Thursday, February 26, 2009

Civil Service Strike

The Civil and Public Services Union played their trump card by going on strike today and guess what, the Earth did not stop revolving, Brian Cowen didn't explode and Brian Lenihan didn't come crawling to their picket lines covered in ashes and dressed in sackcloth. In fact, it might have just around my area but traffic did seem lighter this morning so I got into work quicker this morning.

Maybe all this strike has done is highlight the fact that there are thousands of civil and public sector workers that aren't vital to running the country on a daily basis? At the very least if we get a few more strike days this year the budget deficit may be solved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gardai to protest

The Gardai (Irish police force) were on duty last Saturday for the public service pension levy march. Of course you do need as many police around as possible when you have 120,000 protesters so they had to put up with some shouts of "why aren't you marching with us", of varying levels of friendliness, from the crowd walking past their cordons around the Dail.

They get their turn to stand out side the Dail and shout at the government next Wednesday marching from Parnell Sq to the Dail. Interestingly the GRA have put forward some suggestions to the government that went beyond the usual "don't make us pay it's not fair" that comes out of most trade unions.
"We asked Government to consider legislation to write down mortgages by 20%. We also asked the Government to consider legislation that would allow people on fixed rate mortgages to be allowed to switch to variable rates without penalty. Their silence is deafening.

I like the 20% write down idea. The government is giving billions in taxpayers money to the banks to cover bad loans from property developers so I like the idea that instead of writing off huge property debts write off 20% of everyones debt and see if that stimulates the economy and restores confidence. Seems very unfair to those of us renting and with no mortgages or to those who spent their whole lives paying off theirs but it does seem better than just paying off the debts of a few millionaires.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Standards & Decency in the gutter?

I went into the anti-pension-levy protest yesterday in Dublin. It was an impressively organised protest. If we spent as much time thinking up solutions for the economic crisis as we seem to be spending complaining about it then we would well into our next economic boom.

More pictures can be seen here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We apologise for any inconvenience

I saw signs up in St Stephens Green this morning giving advance notice of work planned for the Metro North station from the Green out to the airport and on the Swords. Personally I cant believe they ever planned to dig up St Stephens Green to build a train station when just running the Metro from O'Connell St and going ahead with the planned over ground connection of the Luas lines would have been much cheaper, far less destructive and much less disruptive.

There is an existing Luas line from O'Connell Street to Heuston and Connolly train stations so there should be no need to extend the Dart to St Stephens Green. In theory it may cut a couple of minutes off some peoples public transport journey from Sandyford to Cork or the Airport but is that worth the investment? Would it really be such a hardship to expect people to stay on the Luas an extra 2 minutes all the way to O'Connell St and then switch to the other Luas line or onto the Metro?

Given the current economic down turn the cynical part of me thinks the only reason to push ahead with an expensive plan to extend the Metro line under the Liffey and connect it with a new Dart and train extension from Heuston and Connolly is because the new station would be a two minute walk from the Dail. Of course it's all ok because as the sign says they "apologise for any inconvenience".

Save the money, save the Green. Put the money into a decent bus and tram service in Dublin and around the country as a whole.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Scruffy Beard

As requested here is a photo of my beard just before I cracked and shaved it off. It might not look like much but for me it was Grizzly Adams. Itchy and generally annoying. I'm not sure how people grow long beards without going mad and moving into a cabin in the woods surrounded with rifles and explosives.

Not Illegal*

* Note: May actually be illegal.

I love the double talk coming out of Irish government at the moment. On one hand they say there was nothing wrong with the Anglo Irish investment deals which saw 10 business men given €300m in loans by Anglo Irish Bank in order to buy shares in the bank while using the shares themselves as collateral. The deals look bad to the public and do result in the Irish tax payer, who now owns Anglo Irish Bank, being exposed to 300 Million in bad debts but the government was told it was all legal so there is no need to embarrass the "Golden 10" investors in Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Cowen said the Regulator had accepted assurances from the bank itself that the disposal of an interest held by the family of billionaire business man Sean Quinn was legal.

Yet when pressed to name the Golden 10 the government responds saying they cannot name the 10 business men because it may prejudice future legal prosecutions.

Ms Coughlan said the matter was "one for the Financial Regulator".

"No member of Cabinet wants to deter from due process. The full rigours of the law arising from due process will apply," she said.

So basically the government is saying there is no point naming them because it was legal, but it might not have been legal so the cant name them anyway.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bus Strike

There will be a national bus strike on the 28th of February with two more days planned in March. I've always believed that there were fewer buses on the roads when there was a major sporting event on TV. One evening a few years ago when there was some rugby, soccer, GAA and Formula 1 events all falling on the same weekend people were queueing for hours at the 11 bus stop on O'Connell St. The woman at the top of the queue rang the number printed on the stop and was told there was only one 11 bus running that day because all the other drivers had rung in sick. I hope they weren't too weak to lift their heads and stare at the TV screen in the pub.

Guess what, the 28th of February is the day Ireland plays England in Croke Park. It might be a coincidence but I bet some drivers are glad to have the opportunity to sneak away from the picket line and get into a pub to watch the match.


I spent the last few weeks trying to grow a beard, just as an experiment. I never intended to keep it. Apparently in order to get a clear idea of what ones beard will look like you need to stop shaving for 4 to 6 weeks. I made it to about 3 weeks.

I did think that after 2 weeks the itching and general annoyance would ease and I would have some idea of what the beard would look like. However yesterday the itching was back, though I think it was more of a case that my beard was now long enough to tickle. Plus for some weird reason the hairs on my beard were growing straight out and even upwards instead of down like I would have expected. This meant I looked like a crazy homeless man with fleas who had just returned from a trip to the South Pole with Earnest Shackleton.

Enough was enough and the razor came out last night. Ahh, the blessed relief. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't make it to the 6 weeks but perhaps I'll try again some time when I don't have to go out in public for a month and a half.

Update: Here you go

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ceiridwen on the BBC

While having my breakfast this morning I logged onto the BBC website to see what was new in the world. A story on the front page in the Also in the News section caught my attention "DNA testing fails on ancient British polar bear remains". I will admit to a certain fascination with polar bears since last winter when I read about polar bears being caught relatively close to where I spend my summer holidays.

Anyway this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reading a story on the BBC which centered around the efforts of a friend of mine, Ceiridwen Edwards, to extract DNA from the ancient skull of a polar bear found in Scotland. The story can be found here. Well done Ceiridwen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Munster in Croker

The GAA central council has unanimously agreed to allow Munster play their Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park in May. There is still the small matter of a quarter final with Ospreys to get over but credit where credit is due, the GAA didn't have to open Croke Park but the prospect of 82,000 Munster fans in Croke Park will make for a great match, even if it's against the evil Leinster ;-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday 13th

Oh crap, it's Friday the 13th. I knew something was wrong when I woke up tireder than when I went to sleep, when the bus was late and full of chattering school kids and when the project builds in work were broken this morning. Is it too late to go home for the day?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bank Villain

Banks are the new villains in the movies.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tax for nothing

I have no problem with the idea that public sector workers should pay more for their pensions. I'm a private sector worker and my private pension invested in the stock market was gutted when the market collapsed yet their pensions are still secure. Personally I have no idea what kind of a pension I will have when I retire but I'm in the fortunate position of having many years for my pension to recover. Many private sector workers like me would love to have a safe predictable pension like the public sector one so when the government proposed a pension levy to pay for the pension I thought it was a good idea, though obviously a painful one. I realise that for people in the public sector it sucks and really hurts to suddenly loose 7% of their income come March 1st but at the end of the day people with public sector pensions will probably be better off than many people with private pensions so it's short term pain for long term benefit.

However today I found out today that there is so much confusion around the new public sector pension levy that people with jobs linked to the public sector but with no pensions are still being charged the levy. Basically they are being taxed on an income they don't have. Odds are when the dust settles in a few months and when the government clarifies the levy those workers wont have to pay but its disgraceful that with 3 weeks to go before the levy comes into effect and with pay roll deadlines looming no one seems to know for certain how the levy works or who it applies to so workers are being told they are not entitled to a public sector pension but will have to pay the levy.

The levy should be shelved until the legislation around it is locked down and financial departments are given a couple of months to get their systems and procedures ready for it and workers are given time to prepare for the drop in their take home pay.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moving the money

Part of me found it funny when I heard tonight that the banks in Ireland help each other out in times of need. According to RTE 9pm news when Anglo Irish Bank was suffering from low deposits at the end of its financial year last September, Irish Life & Permanent extended Anglo 'exceptional support' in the form of a deposit of 'billions of euro'. As a result instead of falling year on year, Anglos deposit base grew, at least for the few days around the end of the year.

If this is true then bloody hell! Apparently this is all legal and 'the transactions were fully and appropriately accounted for in the books and records of Irish Life & Permanent and in regular reports and returns to the Financial Regulator'. I don't know if its a good thing that the banks are helping each other out like this or if it's just scary. What else is going on in the banking sector in Ireland? Is this where we find out there is only one real bank in the country and they just move the money and furniture around before the financial regulator comes to visit?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Croke Park is a toilet?

Quote of the day has to come from Aine Lawlor on RTEs Morning Ireland.

"Croke Park is like a fancy toilet?"

Which she exclaimed when told the 6 Nations match against France this weekend would go ahead because the pitch had under soil heating.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ericsson lay off 300

Ericsson laid off 300 people in their Dublin plant today.
In a statement, the company says that some of its Irish operations will be moved to other low-cost locations as part of its efforts to cut down on the number of locations from which it operates.
Seems like the kind of statement that has been pretty standard in the news over the last few months. Irish manufacturing and low tech jobs being moved to low cost centers in Eastern Europe and Asia. Except it's not that at all. Apparently these jobs are in research and development. You know, the kind of jobs the government thinks we can still compete for. If Ireland can no longer compete for R&D jobs then we're really screwed.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Trickle up economics

On Newstalk they just calculated that if instead of bailing out banks the Irish government gave the money to the people then every Irish citizen over 18 would get €200,000. Is that right? If so it's a shocking amount of money.
The concept is called trickle up economics and the basic idea is that instead of giving money to big business and waiting for the money to trickle down to small business and individuals you give the money directly to individuals. The money makes it into local shops and businesses then into the banking system and finally to big business but it's supposed to be a fairer way to distribute the money.
I can kind of see where they are coming from but surely it would be a nightmare to manage? There would be homes all over Ireland with 40 inch TVs in every room. I must read some more about this idea.

Monday, February 02, 2009

TV Schedule Conflict

What fecking ejit in RTE thought it would be a good idea to schedule the new series of Greys Anatomy on RTE Two at 9:30pm against the new series of 24 on Sky One at 9pm on Mondays? Seriously, it's a disaster waiting to happen in some homes. In a couple of weeks there are going to be trial separations and kids sitting on stairs saying "Mommy and Daddy are shouting again".

Thank God we had a second TV stored under the stairs that could be set up in the spare bedroom in a hurry during an ad break in 24.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Best Headline of the Day

The best headline I've seen in a newspaper for ages is in today's Sunday Tribune.
Astrology shop fails to foresee its own demise
by Mark Hillard who goes on to say "Perhaps if anyone should have seen the recession coming it was them".