Saturday, September 23, 2006
How he can claim that they’re loans, when nothing has been repaid 13 years later, beggars belief, but then FF have always taken the public for idiots and have generally been proved right!
But wouldn't it be fascinating if Ken Rohan turned out to be one of the friendly donors!
Rohan had furnished his modest home "Charleville" in Enniskerry with very expensive antiques and art which were owned by his company. The Revenue had assessed him as having a BIK liability which was reported to exceed €1m.
In the 1994 Finance Act, Minister for Finance Bertie Ahern introduced an amendment to remove this BIK tax liability. Not only that, but the relief was made retrospective to 1983! Several years later it was reported in the media that Ken Rohan was the sole known beneficiary of this amendment, without this being contradicted by the government or the revenue commissioners.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The shock for the rest of us is even greater. Listening to them, you'd imagine that the PDs have been in opposition for the past decade.
Instead, they've been jointly responsible for several years of serious traffic disruption on the northside and the spending of over €1bn in digging the Port Tunnel.
Isn't it a pity they didn't think of Bremore a bit earlier. That location would be at a more advanced stage of development, and we'd have been saved the cost and disruption associated with the port tunnel.
Footnote: Published as a a letter in the Irish independent.
Incidentally, there's no priority accorded to such a move for Dublin Port in Transport 21, the major infrastructural strategy published only last November by the coalition Government in which the PDs are partners, which is supposed to set out the major transport plans for the next decade. McDowell really is in "back of envelope" territory.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Since the 1997 election, the survival instinct may have forced them to cling to Fianna Fáil, holding their noses in the face of tribunal scandals and ministerial incompetence. In those circumstances, some compromise of their supposedly high standards could be regarded as inevitable.
However, the McCreevy-Parlon decentralisation plan, unveiled in the 2003 budget, was as shameful a piece of political cute-hoorism as you'll ever see. The PDs were seen to be involved in the divvy-up of public service jobs, scattered to various constituencies with little or no regard to the same Government's much touted National Spatial Strategy, published only a year earlier.
This exercise exposed the PDs as being just as morally bankrupt as their FF partners in crime. You only have to think of "Parlon Country" to conjure up an appropriate image of gombeen politics in action.
Now we have the attempt to buy the middle-class vote in urban centres by promising a major reform of stamp duty on houses. I was expecting a giveaway pre-election budget from the Fianna Fáil wing of the current coalition, but they've been outflanked by the PDs.
Mr McDowell claims the Government doesn't need the money raised annually by this tax, at a time when there are clearly insufficient funds going into psychiatric hospitals, refurbishing school buildings, providing social housing, caring for the elderly, services to the handicapped and those with special needs, etc, etc.
The party's name should be changed from PD to SS - Shameful and Shameless.
Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Times and the Irish Independent (the latter dropped the SS punchline).
Indeed, considering the fact that the Vatican Library must house acres of archives on the crusades, the inquisitions, the burning of heretics etc, it’s strange that he should choose to bypass all this evidence of past religious intolerance in order to find an obscure quote from a 14th century Byzantine emperor in order to damn the Prophet Mohammad.
Far better if he had first acknowledged the historical beam in the Christian eye before turning his attention to the mote in the Muslim eye.
One other quote in his speech has been largely ignored: “This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God.”
The fact that the spiritual leader of the catholic church can make such a joke should send a clear signal to religious fundamentalists of all creeds: lighten up!
The reaction in muslim countries is unfortunate but hardly surprising. It highlights once again the threat posed by fundamentalists to civil rights and freedom of worship and, frankly, it needs to be challenged.
For example, freedom of public worship is forbidden to non-muslims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While there may be some legitimate sensitivity in places such as Mecca and Medina, such a prohibition should not be acceptable in the rest of the kingdom.
So, rather than an attack on Muslim beliefs, employing theological or religious arguments, we need the UN, the EU and our own individual governments to demand freedom of worship on the grounds of civil rights. Saudi Arabia would be a good place to start.
Exposure to other faiths should, over time, demonstrate to ordinary muslims that there is nothing to fear from other religions or the discussion of articles of faith.
Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent & the Irish Examiner and aired by Pat Kenny on his RTE1 radio programme.
Monday, September 18, 2006
The shock for the rest of us is even greater. Listening to them, you'd imagine that the PDs have been in opposition for the past decade. Instead, they've been jointly responsible for several years of serious traffic disruption on the northside and the spending of over €1bn in digging the Port Tunnel.
Isn't it a pity they didn't think of Bremore a bit earlier, there's no reference to it in the highlights of the Coalition Government's Transport 21 strategy published in November 2005. This mirrors the mis-match between the McCreevy/Parlon Decentralisation Programme and the National Spatial Strategy. Probably a result of planning on the back of an envelope.
If there was joined up thinking in Government, and agreement on the strategy, Bremore would be at a more advanced stage of development, and we'd have been saved the cost and disruption associated with the port tunnel.
Another winner from the Chump Coalition.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The announcement by Kerry Group that it projects a milk price cut of 6c/gallon from 1 January 2007 will mean a €3,000 cut in income for the average milk producer, according to the Chair of ICMSA's Dairy Committee, Dominic Cronin. That projected cut in income comes on top of a drop in income in the current year of approximately the same amount, said Mr Cronin. Falls in income of this magnitude are simply not sustainable and would hasten the exit of large numbers from our once vibrant dairy sector. Mr. Cronin described the decision by Kerry as premature and unwarranted in the face of the recent upturn in the marketplace and he said that in the event of the price cut going ahead it would represent a cruel blow to Kerry's milk suppliers. The situation was now fast approaching where the milk quota will not be supplied unless Co-ops return a price to farmers that will generate realistic returns. It follows that the very future of milk production is now under threat as farmers will not be able to make a full-time living from milk production at current prices irrespective of the scale of their operation, said Mr. Cronin.
The ICMSA Dairy Chairman said that one fact stood above all others in terms of comparison: no employee in Kerry Group will suffer a €6,000 reduction in income over two years and the co-op's dairy farmer suppliers should not have to tolerate this either. The board members elected by farmers must now insist that an immediate freeze in the overall wage bill is introduced. They must also insist that the forecasted price cut for January is not implemented given the critical consequences for Kerry's milk suppliers.
This is just the latest twist in the downward spiral for Irish farmers and also illustrates one of the fundamental problems, which is largely of their own making.
When farmers decided to convert their Co-ops into PLCs, which allowed them to take shares which could be traded on the stock market, they effectively reduced themselves to the producers of raw materials, the lowest rung on the commercial ladder in an increasingly commoditised and globalised agriculture industry.
PLCs must act in the interests of all their shareholders, not just their farmer shareholders. The influence of the original farmer owners has been highly diluted as they have sold shares and PLC Co-ops have raised new capital to fund expansion. Indeed, much of the new investment by the co-ops has been in business abroad.
It would be easier to feel sympathy for farmers if the current situation had not been brought about by their own short-sightedness and greed. In addition, the co-ops have never hesitated to axe workers jobs in order to rationalise or close plants when such decisions benefit the bottom-line.
The other major strategic error has been the pursuit of EU subsidies, investing in farm enterprises that have increasingly defied commercial gravity while inevitably running up the cul-de-sac of an increasingly commoditised global agriculture market. In this folly farmers have been very ably aided and abetted by successive Governments and their own farm organisations, the IFA and ICMSA.
Now they get the Brussels “cheque in the post” regardless of whether they’re continuing to farm or not. Many have been reduced to selling half-acre building plots - at huge prices. No wonder they resent An Taisce and others who complain of bungalow blight and demand planning restrictions.
The paradox is that, with farming now essentially a non-viable commercial activity, agricultural land is changing hands at record prices per acre. The dreaded “hobby farmer” is the new buyer as city-types seek to recreate “the good life” in tandem with their hectic business lives in the big city.
Perhaps no other agricultural enterprise model would have produced any better end result, but surely it’s not just with the benefit of hindsight that the inevitable car-crash outcome for agriculture could have been confidently predicted, considering the strategies that were pursued?
"Jason Fitzharris (Letters, September 13) seems to have misinterpreted my intent. I didn't seek to ask what, or who, caused the Big Bang.
I merely pointed out that science is willing to accept the Big Bang hypothesis without being able to explain or prove it, but seems unwilling to extend the same courtesy to those who believe in God.
He states that “ before the Big Bang there was nothing, so there is nothing to measure”. The Big Bang hypothesis explains how our universe, as we now know it, came into being but it does not explain where the original matter, which is now represented by that universe, came from or what form it took.
One of the fundamental principles of science is that matter can neither be created or destroyed. So matter existed in some form "before Big Bang" or that core principle is false.
Which is it to be?"
Gutted. Not by the defeat but by the manner of the capitulation. Mayo were humiliated by Kerry, it must have been their worst performance in any football match since 1951.
Two Mayo goals in a couple of minutes just before half-time brought us back to a 6-point deficit at the interval, but no momentum was evident after the break and Kerry kept ticking over points while Mayo simply made up the numbers.
I haven’t felt this bad since half-time in the France - Ireland rugby match in Paris earlier this year. We were blitzed, losing 29-3 at half-time in a game we had half expected to win. At least Ireland made a comeback in the second half, eventually losing 43-31 thanks, at least in part, to some easing of the French foot on the accelerator with the result in the bag. Mayo’s comeback yesterday lasted all of 3 minutes and then petered out.
Before the start of the season I’d backed Mayo @ 22/1 to win Sam. At least that allowed me to lay off some of that money and end up making a modest profit on Kerry’s win. But I’d have happily lost money to see Mayo win.
Maybe we should take up hurling, or basketball.
Postscript: While the Kerry team returned to major celebrations in Tralee and Killarney, the reception in Castlebar for the Mayo team was cancelled at the players request. It's probably the case that many of them now wish they had lost that famous semi-final to Dublin rather than have such a poor performance in the final on their record.
A sad end to the season and a sad end to the intercounty careers of several Mayo players.
Friday, September 15, 2006
During the interview, McDowell repeated his recent demand that Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte identify their major political career achievements.
This is a clear echo of his recent hysterical put-down of Richard Bruton, the implication being that neither man can come near to matching McDowell’s own peerless record of achievement, at least by his own modest reckoning.
If Mr McDowell would reveal to us how, on his unique KNEE-HIGH SCALE, he rates each of his party and cabinet colleagues then perhaps we would be better placed to judge his assessment of his political opponents.
Footnote: an edited version of this published as a letter in the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Here's another good example of what women are doing with their Women's Lib.
This photo from today's Irish Times shows 14 & 15-year old girls queueing up for the Old Wesley disco last night, a celebration of the Junior Cert results issued yesterday.
It makes you wonder about the "age of consent" legislation which will be under review soon. It's entirely possible that some of these underage girls have had more sexual partners than the TDs who will be debating the appropriate age limits.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Just look at the facts :
Following the successful invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, it was the US military which failed to take any concrete steps to prevent the massive looting which followed and the subsequent breakdown in law and order. If they had clamped down immediately, there’s a very good chance that existing public services, including the police, might have continued to function with reasonable effectiveness.
The US Military was also responsible for the administration of Abu Ghraib prison, where military personnel were involved in the humiliation and torture of inmates. Nothing else has had as much impact in Arab eyes in confirming that the Coalition forces are invaders and occupiers. Abu Ghraib was a propaganda disaster for the US and a gift to the growing resistance. A bit like internment proved to be a great recruiting sergeant for the IRA.
Then there’s Haditha, where US military stand accused of murdering 24 civilians in November 2005. Another war crime to cut the moral ground from under the occupation.
Then let’s look at the biggest domestic disaster during the Bush presidency - apart from 9/11 which the conspiracy theorists and Michael Moore still haven’t managed to pin on him, despite ongoing efforts to do so.
New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The levees separating Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans were breached by the surge, ultimately flooding 80% of the city and many adjoining areas. Katrina is estimated to be responsible for about 2,000 deaths and over $80bn in damage, much of which has still not been rectified.
Contrary to bullshit from the anti-Bush camp, the water level raised by the hurricane did not come over the top of the levees, which proved to be sufficiently high to meet the challenge. The problem was that they simply weren’t strong enough to withstand the force of the water and large sections collapsed.
The construction and maintenance of these levees is the responsibility of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
So it seems to me that it’s the US Armed Forces who should be in the dock charged with incompetence, lack of discipline and crimes against humanity, both at home and abroad.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
A letter from Prof. Smyth in today’s Irish Times is the latest in what, hopefully, may prove to be an interesting debate and includes the following paragraph:
“Indeed, the Minister's confidence in the economic case for that project makes it even more surprising that he has not taken the public into his confidence by publishing the results of the economic appraisal of the scheme. Commercial sensitivity, even if understandable in the case of financial appraisal, is not an argument for withholding the economic appraisal. These appraisals are not the same.”
The Minister’s refusal to divulge any financial data on the Metro business case suggests that the Government’s key financial document may well have been mislaid. This would be a real tragedy as the other side of that envelope is strongly rumoured to contain the detailed original blueprint for the McCreevy/Parlon decentralisation scheme.
Now McDowell plans to target Fine Gael supporters. Just how many old Blue Shirts are still alive and voting, and how will they react to Oberfuhrer McDowell, who is far to the right of General O’Duffy?
Given that McDowell felt free to release Garda files to a selected pet journalist (Sam Smyth) re Frank Connolly’s alleged trip to Columbia on a false passport, how long before Revenue Commissioner files on opposition politicians and supporters start to surface?
I’ve been playing it in the car and have arrived at the conclusion that Jimi’s posthumous reputation is built on sand and myth, or else I’m just a philistine.
It’s basically the rock equivalent of serious freestyle (as opposed to easy-listening) jazz - a small minority of aficionados actually appreciate it, the majority pretend to like it and only the brave few say what they really think: it’s crap.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The key elements are
- Implement Kenny Report recommendation that the state can purchase lands at 25% above their agricultural value (Think what we’d be saving on McDowell’s new prison in Meath!).
- Implement the 20% rule for social and affordable housing.
- Remove all property-based tax reliefs.
- Abolish stamp duty for older people trading down.
Incidentally, his letter is almost a straight lift from his August 2006 Constituency newsletter recently popped through my letter-box, a fine example of Green Party recycling policy in action.
On a serious note, I'd like to add a suggestion to those outlined above: that the 20% Capital Gains Tax levied on profits generated through the sale of development land should be ring-fenced and applied only to the provision of social and affordable housing.
At least in that way the speculators could be seen to make some contribution to the resolution of a problem they are at least partly responsible for creating.
How Smart shareholders must enjoy watching the Keith Barry TV ads promoting Smart Telecom services. I wonder if they’ll be running next week after the company admitted that it has run out of cash and its day-to-day running costs are being funded by loans from a major shareholder.
The share price was halved in a single day on the London AIM and they now languish at an all time low of 4.25p. DO NOT TOUCH.
It was reported that Smart CEO Oisin Fanning resigned on health grounds, which was a smart move on his part as his life might well have been in danger if shareholders get hold of him.
This is his second high-profile business disaster in recent times. His MMI stock broking venture went belly-up a couple of years back, with more than a whiff of financial skull-duggery alleged. All denied by the company, of course. Suffice it to say that money was lost - other people’s money.
He and his partners in MMI liked to present themselves as unconventional Dublin stockbrokers - trendy suits, flash cars etc.. One of his compadres sported a long pony-tail and wore highly-tooled, high-heeled, very pointed cowboy boots. I couldn’t imagine that they were comfortable to wear - he probably kept a pair of tartan carpet-slippers in his desk drawer.
I’ve no doubt Mr Fanning will surface again in some new business guise within the next year or so. Keep an eye on him but keep your money in your wallet.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Madam, - For a mad moment there, watching the RTÉ interview with Dr Garret FitzGerald last Sunday week, I understood him to say he was "a good deal of a prick" in his younger days. And I thought, delightedly: what an endearing confession, what an admirable admission of human imperfection, and what an expression of the common touch.
Alas, how disappointed I was to learn from your Corrections column (August 29th) that all he had said was "prig". And how priggish and humourless it was of him to insist on the correction, and to remind us so huffily that "he would never use such language". - Yours, etc,
JOHN A MURPHY, Douglas Road, Cork.
Madam, - In his comments about Garret Fitzgerald, John A Murphy (letters 6th Sept) reveals himself to be "a good deal of a langer".
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Such was the bright red glow of his bulbous nose that you’d be fairly sure that he had the bottle last night too. Or two!
Perhaps Bertie should give him some make-up tips and an allowance.
Monday, September 04, 2006
In the following item, I'm much happier that I'm posing the right question than I am confident that I've proposed the right answer, but here goes anyway.
Today’s Irish Times features a response from Minister Martin Cullen to Frank McDonald’s article last week on the viability of Metro, while page 7 features an ad from DLRCoCo updating readers on the progress of the roadworks in Blackrock which have disrupted traffic for several months. One of the major objectives of these roadworks is to provide bus lanes on that stretch of road.
The Minister was also reported last week to have promised another 100 buses for Dublin Bus who, according to their website, already operate 950 buses on 140 routes. When one adds in the capital value of the roadspace now being dedicated to Bus lanes, the investment in bus transport in the city is very substantial indeed.
Despite this, other than the bus routes in my immediate area, I must confess to almost total ignorance about what routes service which areas, how they intersect with one another or how I would plan a cross-city bus trip which involved more than one route. There are certain tools on the Dublin Bus website, but without immediate access to the internet I would be snookered. Even there, timetables have a large variety of additional symbols and footnotes which each indicates some caveat attaching to a particular service.
Yet I can visit London or Paris and happily negotiate an unfamiliar city by underground/metro, using a simple system map and confidently changing lines as often as required in order to get from A to B.
Before enduring the disruption and cost of the proposed Metro, surely we should be trying to create a coherent “Dublin Overground System” where bus services could be communicated in a clear manner to current and potential users and managed in a way which improves frequency and reliability.
A Possible Model: The Dartboard would require a radical simplification of the current 140 routes:
10-12 key radials routes from the city centre to the M50 or key suburban hubs, where park & ride facilities should, where possible, be provided at each terminus. Feeder bus routes would take travellers to more distant destinations. These major radial routes would be the focus of QBC development, which might require the introduction of one-way systems along sections of the route.
Within the M50, the radial routes would be overlaid with a 8-10 orbital routes, radiating out in concentric circles - linking with DART and Luas stations on their routes.
The overall effect would be something like the wires on a dartboard.
Such a grid should ensure that everyone would be within half a mile of a bus route, with a simplified route map providing clarity as to how/where to link into the rest of the grid.
The reduction in the number of routes should also mean that more buses can be dedicated to each route, this increasing frequency.
Use of QBCs and prioritising buses at traffic light junctions should reduce journey times and improve the relevance of timetables.
Use of GPS should permit the display of “next bus due” information at bus stops.
In conjunction with this change, additional measures would need to be implemented to reduce/restrict car traffic in and into the city, in addition to the park & ride facilities at each radial route terminus e.g.
- a congestion charge, like London, for the area inside the two canals. This might only operate during morning rush hours Monday to Friday.
- a ban on cars delivering pupils to schools - coupled with a change in school start/finish times and the provision of free bus transport to students between say, 9.00am & 4.30pm.
I have no doubt that there are many holes in this strawman proposal, it may not be feasible and it certainly would mean significant changes for existing bus users - presumably some of them unwelcome.
But the objective of such a proposal would be to start a public debate on how bus services are actually delivered in Dublin, given the existing level of investment and that proposed under Transport 21 for the larger Dublin public transport infrastructure.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
The common unifying theme of the letters has been that they disagreed with my negative assessment, but then proceeded to either state diverging motivations for the protest or for how it should be funded.
Most of the parties have made much of the progress they’ve made in agreeing a revised pact for the development. The reality is that what has been agreed is a total capitulation by local politicians to the demands of the various pressure groups which comprised the protest. A sceptic might call the new pact “Munich II“.
The key elements of the Munich II pact are
- no residential element.
- no high rise.
- a publicly owned baths facility on the site.
- application for central Govt funding.
The last point is a real giveaway - “you can have everything you want and we’ll try to get someone else to pay for it”. Clearly this pact is highly aspirational and there is a lot of work to be done before anything can actually be implemented. Consultants will have their work cut out to come up with a viable and sustainable proposal.
A major concern must be the commitment to a publicly-owned baths without firm evidence that there is a sufficient demand to make justify it, particularly from young people.
I still believe that many of the protestors were suffering from Bewley’s Syndrome. If, as claimed by one letter writer, 99% of protestors were regular and frequent users of the baths, summer and winter, then the baths would still be open.
If the council simply re-invent the same amenity in some slightly tarted-up format, it will fail as it has in the past. The installation of slides in the early 1990’s (?) failed to revive the fortunes of the baths.
Friday, September 01, 2006
The Unionists are not always wrong but hopefully a couple of events in the past week will start to build a new relationship.
St Brigid’s GAA Club hosted a friendly football match with the PSNI and the GAA central council decided to withhold tickets from Sinn Fein representatives because of their misuse, for political purposes, of Casement Park.
All such actions by the GAA, which are aimed at reducing sectarianism and encouraging cross-community participation, should be loudly applauded.
Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent & the Irish Times.
- ► 2010 (44)
- ► 2009 (78)
- ► 2008 (100)
- ► 2007 (215)
- Bertie's friends
- Pity the PDs didn't think of it earlier
- PDs loss of integrity
- That bloody speech
- The Chump Coalition
- Pity the Poor Farmer
- Back to the Big Bang
- Mayo Mugged (or Mugs)
- Modest Minister McDowell
- Another gain for Women's Lib
- Handing down the indictments?
- Making the case for Dublin Metro
- McDowell for Chancellor
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Social and Affordable Housing
- It's not SMART!
- Steve Irwin RIP
- Yer a langer!
- Bottle for the battle
- Dublin Overground System
- Germany 1 Ireland 0
- New Pact for Dun Laoghaire Baths
- GAA cross-community effort
- ▼ September (23)