Friday, December 31, 2004

A New Year's Resolution for the Irish Nation

There's a fascinating story in today's Independent that may tell us something about who the Irish are and where we are going as a nation while 2004 makes its exit and 2005 takes its bow. It seems that the considerably majority - fourteen out of a total of seventeen - of accidents invoving the LUAS, the new light rail system in Dublin, are caused by cars running the lights.

This type of accident is unique to the Irish experience. It does not happen in other countries. In the report, Ray Allen, CEO of the Railway Procurement Authority, who are in charge of the LUAS, cites one accident where the first car that jumped the light missed the tram - it was the intellect in the second car, the one chasing the first red light breaker, who wasn't so much late for the last green as early for the next, that got broadsided.

Ray Allen says that there isn't a head left unscratched between the Gardaí and the RPA from trying to figure this mystery out, these accidents that are atypical of experience anywhere else that has a system to comparable to the LUAS. Perhaps I may make a suggestion?

Red light jumping is endemic in Dublin. An Spailpín himself has often floored it on the first twinkle of amber, not so much from a need for speed on my own part but blind terror that the foglamped yahoo behind my was going to bash into my stopped motor at the lights if I didn't exit and try my luck. The next time that you jump a light in Dublin - and, friends, we all know that you will, whether you want to or not - take a peek in the mirror, and you'll see you have one follower at the very least.

What is the reason for this idiocy? Well, the fear of getting rear-ended is An Spailpín's chief gripe. But I have also noticed just how much of a hurry we're in, how high the pressure builds when you're in traffic and how much, after a pronlonged period of being stuck, you're inclined to make the most of the open road. Factor in the fact that, if you don't cross the lights now, the standard of driving in Dublin is so extraordinarily poor that there's a good chance some goose will simply block the junction from incompetence or raw selfishness and you'll be another hour on Pearse St - well, while we can never forgive we can very easily understand.

The reason that the traffic is so very badly congested in Dublin is spectacularly poor planning, of course. The standard whine from the Corpo or Dublin City Council or whatever it is they're calling themselves now is that heavy traffic is the price of our fancy city living and we must accept it. Just as we were supposed to accept dysentry, cholera and streets strewn with sewage before some saint invented the flush toilet. Or just as we accepted that we got wet in the rain before someone invented the anorak. For God's sake, what sort of an excuse is that, that it's just the way it is? Surely these goons' job is to ensure that nothing is ever the way it is, that they're working their buns off to make sure everything is getting better and better all the time? What else is the point? Do you want proactive or reactive public administration?

The planners are several years off the pace with how quickly Dublin has developed. The developement of Dublin is therefore and in consequence highly unplanned, and the bizarre traffic and housing patterns are a result of this tremendous and glaring lack of planning. And the reason that development outstripped planning is because greedy and avarcious politicans couldn't stuff the gelt into their pockets quickly enough. And the reason these venial swine were in charge in the first place was because we voted them in. We, the people, in whom all authority derived from God is invested, may use that power as wisely or as foolishly as we see fit.

For 2005, let's try to wise up a little, before the whole Eastern seaboard breaks off into the sea? Happy New Year.