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And another resignation from the Seanad this week… November 30, 2017

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I missed this in all the excitement but many thanks to Declan Bree for pointing out that the Labour Party is down one Senator in the Seanad.

Tipperary ILP senator Denis Landy retires from Seanad on health grounds.

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All change in Irish parliamentary politics… SF Senator resigns and a reshuffle in FG! November 30, 2017

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Well now I didn’t see this coming:

Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has quit the party over what he described as inaction in dealing with disciplinary issues in his Galway West constituency.

He said there have been serious breaches of the Sinn Féin code of conduct that have gone unpunished.

SF in response “claimed that Mr Ó Clochartaigh was looking for a clear run at the convention”.

Any sense of his intentions? A new home or Independent status?

Meanwhile what of our new Tánaiste, and continuing – deep breath – Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit… rising swiftly close to the top after a less than stellar leadership campaign earlier in the year!

Signs of Hope – A continuing series November 30, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

National Print Museum Winter Fair November 30, 2017

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Sell more or be disciplined… November 30, 2017

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Is this a vision of the future? It’s certainly a vision of the present in non-unionised companies…

Ryanair cabin crew have been told they could face “disciplinary proceedings” and have their working hours forcibly changed unless they sell more perfume and scratchcards.

The Irish airline has previously denied pressuring staff to hit specific sales targets, after it emerged they were encouraged to sell products in return for bonuses.

But letters sent to crew members by recruitment firms that supply staff to Ryanair – seen by the Guardian – warn of dire consequences for those whose average sales per flight fall “below budget”.

The letters highlight 10 products, including drinks, confectionery, cosmetics and scratchcards, listing the percentage of flights in which individual cabin crew members had not sold enough.

Next time someone says unions aren’t necessary – and I still here that old trope every once in a while, I’ll remind them of the above.

And fair dues to IMPACT here for pointing out one very salient fact:

The Irish trade union Impact, which was shown a copy of one letter, said: “It makes for grim reading.

“The primary role of cabin crew is flight safety, in-flight sales is a secondary role.

“This correspondence suggests a crude approach to performance management, and reveals the vulnerability of individual staff if they don’t reach the targets they’ve been set.

“The client airline’s position on organised labour is well documented, so I’m struck by the fact, more than anything else, that this person had nobody to turn to when they received that letter.”

At the weekend in the Observer the point was made:

Ryanair’s “ancillary revenues” – income from products such as perfume, alcohol and cosmetics, as well as baggage charges – reached £1.5bn last year.

That makes the no-frills Irish airline a bigger retailer than high street stalwarts such as WH Smith, House of Fraser or Halfords.

And (as with IMPACT) noted:

But Ryanair is an airline, not an airborne shop, and the primary responsibility of cabin crew is to ensure passengers’ safety and comfort. They should not have to feel at risk of being hauled over the coals by over-zealous middle managers if their sales patter isn’t up to scratch.

Making the wrong point… November 30, 2017

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Ah… Kate Hoey. As ASF notes here her contributions are unhelpful to say the least, and arguably down-right reactionary.

And Kathy Sheridan noted that one of those was unintentionally (one hopes) absurd:

Hoey tweets about her visit to a “smooth” Swiss/German/French border crossing, eyeing it as a model for “land border issues NI/ROI”. Some model. Not only was she posing in front of a very large customs post, she seemed unaware that Switzerland is in Schengen and the European Free Trade Association.

No one wants an election now. But the clock is ticking on the election! November 30, 2017

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It’s amazing how the above trope has taken hold. Take the IT editorial on foot of the debacle of the last week or two…

Frances Fitzgerald, the safe pair of hands installed at the head of the Department of Justice in 2014 to stabilise an organisation in turmoil, finally bowed to the inevitable yesterday and tendered her resignation. In doing so, she has averted a snap election that should never have been on the cards in the first place.

And:

Fitzgerald’s departure had become a political imperative. It takes a pre-Christmas election off the table, but it leaves serious questions for the Department of Justice and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

But:

A tumultuous week leaves the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Government and Fianna Fáil intact, just about. It may survive another few months, but make no mistake: the election countdown is now on.

Or how about this from Sarah Bardon:

There were only two outcomes from this particular shambles – a general election at a crucial time for Ireland or the resignation of the deputy leader of Government.

But:

Both parties are anxious and ready for battle. The general election may not spoil your festive festivities, but the game is on, and a general election is merely a matter of weeks away.

Or how about Pat Leahy:

Whether the Taoiseach had to lay out the facts of life or not, it is clear that faced with either a resignation or an election, there was only one choice. Faced with the cliff edge of a general election being called this week, they pulled back.

But:

But there’s no doubt that the events of the past week have been profoundly damaging for the relationship between the two largest parties. And because of that, the Fitzgerald controversy will almost certainly shorten the life of the Government.
Both parties have begun preparations for the next election in recent months. Fianna Fail began the process in the spring – after Enda Kenny signalled his departure – and Leo Varadkar began putting preparations in place soon after his election as Taoiseach.

Uh-huh. So an unwanted election is now a near certainty for the (possibly very) near future. I get how the instability aspect works, how the confidence and supply agreement is under pressure. But this week we saw how the lack of enthusiasm for an election pushed those aspects aside. Consequently there’s one glaring contradiction evident here. No one wants the election. But it’s now closer! Even though we just averted an election because no one wanted it!

Okay, there’s the issue of a Winter election and worse a pre-Christmas election. There are logistical reasons for not wanting an election, there are matters of perception. Arriving at voters doorsteps this week is probably akin to dumping a pile of month old refuse in their back yards – unsought for and unwelcome at the best of times, and now, in this cold…

So reality, or pragmatism, or call it what we will, has to play a part.

And yet, in three months time is the electorate going to be more enthusiastic about an election? Is their appetite going to have increased? To me all this smacks of the media (and some political folk) getting overly excited. They’d like nothing better than an election, sure why not? But …

Leahy makes an interesting point:

Leo Varadkar received two messages from TDs and Ministers returning from their constituencies after the weekend: one was that people didn’t want an election and the second was that the organisation was not yet ready for one. But by the time the next crisis comes around, they’ll be ready.

But, that latter is only one part of it. Again, why would ‘people’ want an election ‘next time around’?

And what about Bardon’s point re this being a ‘crucial time’ which softened coughs. Is three months going to be less crucial for the state?

There’s another point. The atmosphere in 2010 and 2015 was quite unlike that now. Then both governments in situ were either evidently in serious crisis or nearing the end of their term. Indeed that in 2010 was falling apart visibly. Whereas this government despite its curious make-up and even more curious foundations (not least the arrangement with FF) doesn’t have that sense of being but a vote away from disaster. In fact, I’d almost go so far as to say, it reminds me of little as much as the mid-term period for the last government, solidly in power and exercising (albeit within obvious constraints).

None of this guarantees no election, but for there to be one something has to give. I cannot at this point see what that is. IEL has similar thoughts here…

Still, the appointment of a new Tánaiste today will no doubt be exciting for the person concerned – for if Leahy et al are correct they may be in that position for what, two, three months?

Back To The Old Head of Kinsale – With A Difference! November 29, 2017

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A very welcome guest post about a children’s book with a difference from Kevin Doyle and Spark Deeley

The Old Head of Kinsale in Cork is a renowned beauty spot. Even now, despite all that’s happened there, it features prominently on Brand Ireland’s hit tourist trail, The Wild Atlantic Way. However, if you venture down to the Old Head these days – as many tourists do – you will be in for a surprise: the entire headland with its wonderful cliff edge walks and natural scenery is out of bounds. Member of the public, even tourists, are not allowed access to promontory. The reality is, since 2003, visiting the headland has been ‘at the discretion’ of its new owners, The Old Head Golf Links.
The poet, Theo Dorgan, has described what happened at the Old Head of Kinsale an ‘annexation’ and that in a very real sense is actually what happened there. In the late 80s, the wealthy businessman John O’Connor purchased the entire headland for the princely sum of just €300,000. Although he would later describe the decision as a ‘rush of blood to the head’, he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do with this unique part of the Irish coastline. His dream did not include the interests of walkers, sightseers or the general public. O’Connor’s vision was to construct a golf links at the Old Head aimed at the luxury end of the market.

The One Percent

In other words if you had money you would be very welcome. Today, for the tidy sum of just €30,000 per year, you can be a member of the Old Head Golf Links. In 2015 this amounted to some 300 members, 80% of whom are from outside Ireland. Alternatively, you can pay to play golf for just the day at the club. A manager at the Old Head Golf Links has said, ‘At the height of season, nobody blinks at the idea of paying €1,000 for a four ball. We never ever get a complaint here on value. Any complaints we might get would be more about a foggy day or a bit of slow play.’ So there you go!
A campaign – Free The Old Head – was fought to keep access to the Old Head free and open to all. For a time this was backed by Cork County Council and An Bord Pleanála who supported retaining a measure of public access to the headland. But O’Connor, via Ashbourne Holding, took these public bodies to court and eventually prevailed. Back up by the gardaí and a Supreme Court ruling in his favour, The Old Head Golf Link banned the public from the headland. The rest, as they say, is history – well sort of.

The Worms That Saved The World

The idea for a children’s book around the Old Head campaign arose out of the fact that at the height of the protests I had young children. There are lots of great books out there for kids, but it struck me that there were very around that talked about the sort of thing that had happened at the Old Head of Kinsale. From some people we heard a bit of a ‘tut, tut’ – you know the kind of argument that goes along the lines of ‘Isn’t that all a bit political for a children’s book?’ But you have to ask yourself what about all those books with princes and princes in them? Aren’t they political too? ’
We need stories that talk about the very things that matter a lot – like standing up for your rights, showing solidarity, valuing community over privilege, minding the environment. In an world that is increasingly focused on the neo-liberal dream of creating a planet of individualised consumers, we need to say out loud ‘No thanks’. Why shouldn’t an amenity like the Old Head of Kinsale be free to walk on? Why should those with money be allowed to take if from everyone and keep for themselves only?
In our story book, The Worms That Saved The World, a group of earthworms living on an imaginary headland begin to suffer when a golf course takes up residence around their home. The worms attempt to tell the new owners about their concerns but they are dismissed. In response they hold a mass meeting – really when worms get together there are lots of them! – and begin to organise. They ask for help from other birds and animals – some of whom they are normally in competition with on the headland – and they get it. They fight back and eventually reclaim the headland for everyone.

Beautiful Illustrations

Although the idea for the story was there, I had trouble finding an illustrator. I actually met Spark Deeley at another protest in Cork. The irony of it was that she had been involved in the Free The Old Head campaign too. We got together and it turned out we had similarly views on how a books should go.
The illustrations in the book have already garnered much praise. Speaking about them, Spark Deeley said, ‘There are thirty-five original illustrations. First, I sketched the images onto watercolour paper. The drawings were then inked in using a fine liner drawing pen. Finally, I coloured the drawings by hand using watercolour paint. The larger images took between 4 – 5 days each from start to finish. The expressions on the faces of the worms change throughout the book. Their faces convey the emotions that they experience as the story unfolds. We see concern, confusion, surprise, fear, outrage, concentration, questioning, determination, compassion and pure joy. That is what this story is all about.’
Although we tried we couldn’t interest any publishers in the book. While the environmental theme is attractive these days, direct action isn’t so popular with publishers! The book also didn’t fit into the usual age categories – it spans a number really. So we decided to print ourselves. So far, following a tremendous launch in Cork, it has done very well. Parents, adults and children have responded very positively to what the story is about and to the fact that the book fills a gap that is clear there in the market. The Worms That Saved The World is a story about ‘the rest of us winning’ for a change, about justice and upturning the game on the highly privileged.
On Saturday, December 2nd The Worms That Saved The World will be launched in Dublin at The Teachers’ Club on December 2nd at 4pm by Mr Gregor Kerr. We love to see you all there!

Some more links here
Free Old Head of Kinsale – A Brief History (includes more links)
News about “The Worms That Saved The World”

A somewhat different tune… November 29, 2017

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Who could it be writing this?

I doubt if more than a tiny percentage of British ‘leave’ voters had any grasp, for example, of the implications of leaving both the customs union and the single
market.

And:

‘.

To the exclusion of a much wider and significant agenda, the tabloid press simply fanned the migrant debate, encouraging an upsurge in nationalist feeling.

And:

Leaving the EU was being sold as a mere painless political uncoupling, with Boris Johnson out there selling his vision of a resurrected Britannia, once again standing alone and negotiating a new global trading role for herself.

Nowhere is this view more evident than in London’s attitude to the Irish border crisis. Despite endlessly reassuring us that they don’t want any type of fixed border installations or a return to the ‘borders of the past’, the proposals they have advanced offer no realistic chances of solving the problems. Britain has taken the slow approach to Brexit, no matter how many times Brussels and Dublin have urgently pointed to the Border.

More recently, there has been a change of tack as Britain’s response has shifted to arguing that the border question should be left to be solved within the second phase talks when the shape of any new British/EU trade agreement is agreed.

Can this be Tom McGurk writing in the SBP this weekend about Brexit? And in terms where the EU is no longer painted as an adversary and the UK as the ‘mothership’? Sure can be.

Amazing what a year of utter British ineptitude has wrought.

At a loose end this evening? November 29, 2017

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Here’s an event some might want to miss…

N

ext Wednesday, 29th November, the Hibernia Forum will hold another evening discussion, this time on the current housing situation, with Q & A and then drinks afterwards. Housing expert Karl Deeter (pictured, left) and developer Paddy Kelly (right) will talk to us and offer the perspective of the building industry and of landlords. The event will be held in Buswell’s Hotel on Kildare Street, Dublin 2 from 7pm to 9pm.  

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