Monthly Archives: February 2009

Divide and Conquer

Today I’d like to point out what a brilliant job the government are doing (no, come back, this sentence isn’t finished yet) in turning us against each other.

Whenever public opinion looks like uniting in anger against those who deserve it (the bankers, regulators, developers, and most of all the Finance Ministers) they find a way of dividing and deflecting that anger toward others.

Take the RTE presenters, for example. Although Cabinet Members have taken a pay-cut, the Government have refused to cut the number of Junior Ministers or Committee heads, and the pay of ordinary TDs and Senators remains untouched, so why would one of these Senators, Fianna Fáil’s Jim Walsh, suddenly demand that RTEs top presenters volunteer to reduce their salaries?

Poor underprivileged Jim

Poor underprivileged Jim

Because right away attention turned to the likes of Pat Kenny and Gerry Ryan. Those who took the cut rose in the public regard, and those who didn’t are now perceived as the bad guys.

Interestingly, Jim said the broadcasters were ‘in a privileged position’.  A Senator’s basic salary is €70,133 and the Seanad sits only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

A week later TD Michael Kennedy suggested that judges could “gift” part of their salaries to the nation.

Michael judges the judges

Michael judges the judges

“It is important now, more than ever, that everyone plays their part in leading us out of this recession and I would strongly urge our country’s judges to step up to the plate and agree on a universal 10% cut within their field,” Mr Kennedy said.

The “everyone” that Kennedy urges to play their part will not, of course, include backbench TDs, since just 11 out of the 127 have offered to reduce their pay. I’m sure Michael is probably one of these 11, though curiously his website doesn’t say so, and since the website does describe him as “Your No. 1 experienced & hardest working public representative in all of Dublin North” he doesn’t strike me as the type who’d have kept this act of selflessness to himself.

What’s important about these comments is not their blatant hypocrisy. It’s the fact that it pits the higher earners and the rest against each other. Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy and assorted judges are not responsible for causing any of the current mess, but suddenly it is they who are being pillioried in the media & in the pubs, and the spotlight is switched away from the likes of Charlie McCreevy, or Pat Neary, or Seanie Fitz.

Most brilliant of all, though is the public servants’ Pension Levy. Public and private sector workers are suspicious of each other at the best of times. We regard them as overpaid and overprotected, and they regard us as tax-dodgers who caused the boom by buying yachts and second homes. Brian Lenihan played on this when he had to cut the public sector pay bill.

He could have cut their pay or made some of them redundant, but that would have created empathy for their plight among the rest of us, who are suffering the same things. We might have become more unified, last week’s marches might have been bigger, and the kind of civil unrest we’ve seen elsewhere might have begun here.

So instead he called the reductions a Pension Levy, playing on the fact that the public sector pensions are seen as generous by the rest of us. And when the public sector claimed that the Levy was unfair (and many aspects of it are unfair) we all said “ah shut up, at least yiz have jobs, and a great pension”. Which is exactly what the government knew would happen.

And when the levy protests die down and we start to single out specific ministers again some other Fianna Fáil nobody will be told to open the Dáil window and yell out “what about Martin King off TV3?”

And we’ll all look at one another and say “yeah, I bet he gets paid a fortune, and the weather’s been shite since he started doing the forecasts, he should take a pay-cut till we get our summers back”.

It’s political genius.

If only they were as good at running the country.


Or Maybe Not

Aw look, we've upset him

Aw look, we've upset him

Dermot Ahern, Minister for Not-Buying-Wine-At-Ten-At-Night, says he believes that the Government (with a ten per cent satisfaction rating in this morning’s opinion poll) is unpopular because it’s doing the right thing. In other words, we don’t appreciate them.

No doubt the same was said about the Clock in the Liffey, Dustin’s Eurovision song and Charlie’s Angels II.

Dermot, I hate to tell you this, but sometimes things are unpopular because they are crap.

Video Nasty

It’s a sign that we’re getting more like the US that a Mr John McAuley, who wanted to film “every precious moment of the first minutes of his baby’s life” sued the midwife at Mount Carmel Hospital for €38,000 damages for interrupting his video of the birth.

Thankfully, it a sign that we’re not quite there yet that the Judge Joseph Mathews threw the case out.


Reading the facts of the case is a jaw-dropping experience. McAuley admitted that “he and his partner had been given a perfectly healthy baby and he could not criticise the hospital in any way for its care of mother and child”. He also admitted that he had recorded 39 minutes of the birth “up to and during an emergency Caesarean delivery” (Jesus!), but said that he had five other 39-minute tapes with him.

The midwife, Iris Halbach, asked for a momentary stop in filming while she carried out emergency clearance of the baby’s airways. She said “Maybe we could hang on a little with the filming until the baby is all recovered, if you don’t mind”, and McAuley described these words as justifying his claim that Ms Halbach had at that moment become “irrational and agitated”.

Now, I have to say here that I am not a video type of person. I don’t have a film of the birth of any of the Tinkids, and never for one second thought of making one. Each of the births (and I have to be honest here and hope Tinson2 and Tingirl never read this, but especially the first one) is seared into my brain in such a way that if I let my mind drift back for a few seconds I can still feel the shock, wonder and joy of the whole thing as clearly as ever. I’ll never need a video for that.

And I can still remember our affection and gratitude for the staff, who were patient, hard-working and caring. After Tinson1 was born, when the nurse who’d sat with us through the whole thing was leaving Mrs Tin hugged her as if she was the best friend she’d ever had, and at that moment she was.

The idea of suing any of the people involved in helping us through these wonderful events just because of a bloody video is just appalling. If McAuley had felt any of the emotions we felt he’d be grateful to Iris forever, instead of trying to make money from her.

Anyway, he lost, and I’m delighted.

Though not, I suspect, as delighted as his friends.

Six 39-minute tapes of his child’s birth?

Now that’s a dinner party you don’t want to be invited to.

What’s the Difference?

I don’t get it.

Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche says that the 10 Golden Circle members to whom Anglo Irish lent €451 million to buy its own shares, and who now apparently are having €300 million of that debt written off, cannot be named, even to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who is now the sole shareholder.

He says “It would completely undermine the confidence of customers generally in Anglo Irish Bank if the Minister as shareholder could obtain access to confidential customer information.”

He also denies that the government is protecting or trying to shield any of the ten.

It shows how unwilling government ministers are to appear in public these days that Roche was sent out to bat at all. A man so popular in his (and my) own Wicklow constituency that this poster


appeared at the Bray roundabout at the last election, he wasn’t let out of his box at all during the Lisbon Treaty campaign, despite being the one Minister who actually knew anything about it, because he annoys people so much with his pomposity and vanity. Now the rest of them are hiding behind him.

Anyway, if this people were ordinary customers carrying out a normal transaction, Id agree with him totally. And even in the case of this dubious transaction, I would have agreed that they shouldn’t be named until someone has decided that what they did was illegal, if they had paid the money back.

Because we now own Anglo Irish, and if someone has had €300 million that’s due to us simply written off, then we have the right to know who.

This, remember, is the same Anglo Irish Bank who just last month won an order repossessing the home of former Smart Telecom chief executive Oisin Fanning. The loan was to purchase shares in Smart, which are now worthless, just as the Golden Circle loans were for Anglo Irish shares, which are now worthless. There doesn’t seem to have been any problem naming him. Nor was the any problem pursuing him for his loan, even though he was left holding worthless shares.

So why is it not possible to name these guys (you just know none of them are women), not for dodgy dealing, but for loan defaulting?

Or is Dick suggesting that, as the weeks go by, each Monday Lenihan gets a report from Anglo Irish saying “sorry, boss, we’d to write off another half billion this week,” and when he says “Sweet Jesus, who from?”, they’ll say “sorry, you know we can’t tell you”.

How would that restore confidence? How would that placate the people? How would we ever find out if any of the Directors, including Seanie, have their loans written off?

Come off it, Dick. we own this bank, the ten owe this money to us.

If they want to stay hidden, let them pay it back.

So That Was That

If I’d thought of it, it would have been very quite a bit funny to start a series of posts called “Lost Weekend”, write the first one right up to the time when I went for my first drink, and then not write anything more.

blog-awardsI didn’t think of it, but effectively that’s what I’m doing, since I realise there’s not much sense in giving a blow by blow account of the Irish Blog Awards weekend. Those who were there know what happened, and can write about it much better than I can, and those who weren’t won’t be interested.

So all I will say is that

  • I had a fabulous time
  • The Awards event itself was brilliant, both professional and funny, and
  • I met a lot of people whose work I’ve admired, and made the not-very-surprising discovery that people who’s blogs I like turn out to be people I like.

One story, though. Ryanair’s insistence on just one piece of baggage meant that everything I brought went into my laptop backpack. Consequently it ended up the shape and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle and, as I got onto the Aircoach yesterday I turned to get into a seat and, using a technique perfected by a childhood of watching Laurel and Hardy, struck the man opposite in the face.

Who turned out to be Tingirl’s headmaster.

She might have a tough day at school today.

Lost Weekend Part 1: Friday

Ok, I’m here.

I got the Airport bus (the 747, clever, huh?), went through the obligatory patting-down that is the fate of the taint-of-heart, made my flight (yeah, yeah, carbon footprint, look the plane was coming here anyway), managed to find the hotel (yes, it does have a big green sign and yes, it is directly across the road from the airport, but this is me you’re dealing with), and now I’m in my room, making use of their lovely interweb.

Why am I here?

Dunno. From the time I started blogging, then heard there was an Irish Blog Awards, I thought “I’m going to that”. I booked in so early that I think I’m in the room they were keeping for Damien Mulley. I felt it would be a chance to meet other bloggers, and share hints, advice, and uproarious tales of the trials and tribulations of blogging.

But that so isn’t me.

It’s more likely that I’d sit quietly in the corner, saying nothing, or end up by mistake in a conversation with a group of Americans who are the only people in the hotel who aren’t here for the awards, and who can’t understand why I call myself “ThinMan”.

Thankfully the lovely Jo is coming, so I’ll be able to hang out of her apron strings, unless she gets palatic at the BloggerBirds’ Booze-Up Lady Bloggers’ Tea Party tomorrow afternoon.

And anyway, after the week I’ve just had, it’s great to be doing something different.

And I can cheer wildly for K8, and Lottie, and Xbox.

Best of luck, guys.