Author Archives: Tony Groves


From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; property repossessions may lead to a trebling of the number of people in homelessness Tony Groves

When the Vikings pillaged the British coastline they were often looking for monasteries to plunder. Many of these monasteries contained both monks and nuns. The nuns were said to be married to God and the idea of a Viking defiling a nun was of grave concern during and the nuns, it was said, went to extreme lengths protect their chastity.

Famously in 867 AD, Saint Ebba, the Mother Superior of the Coldingham Priory, upon hearing of a Viking raid gathered her nuns together and showed them how to disfigure themselves by cutting off her nose and upper lip.

When the Vikings arrived every nun had done the same. Disgusted, the Vikings burned the priory to the ground with the nuns inside. They all died with, but their chastity intact.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Leo Varadkar, nose-picker-commander-in-chief, is leader of the government with arguably the worst nose for economics Fine Gael has ever had.

We know he’s a great communicator, we know he’s intelligent and we know he has a very good sense of gauging a large part of the public.

But as leader of the government he has a duty to all of the citizens, not just those who might vote for him. He also favours style over substance and has yet to deliver on any of his key responsibilities.

Three of our major banks are in the process of currently selling-off mortgages to vulture funds. AIB, Ulster Bank and PTSB are outsourcing repossessions to companies like Pepper and Capita.

The government are standing idly by while thousands of people are to be forced into (at least) temporary homelessness. Mel Reynolds told me that the best case scenario, allowing for minimal displacement of tenants and owner occupiers, will result in a trebling of the current homelessness levels.

The cost of this to the state is potentially colossal. For those families forced into the emergency accommodation the cost to the state will be €69,000 per year. For those lucky enough to get alternative rental accommodation they will on average cost the state €825 per month in the Housing Assistance Payment.

The cost of the state stepping in and purchasing these loans is estimated to be about €5 billion. The cost to the state of not buying them is estimated at €11 billion.

Why is this economic lunacy taking place? They call it moral hazard. I call it the politics of spite. The narrative espoused again by Brendan Burgess only two weeks ago was that to interfere in this process was to give people a house for free.

The Central Bank (the most tepid of Bank regulators) issued a report that said after the ruling that put a 2 year moratorium on repossessions the level of non-payment increased.

This was splashed across the papers and seized upon by the moral hazard zealots as proof that the “won’t-pay-brigade” took advantage of a system.

Undoubtedly, some did. Systems are made to be gamed. That’s why banks were able to transfer money between one another to plug gaps in balance sheets, pass audits and bankrupt the country.

But no, when they do it at huge economy crashing levels it’s not moral hazard. It’s we all partied. When a lad, who has lost his job, has a choice between the mortgage and feeding his kids he’s a drain on the taxpayers.

I have not even mentioned the societal impact a trebling of homelessness will cause. Opinion poll after opinion poll has made it clear that enough people don’t care about, or don’t understand the serious calamity facing of this country; a country that had 1,572 homeless people in 2007 and today is (the report is due out later this week) probably over the 10,000 mark.

If we can accept this as morally okay, can we at least accept that the cost of our spite will billions more to the taxpayer than necessary?

If we are comfortable knowing that a historically bad crisis is about to get much worse, are we willing to write the cheque just to feel better about our position in the socioeconomic pecking order?

I think, and fear, that we are. People like Leo, and I admit there is much to like about him. But like Saint Ebba he is the leader of our Priory, and like Saint Ebba he is asking us to cut off our noses to spite our face. I for one don’t want to be inside the monastery when the fire starts. Do you?

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.

Rollingnews/Oireachtas.ie

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Nigel Farage MEP, in Strasbourg last month; Tony Groves

Prediction is a mug’s game. So here I am, Mug Groves, ready to make a prediction.

While many have scoffed at the idea of Irexit, and pointed out the polls indicate that we are deeply Pro-European in Ireland, Rory Hearne correctly pointed out that it should be “possible to be Pro-Europe AND question fundamentally the current EU structures and processes”.

To do this isn’t to cede ground to the tiny, but vocal, ethno-nationalist bloc. To do this is essential for any further deepening of EU partnerships. A top down federal EU will not be foisted upon the populace. If it is to work, it must be delivered via bottom up, grassroots collaborations.

And so to my prediction.

We will have an Irexit. Not the Irexit of Farage, Waters and Cormac Lucey, but a purgatorial no-man’s-land Irexit.

As Brexit evolves it will become clearer to the wider EU that Ireland is a stone in the shoe that they wanted to use to kick the British up the arse.

Many already around the Brussels table don’t like our ‘beggar thy neighbour’ tax policy and many more don’t really care that we have the best football fans in the world.

But we won’t leave the EU and they cannot make us. We are in the club and even if we are belligerent drunks, they cannot throw us out. So they’ll use Brexit against us.

We cannot and must not countenance a hard border on the island of Ireland. I know MEP Phil ‘reduce it to a trickle’ – Hogan thinks that “border controls are inevitable”. But I’m predicting that he’s wrong.

Ireland will stay in the EU, but on roughly the same trade agreements that the UK eventually get. There, I’ve said it.

The EU knows that in the grand scheme of things that trade with the UK is economically vital. The markets will dictate that. Any (open to interpretation) deals done in Phase 1 of negotiations will be long forgotten when money enters the equation.

So the only way to achieve a real Brexit, while keeping the markets happy, is to make Ireland a sacrificial lamb. Ireland will have a simple decision to make: accept UK trade terms or start building a wall.

This is the only scenario that makes sense for the wider EU. And we want to be good European’s, don’t we?

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.

Earlier: Dr Rory Hearne: Who Dares Speak Its Name

Tony Groves

I’m about to mansplain something. I could use the trope – ‘As a father of two daughters’ – but that would only mildly deflect from my obvious attempts to impose my male worldview on to a female issue.

I could say that my favourite book of the last year is Mary Beard’s Women & Power – A Manifesto, but that would be seen for the weak attempt to garner credibility that it is.

So no, I’m holding my hands up and admitting from the outset that I am mansplaining.

The #MeToo ‘phenomenon’ has not gone too far. It is not even a phenomenon and it isn’t a reckoning either. I’m sorry, it’s just not.

A phenomenal speech at the Golden Globes is not a reckoning. A handful of men losing their jobs is not a reckoning. Thousands of phenomenal women (and men) telling their stories AND being believed is not a reckoning. Me and you no longer being able to watch House of Cards is not a fupping reckoning.

For so many people to so quickly take the line that it’s gone too far, or its become a witch-hunt is nothing but a patriarchal hegemony reasserting itself under the guise of #NotAllMen.

Unless we look at our workplaces, our social structures and ourselves and then callout the power imbalances, the inappropriate behaviours and the personal blindness, then we are not any closer to a reckoning then we were a few months ago.

#MeToo isn’t a destination, it’s a step on a journey. Getting off the path because it’s gone “too far” is just letting ourselves off the hook.

In Ireland we are hours, maybe days, away from the wording on a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment. In less than six months we will get to vote on this, and it’ll pass. And it won’t be a reckoning. It’s a simple matter of numbers. The baby boom generation are now in the ascendency. Those of my age are the most significant voting bloc in the country today.

The 35-45yr olds are beginning to realise they hold the reins of power. Even the Taosieach is one  of The Pope’s Children. So it’ll pass. But the wording might echo the #MeToo backlash, by saying that full bodily autonomy for women is “going too far”.

I even heard the echo of Donald Trump in his (thankfully) ill fated attempts to destroy Obamacare; the Trumpist language of repeal and replace has crept into the Irish abortion debate. I’d argue it should be a more Irish repeal and feck off. But you might think I’m going too far.

Think about it again. How can calls to stop sexual harassment go too far? Why is an awkward conversation about something that was or wasn’t ‘just horseplay’ going too far? Where is the line?

The only thing that’s gone too far now is the call to halt progress. Rosa Parks wasn’t too tired to give up her seat. She was tired of inequality, and yet there were those in the NAACP who said she had gone too far. They were wrong; we can all see that now.

#MeToo is, as The Badass Feminist Coloring Book author Ijeoma Oluo explains, a women smacking away at the tip of an iceberg with a small ice-pick and not even getting close to what is below the surface. It is not a phenomenon and it is not a reckoning. But it might be the start of both.

If I know anything it is that I know nothing. So I question myself, as a husband, a father, a friend and a work colleague. I’m not going too far when I say I have gone too far and overstepped lines I pretended not to see. I could play my Lad Card, or I could use the locker room talk defence, but that would be more mansplaining, and there should be a reckoning for that.

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.

From top: Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe with Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy; Tony Groves

Money is not a problem. A simple sentence, repeated over and over by Housing Minister after Housing Minister. Five words designed to give the impression that the Government are throwing all the necessary resources at tackling the housing crisis. Money is not a problem.

Maybe money should be a problem. In fact, given Fine Gael’s self-styled nonsense about being the party of the fiscally responsible, money should be placed at the very centre of the housing crisis.

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe nearly guffawed on RTE last week when he parodied Oliver Callan parodying himself. When told Miriam that “I’ve only got a certain amount of money” I grimaced. No one in the RTE studios thought to ask why the Minister(s) for Housing keeps saying “money is not a problem”, when the Minister for Finance clearly thinks very differently.

But this little insight into the lack of Fine Gael economic insight aside, the real issue is that money really isn’t a problem. It’s the squandering of it that is.

I’ve been lucky to sit down and chat with a host of experts on the housing crisis, all of whom agree on one thing. Fine Gael aren’t putting the resources into the right areas. The economic reality is that this government, the one so obsessed with the Debt to GDP ratio, are burning money.

Take the homeless hubs, or as Mary McAuliffe calls them poor warehouses. The average of cost of housing a family in €69,000. Dublin City Council currently have over 950 vacant units in need of a refurbishment. The cost of the refurbishment would be between €30-50k and the works could be completed in a few months.

For €47 million we could give 950 families a home, a permanent home. Instead, in November 2017 alone over 1,530 families were accessing emergency accommodation. The average time spent in the emergency accomodation system is 3 years. In “money is not a problem” world that’s a cost of about €316 million. €316m to warehouse a national disgrace, or €47m to make a serious effort to address it.

If Fine Gael want to be taken seriously as custodians of the economy, and they do, then they need to address their economic lunacy in tackling the housing crisis.

But wait, there’s more. The current crisis isn’t just a homelessness crisis, there’s also a drastic crisis in the availability of affordable housing. Affordable housing should be, by definition, housing that is affordable to the average worker.

Taking the latest CSO stats on a double income household and current mortgage lending rules the cost of an Affordable Home should be in or around €240k.

Yet in “money is not a problem” world the state are buying homes and selling them to people at a 15% discount on the market value. Given that the average cost of a house in Dublin is now €365k this is not affordable housing, nor is it anywhere in reach of the average couple.

This wouldn’t be such a disgusting waste of money if it wasn’t for the fact that, as shown by the Ó Cualann Cooperative, family homes can be built for between €151-168K. That’s affordable housing. It can be done quickly, cheaply and to high building standards. I know, I’ve seen them.

The State could do this on a wide scale, but they are married to private developers and the “free-rigged-market”. The money that is not a problem, is going to developers, at roughly 2.5 times the cost per unit when compared to the Ó Cualann Cooperative.

Finally, for today, there’s another black hole that is swallowing money that is not a problem. It’s called the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and it devours over half a billion euro a year.

HAP as a temporary scheme is a good idea, as architect and activist Mel Reynolds told me, “you need to keep the patient alive”. But as a long term strategy it is disastrous, socially and (are you listening Fine Gael) economically.

The average HAP payment is €825 per month. A mortgage of say €190k over 20yrs at 3.5% would have a monthly repayment of €800. Now, if the government wanted to they could borrow money at near 0% rates, build houses, or pay someone like Ó Cualann to build them and rent the homes on long term leases, SAVE the state a fortune in HAP and other rent assistance schemes and still own the underlying asset.

These things aren’t complex. What we are doing now is complex. Fine Gael are supposed to be the party that fixes the economy. But they are burning money by choosing the most costly solutions to the crisis.

We need a real plan, it’s no longer any good Eoghan Murphy sticking his finger in the dyke, unless there’s an affordable housing scheme getting built behind him. So listen out for the “money is not a problem” mantra and tell them straight, “no, but it should be, it is the economy, stupid”.

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.

From top: New Year tweet from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Tony Groves

There’s a conflict playing out across the world, the war on truth. The battle between the truth and the truth we are most comfortable with has maybe never been so inflamed. It is exacerbated by infighting, finger pointing and pointless regrets on (dare I say it) both sides.

That our newspapers have become viewspapers is only a small part of the problem. It was Elaine Byrne who pointed out that there were “14 men and 1 woman in the Irish Times opinion pages”.

A closer examination found there were five pro-government pieces and one mildly critical one. (Slight digression; there was also one Sinn Fein “they haven’t gone away” piece. It really is time that that headline went away).

The attacks on traditional media haven’t helped. Mainstream Media, in the main, does a good job reporting the news. The fact that both Left and Right decry RTÉ as biased is not a bad thing.

But it is in the op-eds and commentator class that the biases are most on display. The viewspapers are nothing more than a pressure valve. Words of comfort or rage depending on your socioeconomic standing.

The often discussed marketplace for ideas is a closed shop of simplistic and often factually inaccurate noise. Words that hiss and bubble, but seldom make real trouble.

Those who want to do some real reporting, like Tom Lyons did recently, find themselves subjected to injunctions signed off by none other than the Taoiseach himself.  There’s a word for a leader of a country who interferes in the freedom of the press, isn’t there?

Have a read of what Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar tweeted above. All of it is a comforting truth to anyone in the top 36% of the socioeconomic ladder.

It pays no heed to the bottom 64%; the cohort who may or may not be aware that while what the Taoiseach tweeted is true, so is the fact that we have the highest gross income inequality in the EU, the highest number of people (including 3,333 children) homeless in the history of the state, the highest hospital waiting lists in the history of the state and, in the context of the storms that are becoming more frequent in Ireland, a government that has made no progress in reaching our 2020 climate change goals.

Truth versus Comfortable Truth.

Ibec came out with a report this morning telling us that we’ve never had it so good. This lobby group has proclaimed that the boom is about to get boomier and we are supposed to be ecstatic.

Of course, the normal “don’t ask for a pay rise or you’ll kill competitiveness” caveat was attached. The economy, they gleefully report, will come in at 5.9% growth. The real earnings (note not average wage), the less gleefully report, are up 2.2%.

Comfortable Truth: the economy is doing well. Truth: this isn’t translating equally well into people’s lives. In fact, the gap between economic growth and wage growth has widened since 2015.

In 2018 I said (egotistically?) that I’d help join the dots. Sadly, and ironically, my desire to do so means I must ape the behaviour of those Viewspapers that I complained about at the outset. I must put forward the Uncomfortable Truth.

The uncomfortable truth is that, in this viewspaper era, there are no facts left anymore, only interpretations. But please, don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s for that matter.

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.

Tony Groves

Rule Number 1 of Christmas Day: Don’t mention politics on Christmas Day.

Rule Number 2: Always remember rule Number 1.

I had several reports of people who, sure that they weren’t one of ‘those’ families, decided to ignore the rules. I’m not sure what’s worse, ignoring the rules, or the realisation that your cool brother in law isn’t really cool with repealing the 8th?

For so many of us the Christmas dinner table is the first time outside of our echo chamber since, well, last years Christmas dinner.

The peculiar thing is that we, being so wise, are so taken aback by the differences of opinion across the turkey and ham table. Of course, we’ve spent all year saying that the opinion polls are crap and that there’s no way 56% of people think socks, selfies and spin make a good Taoiseach.

The realisation that we are wrong makes swallowing the customary Brussels sprouts all the more difficult. The truth is a bitter pill to swallow. Around the table the right wing (I’m a centrist!) agenda of apathy and I’m alright Jack conversation flows.

Many think, no, many believe that Fine Gael and not the sacrifice of the Irish people rescued the country. Many think, no, many are adamant that the government are doing a good job. Many, many more are opposed, down to their Indo-reading bones, with the idea of left wing concepts.

They are not the problem. We are. We’ve wasted 364 days talking to each other about the wonderful ideas we all agree on. We’ve engaged with anonymous trolls who are nothing but time vampires. But we never spoke to the people around our dinner table.

We’ve squabbled about Labour’s place on the Left. We’ve decried concessions as selling out. We’ve reduced left wing cohesion to a Brendan Ogle column in the Sunday Business Post. Worst of all, we have allowed the tsunami of the water movement to be reduced down to a Phil Hogan trickle.

Something has to change and it starts at the dinner table. It starts with joining the dots.

We join the dots. Whenever Leo Varadkar says that salary increases could endanger the economy WE must point out the hypocrisy of him getting a €21,000 pay rise.

We join the dots. When your brother says that it’s a testament to the strength of the economy that Ireland has repaid Denmark’s €400m loan early ask him does that house any of the 3,333 homeless children.

We join the dots. When an old friend explains that she knows a family looking for help from St Vincent De Paul who have two televisions, ask her why that’s a crime and screwing 40,000 Tracker Mortgage holders into debt (and death) for nearly a decade is not.

We join the dots. When your pal in your local says that the multinationals will leave if we make them pay tax, explain that we are, according to the OECD, the best tax haven in the world YET only get one sixth of the jobs from Multinationals that non havens do.

At every water cooler moment we join the dots. At every lazy newspaper Op-ed we join the dots. We forget about infighting. We forgive ourselves and others for slights and we take the fight to the barrage of bullshit that is the machinery of State.

We act as our own Strategic Communications Unit, our goal/mission statement/blue sky thought is simple: Join the Dots!

Join the dots. That’s my New Years Resolution. That’s this blog. That’s the Echo Chamber Podcast. That’s my Twitter timeline. That’s my dinner table.

We join the dots in 2018. You’re welcome to join me.

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod
You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud,

From top: Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe; Tony Groves

Ireland is a tax haven. This simple statement of fact causes the most ridiculous responses. We get told that we are talking down the country, that we’re not wearing the green jersey.

We even get the whopper, preferred by the Minister for Finance Pascahl Donohoe, that the recent OECD report confirmed we weren’t a tax haven.

Firstly, let’s deal with the facts.

A recent study of tax havens, €600 Billion and Counting: Why High-Tax Countries Let Tax Havens Flourish, put numbers on what is essentially an organised, tax compliant and totally legal, global larceny. And no, there’s no contradiction in that sentence.

The first key finding is that 45% of multinational company profits are artificially shifted to tax havens. Ireland, as you can see below is the worst legal offender. 45% of profits whisked away to tax havens; that’s like saying that you or I could put almost half of our monthly salary into a tax avoidance scheme.

The Global Corporate Tax revenue loss is estimated to be over €200 billion per annum, or 12% of Global Corporate Tax Revenue. To put that in context, the World Bank says that global foreign aid totaled €130 billion in 2016. So Multinational Companies shift nearly double the world’s total aid budget for tackling poverty into tax havens.

The next finding is a cracker; the main loser in tax revenue is the EU, with losses estimated to be above 20% of its taxable profits. Now, and here is where it gets mind-bending, the main beneficiaries of this legalised larceny are Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The 3-Tax-Haven-Amigos, not mentioned on the above graph, impose real effective tax rates of 2-3% on huge artificial bases and in doing so financially hamper the ability of the combined EU 27 countries to tackle various social crises. So definitively, Ireland is a tax haven.

That doesn’t mean that Minister Donohoe was wrong. He wasn’t, he was just being selective with the way he read the OECD report. The report that he was referencing was the OECD’s Tax Transparency Ratings and was dealing specifically with individual countries legal framework and legal implementation of their own tax laws.

Ireland was the only country of the 3-Tax-Haven-Amigos to achieve a rating of compliant. But rather than it confirming us as not a tax haven, what the OECD report actually confirmed is that we are the best tax haven. We have the most transparent tax avoidance structures in the world. It is, in sales-speak, our Unique Selling Point.

It starts and ends with transfer pricing. In simple terms: if Company A is operating in Germany but opens a small company Company B in Ireland which then assumes ownership of the intellectual property of Company A, then, even though Company A is producing and selling their product in Germany, the profits are taxable in Ireland via Company B.

This Transfer Pricing method, the study found, has resulted in high-tax countries stealing from each other, while letting tax havens flourish, in the name of free market competition. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have True Global Profits of totaling tens of billions, yet using the profit shifting are able to only show Observable Profits of hundred of millions.

This sounds like a good deal for Ireland and our other Amigos, right? Not really, no. The average profit for multinationals per employee in a non-haven is 34%. In Ireland it’s almost 200%. Simply put, Ireland gets one sixth the number of jobs equivalent to non-havens for the same money. See below:

There is a simple solution to this conundrum, something that could end transfer pricing overnight and see a more equitable re-balancing of both the tax take and ultimately the workforce: make the profits taxable where the jobs are.

So if Company A employs 10,000 people in Germany and 5,000 in Ireland then it can only “shift” 50% of its profits.This, I’d argue, is not something we should be afraid of. Rather than costing Ireland jobs, such a strategy should create more jobs. Remember, we are the most transparent tax haven in the world. Why wouldn’t the multinationals increase their workforces here if it meant increasing shareholder value?

So, yes, Ireland is a tax haven. That’s not up for debate any longer. The debate must now move on into how we make us the best little tax haven in the world in which to create jobs. A transparent low corporate tax, high job economy. It’s possible and it’s certainly a damned sight more ethical than what we are currently doing.

Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod
You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud,

Tony Groves

Whether it’s Orwell, or Chomsky, or JFK it doesn’t matter; the sentiment is that in order to believe in freedom of speech you must extend that belief to those of whom you disagree with.

Easier said than done, folks.

I’ve watched people I know, like and respect verbally attacked for having the temerity to have opinions. I’ve seen those I dislike, disagree with and wouldn’t hold in high regard suffer similarly. Hate, vitriol and discrimination doesn’t discriminate against its victims.

Sadly, it’s getting worse. A recent report of Service Men and Women told of uniformed Irish Navy Officers being accosted in public and called traitors for rescuing Muslims from drowning. These are our brothers and sisters, rescuing our brothers and sisters.

The new Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, while defending Leo Varadkar’s lukewarm speech to the Fine Gael National Conference, reminded Hugh Linehan of the Irish Times that “Hitler was a brilliant orator”.

As examples of Godwin’s Law go, this was not the worst. But comparing anyone to Hitler is not a good look; particularly in the context of a backhanded compliment to a genocidal maniac.

When I mentioned the hilarity of this on twitter the Minister blocked me. While hardly a great look for a public representative, it is a nice example of a lesson more of us need to learn: Freedom of speech doesn’t mean people have to listen to you.

To take this a step further, freedom of speech doesn’t mean you should have a platform. There’s privilege in a platform, power in it even.

Places like Broadsheet give platforms to people with a diversity of opinions. They often do it well. Their coterie of comments section trolls are, in my opinion, a stain on what is , for the most part, a force for good.

The editor of Broadsheet and I disagree on this. He believes freedom of speech extends to anonymous trolls and therefore believes that the price for being heard (platformed) is verbal abuse, slanders and smears.

But he’s wrong. He’s not protecting freedom of speech. He’s platforming hate. The type of hate that asked the mother of a palliative child “where’s the father”. The type of hate that discusses rape and ethno nationalism on articles about politics. The type of hate that reacts to articles about homelessness by blaming “foreigners”. The type of hate that groups me with murderers for mentioning Sinn Féin.

It is opinions like these, platformed by Broadsheet, that spill out onto the streets and lambast Navy Officers. It is by platforming these views that Broadsheet normalises them. Believing in and defending freedom of speech are not the same thing as platforming hate.

So Broadsheet, you can upgrade your site all you want; but until you upgrade your values you will be part of the problem.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.

From top: Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald; Tony Groves

Ebonics: American Black English regarded as a language in its own right rather than as a dialect of standard English.

I wrote a paper many, many moons ago on Ebonics. I guess these days this would be called cultural appropriation, but at the time I thought I was, as the cool kids say, woke.

The study of how language, and the evolution of language, influences our daily lives has always fascinated me. Whether it was the birth of Gangsta Rap or the recent death of the 140 character tweet, words and how they are structured affect our world view.

When the Irish Independent’s Political Correspondent, Philip Ryan tweeted “Sinn Fein will also have the proud distinction of collapsing governments on both side of the border” I felt like simultaneously applauding and deriding him.

As short and simple tweets go, it was a trolling masterpiece. It appeals to those who already see Sinn Fêin as the biggest threat to our (status quo) democracy and it infuriates those who see the mainstream media as a propaganda unit for the government.

When the Minister of State Michael D’Arcy (the man Jonathan Sugarman exposed as not knowing his brief as part of the Finance Committee) spoke of the current political pissing contest he decided that, rather than focus on the campaign to destroy Maurice McCabe, he’d blame Sinn Féin.

The Shinners you see, according to Minister D’Arcy (I shudder typing that) are carrying out “political terrorism” and engaging in “slash and burn politics”. These comments were made on RTÉ Radio 1 and went unchallenged.

On Friday evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, went on RTÉ News and addressed the nation in what I can only describe as a twitter rant worthy of the hard right defenders of George Hook, Kevin Myers et al.

Before you go getting upset that I’m being emotive about emotive language remember, this is the Taoiseach who mistakenly repeats the line that “communication is a virtue” and is spending millions of Euros on crafting his words carefully for his audience.

He began by saying that he doesn’t “want to see Frances Fitzgerald decapitated” and then went on to say that calls for her “execution” and her “public hanging” were inappropriate. He even added that he wouldn’t “throw her under the bus”.

None of these blatant smears that the Taoiseach used to deflect from what are serious concerns about the Tánaiste’s ability to do her job were challenged.

Verbal mud, worthy of a cowardly anonymous keyboard warrior, was thrown on political discourse and allowed to dirty up our representative democracy.

It is now the case that the comments section vitriol of the trolls is broadcast on the main evening news. I suppose we should just accept this dumbing down of debate, especially since the purveyors are our best and our brightest?

The hyperbolic lynch mob is now the establishment. They are the trolls now. They’ve culturally appropriated troll speak and debate and accountability are secondary to running down the opposition.

Maybe communications is a virtue. Maybe it’s that virtues are no longer virtuous. Maybe we should give up on trying to speak truth to power. I don’t know.

My paper on Ebonics was laughed at by the English Department. They said it wasn’t to be taken seriously. But Gangsta Rap became Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop now pervades every layer of society. In the same way I suppose the trolls are having their very own coming out party on the Six One News.

I should be worried. But Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.

From top: Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD; Tony Groves

I’ve been feeling very Russian this week; not in the Tolstoy verbose way, or in the cool Constantin Gurdgiev way. I’ve been feeling like a Babushka Doll. You know the ones, the Russian nesting dolls that you open up to reveal a smaller identical doll inside of it, and so on.

I feel like a tiny little Babushka Doll.

A recent Research Report on Leadership of Corporate Culture, conducted by one of the largest professional services firms in the world, delivered what the most unsurprising results of all time..

The report covered 450 CEO’s, CFO’s, board chairs, executive and non-executive directors, company secretaries, risk officers (shoutout to Jonathan Sugarman) and investment managers. The respondents represented both private and publicly listed companies and were drawn from the UK and across Europe.

It’s a very detailed report, but it really just put in writing what many of us already know. Tone, cultural tone, is set at the top of organisations.

This is important in an Irish context. No, it’s not only important, it’s a matter of life and death. As the Director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Eileen Gleeson tried to walk-back her comments on homeless people on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, she made another telling Babushka Doll moment.

When asked by Sean to respond to the criticisms of Fr Peter McVerry she replied that she would not be getting into a slagging match with the “service providers”. I listened agog.

Fr Peter McVerry was clearly seen as a service provider and not as a humanitarian, or a altruistic man, or any other way you might describe a man of such generosity. Nope, in the eyes of the state he is a service provider.

Tone from the top. Almost a month ago the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referred to homelessness as normal at a Fine Gael dinner.

Since then he’s repeated these claims. Even when presented with the statistics that show our “normal” level of homelessness is in the range of 1,500 to 1,650 he still persists with the normalising of the abnormal.

Then yesterday the junior housing minister Damien English, launched an impassioned plea for us all to stop (as Bertie might have said) cribbing and moaning about what is a normal phenomenon.

He said:

“Some of this narrative has seeped into international coverage of our housing system and is damaging to Ireland’s international reputation, that our social response to this issue is being portrayed as dysfunctional.”

The system that created the situation that finds 3,124 children homeless isn’t dysfunctional. That’s normal according to Damien. No, what is dysfunctional is people thinking it’s abnormal.

The junior housing minister also said something very interesting. Something that nobody has picked him up on.

When he said “assertions have been made that homelessness in Ireland is at such crisis levels that we should be excused from the requirements of EU in responding to the issue”, he meant that the government have accepted a level of homelessness is acceptable.

He is saying that, despite EU law allowing for individual states to act to protect their citizens, that this Government will do no such thing.

It was a startling admission that this government values our international reputation more than the well-being of our citizens.

The 8,200 people who are already homeless need to accept this at the new normal. The tens of thousands of families currently at risk of homelessness should accept their plight as the new normal. People barely clinging on need to accept this as the new normal.

Those of us lucky enough to be secure can’t be seen to be talking down the country. Sure isn’t it the new normal.

Tone from the top. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made the immoral moral and the abnormal normal. And when you open him up Damien English pops out, and when you open him up Eileen Gleeson pops out. That’s normal these days.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.

Earlier: “Years Of Bad Behaviour”

Rollingnews