04 August 2008

A truly wet Lughnasa

As I have mentioned in several previous entries already, the weather in Ireland during this year's 'summer' has been rather poor. During the weeks and months that were bringing us warmth and sunshine in the past, we are now experiencing cooler temperatures, plenty of clouds and heavy rain fall. We had the same pattern already last year, and this 'summer' seems to be a repeat.

There is nothing one can do about. Too many people, including politicians and industrialists, have in the past ignored the ever stronger warnings of global warming and climate change. For them it was more important to have short-term gains and quick profits, and the future of the planet and of the human race as a whole was of little concern. Now we have to live with the consequences.

As a country that depends for a significant part of its income on tourism, Ireland is suffering a great deal from this climate change. Bulletins from all over the island report of a drastic fall in the tourist numbers, and even the most famous and most popular hotels in the country are half empty.
Sadly, that has not led to a reduction of their high prices, so one could say that the bad tourist season is at least partly their own fault. As a large percentage of visitors to Ireland still come from the USA, the drastic decline of the US Dollar (which has recently reached its lowest value to the Euro) plays also a significant role.

For those of us who are not involved in tourism and just live and work here, the bad news from the Irish Tourist Board are more bearable, but of course indirectly it effects us all in one way or another.
More relevant, however, are the ever rising prices for food, fuel and many other essentials. This is especially hard for the poorest people (particularly pensioners and recipients of social welfare) and those on low incomes.

And the bad weather makes everything even worse and less bearable. Unfortunately many of us had a bad Lughnasa this year, and some people in the counties of Limerick and Cork were even forced to leave their houses because of severe flooding, caused by massive rainfall. Subsequently there were also power cuts, road closures and disruptions to public transport.

Worst effected by the floods was County Limerick, and in particular the community of Newcastle West. In a few hours the rainfall reached the level that is normally recorded in a whole month!

Limerick County Council had to issue a public drinking water notice, advising the people of Newcastle West, Coolcappagh and Rathcahill, as well as the users of the Ballyine, Dually, Reens, Kilscannell, Old Mill Road, Killoughteen and Killeline Group Water Supply Schemes to boil their water before using it.

This has never before happened in living memory, and one does wonder if we will have to brace ourselves for more of the same to come. Politicians and public administrators should better get ready for it and prepare themselves and our public services for ever more natural catastrophes.

As this coincides with a recession in our economy, rising unemployment and exploding prices for food, energy and most other essentials, we are facing difficult times on the Emerald Isle. In times of such crisis our Celtic ancestors used to try to please and pacify the obviously angry gods with a series of special ceremonies, including even human sacrifices. When things were extremely bleak and hopeless, a Celtic Prince or senior leader would volunteer to be sacrificed for the good of the people.
With the arrival of Christianity this practice disappeared, together with many other traditions. And today we are ruled by a cast of leaders who have absolutely no intentions to even step down from their positions when times are bad and obviously they have failed to perform their duties well.

Nevertheless, for our new Taoiseach Brian Cowen the dark clouds are gathering seriously. Well, he is of course not responsible for the bad weather, but the weakening of the economy, the rapid increase of inflation and the general feeling of despair can be - and is - rightfully put on the blame list of the man who has as Minister for Finance and Tanaiste failed to prepare the country for the harder times ahead. Now that he has the full responsibility for the whole government, he has to perform exceptionally well, otherwise he will fall from the heights of power even faster than he was lifted onto the shield of leadership by his party.

So far he had not much luck, nor has he shown much sensibility and leadership quality. Ireland's people will watch with growing interest if he can do better when he returns from the overly long holidays our politicians have given themselves once again.

The Emerald Islander

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