals a month ago. Local negotiations and clarifications were followed by a re-ballot, but yesterday afternoon it emerged that staff have again said a clear no to these changes.
Under SIPTU's rules, even if there is an overall majority in favour of acceptance, if any one of the 14 sections - no matter how small - rejects the proposal, it is deemed to be rejected by all.
The alarm was raised shortly after 5.30 a.m. this morning by a man from a neighbouring house who discovered the fire.
The Enniscorthy Fire Brigade arrived a short time later at the two-storey house (photo).
The bodies of the parents and the two children were found inside and remain at the scene for the time being.
Post mortem examinations will be carried out later today and Gardaí have begun an investigation into the cause of the fire.
25 April 2008
Only a few days after clarifying the details over the new Terminal 2, which will increase air traffic from and to Dublin (for details see my entry from April 21st) the DAA now says that it wants to build also a € 4 billion development over 140 ha to the east of the airport, comprising mainly office space.
The development has yet to get planning permission, and the funding has not been arranged either. So for the moment this is just another of the DAA's pipe dreams of gigantism, which seem to be a sign of the new company (since it gave up its old name Aer Rianta and became more trendy). However, the DAA says that their plan "fits in with the development plans of Fingal County Council" and would become "an economic hub targeting foreign direct investment".
Executives based at the "Dublin Airport City" would have "a high-speed people mover to connect with the new Metro North station" and would be able to get from their desks to airport check-in in an average of six minutes.
Well, if that is all you want, then you must be living in a different world to me, at least in quite a different country. And indeed, every time I am in Dublin the place looks a bit more alien to me, especially on the ever growing outskirts, which must be the largest building site in Europe, with the longest chronical traffic jam set into it.
And as a linguist I also wonder where our large companies get their PR staff from. What the heck is a "high-speed people mover" in proper English? Do they mean the planned Dublin Metro? Or a bus line? Or does it refer to the airport operation itself? I don't know. And I wonder if they know it themselves. The more our world is infiltrated by American-style corporate nerd language, the less we will understand companies and each other.
The new development would mean 55,000 m² of office space along with retail and hotel facilities and also a new aviation college. Although it could take 20 years to build, the DAA claims it "could add € 1 billion a year to the Irish economy".
Well, given the amount of damage the suggested devolpment would do to the environment, it is rather a small compensation. Are we going completely mad? Our obsession with ever more buildings, offices and air traffic will destroy the planet probably even before the "airport city" is completed. Honestly, it would be a lot easier and cheaper to kill ourselves by conventional means - if that is actually what we want.
The Emerald Islander
The Fianna Fáil Senator from New Ross, Co. Wexford had said that "Chairmen of some of the tribunals use their position in order to act more or less as shop stewards for the wealthy legal profession".
Yesterday Senator Walsh told the Seanad that "his descriptions had caused offense" and he was happy to withdraw them.
He said that as a Constitutional Republican he fully respects the separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Oireachtas. However, he added that this did not deprive him of a right "to express fair and reasonable comment in the public interest". He added that the enormous costs of the numerous Irish tribunals have been a concern of his for many years.
Jim Walsh's statement has been welcomed by several of his fellow Senators, including the senior Independent Senator Joe O'Toole.
23 April 2008
In thirteen days - after a visit to the United States where he will address a joint session of both Houses of Congress - Bertie Ahern will tender his resignation as Taoiseach to President Mary McAleese and, bar a miracle, be succeeded by the current Tánaiste and Minister for Finance Brian Cowen.
During the session Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny described the outgoing Taoiseach as having "an unequalled zest for people" and said that the public felt valued and important when they were listened to by him. In a rare statement of praise for his main opponent he added that "Bertie Ahern was popular, and he has always been focused on people of whose needs he was aware".
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore declared that today was the end of an era in Irish politics. He said that Mr. Ahern had enjoyed office during a period of sustained growth, which had made his job easier. He acknowledged that many positive things had been done in Bertie Ahern's time in office, but said there were other things he should have done, but failed to do.
Speaking for the Green Party, which is the junior partner in the government coalition, Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, said Bertie Ahern was "a hard-working politician who has been good at consensus politics".
Sinn Féin's parliamentary leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin congratulated Mr. Ahern on his part in the peace process in the North, which "has guaranteed Bertie Ahern's place in history". But he also mentioned that the governments led by Mr. Ahern had failed to deliver an adequate health service.
On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, who were Fianna Fáil's coalition partner during the entire time of Ahern's leadership, Minister for Health Mary Harney said she believed the key to Mr. Ahern's success were his personal qualities, and that he had "embraced impossible tasks and made them happen".
Listening to the various statements in the Dáil, I could not help but thinking that it was almost like a collection of graveside eulogies, with every speaker being quite cautious not to say anything bad about the deceased. Only Eamon Gilmore and Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin mentioned in sidelines the negative elements of the Ahern era, which is now coming to an early end. No one in the Dáil said a word about the rampant incompetence of the government, the massive waste of money, or the ever rising rate of violent crime in this country.
Well, I can understand that today was probably not the day to present the true balance of the years under Bertie Ahern's leadership. He was undoubtedly a very hardworking Taoiseach and his efforts to bring peace and political normality to the North will always be remembered as the finest hour of his political career. But despite his huge popularity, especially among supporters of Fianna Fáil, there are many flaws in the man, and even more in his policies. Ireland is today a very affluent country, but it is also full of huge problems which have never been addressed by the governments led by Bertie Ahern. As a historian I look at things from a distance and with a wider perspective than the five-year-cycle of the electoral term. And when the definitive history books on our era will be written, I am certain that the assessment of Bertie Ahern in them will be a lot more critical and less favourable than the words that were uttered in his presence in the Dáil today.
For now all political eyes are already set on the next man, the Taoiseach-in-waiting Brian Cowen. He is in many ways a quite different politician than Bertie Ahern, but he also shares one important element with the outgoing Taoiseach: complete loyalty to Fianna Fáil. It is therefore quite possible that he will continue the long established FF practice to put the interests of the party (and its friends) before the interests of the Irish nation.
He has, however, also the opportunity to make a truly fresh start, which would have to include a severe clean-up of recent policies and significant changes to the cabinet. In a couple of weeks we will know if he has the guts to be his own man, or if he is just a dour First Lieutenant who takes over command of the ship from a more colourful Captain.
This morning Brian Cowen said that anyone who does not recognise the achievements of Bertie Ahern during his career "is out of touch with the feelings of the Irish people".
He added that he was looking forward to taking on his new role as Taoiseach, but while Bertie Ahern remained in office he enjoyed the full support of his colleagues.
He made the statement as he arrived to address a conference on globalisation hosted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) in Dublin. The Fianna Fáil leader-designate reiterated his support for the Social Partnership process ahead of new talks beginning tomorrow.
But he warned that whatever deal was eventually agreed on, it would have "to work for all sides and also address key issues, including productivity and competitiveness".
The Emerald Islander
22 April 2008
John Gormley said he favoured the London model, where a Mayor is directly elected for the city and has executive powers. Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Gormley also said that any Irish Mayor should have the power to impose a congestion charge if necessary.
The new Green Paper presented by the minister today proposes the introduction of a regional Mayor for Dublin, elected directly by the people, with strategic functions including planning, housing, waste, water provision and waste water disposal. The paper, titled "Stronger Local Democracy", proposes that the Mayor would also act as chairperson of the Dublin Transport Authority.
The Green Paper also makes a case that greater local leadership, accountability and connection with the citizens can be achieved through the provision of directly elected Mayors for all counties and cities.
The possibility of introducing revised structures for the local governance of key gateways, such as Limerick, Waterford and Sligo, is also considered.
Examples of revised structures include unitary authorities for county and city, a single elected Mayor to lead both county and city, or cross-boundary metropolitan Mayors.
It proposes that town government could be strengthened by allowing for greater devolution of local decisions from county to town level, within overall county level strategies.
A range of initiatives are also discussed, to allow people to play a greater role in local decision making, including local plebiscites, petition rights, participatory budgeting and town meetings.
"Stronger Local Democracy" stresses the need for continuous change, flexibility and imagination in service delivery. Greater movement towards the sharing of services between local authorities is also advocated.
The paper sets out further the issues for debate on the financing of local government, which will feed into the work of the recently established Commission on Taxation.
Options for the introduction of local election spending limits are proposed, as is greater oversight of local government ethics compliance by the Standards in Public Office Commission.
In my opinion all these suggestions are very welcome, and in fact long overdue in Ireland. I even think that the ideas set out in the Green Paper are not going far enough. Why is it that more than 86 years after achieving autonomy from Britain, and nearly 60 years after the declaration of full independence as sovereign republic, Ireland is still copying the old English system of local government?
In contrast to Britain and Ireland, all other European countries have a much more developed and by far more democratic, representative and efficient system of local government. In most EU countries every city, town and village - no matter how small - has a directly elected Mayor with executive powers and a local council that controls him. Apart from that, counties, regions and provinces have extra councils as well, all directly elected and responsible to their people.
So why is it not possible to introduce the same system in Ireland? Well, it is possible and should be done rather sooner than later. It is only the lack of will and imagination on the side of our politicians that prevents it. So as much as one should welcome John Gormley's new proposals, they are only a first step to real local Democracy. There are hundreds of Irish communities with a population of several thousand that have never had any local government at all. There are urban councils in a number of towns of course, but their powers are very limited. And any village, regardless of size, has absolutely no representative structure and is entirely dependent on the decisions of the County Council. This is a medieval system in urgent need of reform.
Next summer we will have local elections again, and there is plenty of time to put new structures into place beforehand. So now is the time to talk to your local councillors and to your TDs and tell them that you want more democratic representation in your community. If you don't stand up now and make your voice heard, all we will get is the generally positive, but still only half-baked concept that John Gormley presented today in his Green Paper.
"Stronger Local Democracy" is a nice title, but unless we urge the government to go the extra mile and make it as strong and accountable as local government is on the Continent, we will end up with a few more nice jobs for the boys in power, but no real local Democracy that deserves the name.
The Emerald Islander
The ship, the MV Defender (photo), which is operated by a Latvian company, had been detained in Cork after action by the seafarers' union, but is now free to leave the port.
Ken Fleming, the Irish inspector for the International Transport Federation (ITF), said it had been "a very tough case", but it was encouraging that - for the first time - Irish dockers had supported the foreign seafarers. He said this would make it more difficult in future for shipowners who did not treat their crews properly.
The 1500-tonne MV Defender is registered in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, under a "flag of convenience", but operated by Forestry Shipping of Riga in Latvia, which sent company staff to Cork to settle the dispute.
Ken Fleming claims that five of the crew had been pressurised into withdrawing their claims for overdue pay. The rest of the crew, who claimed they had not been paid since last year, are to get $ 63,000 in back wages and leave the ship. The ITF is now arranging for them to go home.
Cork dockers have backed the ships' crew, the first time a stand has been taken by a local labour force in Ireland in support of foreign seafarers.
According to Ken Fleming the ITF has in the past two years helped to recover about $ 1 million in unpaid wages for the crews of foreign ships docking in Ireland.
The Emerald Islander
The two were rescued by lifeboat crews from Dunmore East and Fethard-on-Sea off the Waterford coast this morning, after the vessel they were in got into difficulties.
It had been reported stolen in the early hours of this morning from Dunmore East harbour, and it is understood that ropes from some lobster pots got caught in the propeller shaft of the boat.
Gardaí in Waterford have been asked to investigate an alleged misappropriation of € 142,000 from the Waterford GAA County Board. The money is believed to be from All Ireland ticket sales last year.
A senior official in the county has resigned his position, following an internal GAA investigation, "which has been going on now for a number of months". At an emergency County Board meeting last night it was confirmed that the money is missing.
Apparently "some efforts" have been made over the past few months "to have the money returned" to the Waterford County Board, but so far without success. But - not unusual in the GAA - everything happens internally, behind closed doors and in closed circles of the initiated. Calling in the Gardaí is now the first step of a public investigation
This morning the Waterford County Board announced that a legal writ has been issued against the now former official (who has resigned), but without naming him. "The Gardaí have also been informed of the situation," a spokesperson said.
It can be expected that the GAA national headquarter in Croke Park, Dublin will also launch its own investigation at some stage. The whole affair has come as a shock to many GAA supporters in Waterford, who have seen their hurlers doing quite well in recent years and have a lot of trust in the organisation.
It is at this stage too early to say if the whole matter is linked exclusively to the one - now resigned - official, or if there are larger internal problems inside the Waterford GAA. Watch this space! I will keep you informed about any further development.
The Emerald Islander
21 April 2008
Mr. Hawkes told RTÉ that he is investigating the disappearance of four laptop computers which were stolen already last year. But for reasons yet unknown the Commissioner was only informed about the theft on Friday.
The missing laptops were being used by staff working for the Bank of Ireland's life assurance division. They contained information about medical backgrounds, life assurance details, bank account details, names and addresses of about 10,000 customers. Apparently there was software security on the stolen computers, but the sensitive information was not encrypted.
Mr. Hawkes said he was "investigating the case as a matter of urgency", which is not more than can be expected. The Data Protection Commissioner added that his inquiry will focus on the security measures in relation to the computers and on the information they contained.
The Bank of Ireland, which has confirmed the theft, is now planning to inform customers. Well, is this not very kind of the bank? If I were one of their customers (which I am not), I would ring them first thing in the morning and raise merry hell. What the heck are they playing at?Sensitive customer information is stolen, and they just sit and sleep on the matter for months, before they even do their basic duty and inform the Data Protection Commissioner. And how is it possible that this happened in the first place? What about internal security? If one computer is stolen, one might see that as an unfortunate matter. But four?! This looks more like an organised job.
And only now, after months of doing nothing, they will inform the effected customers. This is the real scandal in this case! We have seen in recent months a lot of reports about malfunctioning of major banks, who lost hundreds of billions due to imprudent investments and outright idiotic speculations. Who is footing the bill for all that? The banks and their shareholders? Oh no. They only take the big profits in good years. Now that there is a crisis, it is you and me and everyone who will pay for it, through higher interest rates, higher mortgage costs and, first and foremost, through our taxes, since the governments have to bail out the banks and saving them from going bust.
Even though I am not a Bank of Ireland customer, I am extremely annoyed by this news and urge anyone effected by the case to make strong representations to the bank, to your local TD, and also to the Financial Regulator, whose job it is to keep control of the banking sector.
The Emerald Islander
Well, leaving modern PR-speak, in which the hospital robed itself immediately, aside, we can call this as what it really is: another unacceptable scandal and blunder in the Irish Health Service. The under-staffed, under-funded and badly managed Health Service, one needs to add.
What good does an apology do in such a case? The young child now faces regular dialysis unless a donor kidney can be found!
These days we always hear very quickly verbal apologies from companies, public services, institutions and organisations when someone fails to function properly or something goes wrong. "We apologise for any inconvenience caused" is now one of the most common phrases heard every day and everywhere in Ireland. But it is not good enough! Not in most cases, and most certainly not in this one!
I am outraged and I wonder how many other Irish people feel like I do when they hear about this. How many more scandals and disasters does it need for Mary Harney to resign or being sacked? And how many more outrages will we take quietly before we turn out en masse for a real demonstration for the improvement of the Irish Health Service?
On March 29th a mere 4000 people supported our march through Dublin. That was more than a disappointment. Where are all those people who claim to be unhappy with the HSE? Not to be found when it is the time to stand up and be counted. Take a leaf out of the book of the IFA. Last Thursday there were more than 10,000 farmers marching through Dublin, for nothing more than money. But when it comes to people's lives and health, all we had was 4000. Shame on you, Ireland!!!
And even more shame on the HSE, which presides with its usual arrogance and ignorance over scandals like the one that just occurred in Crumlin.
According to the hospital "an internal review is under way" and they say that its board of directors "will consider the detail of the review and act where appropriate". Well, another nice mouthful of meaningless PR-waffle. When will people with responsibility in this country ever stand up and acknowledge that they made a mistake and will take the consequences?
The hospital also pointed out that "the family was and continues to be given full support by the hospital staff". Now that is really the crown of it! What else would one expect? To be chucked out and abandoned by the very hospital that just removed the wrong kidney from your sick little child?!
I am not a very emotional man, and usually try to see everything from a distance and with a cool glance of objectivity. But this afternoon, after hearing of this case, I am outraged and very angry. We not only live in a corrupt banana republic where incompetence ruins almost everything, no, we are meanwhile so far down the line that little children are mutilated in hospital by incompetent doctors as well. And all we get offered as a remedy is a verbal apology, an "internal review" and a "consideration of action where it is appropriate".
Well, my fellow Irish people, this is the kind of country you get from Fianna Fáil. And I am sorry to say that you deserve it, after electing the same old dodgers again and again, despite better knowledge. I am only even more sorry for the poor little child and its family who suffer at the hands of incompetent doctors. They have all my empathy and my best wishes.
The Emerald Islander