Monthly Archives: March 2009

Please Close The Gate

Why oh why must every scandal or controversy have the suffix “gate” added to the end of it?

Watergate was Watergate because the building was called, well, Watergate. And whoever added “-gate” to the next scandal, whatever it was, was quite clever. But now it’s just added to everything – we’ve had Irangate, Contragate, Monicagate, Bertiegate, and now of course Portraitgate.

I’m just hoping we never have any scandal surrounding our longest-running TV show (Latelategate), our most innovative theatre (TheGategate), or the winner of Irish Blog post of the year (K8theGr8G8).

How Sick Are We?

Cystic Fibrosis patients are prone to picking up infections, and therefore should be accomodated in single en-suite rooms in hospital.

Until last year we had no such facilities in St Vincents, which is the national adult referral centre for the condition. This is despite the fact that we have the highest incidence of CF in the world.

Orla Tinsley

Orla Tinsley

In May 2007, two days before the last election, a brave and wonderful girl called Orla Tinsley wrote a 1500-word piece pleading for this to be changed. She pointed out that CF sufferers in the US have a life expectancy in the 40s. In the UK it’s in the 30s, and in Northern Ireland it’s 31.

In the Republic of Ireland it’s 21.

Orla was 20 when she wrote the article. In January 2008 she spoke from her hospital bed on Joe Duffy’s Liveline, and awoke a storm of anger & sympathy across the nation. Goaded into action, the HSE announced that 30 rooms would be provided in a new block in St Vincents that would be ready in 2010, and that in the interim 14 rooms would be made available in the existing hospital.

On Thursday last the HSE admitted that the block will not be ready in 2010. In fact, construction of it will not even begin “until 2011, at the earliest”. Furthermore, only eight of the promised 14 interim rooms have actually been provided.

Needless to say, the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland is shocked and enraged. And so is Orla, thankfully still with us, who wrote this piece in Friday’s Irish Times.

Read it, and remember it whenever you read that Health Minister Mary Harney had hair-do’s paid for by us when she was in Florida. Or when you read that Martin Cullen used a Government helicopter to travel to a meeting. Or when you read that the HSE is acknowledged by everyone to be badly run, with too many administrators and too many bad inefficient work-practices, but that its chief executive got an €80,000 performance-related bonus in 2007. Or when TDs justify receiving a Ministerial Pension while still being paid as a TD. Or when they receive a sudden €3,000 increase for reaching a certain length of service in the Dáil. Or when the useless Mary Coughlan defends this increase by saying they have “entitlements” to increases based on years of service.

Remember it when candidates call to your door looking for votes in the June local and European elections.

Orla and her friends have “entitlements” too. How sick are we as a society if we do not honour them?

A Portrait of the Taoiseach as a Stung Man

In years to come, the “Portraitgate” saga will be used all over the world in PR classes and tutorials as THE prime example of how not to handle a minor inconvenience.

cowens-paintingA mildly interesting story which would already have been forced out of the news by other events has become a world-wide story out of which Brian Cowen comes across very badly.

He himself has said very little about it, and it’s possible that he is looking on in horror as a succession of people trying to help him simply make matters worse, creating an image of him and his government as humourless, draconian, anti-democratic and completely out of touch with what is really important.

Much of this image is, of course, accurate. You have only to watch his bad-tempered, hectoring attitude to the opposition, his goverment’s habit of announcing policy at press conferences rather than in the Dáil, and his refusal so far to bring in any change to the number of his army of Junior Ministers and Committee Chairs to realise that. But the sheer ham-fisted, over-the-top reaction of his fellow TDs, RTE and the Gardaí has re-inforced this image, and has caused it to be broadcast worldwide.

TDs of all parties have circled the wagons and united in condemning this “insult”. By doing so, they reveal how insular, precious and thin-skinned they have all become. Senator Donie Cassidy says that “the Taoiseach is a public figure, but his wife and family are not, and everybody should bear that in mind.” Only a person far too long in politics could come out with tripe like this. Everyone has a family, and if we followed Donie’s logic no public figure would ever be criticised.

Never mind the corrupt wrong-doers like Seanie Fitz or Fingleton. Plenty of other public figures often face ridicule. Remember the dog’s abuse (much of it from TDs) heaped upon Gerry Ryan, simply because he didn’t want to take a pay-cut? Or upon Steve Staunton, just for being a poor soccer manager? Or even, to be fair, upon John “Bloggers Can’t Write” Waters, purely because he wrote a dreadful Eurovision entry? All of these people have families too. Did Donie, or any other TD, have anything to say about that?

And then, oh God, there was the Garda reaction – swift and effective, with a detective, no less, being sent to a radio station to demand details of emails from the artist. Did no-one see how this was going to look in a country where there are now daily shootings, where ordinary people were chased and beaten by drunken scum in Tipperary on St Patricks Day, and where people whose greed has brought this country to its knees face no charges at all?

And having caught their man so quickly, they charged him with … “incitement to hatred”. Ah, here.  It’s a picture of a man on a toilet, for God’s sake. Inciting who, and how?

Last year Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar suggested that non-nationals who lose their jobs should be offered money to go home. The possible reaction of some members of the public to those who might turn down such an offer and remain here drawing the dole didn’t seem to occur to him, or to bother him. Noel O’Flynn and Ned O’Keeffe have called for a review of the issuing of work permits to non-EU citizens, clearly implying that they’re taking our jobs. Conor Lenihan made his famous “kebabs” remark in relation to Turkish workers, and was rewarded by being made Minister for Integration (and people said Bertie had no sense of humour).

Are any of these cases “incitement to hatred”? Apparently not. Lively political debate, apparently it’s called, when they say stuff.

If Fianna Fáil have PR advisors they should fire them. The government press secretary, whose complaint to RTE was so badly thought through, should either seriously apologise to the party or go too.

The original paintings weren’t especially funny. They certainly weren’t satire – if the toilet roll had, say, the Plain People of Ireland written on it, implying Cowen wipes his arse with us, that might have been satire. But that doesn’t matter anymore.

Thanks to the stupidity of the reaction, Irish political life has ridiculed itself far more effectively than any clever satire could.

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

I bought these scissors today (and yes, they are in a pink packet, and yes, they are a bit girly-looking, but men have fingernails too):


As you can see, they’re packed in that type of plastic packing that means they could survive being suddenly shot out of an airlock in a space ship. The type that means you can feel rebellious by defying all conventional wisdom and running with scissors.

The type of packaging, in fact, that’s impossible to open unless you have a pair of scissors.

(The title of the post is relevant, by the way, though you possibly have to be my age to get it).

I Ate’nt Dead

Those of you who read Terry Pratchett (and those of you don’t, should) will be familiar with the above phrase.

granny-weatherwaxOne of the witches in the books, Granny Weatherwax, occasionally goes “borrowing”, i.e., letting her mind into the mind of another creature, such as an eagle, so she can share its experiences. While she is doing this she is, by all appearances, dead, so has taking to placing a card saying “I Ate’nt Dead” on her chest as she lies there so that she doesn’t wake up in a coffin.

I feel a bit like that at the moment, since I just can’t think of anything to post about. Last week I was reduced to posting a piece about my cutlery. While we’re waiting for the emergency budget there doesn’t seem any point in writing about the economy. There are only so many ways I can say “Cut the crap and the ludicrous benefits to yourselves, and show some guts with dealing with the bankers & developers, and you’ll find us all much more willing to accept sacrifices ourselves.” This should be so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said, but I have an awful feeling that they’re still not getting it. Still, I’m continuing to hope, at last, for some leadership.

So what else is there? The rugby? Yes, it was wonderful, with a finale that you couldn’t possibly make up, but other, far better, writers that me will commerate the event. ( I will say, though, that while Ronan O’Gara’s last gasp drop goal was desperately important, I’m not sure it was all that impressive. He put the ball high over the bar from 14 yards out, standing untackled in front of the goal. Those of us who follow Man U watched Andy Cole spend a decade doing that).

The Tinkids are obstinately refusing to do anything cute, endearing or just plain daft at present, so are a poor source of material. The office is very quiet since the redundancies, and so many of my friends are gone.

So I’ve missed quite a few days of posting recently. Which is not a problem, of course, but it did make me think of something. Recently Laughykate wrote this post about looking up symptoms on the Internet and deciding she had a brian aneurism. It was very funny, and also so true (you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I looked seriously at when I had the blackouts). Rather alarmingly, though, she then didn’t post anything for three days.

As time goes on in the blogiverse, you get to meet virtually people who become virtual friends. But you don’t even know their real names (unless they out themselves and their um, activities in a national newspaper), we don’t know where they live. How would we know if anything actually happened to one of them one day?

Holemaster is getting test results any day now. Best of luck with them, and make sure you post something afterwards. Even if it’s just “pudgy”.

Being Egged On

I was walking home last night when I suddenly heard this crack against the wall right beside me.

Someone had thrown an egg at me from a passing car.

Now, kids throw eggs all the time. Our neighbours’ kids used to throw eggs at our house. Mrs Tin mentioned this to our neighbour and was assured loftily that her children were not involved. She obviously checked this with her children, however, and to her eternal credit they turned up at our door about ten minutes later to apologise.

They were about ten years old at the time, though, whereas at least one of the people involved last night is old enough to have a driving licence and access to a car.

Which raises some questions:

How small is that person’s brain?

Is he ever going to grow up (can’t imagine it being a she)?

And why does everyone I tell the story to start laughing?

Cop Yourself On, Mary

On the day that Jade Goody has died, aged just 27, of cervical cancer, I want again to express my disgust that Mary Harney backed out of a plan to give a cervical cancer vaccine free to 12-year old girls.

The plan would have cost €9.7 million, and might have saved who knows how many girls from deaths as painful and untimely as Jade’s.

But Mary decided we can’t afford it. Are we really that poor now?

When the announcement was made first I wrote this. Needless to say, not one of the wasteful practices I mentioned had been tackled in the period since, but more money has been poured into the banks, incompetent gobshites have got big pay-offs and other, even more incompetent, gobshites have thrown away money taking  helicopters to work.

I ended my previous post by saying “Now Mary, have the courage to stand up for your Department, your gender and the children of your country .”

That still stands. If she can’t find a way to fund this, even just via savings from some of the waste in her own HSE, then she’s not fit to be Minister for Health.

Apparently Jade Goody’s plight has led to an increase in women presenting for smear tests. This makes her more useful in fighting cancer than Mary Harney.

Come and Get It

The Irish Times today reports that

“The Department of Finance is assessing a response from Irish Nationwide to its request that the building society’s chief executive, Michael Fingleton, repay a €1 million bonus paid to him weeks after the Government guarantee for Irish Banks was introduced.”

By means of making stuff up using the Freedom of Information Act, Tinman has obtained a copy of this response on your behalf:


I don’t think it’ll take too long to assess that.

Don’t Rain On My Parade

Last year Mrs Tin walked in the Greystones St Patrick’s Day Parade, with the new Educate Together School.

For the three years before that Tingirl and I were in it with Tingirl’s baseball club.

So yesterday was to be the first time in five years that no member of the Tinfamily was in a Parade.

And it would have been, if I hadn’t had to drive Tinson2 to Wicklow town, and decided to save time by driving through Newtownmountkennedy (sorry, LK, that’s the longest name we’ve got).

I didn’t know that Newtown has its own Parade. I do now. For anyone who was watching it, Tinson2 and I were the ones driving in the opposite direction to all the other entrants.

In the car with steam coming out of its radiator.

I wonder if we won anything – Best Entry Depicting the State of the Economy, perhaps.