Friday, July 03, 2015
Not even Val Doonican’s most ardent admirer could deny that the man was born square. Val Doonican was never cool. The jumpers, the rocking chairs, the songs – Delaney’s Donkey, Paddy McGinty’s Goat – no. There is no hipster willing to carry the charade through to that extent. But, in the long and troubled history of two islands in the North Atlantic, Val Doonican provided a bridge when it was needed.
We know there was huge emigration from Ireland to Britain during the war and after. We sing songs about it all the time. But what was that experience like, really? What was it like for someone who had grown up on the side of a mountain to find him or herself living in a terraced house in Blackburn, Lancashire?
There was a marvellous story in the Bullaí Máirtín collection called Peadaí Gaelach Eile, about a man about to go to London to make his fortune but who finds out just how much of a fish out of water he’s going to be before he even leaves home.
It was hard on that generation. They never liked to speak of it themselves, because it was humiliating for them. The current generation doesn’t like to think of it, because they seem to have trouble conceiving of people who are not themselves.
It’s interesting as well that the literature of those who built up and tore England down after the Second World War seems stronger in Irish than in English. Where are the English language equivalents of the navvying memoirs of Domhnall Mac Amhlaigh or Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé?
Nobody wanted to go on the record about how hard it was to come from rural poverty to a major industrial city. And nobody wants to think about the Irish being considered in England the way the Romanians are considered here. Dirty, stinking, going around in gangs, leaving their rubbish lying around, speaking gibberish, not to be trusted.
And then, in the mid-sixties, one of those dirty, stinking Irish people got himself a variety TV show on prime time with the BBC. He wasn’t dirty. He was very well turned out, always with his hair cut and clean and nice sweater on him. He sang comic songs with a twinkle in his eye.
And maybe, after watching the Val Doonican Show on TV, maybe some Englishman heard his Irish neighbours the next day and detected that trace of Doonican in them. Maybe the way they spoke wasn’t gibberish; maybe it was actually a lot like that chap on the television. I wonder could any of them sing songs as well?
What was Val Doonican worth to the Irish community in Britain in the ‘seventies, when the bombs were going off in Birmingham and Guilford and in the car park of the Houses of Parliament themselves? How reassuring was it for the ordinary British person to hear of Delaney’s Donkey winning the half-mile race after the newscaster had just told them that the IRA had just admitted responsibility for the bombing of another bar, resulting in five killed and seven maimed?
Yes, Val Doonican wasn’t very cool. No, Delaney’s Donkey isn’t quite Carrickfergus. But Val Doonican was, by all accounts, a very lovely man who asked for little from life and brought happiness and security to millions and millions. Very, very few of us will get to say that we we are brought to account on the Last Day. Suaimhneas síoraí na bhFlaithis dó.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
July 1, 2015
HSE management 'clearly incapable', say Portlaoise parents
Families who lost children told to 'go away and have more children', health committee hears
The HSE refused to advertise a helpline for patients on the night of the Prime Time programme, as requested by Patient Focus, because it didn't believe it would attract many calls, Cathriona Molloy of the patient organisation told the committee. The organisation was forced to use its own phone number for a helpline, which attracted hundreds of calls in the days after the programme, she said.
July 1, 2015
Hiqa to review Tusla over concern for at-risk children
Records obtained by The Irish Times earlier this year showed thousands of reports of abuse, neglect and welfare concerns over children at risk were waiting to be allocated a social worker. An internal report presented to the board of Tusla said backlogs were so acute in some areas that hundreds of extra staff are needed to bring numbers back to 'manageable' levels.
June 22, 2015
HSE orders review into nine maternity cases
The HSE has recommended a full review into nine maternity cases at three separate hospitals. A team examined 23 cases from the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise, three from the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar and two from the University Maternity Hospital in Limerick between 1985 and 2013. It found that nine cases should be subjected to a full systems analysis review.
June 15, 2015
'Cloak of secrecy' around abuse of intellectually disabled
Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd made the claim after the Irish Examiner revealed 21 HSE workers have been sacked or suspended for alleged sexual, physical, and financial abuse of residents at care facilities for adults with severe intellectual disabilities since January 2014. Details published on Saturday show that, over the past 18 months, HSE management has been aware of serious incidents at seven such facilities.
June 12, 2015
What the hospital scandals teach us about management
HR policies are such that managers will tell you they are powerless to deal with people who ought to be sanctioned even for quite serious reasons.
It can take six months to replace a nurse through the shared HR services centre in Manorhamilton.
There is no effective performance management system for managers. Management structures are in a state of constant flux; many managers don't have the delegated authority they need to do their job; and some support functions are too centralised.
Compared to the HSE, the hospitality industry in Ireland has a better system for the training and cultural formation of hotel managers, sending them to the best hotels around the world on a carefully structured development programme. The results speak for themselves.
March 5, 2015
HSE 'Gave Contracts to Former Staff' Without Tender
The claims are understood to mostly centre around cases where contracts were awarded to companies led by former HSE staff, or where ex-HSE workers are now on the payroll. They include cases where the HSE has paid former staff members for spaces in care homes, without first investigating whether better deals could be found elsewhere. Committee chairman John McGuinness says some former HSE staff members have made huge money from unadvertised contracts.
These are just some of the reasons that the HSE has been in the news lately. And what is the Government doing about all this? Why, it's providing free healthcare for children less than six years old WHO AREN'T EVEN SICK IN THE FIRST PLACE. This isn't just an inefficient use of resources. This is immoral in every way and I don't know one politician who's had the stones to come out and say that, for fear they'd lose votes in leafy suburbs or roasted by a "Mums Outraged .." headline in the Indo or the Daily Mail.
Banana Republic. Will anything ever change in this godforsaken country?
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
RTÉ and the Irish Times are both before the Courts this morning to see if they are allowed to broadcast and/or print speeches made in the houses of the Oireachtas. It’s an awful situation for a democracy to find itself in, but crisis can often lead to opportunity. And the very peculiar current crisis does present the Seanad with the opportunity to be what its advocates claim it is – relevant to the proper governance of the State.
You remember the Seanad – it’s the theoretical upper house of the bicameral Oireachtas, a growling, snarling watchdog that keeps the Government of the day on their toes. Or so, at least, its proponents would have you believe during the referendum on the continued existence of the Seanad, which the sovereign people choose to retain in a referendum held on the 4th of October, 2013.
Since then, the Seanad has done nothing – zip, zero, the null set, nada, nothing – to show itself worthy of the nation’s faith. Senators who were passionate and vocal contributors to the save-the-Seanad debate haven’t been heard from since, and the chamber looks like what it’s been long-perceived to be, a sanatorium for recovering politicians who didn’t quite make it to the lower chamber.
However. God never closes one door but He opens another, as the old people used to say, and circumstances have given the Seanad the chance to be heard.
If the current court order to redact details of the injunction issued on an RTÉ report into the relationship with businessman Denis O’Brien is upheld, the Seanad won’t have to do anything. There will be a fully-fledged constitutional crisis then, and God only knows how it’ll resolve.
If, however, the courts do not uphold the decision to injunct RTÉ and redact the details of the judgement, then An Taoiseach can roll into the Dáil – one week from now, because the Oireachtas is enjoying a well-deserved break currently – and proclaim what he has always known in his heart, that Ireland is the best little country in the world in which to do free speech. Any further questions will be brushed away, and dissent will be mashed into the carpet by the Government’s massive and well-whipped majority.
Which is why the Seanad must do what the Dáil cannot, and take a stand for freedom of speech. The Government want this thing to go away very, very dearly as, once it starts to unravel properly, goodness only knows where the breadcrumb trail might lead.
Ironically, in the light of previous relationships, the Labour Party may be more eager to see the issue go away than Fine Gael. The marriage referendum and Bench-marking II will go down well with the two wings that make that Labour Party and, after four hard years and the predicted giveaway budget will make the hat-trick. Labour don’t want to see their gifts to the Labour core support blown away in a political storm.
Which is why the nation must look to the Seanad to safeguard its rights. There is nothing that can be done in the Dáil, because of the Government’s steamroller majority. But the Government’s majority in the Seanad is nominal, if it exists at all. That gives the Senators some elbow room.
The powers of the Seanad are quite limited, but there is one shot in its locker. Article 27.1 of the Constitution states that “A majority of the members of Seanad Éireann and not less than one-third of the members of Dáil Éireann may by a joint petition addressed to the President by them under this Article request the President to decline to sign and promulgate as a law any Bill to which this article applies on the ground that the Bill contains a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained.”
There is a bill due next week proposing that nobody may own more than twenty per cent of the media. Which sounds great, except that the law is not retrospective. If anybody already owns more than twenty per cent of the media, he or she can keep it.
That’s not good enough. Between the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal, the Siteserv controversy and the current attempt to muzzle the democratically elected representatives of the people, it’s time to have a look at the precise relationship between the Government and #REDACTED.
Can the upper house stand for the public good when the lower house either can’t or won’t? Will a majority of members of the Seanad vote to send this press ownership Bill to the President, and let the cards fall as they will after that?
Such a move still needs the backing of one third of Dáil deputies, which is fifty-five of them. The Government has 101 votes, which leaves sixty-four left over. They can surely scrounge fifty-five votes from those sixty-four if the upper house raises the flag of Liberty.
Eighteen months ago the Seanad told that sovereign people that it was relevant in the democratic processes of the state. Now it has a chance to prove it. History awaits.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
|The last fancy eats he'll see for a while.|
As far as the GPA are concerned, the county player, like lovely Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, is worth it.
“County players are separately [separate, that is, to the club players who make up 98% of the GAA’s playing population, and should be glad of the seat at the back of the bus, the scuts – ASF] supported through a Development Programme in specific recognition of their commercial importance and significance to the GAA in three main areas - the sale of sponsorship deals, broadcast rights and gate receipts.” says the GPA’s FAQ page.
What your correspondent can’t get through his cabbage head is why, for all their rhetoric about elite tier players and commercial significance, one of the most elite of Gaelic football’s elite tier players is currently on the brink of penury and ruin while the GPA seems to be doing nothing – nothing! – to support him.
The Indian Summer of Kieran Donaghy was one of the stories of last year’s Championship, and the single most important factor in Kerry’s winning of their 37th All-Ireland. Donaghy has been named captain of Kerry this year and what is his thanks? He’s out of a job. That’s his thanks.
The Irish Independent reported last week that Donaghy has quit a fine job in the bank in the heat of the worst recession in Europe since the 1930s because of his football commitments. What’s the man expected to live on? Air? And him with a young family to support as well. It’s a disgrace, that’s what it is. It’s a scandal.
Where are the thousand GPA swords leaping from their scabbards to protest this injustice? Why isn’t Dónal Óg Cusack doing a piece to VT for RTÉ Prime Time, followed quickly by Minister for Sport, Transport and Tourism Pascal Donohoe being asked “but Minister – what about the children?” by Miriam O’Callaghan over and over again?
It’s a long time between now and 2016, when Donaghy will be able to work again. It’s a long time to be without a steady income. The steadfast Gaels of Erin endured rapine, famine and oppression for eight hundred years before our Gaelic culture, handed down to us by Almighty God, was able to take its place among the cultures of the earth, and were glad to do it. Are we now to stand idly by while one of our greatest current exponents of Gaelic football, that jewel of Gaelic culture and sportsmanship and athleticism, starves on the side of the road?
Can we bear the thought of Kieran Donaghy, a hero and role model to the youth of Ireland, living from hand to mouth for an entire year, never knowing where his next hot meal is coming from? Is he to spend the next twelve months using one teabag for four mugs of tea, watering down the breakfast milk and – horror of horrors! – economizing further by ating rice instead of spuds with his dinner? I should bloody hope not.
This column knows where our duty lies. This column calls on all Gaels to rally to the cause. Footballers, hurlers, handballers, Scór tin-whistlers and even whoever exactly it is that claims to play rounders are to get out now and start collecting non-perishable goods, clothing, fuel and other necessities of survival and common human dignity. Parcels are to be made up and shipped to Kieran Donaghy, c/o Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Co Kerry.
Blankets would be good too – with the way the summer is shaping up already, the poor man might be glad of them. And when winter comes around, maybe someone can stick a knife in that damned Bóthar goat and send the carcass down to Donaghy. He can ate the thing himself and then try to flog the skin to a bodhrán-maker to get the price of a bowl of hot soup or something. Star will need all the help he can get in the long, cold winter.
Monday, May 18, 2015
The Indo reported that there had been a spat between Fine Gael and Labour over who would represent the Government advocating a Yes vote on the Prime Time debate tomorrow night. RTÉ wanted Leo Varadkar, the first Minister in the history of the state to come out as a gay man, but there was an agreement already in place between Fine Gael and Labour that it would be two Fine Gael, one Labour over the course of three RTÉ debates. Fine Gael had already used up their quota with Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney, so Alex White was going on Prime Time and that was bloody that.
Great story. Not front page news, of course, but front page news hasn’t been what it was in the Indo since Vinnie Doyle retired. And then suddenly you might stop and wonder: what is it to RTÉ who represents any particular side anyway?
The story quotes an RTÉ source as saying "Our job was to get the best people for both sides, and one would have thought that Leo was the best person on the Government side for the last debate.”
But is it really RTÉ’s job to get the best people for both sides?
A referendum debate isn’t like a run-of-the-mill news or current affairs program. The national broadcaster’s job during a referendum or election campaign is to provide a public forum for debate. It is not the national broadcaster’s job to vet the debaters as regards their suitability to speak or represent a point of view. The national broadcaster’s only job is to measure speaking times for fairness and ask as unbalanced a set of questions as can be reasonably expected.
There is no national broadcaster in the USA, but the prospect of a commercial broadcaster stepping in to advise a political party on whom it should or shouldn’t use in a particular TV debate is ludicrous.
If, during the 2008 US Presidential Election, the Republicans wanted Sarah Palin to debate against former President Bill Clinton, can you imagine someone at one of the networks saying “our job was to get the best people for both sides, and one would have thought former Governor of California Arnold Schwartzenegger the best candidate to represent the Republican side?”
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? That’s not really the way it works.
To bring the story back home, suppose the No side decided on a second-time lucky strategy and put Gaelic footballer Ger Brennan forward as their representative for the Prime Time debate.
Would RTÉ turn to the No side and say, “look, Ger was a very underestimated center-half back in his prime but for a debate like this, you really need to send a heavy hitter like Breda O’Brien, David Quinn or Rónán Mullen to the plate”? Or would RTÉ just say “You’re sending Ger Brennan? Well, alrighty then,” and then text their friends to stock up on popcorn?
In a sighting of that rare bird, investigative journalism, Jody Corcoran joined some dots about who’s pals with whom among the players on the night of that Frontline debate three years ago, and drew up a very interesting pattern. That piece was published three years ago, in March of 2012. Nothing changed as result of his investigation, of course. Nothing ever does.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
This was at its most noticeable at the first of the Mayo GAA Blog meetups in Bowe’s of Fleet Street, Dublin 2, the night before Mayo lost to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2011. Nobody in that bar thought that Mayo had a prayer the following day, and they were fine with that. After getting sliced up in Sligo and Longford the year before, Mayo people were content to be still alive in August.
Which is why, perhaps, the county isn’t tearing itself apart as the Championship looms (“looming,” of course, is a relative concept; the Championship proper started a fortnight ago when Galway played New York, while Mayo won’t make their debut until another month from now, by which time Galway will have played two Championship games. But there it is). The people of Mayo have drank deep and well during the Horan years. If 2015 is to be a down year, then so be it. Country people can relate to the notion of seasons.
Now that the pressure has come on Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, the two men tasked with not only living up to Horan’s standards but taking the team that one step further, the prospect of a down year has not been as apocalyptic as we thought it might be.
The team has a puncher’s chance against anyone, of course. Any team with Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor among its ranks will always have a puncher’s chance against anybody. But the people of Mayo have seen enough of thoroughbred football in recent times to know that the team isn’t quite that this year.
It can’t be repeated too often that winning a fourth All-Ireland only requires Mayo to be one point or more better than anyone else that year, as opposed to having to measure themselves against some sort of eternal Platonic metric of football greatness. And if, as has been noted, the contenders aren’t quite battering down the door this year, that still doesn’t mean that Mayo 2015 will be good enough. Besides; the evidence of history is that whenever a “soft” Sam has been there to be won, it’s Kerry who weren’t too proud to stoop and pick it up for the collection.
People will remember a similar foreboding before the trip to Salthill two years ago next week, when Mayo battered Galway as that proud county have seldom been battered before. But this year feels different, somehow.
Cillian O’Connor was present in 2013, for starters. Evan Regan, the long-heralded Sorcerer’s Apprentice, continues to be blighted by injury and these two men’s absence leaves the Mayo attack looking like men taking bows and arrows to a gunfight.
Would a loss in Connacht, either in Salthill or later, be the end of the world? Not necessarily. There are those who believe a time in the shadows of the Qualifiers, bursting forth to glorious life in Croke Park at harvest time, could be the ideal route for Mayo. The Qualifier Odyssey would give the group a badly-needed opportunity to gel and pull themselves together.
But here’s the rub. It’s not like these men are strangers. It’s not like they’ve just met. Whatever is keeping Mayo from performing at the level of which they’re capable, it’s not because they’ve just met each other.
And so we have it. Short of a miracle, the 1951 team have one more year to wait, at least. As for Mayo, if they don’t win the All-Ireland this year, the powers-that-be have to decide if an All-Ireland is still in the current group – the majority of whom are in their prime, of course – or if the bus has left the station. If there is an All-Ireland in this group, it won’t keep. It’s up to the Board then to decide what went wrong this year and what can be done to put it right. Before it’s too late.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The last team to come from nowhere to win Sam was Galway in 1998, three years before the Qualifiers were introduced. Since then, nobody has won an All-Ireland without serving their apprenticeship first, and many apprentices have come and gone in those years with less to show for it than they might have had in earlier, more innocent times.
Paddy Power’s odds on this year’s Championship show a clear striation between haves and have nots. Kerry and Dublin, winners of four of the last five titles, sit looking down on the rest like Olympian gods. Past performance gives (slim) hope for the next three counties – Mayo, Donegal and Cork – while everybody else just seems to be making up the numbers.
Of the longshots, it’s interesting to see Galway are more favoured than Monaghan or Roscommon – something that will have them hopping from one foot to the other with fury from Boyle to Ballymoe – but that’s the enduring power of a Brand, as the morketing people like to say.
The quarter-finals are the killing fields of the minnows’ dreams. The breakthrough team either meets its Waterloo at the quarter-final, like Monaghan in 2013, or has nothing left in the tank by the semi-final, like Mayo in 2011. The most a team in those circumstances can hope for is a scalp, as Mayo claimed Cork’s in 2011. If the team doesn’t then improve in the following year or two, back to the pack it sinks, while someone else takes a turn.
There is nobody in Leinster who can keep it kicked out to Dublin, sadly. It’s been said that Dublin should not be blamed for being so far ahead of the provincial pack, and so they shouldn’t. But counties with football traditions like Kildare, Meath and Offaly should burn with shame at the shambles they find themselves currently in.
In the other three provinces, there are teams on the rise. Roscommon, obviously. Tipperary, maybe. Armagh, maybe. Monaghan are teetering on that point where they must advance or slide back. Of those four, three have a shout of travelling through the front door while Tipperary claiming Munster would not only a be a shock but it might be the end of them. The Qualifiers are not a fair system.
Nobody will care much for playing Tipperary in the Qualifiers, but whom Tipp meet in the quarters – if they get that far – will determine how much longer they can play football. Tipperary v Roscommon would be a perfect tie for both counties’ supporters, but not, perhaps, so good for either team’s development. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – best for them to take it one match at a time.
Of the five contenders, Cork get the easiest ride for disappointing so often. This is a mixed blessing. It’s nice for the footballers not to get abused on the street as can happen in other counties, but it’s also sad because the footballers know in their hearts that they’re not getting abused out of politeness, but out of indifference. That’s a disgrace for so fine a football county.
Donegal and Mayo are both in periods of transition management, where someone has had to take over from an iconic leader. Donegal choose continuity. Mayo did not. How their seasons will pan out may end up being reflections of those choices. There are those who see Donegal as being on the wrong side of the hill but at least they’ve been to the top – not something Mayo can say, sadly. More about Mayo’s perennial dilemma anon.
As for the Olympians, it’s a 50/50 matchup. If I were to pick one, I’d pick Kerry. They have the richer tradition, which counts, and I’m not sure if this stuff about an un-ending stream of talent on a Dublin conveyor belt is quite true. Dublin have always had a rich pick of players, through good times and bad. What’s happening right now is that Dublin are blessed to have players who are exceptionally talented in the modern game, most notably Stephen Cluxton and Michael Darragh MacAuley, and a player who’d stroll onto any team in any era, Diarmuid Connolly. It’ll be some conveyor belt that will replace those boys.