Tuesday July 08 2008
I know several people, including a blocklayer and a retired primary school teacher, who have been planning for the coming recession since 2006.
They and I, and probably thousands of others, knew that the Irish economy was almost totally reliant on construction and that it was a bubble waiting to burst.
My young brother was at a financial conference in Hungary at the beginning of 2007 where all were agreed that the (basically fraudulent) world economy could not possibly last any longer than the end of 2008. A few said the downturn would come earlier.
The evidence was clear and public. Yet the Minister for Finance and his nominal boss in the Government continued to talk positively about everything economic when they were running for election in early 2007.
Their party's cronies, most in construction and finance -- and now hopelessly discredited -- continued to benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions of euro. The Irish people lost out by the same amount.
Bertie Ahern, previously Minister for Finance, was having such a hard time at a tribunal, where even the judges were having trouble keeping a straight face, that he resigned "for the good of the country".
Brian Cowen, then Finance Minister, is now Taoiseach -- despite the fact that, after the wealthiest 10 years in Irish history, this utterly shameless double-act has knowingly squandered everything and will now have to borrow a billion or so to prop up their blunderings a bit longer.
During that period of incredible wealth, the two of them (willingly assisted by the other Cabinet crawlers) managed to increase Ireland's national debt to nearly €40bn -- at least €80,000 for every productive earner in the country.
Why would anybody in their right mind vote for people like that?
The only conclusion I can draw is that either the contempt of the electorate for Enda Kenny is so great that they would prefer that they and their children and grandchildren were robbed blind than vote for him, or that all the decent people in Ireland have completely given up on the whole rotten system.
People of Ireland, let's get our sense of outrage back.
TINAHELY, CO WICKLOW(Letter to Irish Independent)
Tuesday January 29 2008
In a Dail debate in March 1992, Jim Kemmy made a heart-rending appeal to the then Minister for Justice Padraig Flynn for 24-hour policing in Moyross.
"This weighs heavily on me and I regard it as an indictment of myself, my fellow councillors and my city that we have not been able to tackle this matter," the now late Limerick TD told the chamber.
He outlined the fact that some 70 houses were lying idle, unfit for human habitation and that single parents were so intimidated in their homes in the small hours of the morning by roving gangs of youths that they had to move out.
I am sure if action was initiated at that time, Moyross would not be in the state it is now.
However, the knocking down of 2,500 houses is not going to undo the social destruction caused by the neglect and lack of action of the past 16 years.
How many innocent children have now become criminals?
While the rest of Ireland was able to reap the benefits of free second- and third-level education, these children were left out of the loop.
Some will say it was their own fault but I would say it is the fault of the State.
Every citizen has the right to live his or her life in peace.
There must be no more "no-go areas" in the country -- be it in the heart of Connemara or in a large housing estate in Limerick.
If the law cannot protect vulnerable people in the street or in their homes then we need to revise it.
What have we learned if we think we can blot out the past by knocking down 2,500 houses?
With huge estates all over the country without the basic social facilities like schools, community centres, churches or garda stations, it looks like history is likely to repeat itself.
And what happens to the people and their families who will now be refused housing because they are "known to the gardai"?
Will they be sent to other parts of the country?
Is it actually constitutional to refuse a family housing because their son or daughter is involved in petty crime?
This is the big question which no one is tackling.
I would also ask another question: why is no one held accountable for nearly 20 years of inaction?
BOWLING GREEN, GALWAY CITY
Brown paper bags still rule?
- P Rovira (Letters, October 18) believes we should leave Mr Ahern alone. This would be quite easy if the issue was about a sole incident a number of years ago. However, the unanswered questions on why a longer, more expensive and archaeologically destructive route was chosen for the M3 makes most people in Ireland, including the supporters of the route, believe that the brown paper bag culture still exists in Mr Ahern's Government. His mistakes are costing us dearly. They will cost us even more in EU fines.
Fianna Fail foresight? Friday October 19 2007
I read with interest David McWilliams's excellent piece ('Realism is not racism in the immigration debate', Irish Independent, October 17) on our inability to rationally discuss immigration.
I am reminded of Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, writing in the 'Sunday Independent' in 2002, when in relation to the Nice Treaty he told us: "The second myth is that the Nice Treaty will mean mass immigration from the new EU member countries in Eastern Europe. This is probably the most odious of the myths propagated by some in the 'No' campaign."
With such foresight I wonder if the Government's reluctance to facilitate a debate on the current situation is as a result of that same inability to see the longer-term implications of the decisions they take.
LimerickGetting rid of Harney- too late?Friday October 19 2007
Health Minister Mary Harney recently pledged that she'll resign the PD leadership before the year is out. If she had any sense of decency, she would resign her ministry too.
Of course she won't, given that she actively sought out the Health portfolio again once she was, unfortunately, returned to government. Ms Harney is, arguably, the worst person to be at the helm of such an important ministry given her party's ideology of individualism.
This goes to the core of the whole thing.
There would be no reason why she would specifically seek the same portfolio except for the desire to pursue an agenda, an agenda the Government is collectively responsible for, not Ms Harney alone.
We must all shoulder some of the blame for this situation as the country did vote with their feet in the May elections and therefore gave tacit support to this disaster of a healthcare system.
After being re-elected, Ms Harney rapidly returned to form by stating on the airwaves how a friend of hers had spent time on a hospital trolley and "it wasn't such a bad experience".
She compounded this insult by stating two weeks ago that queueing for healthcare isn't such a bad thing as "people queue for buses all the time".
She then had the temerity to state to Pat Kenny on RTE how the death of Susie Long (the lady who had spoken bravely on RTE's Liveline about how she was dying because she didn't have private healthcare) was "intolerable" and "unacceptable to me".
What disingenuous rubbish.
The fact that Ms Harney is quite happy to preside over this dysfunctional health system and continually push her ideology illustrates the hollow ring of her vacuous words.
The idea of two-tier healthcare, whereby those who can pay get treated promptly and those who can't must wait, run the gauntlet of public healthcare, and play Russian roulette with their health, is fundamentally, deeply distasteful to me.
Market forces and the ability to pay should have no bearing on something which should be a basic human right.
Despite the fact that the populace re-elected this Government, I believe this view is shared by a great many people.
Blaming doctors and consultants is missing the point and going down a blind alley. It's the structure and foundations of this healthcare system which are wrong, not those working within it.
If this two-tier system continues, then we'll eventually end up with a situation like that in America, where vast swathes of the populace have no effective access to healthcare, because the private health providers consistently bumped up their rates and priced many people out of the market.
Why not adopt a similar model to France's or Canada's, where the model works to provide for equality and universal access to healthcare? I have yet to hear any good reason posited -- apart from blinkered ideology -- why the vast sums of money being squandered on this current system couldn't be channelled into a restructured health system where private healthcare would become increasingly redundant, because we'd have an efficient, functional nationalised healthcare system where all the country's citizens avail of health treatment regardless of their income or position in society.
Or perhaps I'm wrong after all and people such as Susie Long should continue to perish because people such as Ms Harney aren't prepared to swallow a slice of humble pie, admit their idiotic ideology doesn't apply to everything in society and alter their course.
Prison Blues Wednesday October 17 2007
Although I don't live in Ireland, I was so shocked to read your report on Irish prisons (Irish Independent, October 10) that I felt compelled to write.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) report describes degradation and humiliation faced by Irish prisoners, including reports of prison officers under the influence of alcohol fuelling deliberate rumours to incite violence among inmates.
The Irish Government should be shamed into taking action.
In England, too, there are examples of degrading practice and human rights abuse in prisons.
Our Chief Inspector of Prisons recently reported on Portland Young Offender Institution for males, where inmates were throwing buckets of excrement and urine out of the window because they could not gain access to toilets.
I write as the bereaved mother of my only child, Sarah, aged 18, who died while on "suicide watch" at Styal Women's Prison, England, in 2003.
Last year, the Home Office accepted liability for her death, and admitted my daughter's human rights were breached.
There are times when man's inhumanity to man (and woman) appears to know no bounds.
04 October 2007
Keep Bertie’s mimics off the air
2I WOULD like to draw your readers’ attention to what I consider to be a serious lapse in standards by RTÉ, our tax and license-funded ‘national’ broadcaster, which has also been dutifully echoed in some press reportage.
I strongly object to the demeaning mimicry of evidence of the Taoiseach in the course of RTÉ’s news broadcasts on the tribunal.
The manner in which the actor did a take-off of Mr Ahern’s homely north Dublin accent and phraseology is in marked contrast to the upper crust — almost ‘Home Counties’ — tones of the learned counsel probing him for details of transactions that took place 14 years ago.
The Salem Witches-like mood generated by this style of reporting perhaps conceals a snobbish "better school, better address" attitude to a grassroots Dublin Taoiseach.
Anyone who appreciates the trauma in Mr Ahern’s domestic affairs at that time could hardly expect clear and detailed memories about different bank transactions on different dates in these circumstances.
After all, one of the sums which is so exciting the tribunal lawyers and blatantly partisan media commentators is almost 10 times smaller than a proposed consultant’s salary offer, which was dismissed recently by a spokesman as "Mickey Mouse money".
I notice no media or leftwing outrage about that.
Incidentally, Mr Ahern’s transactions might bear comparison with the legal costs paid by the taxpayer to keep this tribunal running.
Looking back over the Taoiseach’s career and his massive contribution to industrial peace and unprecedented economic development, and his tireless and successful work for an historic Northern settlement, should put things in a proper perspective.
His achievements for this nation can be weighed against the contribution of his media critics, his detractors and his interrogators, but then that was the way the voters made their judgment at the last general election."
Empty holiday houses in the state
27 May 2007
There are 266,000 empty housing units in this state, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), equal to all the occupied houses on the west coast from Kerry to Donegal.
At current occupation rates, these could house 800,000 people.
Thousands of these units, serviced by taxpayers, have been thrown up on sea cliffs and sea shores, bunched together or scattered on river banks or high on hills. At an average price of €300,000 per unit, their value is more than €80 billion.
Where would we be if those now idle billions had been invested in our young would-be entrepreneurs?
Instead, their energies and hard-won skills are dissipated in their ever-lengthening commuter journeys.
Terenure, Dublin 6W
Rival airports and DAA rip-offs
27 May 2007
Vincent Wall’s letter (Defending Dublin Airport, 20/5/07) was inaccurate and misleading.
Allow me to correct the record:
1.Minister for Transport Martin Cullen did write to the Aviation Regulator ordering him to put the DAA’s profits ahead of the interests of passengers. The DAA cannot deny this.
2.Any of the many millions of passengers who have been stuck in long queues or ripped off in the car parks and concession shops at Dublin Airport will readily confirm that the DAA prioritises its interests over those of its passengers. Even Albania offers better airport facilities than Dublin.
3.TheDAA responded to the government’s decision to award it the second terminal by multiplying the cost of that terminal fourfold, from €200million in 2005 to over €800 million today. This is semi state waste on a prodigious scale - a re-run of the electronic voting fiasco, just 16 times more expensive!
4. Passenger charges at Dublin Airport are amongst the highest in Europe. This was recently confirmed by the European Commission in its investigation of Ryanair’s offer for Aer Lingus.
5.TheRegulator recently confirmed to airlines that, if these plans proceed, passenger charges at Dublin Airport will double. How’s that for a semi-state rip-off?
The only solution to the DAA shambles is competition. We urge the new government to proceed with any one of the 13 offers it received for a competing terminal at Dublin Airport and allow competition between terminals to reduce costs and improve services - in the same way that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has reduced air fares and transformed air access to this country.
Ryanair, Dublin Airport
A foreigners summation
i am Lars from germany. I visit Ireland since 13 years as tourist, but I never see such worry things like this year. Every big nature paradise is planted with huge tourist centers and craft shops selling nonsens and want to get a lot of money for wandering along in example the cliffs of moher. All the island stinks from the trash that the new consum brings to Ireland and I never see such a lot of drug consuming people in Galway since i was the first time there (and i see a lot of them on my duty as police-inspector in germany) What are the people from Ireland do to their Country? I have written a long E-Mail to Greenpeace about the sad things happenig in your Country, because nobody knows it here. You have to move a lot of more People in the whole Republik to make the politicans move and try to save whats saveable. The friend of me and I for myself love Ireland since we see it the first time (that´s the reason why we are spend our holiday every year there) an we love it especially for the great freedom in the nature. But if nothing happened very soon, we will not be back, because it´s nothing left from the nice places we love so much. The wheel must not be constructed new, a lot of the Problems you have now are well knowen in my Country 40 years ago. Look for example the recicling of empty glass- and plastik bottles or thincans. Why did´nt your goverment make such things to clean the environment? Pollution will go on if nobody will do a thing against it. I bought me on Dublin Airport the Newspaper "Buisseness and Financial", which have the Irish-Water-Crises" as a headline. What i have to read in this article make me shiver for the Future of the Country I love so well. I wish you all the best in the fight for clean water, but your organisation have to grow bigger to make things move. Maybe wrote a letter to the EU-Parlament to make more people know about the serios Problems you have now and in the future, if nowbody will help.
I hope my english is good enough to make you understand what i am talking about an sorry for the mistakes in my writing.
Best regards and all the best for you and Ireland
(above is a letter to the "Galway water crisis" blog on the internet.)
"Bring on the property crash. That's what I say. I'm sick to the back teeth of the pure rip-off that this "property industry" has become. It is a rip-off in the most extreme sense of the word.
I can remember only about five years ago when a site, say three quarters of an acre, cost only €50,000. Then, within no more than six months, relatively overnight in the greater scheme of things, that same site was claimed to be worth €120k or €150k.
The price hike was so blatant it smelt of greed and corruption right to the rotten core.
The Government and estate agents are entirely to blame, for allowing the spiral careen to the point where a crash looks likely. Well done.
I pray for that crash because then I might be able to afford a house in this ill-run country.
The government does not care what type of house is built. There are low standards of regulation. As long as they get some poor sod to buy it, they get their stamp duty. I blame estate agents for randomly cranking up prices and throwing in phantom bids, lauding poor properties and lying.
Not one house out there is worth its price tag.
There is little thought behind the new developments that dot the country. I am reminded of the story about a Co Louth councillor reputed to have drawn a ring around a map of Dunleer saying "fill that with houses". Random concrete jungles with few amenities are flying up. Houses are sandwiched in after crooked handshakes, backhanders and blind eyes turned.
I was laughed out of the bank with a salary of €50k pa. I was told I would qualify for a mortgage of less than €190k. There was no way a single professional like me was going to afford a house in this golden economy.
One could only afford if one had a partner in the deal or got the infamous "gift of 50 grand from the oul' pair".
Builders are crazy to allow some of the houses and apartments out there to be constructed.
In a supposedly doomed climate, what new house has solar panels or avails of other forms of renewable energy systems as in Germany or Holland? I respect the issuing of grants, but more could be done.
I feel sorry for my friends and relations who might lose their home when the crash hits. But our self congratulatory society and government deserve it. It makes me want to emigrate."
COLLON, CO LOUTH (April 2007)
Race against Waste.'
THE announcement that Cork City Council is about to raise the prices at the Kinsale Road Recycling Centre for domestic landfill waste from €20 to €25 (up massively from €10 in 2005) per car, coupled with a new charge of €2 for every visit to the recycling centre, beggars belief (Irish Examiner, January 5).
In addition, the cost of bringing a small low-sided single-axle car trailer full of waste will rocket from €10 to €70.
What kind of weak-kneed, ineffectual councillors and TDs sit on the council to allow this pernicious assault on the civic-minded public, who manfully separate their waste on a daily basis and undertake regular trips to this centre? These green-minded voters are delivering exactly what we have been exhaustively encouraged to do — by the local authorities, by the EPA, by the Government and through all elements of the media, including expensive campaigns such as the Race Against Waste one.
Now we are told that we must pay for this privilege — presumably because the council feels that if we can drive to the dump, we can afford to pay for it.
What kind of twisted logic is this and what a pathetic response from the council’s spokesperson that "the cost of recycling is very expensive …"
Those of us who regularly visit the Kinsale Road centre carefully separate our waste and deposit it into whatever containers the council wants.
This valuable resource is then either sold to waste recoverers or given free to them.
How is recycling expensive?
What are Cork City and County Councils doing with the millions of euro of landfill tax which is collected for every tonne of waste from the commercial sector at €15 per tonne?
Surely this should part-fund the running of recycling centres — and if they need more, they should go back to the Government and ask for more funds to encourage more of us to recycle even more.
All those involved — council management, councillors and TDs — should hang their heads in shame at this invidious tax, which will only result in increasing the level of illegal casual dumping. And some of these people are going to come among us shortly to ask us to vote for them.
Who should hang their heads in shame then?
(Editors note: Maurice, Joe Higgins and others told you long ago what was coming down the line in stealth taxes on recycling..)
Irish Times - Letter to the Editor
Saturday, 28 April 2007
Madam, - The Taoiseach fears that "we will be the laughing stock of Europe" because of our failure to embrace electronic voting. He also says he is "embarrassed" and that he had to apologise to the people of Meath.Whatever about e-voting, this Taoiseach has made himself and the country a laughing stock and he should be embarrassed about his public dismissal of the importance of Tara and her history on more than one occasion. He certainly owes the people of Meath an abject apology - for deliberately misleading them by blaming protesters and legal challenges for delaying construction of the monstrous M3. Archaeological investigation of the enormous sites is not yet complete despite the indecent haste of the NRA as it ravages the Tara-Skryne Valley.This Taoiseach also owes the people of Meath an apology for the delay in re-opening their railway line, for allowing the county to develop in a haphazard and unsustainable way and for planning to toll them twice for the privilege of driving over the dwellings and graves of our ancestors.
MUIREANN NÍ BHROLCHÁIN, Laurence Avenue, Maynooth, Co Kildare.
22 December 2006 (Examiner)
Why pay landowners for access every year?
THE Government is proposing to pay landowners €12m to €15m a year to allow access for walkers.
The 2,000km of paths proposed, 2.5 metres wide, make 500 hectares. At €10,000 to €20,000 per hectare, this land could be bought for €5m to €10m, leaving millions for surfacing, gates and fencing.
And the next year the State could use those millions to build another 2,000km of paths, and so on, every year.
Why pay out all this money every year simply for access to land when it could be spent providing footpaths that would be there forever?
The State has no problem acquiring land for road-building, using compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for ‘designed’ works or simply taking land illegally for small ‘undesigned’ roadworks, so why can’t CPO’s be used to buy up land for paths?
This is nothing more than another scam dreamt up by the IFA to put taxpayers’ money into the pockets of landowners for doing nothing.
Is the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon Ó Cuiv, unable to do simple arithmetic, or is the country being run solely for the benefit of powerful lobbying and commercial interests?
21 December 2006
Taoiseach gives VHI a free run
THE Taoiseach showed his loss of touch with ordinary citizens in his outburst against BUPA last Friday. His venomous rantings and ridicule of a respected company with a huge customer base here contrasts with his joy at rubbing shoulders with fat-cat developers in the FF tent at the Galway races, some of them known tax defaulters.
He appeared to sympathise with older people who were supposedly getting ‘screwed’ by BUPA, forgetting he had just given VHI a licence to screw everyone, young or old. I am a VHI member, and while I have had good service from them I predict premiums will go sky-high. Unlike Bertie, most people do not have friends who can give them a ‘dig-out’ when their VHI is renewable.
Poor Micheál Martin ran like a headless chicken to Fermoy last Monday to douse the flames of dissent in north Cork. Unlike other layoffs, the jobs in Fermoy will go directly as a result of Government policy.
But we ordinary Joe Soaps will have forgotten that by election time. Looking at the opposition, I can see why.
Still, I wish we had more than a Bass-drinking, Man United-following wannabe Joe Soap as Taoiseach. Give us a visionary, someone who leads by example, takes on vested interests and make decisions for the common good. I’d even settle for someone who can complete a coherent sentence.
War-monger awards not a new trend IT'S not the first time that Ireland's most celebrated tax avoider has received an award from a war-monger. During his acceptance speech at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 1995 in France, Bono said about French nuclear testing in the Pacific and Jacques Chirac:
"What a city, what a night, what a crowd, what a bomb, what a mistake, what a wanker you have for a president. What are you gonna do about it? ! ?
Tell me you're gonna do something about it!" In 2003, Bono was given the Legion D'Honneur by President Jacques Chirac on behalf of the French government.
Ultan O Broin, South Circular Road, Dublin 8
Growing aggression is clear in the media
IF ARCHBISHOP Brady needs more evidence of "growing coarseness and aggression" in our society all he has to do is look through the coverage in the media over the weekend of that execution: the mother of all snuff movies!
Noel Casey, Carrickbeg, Carrick-on-Suir
Dictator deaths show US foreign policy
IT'S strange how the west discards dictators that were once useful. General Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein had much in common with 9/11 being a turning point in both lives. At one stage they were both part of US geopolitical policy, sustained in power even though both were merciless dictators who committed crimes against humanity against their own people.
Pinochet escaped justice and died in the comfort of his own bed attended by church and military ceremonial while Saddam died ignominously at the end of a rope after a tainted trial. Even in death, both men reflected US foreign policy.
Brendan Butler, 45 The Moorings , Malahide, Co Dublin
Toll increases don't translate into value
WHILE driving down from Belfast yesterday, I was dismayed to see that the toll on the North Link at Drogheda had increased from 1.60 to 1.70, an increase of 6.25% when inflation is 5% and the wage increase under the latest Towards 2016 agreement is only 4.2%.
Proceeding around the M50 to the West Link, the toll had risen by 10c, the fifth rise above inflation in four years. As well as causing massive traffic disruption, the operation of the West Link has to be one of the most blatant cases of rip-off of the taxpayer and motorist.
When the bridge was built in 1990, it cost 38m. Now NTR takes more than that in one year! Over the 30 years of the contract, drivers will have to pay out over 1,500m to use it.
A nice little earner for NTR, but what value for money for the rest of us?
Apparently, this crazy contract was drawn up in 1987 by the then FG/Labour government and signed by FG councillor Tom Hand, FF minister P Flynn and George Redmond of tribunal fame. Not only does the contract allow NTR to fleece motorists for 30 years but it gives exclusive rights to toll ALL traffic between the N3 and N4 junctions up to 2016. This means that the contract for the widening of this part of the M50 (and any future works) MUST go to NTR. Competition or what?
The so-called Public Private Partnerships (like the privatisation of Eircom and Aer Lingus) seem to be a lose/lose for the taxpayer/motorist and a win/win for well connected private businesses.
Dessie Ellis, 19 Dunsink Rd, Finglas, Dublin 11
M3 tolls only small part of the price we pay: 3rd February 2007(Irish Examiner)
IT is depressing that only now, somewhat late in the day, Meath County Council (Elections looming) has united in its opposition to the twice-tolled M3.
For motorists obliged to use it for commuting purposes, the daily toll will amount to €5.20 (or €26 a week).
But the multiple tolls are only part of the price we, as Irish citizens, will be obliged to pay.
Tara is internationally recognised as a symbol of our nationhood. Yet this motorway and interchange at the very foot of the hill is destined to gouge its way through Tara’s Gabhra Valley and irrevocably undermine the physical integrity of this landscape forever. A rash of secondary development that will inevitably follow will compound the damage still further.
It appears Tara has been sold to a business consortium that will stand to reap a substantial profit at our inestimable loss. To add insult to injury, each time we pass through the M3 toll barriers we will do so in the knowledge that some of our money will be used to offset the costs of this cultural desecration. The real toll will be more than monetary — it will be at the expense of our dignity as a people and a nation.
Department of Archaeology
Last Monday the Minister for Social and Family Affairs announced details of the 'Pensions Awareness Campaign 2007'.
I thought (foolishly) maybe this year the campaign would throw some light on the black hole that has swallowed up the pension contributions paid into occupational pension schemes for decades by thousands of workers.
These workers were young once. They are now about to retire or are already in retirement. Can the Minister explain what has happened to their pensions? Where did they go to? Who was dipping into the funds?
Why were companies allowed take contribution holidays? Why has the Minister not protected pensioners with deferred benefits? Why have they not got indexation of their pensions? Why has the Minister allowed companies change from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution schemes? What has the Minister done to protect their retirement?
Once again, the Minister (representing the Government) and the Pensions Board are actively encouraging young people to start a pension.
Before our young workers are encouraged to start a pension the Minister needs to address the woes of our older people who did just that and are now asking, "Where has our pension gone to?"
SENATOR SHEILA TERRY,
Letter from America May 2007 .Nearer to Boston than Berlin
"Political corruption, social services for an obviously distressed family "not available on weekends", six year olds celebrating the murder of a gang leader, suspended sentences for rapists. Congratulations, Ireland - you have become the 51st State."
INDIAN HEAD PARK,
IL 60525, USA
Letters 23rd dec 2006 Irish Independent.
"Charles J Haughey should be remembered for all he has done for the people of his constituency of North Dublin, for the people of Ireland, for the people in his own party, for all he has done for his friends, and all he has done for people around the world"?.
* Charles J Haughey stood in our kitchen and said he would get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the Stardust fire in which 48 children perished. He could have. He didn't.
* Charles J haughey left his legacy of tribunals of investigation, supposedly to disclose rampant corruption, mostly within Fianna Fail and costing the taxpayer millions more.
* Charles J Haughey was handed most of the 1,615 questionable cheques pre-signed by the now Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
* Charles J Haughey callously helped himself to the cash collected for his friend'smedical bills.
* Charles J Haughey's friends are among the wealthiest in Ireland. Developers, bankers and landbank owners, made rich by re-zoning which is being investigated in, yes, even more tribunals.
* Charles J Haughey allegedly "gave" the pensioners "free travel". I thought the public transport system belongs to the people of Ireland and not one man or political party.
Charles Haughey's legacy is to leave Bertie Ahern in charge.
* The man says he is a socialist but favours building private fee-paying clinics on our public hospital property, as we watch the public system go down in flames. * The new road infrastructure paid for by taxpayers will remain in public hands - except for the part the toll plazas stand upon. Eighteen more are planned
* Infants, old folks and teenagers at risk, the most vunerable of all in Irish society, are grossly abused by a system lacking leadership as we brag about our "wealth".
* Suicide rates are the highest in Europe.
* Road deaths are the worst in Europe.
* Shannon Airport has been the launch pad for genocide in Iraq.
The future looks brighter than ever, if you listen to the politicians.
PAUL O TOOLE,
ARTANE, D 5
* Perhaps Bertie Ahern, Fianna Fail and the rest of those culpable for the Haughey years might plead would-be Stormont bomber Michael Stone's defence - It wasn't reality, it was "performance art."
DR NIGEL P. COOKE,
ST HELENS, LANCS.
* Before I left 40 years ago, I with a lot of others knew Haughey was bent but it suited his party mates to turn a blind eye, including Blank Cheque Bertie. To think this galah got a state funeral makes my blood boil. Haughey's estate should be stripped bare, but that won't happen. Wake up Ireland, it appears the politicians can fool all of the eejits all of the time.
FREMANTLE WA 6163,
A note penned from one of Charlie,s pals (Dermot Desmond) rebuking the Indo for "imputations" in an article:
I refer to your coverage of my press statement on the Moriarty Tribunal. It is bad reporting to state that I took a "swipe at its refusal to accept at face value his own claims that he received no favours from Mr Haughey in exchange for the €95,000 he paid to have Mr Haughey's Celtic Mist Yacht repaired".
Firstly what my statement actually says is that "The Moriarty Tribunal cast doubts over my motives for making payments to Charlie Haughey, not accepting that it was done out of pure friendship". It's a big leap for you to twist this by saying I took a swipe because the Tribunal refused to accept my claim that I did not receive favours. Let us be clear, the Tribunal did not make any finding to the effect that I received favours from Charlie Haughey.
You can verify this fact by reading the actual report. You should also note the very opening wording of my statement in which I refer to the Moriarty Tribunal exonerating me and finding that "I received no favours from Charlie Haughey". I also stated that "The key point is that no favours were sought and none were received".
You misconstrued my statement further by juxtaposing reference to the payment of €95,000 in respect of Celtic Mist. I did not specify the payments in my statement and nor did I refer to Celtic Mist in the context of "receiving no favours".
I am looking for an immediate correction. It is not just sloppy journalism; the clear implication is that the Tribunal found that I had received favours, and that I criticised them for not accepting my claims that I had received no favours.
DERMOT F. DESMOND,
PD leader Michael McDowell continues his effort to frighten the electorate by branding the opposition as "the slump coalition". However, the next election is likely be fought out on a somewhat different battleground than that preferred by the current coalition partners.
In reality, there will be little difference in the broad economic and taxation policies of either coalition team put before the electorate, or indeed, in practice after the election.
Also, there appear to be few fears among the electorate that any mainstream party will adopt a "tax and spend" approach.
The fact that more of the electorate seem to favour Labour over the PDs as potential coalition partners for Fianna Fail, suggests that there is little fear of an economic slump as an outcome of the election.
Where the election battle should be fought is on the ability of either side to get the public services to work effectively and efficiently, making them accountable for delivering value for the enormous sums of public money being spent annually.
In this regard, the contest will be between the proven inability of the current coalition to achieve this objective against the unproven ability of the rainbow coalition to deliver the necessary leadership and change.
Will it be the devil you know or the devil you don't know?
IT IS not conceivable that Bertie Ahern did not know the approximate use to which Charles Haughey intended to put the unspecified sums in at least some of the blank cheques, signed by him and freely handed to his party leader.
Their destination and the debiting of them would have been a regular part of any visual audit of the account over which Ahern had a major responsibility, reinforced by the fact that he quickly became the main signatory of cheques.
It was not Mr Haughey's personal secretary Eileen Foy's job to question the amounts, or where they went, and it is clear from the report that she did all that was required of her. But it was Ahern's job to check on those issues, just as it had been of previous signatories. George Colley would not have baulked at this issue nor been slow to question the detail.
There was always a problem within the party over Haughey and finance. After he became leader there had been a widely known tussle with Des Hanafin over the control and audit of incoming donations, a tussle that Hanafin fought bravely but lost. Haughey, in that case, wanted to know where donated money came from, how much from individual donors, and under his control. He ordered the submission to him of documents, and shared the information from them with those helping him financially, including Des Traynor.
This fact was part of what soured the atmosphere and added to the thread of fear running through Fianna Fail under his leadership. The likelihood, if not the certainty, that the leader's account might be plundered - as it was - could be taken as read and should have been addressed. At the very least, the facts about it should have been noted.
Not only was Ahern best-placed to do this; he had a duty to do it. That he chose the course of action criticised by Judge Michael Moriarty as "inappropriate and imprudent", is a euphemistic way of defining his failure. And it is hard not to form the opinion that Ahern's handling was either because he did not have the courage to confront Haughey's insatiable greed, or that he connived in it.
That he simply signed the cheques, as he said on Wednesday, because it was the practice "that everybody did in the country", is not acceptable. He told us, had he known what was happening with the money in the account, he would "never have signed the cheques". This is disingenuous to the point of being laughable. If he did not think to ask questions, how do we believe he would have had the courage simply to stop signing?
This highly intelligent politician, Haughey's right-hand man for many years and a close and admiring associate up to the man's death in June, expressed in the graveside speech, has given too many glib answers to serious questions.
It was little short of an insult to the media he daily courts when, on Thursday, after absolving himself from knowledge, responsibility or blame over Moriarty, he complained to them about unfavourable coverage over his own finances.
And it was an insult to the public at large when he claimed that he had brought in legislation that would ensure the practices would not happen again. The legislation he refers to is deeply flawed and in need of amendment, as has been admitted.
What kind of a man is this, whose glib answers ring false, but are then endorsed by varying majorities of the public in opinion polls? And what kind of a public is it, that is failing to listen to or assess the manifold evidence that Bertie Ahern "undoubtedly facilitated" Haughey's misuse of funds?
Bertie was not treated unfairly in respect of his own still puzzling financial affairs any more than Haughey was treated unfairly. We have paid huge sums of taxpayers' money for nine years of sustained picking apart of Haughey's financial dealings, dealings based on the same principle, of supposedly unsolicited and supposedly unrewarded gifts of money.
Both Haughey's and Ahern's sets of circumstances came to light by accident, and in the most bizarre of fashions. This did not make them any less true nor did they undermine their value.
Bertie Ahern is not in the same league as Haughey, even if he did aid and abet him in his wrong-doing. But it is nauseating to see the Taoiseach completely shrugging off his part - not insubstantial - in what Haughey did. And the same can be said for those few in Fianna Fail who have so far commented, avoiding all issues of substance, putting the onus of judgment on "history".
The Opposition, despite the lack of public support are right to sustain their questioning and their criticisms. They should make their attacks stiffer in the new year,
There is a huge deficit in the way the Government is spending itself out of criticism and towards an electoral combat in which the issues that have come to light this year, must be included, since one of its administrators leads the present government. (Irish Independent)
23 December 2006
Begrudgers target a great man
I AM not now, nor have I ever been, a Fianna Fáil supporter. Having said that, I listened with disgust to Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme on RTÉ radio (December 20) as people took to the air to insult the memory of Charles Haughey — a great man who, like all great men, had flaws.
While he should have been ashamed of the misappropriation of the Brian Lenihan fund, everything else should be consigned to history.
Mr Haughey did many great things for this country — free travel for pensioners, tax exemption for authors and artists, and the IFSC in Dublin, to name but a few. His actions as Taoiseach, despite the protestations of the opposition parties, were the foundations of our modern prosperity. His private financial affairs, while murky at best, have never been proven in any way to have influenced his political activities while in government. Now that he is dead, small-minded men have come out from their dark corners to stick knives in his corpse.
These are the same people who were afraid to put their heads above the wall while their betters worked long and hard for the future of this country.
These begrudgers should crawl back into the dark where they belong. They couldn’t drag Charlie down while he was alive and we will not let them sully his memory now that he is gone.
Will decentralisation offices stand empty?
THE Government’s website states that Finance Minister Brian Cowen has welcomed the Decentralisation Implementation Group’s report to the effect that "decentralisation will be a reality in 29 towns by the end of 2007" and that "progress is well advanced in relation to the civil service aspects of the programme".
Mr Cowen said "the success of the programme can be seen from the fact that decentralisation is now a reality in 12 new locations and that over 2,000 civil servants will have relocated to 29 locations by the end of 2007".
Furthermore, "This steady level of progress is an indication of the level of interest in relocating among civil servants and represents an endorsement of the ability of public service managers to effectively manage the staffing, business and property issues arising." The minister also said his colleague Tom Parlon, in the Office of Public Works, has completed or significantly advanced property acquisitions in over 34 locations.
While the information reflects the Goebells-esque style in which Fianna Fáil’s dispatches are written, the last statement is frightening because the contracts entered into may be irrevocable in the unlikely even of a change of government.
We know who will foot the bill for the failed decentralisation plans but who will occupy these 34 palatial monuments/office blocks now under contract and construction nationwide, if nothing induces the civil service to reconsider?
As Government coffers are brimful of citizens’ cash, would anybody begrudge the OPW converting the new buildings to palaces to house our glorious leader while he visits his subjects around the country? A more practical alternative would be to convert them into affordable housing.
Sir - It is rather depressing that only now, somewhat late in the day, Meath County Council has become united in its opposition to the M3 twice-tolled motorway. For motorists obliged to use this motorway for commuting the daily toll will be €5.20 (or €26 a week). But the multiple tolls are only part of the price we, as Irish citizens, will be obliged to pay.
Tara is internationally recognised as a symbol of our nationhood. It is a cultural icon and part of our world heritage. Yet this motorway, and interchange at the very foot of the hill, is destined to gouge its way through Tara's Gabhra Valley and undermine the physical integrity of this landscape forever. A rash of secondary development that will inevitably come in its wake will compound the damage further.
It appears that Tara has been sold to the highest bidder, a business consortium that will stand to reap a substantial profit at our inestimable loss. To add insult to injury, each time we pass through the M3's toll-plaza barriers we will do so in the knowledge that part of our money will be used to offset the costs of this cultural desecration. The real toll will be more than monetary; it will be at the expense of our self-respect as a people and dignity as a nation.
Dept of Archaeology, NUI Galway (Irish Independent Jan 2007)
A new nightmare scenario in Aherns constituency.?
A few days ago, I suggested that the new children's hospital needs to be located on a site accessable to all.
Since then, a businessman called Richard Farrington, has made a fantastic offer to this lame government of ours. He has a vision, for a site, accessable by all the major road networks, located near Newlands Cross and City West.
It will have train, bus access, and buckets of parking. It's a short, easy ride from the city by ambulance or car. But best of all, parents will not have to struggle through impossible traffic congestion to get to the Mater, a blessing for those who come from the country, and do not know Dublin and its diabolical parking system.
What do Mary Harney and the great Brendan Drumm do? They shoot him down in a ball of flames.
Mary Harney has taken it upon herself to dictate to the nation what we need. This is coming from a woman who is not a parent, and does not know what it is like to pack up two or three children at four o'clock in the morning and head for a Dublin Hospital.
Brendan Drumm, in a recent interview described his plans as not being for a new hospital, but a new service. I put it to him that his plans are not new, just a re-hash of a very old, tried, tested and failed service, with the same idiots driving it, pumping millions into consultants' bank accounts.
We need to force Mary Harney to support Richard Farrington and get on with building the hospital. It is a fantastic suggestion and location. If she does, it will be the only positive thing she has done for healthcare, since she took office.
* One aspect that I believe has not been properly considered in selecting the Mater site as the single site for a new children's hospital is the unacceptable risk attached to a single hospital solution. What if there were to be a major fire, explosion, civil strife, or even a serious MRSA attack requiring closure of the hospital? Would we be left with no children's hospital services available?
We must have a two hospital solution in order to ensure an absolute guarantee of continuity of hospital services for children no matter what emergency may arise. Anything else would be irresponsible.
Joined-up thinking is what is needed now, not turf wars between vested interests!
A nod and a wink- and Bertie will you get out of the clink!
BERTIE Ahern sees nothing wrong with Dail deputies seeking cuts in prison terms or early releases for prisoners who wish to attend, for example, a Confirmation or First Holy Communion. Deputies, he says, have a "humanitarian" role.
We have heard a lot of excuses over the years for the batty way we run our politics, but this one takes beating. "Humanitarian" used to mean helping the Third World. Now it means promoting the codocracy that passes for democracy in our great little country.
Of course we know that "representations" are the common, almost the universal, practice. Councillors, deputies, ministers interfere in everything under the sun.
Tony Killeen says that 200,000 pieces of mail have passed through his Clare office in 14 years. Every communication must get some sort of reply. And if at all possible, there must also be some form of action.
The usual form of action was described many years ago in a famous article by a political scientist, entitled 'Going About Persecuting Civil Servants'. The title came from the exact words used by a politician to describe his role.
Naive and idealistic people could not imagine then that the practice would persist for a generation, still less that the volume of nonsense would swell to its present proportions and absorb so much manpower (and womanpower). The more it grows and the more people it involves, the more harm it does.
It wastes public money in more ways than one. It wastes the time of junior or middle-rank civil servants in much the same way that trying to grapple with the decentralisation fiasco wastes the time of their superiors.
Since time is money, that means that it wastes public money. At the other end of the pipeline, it wastes the time of the deputies and their staffs, all of whom are paid, one way and another, from public funds.
We hear that the person who handled the controversial correspondence in Mr Killeen's office is a councillor. The taxpayer pays councillors' salaries and allowances. Presumably this person also gets a salary, again from the taxpayer, for his work in the minister's office.
But what are councillors elected for? They are elected to carry out certain specific functions. This is not one of them. So much for their role. What of their status?
When a little local difficulty arose in Roscommon once, Mr Ahern "sent a councillor" - his words - to look into it. Yesterday, he said there had been a furore about the incident. That seemed to puzzle him. Evidently he still cannot see that he should have left the issue alone, or that getting a councillor involved did not improve matters.
And the mindset that has given us this system is exactly the same mindset that has given us two of the controversies of the last few days, the "National Development Plan" and the saga of the proposed children's hospital.
Into the NDP the Government has thrown everything but the kitchen sink. But one thing is missing: joined-up government.
There is no strategic thinking and planning, nor could there be any when everybody must have something and every good idea can be smashed or spoiled by lobbying at every level from the constituency office to the most elevated quarters in the land.
On the hospital issue, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have both been exceptionally firm and exceptionally quick off the mark. They have rejected the appealing proposal from Richard Farrington without any debate, indeed without any consideration, and insisted that the hospital must go ahead on the Mater site.
Mary Harney says the Mater was chosen in a robust and independent process. More interesting use of language here: maybe she picked it up from Bertie. "Robust" used to be a euphemism for dirty work on the playing field. I don't know what it means in this context, though I can have a stab at "independent".
But I do know one thing. When Fianna Fail canvassers engage in their next mass invasion of the doorsteps of Dublin Central, they won't tell the punters that the Mater was chosen by a robust and independent process and Bertie Ahern had nothing to do with it.
Nor will they tell them that the site is too small or that the disruption caused by the construction work and the traffic congestion in the neighbouring streets will be beyond all imagining.
They will tell them that if the people of Dublin Central want something, Bertie will get it for them.
And you don't have to live in Drumcondra to receive assurances like these. Not all that long ago the people of Leitrim got promises from similar sources that they, too, would have piped water. It's there now, and 18 out of 22 group water schemes are contaminated with E Coli from human and animal waste.
The codocracy has given us many a good laugh, but in the last analysis it isn't funny. There is no freedom without order, and no democracy without respect for what we used to call the proper authorities.
Bertie sees nothing wrong with the system. Do any of our other leaders have better eyesight?
I read the following about the M50 and presumably the city centre: "Drastic measures - including congestion charging - will be needed if there is not a huge improvement in public transport so that more people leave their cars at home, the Oireachtas Transport Committee heard yesterday" (Irish Independent, March 8).
I would like to be placed in a small room with the person who made this statement. I would also like someone to stand up and represent the workers of this country who are already taxed to the hilt and who are forced to sit in their cars for hours every day.
Do I want to sit in my car and commute? No I do not.
Property prices drove me out of Dublin and into the commuter belt. I tried public transport for several months. Our disjointed, antiquated and expensive system does not work and will not work any time soon.
From Kildare Town, I would spend at least three and a half hours commuting to Dublin 4 to get to work, using three different connections, assuming that the trains were running on time.
If I drive, I can cut my commute by one hour and be able to sit in comfort. And who knows how long it would take me to get to south or north Dublin by public transport?
Don't talk to me about the LUAS. It's useless unless you both live and work near it.
I've tried the "park and ride" and, failing to find a parking space, I continued to drive into the city centre.
I often hear "people need to change the times that they go to work." Obviously this is coming from someone who lives in the city centre or whose mind is detached from reality. Take a spin on the N7 at 6:30am and you'll find it is congested. Come back at 10:00am. It is still congested. And this is just the few people who actually do have a choice in when they can come to work.
I am left wondering what the thought process really is behind congestion charging. Surely it isn't another tax to fund the over staffing of the civil service and to pay for more makeup for our beloved leader?
Congestion charges would add to costs and reduce our competitiveness.
So what are the solutions? Even a monkey in the zoo will tell you we need a well designed and connected public transport system. And not just the infrastructure but the ticketing and pricing too.
"Hands off the public’s water "
11 March 2007 Sunday Business Post
'The votes are cast, the results are in.
The people have done their bit and now it is time the politicians started delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.
They can do that by getting the institutions up and running again. And they can act on the new water charges regime.
During the election, all parties stated they were in favour of scrapping water charges but, strangely, they are not backing our campaign for non-payment.
Nonetheless, there are certain ‘‘red lines’’ the parties can adopt to ensure the charges are not implemented. Leaked Treasury e-mails have shown a desire, on its part, for private sector meddling in our publicly-owned water service.
The experience of PFI/PPPs in the health and education sector has shown that trying to find a quick fix for public services almost always costs much more in the long term.
So, the first thing parties can do is pledge to keep the water Service in 100 per cent public ownership for the entire duration of the incoming Assembly.
The physical assets of the Water Service are presently valued at over stg£5.6 billion and these would be tempting prizes for asset-strippers The Treasury has made it clear that these assets cannot be sold off to benefit any part of the devolved administration, except the water service itself.
The parties should further pledge that land publicly owned through the water service will not be sold off to private interests. Incidentally, the NI Authority for Energy Regulation takes responsibility for water and sewerage on April 1.
Not one of its members will be resident in Northern Ireland and therefore not one of its members will be paying the double taxation on Water.
Congress in Northern Ireland represents in excess of 250,000 people employed in all sectors of economic activity.
Our campaign against these new charges - in effect, the creeping privatisation of the water service itself - has broad public support.
That reality must be reflected at the political level."
Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary, ICTU
"HOW much do I despise this city's traffic? Let me count the ways. I was one of the thousands of southsiders caught in the gridlock of 10 days ago when our seven-minute journey turned into a 90-minute fiasco. The reason we only spent an hour and a half in a dark, cold, unmoving line of traffic was because we were lucky enough to be able to abandon the car. Yes, in this city you consider yourself lucky if you can dump your car on the side of the road and, with your nine-year-old daughter (who is wearing football shorts and a blazer), walk half a mile home in sleeting November rain.
A couple of days later - a Saturday, mid-morning - I take the Rock Road to the airport, a decision that nearly causes me to miss my flight. Happily my destination - Vienna - is a highly sophisticated city where our taxi slides smoothly through evening rush hour. It's a bigger, more populous city than Dublin, and yet in three days there we experience no traffic jams or snarl-ups. Their public transport's a dream too. Sunday morning, we visit the fabled Schonbrunn Palace and take a combination of bus, tram and train; our longest wait is two minutes.
Imagine the disappointment arriving back to our native city as it gears up for Christmas with the hilariously named Operation Freeflow. The examples of its ineptitude are myriad but here are two. Pearse St - the central artery connecting the north and south of our prosperous little city - is, for the festive season, reduced to one lane. That's some present to harried workers driving home for Christmas. And on our premier bridge a lone garda attempts to direct the carsfrom the quays to O'Connell St, ignoring the plightof pedestrians who wait, lemming-like, to course a suicidal path through the hurtlingjuggernauts.
A colleague suggests for the purpose of this piece I drive around the city to test Operation Freeflow. Apart from the fact that I'd rather take part in a reality TV show, I don't have to because I know it doesn't do what it says on the tin - the traffic isn't any freer, nor does it flow.
So take the Dart to town girl. Fine. I'll do my bit to reduce the gridlock: leave my car at my local station at 8.30 and collect it 10 hours later. Except that now, in their wisdom, the city fathers have made the outlying areas pay-and-display. That in itself is painful enough. But hey, they're going to make it even harder for us and allow a maximum of three hours' parking.
It is completely beyond me why our city managers - and I speak as the granddaughter of a former Dublin city manager - cannot with the combination of a big budget and a small city sort out our chaotic traffic situation. What's certain is that for the working commuter, whose taxes pour billions into the state coffers, it's a lose-lose situation. "
Will this Fianna Fail minister be next?
I read that the jailed Galway Councillor "Stroke Fahy" is to continue his duties from his prison cell (Irish Independent, April 24). This is an absolute disgrace. He is a public servant in a position of trust which he has grossly abused for his own benefit and has been found guilty in a democratic court of law.
Anyone in an "ordinary" job would be dismissed as a result of being imprisoned for most offences, especially fraud, as the bond of trust between employer and employee would be terminally broken.
Where is the punishment if he is still drawing his salary for the duration of his imprisonment?
It is about time that morals, and not greed, were the driving force behind people in public and State positions. How many hospitals and schools could have been built with the public money paid out on various tribunals to expose corrupt politicians?
I have just missed my fourth flight back in as many months to Birmingham from Dublin Airport, due to the appalling traffic disorganisation at the M-50 Toll Plaza. One wonders just how long this traffic planning fiasco will be allowed to continue before Dublin City Council Highways Department becomes pro-active and actually does something to open these toll gates at congested periods of the day.
I allowed three hours from Kildare and spent the best part of an hour travelling some four miles to the Toll Plaza, arriving 15 minutes too late for check-in, attracting another flight cost of £95 with Aer Lingus.
11am in the morning is hardly "peak" period, what must Dubliners have to tolerate daily at 7am and 4pm peak commuter times? I shudder to think.