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Showing posts from 2004

Euphony - new scheme

It looks as if my telco provider, Euphony, has brought in a new scheme for lighter users.
At present, I use their "TalkNow" service which for 10 euros a month offers free landline calls locally and nationally for up to 60 minutes per call.

The new service, "EUSmart" costs 4.99 per month and is basically the same as the UTV free calls deal, except line rental not included and no 12 month contract. Its a nice service but for th extra 5 euro for cheaper mobile rates and free daytime calls TalkNow is a much better option.

Slip up of the day . . .

I was most amused to read the Guardians description of David Blunkett's "tug-of-love" case over his supposed son. Apparently Mr Blunkett is looking for access to the boy, "whom he has not seen for four months." Since Mr Blunkett is blind and a guide dog user, surely this is not surprising. More here.

Death to Democracy

More interesting comments on the latest attack on democracy by a former IRA murderer. Patrick Magee, who planted the 100lb bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, killing two people.... perhaps I should underline that "KILLING TWO PEOPLE." This seems to be forgotten in the spin doctoring of the pan-nationalist front. Somehow it is ok for Magee to plant bombs and kill innocent people, but not ok for the tiniest suggestion of collusion in the murder of IRA-sympathist lawyer Pat Finucance. Somehow the fact that Finucane specialised in getting murderers off the hitch more than smacks of the kind of morals that existed in the 1920s Chicago court system. The two people who died in Brighton were entirely innocent bystanders. They were not political apologists and they had not signed away their lives for any cause. Finucane, on the other hand, by virtue of his close association with the Provisional IRA, set himself up as a prime target. I presume this would have been one of the…

Would this man really bankupt the country?

Interesting to read Charlie McCreevy's comments on Sean Healy of CORI, insisting that CORI's economic policies would "banktupt the country" and that Healy preaches "nonsense." I've been reading CORI's economic policies for some time and there is much of interest to read. What is particularly sad is that McCreevy seems to have blown up the entire premise of CORI's policies rather than a handfull of deeply flawed policies.

So would CORI bankrupt the country? One of their policies certainly would. I have written before about how Basic Income, if implemented on CORI's plans, would remove any initiative from a huge percentage of the population to work, particularly the "real" low paid - workers earning less than the mythical average industrial wage and the minimum wage - who make up at least 50% of all workers, who would lose substantially under the process. Meanwhile productivity would collapse and multinational investment would d…

5 Great Dublin pubs

Birchalls, Ranelagh
Rody Bolands, Rathmines
Chaplains or whatever its now called(formerly the Regal Inn), opps Screen cinema (can't remember the street name)
The Cock Tavern, Swords
Smyths, Malahide

IBOA - the brave union

IBOA, an interesting and "intelligent" union, have today expressed their annoyance at the concentration of public sector issues in national wage agreeements. Perhaps this is because due to a failure to legislate on the issue of union recognition, coupled with massive incentives for TNCs to invest in Ireland, private sector union membership has virtually collapsed. The union is considering withdrawing from Congress in order to negotiate directly with private companies who are profitable enough to deliver fairer deals for their employees.

IBOA, who pulled off a quietly spectacular coup last year in achieving recognition with the normally union-hostile HP on their Bank of Ireland IT contract, which gave a fair deal for HP workers on the contract. This, however, presents a conflicting problem for HP's other workers throughout Ireland, who are denied the right to collective bargaining. Many, of course, are contract workers, but there are a significant number of workers in…

Job Creation - an Irish myth?

The Bank of Ireland Business Banking's job index is supposedly Ireland's benchmark for job creation, however this completely spurious index totally ignores some of the most obvious inaccuracies in the job advertising market.

Myth 1: Job advertisements reflect the real level of jobs being advertised.

A large number of companies now use employment agencies to fill their positions, but desperate companies often don't use just one, but anything up to 4 or 5, and sometimes more agencies to fill their jobs. For example 4 years ago one large Dublin based computer manufacturer used agencies so heavily to fill positions in its call centre, that almost every single agency who handled this kind of vacancy hired for the company. As a result, the same job was being advertised, not just once, but up to 40 or 50 times. Likewise a call centre in Cork currently uses agencies to hire - not only are the jobs advertised by multiple agencies, they repeatedly advertise the same jobs. This m…

Legal Murder

The outrageous news this week (which didn't even make front page headlines) about a man who literally drank himself to death in a bar in Laois while the bar staff continued to serve him defines all credulity. This man literally ordered straight vodka after vodka and was served. After he passed out a taxi was ordered for him by two other custmomers but the driver refused to take him. The man was left in the recovery position in the bar. After 2 hours a doctor was called to the scene who pronounced the man dead.

All the time the bar staff just went about their business and ignored the situation. A doctor who prescribed somebody enough to kill themselves and took it in front of them would now be sitting in court charged with manslaughter if not murder. A company who allowed one of their employees to die on the site would be accused of corporate manslaughter for not intervening in a health and safety issue. Yet a publican can literally position and customer and leave him to die…

Taxed out?

Gombeen of the day: Liz McManus

Today the Labour party's Liz McManus made a major gaffe when she pointed out that more people are convicted for welfare fraud than tax evasion. What McManus, normally a pragmatic and sensible politician, missed, was that the vast majority of welfare cheats are working on the black economy, and so are also tax evaders! Most of them receive similar penalties to those who are found evading tax, except due to low incomes most are allowed pay back over time and aren't penalised as heavily - unless they've been truly screwing the system.

The fact that almost all of the major gangland masterminds of the early 90s were also drawing the dole seems to have missed McManus. There is a shocking level of welfare cheating happening in Ireland which mostly involves childminding and small scale personal services. However many of those doing it would need to get a job of 30,000 plus per year in order to maintain their lifestyles, so it is only fair and rea…

Saints and Sinners . . .

Again back on the gay marriage backlash, apparently PATRE had a letter published in the Irish Times last week, causing an understandable level of offence to readers of the paper.  One friend of mine has pointed out that the most disturbing aspect of this organisation is its seemingly innocuous name, which basically hides the edifice of an organisatin dedicated to preventing the implementation of sex education in catholic schools.  They do not seem to be related to the CSPA (Catholic Secondary Parents Association) who insidiuously printed the details of a Dept of Ed project survey without premission because the project was a study of homophobic bullying in schools.  More on this organisation later in the week.
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After moving house last week, I discovered that somebody locally delivers the catholic freesheet "Alive."  This used to be quite a nice little read but seems to now be completely obsessed with sexual mores.  I noticed that the first 4 pages…

Ray done again . . .

Image
"Poor Ray" was up in the dock again yesterday, this time to answer charges for tax fraud on income on his offshore account from the early 1990s. This appears to have been a home for the proceeds of Ray's personal fundraising from the building industry, in return for assistance with planning. Interestingly, very little has been said about Ray's involvement in the Capital Radio fiasco (at the time, his vested interest was so blatant he even appear on the radio!) Although the figure quoted for Ray's tax evasion is nearly 2 million, much of this is years of interest and charges relating to the initial evasion.

To top this off, Ray has also cost the tribunals nearly 10 million, and the courts so far will be taking into account his efforts to impede the tribunals success, so its unlikely that he will be granted assistance. As a result, Poor Ray is likely to go bankrupt. One wonders will he be allowed keep his pleasant little house off Griffith Avenue - rumour has…

A Step in the Right Direction

Great to see news that the government are finally taking responsibility for the enormous chaos that is private rental subsidies for social welfare recipients.

The plan is do make local authorities responsible for tenants after 18 months. In other words the money that is currently being spent by health boards on what is an enormous subsidy to middle class property owners to pay mortgages for substandard homes that other people end up living in may change.

A fascinating report was carried by ERSI last week. You can read it here. The suggestion is that the problem is not affordability for home owners, but that the real problem is coming from the private rented sector as modest wage earners are priced out of the rental market and are forced to borrow left, right and centre to pay mortgages that are at least under control.

One of the most frustrating aspects of any study of private rented accommodation is that it almost always focusses on the so-called "bottom third" - those o…

Poor Ray!

http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=9&si=1198618&issue_id=11004

Today "Poor Ray" Burke's lawyer's have complained that it would be "deeply unfair" if Burke was not awarded 10 millions plus to the tribunal which he tried so hard to obstruct.

Perhaps this is just as unfair as the free house Burke seems to have mysteriously acquired back home in Swords, the enormous wealth he received not only in donations, but through shifty planning like assisting the planning of the still under-serviced River Valley estate (whilst of course making an extra profit as the agent for selling the houses built).

Perhaps this is just as unfair as the hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland living in unsuitable and substandard accommodation who cannot afford to buy their own home, while Burke basks in luxury just off Griffith Ave.

NSC suggests children should not cycle

http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=9&si=1183918&issue_id=10885

Today the National Safety Council have suggested that children under 12 not be allowed to cycle on public roads without "training." Since 1896 25 million people have been killed as a result of motor vehicles. Cyclists are particularly in danger, not just because of their vulnerability but because driving standards have declined due to protectionist measures designed to prevent car users from coming into contact with vulnerable road users, thus making it less important for them to train themselves to be aware of other road users.

I see this regularly as a cyclist in Cork city, where a large percentage of drivers are completely unaware of other road users, and break even very basic road rules (such as, for example, driving through pedestrian lights or overtaking a cyclist and turning left). In an environment where cycling is shrinking, it becomes more hostile and dangerous as car driv…
While idling away at work I found this little gem.

More pap from CORI

Again, CORI have come out with more guitar paying, tree-hugging pap. After an intelligent discussion about questions of inequality in Ireland, again the suggestion of increasing the basic adult rate of social welfare by €47 have been suggested. Secondly Ireland has been criticised as a low tax economy.

Not only is the welfare increase, it would do enormous harm to completitiveness and quality of life. This is because social welfare rates do not take into consideration other benefits given to welare recipients and their values. For example, a single person in Dublin may be entitled to rent allowance of up to €110 per week. They receive a medical card which gives them free medical treatment (saving them up to €78 per month on medication and GPs fees of €40 per visit). There are also some extra entitlements for pensionres and those on disability and lone parent payments. Even a single person living in rented accomodation in Dublin visiting a doctors every second month receives a n…

The Man who gave 3 billion of your money to the horsey set . . .

Here's a telling quote from Charlie McCreevy, Minster for Finance, which makes it clear where his priorities lie: (source is http://archives.tcm.ie/kildarenationalist/2000/04/07/story6921.asp)

"The next logical step was to put racing's finances on a permanent footing. If that is not done, racing will be at the whim of the government of the day and, when the pressure comes for expenditure on things like health and education, racing will go down the political priority list."

So Racing is actually not just of equal but HIGHER priority to health and education? And oh, orrore, God forbid anybody might just think that it was a lower priority?

Make sure you vote against this dreadful government in the European elections this year.

Ireland's Deceit . . .

Today the Home Office (UK, of course!) announced that unemployment there has fallen to the lowest rate since records began in 1884. The current UK rate is an enviable 4.8%. But before you say "hey, Ireland's better" - oh no she's not. Because Ireland deceitfully uses only the signing on register as "unemployment". The comparable rate for the UK for the so-called live register is 2.9% - still less than half of the Irish register. The real unemployment rate in Ireland - which measures all those seeking employment, and not just those on the dole, is about 8-9% - something more akin to the German rate and nothing at all to boast about.

Read it at the Guardian.
Here's a lovely website that I often revisit, Jeanette Winterson's site. If you are not familar with the magnificent writing of Winterson I'd recommend you do so as soon as possible. I think I've read all bar one or two of her books.

Its difficult to describe what makes Winterson so special. I first encountered Winterson when I was about 17 or 18, watching the opening episode of Oranges are Not the Only Fruit with a cousin, who'd read Sexing the Cherry. I was drawn in by the story - a mother/daughter tale which to me was not unlike the relationship between myself and my mother. I grew up with the same level of religiosity and authoritarianism at home. I could really understand the limitations that your life seem to have when you come from a high authoritarian working class background. I read the book not long afterwards and eventually went on to buy most of Winterson's books. She's a strong sense of fantasy, often writing strongly biblical or classi…

Irish Democracy goes down the pan!

Two cheers for the schoolgirls who yesterday caused an evacuation of Dáil Eireann. The young ladies in question blocked the sinks in the vistors reception and then turned on the taps. The resulting steam caused the alarm to go off, forcing an evacuation.

Ironically the ladies in question had blocked the sinks with copies of pamhlets on Irish democracy they had been given earlier!

See the Independent

More CORI pap . . .

CORI (http://www.cori.ie) have come up with yet another hare-brained "solution" for Ireland's poverty issues. The latest is "cost-rental" housing. After an excellent review of housing inequity in Ireland (and believe me, I understand this, since I pay out 1/3 of my after tax income on very overpriced, poor quality rented accomodation), they come up with yet another totally unworkable solution. For a start nobody actually explains what a "cost rental" approach would entail. I've scoured the web and it appears that basically this would be either of two things: social housing with controlled rents, or renting out, for example, an entire apartment block and then renting to social tenants at subsidised rates. However, social housing is extremely under-resourced in Ireland, with a less than 60% success rate in local authorities reaching their own targets for completions. Also renting to social tenants is a highly profitable business for private la…
I've just been reading an Irish Independent debate about whether or not a €10 increase in social welfare is generous.

That's debateable. I think the money is very high when you consider that the jobs that many ex welfare recipients are most likely to get are paid about double that, but they will not get the percentage increases in a low paid job. Also you must consider that even a single person in rented accomodation can get up to 70 a week outside Dublin and up to 110 a week in Dublin - and then they still moan about that.

In fairness 134 a week is a very small amount but a person earning 1283 a month paying 400 rent and 40 on medical expenses is only 41 euro a week better off, and the likelihood of them getting a 10 euro a week increase would require a pay rise that they have no guarantee of getting. So the nearer that social welfare gets to this figure, the less incentive there is to work. I notice that social welfare payments have nearly reached a point where they have…

Online Dating

http://www.adequacy.org/public/stories/2001.7.25.153123.334.html

Through some raddom webbrowsing, I found the site above - the article, is highly biased and makes a lot of assumptions, but the discussion was interesting.

For a start, as somebody who extensively used online dating for the guts of 7 years, I would strongly, heavily, advise anybody to be ultra-cautious. I dated both men and women (ok for a few years I was still trying to do the bisexual thing). Also I did actually end up with a flatmate through online - flatmate from hell I should add. The men were all completely and utterly wasters - their selfishness seemed to know no depth. Most of the women I met were varying degrees of "unstable" from mildly disturbed to pretty much hysterical. Lots seemed to have little or no life. Social class, interestingly, was varied as early on a lot of people online were students.

First of all be warned that a lot of people who go online to build up their relationships do so b…

Valetine's Weekend . . .

Just had a nice Valentine's weekend, didn't spend the whole lot with Dawn, but some of it. Its really quite strange being in a relationship again after so long. I didn't expect to meet anybody for a some time, and least of all in Cork. So far its been pretty good - its really nice having somebody to share evenings with, muck around with. Best of all is thinking for two. I guess thats something I missed a lot. As well, and I suppose this sounds cliched, but I found it true, was for some time I found it difficult to sleep in a double bed alone. Well not difficult to sleep (I've an excellent bed, real sleep inducer), but strange.

Its also really weird since it doesn't at all fit into the pattern of relationships I've had over the last 4+ years - which were almost all on-scene, very "public" relationships insofar as we were all part of the eternal circle of Dublin gay women. This is quite different - we rarely go out on the scene, we don't liv…

Thought on CORI's positions

CORI and their policies

I've just been reading the CORI website and I have to say I find most of what they write very well intentioned, if perhaps lacking in foresight and originality.

I've in particular noticed that CORI are fixated on preserving and developing services which have already proved to be catastrophic and expensive failures, rather than suggesting totally new ideas. To give an example CORI are critical of the winding down of the CES schemes, despite the fact that the failure rate is enormous: 4 out of every 5 participants do not find meaningful work upon the completion of the course. Likewise Rent Supplement - the entire rent supplement system is fundamentally flawed as it is a non statutory benefit - outrageous in this age of non-supply of social housing. Another good example is that CORI suggest widening the tax band - but widening to whom? One of the most catastrophic side effects of tax reform in the UK is that while taxes as a whole have reduced, the tax…

The PRSA scam

I've just been reading some of the promotional blurb for Ireland's latest answer to the pensions crisis (only about 50% of employees in Ireland have pensions, and a majority of those are public servants). I cannot help but notice just what a scam this supposed "solution" is, and how much it exposes employees to risk without doing anything at all to interfere with the employers who have failed to provide pension plans and failed to encourage employees to partake.

I've just been comparing my pension scheme (a plain ordinary defined contribution pension) with the standard PRSA and am shocked.

For example:

--there is no compulsion on employers to contribute ANYTHING to a PRSA, whereas under the approved company scheme like mine, employers are compelled to make a "meaningful" contribution (1/6 at least). Given that this is highly tax friendly, it costs employers very little to make small contributions so allowing nothing to be made at all is highly discrim…

Gardening

I was searching my company directory earlier for a colleague, known for her quirky sense of humour, who had put a picture of one of her 5 pet cats onto her directory account. This, however, failed to meet the high standards of the UK employee who infamously put up a "joke cv" on the companies HR website (which is as much a networking and shameless self promotional tool) complete with a picture of himself as a gonk. Needless to say, the powers that be in Triton Square London were not amused and numerable emails were sent to employees to discourage the practice of humour in their everyday work. Thankfully, the cat survived. Here it is.

The background of the picture reminded me of one spate of house hunting in London in late 2001. We went to look at a house in Ladywell, near Lewisham, and found the house to be highly attractive, and full of 5 professional gay women. The back garden however, was a sheer Mesopotamian paradise of miniature proportions. Foundtains, delicately…

Employment Law and Employment Agencies: A Case for Legislation?

Two articles caught my eye this morning, this harrowing account in the Guardian, of a Chinese migrant worker who collapsed and died after working a 24 hour shift in a plastics plant in Teeside providing parts for Samsung, and this BBC article about the TUC's campaign on the rights of migrant workers. The problem is widespread in Ireland also, and numerous article in the papers have detailed the problem in Ireland.

One should also remember that, despite an almost total media blackout, the UK and Ireland managed to block an EU directive to force employers to grant equal rights in the workplace to non-permanent workers. This would have, for example, ended the "dirty" practice of subtracting public holidays from statutory minimum holidays (a practice widely operated by agencies) and denial of rights to long term temporary workers. Although this was widely covered in the UK media, in Ireland there was a near media blackout on the subject. Ireland continues to pretent to b…