Mums go where?

18 11 2008

I recently discovered that Iceland is not just a supermarket used by Kerry Katona to get her fat arse all over the telly these days. Iceland is, in fact, probably one of the smartest countries to be bargaining their way out of economic meltdown in recent times.

With the US gubbernment now reconsidering some of its throw money at people to help them loose it all again idea and Brian Cowen ensuring we make it through by consigning us to thick children and disease, Iceland have played the EU off against Russia and are now sitting on a €5 Billion handout and fast track progress into the Eurozone. Hats off to you lads. Brilliantly played. Bear in mind, Iceland has a population of around 320,000. That’s about the population of Cork and Limerick, and all they had to do was ask Russia for help after Gordon Brown used anti terror legislation to freeze Icelandic assets in the UK, the plonker. Now his taxpayers are footing the bill. So am I, but I don’t care because I like Iceland’s style and I think we could learn a lot from their no nonsense attitude to getting handouts from the EU. Iceland have shied away from the EU in the past in the large part because they are heavily dependant on fishing, and opening up their waters to EU fleets and being subject to quotas such as Irish fishermen find themselves subject too would ruin the livelihoods of a fair portion of the population. Kinda like the knock-on effects of the property “downturn”, or “Implosion”, whichever you prefer to call it here in Ireland, only the Icelanders do it properly and make the industry sustainable, controllable and for the benefit of the people most in need of it. Unfortunately Iceland’s financiers were a bit more myopic and allowed themselves to be sucked in by larger scale economics which turned out to be wholly unsuited to an economy of their size. Their banks got into trouble, their currency collapsed and because they were a small economy with a small independent currency they were wide open. The shit hit the fan, and no one wanted to know.

So, in step our Russian friends. Here ye go lads, we have loads of money. How about we cut ye a few bob? You can pay us back whenever.

Queue pants being shit all over Brussels.

The Russians are currently scaring the bejaysus out of the EU and US with their rather aggressive (fuck you) attitude towards seeking out natural resources in the polar region. Iceland in their pocket would be the icing on the cake (nice pun wha?) for them when it comes to exploiting the predicted billions worth of oil and gas in the region that neither Iceland or Greenland have the money or inclination to go after.

The Middle East is struggling to keep up with capacity and (let’s face it) plain don’t like us, and the US have their hands tied by environmental legislation stopping them from exploiting their own fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. So, we are all now bound to look east for the future of production, with the added bonus of turning Eastern Europe into the front line in the energy wars of the future as was so dramatically displayed over the summer with Georgia squabbling with Russia over a previously unknown and ungiven a shit about South Ossetia regarding a certain supply line flowing into Europe.

Whatever people might think of Europe, the EU, the EEC or whatever you want to call it, in my opinion it may have come along just in time to serve its original purpose.

After WW2 European leaders decided that enough was enough. Two wars had decimated the continent. The only way to ensure future security was to develop financial interdependence, so, instead of a loose band of states struggling to keep their heads above water and squabbling over living and farming space (see the Balkans in the 90’s), all the while being manipulated by the super economies and empires with their own interests in mind, we became a multicultural economic heavyweight in our own right. I’m not sure how much of this was down to the foresight of the original men behind the project and how much has been made up as we go along, but we are the most unique empire in history in the sense that we have people queuing up to become a part of it. Some even going so far as to entice the competition as a means of dangling a carrot like our Icelandic friends.

We certainly live in interesting times. Communism has failed, capitalism is in the process of failing and even representative democracy itself is being called into question by our own government telling us we didn’t vote the right way so we will have to vote on Lisbon again. Yet all the while we seem to be becoming what the US aspired to be before the Neocons came along and ruined it. A rather nice place to be.

We live in the upper-class neighbourhood of the world. Not so much walled in as everyone else walled out and from time to time we offer someone a ladder but only if it’s in the strategic interests of ourselves. However, Iceland has shown us that there is always a chink in the armour that another neighbourhood can use to exploit our own greed through the clever manipulation of those same interests. Now let’s see Turkey getting pissed off about having to do it the proper way.





History in the making?

11 11 2008

I like rugby. I’m not a huge sports fan. Football bores me, golf annoys me and apart from that one time I had to go for a lie down after watching some eastern European nineteen year old throwing a hula hoop around in the Olympics a few years ago I’ve never really paid that much attention to gymnastics either. Now don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the way in which people dedicate their lives to working towards being the best at what they do, fine tuning their bodies and regimenting their eating and sleeping patterns to work around their training schedules, and I’d love to have that sort of discipline but I don’t. But fair play to you if you do.

Anyway, this Saturday Ireland take on the mighty All Blacks in Croke Park as part of this years Guinness Autumn Internationals series. Ireland don’t have the best record against the All Blacks, having won a rather disappointing no matches out of 125 (I think) since 1905. The advantage the all blacks have always had is in their ability to field backs who can maul like forwards and forwards that can run like backs. 22 stone of Maori running 100m in ten seconds. Shite. However, in recent years (apart from the rather embarrassing end to Eddie O’Sullivan’s reign) Ireland have been punching way above our weight on the rugby pitch, beating pretty much everyone in the run up to the last world cup including Australia, the soon to be world champions South Africa and only loosing out on a six nations grand slam to an unlucky last minute try by the french. Then it all fell apart disastrously. But every few years we meet the All Blacks, and for some reason feel like we are going out to compete, and not to win. We seem to believe that putting up a good fight is good enough and to come out losers is OK so long as we seemed valiant in the attempt.

France seem to be different. France have no problems in rumbling the All Blacks, and its down to one simple thing. The French are not afraid of the All Blacks. They look past the hype and look for holes in the armour, find them with alarming regularity and exploit them, and in turn the All Blacks know that the French are not in awe of them and seem put out by the prospect of facing a team who seem intent with getting on and playing to win rather than having the decency to cry off at half time, and I think this is something Ireland can learn from.

I have always had massive respect for the french rugby team. They have a wonderful, fluid style of play. Punching holes in the center and setting up a winger for a fifty meter dash to the line. Fantastic stuff and at polar opposite to the up the jersey pick and drive approach taken by the Irish for so long. But you go with what you know and it served us well but now the game is changing. Reading an interview with Paul O’Connell today, I think the only thing that has kept Ireland from finally turning over the All Blacks is a lack of belief on their own part. The All Blacks are as much an ideology in world rugby as they are a team. The fierceness of the reputation that precedes them is, as it is in no other cases I can think of in sport, most often matched by their fierceness on the pitch and in effectively starting, playing and finishing convincing victories in all areas of the pitch. But how big a part does the preceding reputation play in the performance on the pitch? I have noted, even in Ireland’s last match against them in wellington where (in my humble opinion) an ill advised temper flare up on the part of Marcus Horan turned the tide of the game against us that the All Blacks are notoriously shaky on the back foot. Its unfamiliar territory to them and I firmly believe that if Ireland can take to the pitch this Saturday armed with the right frame of mind and take a lead into half time then we could be in with a real shot at history.

But, its all down to the frame of mind, and there is no better man in the circumstances than Declan Kidney to give players the belief in themselves that just might make it possible. In many ways we are still reeling from the mismanagement of Eddie O’Sullivan, but if we can find the right mix of opportunity and effective talent deployment then I really think we can get back into our game. Maybe not in time for this Saturday, but world Cup 2011 is calling, and a fair result in this years tournaments will give us a reasonably favourable qualifying group. And who knows. If a small team of sporting ideologues from south west Ireland can rise to be champions of Europe, then surely we have the legs to climb further up the mountain.

Ireland 12 – All Blacks 10





How far is far enough?

10 11 2008

In relation to the chasing down and murder of an innocent man in Limerick over the weekend, I have a few thoughts I would like to put to you regarding the state of our country and criminal justice system.

We live in a civilised society. We live in a nation in which we contribute to the well being of the state in general by spending our lives working and paying a considerable sum of what we earn in direct and indirect taxation to a government mandated by the will of the majority to take the fruit of our hard work and distribute it in a fair manner and for the benefit of us all. We live in a country governed by certain rules and obligations carried by us all to the best of our ability to ensure the safety and comfort of our neighbours who in turn carry the responsibility in kind in a perfect circle.

We have given our mandate  to a group of people who have pledged to uphold all of the above in the interests of a fair, just and above all secure society in which we all have, through or rights, taken the responsibilities inherent in those rights on our shoulders and held, for the most part, our obligations in this social contract.

In the last number of weeks it has become apparent that in doing so we have given our mandate to a group of people who have utterly failed in every aspect of their duty to us.

First, we had the arrogance shown by the minister for finance in targeting the most venerable in society in a series of cuts aimed at tackling a budget deficit the likes of which haven’t been seen in Ireland for twenty five years. A deficit caused by corrupt planning, ineffectual financial regulation and what can only be described as cronyism of the highest order between the government and the construction sector is now to be paid for by the elderly, schoolchildren and the sick in a pathetic attempt to recapitalise the system that brought itself down in the first place, giving more money to the people who lost it all in the first place. A fool’s errand indeed.

Second, our minister for health removes funding for a vaccine that would immunise schoolgirls against Cervical Cancer in later life, effectively and completely unnecessarily sentencing a percentage of 12-14 year olds just home from school as I type this to an early and completely avoidable death.

And now, this weekend a completely innocent man, in a case of mistaken identity, is chased down and brutally murdered meters from his home by gang members attempting to kill a rival drug dealer who, as would be expected of most vermin, already survived several attempts on his life. I find it hard to blame the guy who pulled the trigger in this case. After all, he is a product of the society we have entrusted the government to run and when push comes to shove, scumbags will be scumbags and will operate within the parameters they are allowed to operate in by the wider society. The fault has to lie with the system that has allowed people like this to roam the streets of the country that we all work to sustain. This is ours and its being commandeered by the lowest of filth, who are allowed to murder and rampage with impunity while the rest of us live in fear of who the health board is going to put next door to us next. Incompetence, inaction and plain old fashioned laziness on the parts of the gardai and government have led us to a state where a fine, upstanding member of society is murdered on his way home from obeying the rules we all adhere to so some scumbag somewhere can sell a few more pills.

Remove the right to silence. Start putting people away for fifty years, effectively taking scum off the streets for the rest of their lives and in doing so, maybe, just maybe causing some of them to think twice and if they don’t, well at least they won’t have the chance to act twice.

A change is due. It is apparrent that Brian Cowen, Mary Harney, Willie O’Dea and all their colleagues are no good at what they do. We entrusted them with something very delicate.

Now its broken.