Tag Archives: Eamonn Kelly

From top: Clare Daly MEP addressing the European Parliament on Russia and Ukraine on March 12; Eamonn Kelly

The week that was

Jonathan Pie’s breakdown of how Putin essentially bought off Britain was really on the money. His post, “How Putin Weaponized London’s Greed” had the merit of pointing the finger back at the West in what is a kind of property investment style of appeasement of a dictator.

Pie suggested that all Russian properties in Britain should be seized and used to house Ukrainian refugees. It’s a funny world when only the comedians are really making political sense.

The posting would get you thinking about our own property arrangements with Russian Oligarchs, since, as Pie points out, the big money from Russia flooding into the British property markets, distorts the market for everyone.

On top of that it turns out that Europe’s gas bills are funding Putin’s war to the tune of €350 million a day.

Taking Sides

Clare Daly’s furious rant in the European Parliament seemed oddly inappropriate as she laid into her fellow Europeans with a good finger-wagging. It’s not that she was wrong as such, but listing the ills of the world and demanding that something be done about these as well, to the same level of interest currently being given to Ukraine, seemed curiously misplaced.

Afghanistan is Russia’s mess as much as it is the USA’s mess. It’s also the Taliban’s mess and Bin Ladin’s mess. The Afghan people are unfortunate. But to point to them as proof of the West’s lack of humanity seemed like misguided virtue signalling, particularly when people in the West are clearly doing their best to be humane in a world that, to date, generally doesn’t really care for people.

The countries of the West, for all their faults, stand for Liberal Democracy, with oppositional parties working within that value system. The war in Ukraine represents the Liberal Democracies being reluctantly drawn into a potential nuclear conflict with an autocratic regime on the downward leg of its global status. The implications are epochal.

Raising other issues at this time, that have been neglected by the political West, not only seems like being out of touch with the mood and priorities of the moment, but also has the effect of appearing to scorn the humanitarian efforts and gestures being made by ordinary people.

Strategies

Following on from Russian allegations that the US has chemical and biological testing facilities in Ukraine, the West immediately went into alert that the Russians were likely contemplating using chemical and biological weapons.

This apparently is a Russian strategy, to accuse the enemy of already doing something that they themselves plan to do. Interestingly, it also the strategy of small boys who think their mothers can’t see through them.

The general impression is that the Russians may be seriously looking at using chemical weapons as a means of getting around the military obstacles posed by urban environments, particularly urban environments reduced to rubble.

An army could conceivably spend months or even years trying to take a defended, rubble-strewn city with conventional weapons, as happened in Aleppo before Russia kindly supplied Assad with chemical weapons, solving the “problem” in a couple of weeks.

This idea that the US is conducting biological testing in Ukraine was further reinforced by the Russians at a security council meeting. Put simply, if Russia decided to attack Europe with biological weapons, as was basically threatened at the security council meeting, they could immediately claim that the release was due to an “accident” at a US-backed facility.

Unfashionable

Meanwhile the Telegraph (the Torygraph) reported that on Russian State TV, dissenting voices were heard on the Vladimir Soloviyev show, a political panel discussion programme, (more than can be said for Claire Byrne Live) likening the invasion of Ukraine to Afghanistan, only worse.

The Ukrainians apparently have better weapon-handling skills due to their Russian training, and better weapons, due to their Western connections. This makes them, in the estimation of Russians, the worst of both worlds as military opponents.

This incidence of TV dissent, coupled with Russian people’s street protests, may be a measure of the growing unpopularity of the war in Russia itself, with a possible pension plan for the bould Vladimir on the cards, who can retire to his palace and play his Beatles’ albums.

Besides, the entire invasion exercise is dull and unimaginative. If it wasn’t for the seriousness of the deaths and destruction the thing would be seen for the shallow exercise it is. From a fashion perspective running tanks into the neighbours’ backyard is so last century, particularly when there is so much else to be done.

Height Supremacy

Heightism was raised in the Irish Times on back of suggestions that Putin is suffering a Napoleon complex, due to him being 5’7”, the same height incidentally as Zelensky whose height attracts zero media attention, him being apparently immune to any adverse psychological side-effects due to being 5’7”. He may be a short man, but he’s our short man.

Margaret Steele, a lecturer in philosophy at UCC said that while heightism is not really an ism on a par with sexism, racism, ageism etc, she concedes that there is a cultural preference for tall men. This probably explains why Eamon Ryan is leader of the Green party. Most likely he’s the tallest bloke in the party. The tallest rhubarb in the rhubarb patch. No other explanation for his leadership presents itself.

From the wildly hilarious proposal that people grow lettuce on their window-sills to get in touch with their green side, to the now equally ludicrous proposal for drivers to slow down to save fuel (why not stop altogether? That would be a permanent saving) Ryan’s pronouncements have the effect of making you wonder who is writing his gags.

Inflation

Meanwhile, inflation rose by 5.6% in February, according to the CSO, with the main contributors to the rise being fuel and energy…and Vladimir, o f course. Next winter promises to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top: Russian President Vladimir Putin; Eamonn Kelly

The Week That Was

I’m guessing that RTÉs love affair with “Keev” over “Kiev” is an outcome of overly sensitive identity politics, driven by a fear of offending the natives of a country being over-run by Russian tanks. The Ukrainians might one day forgive Russia, but will they ever forgive RTÉ for mispronouncing Kiev?

Who To Believe?

In the media the challenge for the ordinary person, as ever, is to wonder who to believe about anything. While the Western media are calling Russia’s attack an “invasion”, the Russian media prefer the more benign “military operation”, coyly failing to mention that this involves one of the world’s strongest armies firing missiles into people’s apartment blocks.

The argument of who started it was in full swing at time of writing. To simplify, it is generally agreed that invading neighbouring countries is not the done thing. However, encroaching on countries with guided missiles and causing them to react in fear, is not very good form either. This appears to be the basic premise on which opinions differ.

Back in 1962 the Russians encroached on the US by having their friend Castro point some missiles at the US from Cuba. The US military immediately wanted to invade Cuba, but JFK resisted that drastic action in the belief that this could trigger a nuclear exchange, and instead went for back-door diplomacy.

This resulted in the Russians removing the missiles from Cuba in exchange for the US removing missiles from Turkey where they had been placed earlier, encroaching on Russia, revealing the Cuba move as a tat to the US Turkish tit.

Many people clearly still prefer to believe in good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. But what if neither side are good guys?

Encroachment

Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and others of the traditional left appear to see something similar in the Ukrainian situation, where former Soviet countries are now members of NATO, essentially placing Russia within striking distance, much as the US had been placed within missile reach in 1962.

From this they conclude that the encroachment is a provocation and that strictly speaking the invasion of Ukraine is understandable, if not necessarily commendable, since invading other countries is seen as a greater crime than encroachment.

So far so predictable. But then Nigel Farage takes the same view as the traditional left, and suddenly you’re wondering, if you’re Mick Wallace for instance, Am I now in the same camp as Nigel Farage? Is there even a left and right anymore now that the US Republican party seems to be rooting for Putin?

Complicating the issue even further is the fact that sitting right next door to autocratic Russia is a western style democracy, no matter how flawed western-style democracies might be in an ideal world. The last thing an autocratic leader like Putin needs is a democracy next door, setting a “bad” example for citizens who refuse to buy into his sole authority.

Israel

On top of all this you have critics of American foreign policy never tiring of asking that if it’s such a crime for one country to invade the territory of another country, how does the US justify continued support for Israel, who have clearly been appropriating Palestinian lands for a few generations now?

This of course leads in to the western ally in the middle east question, and the role of oil supplies in geo-political calculations, not to mention memories of 9/11, the Crusades and the broader religious divides of Islam, Christianity, anti-Semitism and World War II, which leads you neatly back to Russia’s claims that Ukraine is “infested” with “Nazis”.

John Pilger in his article of February 17, “War in Europe and the Rise of Raw Propaganda”, on the MPN news site, writes:

“On 16 December [2021], the United Nations tabled a resolution that called for ‘combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism’. The only nations to vote against it were the United States and Ukraine.”

Make of that what you will.

Monitoring Mission

Craig Murray, former Ambassador to Uzbekistan in the Blair government who became a whistle-blower on human rights violations in Uzbekistan and was subsequently removed from his post for his troubles, writes in his latest blog post, “Ukraine: Where to Find the Truth in Enormous Detail”, that there is an international monitoring mission in Ukraine, called the “Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Monitoring Mission,” which is now being described by western media as “biased”.

This monitoring mission in Ukraine represents 57 states, including Ireland, and has been “operating in conflict zones for over half a century…There are 700 monitors, and they have been in Ukraine since 2014…”

The monitoring mission’s job was “…to patrol both sides of the civil war conflict zone and to record infringements of the ceasefire and de-escalation agreements, bringing these to the attention of the relevant authorities…”

Murray claims that Western mainstream media have decided to ignore the reports from Ukraine by these monitors because the truth is the opposite of the picture they [western media] wish to paint.”

Murray’s view seems to support the provocation angle. But the problem with that is that it inadvertently casts Putin as a victim, which, given the delicate nuances of identity politics, is an idea that could really mess with Western heads.

More Views

On “Triggernometry”, a You Tube show and podcast hosted by comedians Konstantin Kisin, who is a Russian married to a Ukrainian, and Francis Foster who is English, the February 24 posting had Kisin discussing the hour-long speech Putin gave outlining his reasons for the invasion of Ukraine, a speech which has been largely ignored by western media in which Putin explained why Ukraine is an accident of history and shouldn’t exist. This would be like Boris Johnson explaining why our republic shouldn’t exist.

Kisin holds the view that Russia was emboldened by the West’s lackadaisical reaction when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, igniting a low-level civil war in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, and giving Putin the idea that Ukraine might be take-able without too much international friction.

Kisin comes to the conclusion that, far from being intimidated by the West surrounding Russia with missiles, Putin sees the West as distracted, interested only in “pronouns”, making it weak and ineffectual, creating the ideal conditions for an autocratic leader to put some expansionist plans into action.

These expansionist plans rely really on the same strategy of “defending” minority ethnic Russian people in other countries and then invading, say Latvia, Lithuania and all the other former soviet-bloc countries who have recently joined NATO.

Crisis Deepens

Meanwhile, over in RTÉ, the crisis deepened as it became clear that not everyone was on board with the re-pronunciation of Kiev, with Tony Connelly, reporting from Kiev itself, still calling the city by its old name and in real danger now of offending sensitivities.

Someone in RTÉ is bound to correct him soon enough, before any real damage is done, while Vladimir Putin hints at nuking countries, and our own Vlad marks the day when war broke out in Europe by, yes you guessed it, attacking Sinn Féin, who are clearly at fault in the entire debacle.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Sam Boal/RollingNews

From top: Minister for Justice Helen McEntee at Leinster House last week; Eamonn Kelly

The week that was

Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee’s proposal to establish an agency to tackle the issue of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) follows on from a report by Tulsa and the RTÉ Investigates series on domestic violence.

While everyone agrees that more refuge support for victims of domestic violence is needed, others question the wisdom of establishing a statutory agency entirely devoted to a problem with myriad contributing factors.

The establishment of such an agency was not recommended, or even mentioned in the Tulsa report, and McEntee’s move is seen politically as a solo run, motivated more by pre-election concerns, which some might call “populism”.

The issue of domestic violence is generally regarded as a multi-faceted and complex social problem which cannot necessarily be tackled at root by simply providing refuge to victims of violence. That’s like placing a basin on the floor to catch the leak without bothering to fix the roof.

Other Factors

For instance, in the RTÉ programmes on the issue, there was very little focus, if any, on alcohol abuse, divorcing the problem of domestic abuse from the social context in which much of the violence, domestic as well as street, takes place.

Another, perhaps even more important contributing factor is socio/economic inequality. But since an acceptance of socio/economic inequality as being inevitable, and even desirable, is integral to the ideology of neo-liberalism, which the minister represents, the minister’s inclination appears to be to narrow the frame of reference of the word “equality”, solely to a gender-based concern.

This narrowing of focus helps the minister to avoid the responsibility of delivering justice and equality in the form of wider socio-economic reforms, such as wage increases, rent controls, free education and a believable social housing programme, opting instead for a narrative of “bad” men and female victims.

If the government can subsidise employers to take on workers in order to enhance the charade of job creation, it could choose to subsidise housing and subsidise further education.

The woke equality movement doesn’t appear to be entirely awake to the manner in which it is being manipulated by the right on this narrowing of the terms of social equality; content instead to see wily neo-liberal politicians as champions of their particular sectoral equality interests.

“Bad” Men

So instead of a broad approach to socio-economic equality, the focus is placed plainly on “bad” men and victimised women, with a token mention of male victims of domestic violence, included only to say that while such creatures do exist, like the Yeti, it is not an issue that need overly concern us; most likely because the idea of violent women can’t be comfortably accommodated into the preferred violent men/victimised women narrative.

By tagging the problem of domestic violence onto sexual and gender-based violence alone, the issue is kept firmly corralled as a politically convenient women’s issue, rather than the broader social and economic equality issue that it actually is.

This is perhaps why the Minister’s proposal to establish an agency devoted entirely to the issue as being solely a women’s issue is being met with quiet scepticism. Because it excludes so much social context in favour of a gender bias, while adroitly side-stepping the responsibility of delivering on genuine socio/economic justice and equality, the very social goods that neo-liberalism is actually set against.

“Bad” Women

This unwillingness to look at broader social contexts in favour of the preferred perpetrator/victim narrative was evident too in the reporting of the horror story of ex-hockey star Catriona Carey, whose attitude was so far removed from any empathy for her victims as to appear to be bordering on psychopathy.

But in a sense her attitude mirrored the attitude of our political and business masters. Her barely disguised contempt for her victims as people, must have made it seem morally okay, in her own mind, to cheat them, and to lie repeatedly to them, to their faces, with a readiness to brazenly challenge their objections with belligerent come-backs.

Catriona Carey didn’t just pop into existence from a vacuum of an otherwise fair-minded and equitable society. She is more likely an inevitable product of a manipulative cultural elite that has enjoyed ascendency through similar duplicitous behaviours, based on a cynical assumption that politeness and equanimity equal stupidity.

Because in the broader social context it must be clear by now, to people like Catriona Carey, that the way to get ahead in Ireland is to exploit the “eejits”, fib to their faces, and grab what you can.

Frightening the “Eejits”

This objectification of ordinary people as “eejits” came up in the general election of 2016 when a Fine Gael handler candidly remarked to a reporter that in the two weeks leading up to election day FG would “frighten the shite” out of “them”. [the People]. The same fear-mongering is now being deployed to frighten the “eejits” out of voting for Sinn Féin.

But in a broader social context what this latest fear-mongering campaign has amounted to has been the appropriation of the national television network, RTÉ, by a sitting government, in order to use the network’s influence to denigrate the political opposition; as evidenced by the disgraceful Claire Byrne Live Show (‘The Rise Of Sinn Fein’ February 14_ which was clearly designed to dissuade the electorate in a democracy from voting for an opposition to the current neo-liberal government coalition.

No one knows if Sinn Féin will be good or bad for the economy. It’s a matter of opinion. But if state media is enlisted to deliver government-favoured opinion, as it is at the moment, that’s not opinion, that’s propaganda.

Feudal Lords

It was noticeable too on the same Claire Byrne show that the FG spokesperson, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD, who is married to a former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs in Ireland, used the words “society” and “economy” interchangeably.

But if a society is just an economy, then it follows that everything in it, including the people, are just commodities, in servitude to those who enjoy the most economic power. And that, strictly speaking, amounts to a form of feudalism.

Democracy, on the other hand, gives the serf the opportunity every few years to turf the Lord from office. Our “Lords” are apparently feeling this democratic pinch, and they don’t like it one bit.

In that context, a government appropriating the national television service to push its own political line is never a good sign in a democracy. In fact, it’s often a sure sign of something rotten in a democracy.

By week’s end the coalition had shown its true colours by voting to allow vulture funds to continue buying property ahead of ordinary people, the Indo breaking the story that “…A Dutch investment firm is paying €110m for almost 300 homes in Dublin, including a number of starter homes in Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s constituency…”

The Quiet People

In the 1967 documentary “The Rocky Road to Dublin”, the writer Sean O’Faolain said that after independence a society emerged that was…

“…without moral courage, constantly observing a self-interested silence, never speaking in moments of crisis, and in constant alliance with a completely obscurantist, repressive, regressive and uncultivated church. The result of all this was…a society utterly alien to the ideals of republicanism…a society in which there are blatant inequalities…”

The role of Irish people, mainly born in the 1930s, as identified in the film, was to be “one of well-behaved gratitude”. said Peter Lennon, the film’s director.

This “well-behaved gratitude” has perhaps become so ingrained in the culture that it may have given rise to the emergence of an elite now completely accustomed to being above criticism, who have come to regard their fellow countrymen as “eejits”, if not downright lesser mortals, undeserving of consideration and respect,

much as how Catriona Carey regarded her victims as she drove away in her flash virgin-white car; brazen, wealthy and apparently unaccountable.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Sam Boal/RollingNews

From top: Chay Bowes (left), HSE CEO Paul Reid; Eamonn Kelly

Chay Bowes, former head of the VHI Homecare division, spoke to Cassandra Voices last November about the HSE and the dysfunction he witnessed within the system. What was chilling about the interview was that the dysfunction was not accidental, it was as good as designed, specifically to benefit the private medical sector.

Bowes met with considerable obstacles when he tried to establish a community care model to alleviate pressure on over-crowded hospitals. He worked with elderly patients in St James’s Hospital as a phlebotomist (the guy or gal who takes your blood samples), where he formed the opinion that health care in Ireland seemed to be focused more on “financial outcome than patient outcome”.

It seemed to him that a lot of elderly people were making needless trips to large general hospitals for routine interventions, where they mingled with others and picked up colds and flu and God knows what else. That these visits to large hospitals, far from being good for their health, as intended, were actually a health liability.

Community Care

Bowes saw an opportunity to develop a community-care business whose basic idea was to bring the hospital to the elderly rather than the other way around. The idea suited the elderly, suited their families, suited over-worked staff in the always-busy general hospitals. Suited everyone in fact, but the managerial fraternity of the HSE.

Bowes’ business, starting off with himself working alone taking blood samples in people’s homes rather than having them sit all day in some hospital waiting room, developed through several incarnations until he finally had 200 people working for him and held a contract with the HSE worth €14 million, the company now called Tara Healthcare.

The developing community-care scheme, which really had the effect of taking “business” away from hospitals, was met with scepticism by the medical establishment, with petty rivalries causing some hospitals to refuse to send patients to Tara Care because this guy didn’t like that guy, and so on. Schoolyard stuff.

Then, following the financial crisis of 2008 the HSE closed the contract for Tara’s services, despite pressured hospital staff lobbying to be included in the service.

Bowes recalls:

“They had to pay us a penalty for terminating the contract prematurely, which cost them more than running it for the subsequent two years.”

Which suggests that the financial crisis was used as an excuse to cull the service rather than a pressing and necessary cutback. A senior HSE person told him:

“What you’ve done in Dublin is almost too good. Everyone’s going to want it. They’re going to want it in Galway. They’re going to want it in Limerick.”

Yes, you heard that right, the HSE refused to fund a successful community-care service, which everyone wanted, because the service was “too good”.

Dysfunction Pays

Bowes concluded from this that people in the HSE, at management level, were personally benefiting from the HSE’s dysfunction, to the extent of perpetuating that dysfunction for profit. This perpetuation of dysfunction involved, as we saw, needlessly summoning elderly people to large hospitals for routine procedures that could easily be done in the comfort of their homes.

The bottom line is, that “the hospitals want to hold onto patients because without patients occupying beds, they can’t justify their budgets.”

But Bowes’ perception of this needless use of old people goes far deeper than just working an angle to procure public monies. To Bowes, what he was witnessing was an antiquated class system of prejudice and disregard towards those dependent on the public health service, describing the large general hospitals as”

“Victorian constructs, where we put all the sick people who are susceptible to infections, so that they can mix with other sick people.”

So, the necessary over-crowding of hospitals by hospital management, to justify the continued procurement of public funds, is based partly on an attitude of disregard for the health of a certain class of people: that is, poor people dependent on the public health service. To simplify it even more, they needlessly endanger the health of poor and vulnerable elderly people to justify maintaining their standards of funding.

As Bowes put it to Cassandra Voices:

“…because budgets are pinned to occupancy and the size of the facility, hospitals seemed slow to manage overcrowding at the cost of lesser funding.”

Waiting Lists

According to Bowes there are now almost a million Irish people on hospital waiting lists. Some will never be treated. They will literally die waiting. That is one-fifth of the population, waiting, often for rudimentary treatments, in a system where the same doctors and consultants that occupy and derive payment from the public health system can offer private treatment for the same ailment “tomorrow”, if you have the money.

Bowes says:

“it just so happens that the man running the show, Paul Reid, has no specific health care experience… The UK’s NHS employs around 1.4 million people to serve a population of nearly 67 million. Its CEO Simon Stevens is paid €210,000 a year, while Ireland’s HSE employs around 102,000 people with a population of only 4.9 million, Reid is astoundingly paid over €426,000 a year.”

When he puts it like that the HSE really does sound like a bit of a racket. He goes on to describe the Irish Health Care system as medieval, dysfunctional and immoral.

We have a segregated, apartheid system in health care. It simply isn’t based on needs of the patients… There are super doctors out there, super surgeons, super nurses and staff operating in the health system. It’s definitely a case of lions being led by donkeys.”

In other words, as I understand it, the managerial structures of the HSE exploit even the good will and intent of serious medical personnel, for profit.

Health policy in Ireland, Bowes told Cassandra Voices, reflects,

“the laissez faire attitude of a class of people who are running the medical system, advising the agency and the legal system. They of course all have health insurance. I don’t know anybody who served on the board of the VHI or any doctor working in the system who doesn’t have private healthcare… unlike more than 50% of the most needy In our society…”

The question is, is the health service that Bowes describes an outlier in the Irish system of public services and the wider social strata, or is it just the grossest example of an institutionalised attitude towards public money, public services and poor people? Do we live in an apartheid state based entirely on land and wealth acquisition and possession, or is the HSE an anomaly?

We Are Stardust

On this 41st anniversary of the Stardust fire I see Charlie Bird made the point again that if this fire had occurred in a more salubrious neighbourhood that the families wouldn’t have been waiting for over 40 years to learn what caused it.

The unspoken belief (it can’t be spoken for legal reasons) is that business interests were protected from liability through a process of official “forgetfulness” and neglect. This studied neglect seems like yet another fractal of the larger neglect of ordinary people by Ireland’s elite.

On RTE’s Claire Byrne Show last night any time the subject of class division was raised it was quickly talked over. As comedien Martin Beanz Ward put it, They are now doing to ordinary “Irish people” what they used to only do to Travellers.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Getty/RollingNews

 

Eamonn Kelly (above) reviews this week’s Prime Time Housing Special, including last night’s debate between Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien (ltop centre) and Sinn Féin Housing Spokesman Eoin O’Broin (right) hosted by Fran McNulty (left)

The debate

The opening shot (below) of the two debaters, Minister Darragh O’Brien and SF’s Eoin O Broin, pretty much summed up the tone of the programme. The Minister, who appeared during the debate to be taking tips from someone off camera, possibly a handler, appeared in this opening shot with one of those crooked smiles that used-car salesmen wear.

That complacent smirk, along with his general pampered demeanour, spoke eloquently of his sense of untouchability. It was clear he was on home ground. Eoin O Broin by contrast looked uncomfortable and serious.

The debate was preceded by another red herring of a report presented by Louise Byrne, which somehow went from a general overview of lack of supply (fewer houses, more people, duh!) to the suggestion, by the end, that development would likely be held up by cranks stopping progress, some of whom we met in a report from Cork, nicely framed for later blame games.

The coalition is not to blame then for lack of housing. Other factors are at play. Besides, as we would learn later, housing is not such a big issue and WILL NOT decide the coming election.

The debate itself was an annoying ambush really, and though it began with the RTÉ man, Fran McNulty, (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Stan Laurel), sternly questioning the minister, that was just for show. By the end of the debate both minister and presenter were working together to interrupt Eoin O’Broin, with the comfortable minister, smirking to his off-camera aide, playing that annoying old FF game of grumbling interruptions followed by loud accusations of being interrupted.

Perception

At the top of the show, Louise Byrne had remarked that housing would decide the next election. At the end of the debate the minister’s attention was sought from his off-camera handler. He nodded and just in the nick of time, declared that the debate on housing was not about the election.

This lazy, complacent, not-even-bothering-to-hide-your-moves performance by the minister may have worked in yesteryear on simple peasants, but that day is long gone. What it reminded me of was that same cocky untouchability of Pee Flynn crowing about his two houses.

I’m not a SF supporter. I don’t really believe too much in political parties, since they represent group-think, while I have a natural preference for individuality, thus my arts background. But in a democracy, as Mark Twain once remarked, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

In that regard, Minister O’Brien’s smirking performance stank to high Heaven, but was also the perfect illustration of the attitude of the Irish political elite, that has seen it cultivate the shocking homelessness figures, among other social injustices, which they clearly regard as some kind of insignificant game in their pampered world of big money interests.

Once memorably described by a German journalist as “an exploitative elite”, the Irish political elite and its chummy media wings, really does need a good dose of democracy at the next election, if for no other reason than to clear the stagnant air

RTÉ Bias

RTÉ is so married to the neo-liberal government that as soon as they announced they were “clearing the decks” to have a thorough debate on the housing crisis, a crisis brought to you almost wholesale by Fine Gael, it was only natural that some of us would regard the promised “serious” debate with a sceptical eye.

The suspicion being that the government, clearly disinterested in actually solving the crisis, was now hoping to solve the perception of the crisis instead, with a view to the coming election where support for Sinn Féin seems to be increasing by the day, with two of the key issues being housing and homelessness, linked crises exacerbated and, some would say, created by FFG housing policy, or lack thereof.

Neo-Liberal Spending Preferences

The funny thing about neo-liberal policy making and its emphasis on cutting back government’s role in providing public services, is that you can never envision a day when neo-liberals themselves will be cut from availing of public monies.

Rather, it is more likely that all spending on public services will be cut to the bone, while the neo-liberals themselves will enjoy perks and rises and second houses and cars from a public money supply that only they now have access to.

While this is a bit of an exaggeration, it is not too far from the truth about neo-liberal policy-making. For instance, in the same week that RTE was going to tackle the housing crisis in a kind of housing talk-fest, it emerged that the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, had recently become a new landlord, (it’s great to see the young people getting their first teeth) renting out his Castleknock apartment for €1,600 per month, as reported by the online news site The Ditch.

The man is perfectly entitled to rent out his apartment at any price he can get, but when he is also in a position to create policy that can help that tidy financial return, while having a hand in policy that condemns others less fortunate to the vagaries of an unforgiving housing market, it is only natural that a person might feel inclined to start loudly campaigning about a lack of social justice in the polity.

Prime Time 1

In the first Prime Time Housing special on Monday, Louise Byrne, compared house-buying stats between now and the 1980s and spoke to individuals from both eras to give the stats a human perspective.

This approach was critiqued by former chairman of the Housing Agency Conor Skehan as essentially missing the point and giving the impression of comparing like with like, which he believes is not the case. He described the approach as misleading.

The presenter, Louise Byrne, who seems to lean easily into confrontation, appeared to take the criticism personally, seeming more intent on closing him down rather than in engaging with his critique of the extremely abstract Prime Time approach to the housing crisis.

She cut off Skehan, giving the impression that herself and himself had gotten off on the wrong foot during rehearsals, and turned to Darragh Turnbull in Germany, who had already given his contribution and looked surprised to be called on again so soon, while Conor Skehan rolled his eyes in irritation.

The two experts were in total agreement that comparing the past to the present was a waste of time, as was trying to apportion blame, and called instead for a broadening of the understanding of the concept of social housing to include things like controls on private renting, security of tenure in the private rental market and the refurbishment of derelict properties, along with building more social housing.

Darragh Turnbull described the “strong culture of renting in Germany”, in contrast – though he didn’t actually say this – to the strong culture of evictions in Ireland.

For many people renting in Ireland, and I’ve had this experience, the sense is that you are regarded as a kind of farm animal and a bit of nuisance for the landlord. Ideally the landlord would have your rent for the flat and keep you in a field.

Parlour Games

The annoying thing about this first stab at the debate was the game-like approach taken to comparing past with present, the juggling of stats, and the total ignoring of economic realities in the 21st century, which are global problems, largely related to late-stage capitalism.

The real problem, it would appear, is that there are no rent controls in Ireland’s private rented sector, and no security of tenure for tenants; issues that could be addressed by the political parties, who unfortunately have shown a clear disinclination to regulate private landlords, with a quarter of TDs being themselves landlords, I in 3 of FFG being landlords.

Conflict of Interest

Not suggesting that a conflict of interest has anything to do with a reluctance to legislate in favour of private tenants, but it doesn’t look well on the old CV. And with Leo now raking in a tidy €400 per week as a side-earner (almost twice the state old age pension) on a spare apartment he happens to own, the least he might do is have a serious look at regulating some kind of rent controls for those less fortunate than himself. Or is he really just the totally out of touch “posh boy” that Eamon Dunphy pegged him as?

Another aspect of the problem is that the reporting by Prime Time is itself politically neutered, with the result that its “investigation”, while needing to appear to be saying something of significance seemed actually arranged to say virtually nothing at all; resulting in the hopeless comparison idea between now and the 1980s, with its wonderful stat-juggling opportunities; a ruse that is so politically comfortable as to be laughable, if the issue weren’t so serious.

Simple Stats

Cutting straight to the chase the following day on Twitter, Paul Murphy TD presented a simple statistic that everyone can understand: “Average rent in Ireland: €1,516 a month. Minimum wage in Ireland: €1,774.50 a month.”

You couldn’t come up with a better equation for the creation of a new class of working homeless people. Comparing this clean statistic to RTÉ’s obfuscation of the issue you’d have to wonder about the credibility of the RTE argument that their public service contribution justifies the license fee.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Above from left: Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, Tanaiste Leo VaradkarTaoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan at Government Buildings,Dublinlast week; Eamonn  Kelly

The week that was

By mid-week the taoiseach was insisting that FFG is not the “elite”, but were just ordinary Joes the same as everyone else. Which might well be true in terms of fry-ups on Saturdays and a pint at the weekend, but the salaries of our top politicians, like our top civil servants, particularly in comparison to the minimum wage, combined with the cost of housing, the cost of renting and the general cost of living, really seals the entire “elite” argument.

As politicians are often fond of saying, “The figures don’t lie.”

By Friday, the Irish Times, which isn’t elitist either, was running a very helpful article on the topic of Micheál Martin’s “Working Class Roots”, from behind a paywall.

But sure, everyone in Ireland has working class or farming roots. You don’t have to go back very far to find us all lurking in tenements or thatched cottages, back-biting the Lord of the Manor. But these days, since the measure of everything is money, Micheál and the rest are the elite, even if they don’t think they are.

The Meaning of a Job

A strange thing happened earlier in the week. The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, a neo-liberal, asked employers to raise wages to help staff to meet rising living costs. Now why would he do that?

One reason could be that unless wages are realistic in terms of living costs, the idea of a job itself is hopelessly undermined.

The idea of a job has already been seriously undermined by the pandemic, since it became clear that the “oceans of money sloshing around out there” that millionaires are often heard referring to, does actually exist, and it is not being translated into realistic wages that can allow a worker to buy a house.

Distraction

But there are other reasons why the Tánaiste would be concerned about the idea of a job being undermined. It is that the idea of a job, as a moral imperative, an idea mainly imported from the United States, of having the ability to “hold down a job”, is often used as a distraction by neo-liberals to further the larger project of rolling back the welfare state.

Politically, the idea of a job, as already demonstrated by Leo Varadkar with the welfare cheats campaign, can have the effect of dividing workers, along with providing cover for the transfer of public services into private hands.

Remote Working

The idea of a job was further challenged when the hope of remote working, which could have helped towards alleviating pressure on the climate, was essentially closed down as the elite worked to regain control of workers through the employer/worker relationship.

So even despite the so-called “great resignation” in the US, when US workers found that their jobs, in terms of a life choice, often didn’t make sense; combined with the possibility of environmental budgeting in terms of lessening traffic, the idea of remote working was dashed.

The new legislation that might have seen a more progressive and environmental way of incorporating remote working into the idea of a job, was instead rigged to give the employer the opportunity to deny the whole idea on various convenient get-outs.

Propaganda

On Thursday RTÉ ran a story by Conor Hunt basically saying that Irish people “don’t want to work”, the story being about delays in hiring staff from outside the EU. The angle worked was to elicit guilt, bringing up staff shortages in nursing homes.

Everywhere, it seemed, the establishment entities were essentially playing the same tune of getting workers back in line, while freshly enforcing the morality of “having a job”, regardless of how out of touch with living costs wages might be.

Past Crimes

Also on Thursday, Fintan O’Toole was saying how he couldn’t vote for Sinn Féin because he couldn’t forget the atrocities committed. I’m near the same age as Fintan and I remember those atrocities too, and they do give me pause for thought. It’s all very disturbing.

But I also remember the Ansbacher tax swindle by the upper middle-classes of Ireland. No doubt the same clientele has made alternative arrangements for tax avoidance. I remember Charlie Haughey’s Charvet shirts, and the culture of the brown envelope; and Ray Burke, and Liam Lawlor, and Pee Flynn’s second house, and all the tribunals that only ever seemed to benefit the legal fraternity; and Enda Kenny blaming the financial collapse on ordinary people for going overboard during the boom, and so on.

The Blind Elite

The problem with the Irish elite is that it doesn’t see itself as an elite. We’re “ordinary” is the catch-all cry. And yet the share of life chances and opportunities and educational advantages and salaries do not bear this out.

Because “ordinary” these days, for most people, especially the young, is minimal life chances, minimal educational opportunities, maximum rents and minimum wages. Working a full-time job and spending half your earnings on accommodation to a greedy elitist landlord, squeezing the last drop from every miserable asset.

A system where everyone clamours and compromises and remains schtum in an attempt to be “good”, and to hopefully find a niche in the elite’s world.

Russians

The Russians responded to Irish requests to take their training exercises out of our economic zone and not be upsetting the fish. The Russians did so, as a gesture of good will. Does this mean that the initial encroachment was a gesture of bad will?

They possibly see us basically as a kind of little USA. And with good reason. We don’t believe in public services or taxing the wealthy, all the major US companies live here, and our homeless figures are very competitive per capita with the big boys.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

RollingNews

From top: Doheny and Nesbitt’s, Dublin 2 during the Taoiseach’s address to the nation on Friday evening; Eamonn Kelly

The week that was

When Micheál Martin said that human beings are social, “we Irish more than most”, he meant drinking, didn’t he?

Money

The week was mainly about money. The €1,000 bonus for public service health workers became a bone of contention when gardai and retail workers wondered why they weren’t being similarly rewarded for their efforts. It wasn’t so long ago that retail workers were being complimented as “heroes” by the Tánaiste. But apparently when push comes to shove, they just weren’t heroic enough.

The thinking appears to be that since they work in the private sector a reward should come from their employers, and many employers, according to the Tánaiste, have already rewarded their workers for their sacrifices during the pandemic.

More Money

While people were quibbling about the €1,000 Euro bonus it emerged that Ireland’s nine billionaires had increased their profits during the pandemic by €18 billion, or by 58% if you’re a stats aficionado, proving that while there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is certainly such a thing as a handy billion, if you’ve already got a billion.  At that level, money is like some kind of perpetual wheel, it just keeps turning out profit without you even having to scratch your arse.

‘Basic Income Europe’ ran a good cartoon on this on Facebook. Two guys at a water-cooler. One says, I was concerned too about the company profits relative to our wages, until the boss assured me that he works 380 times harder than we do.

More No Money

Meanwhile, two men in Carlow out to make a bob found a novel use for a dead body by carrying it to the nearest post office to try and claim its pension. Staff and customers became suspicious when they noticed the pensioner’s feet dragging on the ground.

Staff also noticed that he didn’t look very well, an abiding characteristic of dead bodies, who tend not to look their best. The guards were called to investigate and discovered a dead body propped up between the two men.

I’m Vaccinated, Fly Me

Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said that unvaccinated people shouldn’t be allowed to fly. “…I think generally,” he said, “…for air travel, have a vaccination and a booster and that protects everybody who’s on the aircraft.”

Really? How? If vaccines prevented spread, then Ireland, the most vaccinated population in Europe, would not be the seventh most infected country in the world.

This misinformed idea has been doing the rounds for a long time, and is probably one of the reasons why so many people who were vaccinated got infected. They assumed, like Eddie Wilson, that vaccination prevents spread, which it doesn’t.

But Eddie Wilson’s follow-up statement sounded kind of sinister when he said, “Why should the minority get away with it?” [being unvaccinated.]

What does that even mean? Get away with what? Does he believe there might have been something in the vaccine that caused a risk to those who were vaccinated?

He must, otherwise he wouldn’t regard the unvaccinated as getting away with something. Or is he just afraid of needles, believing that equality means everyone suffers equally?

Don’t be Sad…

Meat Loaf died. Jim Steinman who wrote the songs for the Bat Out of Hell album and who later launched a solo career as a Meat Loaf replacement – one without the voice- said that they had a falling out. Apparently, Meat flung the top of a grand piano at him. Now that’s a falling out.

Rumours abounded online that Meat Loaf died following a booster shot, but apparently, he was loudly anti-vax, (if anything can be believed any more,) even refusing to wear a mask on a plane, which is not playing ball by anyone’s standards, particularly Eddie Wilson’s.

That video of Bat Out of Hell, aired on the Old Grey Whistle Test in the late 70’s, blew us all away, teenage spliffing in P’s place.

Thinking is Hard

Finally, a thought for the day. Carl Jung said that thinking is hard, and that’s why most people don’t bother and just leap on a prejudice and judge. It’s easier, and more dark fun too. You might even get to execute a heretic. This appears to be the general “thinking” behind wokeism.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Sam Boal/RollingNews

 

From top: A ROSA organised event in Smithfield, Dublin 7 yesterday to remember Ashling Murphy who was fatally assaulted in Tullamore last week; Eamonn Kelly.

The week that was

It had been my hope to keep these pieces light and amusing, but sometimes you can’t ignore events without seeming out of touch or grossly insensitive. The week was blighted by the horrific murder of teacher and sometime musician, Aisling Murphy, on a towpath in Tullamore, while out for a jog in the late afternoon. It goes without saying that this is a shocking event for any culture to bear.

Reaction

Some women TDs reacted by calling for education for men and boys on abusive sexism in the culture, which is a good idea, education is always a good idea, but the reflex of generalizing such an event to suggest that all males of all ages are somehow implicated, by virtue of their sex, really does a disservice, not only to decent men and boys, but also to the hope of arriving at a more nuanced understanding of violence in the culture.

This idea of “not all men” featured strongly in the discussions on social media and in the press. In the Examiner, Eve McDowell, founder of Stalking Ireland, said it was time men became “more active” in changing the reality of women’s experience, but offered no tangible suggestions.

This question, what tangible actions can men take, was also posed by Mark O’Halloran, actor/writer on Twitter, the answers generally coming down to an appeal to “men” in general to be mindful of the spectrum of violence that begins with cat-calling, and to not contribute to this mild end of the spectrum behaviour that creates a climate of disregard for the safety of women.

In the IT Jennifer O’Connell acknowledged the mistaken reflex taken by some women to label all men as “predators”, when she wrote that while all men are not predators, “…all women know that they are potentially prey. This knowledge permeates many of our lives and curtails our choices in ways that may be difficult for men to understand.”

And that really is an insight and a target for education.

Clarity

An article in the IT by Professor of Psychology at Limerick University, Orla Muldoon, shed light on the problem and offered real insights into what men can do.

Firstly, it appears that men who go on to commit crimes against women first commit what the professor calls “entry level” violence.

She writes:

“Men who perpetrate life-threatening violence against women tend to build up to this point of their criminal careers. Perpetrators usually start with jeering, street harassment, exposure, groping. Yet we rarely intervene when men perpetrate entry-level violence.”

She cites an incident of such entry-level violence when a male student in a school took to exposing himself to female students. When the teacher went to report this, a male colleague laughingly described the student as “a legend”.

So, the answer to “what can men do” to alleviate this ongoing pressure on women is a very simple one. Stop being “thick” as a way of looking clever. In fact, that would be a valuable contribution across a range of social issues. Feigned thickness as a “clever” pose is not as cute as its practitioners seem to think it is, and it does untold harm in undermining the seriousness of certain social issues.

Patterns

Orla Muldoon cites four general patterns of behaviour that create a climate in which violence against women takes place.

The first pattern is that it is almost always men who kill women.

The second pattern is entry level violence, referred to above.

The third pattern is that low level violence and harassment is a real problem for women, and barely a problem at all for men, to the extent that most ordinary men are likely to think that women are exaggerating the problem, since they themselves never experience anything approaching the level of intrusion and harassment that women experience.

Policy

The fourth and final pattern appears to arise from the fact that politics is male-dominated, and so the neglect of the seriousness of the levels of harassment endured by women is reflected in a dismal policy response, mainly due, it is supposed, since the majority of policy-makers are male, to a combination of not taking the problem seriously, as in the third pattern, reinforced by a generous dollop of thickness, the presence of which in the political fraternity few would deny.

Muldoon writes:

Not only has there been no policy response to the many concerns expressed, sometimes there is a systematic refusal to acknowledge there is even an issue.”

On Saturday, Michael Healy Rae suggested that pepper spray be legalised. But this idea was rejected by many women on the grounds that it put the onus on women to deal with what was essentially a male problem. Healy-Rae’s suggestion seemed kind of thick, actually, but seemed to arise from a genuine desire to help.

The Mad/Bad Men Delusion

Orla Muldoon warns that until men see the role of these patterns in creating a climate that appears to encourage violence against women, while men cop-out on the assumption that the acts of violence are perpetrated by lone “mad” or “bad” men only, the problem of violence against women will continue, since the politically male-dominated society, by its failure to act or even see the problem, lends its tacit approval to the climate of misogyny that its neglect of the issue creates.

Spectrums

One of the more useful ideas that emerged from the discussions following Ashling Murphy’s terrible end, was the general acceptance of the idea of a spectrum of violence, from the supposedly innocent “joke” to actual violence.

Many people really don’t get this concept, and it is gratifying to see that this is now an accepted model, at least as used to describe the spectrum of violence against women. But the idea of spectrums of escalation can be applied across all issues.

Condolences

Talking all this theory around such a tragedy may sound callous. To offset that I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Aishling Murphy for their loss. I do know, through personal experience, that bereavement is a kind of life sentence of loss, where passing time itself, far from being a healer, can itself be a source of recurring sorrow.

To forgive an act that would cause such suffering is beyond the capacity of most people, when vengeance seems like a more natural response. This is where acts of violence demean and distort everyone, creating a climate where violence answering violence may seem like the only credible reality.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

Sam Boal/RollingNews

From top: Minimum unit pricing for alcohol came into effect last week; Eamonn Kelly

Brilliant, Holmes!

In the US, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of impersonating a visionary. Visionaries, as we know, don’t blink when talking. This is what makes them visionaries. They see the stuff that the rest of us miss when blinking.

She was also found guilty of speaking in a deep voice to impress investors, which worked surprisingly well, particularly on rich old white men; along with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy fraud, and one count of dressing like Steve Jobs.

The United States, which is big in everything from burgers to cars (but not blue-collar wages), promises a hefty prison sentence for each violation, with a generous 20 years for each count in the offing. It’s unlikely to come to that; popular gal that she was. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Careless Sarah

On Tuesday Twitter was aflame with condemnation of journalist Sarah Carey, who writes for the Indo and other established print media. It was difficult to nail down the exact infringement, except that Carey seemed to be implicated in a cover-up of a Pfizer exec running an anonymous twitter account to influence public opinion in favour of vaccine efficacy.

And even despite people requesting clarification on Twitter as to the exact nuances of the situation, no clarification was offered by anyone, with all commenters apparently happy out simply castigating Sarah Carey. There are times when Twitter really does need journalists to sum up a story.

A quick google shed no light on the twitter storm, but an archive article said that Carey, a former member of Fine Gael who helped negotiate the Esat deal with Denis O’Brien, and notably lied to an official tribunal – one looking at political corruption – about leaking of information, on the grounds that “everyone was doing it”.

But it wasn’t just that Sarah leaked, it was the way she leaked. Because Sarah leaked politically in an attempt to shift focus from herself and Fine Gael onto Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, the then opposition. She wrote a confessional article in the Irish Times in 2011 and sought public absolution.

I’m guessing this political affiliation is the root of the general twitter discontent aimed at Sarah Carey. The takeaway from all this, is that one of Ireland’s leading journalists is essentially a Fine Gael shill.

Then the elite wonder why people get annoyed at what often appears to be a rigged game.

Drink

And on that score, a conspiracy theorist might be forgiven for suspecting that the sudden hike in alcohol pricing at supermarkets and off-licences, on the pretext of health concerns, is a strategy to deter home drinking, in order to get customers back to the pubs, to be fleeced in their droves like they were in the rare oul times. Let’s hear it now for Arthur’s Day, once coincidentally placed next to Culture Night, spinning the idea that drinking is culture.

Tall Poppy

Australia came across as all tall poppyish when they placed reigning Australian Tennis Open Champion, Novak Djokovic under house arrest, when his vaccination clearance papers didn’t measure up to Melbourne’s covid criteria.

Scott Morrison, the neo-liberal Australian PM, took great pleasure in reminding everyone that champions are the same as everybody else, before revoking the Serbian’s visa and placing him in detention in a down-market emigrant hotel, one that suffered a notable Covid outbreak in recent times.

Critics accused Morrison of making a criminal of Djokovic, while interested potential screenwriters of the incident mused over the Dickens-style fact that the name of the main character in the drama is “Novak”.

Coups

Meanwhile, the US was celebrating the first anniversary of Donal Trump’s attempted coup. Security was upped in the expectation that interested parties armed to their Second Amendment teeth with automatic assault rifles, grenade launchers, surface to air missiles and tactical nuclear devices, (all acquired for personal protection against burglars), might descend on the Capitol to try it again, for the craic. This will be it now every Jan 6th for the foreseeable future. What a fitting Trumpian legacy for Nollaig na mBan.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan, home of Borat, demonstrated during the week how to stage an insurrection. Or is it all that it seems? How convenient for Russia, intent on rebuilding a semblance of the old Soviet bloc, to have the Kazakhstan leader admit inability to mange the new and totally unexpected terrorist threat and invite in Russian troops to manage the situation. And how coincidental it should all happen on Nollaig na mBan, with the whole world looking at the US and everyone busy taking down their Christmas trees.

Movie Choices

On that note, there is a really good film by Ridley Scott, though strangely under-rated on the IMDB poll, called The Counsellor (2013), from a story by Cormac McCarthy. The plot hinges on the murder of a drug mule for a Mexican cartel, who is apparently attached to the innocent Counsellor of the title. To the counsellor the connection is a coincidence, but as a colleague patiently explains to him, the Cartels don’t believe in coincidences.

Finally, the Film Director Peter Bogdanovich, died this week. He directed the classic “The Last Picture Show (1971), which was shot in black and white and brought Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepherd to prominence, while featuring outstanding performances from Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman, and the music of Hank Williams Sr. The film is a must-watch if you’ve never seen it.

RIP too to Sidney Poitier, the actor who made startling movie history by returning a slap to the face, literally, of entitled, complacent elitism.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet

From top: US President Ronald Reagan in Ballyporeen, county Tipperary during his 1984 visit. State papers reveal White House officials were unimpressed by accommodation arrangements for the presidential enourage; Eamonn Kelly

The week that was.

Post-Christmas is that time of year when old news archives are opened. Bertie Ahern, Charlie Haughey, Jack Lynch, John Major, and all the other politico stars of yesteryear are back in the saddle for a few days as state papers are released as per the 30-year rule.

Haughey’s contribution to the peace process appears to have been retirement. Once he was gone the wheels started moving.

Padraig Flynn’s contribution was deciding not to take insult on behalf of himself, Fianna Fáil and Eamon DeValera, in the interests of peace. Instead of tearing off his jacket and wading into unionists with flailing fists, he held his counsel and did nothing, as was his wont when in office. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Ravers

In other news, a Co Meath farmer was alerted on St Stephen’s night to the fact that dozens of taxis were pulling up onto his land and delivering party revellers by the score to nearby Skryne Castle, close to the legendary hill of Tara. On closer inspection there was a pumping rave afoot in the castle.

Concerned for his livestock, particularly his horses, (farmers are ambivalent about cows,) the farmer rang the guards and then single-handedly stormed the castle, bursting in on the invaders, yelling of impending drug squad arrivals. It was a bluff, but it worked. The ravers panicked and fled.

The guards soon arrived, and on the premises they found a “massive” bar, as in a drinks bar, not a Yorkie Bar, and a number of large canisters of nitrous oxide, or “laughing” gas. There were volatile scenes as new revellers arrived by taxi, becoming irate when confronted by the garda presence and the fact of no rave tonight lads. Gardai used the laughing gas to pacify the disgruntled party animals.

Blarney

Earlier, in Blarney Castle, a woman, presumably elderly, suffered a non-life-threatening injury when she fell at the top of the 90-foot tower prior to kissing the Blarney stone. The unfortunate woman couldn’t be brought back down the narrow stone stairway.

Instead, a Shannon Rescue Helicopter, which happened to be in the air at the time, for the craic, was summoned to the scene and the woman was airlifted from the top of the tower to the relative safety of Cork University Hospital where she was placed on a trolley in a draughty corridor until the New Year.

Ballyporeen

In older news, White House officials were unimpressed by accommodation arrangements in the Galway area for staff accompanying Ronald Reagan on his mythical return to Ballyporeen in 1984.

The White House entourage were to be split up across the West of Ireland into 41 different hotels and guest houses, all offering full Irish breakfasts, since Galway lacked a hotel large enough to accommodate the entourage.

Galway has since built several huge hotels, many now lying empty, just in case the issue should ever arise again. At the time, Bord Failte, ever alert to costs, warned the US Embassy that they would be responsible for costs incurred by diverting people from the Great Southern and Flannery’s Hotels to God knows where to make room for the Reagan entourage.

Costs in Ireland being what they are, added to the inevitable price hikes for tourists, the Reagan administration was forced to sell some guns to Iran to cover the hotel bills.

Plague-Spreader

Meanwhile in Covid news, an Italian man, described as a “proud plague-spreading anti-vaxxer” died of Covid-19 complications to the unabashed delight of many, proving that while we may have lost a degree of general empathy, we haven’t lost our sense of irony.

The man apparently enjoyed working up a fever and then going maskless to supermarkets to spread the fever around, possibly costing lives in the process. Apparently, he worked up a fever too many and found one that did for him. RIP.

By week’s end the infection rate in Ireland was past 20,000 per day with experts warning that it could be higher, since these were only tested and confirmed cases. Since Omicron appears to be not as severe as earlier varieties this could be a signal for the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning. Though with mutations, it could be worse, and be only the beginning of the beginning with no end in sight.

Prince

Finally, in New York, Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking, leading to speculation that some similar outcome might yet await Prince Andrew. Now that would be awkward for the Royals.

If push comes to shove, they might consider making a deal to house Andrew in the Tower of London, as a merciful close-to-home incarceration, doubling as a tourist attraction. It’s high time we had a royal in the Tower again, for the razzmatazz, with maybe a Big Brother production thrown in, to keep an eye on him.

Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based  freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet