28 July 2008

Reflections on the Weekend...

Having been away once more and thus unable to post entries on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, let me reflect briefly on the events that caught my attention and need a few words of comment.

Unbelievable Rise of Gas Prices

After the Electrical Supply Board (ESB), Ireland's largest supplier of electricity, announced a rise of consumer prices by 17.5% for August (see my entry from July 22nd), households and small businesses are now also facing a 20% increase in gas prices this autumn.
The 'Energy Regulator' has given the country's largest gas company Bord Gáis permission to increase their prices by one fifth from September 1st. Together with the rise of electricity prices this is an unbelievable act of daylight robbery, committed against a large number of Irish people and sanctioned quite happily by the government agency that is supposed to control the industry.

The Commission for Energy Regulation, as it is officially called, has also warned that a further increase of energy prices will be needed in January 2009, due to the sharp rise in gas prices on international markets over the past year. The regulator says that Ireland imports 90% of its gas from the UK, where the wholesale price has almost doubled in the past twelve months. The two price rises are apparently "an attempt to cushion the immediate consequences for customers".

How cynical is such a statement, at a time when prices for almost everything are spinning out of control and large companies squeeze consumers more and more, while incomes for ordinary working people are not rising in equal measure and many people are losing their jobs due to the onset of recession in Ireland.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul says it is "very concerned at the price increase, which will impact hardest on the most vulnerable". As usual the poorest are ripped off by large and weathy companies, whose profits have risen steadily and are passed on to their shareholders, many of which are not Irish.
The society expressed the hope that Bord Gáis will not include the Standing Charge in their price increase. It also called on the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, to tackle the issue of fuel poverty among those depending on social welfare payments.

Meanwhile Age Action has called on the government and the energy providers to "take steps to ensure that vulnerable older people are protected from rising fuel costs".
"This increase along with the recent increases in the cost of oil and electricity leaves many older people praying for a mild winter. They know if the winter is hash they will suffer", said Eamon Timmins of Age Action.

As things stand now, it is time for the government to consider active price controls for energy as well as the most basic and common food items. Otherwise we are running the risk to create in a very short time a large class of poverty-stricken people who are no longer able to afford the most basic items needed to survive and live a decent life. Apart from immense hardship this would cause for many, it would also inevitably lead to a rise in crime and disorder and all gains we have made during the 'Celtic Tiger' boom could disappear into thin air in a very short time.

The annual Climbing of Croagh Patrick

Yesterday, on Reek Sunday - the last Sunday in July - more than 25,000 Catholic pilgrims assembled in County Mayo for the annual mass climbing of Croagh Patrick, Ireland's 'holy mountain', which is situated 8 km from Westport.
Despite the drastic decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland, this traditional spectacle, which has its origins in the dark ages, still attracts large numbers of believers, and a good number of them climb the 764 metre high rocky mountain barefoot "to atone for their sins".

Under the leadership of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, eleven Masses were celebrated on the mountain during the day, and hundreds of members of ambulance corps and mountain rescue teams were in attendance to look after people who suffered from exhaustion or injured themselves on the climb.
Thanks to their efforts there have not been any deaths for some years during the event, but in the past numerous people died during the irresponsible religious mass hysteria.

Irishman sentenced in Greece for starting a Brush Fire

Meanwhile a court on the Greek island of Crete has sentenced a 20-year-old Irishman to a suspended sentence of three months in prison for starting a fire by negligence.

The unnamed Irish tourist burned 500 square miles of brush and olive trees in Hersonissos, in the east of the island, on Friday by setting dry brush alight, the local fire department said. He was arrested by firemen soon afterwards.

Hundreds of fires have broken out in Greece this summer, many of them due to negligence and assisted by dry weather conditions. And often tourists, who don't know the country and have no understanding of the local conditions who are responsible.

Last year devastating forest fires left 77 people dead and burned 270,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land in Greece.

The Emerald Islander

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