Category Archives: Misc

The Fendi ‘vulva’ scarf

Gulp.

Nice trim.

Fendi’s £750 ‘vulva’ scarf makes wearers look like they’re being born (The Guardian)

Thanks Bertie Blenkinsop

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcing Denis Naughten’s resignation as Minister for Communications in the Dáil last week; Derek Mooney

This time last week things were not looking bad for the Taoiseach.

He was getting ready to see his Finance Minister deliver this government’s third budget. He could look forward to it keeping his TDs and support base fairly happy.

He knew it was not a great budget, some would say boring. He also knew that it was not what he would have delivered if he hadn’t to depend on those pesky Fianna Fáil-ers but, even so, he probably felt that he could look forward to good coverage in the media – and we all know how important a positive body-politic image is to the Fine Gael leader.

The Budget was just the start. There was a lot more for Leo to look forward to in what should have been a strong week for him and his party.

It was a week that should have taken the Taoiseach from passing Budget2019, through to increasing pressure on Fianna Fáil to deliver a Summer 2020 extension to Confidence and Supply and then to basking in the pleasure of seeing Mr Justice Peter Charleton’s tribunal of inquiry report clear his former Tánaiste of knowing of any attempt to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

That’s how the week should have gone, but it didn’t.

Welcome to politics and to the power of Harold Macmillan’s “events” (When asked what brings down a government, British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan is supposed to have replied, ‘Events, dear boy, events’, though the story is probably apocryphal).

So, fast forward to today and instead entering the Dáil as the true master of the House after a weekend of positive headlines telling of his political prowess, Varadkar will have to slink in and hope to dispel the notion that his government is weakening and in decline.

It’s a task not made any easier by having to both defend Fine Gael junior minister, Pat Breen, and then ask the Dáil to (re)appoint of independent TD, Seán Canny, as minister of state, to secure his vote for the coming weeks and months.

It cannot be how the Taoiseach thought he would be starting this political week.

Over the past two weeks Varadkar has lost the guaranteed backing of one Fine Gael TD, Peter Fitzpatrick and now two independent TDs, Clare’s Dr Michael Harty, who voted against the budget, and former Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

Hardly achievement for a government elected almost three years with an overwhelming minority.

Two weeks ago, in the wake of the Fitzpatrick defection, I asked, albeit rhetorically,

“If long(ish) serving members of the Leo Varadkar’s own parliamentary party are having public misgivings about this government’s future, then why would Varadkar seriously expect the main opposition party to rush to commit to extend its Confidence and Supply (C&S) agreement for another year, once the Budget speech is done?”

Two more TDs down and the question is even more relevant.

The Taoiseach has known from the moment he took the leadership of his party that he needed to be ready for what would happen once the third budget of Fine Gael’s three-budget deal with Fianna Fáil was passed.

Indeed, he needed to be more than just ready for it, he needed to be the one to shape and determine it. Most of his parliamentary colleagues presumed that he had worked all this out before he went for the leadership.

It is entirely possible, if not likely, that he had – but what he appears to have neglected is the reality that no battleplan survives the first engagement.

Having the ability to adapt and correct a plan mid-skirmish is a more important political skill than being able to dream one up in the first place. His handling of the relatively minor events of the second half of last week suggests, once again, that this is not a skill that the Taoiseach possesses.

Even before the mini-drama of Denis Naughten’s resignation and the news that Minister Pat Breen had similar questions to answer, Micheál Martin managed to throw Varadkar’s short term timeline off course.

He did this by taking the initiative and eschewing the passive role that Fine Gael assumed he would adopt.

But Martin did more than throw the timeline off, he did something else which Varadkar did not expect. Martin opted to discard the political leverage that the current situation gives him and offered Fine Gael a non-conditional arrangement up to early 2019.

This would enable the government to focus on Brexit between now and December/January. It would also allow the Dáil to pass the Finance and Social Welfare Bills that enact the Budget and progress the abortion legislation consequent on the referendum.

In one move Martin may have managed to put national interests ahead of party partisan interests and still get some kudos for himself and his party into the bargain.

I have been saying here for months that there is no good reason whatsoever to continue the Confidence and Supply arrangement. This government has run its course.

While both main parties can take some pride in fact that the arrangement has brought stability and delivered three budgets, as promised, the reality is that this weakening administration is still failing to address the twin crises in housing and health.

Whatever Ministers Murphy and Harris may think, or hope, the market is not going to sort out either – especially when that market may be faced with the calamity of a no-deal Brexit from the end of March 2019 onwards.

As bad as we know a hard deal Brexit would be, with customs and regulatory checks it would at least have the benefit of a legal and logistical framework. A no deal Brexit where the UK crashes out with no agreement and no transition period would devastating.

The last few bits of service that this government can do the country over the coming 3 – 4 months is to continue to defend Irish interests at the Brexit discussions, in the hope that there can be a withdrawal agreement with the backstop (or better) and a two-year (minimum) transition.

Once that is done, the government’s final act should be an orderly and calm progress to a February election.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Tuesday Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

An investigation by the regulator revealed that two customers were allowed to gamble “significant sums” of stolen money on the company’s betting exchange, Betfair.

One of the customers was the former boss of Birmingham Dogs Home, Simon Price, who spent money with Betfair that he had stolen from the charity. He was jailed in December for five years for defrauding the charity of £900,000 over a four-year period.

Failings were also identified involving three online customers and in the betting firm’s shops, including weaknesses in its source of wealth and social responsibility checks

Paddy Power Betfair fined £2.2m for failing to stop bets with stolen money (Guardian)

Paddy Power Betfair fined £2.2m over gambling check failings (RTÉ)

Last night.

During the first live TV presidential debate on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live.

Did you stay up?

Did you stay awake?

Bunty Twuntington-McFuff, real name Norma Burke, disrupted the debate as former Dragon’s Den star and millionaire Peter Casey was talking about how money really isn’t an issue for him – regardless of the cost of his presidential bid.

It wasn’t clear what was said by Ms Burke, who later tweeted:

President Michael D Higgins said he couldn’t attend the debate due to prior presidential engagements while former Dragon’s Den star Sean Gallagher didn’t attend because Mr Higgins didn’t attend.

Along with Mr Casey, former Dragon’s Den star Gavin Duffy, Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada, and Senator Joan Freeman attended.

It can be watched in full here.

FANGS

The Irish pop culture podcast devoted to Dracula.

Host Liam Geraghty writes:

In episode 3 of FANGS, I chat to the creator of Sesame Street’s Count Von Count, Norman Stiles…

…editor of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies Dr. Dara Downey on Dracula’s journey onto the small screen…

…composer and massive nerd Vin McCreith looks at three video game adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel…

…and composer Matthew Nolan talks about his upcoming original score for NYsferatu – an animated interpretation of the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu, that gets its Irish premiere during the Bram Stoker Festival [across Dublin – October 26-29].

FANGS

The Bram Stoker Festival

Irish Adventurer Derek Cullen (top) last week completed the Pacific Crest Trail – a 4,268km Trek from Mexico to Canada – the equivalent of 102 consecutive marathons or walking from Dublin to Cork 16.8 times.

Derek encountered bears, wolves and rattlesnakes through multiple deserts, mountain ranges and remote glacial landscapes on the mammoth hike.

Dubliner Derek said he took on this journey for his own happiness but cited mental health awareness as a major motivation for the adventure when he took questions (above) on Saturday in Manning Park at the border of Canada.

Derek sez:

“At first, I was mostly terrified of bears and rattlesnakes. But I encountered so many of them on this journey that it seemed pointless to keep on worrying about what might happen with them. I guess this is also a story about life – we spend too much time worrying about things that never happen”.

In fairness.

Microadventureworld (Facebook)

From top: Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe unveiling Budget 2019 at Government Buildings last week; Michael Taft

After all the post-budget commentary – the articles, interviews, studio debates – I’ll attempt to summarise the broad direction of the budget with three charts based on the detailed tables at the end of the budget’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

These are the Government spending projections. I have used the GDP deflator for inflation and the IMF’s population projections.

Capital Investment

After the slashing and burning of public investment during the austerity years the projected increase in capital spending is welcome.

Investment is projected to increase by nearly 50 percent in real (i.e. after inflation) terms per capita out to 2023. Of course, we still need a debate over the best use of that money but the large envelope is certainly what the economy needs.

Public Services

Projected spending on public services (Government consumption), however, tells a far different story.

The Government’s projection will result in a real cut of nearly 8 percent in spending on public services per capita. This will occur at a time when a rising age demographic will require even more age-related expenditure.

Social Protection

Social protection payments will experience a similar trend as spending on public services.

Like public services, the Government’s projection will see total social protection payments cut in real terms per capita. This includes both cash transfers and benefits-in-kind. Again, this is taking place against rising pension payments.

* * *

The story is simple. The increase in capital spending is being funded by real cuts in public services and social protection. We should note, however, that the Government has given itself some wriggle room.

They have pencilled in €3.6 billion in ‘unallocated’ spending in 2023. But even if this were to be divided between public services and social protection, they would still experience real cuts.

And the Government still has fiscal space that it doesn’t intend to use. But dipping into that could undermine their plans to run strong surpluses.

So these are just projections. And there is always the danger of external shocks. Even a ‘soft-Brexit’ could see revenue decline and spending rise (through business closures and job losses). In the event of a ‘hard’ or ‘no-deal’ Brexit, all bets are off.

The point here is that the Government’s starting point is to squeeze public services and social protection to pay for increases in public investment.

That’s their strategy. It may not finally come to that. But it won’t be want for planning it.

Michael Taft is a researcher for SIPTU and author of the political economy blog, Notes on the Front.

Rollingnews

This morning’s Irish Times/MRBI poll ranking the major parties’ approval ratings

A new poll has come out which said
The blueshirts are eight points ahead
So will they persevere
On into next year
Or go to the people instead?

John Moynes

Graph: Irish Times

Ultimate responsibility for the very shabby treatment of the thousand or so ticketholders rests with RTÉ and The Late Late Show not the UK company they engaged and clearly did not properly brief.

Its [UK company’s] employees, while demonstrably out of their depth, were unfailingly polite. From observation, that could not be said of some RTÉ staff there on the night.

‘…The sense of entitlement and self-selecting ‘superiority’ so often attributed to RTÉ and its stars by its critics was also demonstrated by Mr Tubridy when – during an ad break – he sought to put an overexcited heckler in his place by telling him he was clearly his social inferior due to the fact that he was in the worst seats in the house, the gallery with most of the audience because he ‘clearly didn’t know the right people’.

A withering editorial in this morning’s London-based The Irish World newspaper apologising for its role in promoting last Friday’s shambolic Late Late Show London event.

The Irish World

Earlier: De Tuesday Papers

Saturday: Balls It Up There, Colette