Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another day, another dollar, another drink : Irish life summed up

Is it me or is the working world intensely boring?

At twentysomething (a young twentysomething, let me stress here), I work, get home, maybe meet friends (out or at home), blog, read, watch TV, go to the cinema, the theatre or a gig and, the odd time, "go drinking". I have enough disposable income to allow all of this.

Most of my friends and acquaintances do similar things, sans reading and blogging, avec plus de "going drinking". Beaucoup plus de "going drinking".

So where's the rub?

Every one of them has 'plans'. Plans that, in the main, will never come to fruition. Plans about Australia, about France, about learning Spanish and moving to South America, even for just a year. Plans to go back to college. Plans to completely change personalities and lives. These are mainly made in the pub.

Oh yes, the pub. Did I mention that? I met someone I know as a passing acquaintance at the swimming pool the other day. In a chat that got way too deep for a five-minute Sunday soak in the jacuzzi, she confessed how hard she finds it to make friends and said she was sick of being thought weird because she didn't just want to" go drinking". Isn't peer pressure supposed to finish up when you're 18?

When did "going drinking" become an adventure sport? When did it become a pastime? What about socialising? What about gigs, darts, playing pool, playing cards, even going on the pull for God's sake... all the things that used to happen in pubs? These days, drinking is the reason you go out. You "go drinking" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. And maybe "for a pint" (a different thing entirely) on a Sunday, and maybe a Wednesday.

What is wrong with us? Every twentysomething I have met in the world of work "goes drinking" at the weekend.

Despite the bad rep college has, things are worse in the world of the young Irish professional. At least in college you have clubs, societies, and days and nights spent drinking tea and eating whatever biscuits were on 2-for-1 with your flatmates and whoever else happened to call by. Sometimes you may have done that with alcohol. But it wasn't "going drinking", because you were doing other things at the same time, like chatting with friends or even just watching the bloody television. Surfing might be the new black in the West of Ireland, but it plays a poor second to drinking.

Where are we going wrong? Now personally, I read books, I go to the cinema, I drink coffee or tea with people instead of "going drinking". Is it me that's going wrong?

Don't get me wrong. I love a couple of glasses of wine. In fact, I've just had two in the company of a friend for whom I regularly make dinner. While we watch TV. I also love to "go for a pint"* (*denotes drinking which takes place in the context of conversation and without a large amount of flesh on display). But there is something deeply disturbing about the fact that there are thousands (hundreds of thousands? I'm too tired to research) of twentysomethings, mainly in cities and big towns throughout Ireland, whose sole pastime and way of meeting people is through "going drinking". What a way to build a society.

In thirty years' time, we will be the ones running the show. On a society created from alliances based on "going drinking". Marriages, friendships and even business deals will be based on drunken encounters in heaving disco bars and nightclubs. I can hear you scoffing at the thought, but what if I showed you the example of a couple I know, together three years, who I have known six months, but never known to be sober in each other's company after 5pm? And they don't see anything unusual in that.

My life is fun. I like it. But describing a weekend without a "session" sounds, even to me, rather woefully empty - despite being full of fun, chat, gossip, a small amount of travel and even some big deep talks. But sans hangover the weekend does not read as "fun" to anyone else.

... Can anyone explain this to me?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Lisbon Treaty

In my line of work I come across a lot of press releases.

But I have never in all my days come across so many bloody pointless tit-for-tat press releases on anything as for this bloody Treaty. Do I come across angry? Because if not, you're reading me wrong.

I have had at least ten press releases this morning alone from Libertas. For GOD'S SAKE! You're not helping yourselves, people.

Problems with Libertas:
1) John McGuirk
2) John McGuirk
3) John McGuirk
4) Pointless, personalised attacks in press releases.
5) Over-press releasing. Keep bombarding us with them and we won't use any. Guaranteed.
6) Where is the money coming from?
7) Why does Ganley care so much?
8) General shadiness.
9) John McGuirk
10) John McGuirk.

As noted on politics.ie, anyone who knows anything about politics in Ireland knows McGuirk is an arrogant p**** with no agenda but his own self-promotion. Libertas has provided him with the ideal vehicle for this. He has jumped from FF to FG when things didn't suit (with very nasty tactics, threatening to anonymously leak information from the FF national youth committee, among other things), and no doubt he would jump straight into a 'yes' vote if Declan Ganley stopped letting him shout the odds on every primetime political programme in this country.

While I'm by no means a confirmed yes voter, Libertas' petty tactics are far more likely to push me in the 'yes' direction than the oiliness of Roche and Cullen.

That's another thing - if the government is so determined to get a 'yes' vote, then why are they sending out Roche and Cullen to defend it? Madness!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gilmore the gentleman

Eamon Gilmore can be very underestimated.

This from BreakingNews.ie shows his mettle. His statements are always far more carefully crafted than Enda Kenny's. At a time when Mary Harney has never been more pilloried, and the taunts are getting more than mildly personal (anyone else seen that Mr and Mrs Shrek email?), Gilmore gives us a classic example of going for the ball, not the player. Enda could learn from this.

Class act.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And as it began, so shall it end

So, the end of an era. At least that's what all the Opposition leaders (except Caoimhghin O Caoilain, of whom more later) had to say yesterday, on Bertie's last day at school. I mean in the Dáil. As Taoiseach.

Warm words from Inda. How surprising. Perhaps Inda has decided to take a leaf out of Bertie's now-redundant book and be all nicey-nicey for a change. More dignified that way I guess.

Poor oul Caoimhghin has been universally condemned (see both Miriam Lord and Fionnan Sheahan on Thursday) for his 'ill-judged' attack on the health service. I know it's not polite, but I can see his point - if he has a problem, it's better to be open about these things.

In fairness to Mr Ahern, he was a great Taoiseach in some ways. Northern Ireland is obviously an achievement of indescribable proportions, probably more for future generations than for this one.

But I do wonder about all the praise being heaped on him for the economy. Surely he (and his ministers, let's not forget, as well as government officials) were only capitalising on something that was building since the early 1990s, EU enlargement helped, and of course the improvements in the world economy.

Maybe there's a reason Cowen was somewhat limited with his eulogy - he knows that he will have less to work with, and will be blamed, as Bertie has been praised, for progress or lack thereof over the coming years.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Food prices - poor us


Earlier, I said this cartoon says it all.

Now I'm not so sure.

Rising food prices across the world have already caused deaths, both from riots and from starvation. Survival of the fittest has kicked in; those who have least are getting even less as prices continue to increase.

Riots have already happened in Haiti, Bangladesh and other places worldwide. A quick google of 'food price riots' brings up 34,000 results, and still, most Irish people will ask what you're talking about.

Because what most of us are currently concerned about is our economy. House prices, job prospects, and, oh yes... the price of goods. Did you know that the price of Irish Pride has risen from €1.66 to €2.15 in the past year or so? Disgraceful. How are we going to feed our children?

Hang on a minute. Where's the context? Many of us will pay much more than that for one cup of coffee at least once a day (guilty). Or €100 for a pair of shoes (guilty). Or €1.80 for the Irish Times in which we read about the food increase (nope, work paid for that one :) ).

The price of staples such as bread is not going to put any of us in danger. There are very, very few people in Ireland who cannot afford basic food. While there are plenty of people in this country living in relative poverty, the level of absolute poverty is extremely low. People on the lower levels of the economic ladder in this country will feel the pinch, there's no doubt about that. But they won't know why, because they don't read the Irish Times.

The ones complaining about the prices are people who will pay for a skinny latte four times a day, will drink €15 cocktails and will go on holidays at least twice a year.

Oh yeah, and the farmers. Because the prices are too low.

I appreciate that they are trying to protect their livelihoods. So would I. But can they not see the hypocrisy of giving the annual calf to Bothar, and then crying for a world trade policy that would see all the world's most vulnerable developing countries excluded from the party?

Immigration Bill

So Brian Lenihan is to make 200 changes to his own bill.

Now, I'm no expert but surely this bill went through the Oireachtas committees before publication? And was probably chopped and changed by parliamentary draftsmen plenty of times too.

Michael D Higgins and others have been absolutely apoplectic over it since it was published, and human rights groups all over the place have been scathing about it.

Among other things, it requires non-EEA residents to seek the Minister's permission to marry (how very 1500 - does he want his droit de seigneur too?), sanctions lawyers who take 'vexatious' cases (who defines vexatious?), and is very restrictive on family reunification, which is one of the main problems with the current system. The appeals process would be greatly restricted, too.

UNRWA has even identified problems with it - and our own Mary Robinson a former President. Come on.

Normally I quite like Brian Lenihan - he seems sensible and he seems to know what he's talking about, as well as having a nice gravitas that's often lacking in our elected reps. But was he watching the ball at all on this one?

If he's Minister for Justice, bringing in bills like this, and his brother (of the infamous Kebab joke) is Minister for, of all things, Integration, you really have to wonder about the direction of things.

McDowell may be gone but his ghost lives on.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This case has me absolutely gobsmacked.

A female, leftwing TD writes a letter verifying the good name of a rape accused's parents to the judge in his case.

I suppose Deputy Lynch being female and of the Labour persuasion shouldn't make a difference to me, but it does.

The blatant clientelism and "don't you know who I am-ism" of it. Everything Labour is supposedly against.

The blatant disrespect for the independence of the judiciary that it implies. Again, something the Opposition parties have spent the past 11 years berating the government for.

The fact that she believes the character of somebody's parents might have a bearing on whether they can be a rapist or not.

The betrayal of another woman that's involved.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cannon elected as PD leader

Wow... I know they said it would be close, but 51% to 49%... that's crazy. Why would that many people vote for Fiona O'Malley unless they were deliberately sabotaging the party?

As I've said before, Cannon appears to be highly competent and organised, as well as having good compassion credentials (former CEO of the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, bringing sick kiddies to Lourdes), which I think we'll all agree is something the PDs could do with, being accused of leaving old ladies to die on trollies and the like.

If you were to believe everything you see in the Star, Mary Harney would have been one of those kids who tied tin cans to puppies' tails and then set them on fire. Something tells me she wasn't. But I digress.

Is Cannon going to be able to make a difference? Despite a nice, catchy, alliterative name that will be kind to headline writers everywhere, can he keep the whole show on the road?

Read more here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

'Quality of life' marketing

Is it just me or is there a whole slew of ads out at the moment intended to make you believe that, not just will the product make you thin/beautiful/happy/sexy, but that it will make you a more alive person.

Seriously. Johnston Mooney and O'Brien, sponsoring Today FM weather (I think). "Love bread, love life."

The Twelve Hotel, Barna, Co Galway. "Celebrate Food, Celebrate Wine and Celebrate Life."

Some wine crowd (can't remember who). "We love wine, we love life."

What is this about? Has someone just caught on to the fact that people, sorry, consumers, are actually living beings? And is this an attempt to bring 'quality of life' in as a marketing ploy? Because if so, it's really not working.

I mean, any idiot understands that eating healthily, playing sports, going on holidays, etc, improves your quality of life. (Thanks to successful advertising campaigns for same, I am now beginning to suspect.) But bread? And wine?

As a carb addict, I do love bread. But I wouldn't say loving bread makes me love my life any more intensely than I would otherwise. In fact, the bloating probably makes me love life slightly less. I love wine too, and the same applies.

Marketers, and advertising execs, stop jumping on every bandwagon passing, and think of something original. Please. Or I might just stop loving life altogether.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Q&A on Tibet

Mullen is commonly known as a right wing politician, but to be fair to the guy, his stance on Tibet was the most humane of all the panellists. Then again, with a panel composed of a FG frontbencher, an FF backbencher, Eddie Hobbs and an Indo journalist, it was never going to be difficult to find the most human rights-orientated panellist...

Am I the only one who thinks Hobbs needs to be silenced? He grows more irritating every time I see him on TV and God knows he's not camera shy.

PDs leadership 'race'

So the PD leadership 'race' is to conclude this week. Voting has ended, and the results will be announced on Thursday, due to the funeral of Paddy Hillery on Wednesday. It's one thing that those pesky FFers had to ruin the race's momentum with the small matter of the Taoiseach's resignation, but now they have to go and disrupt the results announcement by fixing it so that one of them dies! Is there no end to their cleverness...?

On a more serious note, am I the only lefty in Ireland who hopes the PDs will not go out of existence? Now I'm not the reddest lefty you'll ever meet (a nice pinkish-green would probably cover it), but I do happen to believe that diversity is incredibly important in our parliamentary representation. If everyone of every colour joins FF or FG (and I have good examples of people on both ends of the spectrum in either party), then how are we to know what, if anything, we're voting for?

While I would never describe the PDs (or any political party, for that matter) as honest, I do think it's important for a party to have concrete policy positions on things, even if I don't agree with them. At least I know I don't agree with them.

If there are no PDs, then the furthest-right party we have is Fine Gael. That means FG, which is also full of well-meaning lefties weaned on the milk of Garret FitzGerald's snore-inducing (but, again, well-meaning) Irish Times articles, becomes the repository for everyone with any right-wing tendencies. While it continues to jostle FF and Labour (and, probably, the Greens now) for position in the centre. That just doesn't work.

With a well-functioning tradition, recently at least, of coalition government, there should be enough room for smaller parties in the system. Look at the loss of Joe Higgins from the Dáil and the damage that has done to parliamentary debate.

Having said all of that, whichever of the two senators wins the 'race' (why, oh why, do they keep referring to it as a race?!), will have their work cut out for them. And it doesn't really look like Fiona O'Malley (while well-meaning and liked) has either the support or the sense to do it properly.

We await with interest...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The nerve

Pee Flynn. What a neck.

"That £50,000 was a personal political donation and in the end the taxman got half of it."

That's definitely up there with "It's very expensive to run three houses, you know, Gay."

What a pile of s*****. And this is the dross we send to Europe.

Bertie, they're ready for you!