A Tale of Two Women

Posted: January 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

This is a story about two women. Both are (or until recently were) pregnant. Neither of them have any connection to me, in case anyone reading this is concerned about Mrs Daltonr.

The first woman being “with child” reached that great moment, the only time when an adult can “wet themselves” and be happy about it. Her waters broke. Nothing unusual about that, it does come with the territory of being pregnant. She did what any sensible person would do, she got herself to her hospital, presumably excited at the prospect of meeting her offspring.

Sadly, when her waters broke she apparently had held some back, which the hospital found objectionable, and she also lost points for her contractions not being frequent enough. Overall she just wasn’t up to their standards and was sent home. Whether a stern note from the head mistress was issued is not clear.
Let’s give the hospital the benefit of the doubt and pretend this decision was based on medical factors.

On returning home the rest of the fluid got it’s ass in gear and arrived. The contractions, shamed by earlier poor performance also put in some extra effort and performed with more vigor. Satisfied that she had corrected the flaws in her performance, Mum to be returned to the hospital for another shot at impressing the judges.

Sadly, again there was a problem. No beds. It appears the miracle of birth is now to become an elective procedure in Irish public hospitals.
Having been refused a bed, and with no stables near bye, Mum-to-be and child-almost-been were sent home again.

This happened, in Dublin, tonight. A night when buses aren’t running because of the driving conditions. Taxis are refusing to cover many areas outside the city center. In short a night when it’s dangerous to be on the roads, and where there is a very real danger of being stranded somewhere in a car, this hospital sent this woman home, because they couldn’t find a bed in a Maternity hospital.

I said this was a story of two women. The other woman gave birth in a private hospital. She had a semi-private room which contained two beds.
The other bed was empty.

That’s healthcare in Ireland folks. The Public system puts people in danger because it hasn’t enough beds, and the private system has more beds than it knows what to do with.

Kudos one and all. Job well done.

Every day I get happier and happier that mrs daltonr and I are stumping up the cash for a private hospital.



Posted: January 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

Given the revelation of Brian Lenihan’s illness it’s not surprising that there has been an outpouring of sympathy for him, and it’s deserved. I disagree with NAMA, I think the banking guarantee is a complete disaster, I think the government have moved too slowly and too little to tackle the crisis in the public finances, and despite that, I don’t think there’s anyone else on the government side of the house that I’d prefer to be in charge of finance right now.

I was glad to hear Lenihan say he wanted the opposition to carry on as usual, no going easy on him, because I have a few things to say, that under the circumstances many people might not say.

Watching Vincent Browne’s show last night the panel were gushing in their praise for Lenihan. The interviews were great, his attitude was great, he’s just great. It’s perhaps a little easier for Mr Lenihan to be positive given that he has quick access to the best medical care in the country.
Whether that care will be enough, we don’t know, but he has a fighting chance. Unlike the citizens who rely on the health service that his party has created.

I wonder, if the minister left his life in the same hands that Susie Long entrusted with hers, would he be so great? Would his attitude be so positive and inspiring? Susie Long could have lived were it not for the delay in getting care in our public health system. If we know anything we know that she is not alone.

I hope Mr Lenihan beats the odds and makes a full recovery, but I’m going to try and put him out of my mind and instead think about the hundreds of Irish people who every year get the same news he got. I’m going to try and think about about the people who realise, as Susie Long did, that they could have been saved.

Read Her Story.

Let’s not forget that Suzie Long died at a time when Ireland was supposedly a very rich country.
Let’s not forget that for the sake of a few million a year we passed on the chance to have cervical cancer vaccines.
Let’s not forget that we’re cutting the already shoddy health service that we have.


We don’t need a banking enquiry

Posted: December 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

Following calls from new governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan for a 9/11 style enquiry into the collapse of the banking system, all the movers and shakers have been moving and shaking to get on one side of the idea or the other.

Brian Cowan is “cautious”. You bet your arse he is. He thinks the priority should be to get on with fixing the economy, and not get caught up in little things like who did what or who didn’t regulate who, or who finance ministered a nation into the poor house.

John Gormley thinks such an enquiry is a good idea. You bet your arse he does. John was on the opposition benches when the worst mistakes were made. He was telling us all how hopeless Fianna Fail were. How they needed to be removed from power. He nodded enthusiastically when Trevor Sargent told us he wouldn’t lead the Greens into government with Fianna Fail.

Little did we know John was nodding “You won’t, but I will”.

His latest comments would have sent a chill up Cowan’s spine if he had one.

“an inquiry would help to establish what relationship the former chief executive of Irish Nationwide, Mr Fingleton, had with various people”

Ouch. Following Primetime’s revelations about Mr Fingleton’s relationship with Charlie McCreevy, the words “Fingleton” and “Relationship” are banned from the scrabble board in all Fianna Fail households over the festive season.

For once, I agree with Cowan, and it’s not just that I enjoy disagreeing with John Gormley. No, I’ve long felt we don’t need a banking enquiry. I didn’t think it was a good idea before Patrick Honohan suggested one, and I haven’t changed my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, the country is in a dreadful mess and it was sent into this mess by bad regulation and by reckless lending, but why stop with a banking enquiry? The collapse of the banks is only part of the story.

What about an enquiry into the hundreds of tax breaks that Fianna Fail created and sustained right through the boom?
What about an enquiry into the over reliance on construction and the decimating of the regular sustainable tax base?
What about an enquiry into the splurging on the public sector using once off windfall that could never be sustained.
What about an enquiry into the role of political leaders such as Bertie Ahern in goading young people into buying houses
at massively inflated prices, condemning them to negative equity.
What about an enquiry into the explicit policy of Fianna Fail to create a society that demand that both spouses in a family
go out to work.
How about an enquiry into the estate agents who repeatedly lied about the state of the property industry and now continue
to lie and revise history, claiming they knew all along the bubble couln’t last. These same people who apparently couldn’t
value their way out of a wet paper bag during the bubble are now on lucrative contracts with NAMA to (you guessed it) value property.
While we’re at it, how about an enquiry into NAMA and the myth of long term economic value.
Let’s go further. What about an enquiry into why the energy regulator presided over a 70% increase in energy costs
under the guise of making Ireland attractive to competition that would supposedly deliver value for the consumer?

No, I don’t think we need a banking enquiry because it just seems silly to waste time and money enquiring into something
where the facts are already well known. A call for a banking enquiry is a nice way for Honohan to establish his credentials that he’s not one of the boys. Don’t worry about the theatrics Patrick. Just do your job and let us judge you on that. You could start by….you know….REGULATING.

We know what happened to Ireland. We knew while it was happening, the people involved knew, Brian Cowan knows, Bertie Ahern knows. All the estate agents, bankers, journalists, developers and politicians know. Increasingly the man in the street knows.

We don’t need an enquiry into banking because such an enquiry will serve only to rubber stamp the myth that banks caused this mess all by themselves and politicians and the rest were just innocent bystanders. We can’t allow that to happen.

This fairytale is already well established. Notice the vigor that Fianna Fail bring to the table when calling for top bankers to be replaced. You don’t see quite as much vigor when they are asked about why the guy who ran the nation’s finances into the ground is now Taoiseach, and holding on to power.

What happened with the banks was a disgrace. But if the rest of the culprits get away with selling the myth that all the damage was done solely by the banks then that will be a bigger disgrace.

Just how clueless are NTL/UPC?

Posted: December 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

When me moved back to Ireland in 2007 we found ourselves living in an apartment where the only option for TV was NTL (now UPC).
I like their broadband, big fan. But the TV? Not so much. Everything about it is a pain. The Guide Software is slow and painful, I’ve toyed with physically removing the button from the remote so I don’t accidently open it. The set top box has a dodgy relationship with remotes, so much so that when I tried to get my PC to control it via an IR blaster it was impossible. Not difficult, not troublesome…Impossible.

We’ve been promised a SKY community dish for a while now. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then we have to deal with UPC.

Back in 2007 we bought a swanky 42″ Panasonic Plasma screen. Very swish, we like it a lot. But given that it’s High-Def credentials only get a run out if we watch a Bluray we were hoping to get our hands on HD TV at some point. This took FOREVER, but finally UPC announced something a few months back.

It was …underwhelming. Very few HD channels (not that there are many to begin with), and for existing customers a €60 connection fee. I was about to pass but decided to try and appeal to their better judgement with a phone call. I left my number and awaited the Callback.

It came when I was on the Dart somewhere between home and Blackrock. It went something like this….
(Note, UPC probably have the tapes, so before they object, this is the gist, It’s fairly faithful, but I might throw in a bit
of poetic license to make myself sound cleverer in retrospect).

UPC GUY: You called about the HD packaged?
Me: Yes. I was wondering if I’d really have to pay that €60 connection fee. There aren’t many extra channels,
would you not just connect me for free, you’d be getting more each month from me.
UPC GUY: No sorry, that’s the fee.
Me: Ah, I’ll leave it so, you don’t have enough channels to make it worthwhile.
UPC GUY: No I suppose you’re right, unless you’re into the Sport.
Me: But you don’t do the sports channels in HD
UPC GUY: What?
Me: You mention the Sky Sports channels on the web, but they don’t seem to be HD.
UPC GUY: That can’t be right.
Me: I could be wrong, check for me.

UPC GUY: Uhm. You’re right, we don’t do the Sky Sports channels in HD.
That’s mad. Sure why would anyone sign up to HD with us?

Me: I wouldn’t.

I promise you hand on heart, the guy wondering why anyone would get HD from UPC is word for word what he said.
And he’s right.

I wouldn’t.

Danger, Keep Out Crosby

Danger, Keep Out Crosby

Fianna Fail’s poster hangers offer a subtle warning to the people of Ringsend.

I almost missed it, but back on May 10th the Irish Independent carried a story about the rents that the state is paying. The Indo in true tabloid fashion got hung up on all the well known rich people who are earning this rent. As if that were important.

The real interesting part of the story was the amount we spend on empty office space.

the OPW keeps one per cent of its property portfolio vacant so as to maintain a degree of flexibility in case a new tribunal or agency is formed

There you have it. At a time when there has never been more empty office space available to rent, and at a time when we should be cutting down on the number of agencies, we’re renting empty offices “in case” a new tribunal or agency is set up.

And how much are we wasting on this empty office space?

€1.127m spent renting empty office space

At a time when we apparently don’t have €10m to fund cervical cancer vaccines, we can blow over a million needlessly on empty office space.

On top of that, we’re overpaying by about €15m a year because the government hasn’t renegotiated rents despite huge falls in rents since the bubble burst. They of course excuse this by citing “Upward Only Rent Reviews”.

You’re the government for goodness sake, the biggest tennant in the country. You make the rules. If you can’t parlay that power into a bit of action, what good are you?

It’s not that there isn’t any way for the government to save money, it’s that there isn’t any will.

Read Article

National House Week

Posted: May 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

I was thinking recently about the number of days in the year that seem to have some special fundraiser attached to them.

Daffodil Day (Cancer)
Hard Hat Day (Niall Mellon Township Trust)
Sandwich Day (Africa)
Volunteering Day (Volunteering)
Car Free Day (Alternative Transport)
Earth Day (The Environment)

There are even whole weeks blocked off
Game Playing Week (Dyslexia)
Bike Week (Cycling)
Science Week (Science)

You get the picture, I could go on…and on.

In thinking about all these special days and weeks, I wondered to myself whether it might be
time to create a fund raiser to tackle the next huge crisis that’s sweeping Ireland. Negative Equity.

What I’m think here is National House Week with the funds raised going to people who find themselves in negative equity. Like Daffodil Day and Hard Hat Day and the rest you buy a little trinket to show you support the cause. I’m thinking a pyramid pin or a monopoly house.

The twist is that unlike those other fundraisers, you immediately turn around and sell the trinket to someone else for a profit. This buying and selling continues for the duration of National House Week. Who knows how much these trinkets will change hands for, or how much wealth can be created in that one week of feverish buying and selling.

Of course at the end of National House Week all trading will come to a complete halt. Those left with pyramid pins at the end of the week will not be able to sell them. They won’t have any way of getting their money back. That’s the risk of National House Week.

On the bright side the trinkets can be worn, so they have a utility value.

I don’t know if it would raise much money, but after 4 or 5 years of running it, people might get their heads around what a speculative bubble really is.