Regular readers (God love you one and all, or possibly just the one of you) may have noticed a gap in my contributions over the past wee while. I’m afraid to report that the amount of blogworthy material emerging from this small island in the past seven days became just too great for one blogger to keep up with.
To provide a pithy and witty summary of the amount of governmental mismanagement, corruption in high places, social injustice and the folie á quatre million that is contemporary Ireland would have turned me into a goggle-eyed RSI sufferer chained to his PC 24-7 for the past week. And that would have just been dealing with Brian Cowan’s budget. As a consequence I suffered the human equivalent of cascade overflow and found myself rendered both speechless and blogless until I could take it all in and put it into some kind of context
So here are the headlines
Cowan puts the trickle into ‘trickle down’
In a budget characterised by its author as ‘well received in most quarters’or most quarters where they drink a lot of Bollinger, that is, our Brian eased the tax burden for his high earning mates and still managed to throw a few scraps to the rest of us.
Well I for one am breaking out the champagne, or perhaps the Tesco economy fizzy plonk, to mark his benificence. But just one question. How come a smoker like me on a meagre scrivener’s pittance is only €6 a month better off when a junior barrister at one of the many corruption tribunals is likely to be €100+ to the good? Thank God the big bollix didn’t put a penny on the porter or I’d be on the next boat out (and not a moment too soon I hear some of you mutter).
Dykes get dunned in marriage decision
Now I know in writing our constitution Dev might had Archbishop McQuaid looking over his shoulder and even sent a copy for Vatican approval. The big fellow in Rome thought it 'too tolerant of other religions', by the way. However, I think even the Long Fellow might have paused at the Mosaic status given to his words by Justice Betty Dunne in the High Court last week. Her Honour ruled that the valid Canadian marriage of Katherine Zappone and Anne Louise Gilligan could not be recognised for tax purposes here on the ould sod.
Dev brings the constitution down
from the mountain
Part of her 138 page justification suggested that the Constitution should not be read as a living instrument, whatever that is, and instead should be interpreted in accordance with its historical context. I've read the relevant sections and I can't see anything there, except by implication, that a marriage has to consist of a man and a woman, but I guess in 1937 when the constitution was written that didn't have to be specified, since to suggest some alternative would involve condemnation from the pulpit and a quick trip to the North Wall.
What I do see is the following:
1. All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.
Following our Betty's reasoning and applying this in accordance with its context we might find that some folks (e.g. white, male, heterosexuals) are more equal than others, at least in the mind of 1937 Ireland and that's what matters. Try running that argument past the Court of Human Rights, your judgeship.
Now as an old fashioned Marxisante I would be fundamentally opposed to the institution of marriage per se, but while we're stuck with it I don't see why it shouldn't be open to anyone, even if their only motivation for jumping over the stick is the tax breaks. And if the preference of our judges is for a fundamentalist, 1937 reading, then I might draw their attention to Article 41.2.2 which states
The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.
I didn't see much in Big Brian's budget protecting the right of mothers to stop home all day washing nappies and watching Oprah instead of having to go out and work to pay the 110% mortgage needed to keep a roof over their heads in the inflated housing market of modern Ireland. But I guess Dev didn't envisage that happening, either.
Which brings me to.....
Auctioneers and developers engage in dubious practices shock/yawn
The lads and lasses at Prime Time have been at it again exposing the shoddy, gombeen underside of life on the Emerald Isle. In a story that every dog on the street not only knew but if you conducted a survey of them 95% would respond 'What else would you expect from dem lads, now pass them bones would yeh like a good fellow?'
It seems that property developers and auctioneers have been engaging in unethical, illegal and conspiratorial practices at the expense of ordinary buyers, sellers and occupiers of homes. Call me an old cynic ("Liam, you're an old cynic!") but in present market conditions where everyone and his wife or same sex partner is trying to struggle onto the housing ladder like lemmings climbing up the cliff before throwing themselves off, my question is why wouldn't they? Expecting anything else from these guys would be like expecting a great white shark to turn up his snout at a sniff of fresh blood in the water.
It seems the little rascals have been manipulating bids, gazumping, passing confidential financial information between agents and mortgage providers, etc, etc. The only thing that sets the needle slightly quivering on my personal surprisometer is that they didn't uncover a few dodgy solicitors getting in on the act, as well. Or maybe they did, he says with conspiratorial nudge and a wink.
And on a lighter note.....
High court declares open season on uppity knackers
Mayo farmer Pádraig Nally walked free this week 5 years after shooting traveller John ‘Frog’ Ward, beating him several times with a stout ashplant and then shooting him once more for good measure before pitching his body over a wall. At his first trial Nally said "It was like hitting a stone or a badger. You could hit him but you could not kill him" Well somebody did, Paddy me old mucker.
I’ll remember that verdict the next time someone calling me boss knocks at my front door and makes me a cash offer on my ’92 Toyota or offers to tarmac my drive. “But yer honour I shot him because I thought he might come back and thieve it. You know what these knackers are like.” And the sad thing is, on the basis of the Nally decision, I would get away with it, not a bother.
John 'Frog' Ward conducts a social policy seminar
The victim of Nally’s psychopathic nervousness was interviewed by Paul Deering of the Sligo Champion in 2001 when accommodation problems had forced him and his 6 sons to sleep in the Hiace cause there was no room in the caravan. He said at the time
What I find hard to understand is the fact that so many other homeless people can get help straight away. I have nothing against refugees and asylum seekers but as soon as one of them sets foot in this country they get put up in hostels and bed and breakfasts for free.... None of them are asked to sleep in the back of a van. If they were there would be uproar. All I want is fair play and I feel Irish people should be looked after first. I don't know what the problem is with helping the Travelling community.
The late Mr Ward's naivety is almost touching, God rest his soul. What he failed to understand is the following:
1. Irish people like black babies cause the Church told 'em to. Looking after them is part of the image respectable Irish Catholics like to have of themselves. They don't like them personally, you understand, at least not enough to have those hostels next door. They just the idea of being kind to them at a distance.
2. Irish people don't like Travellers, because Travellers just aren't respectable. They let the side down badly in this respect. They don't, as a rule, own shops or houses or have steady jobs and they tend not to pay taxes (But that's only recently been identified as a crime in these parts). What's possibly worse, they've never been in too much of a rush to get on the property ladder, either. If anything, the sight of a campsite at the end of the boreen turns the self-same ladder into a big, slithery downward pointing python and taxes the creative ingenuity of even the most devious of auctioneers.
3. Unlike like the aformentioned black babies, of late Travellers have developed a nasty habit of being ungrateful, demanding their rights, and pointing to the abysmal way they've been treated by sedentary Ireland since the founding of the state. Begob, the buggers have even started demanding ethnic minority status, so they have.
4. As I've said before, Irish society isn't very handy with the concept of rights. They just don't sit easily with our MOPE (most oppressed people ever) cultural self-concept. In the social pyramid of the Irish Republic you get what you're given and be thankful for it if you're at the bottom and you take what you can as long as you can get away with it if you're at the top. Any changes in this perspective usually involve the state being dragged by the ear to the European Court like a schoolboy caught smoking behind the bike sheds.
5.One right that is cherished, however, is the one that says that if you don't like this arrangement then you're free to push off to somewhere your rights are worth something, like anywhere else in the developed world, and don't be giving me any of that old Provo shite about cherishing the children of the nation equally.
And so to the summary
As Gil Scott-Heron once sang
Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights…it's all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.