Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christmas is Cancelled

At a press conference this morning the Government announced plans to cancel Christmas. Minister For Social and Economic Entertainment Mary MacLenihan said that in today's tightening economic conditions people can no longer expect the same level of festivities and reasons to party as in previous years.

"The obvious source of wastage in the party sector is Christmas." said the Minister. "Other festivities such as Halloween and Easter are just as much fun yet do not drain as many resources from the State. Look at the strain Christmas puts the public sector areas such as the postal service. Every year Christmas results in massive overtime bills, tired backs and worn shoes for postmen and postwomen up and down the country. Pint glass volume inspectors are run off their feet visiting every pub in Ireland to ensure all glasses are the correct EU mandated size. Hundreds of extra safety inspectors have to be hired to check the wiring in local authority street lights to insure they have the correct regulation insulation and bulb wattage. There is also a marked increase in unscheduled illness in the civil service as people ring in sick for the week following the office party."

Figures released by the Department of Economic Recovery detailed the exact cost of Christmas. Last year €16,000,000 was spent on a trial issue of new musical Oireachtas Christmas cards. The new card when opened would have played the 1980's Fianna Fail No.1 hit "We'll Rise and Follow Charlie" with the words changed to "We'll rise and follow Santa". Unfortunately the prototype card had a tendency to electrocute the person opening the card and several versions were found to have the incorrect tune installed, instead playing "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer", somewhat ironic considering the recent withdrawal of Grandmas medical card.

The government also had to recruit 2000 new immigration officers in 2007 and has placed an order with aerospace manufacturer McDonnell Douglas for a fleet of F-18A Hornet all-weather carrier-capable strike fighter jets in order to intercept and deal with an annual influx of migrants late on Christmas Eve night. Minister for Defensive Comments Billy O'Weee explained that every year air traffic control in Dublin sees a large transport aircraft appear on radar. This craft then visits every home in Ireland and can be seen on satellite images offloading one elderly and overweight man into every home. Early in January 2009 it is planned that these new inspectors will visit every home in Ireland searching for "jolly old fat men dressed in red" while the fighter jets will patrol the skies on Christmas Eve with orders to shoot down all intruders.

The Minister claimed that this is an obvious attempt by illegal elderly migrants from the North Pole to sneak into Ireland while everyone is asleep. These illegals would then attempt to acquire the now cancelled free medical cards for over 70's. Asked if the images actually showed the same elderly gentleman entering but then leaving each house and in fact did not represent a mass influx of jolly old men into the nation, Minister O'Weee admitted that this was a possibility but it seemed highly unlikely that one man would want to visit every home in Ireland in one night and so the government had to take action to protect the tax payers of Ireland. "The pilot of this craft is a rude and offensive man" stated the Minister. "Last year when a female air traffic controller tried to established contact he repeatedly referred to her as a prostitute. Over and over again he chanted Ho! Ho! Ho!. The poor lady in question suffered a nervous break down during the verbal assault and has been on compassionate leave from the civil service since this event. Doctors say she may never fully recover".

Asked if the Green Party supported the government decision Senator Dan O'Kancelled said that the exact details of the plan had not been fully discussed at cabinet. When the issue had been raised by Fianna Fail ministers the Green ministers were preoccupied making sure other cabinet members saved paper by writing on both sides of their notepads so they had not managed to table a question on this particular cut back. "In general the cancelling of Christmas would be something the Green Party would support" explained Senator O'Kancelled. "Christmas is the single greatest source of green house gasses and global warming in the developed world. Only last year 7,000,000 square miles of Arctic ice were melted by the heat produced from the Christmas lights hanging over Grafton St and another 3,000,000 miles were crushed up and used to chill drinks at the HSE office party. 10,000 polar bears were killed and their fur used to make the white trim on Christmas stockings. The whole state of Bolivia was deforested in 3 days by Christmas wrapping paper companies and 600 coal fired electricity power plants were built in China to provide the electricity to charge batteries used in toys."

Concluding the press conference Minister MacLenihan explained "People can no longer expect the State to support frivolous expenditure of time and resources. People should remember that Christmas did not exist in its current form before it was introduced in 1997 by the Fianna Fail Government. We hope that once economic stability and prosperity returns we will be able to reinstate Christmas and based on current forecasts from the ESRI we expect that in 2010 we will be able introduce a means tested Christmas for under 10's. Any child under the age limit and with a pocket money income of less than €1.18 a week will be allowed to hang Christmas decorations."

Recycling bins will be made available in supermarkets and hardware stores where members of the public will be able to recycle their old Christmas decorations. Anyone caught in possession of Christmas decorations after the 31st of November will have those decorations confiscated and will be subject to a €200 Xmas levy. The exact details of the ban will be published in the Anti-Christmas Bill 2008 which will go before the Dail early in November shortly before the Dail rises for its Christmas Mid-Winter holiday from November to March.

(This post was inspired by the news from RTE and Damien Mulley that Christmas is Cancelled)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Waterford and Newfoundland

Just back from a long weekend in Waterford. My girlfriend likes it since it reminds her of her home town of St Johns in Newfoundland. I had not been there since I was a kid so didn't quite realise how similar it is with the port and the cliffs on one side and the town center on the other.

It sometimes puzzles me how we can have so much of Ireland and the Irish just across the ocean in Newfoundland and not have more connections between here and there. Practically everyone I've met over there has Irish ancestors and just last year the last of the Irish speaker, Aloysius O'Brien, died. I was there at the time and it made all the news reports in the province. Funnily enough his mothers family came from Waterford.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not so affordable

Here is a clear example of why the government should stop getting involved in the property market. Houses on sale under the affordable houses scheme are now more expensive than houses on general sale.

Buyers can save €10,000 on €245,000 two-bedroom apartments in Phibblestown Wood, Ongar, Dublin 15, and €5,000 on €205,000 three-bedroom homes at Parnell Drive and Parnell Green, Ladyswell, Mulhuddart, by purchasing on the open market
instead of through Fingal County Council

It seems no matter how well intended most government schemes in the property market just end up profiting the property developers. The government should release their grip on the idea of massive tax income from a property boom and focus on encouraging a property market that is profitable for developers yet genuinely affordable for buyers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The bus missed

I was in a rush to get into town yesterday for a flickr meet. As I walked around the corner towards the bus stop at the end of the road I could see the 11A at the stop and realised that there was no way I could get to it in time so I had to wait 20 minutes until the next bus. That was fine because I was able to grab breakfast in the local Spar.

40 minutes later I was on the next bus turned onto Dame St and I caught up with that 11A I had missed.
Sometimes it's best to miss the bus, both as a passenger and as a Toyota Yaris.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Medical cards

In the budget this week the government decided to scrap automatic medical cards for over 70s leaving around 100,000 people wondering where they will get the money to go to the doctor. Some GPs charge €60 a visit never mind prescriptions or other medicines like say the flu vaccine, which cost my girlfriend €35 during a recent visit to her GP. So imagine if you were 70 years old retired, trying to scrape together enough money to buy food, pay the increased ESB and gas bills, then save a little money to buy Christmas presents for the grand kids and not doing anything fancy like foreign holidays. Just gettin by in Ireland today. €95 would be a good chunk out of your weekly income of say €241 which would put you over the limits.

Being over 70 there is a reasonable chance you may need to go to the doctor more than your average working age person and probably need some more medication as well. Suddenly basic health care is something you have to weigh up against lights and food. Is that pain in your arm that bad? Maybe those dizzy spells are just a bit of a bug that will pass. That lump you think you feel in your breast, probably just a benign cyst. Is it worth the money just to have peace of mind?
Some people will say the country cant afford to pay for all the little luxuries like medical cards for rich old people. But many people who will loose their medical cards are not rich, not by any means. Even if they have a little nest egg, they worked their whole lives so that they might have a little comfort in their old age. Many paid 66% income tax back in the bad old days of pre celtic tiger Ireland. Have they not paid for their medical cards? If their visits to doctors are too expensive then perhaps we should ask why doctors are so expensive and not why old people need to see doctors.

The cynic in me wonders if the government decided to target 70 years olds in the belief that they would be too weak to protest outside the Dail on a cold October day and that many of them wouldn't make it to the next election in 4 years anyway so who cares about their votes.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hockey Night in... Dublin

It's ice hockey season again and I finally get to watch at least part of a game live on TV with my girlfriend, who almost called the whole thing off early on when I joked that ice hockey wasn't really a sport. It took months of her telling me all about hockey and how great it is before she forgave me, she still doesn't realise I was joking :).

Anyway there is hockey on Setanta Ireland tonight though apparently it's not the same without the theme tune, the real theme tune that is, not the fake new one CBC will pick over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Speakeasy iPhones coming soon? accidentally, it appears, published details of their prices for speakeasy iPhones. For new users the prices were

8GB iPhone 3G €529
16GB iPhone 3G €589

Upgrading users only had the option of the 8GB phone. The page for new customers has already been removed but the upgrade phone is still listed here though that could be taken down as well at any time. More details can be found on the O2 forums.

So iPhones could be the most desired present this Christmas, though probably the hardest to get.

Interest Rate Cut

The central banks Europe, the UK, the USA, China, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland all just cut their interest rates by 0.5% in a co-ordinated move. When something like this happens with all those countries acting together on any issue you can just smell the panic in government buildings around the world. Lets hope some coordinated action does the trick or God only knows what will stop the economic crash.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


donnybrook \DON-ee-brook\, noun:
1. A brawl; a free-for-all.
2. A heated quarrel or dispute.

The word comes from the suburb of Dublin called Donnybrook which used to be famous for its annual fair where loads of fights and brawls used break out. Today its one of the more affluent posh areas of Dublin.