Catalunya

Ok, first off, it’s not my place to have a view on whether Catalan independence is a good idea or not. Spain (including Catalunya) has a long, complex and often painful history and while I know a reasonable amount about it I hesitate to make judgements on such emotional and historical matters.

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That being said, the recent events in Spain and Catalunya seem likely to result in a degradation of respect for the principles of democracy and human rights, and all in favour of mere administrative and bureaucratic convenience.

Mostly it seems to me that the PP in Madrid is the prime mover behind the sudden increase in desire for Catalan independence.  Yes, there’s an element in Catalunya that has continuously pushed for independence, but their support was very low until the PP got going.

What’s hugely disappointing is that the Spanish govt, under PP leadership, has taken every possible step to make the situation worse, apparently playing to its own voter base, and that the EU has essentially preferred institutional and administrative convenience to supporting human rights and democracy.

A recent column by Joschka Fischer (https://goo.gl/QmbbpC) summarizes many of the views I see as being so backways.

Maybe worth reading the article first.

Here’s my response;

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Ireland’s Leading Men

I’ve often said that writing letters to the paper is the lowest form of political expression, other than voting for Sinn Fein.  Writing ironic letters to the paper brings letter writing one step closer to the bottom.

Ireland is getting a new Taoiseach, chosen from two candidates within the Fine Gael party. They were lionized by the press coverage, particularly the ultimate winner – Leo Varadkar.

Let’s say my view is less glowing.

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Sir,

The FG leadership election is finished and we’ll shortly have a new Taoiseach. It’s time to celebrate the uniquely high level of the two candidates.

Leo Varadkar, a lifelong politician, really cut his teeth in fixing Ireland’s broken Health System and brought us from the bottom of the international health league tables to a point where the Irish health system is the subject of both domestic and international admiration. No-one in long queues for orthopedic surgery or old people in pain on trolleys in corridors any more thanks to Leo. And not for Leo a strategy of merely surviving his time in Health. No, he focused on real change and achievement irrespective of any personal political risk. If he has the same positive attitude as Taoiseach we can expect a transformed nation.

And as for Simon, though he won’t immediately be Taoieach his time as Minister with responsibility for Housing has seen Ireland finally eliminate the scourges of homelessness and high house prices, and has seen policy recommendations from as far back as the 1970’s finally implemented to the benefit of the whole nation rather than just a handful of landowners and developers. His ability in driving real change and not just in releasing aspirational soundbites in time for the 9 o’clock news marks him out as a man that Leo can depend on to held further transform Ireland.

We’re so lucky to have such inspirational leaders to depend on.

Yours

Hugh Sheehy

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Housing, again, still.

Dublin is now in the grip of a housing crisis. A rental crisis. A homelessness crisis. A price increase crisis.

The government is again (still) saying that they’re taking steps to alleviate the problem. But they’re not really.

High house prices suit the banks. High house prices suit existing house owners. High house prices get people from the last bubble out of negative equity. High house prices and rents suit landlords (of which there are many in the Dail). High house prices enrich land owners. etc., etc., etc., etc.

Again, Ireland is a barely built up country. Dublin is a small city with lots of empty land, lots of empty housing, lots of low density housing, and surrounded by fields. There’s no excuse for expensive housing and homelessness. None.

So listen for the lies, because everything presented as an excuse is a lie.

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A new low

While the potential consequences of Brexit rumble around unknowable and the thumpings of Trump scare the world, Irish politics has shown it can still compete with the worst. And can still beat them all.

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Often I wonder why people continue to vote for the main parties that have run Ireland for decades. The recent scandal, still to be fully uncovered, magnifies that puzzlement into a state of total gobsmacked “I’ll never get it” disbelief.

First, on the main parties.

  1. Fianna Fail is the party with the best nominal vision. And therefore the one that lets itself down most. Full of petty local potholers and greasy con-men, Fianna Fail is the party of populism, of “whatever it takes to get elected” and of “the money was just resting in my account” venality.
  2. Fine Gael is the party of social and fiscal conservatism. It ought to be a decent slightly right wing party but it’s ruined by an inability to see past the interests of its core constituencies. “The right thing to do” is defined in FG as “whatever makes our kind of people richer”, combined neatly with a “don’t upset the church” conservatism.
  3. Labour is what should be Ireland’s social democrats. It can rightly claim to have driven much of the positive socio-legal changes in Ireland over the decades, but it’s waaaay too tied to the unions, way too protective of unreasonable social welfare and unable to see that markets and socialism are not antithetical.
  4. Sinn Fein….the refuse of the Irish political system. Hand-in-glove with murderers and thugs.
  5. PBP and the rest of the left. All the problems they complain of are real. And all their solutions are bad. Wrong, even. Unable to think past slogans.
  6. The independents….well, they’re a varied bunch.

But…what’s the scandal? It is, frankly, hard to believe this story and it’s even harder to see any way that it doesn’t indicate an immorality in the whole Irish governing system that requires not just a clean-out, but actual prosecution.

Several years ago an Irish police office, after much frustration, blew the whistle on how Irish police were abusing their powers by forgiving traffic offences from the police IT system.

A fairly petty abuse of power, really. One that any senior Police manager should have quickly sorted out. But the whistleblower was swiftly sidelined, nearly fired, and thoroughly made to feel that he should have kept his mouth shut. More to the point, his accusations were really not taken up with any enthusiasm by any of the (few) people in Irish politics who might have done so. The whistleblower, apparently a persistent type, suffered years of abuse and mistreatment but stuck to his story. And nothing really changed and no-one really dug into why.

Why? Well, it turns out that the Irish child protection agency put a note in his file that he’d been accused of child abuse. “Digital rape”, to be specific. Of an 8yr old. No police investigation followed since – after all – there was no actual crime to investigate and an investigation would have to have evidence, processes, courts and all. But the accusation ran around Irish political and journalistic circles for years. So support for the whistleblower was, shall we say, thin on the ground. Tie your political career to a child abuser? Not likely, eh?

Finally, someone somewhere let it be known to the man himself. The only person who wouldn’t keep quiet. And now everyone is running for cover.

But there are really only two scenarios.

  • Either the Child Protection Agency (Tusla) made a clerical error resulting in an unreal accusation of child abuse which the police (who knew of the accusation) never properly followed up AND both Tusla and the police leaked the false accusation widely in political circles AND the Irish politicians and journalists never spoke to the accused AND all this went on inadvertently for years….OR
  • This was all a deliberate smear of the grossest sort, which Irish police and two Irish governments and the Irish Child Protection Agency were all in on.

I confess I tend to believe the second option.

That’s how the Irish state apparatus reacts to a single policeman who goes through formal reporting channels to complain about widespread (albeit petty) abuse of police power.

Imagine how it reacts to anything serious….

Again, twould all make you believe the stories that PBP and Sinn Fein tell. Though their solutions are still the wrong ones.

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Nicole van der Wolf Jewellery

One of the nice things about Dublin is that there’s a huge international influence that just wasn’t there a couple of decades ago. And – mostly – that international influence has blended nicely in to the local scene.

Every now and then you see something really interesting. Nicole van der Wolf’s jewellery is one of those things.

Go have a look here.

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Donald J Trump as POTUS

I guess this is worth saying, for the record.

Just ‘cos he’ll be President of the United States of America, I owe Donald Trump no more respect or deference than I did before. Which is less than zero.

And it is sad but true that the office of President of the United States of America – a great and honorable position in a great and honorable republic – is demeaned and disgraced by the fact that Donald Trump will hold that office.

And while he holds it, the office deserves no more respect or deference than required by maintenance of public order…and maybe not even that much. It depends on what the holder does.

While the phrase “Salute the rank, not the man” is a nice general rule, there are exceptions. This is one.  Of course the same is true in lots of countries. Here, for instance. very much not as much as in the USA, but still true.

And even if Donald Trump doesn’t do the things he promised, it’s the things he said that forever damn him.

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The parable of the frozen oranges – and more

Just to have a link to point to for David Van Der Klauw’s submission, complete with the parable of the frozen oranges.

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It’s worth the read.  It demolishes the vast majority of myths and excuses on why housing is expensive. And it reminds us of why there’s a market in things….which is to supply those things to people as efficiently as possible. So when you hear people blaming house prices on “the market” you can be reasonably confident that it’s not actually “the market”‘s fault…more likely there’s collusion and price fixing (even if that’s implicit and not explicit) between govt and the existing landowners and developers.

 

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