Monday, February 01, 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016
|From a photo-essay collection on Slate.com|
However. While our emotions are outraged by the current homeless situation, as brought vividly to light by that TV program after the Nine O’Clock News on Monday night, there is a big question that our logical selves should be engaging with. It is this: how can this small little country have simultaneous homeless crises and ghost estate crises?
Logic dictates that the one is the solution to the other. The country needs to house those unfortunates who, for one reason or another, have nowhere to live. The country also has to unload that all that worthless housing stock of which it has such a surfeit that it had to set up a National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, to keep count of the things.
The one is a solution to the other. You need a house? I have a house. Win-win.
But it’s not win-win. This isn’t what’s going on, or even being talked about. We’re talking about reality TV masquerading a current affairs broadcasting, modular (ie, flatback) housing and these extra-ordinary hotels that house the homeless, a kind of hotel that seems so seldom to appear on booking.com.
Why can’t we use the ghost estates that litter the countryside to house the homeless? How is living in a ghost estate in Tyrrellspass, say, worse for a family than living in a room in a B&B?
It seems that, while homelessness is a national tragedy, for some people it’s not so tragic that they do not, in fact, grab the first shelter open to them. In a report last week, the Irish Independent listed certain reasons last why people refuse social housing, with the absence of a garden or the fact the proposed house is not in an area of choice being leading reasons.
This should raise eyebrows among people who themselves would prefer a house with a garden, or more parking, or in a different area. Consider the sprawling estates in the Dublin commuter belt – how many people are living there because a sprawling estate in the commuter belt is their idea of an area of choice?
Look at the roads out of Dublin on the Saturday morning of a bank holiday weekend – all those families are on their way back to their own actual area of choice, because in this world getting to live in an area of choice is a perk, not a feature.
Homelessness was always going to be an election issue once Alan Kelly promised the Christmas before last to take it on and then didn’t. The ghost estates have returned because Fine Gael are eager to beat Fianna Fáil over the head with them.
But who, in the coming election, speaks for the people who don’t get to live in an area of choice but get on with it anyway, because it’s a get-on-with-it world? Who speaks for those who are appalled and heart-scalded by TV shows like that on Monday night but who don’t understand why these families can’t be moved into all those empty homes all around the country that country, through NAMA, already own?
Joe Higgins and his gang like to talk about the working class. Who speaks for what Bill Clinton called the coping class, those who have been beaten up and shaken down by the events of the past eight to ten years, but who hung in there and did their best? Who’s speaking for them? If anybody plans too, now would be a good time to start clearing the throat, before the whole thing starts over again.
Monday, December 28, 2015
This is not to say that they are invincible. And if anyone wants to quibble with Dublin’s achievement he or she could point out to the poor quality of opposition Dublin have met in finals – Mayo in 2013, and Kerry’s extraordinary collapse. There is also the continuing embarrassment of Leinster football, an embarrassment that looks set to continue with a bizarre venue having been chosen for Dublin’s first Championship away game since Biddy Mulligan was a slip of a girl.
But these are pointless cavils. Dublin are the best team in the country because they have the best players. And those best players don’t look like they’re going anywhere just yet.
Who can challenge them? The stark division between haves and have-nots continues, as mortal counties are crushed between the twin rocks of the back-door system and that most exclusive club that is Division 1 of the National Football League.
Kieran Shannon of the Examiner has made the point this year that addressing the League structure would be far more helpful than codding ourselves that the Championship will – or can – be changed. The Croke Park grandees have paid this not one blind bit of heed, and seem determined to bring back the unloved B Championship. Sigh.
Of the potential challengers, Tyrone may have overtaken Donegal in the pecking order, but otherwise it’s as-you-were for the Big Four. The people of Mayo will wonder if Stephen Rochford is the long-awaited Messiah but the reality is that the team is now manager-independent, really. Unpleasant though it was, the putsch of the previous management team shows that this Mayo panel is now complete in every way.
Everything you read in the papers about Mayo being short a forward or being too loose at the back or not knowing what to with Aidan O’Shea is just paper-talk. Only some truly poxy luck has kept Mayo from winning an All-Ireland since the revival of the 1990s, and luck has to change sometime.
typically excellent piece in the Indo a few days about the Kilkenny Hurling Imperium, and how it continues even though the playing standard is not what it was. The kings will be kings until someone rises to challenge them, but who that someone might be is anybody’s case.
Your correspondent is a great fan of the Banner County but, although far from a hurling expert, I will eat every single hat I own if Clare win the All-Ireland. Although hailed in the media as a triumph, the inclusion of Dónal Óg Cusack in the Clare back-room team is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Neither Dónal Óg nor Davy Fitz are noted for their ability to get along with regular people. How in God’s Holy Name they are meant to get on with each other is a Sixth Glorious Mystery. It’ll all end in tears before the hay is saved.
Speaking of tears, it is a generally odious thing to say I told you so, but this is the still the Season of Goodwill so I will chance my arm. This is from last year’s sports review piece in this space:
Reader, Ireland have never won a World Cup playoff game in the seven times the competition has been held, including two years, 1999 and 2007, when Ireland couldn’t even get out of their group. The Irish rugby public should think about crawling before thinking about walking.
crashing bore, something that did not go down well with the public at the time. It wasn’t a crashing bore, but anyone who’s paying attention and is brave enough to be honest with him or herself can see that the game is changing massively, both in the way it’s played and the way it’s organised. The question, then, is whether the change is evolution or devolution.
Rugby has generally been the best of all sports in adjusting its rules to remain true to the spirit of the game as teams seek every edge, but it’s behind the times now. There are too many games decided by penalties at the breakdown which, when it comes to great sporting spectacles, make for rather Hobbesian viewing.
A sign of that evolution – or devolution – was in an offhand comment from Brian O’Driscoll while holding a mic for BT Sports during the recent Ulster v Toulouse game at Kingspan Ravenhill. O’Driscoll has a keen eye and praised Vincent Clerc for taking up a particular defensive position at one stage in the game, and that’s great. But nobody every paid in to watch Simon Geoghegan defend, or David Campese or, God save us, Doctor Sir AJF O’Reilly. If rugby isn’t about running with ball in hand it’s about nothing. Dangerous times for the ancient and glorious game.
As it was with the players, not least the much reviled Glen Whelan. It is worth closing, then, by noting that not everyone was derelict in his or her duty by Whelan when nobody was singing because nobody was winning. The great Keith Duggan wrote a marvellous piece in the Irish Times about Whelan, his role for Ireland and the nature of the professional soccer player back last June. Treat yourself friends, and check it out.
Monday, December 14, 2015
The demise of journalistic standards is one of the unexpected consequences of this connected age, a point made very well by both Laura Slattery of the Irish Times and Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post only last week. But not even the perfidious internet can be blamed for the weak reporting of the Conference on Climate Change that ended on Saturday.
The major news media of the world hailed the thing as a complete success. What is not being reported are the serious scientists who say the thing was a fake.
Front and centre of these is Professor James Hansen of Colombia University, who has spoken about the danger of climate change since 1988. The Guardian interviewed him about the Paris conference, and he’s not impressed. “It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
So why have we been hearing about it all week? Just what exactly is going on?
A Climate Change Primer
The industrial revolution saw man’s relationship to the environment change. The new industries and industrial processes altered the balance of nature, to the extent that the planet could no longer adapt to or dispose of the waste produced by man. Two hundred years later, that waste has damaged the ozone layer that surrounds the atmosphere of the earth. The ozone layer protects the planet from deadly radiation that exists in space. The more it’s damaged, the more of that deadly radiation gets through. And that would be bad.
But ... Why Don’t We Just Stop What We’re Doing and Do Something Else?
This is where the bad reporting comes in. Civilisation isn’t just about science. It’s also about politics and economics. It’s chic for certain writers in the west to write about these things in terms of evil corporations sucking the life-blood of Mother Earth because that fits in with a popular culture narrative. But the truth is, as ever, more complex.
What’s Really Going On
The Global Carbon Report has some excellent infographics on the current state of play as regards carbon-based pollution, the big beast of all pollutants. Take a look at this chart, taken from one of their infographics:
The west is rich because the industrial revolution was a western phenomenon. Now, the rest of the world, especially China and India, want to be rich too. You get rich by increasing industrial production, and the cheapest way to fuel that industrialization is by using coal, oil and gas.
The world isn’t run by scientists. The world is run by politicians and economists. The Climate Change Summit wasn’t about science. Science was coincidental to the real discussion, which is about who gets to run the world.
The infographic shows quite clearly that the major polluters of the present day are the major Asian economies. The West wants those Asian economies to stop using coal, oil and gas to fuel industry, because we’ve already used too much of those.
And who exactly is this we, asks the East, folding its arms and tapping its foot. You used it, not us. Now it’s our turn and if you don’t like it, well boo sucks to you.
All the climate summits, from Kyoto on down, have been about this standoff between the West, whose wealth was powered by fossil fuels, and the East, who want to catch up and are not impressed when they get to the head to the queue to see the Yanks pull down the shutters and say, sorry, the beer’s all gone – would you like a 7-Up instead?
This side of things isn’t reported by western media, for all manner of reasons. The decline of media standards, the general dumbing down of the population, the knee-jerk tendency of current media to check their privilege, and all the rest of it. But as regards the writing of history, these summits are about the West and the rest of the world butting heads to see who gets to run the world.
But … What About the Planet?
The planet will be fine. Right now, there’s too much money tied up in fossil fuels (and this isn’t Mr Monopoly rolling in a bath of fivers here – think of all the pension funds of ordinary people that have shares in Exxon Mobil and Texaco and the rest) to invest properly in alternative fuel research. But that doesn’t mean research isn’t going on.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some scientist in a lab somewhere working on how to make nuclear fusion work, which would eliminate fossil fuel reliance at a stroke. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t groups of scientists working on better batteries, because the hardest thing about electricity is effective storage. This work is going on all the time. Science has got the memo about fossil fuels, and is on the case. Rest easy, world, and try to take what you read in the papers with a pinch of salt.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
A closer inspection reveals that, rather than migrants or medieval pillagers, these are the children of the city, getting set for their single favourite thing of the year, the Hallowe’en bonfire.
The skirmish parties consist of two or three boys in groups. One of each group is dragging a wooden palette on the road behind him. Bear in mind that the roads are essentially closed to traffic while these troops march by – the rules of the road do not apply to them.
Behind the skirmish parties, as it inevitably must, comes the heavy artillery. In this case, it’s some sort of trolley piled high with palettes, while the striplings dance attendance around it. This is the centerpiece of the action, the motherlode of the Ceremony of Fire that is to come.
And bringing up the rear, then, were bicycled outriders, for once too pre-occupied to do wheelies, each signaling to the others where the army had marched on ahead.
The entire army is almost entirely made up of schoolboys, none of whom is old enough to shave. There was one girl, a George among the Julians and Dicks. Perhaps more of the fairer sex will come out after dark, once the ceremony has begun.
The boys are nearly all dressed in tracksuits, certainly the ubiquitous grey (off-white?) tracksuit bottoms, but some are wearing labourers’s gloves. More are wearing yellow or orange high-viz vests.
The high-viz vests are initially a mystery until you remember that these are only children. They’re wearing high-viz vests because they’re playing at being grown-ups. Grown-ups wear high-viz vests, therefore the children shall wear high-viz vests, and wear labouring gloves to show that they’re hard.
It’s all very winsome, until you remember that tonight they will build a bonfire that’s three or four times bigger than themselves, light it and then lose all control of what happens next.
The thing could topple over and burn them. The wind could rise, blow a piece of the bonfire where it’s not supposed to be and set part of the city ablaze. They have no idea of the consequences and, being children, can’t have an idea. How could they? They’re too young to understand. Childhood is about Now. Consequences live in a land beyond the edge of that innocent world.
The children’s parents, however, should be a little more aware of consequences. They should reflect deeply about how they’re raising their kids, just as society should think deeply about the annual toleration extended to Hallowe’en bonfires. It’ll be too late when something – or someone – is burned to the ground.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
|Whisht, a minute now, would ye whisht!|
Here are some facts on which all concerned should reflect. The Championship will always be unequal for as long as only Mayomen can play for Mayo, Galwaymen for Galway, and so on. If that rule ever changes, whatever comes after will not be the Championship, or the GAA, any more. It will be something else, and the one cogent and successful expression of nationalism and patriotism since the 1916 Rising will be lost with all the others.
The inequality of the Championship used to be compensated by the fact it was a knockout competition. A lesser county may have no hope of an All-Ireland but it could certainly deny an All-Ireland to its bigshot neighbour. There was a certain joy in that – the Germans do not have a freehold on schadenfreude, after all. There’s nothing about schadenfreude you can’t tell a nation of begrudgers.
Beating your neighbour will always count for more than beating someone drawn out of a hat, whose county-people you don’t know, with whom you didn’t go to school or college, don’t meet at work, and all the rest of it. There can only be one winner every year, but the Championship was comprised of so many smaller Championships, between Laois and Offaly, between Galway and Mayo, between Derry and Tyrone.
That small compensation of softening a few bigshots’ coughs is denied the lesser counties by the back-door system. The story that the back door was there to favour small counties was only ever a lie. Laws, as a friend of the blog likes to remark, were never made for the poor.
However. The problem of inequality among counties was addressed in what your correspondent can only describe as a flash of genius from Kieran Shannon in an Examiner column of a few weeks ago. Shannon's simple proposal should be the Number One item on the bill for central council deliberations instead of the Champions-League knit-one, purl-two around the house and mind the dresser alternatives being proposed.
There are many reasons for the gap between haves and have-nots, most of them down to tradition, but the problem has become worse in recent years. It’s become worse because best teams play each other every spring in the National League, each honing their skills against the others. Other counties don’t get a look in at that highest level of football and then, when they do run into it in the Championship, they get destroyed without ever knowing what hit them.
James Horan, who has proved excellent in his second life as a pundit, remarked on Newstalk during the summer about how much he and Mayo learned from every single Division 1 game that they played. It is unfair that Mayo and others should have access to so much tutoring and other counties should not. Which is where Kieran Shannon’s plan comes in.
Shannon’s simple suggestion is that the League return to the 1A and 1B format. The current Division 1 and 2 can populate Divisions 1A and 1B, with the teams that finished first, third, fifth and seventh in Divisions 1 and 2 going into 1A and those who finished second, fourth, sixth and eighth going to 1B, and the same procedure used for filling 2A and 2B from Divisions 3 and 4.
The point here is that while the Championship structure is set in stone, the League is always open to reconstitution. So, instead of trying to change what you can’t, people concerned with inequality in the Championship should concern themselves with what they can change – the League.
There would be some kinks to iron out over who was promoted or relegated, and about maintaining the balance between the A and B sections of the divisions, but these are small details. The former Division 1 teams now only get half the benefit they used to get from their League games, while the Division 2 teams get to test themselves against the big guns and learn a thing or two before it’s time to load the live ammunition in summer.
People have entrenched views on the Championship while the League, once a competition of prestige, is now a red-haired stepchild to be kicked around the place. A simple change would benefit everybody, and there would be no thumps or spilled pints during the debate. Please note, Central Council.
Monday, October 12, 2015
The first of the 32 things Paddy wants to know is who’ll get elected in Cork South Central. This isn’t politics. This is gossip. Personalities are trivial. Policies are important.
The second of the 32 things is who’ll get elected in Tipperary. Again, gossip.
The third and fourth of the 32 things are how Labour and Renua will get on. This is a who’ll bigger, the Beatles or the Stones?-type story. Gossip.
The fifth of the 32 things is how women candidates will get on. It's an ideological topic, but there's no real substance there. The quotas have given the argument a false perspective, so you end up with a cat-fight report from Dún Laoghaire Fianna Fáil. Gossip.
Sixth and seventh are how Fine Gael and Sinn Féin will get on. See third and fourth.
The eighth is who’ll get the chop when Mayo reduces from five seats to four. Gossip, gossip, gossip.
That’s not public service journalism. That’s water-cooler conversation in the Dublin 2 Beltway. Fascinating for Insiders, not worth two balls of roasted snow to Joe or Jane Citizen. Here’s what Paddy and Patricia really want to know.
- At the time of the crash, we were told that Ireland was sold into bondage for the next thirty years. Now the economy is growing at six per cent per annum. So – what happened to the projected 30 years of living off hot gravel? Has an economic miracle occurred? Or has nobody really known what was going on since August 2008 they’ve spent the past seven years bluffing for their lives and thanking God and Frau Merkel?
- Six per cent growth per annum. Two per cent is ideal, isn’t it? Two point something, maybe? If the economy is growing at six per cent, doesn’t that mean it’s overheating? If it’s overheating, shouldn’t the government be trying to cool it down, rather than heat it up some more?
- Or has the government embraced Charlie McCreevy’s belief that if you have it you should spend it?
- Doesn’t that run against the advice of JM Keynes, who had the idea of a salting away the silver for a rainy day as a bedrock of his macro-economic policy? Weren’t we hearing about Keynes all during the crash?
- Or when they hear “Keynes,” are Roy and Robbie the only men that come to the government’s mind?
- I see those lads who terrorized that family in Tipperary had seventy previous convictions between them. How many previous convictions do you need until the Guards start to think you might be worth keeping an eye on?
- If you run up twelve points on your driver’s license you’re taken off the road. How can you have multiple previous convictions and still be running around?
- A guy with eleven previous convictions, for public order, robbery and assault, got a suspended sentence for beating the head off a girl on a bus recently. He was also recommended to do a course in anger management issues. Any idea where a citizen could do an anger management course after reading that court report?
- Speaking of our learned friends, does anyone remember that cutting legal fees was something the Troika stressed over and over again during the time here? How’s that coming along?
- Any plans to set up an Irish-Water-esque quango to get that show in the road?
- Yeah. Poor example, I know, I know.
- Remember when Enda promised a quango cull?
- Or the report card for Ministers?
- Whose report card are you looking forward to the most?
- Alan “AK-47” Kelly?
- Phil “Big Phil” Hogan?
- Doctor James “Bottler” Reilly?
- Heather “A Rebel I came, I’m still the same” Humphries?
- Jan O’Sullivan, who’s so helpless she doesn’t even have a nickname?
- Alan Shatter, who had the poor Attorney General plagued ringing her at all hours of the day and the night about the nicer points of torts, malfeasances and likewise legalease?
- He might even have asked her about fees now and again, of course. Just to break the tension and have a laugh, like.
- Speaking of reports, how long it’s been since Moriarty Tribunal Report came out?
- Four years? Four-and-a-half?
- And that’s resulted in – what, exactly?
- And Labour are all fine with that, I suppose? Them oul’ ethics aren’t bothering them? Martyrs for the ethics, Labour. Labour used to be worse bothered with the ethics than great-aunt Maggie with the lumbago. The ethics must have cleared up after Labour got into government. Poor Maggie is still crippled, of course.
- And how are things looking in the North? Not too great?
- After all these years, wouldn’t it be something if Ireland were to be finally united by politicians on both sides realising that there are enough cookies in the cookie-jar for all the boys, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter?
- And are we all sure there’ll be enough room in Longford for all those Syrians along with everyone else?
- No Minister, I couldn’t name three streets in Longford either. Although I suppose Pearse and O’Connell are always good guesses.
- Did you see where the Phoenix reckoned the next Presidential election will be between Michael D, Miriam O’Callaghan and Enda? The Lord save us.
- Come here, Do you still have that brother beyond in Cricklewood Broadway?
- Do you think he could put me up for a week or two until I find a job and a place to stay? I’ve had my fill of this nightmare country.