Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fintan O'Toole wants Nothing!

In his Irish Times column (Tues 28th Aug) , Fintan O’Toole tells us that “the choice is simple: all or nothing” when it comes to religious symbolism and influence in public life and public services. He comes down firmly on the side of the “nothing option”.

That same day I heard him interviewed on radio about his column, where he extolled the virtues of the USA system where that same “nothing option” operates.

That’s the same USA which lacks universal healthcare or social welfare, whose draconian legal system keeps record numbers in jail, mainly blacks, and executes large numbers each year, and where the Christian right constantly and publicly seeks to exercise political influence with some success, notably in the case of President Bush.

Contrast that with the Ireland of today, seemingly crippled under the weight of Catholicism in O’Toole’s view. Some of his concerns are valid e.g. the over-reliance of the state on the churches for education and hospital care, but some are simply prime examples of political correctness .

The Dail’s opening prayer, Bertie’s ashes and RTE’s Angelus are long-established custom and practice which may offend the super-liberals and the bigots, but they oppress no-one and that is the most important consideration.

From the perspective of societal outcomes, I’d suggest to Fintan that USA theory looks somewhat better than USA practice with, hopefully, the reverse situation pertaining in Ireland.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Festival of World Cultures.

I’m not a great fan of my local authority DLRCoCo, but top marks to them for the Festival of World Cultures.
It’s a great reminder that culture & craic are not synonymous with wealth - great music and dance from some of the poorest countries on the planet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pat Rabbitte - the next leader of Fine Gael.

This may seem like an outside bet, but “what-if”…

Following the precedent set by Michael O’Leary in 1982 - Pat Rabbitte resigns from the Labour Party and joins Fine Gael.

FG & the country would benefit greatly from a revivial of the “just society” ethos in one of the major parties and a Rabbitte-led FG could be just the ticket. A combination of “left-wing” social policies funded by “right-wing” economic policies could well be a winning combination.

In 5 years time we could have a Labour Party which has moved to the Left and is scaring the middle classes with socialist economics, a Green Party which is mortally wounded by the embrace of FF and no PDs to contend with. FF may still be mired in the fallout from the various tribunals (which hasn’t seemed to deter voters to date).

In such an electoral scenario, a “Just Society” FG could clean up. Unfortunately, there’s not enough liberalism within the existing FG to achieve that change of direction without an injection of external talent. Enter Pat Rabbitte.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fintan O'Toole calls for Willie O'Dea's head.

In today’s Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole calls for the political head of Defence Minister Willie O’Dea on the grounds that O’Dea has opposed agreed Government policy on the Aer Lingus Shannon-Heathrow decision and that he is breach of collective cabinet responsibility. But are either of these serious charges valid?

O’Toole quotes Article 28.4.2 of the Constitution: "The Government shall meet and act as a collective authority, and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government."

O’Toole then outlines the basis for his charges: “Last week, in a statement issued through the Department of the Taoiseach - implying that she was in effect acting Taoiseach at the time - and explicitly "speaking on behalf of the Government", Mary Hanafin issued a strong statement of its policy on the Aer Lingus decision to end its Shannon to Heathrow service.
She could not have been clearer about Government policy on the matter: "As a listed plc, Aer Lingus has to take its own decisions. It is inappropriate for the Government to intervene in the decision making of a private company. To do so would ultimately be damaging to the company and its customers."“

And later in his article he says that “a Government decision not to interfere with the Aer Lingus move was taken last week - otherwise Mary Hanafin could not have issued her statement.”

Surely Article 28.4.2 of the Constitution implies that a some sort of meeting of Government is required to determine Government policy and, as far as I’m aware, no such meeting has taken place. How can a statement issued by the Minister for Education, on a topic that is totally unrelated to her brief, assume the weight of a policy position formally agreed at a cabinet meeting? Does Fintan O’Toole believe that this is how the constitution envisaged that cabinet decisions would be taken and communicated to cabinet members?

In addition, the assertion in Minister Hannifin’s statement that “it is inappropriate for the Government to intervene in the decision making of a private company” is somewhat misleading, particularly in light of the fact that many cabinet members have indicated that they are unhappy with the Aer Lingus decision. It's quite common for minority shareholders to vote their shareholding in whatever way suits their broader business objectives and not necessarily the interests of the company in question e.g. Ryanair’s holding in Aer Lingus!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

From Major to Minor.

After 2 rounds of the USPGA, the final Major of the season, normal service has been resumed with Tiger Woods on -6, leading the field by 2 strokes.

One of the interesting practices of the USPGA is to put the winners of the previous three majors of that season into the same three-ball, so Padraig Harrington (British Open), Zach Johnson (Masters) and Angel Cabrera (US Open) played together for the first two rounds.

After the first two rounds, the cut came at +5, the only survivor of the trio is Harrington (+2), with Johnson (+10) and Cabrera (+11) both eliminated.

Among the other former Major winners to miss the cut were Ben Curtis, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, Michael Campbell and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Small consolation perhaps to Colin Montgomerie, (once described as the best golfer never to win a major, but no longer playing well enough for that title) who just made the +5 score and survives to compete in the final two rounds.

But wouldn’t you think that two men who’ve actually won majors in the current season could at least make the cut? Sort of confirms that this “winning a Major” lark is actually a bit of a lottery, particularly when looking at those players who’ve only done it once.