Fianna Fail won't tolerate
satire, except when its agin the other shower. When they returned to power
in '77 they axed "Hall's Pictorial Weekly" by the admittedly ingenious
ruse of appointing the nation's chief satirist, Frank Hall, to the post
of Chief Censor. Only in Ireland.
- Declan McCormack, "The Sunday Independent"
A war of words broke
out last night between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over the Irish language
— conducted entirely in English... "I would claim there's more of us conversant
in Irish than Fianna Fail. This is utter nonsense" said FG's one fluent
Irish-speaking MEP, Jim Higgins.
- Conor Sweeney, "The Irish Independent"
For decades after independence
it was a foolish person who had anything good to say about Britain. Britain
was the cause of all our problems and no good idea could ever come from
that quarter. Even when an idea was manifestly sound — the benefits of
an open economy, for a start — it would be dismissed because of its associations
with the ancestral foe. Our attitude to 'Old Ireland' is now much the same
as our — now thankfully fading — attitude towards Britain. If the past
is indeed another country, then nothing good ever came from there. We're
well rid of the old ways and anything that even remotely smacks of them
is to be instantly and aggressively rejected. Politicians, who once were
anxious to display their fierce independence from Britain, are now anxious
to show their fierce independence from the past.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
"As Irish people our
relationships with the United States and the European Union are complex.
Geographically we are closer to Berlin than Boston. Spiritually we are
probably a lot closer to Boston than Berlin."
- Mary Harney, speaking in 2000 as Minister for Enterprise
We hear more than enough
about those who died and indeed killed for Ireland, but precious little
about the greater number who took the far more heroic option of simply
trying to live in the place.
- Liam Fay, TV Review, "The Sunday Times"
Current Affairs - The State - Economics - Politics - Northern Ireland - Society
>> Quotes on EU Treaties, Neutrality & Immigration moved to New page
# CURRENT AFFAIRS
- Ian O'Doherty, on the Afghan hunger strikers in St. Patrick's Cathedral, "Irish Independent"
"We would ask for it
to be left there as a lesson of what Irish neutrality (in the Second World
War) was all about."
- Shivon Samuels, on the decapitated statue of Sean Russell, IRA leader and Nazi collaborator
"The tribunal was put
in place to investigate urgent business of public interest. Clearly it's
failed — it's been 10 years in existence."
- Ulick McEvaddy, on the failure and mission creep of the tribunals
Ministers are looking
forward to an extra-merry Christmas following their brave decision to award
themselves that infamous pay hike. In other words, for reasons best known
to themselves, this Government seems to be doing its best to confirm every
cynical belief that the public holds about politicians. They're only in
it for themselves, they make promises they know they can't keep and all
- Andrew Lynch, as Brian Cowen promises a tough 2007 budget, "Evening Herald"
It is vitally important
to be offended every now and then — at the very least it makes you confront
your most deeply held beliefs and hold them up to scrutiny. But the PC brigade have no interest in
confronting and challenging one's feelings, preferring instead to introduce censorship by stealth and
cowardice. Let's put it this way - would you rather live in a society where the likes of Jimmy Carr and
Tommy Tiernan are free to offend whomever they choose, or one run by the likes of Michael D Higgins,
where anyone with the temerity to voice an unpopular opinion runs the risk of being prosecuted?
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
Limerick’s first citizen
is unhappy with an internet “sniper” game that allows players to shoot
stickmen targets on the city’s streets. “This game does not portray a true
picture of the town,” says mayor Joe Leddin. Limerick’s leaders should
stop worrying about how their bailiwick looks in novels, movies, plays
or computer graphics. The real problem is how it looks on the news.
- Liam Fay, "The Sunday Times"
Recent revenue figures
revealed that 28 resident Irish artists who earned between half a million
and €10m in 2001 claimed immunity from tax under the artists’ exemption
scheme. The majority of these are multi-millionaire pop stars, many of
whom sport what they advertise as "social consciences" — which means they
hold passionate views about how government should spend the tax paid by
others. As well as the world’s most socially parasitical entertainers,
Ireland has the privilege of being home to the world’s most blatant hypocrites.
It will be fascinating to watch as these enemies of injustice endeavour
to protect their right to live in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed
at the expense of the public purse.
- Liam Fay, "Hear the cant of our loaded freeloaders", "The Times"
For a man who won popular
support when he castigated the Irish government for its failure to spend
our tax in the way that he saw fit, Bono now finds himself standing in
a lonely place. Last week the rock-star-turned-campaigner was exposed for
taking part in a decision that will deliberately reduce the amount of tax
that he and his business partners in U2 will contribute from next year
onwards. Since June, the band and its manager have engaged in what is known
as ‘tax avoidance’, moving U2’s publishing empire to the Netherlands where
it can avail of a near zero rate of tax on royalties. It is absolutely
legal, but it still jars. How can the music industry’s preacher-in-chief
hope to retain his credibility when next he delivers a sermon to governments
on how they should spend their taxpayers’ money?
- Matt Cooper, "The Sunday Times"
Take Bono, who is worth
scores of millions of pounds, and is irrepressibly free with his words
about what the governments of the world should do for developing countries.
Yet in all the fawning, saliva-rich interviews to which he is treated,
no one ever asks him how much money he gives either in tax to the Irish
government or in donations to the poor of the world. Though, like the rest
of U2, he enjoys the artists' tax-exemption in Ireland, the inherent contradiction
between what he practises and what he preaches is apparently taboo. For
one of the defining features of the cult of the famous is an allergy to
- Kevin Myers, in Britain's "Sunday Telegraph"
The fact is that the
expert advisers who are trying to make Chernobyl safe are from Sellafield;
compare the two is like using the Tay Bridge disaster as evidence that one shouldn't build railway lines
over rivers, or the Titanic as proof of the folly of going to the sea in ships.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Times"
Be afraid, be very
afraid. Dick Roche says Ireland will "vigorously oppose" British government
plans for a network of nuclear power plants. The environment minister is
about to redouble his efforts, and that usually means things are about
to get twice as bad. Ireland will import electricity from Britain, he said,
but we will have no truck with electricity generated by nuclear sources.
Unfortunately for Bray’s answer to Braveheart, this was palpable nonsense.
Padraig McManus, the ESB chief executive, pointed out that it would be
impossible to determine how the energy we import had been produced.
- Liam Fay, "The Sunday Times"
Dear me, I don't think
I've enjoyed a government statement more. The announcement that the EU
is to provide €200m to build an electricity connector between Wales
and Ireland should logically mean that the nuclear debate is over here.
For Ireland will finally be using atomic energy -- and not with the Greens
in fervent and tumultuous opposition, but actually in government: it is
all too delicious for words. However, maybe we will have, yet again, an
Irish solution to an Irish problem. After all, we have so many under-employed
customs officers, who once upon a time spent their days happily rooting
through people's bags looking for condoms and 'Playboy' magazines to confiscate
and take back home. Perhaps we could sit them down at the landfall of the
connector and get them to examine each electron as it shuffles through
immigration, to see if it was nuclear-generated or not. Electrons can be
pesky little things, mind you, and they're not always open and honest about
their origins. So it will be up to Holy Ireland's customs officers to devise
a technology which can detect clean electrons (created by St Patrick's
holy waves, or St Brigid's blessed wind) and usher them through, meanwhile
identifying dirty, nuclear-generated electrons to be sent back to perfidious
Sellafield-loving Albion, where they belong. You see, opposition to nuclear
energy isn't Just Another Policy for the Greens. It is a core belief. John
Gormley identifies the campaign against the proposed nuclear power station
at Carnsore Point 30 years ago as the starting point of the Green Party...
Yet had Dessie O'Malley been successful in his attempt to introduce nuclear
power to Ireland all those decades ago, we would now have the lowest carbon
dioxide emissions of any country in Europe, and be an eco-model for others.
Moreover, the capital costs of building a nuclear plant at Carnsore would
long since have been paid off, and today we would have the cheapest electricity
in Europe. And thus it is that the people who successfully campaigned against
our going nuclear are now in the very government which has decided to import
nuclear-generated electricity from Britain. It is all too, too delicious
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent" (Jan'09)
Why did the Government
spend just €23m last year on flood-relief schemes when, by their own
admission, it will take almost €400m to make the country fully prepared
for the kind of torrential rain that's destroyed this year's summer? Does
Minister Gormley really expect towns and villages to live with the risk
of serious floods for another two decades while he and his colleagues leisurely
reach their target? Above all, why is the Government spending huge amounts
of money on buying carbon credits to offset ministerial air flights and
comparitively little on immediate problems in their own back yard? What
does this say about their priorities?
- Andrew Lynch, "The Evening Herald" (Aug'08)
"This attitude that
is prevalent today to blame everything on climate change, if you have a
bad summer, it must be due to climate change, or if you get flooding, it
must be to do with climate change. If you look at it in the context of
the weather we've had over the last 50 years there have been other episodes
when we've had some very heavy flooding... It's too early to go down that
- Ray McGrath, of Met Eireann, at the TCD climate change conference (Aug'08)
All this week the Shannon
airport row has rumbled on, in varying degress of indignation and misinformation.
The most pitiable participants have been the politicians, especially those
of the Fianna Fail variety, exposed to the cameras in all their ignorance,
powerlessness and bewilderment. You could almost feel sorry for them. But
not for very long... If this is how they handle little local difficulties,
I cringe to think what might happen in a crisis.
- James Downey, "The Irish Independent" (Aug'07)
As it stands, Mr Cowen
is destined to be remembered as the man who blew Ireland’s economic boom.
He sanctioned irresponsible increases in public spending to curry favour
ahead of the 2007 general election; produced a budget last December that
is possibly the most inaccurate ever presented to the Dail; and has presided
over the biggest turnaround in the public finances in living memory...
After 100 days in office it’s hard to see why the taoiseach was handed
- Sunday Times Editorial (Aug'08)
"He was finance minister
for four years before becoming Taoiseach. If he didn't know there was a
major slump on its way, then he is a fool. If Cowen did know there were
economic hard times around the corner, then he lied to the Irish people.
The last Budget, which he was responsible for, indicated there would be
a modest downturn. Which is worse? Being a fool or being a liar? Hopefully
the people will get a chance to decide that in upcoming elections... The
dogs on the street know about economic cycles. Brian Cowen never made any
allowances for this eventuality... Can we trust someone who is so incompetent?
... The names behind Ireland’s economic woes are not Fanny Mae and Freddy
Mac. They are Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen."
- Eamon Gilmore TD, finally speaking the truth about 'Gordon' Cowen (Sept'08)
There are many questions
coming out of the banks crisis that need to be confronted. The first important
one is: In the deal done between the Government and the Irish banks, who
won? The second is: Where was Europe? The third is: How will this crisis
solution be regulated? The initial reaction ... was that decisive leadership
had been given by Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan... But it wasn't long before
the absense of adequate safeguards and the weighting in favour of the banks
emerged as the truer picture...
Where was the passionate espousal of EU membership that so capitvated elected representatives a few months ago when they were telling voters of the huge importance of greater closeness to the EU and the dire risks of going it alone. Faced by the biggest financial crisis in our history, we did just that. We went it alone. The move we made was unliateral and illegal. And even if other things turn out to be defective, with too many burdens on the State and too few on the banks, which is the growing fear, at least the nonsense of depending on Europe has been exposed yet again.
- Bruce Arnold, on the wider ramifications of the banking crisis, "Irish Ind."
The private conspiracy between the government,
the employers and the unions -- the so-called social partnership -- as
they complacently made an undemocratic and outrageous deal on wages. The
Government's highest priority should have been to abandon the social partnership
and take direct charge of public service pay, freezing it, with a view
to scaling down the size of this monstrous and expensive burden on the
taxpayer... The good times are over and the social partnership was a product
of those good times. It was never democratic. The will of the people did
not govern the private deals. It was one or two ministers and a clutch
of unelected civil servants negotiating with employer and union representatives,
neither of which groupings was interested in the common good. Since the
summer, as we watched the whole flimsy structure of economic strength and
vitality fall apart, any social partnership deal, other than one in line
with retrenchment and reduction, has not only been rendered redundant,
it has become an obscene mockery of the real requirements of the economy.
We needed to set aside any thought of the social partnership awarding itself
anything. Then, next year, we could move to reduce pay and scale down superfluous
That simple reality is the cornerstone of future action; Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan seem oblivious of their duty to us all. Social partnership only works one way. No 'partners' are going to walk into a room and negotiate reduced pay and redundancies. The only way is for those in power to do the job they are paid to do, resume control and act with stern and unflinching courage. It is not a question of saying: Can it be done? It is a question of saying: It has to be done. The Government should also have confronted the terrible mess they have made by hiving off everything in sight, through the process of 'agentisation'. We have transferred the running of a whole range of activities, once sensibly managed by the civil service, into the hands of agencies. The biggest and most disastrous is the HSE.
- Bruce Arnold, "The Irish Ind." (Nov'08)
Expenditure on the
public sector has to be slashed. The addition of 75,000 employees in the
past eight years — bringing the number to nearly 320,000 — was hard to
justify then and impossible now. Lenihan is talking about 5,000 redundancies;
20,000 would be more like it.
- Matt Cooper, with some suggestions for Budget 2008, "Sunday Times"
"Tax adjustments are
also needed to promote sustainability in our economy."
- Brian Lenihan, before 2008 budget (shouldn't the economy be made more sustainable???)
"Anyone under 35 feels
like they are going through a meat grinder...It's almost as if the economy
is eating its young."
- Eddie Hobbs, host of "Rip-Off Republic"
The minister had a
remarkable opportunity, as well as a difficult task. The time was never
more opportune for a Budget which, in the first place, put the public finances
in order; secondly, held out hope of fresh economic growth; and thirdly,
laid out a plan to cure the biggest defect in the administration -- the
excessive cost of pay and numbers in the public service. In all three areas,
he let the opportunity slip. The Budget does not settle the public finances:
the deficit for 2009 is far too high, and the prospects for 2010 and 2011
are not appealing... Moreover, many of the Budget's provisions are highly
objectionable in themselves, from the fancy footwork on medical cards for
the elderly to the treatment of the unemployed, to the pay cut for ministers,
to the cowardly approach to the decentralisation fiasco. The ministers'
pay cut is a stunt. It appears they will emerge, in due course, with their
salary rates, and their pensions, intact. Essentially, this is little more
than an attempt to fool the punters.
- Irish Independent editorial after the inept budget of 2008
The public sector,
numbering 320,000, not including commercial state companies, could almost
be part of a different country. Unlike the 1.8m people who make their living
in the wealth-creating economy, public servants live in a sheltered zone
where day-to-day economic realities are what happen to other people. In
the real economy, pay is cut, jobs are lost, holidays are forgone and pensions
are wiped out. In the sheltered economy, pay increases are taken for granted,
jobs cannot be cut, holidays are sacrosanct and pensions are guaranteed.
The majority of these privileges are financed from the taxes of the at-risk
private sector. That’s not the fault of the employees — it is the fault
of their employer.
- Sunday Times editorial
PAYE: Plundered As
- Seen in "The Irish Independent"
The Budget was another
triumph for the Real Government, the not-so hidden hand which moves the
puppet of party politics. How many civil servants will lose anything whatever
because of the economic collapse that is now on its way? None. Absolutely
none. Their jobs and pensions are intact, even as we in the real economy
that sustains them wait for the storm to blow our houses away. There was
a fig-leaf, to be sure: the €200 annual car-parking levy should, on
the face of it, largely affect public servants (oh, how that term brings
a smile to my face). Two thirds of all workplace car-parking spaces in
Dublin are controlled by the civil service... that sector will still exist
tomorrow, even when most of the real economy won't. It's 100pc unionised,
and irresistibly powerful; hence the imbecilities of Tuesday's Budget.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
A general election
[would be] a truly terrifying prospect for any possible victor.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Ind." (Oct'08)
Only a civil service
mind-set could have considered tampering with the medical cards. And only
a cabinet grown too comfortable with the civil service culture that surrounds
them could have collectively passed it... The civil service brand burns
bright on the brazen ploy which calls on civil servants to take a voluntary
10 per cent cut but demands that medical card holders over 70 take a compulsory
cut. Why not offer the pensioners the same choice as the civil service?
...Budget 2009 was conceived by civil servants who do not have to run risks to earn a reward. Look at how the levies lean on the risk runners. And every levy will leave things worse. The income levies will lead to trade union pressure for higher pay. The motor levies will lead to higher costs in getting to work. The airport levies will suppress business. The VAT levies will depress business.
- Eoghan Harris, "Sunday Indo."
The Budget is the most
ruthlessly deflationary in recent times, and will take money and activity
out of the economy at a time when it is already shrinking and the rate
of decline is accelerating. It will worsen the pain that is coming, and
the consequence of the Budget is that even more people than was already
the likelihood will lose their jobs, businesses and homes.
The Budget has all the negative hallmarks of the Department of Finance mindset in its disregard for the hardship caused by making worse what is an already severe recession... The question has to be asked: who is actually in charge? We elect a government to govern, not to put its signature to a Budget written by officials, who are, no doubt, fine people in many respects, but are often limited and bureaucratic in their vision and possess no experience of life in the exposed economy... This, again, prompts the question, is this really an elected executive government, or does it exist merely to hold office?
Far more is necessary for the economy than the balancing of the public books. This Budget, sadly, betrays the worst sort of civil service tunnel vision, and reveals not even the slightest comprehension of what it's like to try to run a business of any size at a time like this. And it is of the deepest concern, at this time of crisis, that our elected political leaders are as incapable as are our civil servants of seeing the bigger picture. It was, at the end of the day, a dismal Budget from dismal bureaucrats.
- Leader in "Sunday Indo." following Budget '08
Taking away the automatic
right of over-70s to a medical card felt like a seismic shift. People will
put up with plenty of personal sacrifices, but to see their parents and
grandparents punished because they built up a small nest egg of savings
over the years unleashed something vital inside them. Pass a feckless life
squandering every penny you get, and the State, with taxpayers' largesse,
picks up the tab for all the coughs and twinges that ail you in old age.
Put your hard-earned money aside for a rainy day, and we'll first increase
the tax on whatever pittance you earn on those savings, and then curse
you for a fat cat, take the lot to pay your medical bills, and expect you
to lump it. Saved your money indeed. Losers... It's worth remembering that
the straw which broke the camel's back was a profound sense of injustice
at seeing one of the most vulnerable sections in society being effectively
punished for a lifetime of living responsibly.
- Eilis O'Hanlon, "Sunday Indo."
One third of Irish
workers pay no income tax, another third pay at 20 per cent, and the remaining
third are top rate taxpayers. (This also means that two-thirds of workers
earn less than €35,000, a fact that many senior journalists and civil
servants appear to find hard to believe). We also have the information
that 10 per cent of earners pay half of all income tax. This point is bedevilled
by the equally incontrovertible fact that many really rich people pay less
-- often much less -- than the 25 per cent tax and PRSI that the same family
on twice the average wage would do... Increasing taxation of the
really rich would not change the fact that most income tax is paid by the
quarter or so of the workforce earning between €50,000 and €100,000
a year. As the main pillar of government revenue, it is a structure on
a very narrow base. The general view is that it has already toppled, brought
down by the crash in property taxes.
- Brendan Keenan, analysing the stats before Budget'08, "Sunday Indo"
You cannot tax an economy
back to recovery.
- Alan Ruddock, "Sunday Indo."
The biggest problem
with the government’s attempt to right the financial ship, however, is
the clear message that it sees the bulk of the economic adjustment being
funded by tax increases rather than cutbacks in spending... The flaw
in this strategy is all too clear to those of us who lived through the
budgetary mess that characterised the 1980s and the early 1990s... With
private-sector operators closing businesses, putting workers on short time
and slashing wages, the sheltered public sector is growing as a percentage
of the workforce — and being supported to the tune of €19 billion
a year by a shrinking tax base. Even the most blinkered idealogue can see
that this is not sustainable. At a time when there is a question mark over
the capacity and willingness of the banks to provide credit, increasing
the tax burden will unleash a vicious cycle of further job losses in the
real economy as consumer spending is dampened and sentiment collapses.
Dealing with the sheltered economy is not the sole answer to our problems
but it is by far the biggest issue that needs to be addressed.
- Sunday Times editorial (Oct'08)
FAS, the state training
agency that costs taxpayers more than €1 billion a year, placed just
over 20,500 people in jobs in the five years to the end of 2007. Last year
just over 4,000 of the 51,000 people referred to the agency were placed
in employment. That’s equivalent to one job for every €250,000 spent.
- Seen in "The Sunday Times" (Oct'08)
At the time of writing
it is hard to know what frequency this Government is tuned into but there
are grounds for believing it is from another planet. The FAS furore is
the latest reminder of just how out of touch, out of sync, and out of credibility
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his cabinet have become... Mr Cowen's inability
to gauge the public mood is becoming astonishing. This has been another
week of woe for the Government... And if Mr Cowen needs reminding of who
is responsible for this reversal of fortunes he need only look in the mirror.
His Government seems to shrink further with each new crisis. Yesterday
he was "congratulating" Mr Molloy for walking the plank. Commenting on
the departure of the FAS chief he said: "His resignation shows that confidence
in him was justified because he had shown that he was accountable." If
confidence in an individual is based on their readiness to resign, we may
be in even more trouble then we thought.
- Irish Independent Editorial (Nov'08)
The entire FAS board
has been asleep on the job. If it knew of the excesses, it should resign.
If it did not, it should resign.
- Shane Ross, "The Sunday Indo." (Nov'08)
The Taoiseach reminds
us that one-10th of the cost of every public servant is now being paid
from borrowings and the bill will have to be paid by future generations.
Yes, the Taoiseach is right to spell out the grim reality. He should do
so on a daily basis, if not hourly. But first he should make sure that
his own ministers, and the public service at large, get the message too
and act as though they believe it.
- Irish Independent Editorial (Oct'08)
A moratorium on public
service pay increases is not sufficient. The Government should abandon
the national pay deal, and signal that any future agreements will be founded
on different and affordable principles. And the unions must co-operate.
It is a time of crisis and danger, and very specific danger for workers. The union leaders should remember one stark saying. "One worker's pay rise is another worker's job loss."
- Irish Independent Editorial (Nov'08)
"It is absolutely incredible
that at a time when our Minister for Finance has been highlighting the
threat of shopping across the border, he exacerbates the problem by hiking
VAT rates, as UK rates drop 2.5 percentage points. The UK government at
least has the common sense to aid its ailing business sector by attempting
to stimulate the economy. The ludicrous response in this country is to
do the opposite."
- Mark Fielding, chief exec of ISME, after the UK VAT cut (Nov'08)
Brian Cowen did what
he does best yesterday. He delivered a fiery speech to the Fianna Fail
faithful, which for him, is a bit like giving sweets to a child... As he
spoke, traffic from South to North, into Newry Co.Down, tailed back over
12 miles: in Dublin, three weeks before Christmas, motorways into the city
were virtually deserted... The public is voting with their four-wheel drives,
queueing for over two hours to break for the Border, where the prices are
cheaper, and will be cheaper still when VAT rates across the Border, slashes
last week, come into effect tomorrow.
- Jody Corcoran, "Cowen promises more inaction", "The Sunday Indo."
During the decades
of the "Troubles" here, long lines of traffic at the Irish border usually
were a sign that the British military was searching vehicles on the road
ahead. But these days the lines of traffic leading off the main highway
north to this city just inside Northern Ireland are not about guns as much
as butter: shoppers from the south are heading north to spend their euros
in the malls and supermarkets here. Since the onset of the financial crisis,
the euro has surged in value against the British pound, which circulates
in Northern Ireland, making prices in northern stores so irresistible that
southerners are flocking over the border in record numbers. So popular
has this picturesque city 65 miles north of Dublin become that it has lent
its name to the phenomenon, the Newry effect. Newry has always been a commercial
center, but since the Good Friday peace accords of 1998, which ended most
of the violence, the city has cashed in on its location, building a bevy
of shopping malls. And as sterling has slid, Newry has become the hottest
shopping spot within the European Union's open borders, a place where consumers
armed with euros enjoy a currency discount averaging 30 percent or more.
- Eamon Quinn, reporting from Northern Ireland for the "International Herald Tribune"
Brian Cowen seems to
have decided to take refuge in a variation on what is known in political
speak as the Bart Simpson defence. And no, relax, he's not suggesting we
eat his shorts, more the other Bartism: "I didn't do it, nobody saw me
do it, you can't prove anything.'' Cowen's version was: "There's no crisis,
OK maybe there is a crisis but it's not my fault, why can't you people
get it through your thick skulls that there is a crisis."
Back at the start of the summer, when even Fine Gael knew there was something wrong, Cowen was telling us that the fundamentals were sound. Having announced a saving of half a billion, which was going to solve all our problems, Cowen and his whole Government then disappeared for the whole summer as the world plunged into crisis. Then they all reappeared after their long break to concede that, all things taken into account and having examined the figures, there might be a problem. The important thing though was that the problem was not Cowen's fault...
In general, Cowen has been practising a new form of government. We like to call it the "s**t-happens" school of government. Basically, you go around acting like you are just a bewildered outsider watching events unfold, events that are completely outside your control. Events which you cannot, nor should you be expected to, do anything about. And you talk gravely about how bad it all is and what a shock it all is, and then you kind of shrug your shoulders as if to say, "S**t happens". "There's financial turmoil out there," Cowen says, "from which we cannot go on thinking we're immune." So true. Except the rest of us never thought we were immune. Did Brian Cowen? Bizarre.
- Brendan O'Connor, "Sunday Ind." (Nov'08)
It is worth remembering
that Ireland will always be a prisoner of global trends. Unfortunately,
it is too often forgotten. If Government had recognised this vulnerability,
we would still be in trouble, but not nearly as much as we are.
- Brendan Keenan, "The Irish Ind."
Faced with a total
meltdown of the pig industry, Department of Agriculture officials were
forced to row back from the tough stance adopted over the weekend. The
initial insistence that all pig meat processed from September 1 would have
to be destroyed was already abandoned. Leading Department officials accepted
that any product in store which could definitely be traced to farms which
had not used the contaminated feed would be allowed into the food chain...
The authorities' failure to trust in their own traceability systems has
dealt a severe blow to the image of Irish pork produce and resulted in
thousands of tonnes of perfectly good product being destroyed. At a broader
level, the decision has brought the whole processing sector to a standstill.
Processors insisted that they would not resume slaughtering without the
provision of a comprehensive aid package from the Government.
As a consequence, around 2,000 jobs have already been put in jeopardy and this figure could grow in the absence of an aid scheme being agreed.
- Seen in "The Irish Ind." (Dec'08)
We have our stalwart
Department of Agriculture to thank for remaining calm and measured and
proportionate in adversity. A small outbreak of dioxin poisoning, with
little or no likelihood of harm to anyone who doesn't eat several kilos
of pig-meat per day for the next 20 years, and what does it do? Why, it
orders the destruction of the entire Irish pig-meat industry, at a cost
of hundreds of millions of euros, and the loss of maybe thousands of jobs.
Well, I suppose the department has to do something to remind everyone of
its existence. After all, it, and its companion body Teagasc, have one
employee for every 20 farmers in the country. That's a more intensive ratio
than that between teachers and children in our schools.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Ind." (Dec'08)
Brian Cowen came to
power in May 2008. Since then, his Government has presided over the collapse
of the economy, spiralling job losses, rising emigration, health cuts,
higher taxes and a catastrophic loss of consumer confidence. A job well
done? The Government seems to think so. They've just taken a six-week Christmas
- A Herald AM front page succintly assesses the disastrous Cowen government (Dec'08)
The ESRI expects to
see unemployment rise by some 120,000. This stark figure in isolation merits
an entire report in itself. And it tells its own story. We have become
too expensive. The building bubble which should have been dealt with was
not; houses spiralled in cost, driving wage claims. We became too expensive
and lost our competitive edge. In the boom years we managed to build a
thriving pharmaceutical industry, we developed a financial centre, and
a software industry that was the envy of the world. Did we do enough to
protect them? If we did, logic suggests that they would all be in better
shape than they now are.
The truth is that the present Government drove a pay spiral by building a "cash machine" known as benchmarking in the centre of the public sector. Tackling pay is, unsurprisingly, a key recommendation of the ESRI's report. Tackling public sector pay is now regarded as an absolute necessity by everyone; well, by everyone except Mr Cowen and his cabinet. The real point is that while most countries have thrown every tool they have at repairing their economies, our Government still seems to have difficulty opening the tool box.
- Irish Independent Editorial (Dec'08)
There are two quite
different problems facing the banks and, make no mistake about it, these
problems -- which threaten to overwhelm the rest of us -- are entirely
the responsibility of appalling management. We need to understand that
our banking system is bankrupt. Yes, bankrupt. Without the Government guarantee,
Irish banks would run out of money in 90 days. The second thing we need
to understand is that no-one wants them, because professional investors
and others expect much greater bad loans to emerge in Ireland than anything
we have come close to admitting. The rest of the world expects the Irish
Bear Sterns to be announced any day where a bank is sold for practically
nothing to stave off collapse. But who would buy such a thing?
The first disaster is a funding disaster where the average loan to deposit ratio of Irish banks is between 150 and 160pc. For the likes of Irish Life & Permanent it is a ludicrously reckless 260pc! This ratio means that for every €160 the Irish banks lent out, they only had €100 in deposits. So they borrowed €60 from the wholesale money markets -- which are now shut. Irish banks are telling half-truths about their bad loans, and given that the management of Ireland's banks have got nothing right in the past two years, there is no point believing them now.
To get a better idea of what is likely here, we can examine the experience of other countries. Switzerland and Sweden both suffered a banking crisis following a property bust in the early 1990s. In both cases the banks had to write off close to 8pc of their loan book. This was traumatic and the banks lost fortunes, but they recovered. Given that the Irish loan book is over €400bn, a similar writedown would reveal a black hole in the Irish banks of about €33bn. This figure dwarfs the €10bn recapitalisation fund and deleveraging guarantees enormous falls in asset prices and concomitant rises in bad debts. So, no-one wants our banks because they are full of bad loans. Banks and investors are afraid to buy because of what they might find.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Independent"
While no one is suggesting
that Irish people go back to sewing jeans at 50 cents an hours, gratuitously
pricing ourselves out of one market after another isn't a particularly
good idea either. Someone forget to tell the Government. We have Europe's
highest minimum wage, the highest VAT rate and, at least until the bubble
burst, the highest house prices. Add to this sjy-high charges for second-rate
public services and a chronic lack of competition in many services sectors,
both public and private, and today's Dell announcement hardly comes as
a surprise. While the timing was coincidental, the Dell announcement came
just one day after it was announced that the number of overseas visitors
to Ireland fell by 3% last year, the first such fall for seven years. While
we can do nothing about our dreadful weather it should be clear to everyone
that dead old Ireland has finally succeeded in scaring away those foreigners...
The Government must work on restoring our lost competitiveness. Until it
does so we will have many more announcements like Dell's.
- Dan White, after Dell moves 2000 jobs to Poland, "Evening Herald"
Actual day-to-day public
spending (including, one hopes, some improvement in services) has gone
up by 25pc since 2005, while tax revenues have not gone up at all. Finance
Minister Brian Lenihan's statement that this is "not sustainable", is putting
it mildly, to say the least. Of course, it was never sustainable to have
public spending increase by a quarter in three years. Indeed, around half
of the increases in government spending over the past five years were unsustainable,
unless paid for by significant increase in tax rates or new taxes. That
was not done and somehow, sometime, the new taxes will have to be found.
With the best will in the world, it is virtually impossible to cut public
spending by any large amount. The most that can be expected is that it
stops rising for a few years, or at least is held to very small annual
increases... Because of our unfortunate recent history, Irish politics
and media comment concentrate more on the public finances than is the case
in many economies. It does, of course, defy belief that politicians --
in some cases the same politicians -- have brought the country to the verge
of bankruptcy twice in 30 years, so the emphasis on the public finances
- Brendan Keenan, "The Irish Independent" (Jan'09)
There's a €13
billion black hole in the public finances, and the Government would like
you to believe it's all your fault: you're earning too much, you're borrowing
too much, and you're unpatriotically crossing the Border to shop. But there's
another reason why we're so deep in debt: for the past 11 years we've been
ruled by a shower of wasters. Hundreds of millions of taxpayers' hard-earned
money has been squandered on projects that are badly planned, incompetently
managed or just plain stupid.
- Des Ekin, "The Sunday World"
"A blank cheque to
a hole in the ground, the depth of which we're not aware."
- Senator Shane Ross, on the nationalization of Anglo Irish Bank, "RTE Primetime"
The economic crisis
of 2008 is now drifting towards becoming a national calamity of unprecedented
proportions. Unless a survival plan is produced during the coming weeks,
lack of confidence in government could reach a point where the country
slides into the kind of irretrievable economic crises that have waylaid
Argentina. The tsunami-like economic events and the international deterioration
of Ireland's standing and reputation is driven by two separate issues:
one economic, the other political.
The economic dilemma is stark. The cost of running the country each year has more than doubled in a decade, spiralling to €55bn. Tax revenue has collapsed to €35bn, so now a €20bn shortfall looms...
Since 2000, when Ireland was ranked the fourth most competitive economy in the world, 151,000 people have been added to the public payroll, while Ireland's competitive position has steadily declined to 12th place. Most of the new jobs have gone to education and healthcare, and neither area has shown much improvement. Indeed, in many ways they have deteriorated. Ireland's international school ranking in science and maths is depressingly low at 20th and 22nd respectively. There is no robust quality control in the school system: ineffective teachers are retained, continuing to receive incremental pay increases while damaging the prospects of their students. Yet teacher salaries have increased year after year, to the point where Irish teachers are now paid some 35 per cent more than their UK counterparts. Irish health and social workers are paid almost double that of their counterparts in Finland and 30 per cent more than those in the UK. Irish public sector pay is seriously out of line with the rest of Europe. Benchmarking served to increase pay levels during the good times; now it should be used again to bring public pay into line with the private sector... Ireland's ill-conceived energy policy has resulted in the highest industrial electricity prices in Europe and needs radical review, with the prime objective of getting costs down again below the EU average -- where they were a decade ago; Funding structures for higher education are in need of reform. Fees should not be reintroduced, but the Australian and New Zealand system should.
- Dr Edward Walsh, writing in "The Sunday Independent" (Jan'09)
The Irish Government
(you) has very gently raised the notion that the public service unions
-- given their unimaginably privileged position relative to their non-public
sector friends, neighbours and relatives -- might like to consider just
taking a step back from the trough so that we'll have the moolah to keep
a roof over everyone's head, something on the stove and generally keep
the national show on the road until Barack turns it around and the global
fear abates. You probably missed it, but they got their answer last week
when it was announced that ESB workers will receive the payment of a first
phase 3.5 per cent pay increase to its 4,000 staff... We can't all be ESB
workers or prison officers or teachers. Someone's got to earn the money
to pay the taxes... It's a bummer for those of us outside the public service
pleasure house: the double-time, the triple-time, the subsidised parking,
the subsidised study breaks, the leave periods, the flexi-time, the generous
holidays, the double-digit absenteeism, the impossibility of losing their
jobs, the unwillingness to take any kind of financial hit when all round
they see the people -- who were getting paid 20 per cent (ESRI) less than
them to begin with -- getting handed their redundancy and repossession
notices... See, we thought we were in this together; you must remember
the whole 'partnership' thing? We all thought that when the public service
unions demanded to be 'linked in' to the fortunes of the private sector
through benchmarking (an additional €1.7bn per annum for the last
five years) that that would work the other way; if we lost our jobs or
went bankrupt that you lads would pull in your horns a little on your own
much higher salaries. Now, we see that you've no intention of doing that.
You just stick your fingers in your ears and repeat that somebody better
have your money.
- Cathal McCarthy, "The Sunday Ind." (Jan'09)
Two years ago the public
sector pay bill was equal to 33% of our total tax take across everything.
This year it will be closer to 55%.
- City Slicker, in The Sunday World, on our unsustainable finances (Jan'09)
"It is essential that
we go to Europe and say we have a serious problem. We say, either we default
or we pull out of Europe," David McWilliams told RTE radio. "If Ireland
continues hurtling down this road, which is close to default, the whole
of Europe will be badly affected. The credibility of the euro will be badly
affected. Then Spain might default, Italy and Greece," he said.
Mr McWilliams, a former UBS director and now prominent broadcaster, has broken the ultimate taboo by evoking threats to precipitate an EMU crisis, which would risk a chain reaction across the eurozone's southern belt, where yield spreads on state bonds are already flashing warning signals. "If we have a single currency there are obligations and responsibilities on both sides. The idea that Germany and France can just hang us out to dry, as has been the talk in the last couple of days should not be taken lying down," he said. Mr McWilliams cited the example of New York's threat to default in 1975. President Gerald Ford "blinked" at the 11th hour and backed a bail-out to prevent broader damage... Mr McWilliams said EMU was preventing Irish recovery. "The only way we can win this war is by becoming, once again, an export country. We can do what we are doing now, which is to reduce our wages, throw more people on the dole and suffer a long contraction. The other model is what the British are doing. Britain is letting sterling fall so that the problem becomes someone else's. But we, of course, have ruled this out by our euro membership. "We are paying twice for the euro: once on the exchange rate and once more on the interest rate," he said. "By keeping with the current policy, the state is ensuring that Ireland turns itself into a large debt-repayment machine. Is this the sort of strategy to win wars? " he said.
- Seen on The Telegraph website
The rapidly worsening
economic and banking crisis is raising serious questions about Ireland's
membership of the euro. With the single currency creeping up against sterling
once again, Irish economic policymakers will have to make some extremely
unpalatable choices in the next few months...
Yesterday, bond rating agency Standard & Poor's stripped Spain of its triple-A credit rating. This will make it more expensive for the Spanish government to sell bonds on international markets. With Government borrowing in this country likely to be close to €20bn this year, before the cost of any bank bail-out is factored in, an Irish downgrade can't be far behind. What both ourselves and the Spaniards have in common is that our membership of the euro and the low interest rates which came with it fuelled an unsustainable property bubble. This bubble completely distorted the wider economy, driving up wages and costs and destroying international competitiveness. If we are to stay in the euro, Irish wages and prices will have to be cut by at least 20pc. The social and political consequences of such cuts hardly bear thinking about. At the very least the Irish economy would be condemned to years of grinding deflation as economic output collapsed and emigration and unemployment soared. Faced with such an unappealing prospect previously unthinkable alternatives suddenly become far more attractive. By leaving the euro we could resort to the British policies of devaluation and "quantitive easing", ie print more money. While this might not find favour with the monetary hawks in Frankfurt, it would allow the Irish economy to crawl out of the hole we have dug for ourselves much more quickly.
- Dan White, "The Evening Herald" (Jan'09)
What will happen to
mortgages when unemployment rises to 15pc? How many first-time buyers,
who bought at the top of the boom, will default? Will the banks throw them
out on the streets and, if this happens, what benefit will the newly recapitalised
banks get from an empty house with no tenant and a defaulted mortgage?
Widespread default on mortgages is likely to happen in the next year. This
will accelerate the following year and will not stop until unemployment
peaks... One thing we could do immediately is that the State, as part of
the recapitalisation of the banks, acts to help those thousands of first-time
buyers who are now drowning in debt. The State could demand, as a condition
of recapitalisation, that the banks re-negotiate thousands of mortgages.
The principal could be halved now so that the debtor continues to service
the debt, but on a much lower amount. This way they don't default and the
bank does not end up with a bad loan. But the debtor doesn't get away with
it. It is not a debt write-off, it is just deferred. Initially, the State
and the bank take the hit on the level of loan deferral. They pay 50/50.
But this deferral, which is the difference between the old principal and
the new principal, goes to the State so that when these houses finally
rise in value again in, let's say, a decade, the upside goes to the State
and a proportion to the bank... This means the State behaves responsibly
and gives its citizens a break, while the citizens behave responsibly and
ultimately pay the State back when they can. It is a win-win for everyone
and is precisely the sort of lateral thinking we need to be coming up with.
- David McWilliams, "Irish Independent"
If the Irish economy
is to recover in a sustainable way, it will have to be on the back of exports,
rather than building houses for each other, buying goods and services from
each other and expanding the public sector without limits. The challenge
for Irish policy makers is to ensure that when the international economic
cycle eventually recovers, Ireland will be in a position to exploit this
recovery on the back of the exporting sector of the economy. To achieve
this objective, we will have to restore the competitiveness of the economy.
In recent years, Ireland has become a very expensive place in which to
do business, the cost of living has increased in dramatic fashion and our
export performance has suffered. We need to reduce the cost base of the
Irish economy by at least 10pc as quickly as possible. This means that
the wage bill of the whole workforce needs to fall by an average of 10pc,
legal, accounting and other professional fees will have to fall by this
magnitude, as will all other business costs such as local authority charges
and domestic rates... The options currently being considered by the social
partners will not achieve any worthwhile improvement in competitiveness.
Increasing taxes certainly will not improve competitiveness and could,
in fact, prove totally counter-productive. A new and more radical approach
is now required if employment is to be sustained in the economy which should
be the key objective for all of us. If social partnership does not deliver
what is required, the Government should stand up and do what we elect it
and pay it to do -- govern. Abdicating policy making to unelected bodies
is not good enough.
- Jim Power, writing in "The Irish Independent"
are going to pay dearly for this. Someone on €50,000 per year has
already seen their income savaged. They are now paying a 1pc levy on their
income, an extra €500 per year. Depending on how much they spend and
what they spend it on, the 0.5pc VAT hike is probably costing them about
€100. And then there's higher petrol, wine and cigarette duties, higher
road tax and the €160 per person health insurance levy. Add it all
up and that's at least another €500 per year. This means that when
the full ramifications of last October's budget work themselves through,
someone on €50,000 a year will be almost €1,000 -- €20 per
week -- worse off. And that's just the opening instalment. There are currently
about two million people working in the Irish economy. Relying exclusively
on higher taxes to plug the gap between public expenditure and tax revenue
would cost each of these workers a massive €10,000 a year in extra
taxes... In each of the past three general elections Irish voters voted
in favour of tax-cutting policies. Now the Government, elected on a low-tax
platform, has switched to a high-tax policy.
- Dan White, "The Evening Herald"
The Irish economy is
shedding jobs at a rate of more than 300 a day with the number of losses
during January the worst on record... More than 6700 jobs were lost last
- Seen in "The Irish Ind." (Feb'09)
Official figures have
confirmed that the number of people on the Live Register hit a record high
of almost 328,000 in January... Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny described the
Live Register figures as horrendous, adding that the Government's proposals
yesterday did nothing to offer hope or confidence to those who had lost
their jobs. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said each lost job cost the State
€20,000 a year in social welfare payments and lost tax, and the jobs
lost in January alone would cost an extra €730m.
- Seen on RTE.ie (Feb'09)
While the Government
and the social partners play musical chairs in Government Buildings, out
in the real world, the Irish economy is moving steadily towards bankruptcy.
No-one in the partnership charade seems to realise that to pay the bills,
we have to generate income. We only generate income if we can sell our
goods for a profit and with some of this profit pay tax. If this is not
happening or if we can't sell, either at home or internationally, the State
runs out of money and we default. This is a process that is well under
way here and no amount of interviews with the Taoiseach will obscure this.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Ind."
One of their (politicians)
failures, in my view, has been not to explain clearly the catastrophic
consequences of failing to correct the huge public deficit. Ministers may
feel they should never mention in any detail the possibility of a collapse
of the banking system, a default on Ireland's debt, or a calamitous exit
from the euro and the mountain of foreign debt it would leave behind. Any
of these will produce a far worse decline in the income and wealth of Irish
people than will ever be required from taxes and pension levies. The old
rules of not talking down the economy, or frightening consumers, make no
sense when everyone is already terrified and the markets are short-selling
Ireland like billy-o. There was a thoughtful letter from a serving garda
in this newspaper the other day, who could not understand why everyone
was picking on public service workers, when most of them were conscientiously
going about their duties. Alas, one cannot apply the same "thoughtful"
description to similar comments from trade union leaders, who should, and
probably do, know better. They have produced only the feeblest efforts
to tell men like the garda that this is happening because the alternatives
to lower take-home pay -- for him, his children and his country -- are
far, far worse. If they won't tell him, ministers have to.
- Brendan Keenan, "The Irish Ind." (Feb'09)
The new levy on the
pensions of public sector workers will still leave them paying considerably
less to fund their pensions than their private sector counterparts, calculations
show. Even for someone on a modest salary of €30,000, public sector
workers will end up contributing almost €2,000 a year less than a
private sector worker for the same level of pension. And this takes no
account of the huge risks associated with private sector pensions.
- Charlie Weston, "The Irish Ind."
Mr Lenihan and his
ministerial colleagues are now echoing the rhetoric of the trade unions,
describing January’s 7.5% pension levy on public sector earnings as a “pay
cut”. Nonsense. A “pension levy” describes exactly what it is. A public
service-style guaranteed pension is now the most valuable perk that anybody
working in this country can aspire to. No private-sector employee would
quibble if asked to contribute to a 50% final salary pension on this basis.
Mr Lenihan and the rest of the cabinet need to ditch the semantics and
get real on public-sector pay. Time is not on our side.
- Sunday Times editorial (Apr'09)
Not that the Taoiseach
allowed the awesome magnitude of the occasion to affect his performance,
which was still that of a solicitor reading aloud the contents of a will,
not because he wanted to do it, but because it was a legal requirement.
- Declan Lynch, commeting on Cowen's pension levy address, "The Irish Ind."
See that thing on the
horizon? That's the mother of all hurricanes, which could blow away every
single institution, good or bad, in Irish life, and so reduce our economy
into a permanent post-nuclear winter... If TDs continue to guard their
diseased expenses, as bankers and their regulators swan off into the sunset
with millions of other people's money, and the public service unions insist
that their members alone be made permanently weatherproof against the coming
storm. No-one is weather-proof in the real world. Ask New Orleans... Yes,
there is a world depression: but we have created an especially toxic version
of it. Our banking classes are clones of Charles Haughey: his DNA is all
over the swindles at the heart of our financial system... We can do nothing
about the villains who have robbed us, who turned our birthright to ashes,
and who sowed our green pastures with salt. Remember, we didn't put cuffs
on their instigator and inspiration, Charles Haughey, but allowed him to
live on to enjoy a State funeral.
- Kevin Myers, "Our Economy is Facing a Post-Nuclear Winter", "The Irish Ind." (Feb'09)
We need a day of reckoning.
Not for the sake of vengeance, or to deter copycat egg attacks (or worse).
But for credibility. Our entire banking system has been tainted in the
eyes of the international community. We know now the fallout from Anglo
spread to Irish Life and Permanent, with the latter's highly irregular
€8.2bn payment allowing Sean FitzPatrick to cook the books. Even if
BoI and AIB are clean, they are untouchables on the world lending markets.
Our banks can't borrow the price of a cheese sandwich, let alone raise
funds to issue the loans needed by businesses to galvanise the economy.
AIB and BoI were treated as pariahs last month when they attempted to borrow
€1bn each internationally. They had to return to the Government, cap
in hand. And at that stage, Irish Life and Permanent's role in the intrigue
was still being kept quiet. Even then, the rest of the world took one look
at our banks and dived for cover. We need to show we mean business. The
international community has to see us put our own house in order. As a
democracy, we cannot tolerate the stigma for ethical reasons. But the practical
reasons for not condoning it are more pressing again.
- Martina Devlin, "The Irish Independent" (Feb'09)
When the Taoiseach
insists that he has no intention of finding out the identity of the super-wealthy
Scarlet Pimpernels who bought €300m worth of Anglo Irish shares, he
could be making the biggest mistake of his life. One way or another, the
public wants to know those names... No matter how many scandals they're
involved in, it seems that Fianna Fail politicians never learn the fundamental
lesson -- the cover-up is nearly always worse than the crime. However bad
the truth is, it would be far better for Cowen to get everything out in
the open quickly instead of the drip-drip effect that's slowly draining
the life out of his government. Not even Brian Cowen's worst enemies believe
that the Taoiseach is personally corrupt. He has to accept, however, that
in the current climate there is no such thing as benefit of the doubt.
Sooner or later, those names will have to come out -- and if any political
figure is implicated in the whole shady deal, the retribution must be swift
Back in the real world, meanwhile, thousands of public sector workers are busy making their placards for what looks set to be the most crippling industrial action this country has seen in decades. You always know that an argument is getting serious when one of the participants announces: "Let's take this outside." That's essentially what the unions are telling Cowen now -- and before this fight is over, at least one side is going to end up with a bloody nose.
- Andrew Lynch, "The Evening Herald" (Feb'09)
"There's no parallel
in history for the damage they have done to this nation — except perhaps
Cromwell. And even Cromwell was motivated by reasons other than personal
- Noel Dempsey lashes the bankers at the FF Ard Fheis
I am all for handcuffing
a few bankers. But ICTU cannot believe that the 10 per cent who pay 50
per cent of all income tax -- most of them people earning over €70,000
a year -- can plug the €25bn gap in public finances. Is it not time
for the Taoiseach to tell the professionals, the farmers and the public
sector that its subsidies, fees, pay and pensions are the principal burden
on the private sector and public finances.
- Eoghan Harris, "Angry Public Don't Believe We're In The Same Boat"
offers further and depressing proof that many in the public sector clearly
think that they are inhabiting a parallel universe in which the fundamentals
of economics do not apply... To be sure, there has been criminality in
the banking sector that merits imprisonment on Devil's Island, but that
criminality was only made possible by an astounding negligence on the part
of state agencies... Patrick Neary, the regulator in question, should have
been sacked, as he would have been in the private sector. Instead, he was
the beneficiary of Haughey's imperishable dictum: "an Irish solution to
an Irish problem". He was allowed to take early retirement, with a golden
handshake of €428,000, and an annual pension of €142,670. In
the last year of his state employment, he will therefore receive over €540,000
from the State. This is disgusting: indeed, it is profoundly, dysfunctionally,
grotesquely and amorally stupid. Yet not one banner or placard that I saw
on Saturday, not one of the trade union leaders who have been so vocal
in recent days, has complained about the manifold failures in the public
sector, and which are personified in Patrick Neary.
On Sunday, RTE radio news -- truly, a public service for public servants -- sympathetically interviewed many marchers from the day before, as they all complained bitterly about the terrible plight they were in: yet without exception, they still had jobs, with sick leave, pensions and, most of all, psychological security. In the private sector, a thousand jobs a day are vanishing. Car showrooms are closing, building sites are idle, restaurants are empty.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent" (Feb'09)
It hardly needs to
be said, but almost every single one of those 350,000 workers who are now
unemployed is from the private sector. Labour and the unions say we must
share the pain of this slump equally. Based on this logic thousands of
public sector workers should be laid off as well, but won't be, nor should
be. In addition, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of additional private
sector workers have had to take big pay cuts. Labour and the unions will
not countenance this, even by way of the pension levy, for the public sector.
Labour and the unions believe in benchmarking up, not down... Labour and
the unions want a return to the 1980s and that era's toxic, death-dealing
brew of high taxation and high public borrowing. It is scarcely believable
that the 1980s seem to have taught them nothing.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Ind." (Mar'09)
The photograph of public
sector workers picketing a dole office as unemployed members of the public
queue up outside (Irish Independent, March 20) is worth a thousand words.
For people in guaranteed jobs with guaranteed pensions to protest in such
a manner in front of fellow citizens who have neither is frankly disgusting
and tells us all we need to know about the public sector's attitude towards
- Gavin Ross, from the letters section
At a time when anyone
lucky enough to have a pension (and still be in a job) has seen the value
of it collapse by a third, and around half the workforce has no private
pension, it is extraordinary that there are calls for a reduction in the
pensions tax relief... The assumption here is that pensions policy favours
high earners by allowing them to shelter large amounts of income by putting
it into a retirement fund. Pensions money is not taxed when the money is
being invested. But it is forgotten by some of these commentators that
the money is taxed when it is paid out. A recent actuarial report found
that higher earners are not benefiting disproportionately from generous
tax reliefs on pension contributions... Tax relief is one of the few reasons
for putting money into a pension. Getting rid of it or reducing it will
only widen the gap between the private sector and the public sector, as
the majority in the public sector have gold-plated pensions.
- Charlie Weston, "The Irish Independent"
Embattled Finance Minister Brian Lenihan
has admitted that his decision to increase the VAT rate in last October's
budget was a "serious mistake" which has cost the state over €700m
in lost trade to the North. In a self-described "act of contrition", Mr
Lenihan, speaking at a private business lunch on Friday, candidly said
the move to increase VAT backfired and acknowledged that it led to consumers
flocking over the Border to shop... At the lunch, Mr Lenihan also quoted
figures he said he received from leading drinks company Diageo which showed
that 49 per cent of all drinks consumed on the island of Ireland were purchased
in the North because of lower prices.
- seen in "The Sunday Indo." (Mar'09)
The revelation that one in every four packets
of cigarettes smoked in this country are either smuggled or counterfeit
should serve as a warning to the Government not to increase excise duties
in next month's Budget... The total loss to the Irish exchequer from cigarette
smuggling has been estimated at up to €500m a year. That's the equivalent
of almost two cent on the standard income tax rate. And it isn't just tobacco.
As sterling has collapsed against the euro more and more of us are heading
North... Last year the revenue from excise duties on alcohol fell by 6pc.
However, it was what happened in the final month of the year which should
really frighten the Government with excise duties collapsing by 35pc in
December as tens of thousands of shoppers made the trip North. The message
for the Government is clear: Irish excise and VAT rates have already passed
the point of diminishing returns. Further increases on April 7 will benefit
Britain and not the Irish exchequer.
- Dan White, "Evening Herald"
It cannot be said often enough but there
is no precedent in economic history of any country taxing itself into recovery.
There are certainly arguments for adjusting the tax code to ensure that
it is fair and equitable, particularly at the highest and lowest ends of
the scale, but the enormous gap that has developed between the state’s
income and expenditure can only be addressed with a significant cut in
spending. Not only is too much of the state’s expenditure wasteful but
it is growing rapidly as a percentage of the shrinking economy. The public-service
pension levy was long overdue recognition that recipients of a valuable
benefit must pay for that privilege. The levy, however, is only tinkering
compared to the reforms needed. The pay cuts and redundancies that are
now commonplace in the private sector must be replicated in the public
sector, whose costs are completely out of line in an economy that could
shrink by up to 8% this year.
- Editorial in Sunday Times (Mar'09)
Despite what successive Fianna Fail-led administrations
believe, there is no reason to celebrate the fact that 38% of the population
has been taken out of the tax net. This, together with tax-reducing “incentives”
available to the super-wealthy and a failure to define wealth based on
assets rather than income, means the bulk of the tax burden has fallen
on the hard-working middle classes. These are the people who have tried
to make life better through acquiring skills or qualifications, or by setting
up businesses. In many respects they are the ones who are really discriminated
against by our current system. And it seems inevitable that they will bear
much of the burden in the budget. Any civilised society should look after
those who are ill, handicapped or in genuine poverty and try to provide
equality of opportunity (as opposed to the immoral notion of equality of
outcome). The notion that 38% of the population get a free ride makes little
or no sense.
- Matt Cooper, "The Sunday Times"
Is there no end to the sagas, scandals, twists
and turns in our financial woes? The resignation of businessman Gerry McCaughey
as chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the Property
Registration Authority vividly displays, once again, the difference between
the haves and the have-nots. Mr McCaughey did not break any laws in taking
advantage of a tax loophole to save €4.7m in income tax. He merely
took the perfectly legal advice of a well-paid expert. For the rest of
us, it highlights the gaps in a system that allows those with considerable
wealth to escape their moral, if not legal, responsibility. Time was when
appointments to State boards were considered posts of honour for people
with a good business sense who had been of service to the State. Are they
now a reward for those who display dexterity in finding lucrative loopholes
in the system?
- Evening Herald Editorial
Today Iceland is in tatters. The country
turned itself into a large hedge fund, bet its future on the financial
markets, and property, and lost. Each Icelander now owes more than 100
years of income to foreign banks and this money will never be paid back.
As in Ireland, an oligarch class hijacked the local economy and mortgaged
the next generation. House prices in Iceland went through the roof, driven
by foreign borrowing and when everything was made exorbitant, Icelanders
borrowed foreign money to buy inflated assets. This is precisely what went
on in Ireland but, unlike Ireland, the government who presided over Iceland’s
mania and was financed by its proceeds, is gone. So too are the upper echelons
of the central bank and the mandarins who oversaw this nonsense. Alas we
in Ireland have not rooted out this rotten core – not yet... Iceland has
its own currency, which means it took the brunt of the shock through a
90pc devaluation of the Krona. This means its foreign debts are now almost
twice as large, but domestic debt has been wiped out. Iceland is now profoundly
more competitive than before. When all its foreign debts are renegotiated,
Iceland will recover very quickly and the devalued currency will make its
exporting industries hypercompetitive. Iceland aims to lock in these gains
by joining the euro at a deeply depreciated exchange rate.
Ireland – with our euro membership at a highly overvalued rate – has the same debts but no exporting capacity to generate revenue! I’ve heard politicians talk of the euro being the shield protecting us from an Icelandic meltdown. This is a common refrain from bankers, politicians and the mainstream economic establishment. But it omits to explain why Iceland will recover quicker than Ireland, why its debts are now its lenders’ problem and why it achieved competitive wage cuts without the lunacy of prolonged deflation – with its attendant unemployment, emigration and social problems. Iceland had a five-week deflation; we are going to have a five-year one. The idea being put forward here is not that we should copy Iceland, but that we should think carefully about what we are about to embark on. .. We need a complete break from the past both in terms of people and ideas. Iceland got rid of its cronies and charlatans in six weeks; what are we doing?
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Ind." (Mar'09)
Brian Lenihan's emergency Budget failed to
deal meaningfully with public spending. Instead he seems determined to
plug the hole in the Exchequer through higher taxes. By doing so he threatens
to deepen and lengthen our current economic downturn... The Minister for
Finance fluffed his fourth chance in just nine months to sort out the public
finances. The key problem facing the Government is that while tax revenues
have collapsed from €47bn as recently as 2007 to a likely €34bn
this year, public spending has kept on rising and is set to hit €56bn
this year, up almost €13bn since 2007. Faced with such a huge fall
in income most individuals or businesses would move rapidly to cut their
spending. Not it seems if your name is Brian Lenihan... On a 12-month basis
yesterday's tax increases would yield about €3bn, which brings the
total planned tax increases between now and 2011 to a whopping €6.25bn.
That is the equivalent of 4.5pc of national output. Tax increases of this
order of magnitude would have a depressing effect on the economy even in
good times. With the Government now forecasting that the economy will have
shrunk by 14pc by the end of 2010, a contraction of Great Depression proportions,
piling on extra taxes like this will make things even worse. If these tax
increases did plug the hole in the public finances they might be just about
bearable. But they won't. Even after yesterday's tax increases the hole
in the public finances this year will be at least €20bn. If we are
to extricate ourselves from the mess then we have to get serious about
reining in public spending.
- Dan White, "Evening Herald" (Apr'09)
To hear a teacher with a salary of €63k
a year — about €75k if you count pension — leading the radio charge
against Mr Lenihan is to hear self-delusion brought close to an art form...
Government workers at both senior and junior level are not prepared to
accept instructions on changing their procedures, or delivering specific,
verifiable outcomes. They believes themselves to be untouchable, and who
could blame them? Mr Lenihan talked tough, and then handed back €100m
to public sector workers, while rifling the pockets of everyone else, including
social welfare recipients.
- Brendan Keenan, "The Road To Ineptitude", "Indo" (Apr'09)
Boy have we had some twisting of the economic
facts from some of the teacher unions.
We were given cliches like children will have to suffer because of the behaviour of the banks and the property speculators. Sure, the banks and the property problem is an issue, but the facts are that, to date, this has not cost the taxpayer a cent. Maybe it will in the future, but right now it has not cost us. The problem nationally, which I thought everyone understood at this stage, is that our income levels are back to the levels at the beginning of this decade and our expenditure increased in an unsustainable way and is now out of control. Fianna Fail must take the brunt of the blame as we are the worst-performing country in the OECD right now. However, Fianna Fail is not alone in being culpable, as we had this social partnership that sat down and agreed the way forward. It was this social partnership that agreed the increases that were never sustainable. The teacher unions were central in this social partnership. Teachers need to face up to the facts and their responsibility in this mess.
- John Murphy, with a letter to The Indo (Apr'09)
Who caused the mess is now irrelevent, but
the greed of public sector unions played a big part with their "Me Too"
benchmarking claims that were ultimately a sham and are now proving to
be unaffordable. I will never forget the former secretary of INTO, Joe
O'Toole, pronouncing with glee that "benchmarking is an ATM for teachers."
Remember teachers, someone has to put money into the ATM in the first place,
and that is private business and private industry, because it is private
taxpayers who create wealth.
- Gavin Tobin, with a letter to The Indo (Apr'09)
The OECD Education at a Glance report from
2008 shows that the numbers of working time required for Irish teachers
compares very favourably with the OECD and EU averages. An Irish primary
teacher is required to work 1036 hours a year at school. The EU average
is over 1200 hours. Irish secondary school teachers are required to work
a minimum of 735 hours at school. The EU average for same is 1173 hours...
And after 15 years' primary teaching in Ireland, the average teacher here
earns $48,653. The EU average is $38,217 and the OECD average is $37,832...
Eurostat research found that Irish teachers work on average 31.3 hours
a week as against an EU average of 36 hours and a UK average of over 40
- Brendan O'Connor, "Take a Reality Check, "The Sundy Indo"
Our generous social welfare system is encouraging
more people to stay on the dole, a major new report warns. And our current
system risks prolonging high levels of unemployment after economic recovery,
a major conference organised by the Government's economic think-tank will
hear today. The small gap between social welfare payments and declining
wage levels is cited as the key reason for more people staying longer on
the dole. The warning, which stops short of calling for cuts in welfare
benefits, comes as new figures confirmed dole queues have risen to 386,000
-- almost doubling in a year... Alan Barrett of the ESRI will present evidence
to today's conference showing that about half the immigrants who lost their
jobs have stayed in Ireland. Dr Barrett speculates that many will continue
to live in Ireland because of the lack of opportunities elsewhere. "The
international experience suggests that immigration is viewed most positively
when immigrants are seen as meeting the needs of the labour market. A rising
stock of unemployed immigrants might lead to a less favourable attitude,"
Dr Barrett says.
- Seen in "The Irish Independent" (Apr'09)
Civil servants are given a paid half-hour
break every fortnight to allow them to cash their pay cheques in the bank,
even though they are now paid by electronic transfer. The perk costs Irish
taxpayers about €8m a year... Moore McDowell, an economist in UCD,
described the allowance as “an antiquated work practice” and said it is
“evidence of the failure to bring the civil service into line with reality”...
Under a decades-old rule, civil servants are also entitled to two privilege
days off work — one at Christmas and one at Easter — costing the taxpayer
almost €12m every year. The extra days were originally introduced
to give civil servants living outside Dublin extra time to return to the
capital after bank holidays.
- Seen in "The Sunday Times" (May'09)
Economic Fantasy Island.
- Dan White, on the public sector, "Evening Herald"
When Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said
publicly that he wanted to tax or means-test child benefit, the public
reaction was surprisingly mild. Many if not most parents evidently accepted
that those on middle and higher incomes should not receive the same benefit
as the poorest. They may also have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume
of bad news conveyed to them in the recent emergency Budget and the further
hits certain to come by the end of the year. What they cannot have expected
was that yet again the Government would struggle to find ways of implementing
the move it wanted, that within weeks it would have begun to prepare the
ground for another change of policy, and that the likeliest solution could
prove the most unpopular of all ways of addressing this uniquely sensitive
subject. Means-testing, it now appears, is out because the civil servants
cannot cope with the administrative problems. The measure could cost more
to implement than the savings it would produce. What does that tell us
about the state of the administration?
Taxing child benefit may be legally impossible. It will be intriguing to hear how Mr Lenihan, or Taoiseach Brian Cowen, or Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, tries to explain a (previously invisible) legal and constitutional minefield. At any event, the Government now contemplates a different way of reducing the €2.5bn annual cost: by a straight cut, probably of 10pc, on all child benefit. If that goes through, it will mean that every family, from the richest to the poorest, will lose the same amount per child... It beggars belief that the Cabinet made decisions on child benefit without ensuring that they were waterproof and lawyer-proof. Plainly ministers have made these decisions, not as part of any comprehensive policy but sporadically and without sufficient thought. No wonder that people wonder so often and so loudly whether this Government can get anything right, and fail to get an answer.
- Independent editorial "Another Fine Mess" (May'09)
The Government's basic competence has been
called into question so many times that public faith in its competence
has been eroded. It is not just the big political failures — public sector
reform or privatisation — that condemn Cowen, but the little ones that
should be so straightforward, like introducing budget measures that can
survive a moment's scrutiny. It is that inability to get the little things
right that makes it so difficult to believe that Cowen and his ministers
can handle far bigger challenges. When Michael Somers, the head of the
National Treasury Management Agency, frets publicly about the Government's
plans for a National Asset Management Agency you know that this grand plan
to rescue our banks for their own follies and save them for the good of
the nation is going to turn into a very noisy mess.
- Alan Ruddock, "Sunday Indo." (May'09)
Two years ago, in the book and accompanying
TV series 'The Generation Game' I suggested that the imminent recession
would be severe and would affect the generations differently. The
most exposed generation, who were termed the "Juggling Generation", were
the young workers who had just been cajoled onto the property ladder and
who were largely living in commuter towns outside our major cities and
urban areas. These were the people who would lose their jobs, sink under
debts and be mired in negative equity... If a generation with young families
is abandoned in the suburbs with no jobs and negative equity, they face
three choices. First, they can emigrate if they can face the upheaval and
find a place that might accept them. Second, they can stay here and snarl
on the dole, possibly waiting for a political messiah to deliver them out
of this darkness. Third, they can rely on themselves, take things by the
scruff of the neck and try to work their way out... The Jugglers are Ireland's
outsiders -- yet they are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters,
our cousins, nieces, and nephews. They have been hung out to dry and as
the most potentially productive generation in the country, if they don't
recover, we won't recover.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Indo." (May'09)
# THE STATE AND YOU AND ME
"The State is you and
me and the man around the corner."
- Kevin O'Higgins, Minister in first Free State government
"Can a country which
cannot organise signposts expect to run a first-class health service?"
- Brendan Keenan, "The Irish Independent"
A hospital is unable
to decide how many electricians it takes to change a light bulb. Cork University
College Hospital is entering talks with workers to determine who should
carry out the menial task, and when. Some light was thrown on the issue
yesterday when the Labour Court recommended that the hospital's electricians
should accept that non-electricians could also carry out the job. In its
recommendation, it found that it was "not unreasonable to expect electricians
to co-operate" with a new bulb changing regime. A row over the bulbs was
sparked when the hospital authorities recently allowed non-electricians
to carry out the task.
- from "The Irish Independent" (Mar'07)
To pillory the government
for not providing an extra €12m, or even €35m to save an essential
service is a bit of a nonsense when the overall budget is €14bn...
What is the "right" amount for a society to spend on health care is one
of those unanswerable questions -- depending partly on the make-up of the
population, on the economy, and the political will to give healthcare priority
over other pressing needs. To compare Ireland with Germany, without taking
into account the higher proportion of elderly people (who make much higher
demands on health services) in Germany, is not particularly illuminating...
There used to be a rule of thumb in the NHS that for every £3 of
extra money put in you would be lucky to get even £1 improvement
by way of service. The other £2 was eaten up by the system, either
by demands for more pay, improved conditions, or better staffing-ratios
-- much of which was justified, but not all. In the jargon of the trade
it was called the internalisation of welfare -- the benefits of increased
expenditure being enjoyed more by the providers of the service than by
those it was intended to serve. So we have probably the best paid doctors
in Europe (even before the bonus of private practice), and interminable
protectionist negotiations on contract which prevent the development of
a consultant-delivered service, and nurses who demand at the same time
a 10pc rise in salary and a 10pc drop in hours... The HSE does need to
smarten up its management. It may need, as Gerry Robinson has said, someone
with experience of managing change in a large, complex organisation. But
Professor Drumm has the vision. He knows where he wants to get to, and
he should be helped to get there.
- Maurice Hayes, on how criticism of the HSE misses the mark, "The Irish Independent"
So, we learn that in
the course of just two years, the Chief Executive of the Health Service
Executive, Professor Brendan Drumm, spent €566 on wreaths and flowers,
which he then charged to his employers. All in all, a nice touch that the
CEO should be spending so much on wreaths when the chronic inefficiency
of that organisation is perhaps best symbolised by a garland of flowers
on an early grave.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Ind."
The vast majority of
Irish hospitals are unable to implement guidelines designed to prevent
the MRSA superbug due to a lack of adequate facilities, a team of experts
has concluded. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has been
told by the heads of 43 out of 49 acute hospitals that they cannot follow
best practice on tackling the infection for various reasons including poor
infrastructure, inadequate laboratory resources and insufficient staff,
isolation rooms or beds. Four hospitals did not have an educational programme
on hand hygiene, and only 17 had a programme to monitor the amount of antibiotics
used. The MRSA guidelines were introduced in 2005 in response to fears
about the bug. Doctors from the HPSC’s Strategy for the Control of Antimicrobial
Resistance in Ireland said: “There are still major challenges in Ireland
to the full implementation of national MRSA guidelines. It is of concern
that 8% of the hospitals surveyed did not have educational programmes on
hand hygiene.” The research, published in Infection Control and Hospital
Epidemiology, found one third of hospitals did not have a written policy
on antibiotic use, and only 35% had an antibiotic stewardship programme.
- Seen in "The Sunday Times" (Feb'09)
concentrate on running the country, not our lives. Our politicians can't
build a tunnel on budget or buy computer systems that work, yet we want
to let them have something to do with the lives of our children? I am fed
up with us having laws that no one enforces.
- John Masterson, on laws on smacking and child car seats, "The Sunday Independent"
I am increasingly mystified
as to what the civil service does because it seems no minister can do anything
without assembling a bunch of outside experts to give advice.
- John Masterston, "The Sunday Independent"
Irish politicians respond
to a foreseeable — and foreseen — crisis looking for newer and stronger
laws to deal with the problem. And like most people, I scratch my head
and think that as far as I knew, the laws were already there. They just
aren't enforced. We got rid of plastic bags, but the country is littered
with plastic bottles and packaging. I know of only one person who has ever
been fined for littering. This law-abiding citizen was waiting for a bus
and cleared out her handbag into the little bin. Part of what she discarded
was an envelope with her name and address on it. This woman would not litter
to save her life, but it was against the law for her to dispose of personal
litter in this way and she ended up paying for her 'sins'. The country
is awash with litter and they look at litter in a bin to enforce the law.
Now to the roads - those pieces of tarmac between the litter. Last year,
I got no penalty points. The previous year I got four, all obtained by
going a little over the limit on roads you could land a plane on. Yet I
am often overtaken where there is an unbroken white line, generally by
idiots without seat belts. Just once, I would like to hear 'Nee naw' from
an unmarked car when I am being overtaken dangerously.
- John Masterson, on what he doesn't like about Ireland
The Central Statistics
Office has the figures, but no explanations. We know that some 71,000 drivers
have been charged with drink-driving offences in the past five years, and
we know that only 39,000 of these, or slightly over half, ended up being
convicted. Yet there is no record of what happened to the other 32,000
Gay Byrne, chairman of the Road Safety Authority, says it is a mystery. Professor Denis Cusack, head of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, has been trying to find the answer for the past four years.
Could it be that, over the past five years, thousands of people charged with drink-driving offences hired solicitors and barristers who were smart enough to exploit some legal loophole and get their clients off? Or could it be that some gardai do not follow through after charging a suspect and issue a summons, as has also been suggested? Are some people doing their job too well and others not doing theirs well enough?
- Mystery of the Drunk Drivers, Irish Independent editorial (Oct'08)
The sheer number of
people still being caught drunk in control of cars shows that, even if
it is netting many more offenders, the deterrent effectiveness of random
breath testing is questionable. More insidious by far is the widespread
cynical circumvention of the law by companies which "nominate" non-national
employees, or employees from Northern Ireland, after an offence has been
committed by an Irish driving licence-holder employee. One in four driving
offences are never pursued because the driver has a licence issued by another
country. Many of these cases, it seems, are a product of conspiracy. The
Automobile Association believes that many individuals and companies are
routinely utilising this legal loophole. This is cynical exploitation of
a wider problem which is, literally, a matter of life or death. Although
foreign nationals make up just ten per cent of the workforce, it has been
estimated that they account for about one in four of deaths on Irish roads.
There is evidence that large numbers of non-national drivers are taking
to the roads uninsured, untaxed and unlicenced.
- Editorial in The Irish Independent (Aug'07)
A total of 1,700 crashes
on our roads last year involved cars registered in Poland and Lithuania.
The growing number of collisions involving foreign cars on our roads yesterday
prompted Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to demand foreign-nationals living
here obey Irish standards. Twenty people were also killed last year --
and 2,000 injured -- by uninsured drivers, many of them foreign-nationals.
Uninsured driving is now running at three times the rate of most EU countries.
The penalty points scandal continues with one in four penalty points going
to non-Irish registered motorists, so dangerous drivers effectively can't
be penalised and eventually put off the roads.
- from "The Irish Independent"
As it stands, foreign
nationals using our roads enjoy all the rights of Irish nationals, but
escape many of the responsibilities. So we end up blaming them for chaos
on the roads, but the government sits on its hands and does nothing to
level the playing field. There is anecdotal evidence that many eastern
Europeans are driving without tax or insurance and generally behaving recklessly.
Why? Because they have little fear of effective punishment if caught by
the gardai. The problem here is that foreign drivers do not pick up penalty
points for offences committed in the republic. Fines and disqualification
can be applied, depending on the circumstances, but the potential accumulation
of points is supposed to be the deterrent to bad driving. It’s a two-tier
system that works against the Irish driver and is patently unfair.
- Matt Cooper, "The Sunday Times"
Throughout the country,
on secondary roads, there are people driving like maniacs without a Garda
in sight — fact — facilitated by generous speed limits you would have to
see to believe, provided by engineers in the local councils. Take a drive
to the west of Ireland and see for yourself how absurd the laws and enforcement
procedures are when it comes to speeding on the small roads where the majority
of the annual kill takes place.
- Dermot Crowe, "The Sunday Independent"
Across the road from
Clover Hill National School in Co Roscommon stands a sign proclaiming a
speed limit of 100kmh. The same limit is in force near hundreds of other
Irish schools. Yet it has been possible for three and a half years for
local councils to apply to the National Roads Authority for a much stricter
regime. So far, limits of 30kmh have been imposed at only six locations.
The tardiness is difficult to explain.
- Seen in "The Irish Independent" (what are local councils for, exactly???)
I wonder when the Dublin
city council are planning to put road markings back down at the bottom
of the Malahide Rod and Fairview junction? It's been a few weeks since
works finished. Does the council think it's safe for a six-lane major junction
to be unmarked?
- A wake up text seen in Dublin's Metro
More than 40% of accidents
occur on the country’s main, national roads. Despite significant investment
in motorways, there are still a lot of single-lane carriageways, many of
which include dangerous right-turns. The National Roads Authority (NRA)
has identified 430 accident blackspots on main routes, but says it will
take two years to deal with them. Although the NRA accepts that roads can
be made safer, Ireland has been slow to use engineering solutions. A recent
report from the European Road Assessment Programme found that sections
of road with higher than average collision rates are distributed throughout
Ireland. It found 465 km of medium- to high-risk road and 96 km of high-risk.
In Sweden, they’ve been engineering for years to take account of driver
error and the concept of blackspots is almost unheard of. Drive elsewhere
on the Continent and you will find road networks dotted with slip roads
and underpasses, the like of which simply do not exist in Ireland.
- Richard Oakley, "The Sunday Times"
In the UK, police recently
stopped 6,000 cars in a single day as part of an exercise and found 30%
were being driven illegally — due to an unroadworthy vehicle or drivers
bring unregistered or uninsured. That exercise probably made a greater
contribution to road safety than 100 speed cameras, but they won't do it
on a regular basis because it would take a lot more money than the British
government is willing to spend... people who have driven for decades without
causing an accident are made to feel like criminals for edging over the
speed limit occasionally, all so that the authorities can pretend to be
taking tough action whilst privately rubbing their hands at the extra cash
rolling into the State's bank account as a result.
- Eilis O'Hanlon, "The Sunday Independent"
A Dublin taxi driver
thought he was seeing double when he drew up alongside another cabbie plying
for business on the streets of the capital. And that's exactly what he
did see -- a clone of his own taxi, right down to the same make, model
and colour of car, with the same taxi sign number, and even the same number
plate. The shock mirror-image encounter was revealed yesterday as the Commission
for Taxi Regulation confirmed it was investigating a "small number" of
reports about imitation licenced vehicles.
- seen in "The Irish Independent" (Sep'08)
Bertie Ahern may be
earning more than George Bush and Gordon Brown but it's clear he and his
Ministers do not operate to the same performance standards. Earning more
and held accountable less, can anyone imagine a British Transport Secretary
surviving Noel Dempsey's latest bungling? The truth is had a British Minister
made an ass of not just himself and his government, but of the very law
of the land itself, then he would have offered his resignation or been
fired within the day.
- Senan Molony, on the Learner driver debacle, "The Irish Ind." (Oct'07)
Minister Dempsey admitted
last Monday that he could not yet introduce "congestion charges" for those
driving in Dublin city centre. Such tolls exist in other European capitals.
But our public transport system is simply not good enough to offer a viable
alternative to motorists... Dempsey's 22020 Vision" document has no hard
proposals, just too many desperate questions. It is a plea to the public
to help solve a problem that he and his colleagues were paid to solve but
did not... Provided with privileged parking facilities at Leinster House,
our TDs have little feel for the daily realities facing many commuters.
And the Dail begins conveniently late. How many TDs are out on the approach
roads to Cork, Galway or Dublin every morning between 6.30 and 9.30? Have
they any idea of what it is like? Ministers get garda chauffeurs to cushion
their existence. There are no penalty points for using mobiles, no parking
fines for them. Fantasy solutions about children walking to school or people
cycling to work are laced with a sort of privileged sadism. They show scant
appreciation of the actual needs of people who are trying to balance complex
lifestyles in an urban landscape shaped by the kind of political decisions
now being investigated at Dubln Castle. There are few if any proper park-and-ride
facilities. Timetables are elastic, with transport companies using remarkable
modes of measurement. An already slow commuter train may be 10 minutes
late but still deemed "on time". There are punitive tolls imposed on people
who use roads only because they must do so to get to work...
Minister Dempsey recently told drivers that they may have to get used to suffering massive traffic jams. A truck had crashed on the M50, causing great inconvenience and discomfort when it blocked that main artery for hours. Yet, in contrast, just weeks earlier, I was brought to a standstill by an accident across three fast-moving lanes of traffic on a motorway outside Birmingham, England. Moments later, a fleet of police and service vehicles were roaring down the hard shoulder. They had the road open again after about 20 minutes. "Sure, what can you do?" is not the only option, minister.
- Colum Kenny, on the lack of transport policy, "Sunday Ind." (Mar'08)
Oddly enough, the decision
by Brian Lenihan, of the humble €250,000 a year salary, plus expenses,
plus free car, plus a huge pension fund, to tell the whinging punters of
Ireland to get on their bikes and adjust their expectations towards a more
modest standard of living, did not go down well.
- John Drennan, "Sunday Ind." (Jun'08)
Members of the public
pay their taxes in the expectation that they can depend on a dependable,
efficient public transport system. The relief of congestion in our cities,
reduction of road deaths, distribution of goods, every new plan for development
of infrastructure -- all of these depend upon a reliable public transport
system. It is fundamental to the very quality of life. Only those who are
prepared to serve the public should be allowed the privileges which come
with employment in the public service.
- Irish Independent editorial, after a wildcat train strike (May'08)
It was in 1979 that
the then Transport minister, Sylvester Barrett, announced that learner
drivers who had twice failed their test would henceforth be allowed to
drive unaccompanied. Once again, an Irish solution to an Irish problem,
a noxious four-part brew compounded in equal measures of humbug, sanctimony,
hysteria and, of course, ruthless sectional self-interest... silently watched
by the grey spectres of the hundreds of people killed on Irish roads by
unqualified drivers over the past 28 years.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
Is E-voting an improvement?
Yes, the current method takes too long and is innaccurate. Mistakes are
endemic, every re-count produces a different result. Results depend on which bundles are used for
transfers, which means it's as fair as tossing a coin. The current electoral system produces far too many
parochial clowns, cute-hoor vote-harvesting machines who are wonderful at stroking votes but know
nothing and care nothing about anyone else. If it gets them a vote it's good and they'll back it. If it
doesn't, they'll oppose it. Social welfare, public housing and grant systems are used ruthlessly by these
people to stroke votes.
- Gene Kerrigan, "The Sunday Independent"
The Government has
been urged to take a much "tougher approach" to single mothers who claim
the lone parents payment for up to 22 years. A report from the OECD says
Ireland has the lowest employment rate among lone parents in the developed
world. There is little evidence that easier access to benefits leads to
better outcomes in terms of children's poverty and prospects in later life,
it claims. Lone parents in Ireland "escape" work requirements until their
youngest child is aged 18, or 22 if the in full time education. The report,
seen by the Irish Independent, reveals that four years ago more money was
spent on lone parents than on people on the dole.
- John Walshe, "The Irish Ind." (Mar'09)
I sometimes feel that
the criminal law in Ireland can be like a game of football with very peculiar
rules. The prosecution can score as many goals as they like but the game
goes on. As soon as the defence score a goal the game is over and the defence
are declared the winner.
- James Hamilton, Director of Public Prosecutions (2006)
We have a legal system
that is more concerned with the nit-picking of technicalities than with
the delivery of justice, and which prides itself on a legal purity that
is as self-delusional as it is flawed. Justice Hardiman's decision to dump
the law on statutory rape was based on an interpretation of the law that
is purist. He and his fellow judges believe that 'strict liability' - meaning
that proof that an offence occurred is all that is required to secure a
conviction, and that no defence applies - can only be used for minor regulatory
crimes that attract small penalties (like traffic offences), not for serious
crime that attracts harsh penalties and social stigma. Strict liability
ensures that someone who has sex with a child cannot claim a defence: it
that there is so much risk attaching to the act, and such harsh penalty
for being caught, that the accused must have been reckless to proceed.
The effect is that no children can be cross-examined about how they looked,
or what they said, or what they did: proof that sex took place is proof
enough to convict. It is harsh, but it is also the only just way of dealing
with this crime when it is committed against the very young.
In the United States, where there is a tradition of liberty and constitutional rights, they have no difficulty applying strict liability. Many states make a clear age distinction: under the age of 14, strict liability applies: from 15 to 17, the mistake of age defence can apply. It is common sense, affords protection, sends a clear message to the predator and is the model we should copy. Following Hardiman's judgment, McDowell's route should have been clear: instead of introducing legislation that is against his better judgement, instead of forcing children to be, in his own words, "rigorously tested by skilled lawyers", he should have proposed a referendum that would reaffirm our right to use strict liability for statutory rape of children under 14.
- Alan Ruddock, on the statutory rape controversy, "Sunday Ind."
All through the enormous
and constantly accelerating changes that have occurred in Irish society
over the last three or four decades, our governments and legislators have
done as little as possible, as late as possible. Now they are paying the
price — or rather, we are all paying the price.
- Editorial in "The Irish Indpendent" in wake of statutory rape debacle
I am very sceptical
about this Children's Rights amendment proposed for early 2007. We should
always be wary of anything that promises rights without corresponding responsibilities.
Rights without responsibilities generally means a lot more litigation all
round, and a bonanza for lawyers.
- Mary Kenny, "Irish Ind."
It's about time our
Government started taking seriously the need for fertility legislation,
an area that's currently as well governed as Dodge City before Wyatt Earp
pinned on his badge. It's shameful we still don't regulate our assisted
reproduction industry... we continue to be left in limbo, with nobody -
neither couples embarking on treatment nor medical professionals - knowing
exactly where they stand.
- Martina Devlin, "Irish Ind."
Happy slapping is an
obnoxious and worrying new social trend, but the kind of scum who engage
in it are the kind who engage in random, casual violence anyway. People
who call for tighter regulation of the internet are merely showcasing their
own ignorance. After all, how can you regulate something which in essence
doesn't exist? But while it's easy to blame YouTube - this follows on from
equally spurious panics about chat rooms and paedophiles - people are missing
the real issue, namely the violent underclass which exists in this country
- and which seems to be getting bigger.
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
We're not in the middle
of a crimewave. Most of us live free of fear in our homes. We have problems
of drunken hooliganism in our streets, but they are social in origin, not
criminal. Arming gardai will not change that (though a more liberal use
of truncheons might help). Innocent people are generally not being murdered,
and the current gang warfare is being conducted according to the quite
principled west Dublin interpretation of the Geneva Convention. Most importantly
of all, such wars will always occur, so long as we continue to pursue an
unenforceable prohibition on drugs. Not a junkie or a dealer? Then relax.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Ind."
Travel to Dublin's
fair city, where last week Anthony Dennis, was imprisoned for shattering
the skull of a taxi-driver, William Brennan. The victim had gone to collect
his nephew from a nightclub where Dennis had threatened him. Before smashing
Mr Brennan's head, one of Dennis's associates sneered: "We can threaten
who we want. We are untouchable." Dennis was already out on bail on a charge
of ramming a garda car: with his record, of 107 convictions, why was he
on bail? Why wasn't he in custody? If he had been, William Brennan wouldn't
have been maimed for life. Dennis was sentenced to just six years imprisonment
on both charges, with two years suspended: hence, four years, out in two-and-a
half, aged 25. In other words, his chum was right: in any meaningful sense,
Dennis is untouchable... Dennis was well known to the authorities with
many convictions -- yet was free to commit appalling crimes in the not
unwarranted belief that he was largely immune to the consequences of his
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
Kean believes that
the legal profession, the government and the people have failed the Gardai...
How should the courts support the Garda?
"Don't let the guy out on bail three times. A friend of mine, a well-know guard in Dun Laoghaire, saw a guy arrested for the fourth time in three months, and he was let out on bail three times. Now if I was that guard, I would just say: "The best of luck - I'm off to play golf." What can I do with the robber? I'll arrest him tomorrow and he'll be in court and he'll be out tomorrow... Help these people but do it while they're in jail. Don't do it while they're robbing my house, or killing... Support the guards... I am criticising the legal system in its entirety."
- Gerald Kean, interviewed in the "Sunday Ind." (Nov'08)
Fine Gael Justice spokesman
Charlie Flanagan attacked the Justice minister's decision to slash funding
for the Director of Public Prosecutions, saying it was "inexplicable" in
the context of gangland killings. Mr Flanagan said not a single person
had been charged in the 16 gang-related murders that had taken place in
Ireland since 2003. "Where is the deterrent to cease killing enemies and
innocents if conviction is a remote possibility," he asked... Another sore
point is the fact that 30,000 bench warrants remain outstanding.
- Seen in The Irish Independent (Nov'08)
The US State Department
has issued an unprecedented alert to American tourists coming to Ireland,
warning of rising levels of serious crime here, including an increase in
murder and burglary, as well as a shortage of gardai. In its official briefing
to prospective American tourists, the department’s Overseas Security Advisory
Council (Osac) report for 2008 expresses concern that overall levels of
crime in Ireland have risen significantly, with a 20 per cent rise in homicides.
The council’s report, released last week, also said that a substantial
rise in organised crime in Ireland had resulted in fatalities among innocent
bystanders. The body warned American tourists about ‘‘the misconception
that there is little crime in Ireland’’... The report describes the gardai
as ‘‘well-trained’’ and ‘‘professional’’, but said the force suffered from
a shortage of manpower.
- Seen in the Sunday Business Post
The number of home
burglaries in Ireland has increased by almost one-third over the past year,
according to figures published today by Eircom Phonewatch. The company
says around €100m worth of goods was stolen from Irish homes between
June 2007 and June 2008. The biggest increase in burglaries has occurred
in areas outside Dublin, but the capital still has the highest number of
any region, accounting for 34% of all break-ins across the country.
- Seen in Irish Independent (Oct'08)
Is anyone remotely
surprised that Garda representatives have voted in favour of non-cooperation
with the planned Garda Reserve? It seems to me that for a long time now
many on the force have been operating a policy of non-cooperation with
the public they're supposed to protect and serve.
- from "The Irish Independent"
It suggests a mindset
that views police officers as a law onto themselves rather than upholders
of the laws of the state.
- editorial in "The Sunday Times" on militant opposition to the Garda Reserve
Even if the gardai
had done all of the things recommended by the Barr report, it still wouldn't
have altered the fundamental facts of the situation: that here was a man
with a history of psychiatric illness, who had been hospitalised no fewer
than 5 times, armed with a shotgun, who fired at least 30 shots at gardai
and who when he emerged from the house with a loaded shotgun, refused repeated
requests to surrender his weapon. Even if the 'sterile area' had stretched
for a mile or more, sooner or later the ERU would have had to take the
decision to open fire... in August 1998 the gardai confiscated John Carthy's
legally held shotgun following complaints from a neighbour. However, following
a letter from psychiatrist David Shanley, which stated that "on my opinion
(Carthy) is fit to use a firearm", the gun was returned in November 1998.
Shanley didn't send a copy of this letter to Carthy's GP Dr. Patrick Cullen,
who had reservations about returning the gun. Despite this, Barr ruled
Shanley's conduct was "appropriate".
- Dan White, "Where Barr Got It Wrong", "Evening Herald"
Following 685 days
of hearings, and at a cost of more than E60m, the Morris tribunal has exposed
damning evidence of systematic garda corruption involving perjury, fit-ups,
harassment, hoax explosive finds and extensive cover-ups. Remarkably,
however, much of the coverage about the tribunal’s latest reports centred
on Morris’s criticism of Brendan Howlin and Jim Higgins, the opposition
politicians who in 2000 alerted then justice minister John O’Donoghue to
allegations that named senior officers were involved in fabricating evidence.
The allegations turned out to be false and appear to have been concocted to intensify political demands for a public inquiry into garda shenanigans in Donegal. Morris admonished the politicians for not investigating the claims more thoroughly. He also found that, by precipitately contacting O’Donoghue, they afforded the allegations “a standing and authority well beyond what was justified”.
Morris has proven himself to be a formidable inquisitor, and the conclusions in his reports are admirably forthright. Nevertheless, his censure of Howlin and Higgins is perverse. Were it not for their decision to act on the information they’d received, the Morris tribunal itself would probably never have been set up. In reality, Howlin and Higgins acted responsibly and in the public interest. Rather than airing the allegations in the Dail, they privately brought the material in their possession to the relevant minister. It is unreasonable to expect that they themselves could have carried out any meaningful investigation into what were allegations of serious criminal behaviour.
- Liam Fay, on a bizarre tribunal report, "Sunday Times"
A massive search of
the maximum security prison at Portlaoise has uncovered a substantial quantity
of smuggled mobile phones, drugs, needles - and even a budgie. Officers
seized at least eight smuggled mobile phones, three SIM cards, around 150
tablets, including ecstasy, a significant quantity of powdered drugs, a
large amount of homemade alcohol, known as hooch, and 30 syringes. The
haul also included a live budgie, which officers believe had been smuggled
into the jail by a female visitor who concealed the bird internally in
- seen in "The Irish Independent"
The most risible truth
about our jails was buried in one story: "It is now a specific offence
to smuggle drugs into a prison." Ha ha ha. But it's been a specific offence
to have drugs anywhere for decades, which didn't stop our prison system,
containing the most-supervised prison population in all of Europe, from
becoming Ireland's drugs capital.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
Over 700 mobile phones
were seized in Mountjoy Prison last year. It is now a criminal offence
to have a mobile in jail... A spokesman for the Prison Service said that
"airport style" security would be required to stop phones getting into
prisons. Stop right there. Does this mean that we have been subjected to
security at airports that isn't even used in our jails? If you ever felt
you were being treated like a criminal going through airport security,
be it in Europe or the States, you were wrong. It appears we don't even
treat our criminals like that.
- Off the Bull Wall, in Dublin's "Northside People"
Drugs are freely available
in prisons and the battle to keep out them out is in “tatters”, according
to a report by the Drug Policy Action Group (DPAG). The drugs problem in
prisons is as serious as ever and probably worsening, according to the
author of the report which came out today, Paul O’Mahony. He said the Irish
Prison Service was facing “immensely difficult challenges” in dealing with
drug problems among prisoners. The report, Key Issues For Drugs Policy
In Irish Prisons, concludes that the prison service “has long failed and
is continuing to fail” to meet these challenges... Mr O’Mahony said the
realities of prison life means that for many prisoners drugs were never
more attractive and available than in prison. Since 2006, the official
policy of the Department of Justice has been to maintain a totally drugs-free
- Seen on BreakingNews.ie (what chance a drugs free island?)
It was the summer when
the public concluded that laws were being used by the State as devices
to raise revenue. Bulletins about the whereabouts of clampers and Garda
speed traps were broadcast on the radio. The perception that laws are being
used by the State merely to garner cash is always disastrous - for the
State and the law, no matter how desirable or necessary the particular
laws may be... a Government responsible for that kind of thing is in deep
- Anthony Cronin, "The Summer of 2004", "The Sunday Independent"
"Have you ever tried
to get to Liffeyvalley by bus? I recommend it as an experiment. It's an
- James Wickham, on Dublin's transport 'network', "RTE Primetime"
People cannot switch
to a public transport system which is not there. There is no point in waving
a big stick at motorists. They are not sitting in their cars for pleasure.
They are the symptom, not the problem.
- Conor Faughnan of the AA after Dublin's "No Car Day" leads to worse traffic
"They could follow
it up with a busless day or a truckless day. The Trade Unions regularly
give us train-free days and bus-free days."
- Sean Barrett, economist, dismissing car-free days as gimmicks, "The Irish Independent"
of cyclists killed on Dublin roads are hit by left-turning heavy goods
vehicles (HGVs), according to a new report from Dublin City Council. The
report, compiled by the council’s traffic department from Garda statistics,
found that cars were the most likely vehicles to be involved in collisions
with bicycles but the majority of serious and fatal incidents involved
- Seen in The Irish Times
There is a glaring
inconsistency between aggressive car parking regulations in the suburbs
and the desire to foster the use of public transport. Have you noticed
the gradual spread of double yellow lines in suburbia? The only reason
that there are double yellow lines in places like Dalkey and metered parking
is to raise cash for the council. So here we have an example where one
state agency — the corporation — is actively undermining the attractiveness
of another, Irish Rail. In an effort to raise finances for itself, the
corporation, is actively undermining the finances of Irish Rail, without
providing a transport alternative... In rural Ireland, the car is a gelling
agent for the community. It brings people together and yet its use for
local business is being attacked by officious main-street tax collectors.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Independent"
"If CO2 and climate
change are what you really care about then you would not be looking at
private cars. The data does not justify anti-car taxes, especially when
these measures have no carbon benefit whatsoever. Data from the European
Environment Agency shows that across the EU the 'transport sector' generates
21 per cent of CO2. The private car is estimated to contribute 14 per cent,
or two-thirds of the 'transport' figure. In Ireland, the 'transport
sector' accounts for 19 per cent of emissions. The private car alone is
at most about 12 per cent of the problem. Why does it get so much emphasis?
If Dublin had a congestion charge tomorrow the net effect would do nothing for the environment. It would be a strong disincentive for people to work in the city and it would add to business costs. And it would not force people onto non-existent Metro and Luas services. The same argument holds for fuel taxes. We have in effect got a carbon levy already. When you buy a litre of petrol 55 per cent or so of the price is tax. Doesn't matter what the tax is called. In 2008 we have seen fuel prices jump from €1.13 per litre to €1.34 without having any effect on demand."
- Conor Faughnan of the AA, in "The Irish Ind." (Oct'08)
"It won't affect anywhere
near as much as the 10% sounds... There are some routes which are very
similar and you could cut back on one or two of those options and still
leave an area with a very good bus service, maybe even a better one."
- Aebrhic McGinley, Chamber of Commerce spokesman, after Dublin Bus cuts 10% of services
More than 150 Dublin
Bus routes will have to be changed to make way for the construction of
the Metro North light-rail system. The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA)
has said there will be wider impacts in relation to traffic congestion
and longer journey times across Dublin as Westmoreland Street will be closed
to traffic during construction for up to five years. The RPA will look
for planning permission from a Bord Pleanála for the project today.
The light-rail route will connect Belinstown, North of Swords with St Stephen's
Green along an 180-kilometre route and is due to open in 2013.
- How to make public transport worse, as seen on Online.Ie
The train approaching
will be carrying all winter viruses such as heavy colds, flu and bronchitis
and stopping at all stations to your office.
- The Metro, with a suggested public health warning
Necessity may be the
mother of invention, but she is rarely a lone parent. In this country,
guilt and shame also get things done. Often, great tragedies must occur
before the authorities are spurred into action to effect long-overdue changes.
- Liam Fay, after a school bus tragedy, "The Sunday Times"
Q: For what respective
in the Irish Republic will you be fined (a) €5,000 and (b) €2,000?
A: You will be fined €5,000 for smoking illegally in Ireland. You will be fined €2,000 if you get very drunk, drive your car and kill two people. This has happened.
- Mary Kenny, "The Irish Independent"
Health, you cry: smokers
are clogging up the hospitals. Rubbish. Smokers subsidise the rest of us
through their taxes and considerately kill themselves before they clog up the old people's homes.
In the 1960s I couldn't wait to get out of Ireland, for I felt stifled by its authoritarianism. Nothing
has changed, it seems to me, except that those bossing everyone around now are the forces of political
correctness rather than religion. The US in the 1920s the stupidity of Prohibition. Most of the world
these days is demonstrating the futility of trying to ban drugs.
- Ruth Dudley Edwards, on the proposed smoking ban, "The Sunday Independent"
"We would not allow
food to be produced in the kind of hygiene environment in which patients
treated, and that is not acceptable."
- Mary Harney, current Minister for Health, former Minister for Enterprise
Health, rather like
the Law Library, has acquired the worst features of private sector greed,
and a level of inefficiency which was associated with our old unaccountable
state-sector monopolies. The great irony of the PPARS debacle is that the
solution was consumed by a system which was in such a state of chaos that
it infected the cure.
- John Drennan, on the Health Service's IT woes, "Sunday Independent"
The bid to reverse
the X-case was undone in large part by an inability on the part of some
tell the difference between a political compromise and a moral compromise... On March 7, the day of
the count, the enemies of the culture of life cheered their victory as the final result came in. They knew
that the defeat of the government proposal had brought much closer the day when abortions would take
place in Ireland. What a pity those pro-lifers who opposed the amendment couldn't see that also.
Instead they played right into the hands of their enemies. A disaster.
Without wishing to be melodramatic, in terms of the "culture wars," Ireland enjoys (if that is the word)
a position somewhat analogous to that of West Berlin during the Cold War. What I mean by this is that
Ireland is one of the last outposts in the world holding out against legalised abortion, and if it falls it
will have a galvanising effect on pro-abortion forces worldwide, and a demoralising effect on pro-life
- David Quinn, commenting on the 2002 abortion referendum in "Human Life Review"
We have a two-tier
economy: a thriving private sector that creates wealth and jobs, and a
lumbering public sector that soaks up cash, spends it inefficiently and
increases the costs of doing business.
- Alan Ruddock, "The Sunday Independent"
A Sunday Times investigation
has found inconsistencies in the system of awarding Building Energy Ratings,
now required for every Irish home before it is sold or rented out. Three
assessments of the same suburban house, last month, yielded different provisional
results, raising questions about the scientific accuracy of the new system,
which rates houses on a scale from A to G. The scheme is designed to give
prospective purchasers and tenants an informed view of a house’s energy
performance — how much it costs to light and heat — to help them decide
whether to buy or rent. A terraced house on Dublin’s Northside was provisionally
given D2, E1 and E2 ratings, after assessments by three evaluators, all
of them accredited by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), which oversees
the scheme... There was also a difference in the charges and methodologies
of the three assessors, with the amount of time spent on site and the number
of visits varying. EasyBERcerts, in Castleknock, charged €275 and
took two hours to examine the property; BSCS, in Phibsboro, charged €350
and spent three hours; and Energy Ratings To Go, in Broadstone, charged
€358 and spent one hour... New homes have been rated since the start
of 2007, with 82% achieving a B-rating. SEI has published indicative ratings
for typical homes, showing that those built before the 1980s should achieve
a low D or E; those built in the 1980s should get a high D; those in the
1990s should get a C2; and properties built in this decade typically achieve
- Seems like the NCT all over again (Jan'09)
What's going on isn't a recycling campaign.
It's something that looks like a recycling campaign. And that's what our
politicians specialise in - spending money on things that look like they
might be what they're supposed to be... One firm got €3.4m over two
years to tell us about the 'Race Against Waste'. A fortune was spent on
a frightening TV advert, showing our children threatened by a tsunami of
waste. There's no shortage of money for consultants and advertising agencies,
and more consultants, and websites, and more consultants and advisors.
What there doesn't seem to be is enough money for the collection of recycled
waste - or the provision of proper centres, properly staffed, efficiently
emptied when full, and open all hours. Are we supposed to drive around
looking for a recycling centre that's open, with space left in its skips?
They emptied the green bin on 16 December. The next pick-up is 20 January.
Thirty-five days. Do the rubbish people really think it takes 35 days,
over Christmas, to fill a green wheelie bin?
- Gene Kerrigan, "It's Not Easy to be a Good Rubbish Citizen", "Sunday Independent"
Although we have grown accustomed to hyped-up
launches of Government policies, strategies and even "policy strategies",
the weary Irish public must view the publication of the Green Paper on
Energy as a new record in vacuous waffle.
- Editorial in "The Irish Independent" (2006)
A successful and coherent energy policy here
would enrage almost everyone.
- Brendan Keenan, "The Sunday Independent"
"As I understand it,
the law as currently applies places an obligation on a person whose home
is being robbed that they must in the first instance retreat or find a
method of retreating. If retreat is not possible, the homeowner is legally
required only to use such force as they believe necessary. In other words,
if a burglar has a baseball bat and a homeowner takes out a shotgun they're
expected to leave aside the shotgun and get a baseball bat and have equal
contest at 4am in the morning. It's not very feasible to do something like
- Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, favouring a law change on burglaries
Would it be too much
to put out on APB when rapists are let out? Oh, sorry. I forgot about their
human rights. Well, what about the next woman victim? Has she no rights?
- John Masterson, "When Is It 'Safe' to Let a Rapist Out?", "Sunday Ind."
"Not only am I against
capital punishment, but I would gladly hang anyone who was for it."
- Hugh Leonard, "The Irish Independent"
I somehow doubt that
Michael McDowell visits South Armagh very often... but if he did, he would
notice three feet across the Border, the first fireworks warehouse. Next
door is another one, and next, yet another. This is the Tijuana Effect:
the accumulation of outlets supplying goods and services banned in a neighbouring
jurisdiction. In Tijuana, the commodity is sex, and the outlet is whorehouses.
In Nevada it is gambling. In Donegal on Sundays (in the days when pubs
were closed in Northern Ireland) it used to be booze. Still is, between
dry and wet counties in the US. The Tijuana Effect means that we cannot
successfully ban fireworks.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
In other times and
tribes, teenagers would be sent out to face wild animals with a handful
and the challenge to survive days in desperate conditions with only themselves to rely on. Instead, this
time and tribe sets them up educational trials. For tigers at the mouth, read pass level Irish. For
scorpions, read English comprehension, history replaces story-telling rituals.
- Medb Ruane, as the Leaving Cert looms, "The Evening Herald"
Inevitably the question
will be asked: is there not a better way of making these decisions about
college entry? Nobody really likes the points system, and everybody is
aware of its disadvantages, but it continues because it is objective and
incorruptible. If we were to adopt a more flexible and subjective system,
education institutions would be besieged by telephone calls and representations
seeking to influence the selection process. This is a pressure we are glad
to be without.
- Philip Nolan, Deputy UCD President, writing in "The Irish Independent"
The numbers taking
maths and science for the Leaving Cert are falling. This is no surprise.
The kids are not stupid. They know that getting points is the name of the
game. Subjects which are perceived as difficult to acquire good points
in will not be chosen. That is very sensible from the pupils' point of
view, but potentially very bad from the country's point of view... As you
might expect the Government is concerned. This Government does concern
very well. And worry. And alarm. And investigation. It is action that is
- Brendan Keenan, "The Sunday Independent" (Aug'06)
Thousands of highly
paid jobs are going abegging because colleges can't get enough students
for courses that are key to the country's economic future... Despite the
economic downturn, there are 10,000 vacancies in the computing and the
IT sector, and 5,000 jobs available in engineering. A graphic example of
the crisis was revealed last night showing that numbers graduating in computer
applications from Dublin City University (DCU) dropped from 224 in 2005
to 70 this year. Michael Ryan, who is Professor of Computing at DCU, said
at a recent meeting organised by the college that there were twice as many
potential employers as computing graduates. He said skills shortages in
computing were also underlined by the fact that 35pc of new staff in software
companies in the Dublin area come from outside Ireland. He said hard questions
have to be asked about maths teaching in schools.
- Seen in "The Irish Independent" (Aug'08)
"It takes engineering
and engineers to create the pitch for other professions, such as lawyers
and accountants, to play on."
- John Power, of Engineers Ireland
To all students out
there starting their leaving cert year: don't bother studying hard and
trying to finish near the top of your class, going to university and getting
a degree in medicine, law, acocuntancy, pharmacy or any other high-paying
profession. The Government will take half of your pay in tax and give it
to the lazy people in your class who will either never bother working or
get the lowest-paying jobs. They will also either give the lazy ones houses
when they are older or expect them to pay a fraction of what you will have
to pay. The masses and media will portray you as greedy, corrupt and immoral.
So put down your books and become a bum - the Government and society will
reward you anyway so you'll be fine as long as you can leech off the successful
- "Used To Be Ambitious", telling it like it is in The Metro
Mary Hanafin needs to put her cards firmly on the table and declare whether
she thinks the main purpose of schools is to promote equality or educate
children. This week she gave every indication that she believes their main
purpose is the promotion of equality. If she thinks otherwise, then she
needs to say so... A two-tier system is the direct result of the choices
people make and of the fact that some parents are willing to spend their
money, sometimes at considerable sacrifice, on obtaining for their children
the best education available... Ironically it will retard rather than advance
the goal of equality in that the benefits of a private education will continue
to be restricted to a very few, that is, to only 28,000 pupils out of 850,000.
- The Irish Independent, after the government refuses to support new private schools (Oct'07)
The impact of college
fees is borne not by the very rich or the very poor, but mostly the ones
in the middle. The rich will pay and go to university anyway, and for the
moment, grant schemes are available for the under-privileged.
- Celine Naughton, "The Irish Independent" (Aug'08)
and third-level students yesterday attacked Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe
over his "phantom" figures for fees. They rounded on the minister for releasing
inflated figures showing the potential yield from fees to be four times
higher than realistic estimates. Mr O'Keeffe used the figures as part of
his campaign to reintroduce college fees, but the economist who did the
sums for him subsequently admitted he got it wrong. Instead of yielding
between €220m-€530m a year, the amounts involved would be between
€55m and €135m, depending on the family income threshold used,
according to University College Cork (UCC) economist Dr Noel Woods.
- Seen in The Irish Independent (Sept'08)
Ill-health is to modern,
secular societies what sin was to older, religious ones. Whereas the Catholic
church used to warn against the wages of sin, the state warns against the
wages of smoking, unprotected sex and excessive drinking. The church said
sin was bad for you. The state says unhealthy habits are bad for you. The
switch from the old obsession with sin to the new obsession with health
turns ministers such as Martin and Michael Woods, the education minister,
into our bishops. The odd thing is that it is often the people most in
favour of such campaigns who happily kicked over the old moral restraints
which made kids wait until they were older before becoming sexually active,
drinking or smoking. I mean those on the left — it was the left which led
the rebellion against the old moral restraints, and the left which is now
in favour of the nanny state.
- David Quinn, "The Sunday Times"
Ireland needs a new
social revolution. We need to rebalance the scales and return childhood
and adolescence roughly to where they were in the 1970s. The beauty of
that Ireland (leaving aside the awful economy) is that it was nicely poised
between the old authoritarianism and the frequently wild permissiveness
we've got today. In the 1970s, we still lived more or less inside the well-ordered
moral framework of Old Ireland, but that framework no longer resembled
the walls of a prison. We should thank liberals for challenging the old
authoritarianism, but having done that, they didn't know when to stop.
The result is an Ireland where drug abuse is becoming as common as alcohol
abuse, cinema ads warn young people about dangers that once hardly existed
and parents have barely a clue what to do about it.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"
What the Equality Authority
seem to seek is social control over all citizens. Mr Niall Crowley of the
Authority is the true heir of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, the Dublin
primate who virtually controlled civil society in Ireland over the span
of his reign, from 1940 to 1975. As it happens, he too was extremely concerned
with justice, the marginalised and victims, and he believed his ministrations
were helping hard cases. They often were, too. But at the cost of social
control of the majority.
- Mary Kenny, "The Irish Independent"
The influence of the
men of 1916 on today's democratic Ireland is minimal. All the things the
inheritors of 1916 believed in — economic nationalism, protectionism, isolationism
— made the country into an economic basket case and eventually had to be
scrapped. Even if you're not a great fan of the country as it presently
is, you have to acknowledge that there's been something of an economic
miracle. But the ideological godparents of the Celtic Tiger, the Progressive
Democrats and Charlie McCreevy, are nobody's ideas of oul' stock republicans.
- Eamonn Sweeney, dimissing links between 1916 and the Celtic Tiger, "The Sunday Independent"
As a historical event
of undoubted significance the 1916 Rising should be marked, but Bertie
Ahern has gone much further. He wants it to become the defining annual
event for this country and chooses it over, say, the day the Irish Free
State came into being or the day Ireland became a republic. Is that
what we really want to celebrate as the font of our national identity?
Why should Easter 1916 become our independence day?
- Alan Ruddock, "It Didn't Have To Be Like This", "The Sunday Times"
In Ireland we barely
notice when a Supreme Court candidate is appointed and rarely, if ever,
discuss trhe relative merits of the potential candidates... but the relevance
of the Supreme Court to our democracy has become ever more apparent in
recent years. Whether kicking out our laws on statutory rape, or interpreting
constitutional amendments in such a way as to contradict what was intended
by people, or determining when legal protection can be afforded to human
life, the courts are playing a role that is more properly the remit of
the Dail. Political cowardice has played a large part in bringing us to
this place — politicians run in fear of moral and social decisions — and
that cowardice has placed the courts, not the legislature, at the centre
of our lives. This is not their role. Judges cannot be expected to replace
the will of the people, and must not be expected to fill the voids left
by politicians who are too timid to legislate.
- Alan Ruddock, "Our lives in their hands and we don't know their names, "Sunday Indep."
A recent case in Canada
involved a separated father who had been granted custody of his 12-year-old
daughter. He had refused to let her go on a school trip for chatting on
websites he disapproved of, and because she had posted images of herself
online which he deemed "inappropriate". The girl objected, the lawyer appointed
to represent her interests after the parents' separation intervened, and
the father was taken to court. The court found in favour of the girl on
the basis that the punishment was too severe.
Do you think the State should have the power to quash parental decisions such as this, even if the parents have separated (what's the relevance of that?) and when they disagree about what should happen to their child? Bear in mind that this girl was neither being abused nor neglected. No fundamental rights were being violated.
In Canada, the State has now taken upon itself unprecedented power to interfere in family life for practically any reason whatsoever, and what gives it such power is the concept of a child's best interests. In the case in question, the father decided it was in the child's best interests to ground her. The court disagreed. The court decided it was in her best interests to be able to go on the school trip, and that was that.
If the concept of a child's best interests is to be inserted into our Constitution, it must be done in a way that strictly delimits the power of the State. If it is, instead, inserted in a very open-ended manner, then the way will be paved for a Canadian-type situation in which the State can overrule parents for potentially any reason. In Canada, the State, de facto, has told parents that they must raise children only in ways that find favour with the State and its officials, and if some State official disapproves of what a parent has done, the State can intervene and overrule the parents. It is tantamount to the nationalisation of children ... This is anti-freedom, anti-parent, and ultimately anti-child, because parents are the ones who know what is in their child's best interests in the vast majority of cases.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent" (Sep'08)
Why does the state
make it a criminal offence for citizens not to pay RTE to broadcast 'The
Show Twink Special'? If it's necessary for the state to own a TV station then why isn't it necessary for it to own a newspaper?
- Open Republic Policy Watch, on the delights of the TV licence fee
"There seems to be
an assumption that any right thinking reporter (in Ireland) must be anti-Israeli,
pro-Palestinian and anti-capitalist, must believe that there is always somebody to blame and that Sinn
Fein should be treated like any other party."
- Eoghan Harris
"If I told you that
Ned Kelly died because a platform gave way beneath him, it would be factually
true, but you would wrongly conclude that it was an accident. If I added
that he had a rope around his neck at the time, you would correctly conclude
that he had been hanged. CP Scott of 'The Guardian' said facts were sacred
and comment was free. The reverse is true. Facts can be fitted to almost
any agenda. For anything near the truth we not only need all the facts,
but we need the facts fitted into their proper place. And that means a
narrator without an agenda. No such neutered political animal exists."
- Eoghan Harris
"Prejudice comes long
before it is time to balance anything. It comes from choice of subject
and angle of attack, and deficiencies cannot bre remedied by a belated
numerical balancing... The bias is built in long before the camera rolls.
Like a second skin a liberal view is the norm and is only noted when absent.
These shared liberal assumptions are not likely to be challenged by anybody
who works for the BBC or RTE."
- Eoghan Harris, in "The Sunday Indo"
"The camera cannot
lie. But it can be an accessory to untruth."
- Harold Evans
"People always believe
they have to deliver secret documents to journalists in carparks."
- Sam Smyth, "The Irish Independent"
"I don’t mind being
the token right-wing madman at The Irish Times."
- Mark Steyn
"'Prime Time' interviewers
appear to have learned their interviewing techniques from the Soviet Union
school of political interrogation. Without bullwhips and electric shocks however, this approach rarely
leads to significant revelations... but that is the 'Prime Time' style."
- Peter Howick, after Carol Coleman hectors her way through an interview with George Bush
Sean Treacy TD added
that he abhorred radio programmes "where people can telephone anonymously
and make allegations and statements but nobody knows who they are".
Mr Treacy quoted "a famous Irishman" (Todd Andrews) who was chairman of
CIE and subsequently RTE, and was asked a question on his retirement about
the difference between the two organisations. "He said, 'Regretfully, I
think the latter (RTE) carries more passengers'."
- The Irish Independent, on criticism of RTE (Oct'08)
Once upon a time, RTE
set up a television channel called RTE2, which seemed like a logical name
for a second channel. Then, in an effort to give it a different, supposedly
younger, kind of identity, they rechristended it Network 2, and no one
understood either the name change or its purpose. Now, a couple of decades
and much expensive soul-searching later, it's been rebranded as RTE2 once
more and your guess is as good as min eas to what that's all about.
- John Boland, "TV Review" in "The Irish Independent"
The truth is that no
sane traveller is prepared to pay over the odds for a single air ticket
to save Aer Lingus. The truth is also that hardly a single Irish citizen
is ready to sink his hard earned savings to buy shares in the airline.
Patriotism starts in our hearts and ends in our pockets.
- Senator Shane Ross, "The Irish Independent"
Irish prices are about
10% higher than the average for the richer euro members. Prices in Ireland
could be significantly lower only if a significant section of the population
had missed out on the income growth enjoyed by the rest. I suspect that
higher prices are an inevitable adjustment to the peculiar nature of the
economy and the peculiar trade-weighted value of the euro for Ireland,
which trades heavily in sterling and dollars.
- Brendan Keenan, writing in the "Sunday Independent"
The power of low interest
rates can be almost incredible, especially in an economy with competitive
and deregulated financial markets. For example, the reduction in real long-term
interest rates from about 6 per cent in 1992 to 1 per cent today can be
shown to be arithmetically sufficient to account for essentially all of
the increase in house prices in the past decade, even without considering
the gains in personal incomes and the improvements in economic growth during
this period. While it may seem odd that people’s prosperity should depend
more on the assets they own than on the work they do, this has been true
of almost all societies throughout 5,000 years of recorded history, whereas
the system we live in is a 200-year-old aberration.
- Anatole Kaletsky, "The Times"
When the decision was
taken back in 1999 to hand control of interest rates to the mandarins in
the European Central Bank, Ireland surrendered the most potent weapon with
which to control credit growth, house price inflation and general inflation
in the economy. Effectively, prayer became the key policy instrument of
the Irish Central Bank. The prayers have clearly been ignored to date.
The only thing the Central Bank can now do is try to scare people into
becoming more cautious in their house-buying behaviour.
- Jim Power, "Prayer is the Best Housing Policy We've Got", "Sunday Independent"
If a Martian economist
landed in Ireland, he'd see straight away that Ireland is caught in a currency
arrangement which will make our recession much deeper than necessary. This
is an economic fact, not a political slogan. The euro is now part of the
problem, not part of the solution. In economic history, no sovereign country
has faced a property downturn, inspired by a ridiculous credit binge, resulting
in such huge personal debts without devaluing its currency. Look at what
is happening in the UK and the US. Both countries find themselves in the
same bind as we do. They thought that they could get rich by buying and
selling houses to each other using other people's money. Once this ponzi
scheme has been revealed, they let their currency fall. This allows them
to recharge their exporting sector, making it more competitive and, more
significantly, it gives them the opportunity to inflate their debts away.
Ireland, in contrast, is trying to fight its way out of a recession without any macroeconomic policy. This is political suicide. We find ourselves in the bizarre situation where we can't reflate our economy either by printing money or by borrowing.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Independent" (Jun'08)
The Taoiseach yesterday
confirmed that the Government would breach EU spending guidelines this
year and next -- but refused to spell out what it might mean for the Budget
and take-home pay. Mr Cowen effectively confirmed Finance Minister Brian
Lenihan's suggestion that Ireland will skate past the 3pc economic limit
for borrowing in 2008, and do so again in 2009... But he said Ireland would
only consider exceeding budgetary ceilings with the sanction of the EU
Commission -- and as an exceptional measure to cope with mounting economic
- An article in The Irish Independent prompts the question 'who governs Ireland?'
There was very little
sign of a free market in the development of Dublin's sprawl. Instead, there
was the usual petty political (and probably financial) corruption, as the
key resource of zoned land was handed out by politicians to where it would
generate most profit for the well-connected. It is intriguing to think
how a real market might work. Instead of councillors deciding which land
should be re-zoned, on the basis of goodness knows what, zonings would
be sold to the highest bidder. The Government would collect the revenues
on behalf of the public, and builders and developers would pay on the basis
of what they thought they could sell. One suspects there would be a good
deal less sprawl and a lot more high-density dwellings in urban centres
if the market worked more like that. It would evoke cries of horror from
the proponents of planning, Danish or otherwise. But since we have now
gone 40 years without any real planning, it might be better than what we
- Brendan Keenan, "The Sunday Independent"
The government has
been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the booming property market, with
almost half the cost of new homes going on taxes. New figures show the
taxman takes 45% of the purchase price of an average new home in Dublin
by imposing nine different levies on builders and buyers. The extent to
which property is taxed means that the government has benefited enormously
from runaway house prices even as ministers have agonised over first-time
buyers being priced out of the market
- Siobhan Maguire, "The Sunday Times"
"It is not a tax on
ownership, wealth or income and, at 9pc, has closed down the secondary
- UCD Economist Colm McCarthy, urging the abolish of the 'daft' stamp duty
There is a credit crunch.
On one side, the banks, who caused this mess with tehir sub-prime packages,
sold to each other to targets could be reached and bonuses received, are
now squeezing us, the b******s. On the other, the Government is crucifying
us: the level of stamp duty remains a huge inhibitor to economic activity.
The European Central Bank — a faceless bureaucracy, like most power bases
in Europe — is, meanwhile, relentlessly hiking up interest rates. The ECB
is refusing to cut interest rates because, it says, it wants to control
inflation. But inflation is sky-rocketing anyway. Go figure... When we
complain about inflation, the new Minister for Finance, in a breath-taking
display of arrogance, tells is not to 'whinge'; such arrogance is reminiscent
of his immediate predecessor, new Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who stubbornly
refused to properly reform stamp duty when he should have, because he knew
best. Meanwhile, my sole asset is losing me €30,000 a month.
- Jody Corcoran, "Sunday Ind." (Jun'08)
Ireland is now in recession
with the economy likely to contract for the first time since the 1980s
this year. The slowdown will force the Government to take the tough decisions
on public spending and public sector reform that it has ducked for the
past 11 years... In the boom years the Government became totally hooked
on housing taxes, stamp duty and VAT on new houses, capitals gains tax
and corporation tax paid by builders and the PAYE and PRSI paid by buildings
workers... By late 2006 it accounted for 23% of total economic output.
The construction sector was estimated to be generating over €9bn in
revenue, about a fifth of total tax take... From a high of over 90,000
new houses and apartments in 2006, new housing output will fall to under
50,000 this year and just 30,000 next year... Tight control over public
spending is one of the few levers left to this Government to pull us out
of recession. Unlike in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the 1986 and 1993
devaluations helped restore our economic competitiveness, our membership
of the euro means that we can now no longer resort to a cheaper currency
to get us out of a hole. Public sector workers have enjoyed the fat years,
now they must make sacrifices in the lean years.
- Dan White, "The Evening Herald" (Jun'08)
The trade unions representing
the public sector have become so powerful, after 20 years of politically
expedient capitulation on the part of the Government through social partnership,
that the rights of the few now supercede the rights of the many. It's socialism
without a social conscience, putting workers' rights ahead of society's
need for health, transport or any other essential service. The public sector
is now run for the benefit of the vested interests within it and not for
the benefit of the people.
Furthermore, permanent staff within the public sector, enjoy such good pay, conditions and pension rights (they earn on average 42 per cent more than their equivalent in the private sector) that the expense of hiring additional permanent staff is prohibitive. This results in huge numbers of public sector workers being hired on temporary contracts only, without any hope of a permanent position.
Ironically the unions did such a good job of securing massive benefits for existing permanent employees that they managed to preclude permanency of employment for many other ordinary workers. A permanent public sector job now is like membership of an exclusive club where you get more perks than everyone else. It has also resulted in cobbled-together public services, such as health, where co-location of public and private hospitals is seen as a way of circumventing the quagmire of expanding the public hospital system.
Rather than facing down the unions in their attempt to control what kind of a public service we receive, the Government has repeatedly taken the route of appeasement disguised as consensus. We've a long collective memory when it comes to poverty and oppression so it's easy to identify with workers -- we're all workers of some kind. But it's time we shook off this post-colonial mind set and realised there's no external power here to put one over on. Irish workers are no longer downtrodden, and it's we alone who are footing the bill for all this largesse.
- Ciara Kelly, "The Price of Union Power", "Sunday Ind."
Trade and Commerce
Minister John McGuinness has called for a vast programme of redundancies
to be implemented immediately right across the civil service and the state
sector. He described the public service as "now so protected by its unions
that it has largely become a reactionary, inert mass at the centre of our
economy. There can be no equality in a country where a significant number
of those who spend public money enjoy wages and conditions far more favourable
than those who create the wealth of this country, protected by unions whose
own self-interest is best served by keeping their members in golden cages,
refusing to pull aside the blanket of protectionism."
He said that the public service culture "destroys ambition, resists change and is now so insulated from reality that information can be withheld from a minister, unfavourable reports are doctored and answers to parliamentary questions that come too close to the bone are masterclasses in dissemination and obfuscation which can deny our TDs the information they need to get to the heart of a matter... I am particularly concerned that the public service continues to employ more and more people who are almost impossible to let go and who will, in due course, be getting inflation-proof salaries and pensions. In today's world this is madness if it was ever sensible."
He claimed that over the last number of years far too much power had been handed to virtually unaccountable bodies of one sort or another: "I am tired of committees with big names and small achievements... Elites have grown up, some of which believe themselves to be beyond political influence ... and maybe even above political control."
- seen in "The Sunday Ind." (Sept'08)
I sincerely believe
that in this recession simple patriotism dictates that public sector employees
have no moral right to an increase while private sector workers, who neither
enjoy the same job protection nor pension rights, struggle to survive.
But while every political party knows that public sector pay should be
frozen at this point, only an all-party agreement can deliver this essential
reform. That's because every political party is petrified by the prospect
of belling the public sector fat cat.
- Senator Eoghan Harris, "Sunday Ind." (Jul'08)
Trade unions, who are
now largely confined to the public sector, expect the rest of us to put
our jobs on the line to defend their privileged existence. What planet
are these guys on? The number of people signing on the live register has
jumped by a massive 64,000 over the past year. How many of these workers
losing their jobs were from the public sector? The answer to that one is
a big fat zero.
- Dan White, "The Everning Herald" (Aug'08)
- Average annual wage of Dublin City Council employees (see in Irish Ind.)
PAYE workers in the
private sector will be fascinated to learn about the bonuses paid to public
servants, courtesy of the Committee for Performance Awards. Many will first
need to have the very concept of a performance-related bonus explained
to them, never mind the peculiarly Irish system of awarding it. For an
increasing number of people, the bonus for exceptional performance is that
they get to keep their jobs. Unaccountable, unanswerable and unquestionable
were the words chosen by the Mayor of Galway yesterday. The mayor was indignant
at the awarding of almost €70,000 in performance-related bonuses to
six local authority managers in a year which saw a water crisis cripple
the local tourism industry. No doubt their exceptional performances lay
in other areas.
The performance-related bonus is a small part of a complex public service pay system, which is a labyrinth of benchmarking pay increases, national awards, annual increments, special rises and those bonuses. The bonuses are largely based on civil servants' own assessment of their work and how effectively they achieved targets set for them. The Committee for Performance Awards oversees the scheme. The bonuses are supposed to be based on accountability and on performance related to "demanding targets". However, since there appears to be one for just about every member of the audience, there must be some doubt as to whether everyone has earned theirs. Is it a coincidence that the public sector pay bill has ballooned by almost 90pc in the past seven years?
- Leader in The Irish Independent (Sep'08)
There are calls for
enshrining housing rights in the Constitution. Give me a break. Anything
that is too expensive we can just enshrine ownership or use in the constitution
and all will be well. But thing don't work like that. The last time this
was tried was the Societ Union and look what happened there.
- James Young, "The Irish Independent"
"Nobody in Ireland
will be happy until everybody is better off than everybody else."
- John B. Keane
Lofty principles are
alright when you are young and have no possessions. Then you get a house
and a car and a family and a mortgage and you find that your money is going
to pay for a lot of things for other people, while you struggle by, from
month to month... but the poverty industry is never grateful. Because I
earn more than some people, because I get up on a Monday morning, despite
the hangover, and make sure the kids go to school, the poverty industry
regards me as colluding in 'social exclusion'. The poverty industry, including
St Vincent de Paul, want to conspire with the Government to take money
that's not needed, from people who have better things to do with it.
- Liam Collins, "Sunday Ind."
Charity does not begin
at home. It begins where it is needed most, where real poverty exists and
this is not in Ireland today.
- John O'Keefe, "Sunday Ind."
The country, we keep
hearing, is awash with money. Every two-bit commentator and poverty advocate
is saying, unchallenged, that the country is awash with cash. We should
wave a wand, they say, and solve every social ill. People are even thinking
that we should be able to solve social ills that every society throughout
the course of history has failed to remedy... everything is vital and everything
is justifiable on the grounds that it will cost less than the money wasted
on e-voting machines or whatever. It doesn't matter how much a lobby group
demands so long as they can show that somebody in government once wasted
a bigger sum... And, of course, we're taking on more and more civil servants.
The State will expand to fill whatever resources are available to them.
Let's hope it stays fine for us. If the Government has so much money that
it has to think up ways of spending it, then how come we don't? I'm not
awash with cash. Are you? I don't have enourmous budget supluses every
year. Do you?
- Brendaon O'Connor, "Sunday Ind.", writing after Budget'06
"70 years of dingbat
economics dressed up as sovereignty."
- David McWilliams, on post-independence Ireland
No one has a monopoly
on compassion and social conscience. Those of us who have driven Ireland's
success — from within or without the political system — have accomplished
more in terms of real, tangible social justice than all the high-minded
incompetence of the 1973-87 period. There is absolutely no political morality
in well-intentioned failure.
- Michael McDowell
In a sign of how many
on the left have recognized the power of free enterprise, SIPTU has threatened
a strike at supermarket and wholesale giant, BWG, to demand not higher
wages or better working conditions, but to acquire shares in the company...
To date, Union leaders have not commented on their retreat from a long-held
ideological position that condemned "exploitative" capitalist enterprises
while advocating widespread nationalisation of private industry.
- The Open Republic, "Unions demand to become Capitalists"
Once upon a time, there
was an IDA-backed Dutch shipyard called Verolme in Cork, which essentially
depended on state subsidies and state orders to survive. Workers to the
shipyard used to travel by train from Cork. But there were never enough
seats on the train for all the workers to sit down. So not merely did the
Verolme workers go on strike in their state-subsidised shipyard because
their state-subsidised railway service didn't provide enough state-subsidised
seats in their state-subsidised carriages, but the unions also picketed
the home of the state-subsidised head of the railway. Where is Verolme
now? Finished. This is state employment, by state rules, in which state
services are run for the benefit of their employees... Consequence. It
all comes down to consequence in life, in all we do and all we don't do.
If we believe that there are not consequences for irresponsible acts, that's
what we'll do -- perform irresponsible acts, not least because the human
spirit is full of the instinct for complaint; and if we know that we shan't
be expected to pay the price, then chaos occurs.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
Socialism was always
a crappy philosophy based on the stupid idea that we couldn't allow anybody
to succeed in life becacause if would make the rest of us feel like failures.
Good riddance to that.
- Marc Coleman, urging a new approach for the left in "The Sunday Indo"
The left must ditch
its attachment to the trade union movement... sking hard-working working
class families to pay exorbitant taxes to fund a pampered and unreformed
public sector is no longer acceptable... Benchmarking pay awards are taking
money from those on lower incomes and giving it to those on higher incomes.
Where it should be condemning them, the left's links with the trade union
movement force it to praise them.
- Marc Colemen, "The Sunday Indo"
There are many worse
things in the world than buying and selling for a profit. As Ruairi Quinn
rightly reminded us on Prime Time, there are many good sides to globalisation,
which, of course, is only another name for the capitalism which feeds us,
clothes us and sends our children to school.
- Eoghan Harris
"Cutting taxes is always
magic to stimulate an economy. The latest example is very clear - Ireland
was known as a dead country. It was a saying, at least 10 years ago, that
everybody in Ireland that had get up and go had already got up and left.
That was fairly true. Then the government came in and cut taxes, cut them
down to about half. Now Ireland is flooded with Europeans, people want
to move there, people want citizenship there."
- Sir John Templeton
"Chief in opposing
deregulation is the state sector, whose unions affect concern for the less
well off. But our state sector and its trades unions have never had an
informed concern about poverty and unemployment. During the 1980s, these
groups caused, and then presided over, levels of unemployment and poverty
that dwarfed anything seen in Thatcher’s Britain. At that time the Irish
governing elite grown corrupt behind a highly regulated economy seized
every opportunity to lecture our dwindling young population about the ‘extremism’
of the Thatcher and Reagan reforms. The irony that they did this, whilst
waving good bye even to their own children emigrating to work in Thatcher’s
Britain and Reagan’s America, still remains entirely lost on them.
We had a blood transfusion service that killed quite a few people. Because senior public sector officials are unaccountable no one was prosecuted or punished. Extreme or what? Imagine the outcry and consequences if the BTSB had been a private, profit-making organisation."
- Paul MacDonnell, "Open Republic Institute of Ireland"
"With the Independent
Radio and Television Commission's recent crazy decision to liberalise radio
ownership still further, along lines that even Milton Friedman might find
a little too untrammelled, there would be no shortage of station owners
keen to add 2FM or Lyric to their portfolios."
- Michael Ross, Radio Review, "The Sunday Times"
"The Minister is asking
industry to accept for no good reason he has given and against the wishes
of industry, the possibility that fines, originally of £100,000 but
now proposed to be reduced to £50,000, can be imposed for the crime
of charging too little, not too much, for air freight. It was intended
that two years in jail would also be imposed but in a ministerial amendment
it is intended to drop that. Therefore nobody will get two years in jail
for charging too much for air freight, but a person can be fined £50,000."
- Desmond O'Malley TD, leading revolt against Air Transport Bill in the Dail (1984)
"Twenty-one years ago,
on June 27, 1984, a rare event took place in Dail Eireann. A deputy speaking
from the heart and with great sincerity secured the support of the House
to stop the Air Transport Bill passing all stages in two days. The purpose
of the Bill was to imprison, fine and deprive of their travel agent's licence
persons selling air tickets for less than the Minister for Transport wished.
The deputy who made the speech was Des O'Malley then an independent. His
passion on the day persuaded both the Fine Gael/Labour government of the
day and many speakers on the Fianna Fail opposition benches not to allow
the Bill to pass. Less than 2 years later on May 23, 1986 the policies
advocated so eloquently on that day by Des O'Malley bore fruit when Ryanair
opened its Dublin-London service. Fares fell by 54% on the first day of
deregulation, from the old £208 fare to £94.99. Today's value
of the prederegulation air fare is €500 and the average fare charged
today is €30 oneway plus charges. Airline deregulation made every
business in Ireland, an outer offshore island, more competitive. Tourism,
stuck at 2m visitors since the 1960s, grew faster than any other tourist
sector in the OECD to over 7m visitors. New hotels sprung up, over 50 in
Dublin alone. Tourism today employs more people than in either Irish or
foreign owned manufacturing. In my opinion it is no exaggeration to say
that the Celtic Tiger economy we now know was born on that day in Leinster
- Dr. Sean Barrett, speech to Progressive Democrats conference about airline regulation
"Ryanair is the Manchester
Unuted of the European airline industry. Aer Lingus is much more like Shamrock
Rovers. It used to be big in Ireland in the 50s and 60s, it's coloured
green, but frankly they don't have any home, they haven't won much in recent
years and they continue to cut back and dwindle."
- Michael O'Leary, before an Oireachtas committee (Dec'08)
A hybrid between the
British parliamentary system, and the Civil War in a civilised form...
Our political system has served us not well, but badly. It works when times
are good: but in such times, you don't need government at all. It is when
times are bad that you need government -- one that is strong and wise and
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
"Fifteen people who
wouldn't know how to buy a LUAS ticket... To borrow from Garret Fitzgerald,
they know about the recession in theory but not in practice."
- John Drennan, about the Cabinet, on "The Panel"
If I saw Mr Haughey
buried at midnight at a crossroads, with a stake driven through his heart
— politically speaking — I should continue to wear a clove of garlic around
my neck, just in case.
- Conor Cruise O'Brien, writing in "The Observer" in October 1982
"You know, I have a
theory about Charlie Haughey. If you give him enough rope, he'll hang you."
- Leo Enright
bizarre and unprecedented."
- Charles Haughey, then Taoiseach, describing the MacArthur murder case (1982)
"People can now produce
evidence to justify their cynicism and their low opinion of politicians."
- George Colley, FF TD, on the actions of the 1982 Haughey-led FF government
The things that happen
to people are like the people they happen to.
- Editorial in "The Irish Times" (1982)
"An Irish solution
to an Irish problem."
- Charles Haughey, introducing family planning bill to quasi-legalise contraception
"While he was telling
us to tighten our belts he was loosening his."
- Mick Rafferty, on Haughey's "living beyond our means" era
A Patriot for Me.
- Headline of Sunday Independent leader following Haughey's death
Where Mr Haughey did
stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries was in his corrosive
influence on the body politic. He didn’t invent political corruption but
he institutionalised it in this country. His dependence on wealthy benefactors,
his embezzlement, his offshore accounts, his tax evasion and his perjury
did immediate and long-term damage to politics. Mr Haughey was convicted
of no crime and, on occasion, did the state some service. He was, therefore,
entitled to a state funeral. However, he is not entitled to have the truth
about his misdeeds expunged from the record.
- Editorial from The Sunday Times
"There were four times
when he had to make an appointment. His wife, his brother, his son and
his daughter were employed. TDs often have their wives, sons and daughters
but the question is if you're a government minister, is it appropriate
that you should appoint your family members to these positions?"
- Fergus O'Dowd (FG) criticising Michael Finneran (FF)
"An increasing individualisation
of society, with its accompanying erosion of a sense of community and commonality,
weakens the capacity (and desire) for effective protest".
- One political analyst's view of voter 'apathy'
Alan Dukes: Not the
kind of man to pet baby seals.
- John Drennan, "The Irish Independent"
"Cunning is almost
a core value of Fianna Fail."
- Peter Howick, "The Evening Herald"
"In normal life, you
get gifts from friends and loans from strangers. Yet Mr Ahern got loans
from his friends and gifts from strangers."
- Pat Rabbitte on 'Bertiegate' in the Dail
"He is the evil of
- Michael McDowell describes Gay Mitchell in comparison to his brother Jim
"He called me Ceaucescu
but I didn't jump up looking for an apology."
- Bertie Ahern, commenting after McDowell compares Richard Bruton with Dr Goebbels
"Michael! You've been
invoking 20th century despots again, haven't you?"
- Tom Halliday in the Independent imagines Mary Harney's reaction to the 'Goebbels' quote
"The direction of his
life has been established since conception, and before that. It is the
path of the
'noblesse oblige', where a man actually takes a substansial cut in wages, in order to run the country on
behalf of those who are incapable or undesirable."
- Declan Lynch, with a wry look at Michael McDowell, "The Irish Independent"
- Headline after rumours of PD leadership contest
"You are paid to emote,
I am paid to think."
- Moore McDowell, economist, to Joe Duffy, radio broadcaster
What most people believe
can't be the basis for law, or we'd have the awful prospect of being ruled
by Liveline listeners.
- Eilis O'Hanlon, "The Sunday Independent"
Her preference for
"Boston" over "Berlin", the American model over the European, has often
been mocked. But those who derided it have not met the challenge to set
against her argument a counter-argument at a similar intellectual level.
- The Irish Independent, following Mary Harney's resignation as PD leader
"The worst day in Government
is still better than the best day in opposition."
- Mary Harney, with some advice for fellow coalition leader John Gormley (Oct'08)
Whatever his portfolio,
Charlie McCreevy will perform outstandingly. The EU will be a better place
a result. The same cannot be said for the country he is leaving to the tender mercies of his party
- Moore McDowell, "The Irish Independent"
The Labour party has
never forgiven Charlie McCreevy for halving the capital gains tax rate
from 40% to 20%. The fact that this reduction in the rate trebled the yield
only compounded the offence in Labour's eyes. How dare the Minister for
Finance demonstrate the phoney nature of Labour's envy-driven ideology?
- Dan White, "The Evening Herald"
"You are better than
no one, but no one is better than you."
- Charlie McCreevy's motto
Micheal Martin's greatest
achievement in Health is to have Charlie McCreevy blamed for its failures.
- Sam Smyth, "The Irish Independent"
rather than solving them."
- Enda Kenny, on the government's handling of the public sector (Dec'06)
"He who wields the
knife never wears the crown." Let us hope the old adage applies to the
ambitions of John Deasy and Damien English... Naturally there is nothing
wrong with young men being ambitious — provided they have what it takes
to be leader. And these two do not.
- Eoghan Harris, on attempts to unsettle FG leader Enda Kenny, "Sunday Independent"
Willie Is Gonna Get
- Slogan on t-shirts with photo of Defence Minister Willie O'Dea pointing gun at photographer
As the rest of the
Cabinet jets off to the four corners of the globe, the country is effectively
now being run by our indefatigable Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea.
Anyone planning a military coup this weekend should be warned that they'll
first have to get past a small man with a Limerick accent and some rather
striking facial hair. In such an image-conscious age, it takes a brave
man to sport an upper lip that's practically begging for snide remarks
about Groucho Marx.
- Andrew Lynch, writing on St Patrick's Day 2006, "Evening Herald"
With the state of the
Oireachtas, no sane person with any vision or national ambition would want
to be a TD, spending their time alternately stabbing backs and kissing
backsides in a perpetual struggle to hold onto the seat.
- Gene Kerrigan, "The Sunday Independent"
"You promise you will
spend a pound; then, you tell them you are spending it; finally, you tell
them you did spend it. That way, you get to spend every pound three times."
- Donogh O'Malley, former Fianna Fail Cabinet Minister.
"Being at a public
poll is like being at your own post-mortem without the anaesthetic."
- Ruairi Quinn, on the stress of election counts
Q: How many cabinet
ministers does it take to launch a Metro?
A: Five, but only when there's an election in the offing...
- From "The Irish Independent"
Charlie McCreevy once
famously said he knew about 25pc of what Bertie Ahern was about and added
that that was about 24pc more than anybody else.
- seen in "The Irish Independent"
We've had one Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, who couldn't tell the truth, one, Garret Fitzgerald, who couldn't tell a lie, and now Bertie Ahern, who can't tell the difference.
# GENERAL ELECTION (2007)
The terrifying thought
is of Fianna Fail always being in government... Dealmaking is what the
party does best, especially with other people's money.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
Fianna Fail got 78
seats. You know how many they got in 1981? 77. In 1989? 77. In 1997. 77.
This time they got, in other words, more or less what they've always got.
Plus one... Economic conditions and social change haven't changed a thing.
- Eamonn Sweeney, "The Sunday Independent"
The portents for the
next administration are not good. The voters have delivered a decisive
rejection of both left and right, and have rewarded blandness and consensus
over reform. Inept ministers have — as always — been rewarded with poll-topping
performances. Only Michael McDowell has suffered the indignity of losing
his seat while serving as a frontline minister... Let the horse-trading
begin, and let the economy beware.
- Alan Ruddock, "Sunday Ind."
An internal Fianna
Fail document suggests that because of the blanket coverage of the payments
to Bertie Ahern for nearly three weeks at the beginning of the campaign,
the oppsition couldn't get their message across. And that, ironically,
helped FF in the final days before polling... The document concludes with
the belief that FF would win "because Bertie destroyed Enda Kenny's 'contract'
(in the debate) and the press coverage at the front end of the campaign
sucked all the oxygen out of the room."
- Sam Smyth, on how the tribunal leaks hurt FG more than FF, "Irish Ind."
Fianna Fail is effectively
'outsourcing' government departments to the Greens and PDs under a rigidly
enforced programme for government. This distances Fianna Fail from unpopular
or controversial policies and decisions, such as hospital co-location or
hard environmental or energy choices.
- Sam Smyth, "Irish Ind."
The Green Party in
government may be good for the country, but paradoxically, could be a disaster
for the party itself. Fianna Fail is the praying mantis of Irish politics
you see... Expect Fianna Fail to turn a new shade of green as the colour
drains from its junior partner.
- Matt Cooper, "The Sunday Times"
"If we were to be part
of a new government, it would be a new government in the sense that it
would be perceived to be different and doing different things."
- Dan Boyle, after the Green party's about turn on Fianna Fail
"I love my country
and am ambitious for it."
- Michael McDowell, bowing out after losing his seat
Michael McDowell was
determined to defend the integrity of the State and the rule of law from
terrorist subversion. That job is done. The threat is largely over. He
can return to the peace and balm of the private life... It might well be
that the historic duty of the PDs is similarly over. For the past two decades,
they have provided Ireland with some of its finest and bravest servants.
More to the point, they have broken the sterile adversarial mould of Irish
political life, and challenged some of it central pieties. Imagine what
this country would have been like without Des O'Malley, Mary Harney and
Michael policing Fianna Fail, and driving forward the economic policies
of that PD-manque, Charlie McCreevy. Over time, the benign virus of PDism
has infected every major party.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"
"When history is written
it will be shown how strong he was in protecting the institutions of the
state and ensuring that the settlement of difficulties in Northern Ireland
would not, in any way, compromise what we had built up in the Republic
- Brian Lenihan, paying tribute to his predecessor Michael McDowell
The good news from
last week's election in the Irish Republic is that Sinn Féin, the
party of terrorism, bank robbery, and cop-killing, garnished with half-baked
sub-Marxist economic theories, achieved only a 0.4 percent increase in
its first-preference votes, and actually lost one of its seats in the Irish
- John Derbyshire, in America's "National Review"
The partners offering
themselves as an alternative government have a different view of their
members' relationship with the Irish people. As Conor Cruise O'Brien has
often said, Fianna Fail think they are the State. One could go on to say
of the other parties that Fine Gael wants to serve the State but do it
better; Labour wants to convert the State to greater equality; the Greens
want to clean up its water, its air and its patterns of behaviour; the
Progressive Democrats have forgotten what they used to want; and Sinn Fein
want to undermine the State and replace it with an all-Ireland 32-county
republic. There is a dividing line here for those who want to find it,
and it has voters surprisingly evenly split.
- Bruce Arnold, "The Irish Independent"
By and large, Ireland
resembles a rugby ball stood on end, with the upper class and unemployed
class at either end, and the dominant middle class like a large band around
the middle of the ball. As always, the poor are with us, but in absolute
terms they are now a minority class. Given that any able-bodied man or
woman can find work if they wish to work, Irish politics provides more
fertile soil for welfarism than for socialism. Accordingly, an Irish general
election is not an ideological choice between left and right, but between
two groups of social democrats, each of which promises to manage the economy
better than its rivals. By default, a General Election is less about how
we feel about our parties, than how we feel about ourselves — we choose
the party which most closely matches our perceptions of ourselves at that
- Eoghan Harris, "Sunday Indo"
FG, the main opposition
party, is further to the right than FF. Its only possible partners are
to FF’s left.
- Simon McGarr, on FG's pre-election strategic problem, "Tuppenceworth.ie"
"We're damned if we
do and we're damned if we don't."
- Pat Rabbite, on pre-election opposition pacts
"A place like Swords
has grown to the size of Waterford City with one dilapidated Garda station,
one library, no third-level college, no hospital."
- Trevor Sargent, Green Party TD, on lack of proper planning
"Let's call a spade
a spade: Labour are openly hostile to the private sector in health... but
patients don't care who provides the service so long as quality standards
- Mary Harney, as Minister for Health
"I'm surronded by the
Left, the Hard Left and the Leftovers."
- Michael McDowell, during his debate against Labour, Sinn Fein and Greens
"A national state of
emergency... or a third world war."
- Liz McManus, Labour Deputy Leader on the grounds for a coalition with FF (Jan'07)
The ruthless and relentless
opposition of Fianna Fail and the PDs when the most recent FG-Labour coalition
was in office still evokes bitter memories in those who served in it. FG
and Labour ministers faced a daily blitzkrieg in the Dail from 1994-97.
A robust opposition is as important to the proper working of our democracy
as an effective and accountable opposition, so there is clearly a powerful
argument to ask FF and the PDs to return to the opposing benches in the
Dail... A malfunctioning opposition reinforces the current coalition's
unspoken re-election slogan: "If you think we're bad, look what's coming
- Sam Smyth, "Elect a Better Opposition", "The Irish Independent" (Jan'07)
When Fianna Fail first
entered coalition government in 1989, it was hailed as a huge step forward
by all who claim to love and cherish democracy. Gone were the days when
Fianna Fail could enter single-party government. Gone were the days of
its pre-eminence. It was a sign of this once mighty party's perhaps terminal
decline... In fact, the day Fianna Fail, led by Charles Haughey, entered
coalition government was not good for democracy, as some believed — it
was very bad because it was now obscenely difficult to remove Fianna Fail
from power. Since the first Fianna Fail coalition government, Fine Gael
hasn't been on the winning side in a single election.
- David Quinn, "The Irish Independent" (Jan'07)
# GENERAL ELECTION (2002)
"In the battle between
Establishment and anti-Establishment, there was simply no room for the
return of an old Establishment. If you were prepared to accept things as
they are, the logic was to vote for Fianna Fáil. If you felt angry
and excluded, the return of familiar 50-something figures from the past
was merely irrelevant."
- Fintan O'Toole analyses the 2002 Election result, "The Irish Times"
"This is the first
time that the opposition has been voted out of office."
- Charlie McCreevy describes Fine Gael's disastrous performance
"According to the cliche,
oppositions do not win elections: governments lose them. True, but not
the whole truth. Oppositions can win elections... for the incumbent government."
- Moore McDowell, "The Irish Independent"
"Fine Gael promised
that the next time it was in government it would do all the stuff it has
never done when it was in government."
- John Drennan, "The Sunday Independent"
The most original and
the most concrete vision of the future since John Lennon's 'Imagine'.
- Brendan O'Connor sums up Labour's '6 Pledges', "The Irish Independent"
# NORTHERN IRELAND & SINN FEIN\IRA
"Ireland's hour has
copme. It came not as victory or defeat but as a shared future for all."
- Bertie Ahern, speech on peace in Northern Ireland to British parliament
"We should not and
must not forget our history. But as we gather on this famous battlefield,
it is not history that concerns us now. It is the future. In the future,
let us respect each other and our different identities."
- Last speech by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the Boyne battle site with First Minister Paisley
There is not a single
injustice in Northern Ireland that is worth the loss of a single British
soldier or a single Irish citizen either.
- James Callaghan, English Labour leader
The conflict in Ireland
has little or nothing to do with religion, other than being a handy way
of identifying which tribe you belong to. Catholics, and indeed Protestants,
are not attacked because of their religion, but because they belong to
the enemy tribe. The conflict is over territory. We nationalists see the
unionists as usurpers of our ancient tribal territory. Unionist violence
against nationalists is motivated, not by religious bigotry, but by an
instinctive primeval fear of being subsumed.
- from a letter to the Sunday Times
Hardly any NI Protestants
favour Irish unity but most (72%) said they would accept it if a majority
of people in Northern Ireland voted to end partition. However, a substantial
proportion — one in four — said they would find a united Ireland “almost
impossible to accept” even if people voted for it. Just more than half
of northern Catholics (60%) think of themselves as Irish and a still smaller
proportion, 52%, said they were nationalist. Yet just 38% favour Irish
unity over a range of other options. Nearly as many Catholics (32%) wanted
to remain in the UK while 13% would prefer an independent Ulster. Only
3% said they would find it “almost impossible to accept” if Irish unity
- Liam Clarke, commenting on a recent NI poll, "The Sunday Times"
Sinn Fein supporters
are more prejudiced against gays and immigrants than other voters, a new
study says. Gerry Adams' party is not right-wing but has similarities with
far right parties, like the British BNP and Jean Marie Le Pen's French
National Front, the research by a political expert says. The beliefs of
the party are not all shared by its supporters, Dr Eoin O'Malley concludes.
Sinn Fein has a radical left-wing social agenda but its supporters tend
to be more conservative. It is a radical nationalist and populist party
but is "at odds with its supporters except on the national question", the
lecturer from the School of Law and Government at DCU says. "The more likely
you are to vote for Sinn Fein, the more intolerant you are," he said.
- Fionnan Sheahan, "The Irish Independent"
"So do you actually
do the killing yourself or do you just do the PR for it?"
- Pj O'Rourke, on Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.
"Sinn Fein warns that
enforcement of the law could jeopardise the peace process."
- EvilGerald.Com takes a typically irreverent look at the peace process
Sinn Féin welcomed
comments by PSNI acknowledging problems with use of plastic bullets...
suggests real bullets more effective.
- An "Online.ie" headline suggests an obvious response
"British Army bomb
disposal squads who attempt to defuse car bombs early and before areas
are properly evacuated will be responsible for endangering civilian lives."
- IRA statement (1988)
"The failure by Gerry
Adams to mention his IRA service in his memoirs is equivalent to a biography
of Field Marshall Montgomery that leaves out the British Army."
- Roy Foster, "The Irish Story"
There's a lesson there
in the reformability of terrorists. The IRA's first instinct is to kill.
If you complain about the killing, they offer to kill the killers. If you
complain about the manner of the killing, they offer to kill more tastefully
- "compassionate terrorism", as it were.
Because they no longer have to engage in the costly and time-consuming business of waging war against the British Army, they've been free to convert themselves into the emerald isle's answer to the Russian Mafia. They recently pulled off the biggest bank heist in British history - snaffling just shy of 50 million bucks from the vaults of Ulster's Northern Bank. What do they need that money for? Well, it helps them fund their real objective: the takeover of southern Ireland.
So this March 17 the president is merely following the logic of his own post-9/11 analysis. St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. The least Bush can do is chase them out of the White House
- Mark Steyn, "The Irish Front", "Chicago Sun Times"
Why, when Martin McGuinness
was interviewed on radio yesterday, could he not bring himself to say that
the Northern Bank robbery was a crime, but that instead it represented
"criminality"? That law is for the rest of us. Sinn Fein and their supporters
rightly demand justice for themselves, for Pat Finucane and for those killed
on Bloody Sunday, but offer no justice whatsoever to their victims. You
can whistle for your inquiry into the murder of so-called "informants".
There seems to be no end to republican self-pity. It's in the bloody name,
after all - "Ourselves Alone". If only they were.
There isn't another mainstream party whose leaders make speeches flanked by members of their own private armies; there isn't another mainstream party whose activists carry out punishment beatings; there isn't another mainstream party whose overt political organisation is covertly interlinked with that of a secret paramilitary organisation. In a normal democracy you can expect just a little criticism for these practices. If you want to be treated like everyone else then you have to start behaving like everyone else.
- David Aaronovitch, "The Guardian"
"Was he told by phone,
or by fax, or by text message, or was he perhaps just talking to himself?"
- Jeremy Paxman, interviewing Martin McGuiness on how the IRA contacts Gerry Adams
"Do you think the people
of the North are entitled to know if a man standing for elected office
is in fact on the organising body of an organisation committed to gansterism
and bank robbery?"
- Jeremy Paxman, to Martin McGuinness, "BBC Newsnight"
"Gerry Adams threw
in a sneering comment to the effect that the banks were robbing us... this
is a party whose approach to the practical economics of funding itself
has included the use of robbery, violence, extortion, smuggling, money-laundering
and the control of drug-dealing."
- Bruce Arnold, on Sinn Fein 'economics', "The Irish Independent"
Suppose that the people
of Northern Ireland had been told, 35 years ago, that the result of hundreds
of murders and a subsequent peace process would be that the province would
be controlled by a combination of Sinn Fein/IRA and the Revd Ian Paisley.
Would they have marched towards that future with their heads held high?
And would any of the British politicians who committed themselves to resolving
the conflict have considered this the result for which they were struggling?
The people who have been destroyed in this process are the moderates, on
- Charles Moore, "The Spectator"
Tony Blair is generally
considered to have done the right thing in Northern Ireland, but the lesson
that Ulster sends out to the world is that moderate politics does not work,
and terrorism does — so long as the terrorist is wily enough to know when
to cash in his chips.
- Charles Moore, "A Truce is not Peace", "The Spectator"
Terrorism can be defeated.
The modern IRA was animated by two goals: (1) the absorption of Northern
Ireland into an all-Ireland republic; and (2) the overthrow of the southern
Irish government and its replacement by an ultra-nationalist revolutionary
regime. Neither of course has happened. The IRA lost. Of course, that’s
not quite the end of the story. The IRA lost because it lost its constituency.
The IRA drew support from three groups: angry Catholics in the north of
Ireland; militant nationalists in the south; and nostalgic donors in the
United States. The donors aren’t donating any more: New anti-terror laws
threaten them with severe consequences. Southern nationalists are no longer
so militant. A tidal wave of wealth has inundated southern Ireland, submerging
a lot of ancient quarrels. Per-capita GDP in Eire has overtaken Britain’s
— and far exceeds that of the north. The southern Irish see what it cost
West Germany to absorb the East, and a great many of them are content to
let the British underwrite the rustbelt North. As for northern Catholics,they
seem no less angry — but they are a lot better politically represented.
And if it isn’t too fanciful, I wonder if post-9/11 and the London subway
bombings, they don’t prefer to put maximum distance between their cause
and the new terrorism of the Islamic extremists.
- David Frum, "National Review"
The two curses of recent
Irish history have been poverty and violence, with poverty most acute in
the South, violence in the North. It is a great relief, and a cause for
rejoicing, to anyone who loves Ireland, that these two demons are no longer
walking about in the land. Have they been decisively vanquished, though?
Or only imprisoned, like genies in fairy-tale lamps? We must hope for the
best, but perhaps Ireland is the last place one should go looking for the
End of History.
- John Derbyshire, in America's "National Review"
"Stealing from banks
and slaying men on the streets are not the acts of freedom fighters, they
are the work of a small minority trying to hold back the forces of history
and democracy and they hurt the very people for whom they claim to fight.
Nobody can honestly claim today that the IRA are any better than an organised
crime syndicate that steals and murders for its own members' personal interestss.
There is nothing republican about the Irish Republican Army."
- John McCain, US Republican Senator, St Patrick's Day 2005
The final argument
advanced against decommissioning is that it is unrealistic to expect an
undefeated army to give up its weapons in a public way. It is said to smack
of humiliating surrender. One only has to think of international
arms reductions pacts to see that this is rubbish. When, at the end of
the cold war, the USA and the Soviet Union reciprocally reduced armaments,
the process was closely monitored and documented, with both sides boasting
of the extent of their contribution. IRA decommissioning is accompanied
by a rundown of British troop numbers, the closure of bases and changes
in policing, all of which are done publicly and touted to the press as
photo opportunities. When, for instance, the RUC was replaced by the PSNI,
television crews were invited to film the old RUC sign being taken down
at police headquarters. Troop reductions are also announced in precise
details by the army press office, who will arrange for filming. Why should
the IRA not do the same? Why should it not seek to maximise the political
benefits of destroying its weapons? Their stated reasons don’t stand up
and, if we accept that the IRA does not intend to return to war, we are
left to conclude that decommissioning was a pretext on which republicans
chose to break off negotiations to hide deeper unease about the deal.
- Liam Clarke, "The Sunday Times"
This so-called peace
process has not brought true peace, but merely conflict-in-waiting. Ten
years ago there were 21 of the absurdly named ‘peace-walls’ between Catholic
and Protestant areas in Belfast; today there are more than 60, reflecting
the sectarian divisions which the peace process has institutionalised.
- Kevin Myers, "The Spectator"
The current Sinn Fein
project is not military but intellectual: it is to decommission the real
history of the past 35 years and install a Sinn Fein-authorised account
in the popular imagination. Sinn Fein spokesmen now routinely rank the
Maze Prison alongside Auschwitz and Robben Island, a comparison simply
too obscene to deserve refutation. It is not merely politicians who must
learn the lessons of their history - so too must the media. Northern Ireland
is not East Anglia. While we promote or even tolerate lies about such a
deeply unstable place, we are preparing a fresh harvest of misery, perhaps
for a generation that is not yet born.
- Kevin Myers, "The BBC is the IRA's useful idiot", "The Telegraph"
You cannot civilise
or tame Sinn Fein-IRA. It is not possible. For bred in their bone and blood
is a uniquely barbaric ethos. Of all European political parties, perhaps
only the Nazis so successfully wove tribal myth, ancient heroes, victimhood,
violence and utter immunity from civil and criminal law into an integral
part of their identity. The peace process didn't draw the Sinn Fein movement
away from these defining toxins: quite the reverse. In the agreeable culture
of appeasement, the political antibodies that should have been combating
the spread of the republican virus failed to respond.
- Kevin Myers, "The Telegraph"
Inspired by the Watergate
example, all over the English-speaking world, young journalists got it
into their not very imaginative heads that their primary duty was to expose
corruption in government. Travel back 25 years and ask a journalist whether
he would prefer a scoop either into secret killings and burials by the
IRA, or into MI5 operations in Belfast; nine times out of ten he would
leap at the latter. For to gain kudos within our profession, we had to
be instinctively against the government and its agencies. The swiftest
way of drawing a torrent of derision upon your head in the company of your
fellow journalists would have been to praise the security forces. Yet we
know, the most flagrantly, extravagantly, wickedly corrupt and corrupting
organisation throughout the Troubles was the IRA.
- Kevin Myers, on the malign effect of Watergate, "The Telegraph"
The fact that Kevin
Myers is still alive is the most hopeful single fact to come out of Northern
- Byron Rogers, concluding his review of "Watching the Door", "The Spectator"
Modern Sinn Fein/IRA
is led by people who want power at all costs and who will do and say anything
to get it. The movement has much more in common with Al Capone than it
has with Tone and Connolly. Whatever ideals it once had disappeared during
the decades when its members murdered almost two thousand people out of
- Ruth Dudley Edwards, "The Irish Independent"
"They rob; they kill;
they torture; they mutilate; they extort; they arm; they spy; they lie;
they rewrite our history — all in our name."
- Michael McDowell, speaking during 100th anniversary of Sinn Fein
"The IRA killed 73
children under the age of 18. It killed building workers on their way home,
shoppers having a cup of tea, women collecting census forms, young couples
having a drink in a pub in Birmingham, people honouring the dead of two
world wars, mothers looking for a bit of cod in the local fish shop."
- Fintan O'Toole, "The Irish Times"
"The civil rights movement
achieved more in a few months than any other approach in the previous half-century.
It was non-violent, non-sectarian, enjoyed the support of Liberal-minded
people across the traditional divides, held the high moral ground, and
engaged the interest and support of British Parliamentarians and the international
media. It would have overcome, not without a struggle, but with less blood,
less bitterness, and certainly much cleaner hands. Violence was not inevitable
and in the event, was largely counterproductive."
- Maurice Hayes, reviewing Austin Currie's "All Hell Will Break Loose", "The Independent"
"This bill is not likely
to cause Mr Osama Bin Laden to tremble in his cave or indeed any other
terrorists including those represented by Deputy O'Caolain about whom he
was concerned and for whom I presume he asks this House to weep, but not
for their victims--"
"There is little value in engaging with Deputy O'Malley on this matter."
"I did not interrupt the representative of IRA-Sinn Fein terrorism."
"I object to the Deputy's slur against my role and representation in this House."
"I reiterate the slur on Deputy O'Caolain."
- Des O'Malley, PD, and Caoimhghin O'Caolain, SF, discuss anti-terrorist legislation
Fundamentalism is a
powerful world force. But fundamentalism does not always come in religious
form. There are plenty of secular fundamentalisms. Nationalism can be fundamentalist.
The IRA is a fundamentalist organisation that has substituted the nation
for God, and will kill innocent people for it.
- David Quinn, "The Sunday Times"
I think I'd rather
the British government told us we had to have a united Ireland. At least
then we'd be negotiating with democrats in Dublin rather than being abandoned
here to fight two sets of Mafiosi.
- Ruth Dudley Edwards quotes an anonymous Ulster Unionist, 1998.
You cannot negotiate
peace with people whose power is entirely dependent on the will to wage
war. This is anathema to many Americans steeped in the banality that peace
talks are always better than no talks, that ancient conflicts can always
be solved by the right facilitator. But the IRA's refusal to disarm is
no mystery. War is its rationale. If power really were negotiated and shared,
the IRA would be supplanted by moderate Republicans who would, by their
very involvement in an Ulster government, legitimize continued British
sovereignty. Why should a group that has gained everything it has through
violence and murder, and whose raison d'être is implacable hostility
to any British presence, ever decide that politics is a useful alternative?
It's like asking turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving. They can't. They won't.
And real peace won't break out until they do.
- Andrew Sullivan
"Somebody told me the
other day that the reason his lips were so thick was that when his mother
was bringing him up he was a very disobedient boy. So, she used to put
glue on his lips and stick him to the floor."
- Ian Paisley, DUP Leader, lets fly at Brian Cowen, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs
"Whatever the truth
of the Stakeknife story, it is obvious that republicans would still like
us all to live in a perverse 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' world where
it is regarded as uniquely morally repugnant to allow the innocent to be
killed to protect a valued informer, but actually killing those innocents
is an activity about which it is preferable to say nothing, and for which,
indeed, the republican leadership was only a few months ago handing out
- Eilis O'Hanlon, "The Sunday Independent"
"Private property has
been and remains an instrument of oppression of people the world over."
- Sinn Fein party policy document (2003)
In 1940, Sean Russell,
'chief of staff' or the IRA went on a clandestine mission to Berlin to
meet Ribbentrop, Hitler's foreign minister later hanged at Nuremburg, concluding
cordially that "Our ideas have much in common". And as a Dubliner might
have added, a truer word he never spoke. It was more than fifty years later
that the admirable Dr Joseph Hendron, a Belfast MP for the moderate Catholic
Social Democratic and Labour Party, called Sinn Fein "a sectarian and fascist
organisation", while John Banville, the most eminent Irish novellist of
his generation, said despairingly: "Those of us who have always thought
of the IRA, and indeed Sinn Fein, as neo-fascist, are deeply worried by
the kind of respectability they have won now in Dublin, London and Washington".
- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "The Strange Death of Tory England"
For in Ireland, all
values, all laws, all commandments, all directives, all principles, have
exceptions: they are all provisional on either the naked self-interest
or the strongly held-opinions of those to whom they apply. And if either
self interest or personal conviction is in some way impinged upon by such
statutes, not merely is the individual entitled to make an exception of
himself, but a huge injusticeis seen to be done if thelaw is invoked against
him. It is the triumph of ego over others. Take 1916. Considering the act
of treachery which the Rising constituted to their national survival, the
British actually behaved with an almost indecent clemency in executing
so few insurgents, and then releasing almost all the internees within the
year, and while still at war. I know this is a heresy to say, but it is
true nonetheless. And only exceptionalism at its most deranged could turn
the war criminal that was the Kaiser into a "gallant ally". Consider: his
men had murdered thousands of civilians in Belgium and France in August
and September 1914. And in Tanganyika, German troops butchered 65,000 Hereros
and 10,000 Namas. Yet the demented morality of republican exceptionalism
has meant that the Proclamation's ludicrous and abominable acclaim for
the Kaiser is accepted as a reasonable and moral position.
- Kevin Myers, "Irish Ind."
We live in a very strange
land where murder and failure are seen as a cause for celebration.
- Kevin Myers, on triumphalist commemorations of the 1916 Rising, "Irish Ind."
RTE's coverage of Northern
Ireland has always been a close contest between gullibility and dreariness...
If the interests of most of the Southern Irish were truly reflected in
the coverage that RTE gives to Northern Ireland it simply wouldn't be covered.
Almost no sane person with a life in the South of Ireland has the slightest
interest in the Province. We've tried everything else. Could simply ignoring
it be the elusive solution?
- Open Republic Policy Watch (April '05)
Northern Ireland is
now a junkie economy, hopelessly addicted to handouts from the British
exchequer. It is difficult to see how it can wean itself off. Far from
benefiting from an economic "peace dividend", the North has become progressively
more reliant on handouts. In the past, when the IRA were bombing and maiming,
it was possible to explain the North's financial neediness on the "war".
Today, more than 10 years after the ceasefire, that no longer holds water.
Why is the North such an economic basket case, more akin to East Germany
than Western Europe? The main reason for the North's inertia seems to be
that there is no need to do anything else. Someone else is paying the bills
and there is no one telling the province to pay for itself. Drive around
the North and, while it does not feel dynamic, it certainly feels prosperous.
- David McWilliams, "The Irish Independent"
would rather be seen wearing shell suits and trainers than vote Sinn Fein.
West Belfast, Ardoyne and West Bank have gone down the plughole. These
are the social and economic models of a Sinn Fein-dominated society. They
are like a German Democratic Republic on the dole, and on dope... So there
you have it: rich Catholics living in Brit-supported paradise. Poor Catholics
living in Sinn Fein-dominated hell. And, incidentally, just in case you
were thinking about it Mr Cowen, we really couldn't afford to keep them.
- Jim Cusack, on the economics on modern NI, "Sunday Ind." (Jun'08)
Despite all the scientific
and medical progress we have made when it comes to separating the conjoined,
Gerry Adams just cannot seem to shake the comely Mary Lou McDonald from
his shoulder. She has already denied that she is merely being used as a
photogenic prop wheeled out at every available opportunity to increase
her visibility in advance of the forthcoming elections.
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"
"I haven't murdered
anyone.. I'm a soldier."
"Then go on and put a uniform on and get killed like a soldier. Because you're no use to me as a husband."
- Margaret to Hugh, in an IRA safe house, "In the Border Country"
In yet another odd
grandstanding ploy for attention, the Irish Republican Army has offered
to shoot you.
- The Onion.Com's Horoscope for Cancer (March '05)
"I was talking to a
Shinner about this last week, as gaeilge. I said: Cad a ceapann tu? He
said: Knee cap him."
- An old joke...
"When you ever seen
a Shinner refuse a handout from the evil British government?"
A 32-year-old chef
from Co Cork has been convicted of membership of an illegal organisation
by the Special Criminal Court. Don Bullman, from Fernwood Crescent in Wilton,
was arrested during a garda investigation into IRA money laundering after
the 2004 Northern Bank robbery. He was found with a washing powder box
with over 94,000 Euros inside it, after he was arrested outside Hueston
Station in Dublin in February 2005.
- How not to launder money, from RTE.ie
I totally changed my
mind about The Troubles I've Seen (ITV1) during the programme. Originally
my thinking was something along the lines of: Eamonn Holmes chats to his
famous pals from Northern Ireland about the Troubles? What the hell is
this - I'm a Celebrity, Blow Me Up? Why does everything have to involve
celebrities? Isn't there anyone who didn't become a DJ or an actor, a comedian
or whatever, who might tell the story better? But in fact, they were all
so incredibly good - Jimmy Nesbitt on the car-bomb that went off next to
his car; Charlie Lawson on nearly becoming a loyalist paramilitary instead
of Jim McDonald in Corrie; Gloria Hunniford on covering the aftermath of
a big bomb as a young reporter in Belfast; Patrick Kielty on the murder
of his father. Holmes was great too, on growing up amid all that fear and
mistrust, hatred and terror.
It's amazing how incredibly impressive people become when they talk about things that really matter to them. I totally forgave them for being celebrities. And together, their stories added up to a neat little refresher course on the Troubles - just in case you'd forgotten who was and wasn't welcome on the Falls and the Shankill Roads, for example. A powerful and thoughtful film.
-Sam Wollaston, "The Guardian"
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