Monday, July 31, 2006

Anyone for swimming or just going through the motions?

Another summer passes and the eyesore of the former public baths on Dun Laoghaire seafront remains bricked up.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co Council (DLRCoCo) claim that any development project must be self-financing unless aid is provided by the Dept of the Environment.

DLRCoCo’s own proposal last year was scuppered by protests from largely "muddle-class" marchers - those who never used the facility when it was open and will never use it if it is re-opened. To date, there is no sign of support from Minister Dick Roche.

Within spitting distance of the long-derelict baths is Dun Laoghaire harbour. This public asset is owned and managed by Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a semi-state company whose sole shareholder is The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The Harbour company made a profit of €2.5m in 2002, the last accounts available on their website. The Harbour company generates income from the various users of the harbour e.g. the Stena Line, Irish Lights, the various yacht clubs etc.. It also owns the recently built and very successful marina which will have further boosted those annual profits in the interim.

In addition, the Harbour Company is currently involved in the Harbour Yard development of a major office, shop and apartment complex beside the Town Hall. The delayed Carlisle Pier development will ultimately provide another huge boost to the finances of the Harbour Company.

Consequently, the Harbour Company has a strong and growing revenue stream, with major incremental annual revenues due from the Harbour Yard and Carlisle Pier developments when these are completed over the next few years.

These assets are all owned by the taxpayer, but the revenues generated are ring-fenced and only applied to the actual areas under the direct control of the Harbour Company itself.

In summary, the taxpayer owns both the highly profitable harbour and the derelict baths but there does not appear to be any current mechanism for to use funds from one to refurbish and run the other. Surely the relevant Government ministers - Dick Roche (Environment) and Noel Dempsey ( Communications, Marine & Natural Resources) should be capable of resolving this anomaly?

Then again, probably not.

Footnote: A slight variant of this published as a letter in the Irish Times.

Pity the PDs

The latest Sunday Business Post opinion poll shows the PDs down to an all-time low of 2%. They must surely be facing melt-down in next year’s general election unless something dramatic happens in the interim to improve their prospects.

When Dessie O’Malley founded the PDs in 1985, one of the party’s main selling points was a commitment to decommission the gombeen in Irish politics. Then they foolishly recruited Tom Parlon in 2002. I need say no more.

In the past couple of years, Michael McDowell has become increasingly belligerent, climaxing this year in his hysterical attack on Richard Bruton when he clearly lost all sense of proportion and went totally over the top. This has raised serious question marks over his suitability to hold senior Government office, particularly in a very sensitive ministry such as Justice.
McDowell’s recent leadership spat with Mary Harney has further damaged both himself and the party. He seems to have shot himself in the foot as far as future leadership of the PDs is concerned. On top of all this, his authority in cabinet has been systematically undermined and he’s been forced to make a number of high profile policy changes, most recently on the issue of private gambling clubs. It’s hard to see a man of his ego taking such public humiliations for long. A return to the Law Library should not be ruled out.

Then there’s Mary Harney herself. Few people doubt her integrity or work ethic, but her competence is now being called into question by her apparent inability to achieve significant improvement in the health service or to break the hold of the powerful vested interests - the consultants, nurses etc - in that service. Unless there’s a material breakthrough before the general election, her decision to take the Health portfolio will be officially categorised as “brave but politically naïve”.

As things stand, the PDs are in the Dail A&E and the prognosis is not good. Pray for them - either for a recovery or a happy death - depending on your political outlook.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent. Also, the opening section on Tom Parlon was aired by Rachel English on RTE's 5-7 Live radio programme and drew an instant rebuke for RTE from the PDs.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Anyone for "peace in our time"?

It is not anti-semitic to condemn as disproportionate Israel’s recent military retaliation in Lebanon and Gaza.
It is anti-semitic to deny the holocaust or the betrayal of jews by their fellow citizens in most occupied European countries during WWII.

It may not be anti-semitic but it is certainly illogical to deny Israel’s right to treat the public statements of politicians such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as more than mere rhetoric.

The jews have learned, to their cost and our collective European shame, that sometimes threats of extermination are actually real. Sadly, they have also learnt the hard way that the only people they can ultimately rely on in a crisis are themselves.

The failure of the international community or the UN to take any action against the Iranians for these public pronouncements by their President suggests that such sentiments do not merit much by way of outrage. Shades of pre-war Germany again.

It is not undemocratic to denounce President George Bush despite his democratic mandate achieved in two elections. Both his election and the ability to denounce his electoral success are integral components of the democratic system. Yet those who most vehemently deny his legitimacy are the very ones who demand that Israel respects the democratic choice of the Palestinians and deal with Hamas.

It is undemocratic to use a democratic electoral system to legitimise a political philosophy of “the ballot box and the bullet”, as both Hamas and Hizbollah have done. Again, the Jews know, from the success of the Nazi Party in the German elections of 1933, that a democratic process is no guarantee of a democratic outcome.

It may not be anti-semitic but it is certainly illogical to demand that Israel negotiate with groups whose stated position is the elimination of the Jewish state from the face of the earth. How exactly do you negotiate terms for your own extermination?

Those who argue that Hamas are the democratically elected government of the Palestinians and, as such, the Israelis are bound to negotiate with them might just as well claim that the Nazis were the democratically elected government of Germany and were therefore entitled to pursue any policy they chose to with regard to ethnic or religious minorities.

The seemingly intractable dispute in the Middle East is an infuriatingly complex mix of right and wrong on both sides, fuelled by the ongoing interventions of regional powers who often seek to use it as surrogate cockpit to fight the West in general and the US in particular, rather than a pursuit of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. With all the oil wealth in the Middle East, how come the Palestinians are so impoverished? Where is evidence of financial support from their arab/islamic neighbours?

This problem will not be resolved through the barrel of a gun but neither will it resolved by the pious platitudes of mealy-mouthed, hand-wringing liberals (picture Michael D Higgins) who view the world through rose-tinted spectacles and promote no solution which would give Israel long-term security from organisations such as Hizbollah.

These are the very people who would happily vote for Chamberlain-style appeasement of terrorism and fundamentalism. Remind me - just how long did “peace in our time” last?

Making sense of it all.

If, like me, you believe that 9/11 was a "Pearl Harbour" event, a declaration of world war by Islamic extremism on the West in general, then you’d have to conclude that while we have been cursed by our enemies, we often feel cursed with our allies.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Balance on RTE

It's hard to miss Tom McGurk's political slant while listening to his morning radio programme on RTE. He has the annoying habit of asking closed questions, where he fashions the question to refect his preconceived view "Would you not agree that ..... etc etc".. Thankfully it has frequently happened that his presumptions are rebutted by his contributors, but he persists with the approach. It's sounds like lazy arrogance at times.

He was off again this morning, so I felt obliged to send him the following email (


On the programme today (Thurs 27th) you interviewed Alec Salmond(SNP) regarding the use of Prestwick by the US to transport "bunker-buster" bombs to Israel. You commented on the irony that these bombs had been used to kill the 4 UN observers in south Lebanon.

In today's Irish Times, Tom Clonan, a military commentator used by yourself in recent days, assesses that the weapon was in fact "a laser-guided 1,00kg bomb" - a large but fairly standard aerial weapon, definitely not a "bunker-buster".

You also interviewed Michael D Higgins who cited a total of 1,500 killed to date in Lebanon, naturally without any query or contradiction from yourself. RTE News this evening is quoting the Lebanese government as estimating up to 600 killed (400 bodies actually accounted for and making allowance for another 50% which may be unreported to date).

You say that your producer refuses to let you choose the music played on the programme. I suggest that he/she has a much larger and more important task to perform - the injection of appropriate levels of balance and professionalism into your coverage of this hugely important topic. Regards etc.

McDaid's Donegal U-turn

It should come as no surprise that Deputy Jim McDaid has done a u-turn on his decision to retire from politics at the next election.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Doctor McDaid had returned full-time to medical practice for several months and yet no-one - his political colleagues, his Donegal constituents or the national or local media - seemed to have noticed that he was no longer operating as a TD.

Clearly it would border on madness for him to voluntarily give up such a valuable and undemanding sinecure, from which Deputy McDaid can earn in excess of €150,000 per annum between his TD's salary and his unvouched, tax-free expenses.

Obviously a very nice little sideline, if you can get it.

On sober reflection, he seems to have come to the same conclusion.

Footnote: Aired on RTE's 5-7 Live programme and published as a letter in the Irish Independent & the Irish Examiner.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Any volunteers for Lebanon?

The Israelis have called for a 20,000-strong international force to police a buffer zone in South Lebanon in order to prevent future Hizbollah attacks.

The media has expressed scepticism about the willingness of countries to get involved in such a volatile situation, which prompted the following proposed solution:

Instead of putting troops in, why not put in 20,000 media people, drawn from tv, press, radio and internet around the world. This would probably represent only about 1% of the media commentators who feel qualified to freely offer their opinions and advice on the problems in the Middle East on a regular basis. Public Service Broadcasting organisations which are publicly funded, such as RTE, should send sizeable teams.

There would be two possible outcomes:
(a) The intervention is a success, proving once again the power of the media.
(b) The intervention fails and the 20,000 media people are completely wiped out in the battle between Hizbollah and the IDF.

Both are good outcomes. In the latter outcome, the rest of us would hopefully be spared overly simplistic media analysis of a highly complex geopolitical situation for up to a week. Then, sadly, normal transmission would probably recommence.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Hurling Controversy

Cork narrowly beat Limerick in the All Ireland Hurling quarter-finals last weekend.

Now Limerick have complained that Cork players introduced non-standard sliothars at critical times during the match, substituting them for the standard ball.

At Hogwarts, Harry Potter's school, the house which houses all the sleveens is known as Slytherin. Sounds like an appropriate nickname for the Cork hurlers.

Footnote: the final paragraph above published as a letter in the Irish Independent.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another McDowell u-turn.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell’s change of direction on the legality of gambling clubs completes, with café-bars and emergency statutory rape legislation, a hat-trick of recent high profile policy u-turns forced on him by his ministerial colleagues.

Minister McDowell delights in pointing our policy differences between partners in the alternative coalition and warning voters against trusting them to provide effective government.

However, his difficulties within his own party, coupled with his proven ability to perform these regular policy pirouettes, suggest that those who may only be knee-high to him can justifiably claim to have less daunting personality and policy challenges to address.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Times & the Irish Independent.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just because you're paranoid......

Tom McGurk has been sitting in for Pat Kenny since the start of July. He finds it hard to refrain from leaping to blame George Bush for any of the world’s ills.

On Monday last he interviewed Greg Palast about his new book “Armed Madhouse” which might just refer to the White House.

Palast explained that he had previously promoted the claim that the war on Iraq was conducted by George Bush at the behest of “Big Oil” so that they could get control of the very substantial oil reserves in that country. Now he’s come up with a new theory - that the invasion was indeed at the behest of “Big Oil” but that the objective was to turn off the supply of oil from Iraq. And the conclusive proof - just look at how high the price of oil has become, making existing reserves in other countries significantly more valuable than they were prior to the war.

As “the sage of Illinois” Donald Rumsfeld has famously explained “there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns” - but not in the mind of your average conspiracy theorist. When one theory becomes a busted flush, they simply come up with a new conspiracy theory to fit the new circumstances. They rarely, if ever, acknowledge their abandoned conspiracy as they steam ahead with the new, improved version.

For a conspiracy theorist “unknowns” simply do not exist. They can tell you the objectives and thought processes of those they oppose, for whom no action or objective is too base to merit attribution with confidence. Their enemies are either fools or crooks but probably both.

Naturally, McGurk was in his element as he agreed with every anti-Bush assessment offered by the author.

A couple of days later Niall O’Dowd, editor of the Irish Voice and an influential intermediary for the Irish lobby with Capitol Hill, was on the programme discussing the status of the conflicting legislation for illegals that are being proposed by the Senate and Congress. McGurk immediately dived in with the comment “and of course, under the Bush administration everything has changed for the Irish lobby”. O’Dowd pointed out to him that Bush was actually on the side of the illegals and praised his liberal approach on this topic when he was Governor of Texas.

Which exchange prompted the following email from me to Tom (at if you want to communicate with him):

I laughed when Niall O'Dowd rebutted your automatic assumption that George Bush is the problem for the Irish illegals.
You really will have to change that "great satan" record - the needle is stuck and you're becoming a bore.
Regards etc.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Frozen Embryos

There was a time when adoption was thought of in terms of providing children for childless couples. That position is now reversed and the function of adoption is to provide parents for children who, for one reason or another, are effectively parentless. In other words, consideration of the needs of the child is paramount. This is enlightenment in action, it constitutes genuine progress in social thinking.

The frozen embryo case now before the courts must take account of the outcome for the child should the ex-wife achieve a successful outcome, both in her court case and her subsequent pregnancy.

Such a child will be born into a single parent family and will, almost inevitably, learn at some stage of the current litigation. This is hardly the set of circumstances which would be deemed to be in the best interests of the child
. These grounds alone suggest that the court should find in favour of the ex-husband.

This then leaves the thorny dilemma of what to do with the frozen embryos.

There are far more parents seeking to adopt than there are children available for adoption. Many people go abroad to adopt and this gives rise to accusations that babies are actually being sold. The past week has seen such accusations about a lady actively involved in providing adoptions from Vietnam. Surely this is one potential solution which would not ignite another emotive and highly divisive pro-life/pro-choice debate?

Footnote: The section in italics published as a letter in the Irish Independent, they left out the final section which deals with use of the frozen embryos. I can probably expect to be added to the SPUC hate-list.

No.7 Royale

Men in middle age who have retained enough hair to require regular cutting find themselves faced with a dilemma.

The traditional barber has long been replaced by the hairdresser and this transition was welcomed by those of us who rebelled against the old standard “short back and sides” approach.

You can tell the age of some of us throwbacks by the hairstyles we favour. Those who had their heyday in the swinging 60’s often favour the grey bouffant look, as worn by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Bob Geldof and my brother Tom.

However, a new and insidious challenge has emerged which leaves most of us stumped: those blasted numbered blades!

As we sit and wait our turn, we watch the young studs asking for a No. 1 back & sides combined with a No.3 top with quiff and we wonder what the hell has happened and how we are supposed to now describe what we want done to our own heads..

Anyway I’ve cracked the numbered blade problem to my own satisfaction and am happy to share it for what worth. I’ve christened it “the No. 7 Royale“.

Basically it’s a No.7 blade back & sides with the top cut in the traditional manner to leave a bit of length/body up there where it’s getting thinnest. The wife approves and the outcome has more consistency than achieved under the previous regime.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

End of the Beetniks

The farmers are revolting - again. This time it’s over the level of compensation paid to them for the demise of the sugar industry and, more specifically, those farmers involved in growing sugar beet.

The writing has been on the wall for this industry for years now, if not decades. But as with all things in the “field of agriculture”, it seems that nothing could be done to avoid the inevitable slow-motion car crash.

Farmers, their representative organisations and the Government have been pushing ever inexorably further up the industry cul-de-sac that has been evident to even a blind man for decades.

The approach has been to pursue the maximum level of EU subsidy in order to keep producing uneconomic food which could never be sold at a price which would recover the real cost of production. Almost nothing has been done to encourage diversification, innovation etc..

This approach has continued to the point where the subsidy is now paid regardless of whether the farmer is producing any food at all. This would be categorised as “welfare” in any other category of our society.

Thus Irish farmers have been involved in farm enterprise activities which, in the vast majority of cases, simply cannot compete with large scale producers in Europe, the USA & South America.

This doomsday strategy has been compounded by the greed of farmers who sold their ownership of the Co-ops and thus reduced themselves to the role of producers of raw materials only, removed from the ability to benefit from the added value activities in which the Co-ops are involved.

Now many farmers make their money selling sites at extravagant prices, but there seems to be little prospect of a viable farming enterprise for most of them.

It’s a pity, but frankly it’s hard to feel sorry for them.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What every middle-aged man needs.

I'll have to lose some weight before I can into one of these babe magnets. (Click image to enlarge)

Icebox Orphans?

In her weekly Irish Times opinion piece yesterday Breda O’Brien, under the giveaway headline “How will we treat our ’icebox orphans?’”, takes the pro-life stance in support of the woman at the centre of the frozen embryo case currently before the courts and argues for the putative mother’s voice to prevail.

I suspect the courts may well find in her favour, though its decision may not be wholly guided by the need to protect the unborn, however that state is defined. The overarching, though unacknowledged, influence on the decision may well be the societal imprimatur currently accorded to “a woman’s right to choose”.

Which, paradoxically, is a slogan most often associated with the pro-abortion lobby.

The Teutonic Tiger - buy a DAX Tracker

I was delighted to see Germany beat Portugal 3-1 in last night’s World Cup 3rd place play-off. They deserved it on the night, but more particularly for their earlier exploits which contrasted sharply with a mean-spirited and boring approach by Portugal.

All the reports from Germany stress how the local population have all been lifted by the exploits of the national team, from whom little was expected before the tournament began. German performance in pre-tournament friendly matches had been woeful and Klinsmann’s management practices had been derided both in Germany and abroad.

Yet come the tournament itself, the Germans played positive attacking football and were clearly a well motivated group of players. They almost made it to penalties against Italy in the semi-final and might well have triumphed if it had come to spot-kicks.

All this caused me to reflect on the possible comparison between Germany now and Ireland in the late-80’s and early 90’s.

The Irish economy was struggling at the time that Jack Charlton got us to the Euro 88 finals in Germany. Although knocked out at the group stage by the Dutch, we beat England 1-0 and the entire country went mad. The tournament was the start of mass soccer hysteria in Ireland, which lasted and grew through Italia 90 & USA 94.

Drawing 1-1 with England and making it to the quarter-finals, where Toto Schillaci ended our dreams, made Italia 90 a huge national success. The highlight of USA 94 was Ray Houghton’s goal in Giant’s Stadium as we beat Italy 1-0. People danced in the streets, the country came to a stop for each game - even though some of the football played by Ireland was unattractive rubbish. We understood that a win is a win, regardless of the beauty of the thing.

And about that time the Celtic Tiger was born. Bertie Ahern & Co repeatedly take credit for the strong and sustained economic growth experienced in Ireland since the early 90’s - but I have a suspicion that the boost to the national psyche delivered by the international footballing exploits of the Charlton era helped provide a major impetus. Not only did we begin to see ourselves as potential winners on the international stage, but the fans travelling abroad found that they were almost universally liked and well received. They became unpaid goodwill ambassadors for the country and their exemplary conduct and good humour, even though habitually drunk, was a huge contrast to the thuggish behaviour, at the time, of English and Dutch fans in particular.

Which brings me back to Germany 2006. The German economy, the economic engine of Europe since the 1950‘s, has been very sluggish in recent years. Much of this can be attributed to the burden of the huge ongoing cost of German re-unification in 1990. National confidence has been at a post-war all-time low.

However, the election of Angela Merkel as Chancellor in November 2005 has given the country a boost. Merkel has made a very positive impact internationally in her first 8 months in office and seems to have achieved much increased popularity at home. Economic reforms are slowly being implemented, though compromises between the “grand coalition” parties have inevitably taken the sharp edges off them.

Could the new optimism engendered by the success of the national football team, coupled with the very positive impressions of both Germany and it’s people which all media coverage of the World Cup has promulgated, provide a launch pad for a Teutonic Tiger?

I think it’s time to invest in a DAX Tracker, this could be a good time to put some money into the Deutsche Bourse. The downside risk must be very limited.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Media use terrorists and vice versa.

Today is the 1st anniversary of the London bombings which left 52 people dead and hundreds injured, of whom about 100 were sufficiently injured to require at least an overnight stay in hospital.

Last night, on the eve of the anniversary, BBC’s Newsnight programme carried an item which pointed out that this was less than the numbers killed and injured on UK roads in an average month and queried whether the risks posed by terrorist attacks were being exaggerated.

I found this ironic given that it’s actually the 24-hour coverage by broadcast media that makes the biggest meal out of such attacks and, for that reason, this same media has become an essential tool in the terrorist arsenal.

Newsnight also pointed out that the numbers killed and injured in the Madrid bombings of March 2004 were also less than the average monthly casualties on Spanish roads.

It’s worth pointing out that the average annual number of roads deaths in the USA is about 45k pa. This means that since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, about 145k people have died as a result of road accidents in the USA. One can safely extrapolate that over 1m will have been injured in accidents in the same period.

Contrast this with the figures on the website “Iraq Body Count” which, as of today, quote a minimum 38.8k to maximum 43.3k dead since the start of hostilities. This number includes 7-8k killed during the actual invasion. Where is Michael Moore when you really need him - the real scandal is the acceptance of the huge number of road casualties with little or no public or media outrage.

An additional and interesting contrast was offered by the 90th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme on 1st July. In 1914 on that day, 20,000 British troops died and 40,000 were wounded on the first day of the battle. In the past 3 weeks, 6 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan and the UK media have been quick to highlight this a as another potential military disaster.

If the media has it’s way, no Government will ever risk a single life abroad, so despots and mass murderers like Saddam can, in future, sleep easy in their beds. God bless the liberal agenda.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Probably Wayne Rooney's favourite credit card

This one is going to take a hammering next season. (Click image to enlarge)

Probably the best lubricant in the world.

Don't try this at home!

Bertie's Nitwit

In the Dáil this week, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern called Socialist Workers Party TD Joe Higgins a nitwit and suggested he should have stayed in Kerry.

If Bertie is right then this really is a case of a man leaving Kerry for the Dáil and simultaneously raising the average intelligence in both places.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Donegal Catch 22

The case currently in the High Court regarding the fate of 3 frozen embryos will make for a very interesting legal decision.

The couple who created the embryos were married at the time and, indeed, three other embryos which were implanted led to the birth of a child. However, the couple separated about a year later and now the ex-wife wants to use the embryos in an effort to have another child while the ex-husband is, understandably, resisting this.

The husband claims that the 3 frozen embryos were always only intended as a back-up to the first three which were actually implanted in case these did not produce a child. This seems entirely credible but the wife denies that it was ever specifically stated. It’s quite obvious she’s had a belated change of mind, quite possibly in order to punish her straying ex-husband who will be lumbered with maintenance responsibilities in the event of a successful birth.

Counsel for the ex-wife has argued that these embryos constitute “the unborn” and claimed protection for them under the constitution, which does indeed offer protection to the unborn child but crucially doesn’t define what constitutes an unborn child or when/where in the cycle from fertilisation to birth the entity achieves the status of “unborn child”.

At one stage in the proceedings it was being suggested that the 3 frozen embryos might be entitled to legal representation - presumably at least one senior and one junior counsel each. No wonder the legal profession is a veritable goldmine and the world is laughing at us.

While enormous sums of money are being consumed in legal fees, and abstract arguments are presented as to what actually constitutes an unborn child, this case will actually be decided on the two overarching but unwritten determinants in any case involving sex and/or reproduction in enlightened modern society:
(1) a woman’s inalienable right to change her mind, regardless of the consequences and
(2) a woman’s right to choose.

The latter is the ultimate and unanswerable argument when a woman wants to have her cake and eat it - and your cake too.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

E-Voting - civil service managers asleep at the wheel

The findings of the Commission on Electronic Voting, published today, have been seized on by all sides in the debate as proof of the validity of their position. The opposition parties attack Government incompetence while representatives of the administration claim that upgrades to the software are a credible and affordable solution.

To my mind, the only thing this whole debacle conclusively demonstrates is the void in accountability of civil service management across a whole range of activities.

While the Government must take political responsibility for the e-voting debacle, who in the ranks of civil service managers is taking operational responsibility for the mess? No-one expects a Government minister to personally check the system software, but highly paid senior civil service managers would have been directly involved in the day-to-day management of the e-voting project and the necessary decisions which led to this outcome.

Yet the political furore has deflected any flak from the people with operational responsibility for delivering this system.

Someone was asleep at the wheel and civil service management heads should definitely be rolling. Instead they're lining up for phase 2 of benchmarking.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent & the Irish Examiner.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Don't bet, buy the bookies!

Saturday saw the overdue demise of my biggest bet on the World Cup - a pre-tournament €33 @ 3/1 on Brazil. I’d written it off for some time, having seen Brazil play in earlier rounds so the coup de grace delivered by France came as no great surprise.

The main talking point about Brazil seemed to be fitness of the greatly enlarged Ronaldo. If Brazil had played England we’d definitely have been listening to chants of “who ate all the pies?”. However, Ronaldo actually improved with each match as he got fitter/smaller while, for me, the real disappointment was Ronaldinho. He rarely displayed his brilliance, both skill and appetite for the game seemed largely invisible. He finally got the finger out after Henry scored for France but his efforts were usually smothered by an efficient French defence.

But wasn’t Zidane absolutely magnificent in the French midfield. He gave a footballing master class and his ball control was just magic. At one point he casually chipped the ball over the oncoming defender, ran around him and headed the ball to a suporting winger. Making it all look so simple. As he sent my bet up the swanee, I felt genuine regret that we were seeing this great footballer in his final tournament, a maximum of 2 more matches. I wonder could he have an Irish granny? He’d have several years left if he was in a green shirt.

The real tournament winners, of course, are the bookies. To date it must be an absolute bonanza for UK-based bookies as, of the four semi-finalists, probably only Italy would have featured in the top 5 in the pre-tournament betting. Brazil and Argentina getting knocked out would have given the bookies a huge pay-day but the real goldmine for them was the elimination of England which would have had huge patriotic backing in the UK.

On the betting exchange Betfair, over €24m in bets have been matched already on the World Cup winner book, which will probably reach €30m before the final is decided this week. This suggests that UK bookies have probably taken a significant multiple of €30m in bets to date - and most of those bets have already lost! The bookies satchels are bulging to overflowing.

Buy William Hill and/or Paddy Power shares now.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

O'Malley Hare & Hound

Fiona O’Malley is the PD TD for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency who, hopefully, will lose her seat at the next election. She has the annoying habit of appearing on various radio programmes sounding off like a member of the opposition while she is, in fact, sitting on the government benches.

There’s no evidence that she ever inputs her top-of-head populist whinges at her own party meetings. If she does they’re clearly ignored as the government juggernaut trundles on regardless.

Smelling trouble ahead at next years general election, she’s now taken to writing to the Irish Times (see below). “Madam” is herself a former PD TD for the same constituency so I’m not holding my breath that she’ll publish my riposte which follows the O’Malley letter here.

Fiona O'Malley's letter published in Irish Times

Madam, - From Booterstown to the edge of Bray, there is rarely a household to which I call to during my constituency canvass where the issue of affordable housing is not raised.
While the Government has tried valiantly to deal with this issue, including writing commitments into the Partnership Agreement, it is obvious that something more radical is required.
James Pike (June 27th) points to work done by the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in 2004 which recommends a return to the Kenny Report of the 1970s. The principal recommendation of that report was that land required by a local authority would be purchased at existing use value plus 25 per cent. Land costs contribute enormously to housing prices.
In my county of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, we know all about it. The council has a very limited land bank. When land is sold, it attracts such high prices that very few houses, particularly for families, are available for less than €800,000. We are in danger of becoming a community where young families are being excluded by the cost of housing. This is unsustainable.
It is difficult to mount a credible defence of Government policy on the doorsteps when there is an obvious start that can be made. The Government should dust down the Kenny Report, prepare legislation and focus on an issue of real import to its citizens.
No wonder Fianna Fáil backbenchers are frustrated. Oireachtas committees are where backbenchers do good work. But unless the recommendations and work of these committees is taken seriously, frustrations will continue to fester and housing will stay beyond the means of many young people. - Yours, etc,
FIONA O'MALLEY TD, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

My response under the heading “O’Malley Hare & Hound”

Madam - Please do not allow your letters page to become a notice board for the extraordinary pleadings of desperate TDs in the run-up to the general election.

Fiona O’Malley, a government TD in this constituency, has an established record of trying to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds. Frankly, it’s completely lacking in credibility.

Yours etc

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