Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another bloody mess

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had too much blood in him?
(With apologies to Shakespeare)

In a society where obtaining appropriate and timely healthcare can often require the intervention of a minor deity, a junior minister, or merely wads and wads of cash, it is less than comforting to discover that one component of our beleaguered health system is giving patients the benefit of its ministrations whether they need it or not.

According to a report published this week by the National Haemovigilance Office (yes, there is such a thing, I googled it, so I did) it would seem that Irish medics have been behaving like the sanguinary equivalents of Mrs Doyle and lashing out the claret like it was going out of fashion (Go on now, ye'll take a pint of A rhesus positive, you will, you will, you will).

In 2005 40 unnecessary transfusions were given to patients in Irish hospitals and adverse reactions to transfusions were up by almost a quarter. The transfusion of incorrect blood components accounted for 65 per cent of all the adverse incidents reported in 2005.

The errors resulted from blood test results being read wrongly or "misinterpreted". There were also "failures in communication between the transfusion centre and the hospital laboratory, between the transfusion laboratory staff and on-call laboratory staff, or between the ward and the laboratory", which led to the issuing to patients of wrong blood components.

How do these fuckers get their jobs? (Well we all know the answer to that one. It involves cousins, in-laws and/or nephews and nieces once removed)

Blood juggling on an Irish ward

One instance speaks volumes for the quality of doctor patient interaction in Irish hospitals. A patient was transfused in error after a phlebotomist took a blood sample from the wrong patient. "The correct patient identification procedure was not performed, as the patient was not asked to identify himself, nor was the ID wristband checked,". The error resulted in 300mls of red cells being given to the wrong patient, but with no adverse consequences, as both patients had the same blood type. Well that's a fucking relief, then. Another incompetent phlebotomist gets to keep his/her job.

In another incident the wrong component was given when the hospital ran out of the correct type. I can just imagine that conversation:
- Sorry but we're all out of O positive
- Not a bother, just give us a pint of B minus. Sure, they'll never know the difference once it's flowing.
- One pint of B Minus coming up!

A barman who attempted the same trick and sneakily substituted Beamish for Guinness would be run out of town on a rail.

In a summary unlikely to prevent half the nation from becoming Jehovah's Witnesses, Dr Emer Lawlor, director of the NHO, said that the increase was likely to be the result of increased reporting rather than a real increase in adverse events.

Well that comforts me no end, Emer, now excuse me while I pop my leukocytes on to defrost.

A note for prospective commenters: In writing this post I bent over backwards to avoid shameful puns based on the topic. I expect any comments to be maintained in the same vein. Thank you

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And now back to reality, sadly....

The Competition Authority, that sleeping Cerberus of consumer protection on this sainted isle, has been moved by recent murmurings amongst Irish business folk about the need to raise prices in the light of the increased costs of carrying out their grubby trades here. Its mumbled roar took the form of an almost sternly worded letter to IBEC which has sent a tremor through the shopkeeping community, or would have done if they hadn't been too busy laughing their way to the nearest branch of AIB.

Business Economics, Irish style

The Authority's target was the all too common practice of 'price signalling' one more means by which businesses facilitate their traditional practice of never giving a sucker, sorry, consumer, an even break. A CA spokesman was heard to mumble something on the lines of
"Price signalling can facilitate firms who should be competing against each other to raise prices in a co-ordinated manner, thus depriving consumers of the benefits of competition [not to mention their hard earned spondulicks-LG]"
Also included in this powder-puff across the bows was that august collective of brilliantined suede shoe wearers otherwise known as the Irish Auctioneers' and Valuers' Institute (IAVI) who have been grumbling about the slow down in the housing market which means they have to get off their Louis Copelanded arses and do some work for once.

Thinks: did this shower just spring up fully formed from dragon's teeth sometime in the mid 1990s. Do they not remember when it was easier to get rid of syphyllis than a house in Cabra?

In a mood for celebration at this championing of my consumer rights and confident in the knowledge that the country was once again safe for competition, I took myself off to a city centre hostelry for a pint of the brew that refreshes and used to be good for you. More fearful of a libel suit than a Armani one in these litigious times, I won't name the place but if you think RMS Mauretania you wouldn't be far off.

As the pint which was soon to be mine settled, I painstakingly counted out the coppers I had earned from a hard day's tarmacking pensioners and dealing in scrap, old clothes and horses of doubtful lineage and pushed them across the counter in the direction of the cheerful mein host.

'It's gone up. You owe me 20 cents.'

'Surely there's some mistake. The rugby finished on Saturday and Diageo aren't due to shaft their customers with another price rise until just before Paddy's day'

'Nothing to do with that, trade's down. Blame the smoking ban/drink driving laws/off-licences/exhorbitant city centre rents/the bin tax/inflation/interest rates/whatever you're having yourself. You owe me 20 cents, sorry 30 now, it's just gone up again because of the fall in trade since you ordered.'

From his perch on my right shoulder the voice of my principles shouted something about rip-off Ireland and taking my business elsewhere. His yells were drowned out by the sound of my taste buds pre-digesting the contents of the schooner of stout sitting on the bar before me. I dug back into my sporran and came up with the necessaries. The barman accepted the cash with the beguiling charm of an Irish postal clerk and tossed it triumphantly into the till. One more victory for the gombeen classes.

Now it's a long time since I studied the dismal science of economics but somewhere in the backmost beyond of the thing I laughingly call a memory was the faintest trace of something I believe is known as the law of supply and demand.

If I can explain for non-economists without the aid of graphs, what this law says is that when demand for something is high so are prices and the converse is also true. In short when your trade falls off, you lower your prices until consumers start buying.

It's said to apply universally in the global souk of capitalism. Everywhere, it would seem, except the green small corner of the emporium that is Ireland. No, our home-grown beer brokers and potion peddlers prefer to circumvent this economic universal and make up the difference from the pockets and purses of the plain people of Erin. Sure, now that competition fella-me-lad might be fine for bowsies across in London or New York, but it'd never be after working here. Off-shore banks accounts aren't cheap to maintain, you know.

Adam Smith ignores the Irish

Having diagnosed the problem I retreated to a corner to take measured sips of the little miracle of economics in my glass and ponder matters further. Fortunately, apart from 3 Italian language students sharing a glass of Ballygowan Still and a forlorn Jack Russell scouring the inns and hostelries of the city for a master missing since the final whistle at Croke Park, there was no-one to disturb my cogitations. Meanwhile the ghost of Adam Smith looked down and chuckled.

Monday, February 26, 2007

And before you start....

The image above published in today's Daily Torygraph doubtless brought much comfort to its pre- and post-senilic readership around old people's homes of the English home counties following their humilation in the egg-chasing competition at the weekend. They might have lost to the damn Micks at the R game, the empire might have gone the way of tiffin, kedgeree and punkah wallahs, but by God logic is still on their side.

I've given it some thought and realised that an image that might otherwise be regarded as symptomatic of the illogic of unreconstructed republicanism (not to mention stereotypically "Irish" in English eyes) is in fact an expression of a much more subtle form of logic, the roots of which may be found in the work of Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Bateson.

Aquinas argued at one point that beauty was in fact a transcendent quality above and beyond the mere thinginess of the world. Football, as signified by the Celtic strip, is the beautiful game. Therefore, rather than falling into contradiction or error, the wearer is in fact making a statement (qua Bateson) about the world (i.e foreign games) at a higher level of logical typing (i.e. beauty). The use of paradox in this way as the deliberate confusion of different levels of logical typing is, according to both Bateson and the Marx Brothers, a frequently effective component of humour. So, seen in this light the joke is on the viewer rather than the wearer.

On the other hand, he might just be a thick sectarian bastard.

Either way it demonstrates the benefits of a Christian Brothers education in Ireland, wha?

For the reader who wishes to view further variations on this theme I can heartily recommend the work of Jim Chimney here and here

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Newsflash!!! 800 years of oppression over. Official.

An event which began with An Taoiseach snogging An tUachtarán yesterday culminated in the final removal of the chains of English oppression, the breaking of the yoke of Saxon domination and Ireland taking its place at last amongst the nations of the world.

Bertie warms Mary up for a post-match ride

A spokesperson for the Government said it was the proudest day in our nation's history since Riverdance won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1923. The Department of MOPE (most oppressed people ever) is to be mothballed as soon as the Taoiseach has got over his hangover.

Plans for the military emancipation of Rockall and the 6 counties are in hand and 2 Spanish trawlers have been sunk by gunboats for catching sprat within the newly declared 200 mile Irish territorial waters boundary.

Robert Emmet, Wolf Tone and James Connolly were unavailable for comment but in an seance exclusive to this column Padraig Pearse said
Sport is a cleansing and sanctifying thing, and the nation that regards it as the final horror has lost its manhood... there are many things more horrible than sport, and rugby is one of them!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What Price National Sovereignty?

I don't know what the implications are of having G*d Save the Q***n sung at Croke Park today as far as Irish national identity is concerned. The Godfather of Irish bloggers,Twenty Major suggested the novel compromise of having it performed by the Saw Doctors. Me, I'd re-form the Sex Pistols and get Johnny and the boys to give it a lash. Now there was an Irish band worth its salt.

To be honest, I care not one iota about what ditty a bunch of egg-chasing, no-neck, latent homosexual homophobes choose to preface their futile activities prior to having soapy fun with wet towels in a communal bath. Whatever their national hue, they're all part of the global bourgeois class to me and the main problem with rugby union is the lack of on-pitch fatalities. No, what concerns me today is something of far greater significance than the staging of a violent touch-fest on the hallowed and heavily state subsidised turf of our national stadium.

I've been dragged unwillingly to the blogface today by something of far greater import to the always worrying question of national sovereignty on this small island. It's them damn Yanks again. They're only after breaching our firm but flexible for the right amount of inward investment neutral stance again and dragging us into the early stages of the next skirmish in their quest for global domination.

First it was giving their troops a duty-free stopover at Shannon. Then it was the suspicion that they might be running one way package holidays to Guantanamo through Irish airspace. But now something far more worrying is going on as Bush prepares to topple another domino on the road to World America.

Buried on the front page of yesterday's Irish Times’ business section, a part of the paper that usually goes unread from the letterbox to the litter tray in my house, was the disturbing news that the imperialist running dog, soda pop giants Coke and Pepsi have been using their Irish subsidiaries to rot the teeth and undermine the national morale of the people of Iran.

A pre-emptive strike? Mineral manoeuvres on the Iranian border

These unscrupulous purveyors of fizzy minerals, who have a long history of participation in the ideological arm of Yankee imperialism, are up to their old tricks again and bootlegging their tooth-rotting wares out of Ireland to circumvent US government sanctions on trade with this particular outlet of the axis of evil. My concern is that because of this ploy our plucky wee nation could end up the unwitting accomplice in some latter day equivalent of the Opium Wars.

This is no laughing matter. What happens if the imams and ayatollahs of Tehran get wind of our involvement? They have been rightly denouncing Coke and Pepsi from minarets and mosques for an age, warning the faithful against the perfidious effect of such bloating beverages on the fabric of Farsi culture, not to mention Persian peridontia. It's only a matter of time before they seek to take the war to the enemy. And it'll take more than mobilising the FCA to shield us from the fury of their fundamentalist fulminations.

Imagine the consequences if, tonight of all nights, they decide to declare a sanctions war on the Irish people. A lightning withdrawal of Kofte kebabs and Chicken Shwarmas across Dublin is enough to cause chaos on an average Saturday night. I have seen near riots start because Zaytoon decided to close before the Turk's Head and Isolde's Tower kicked out. A fatwah would be a mere bagatelle beside such retaliation.

But after a 6 Nations tie against the Brits? We are talking a potential national emergency. Why, the stress on the Health Service alone, with demands for the morning after pill reaching unprecedented levels on a Sunday before mass, is enough to bring this proud nation to its knees. What price tax incentives to multinationals when 9 months down the line the national gene pool is swelled to the bursting with neo-natal rugger-buggers because mammy couldn't slake daddy's drunken urges and send him off unconsummated to the land of nod with the remains of a Kubideh still on his shirt-front?

Action must be taken to bring a end to this vile trade in soft drinks before we pay the penalty. You have been warned.....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Burning rubber

Alright, as a hard core, wish I'd never taken up the filthy habit, give up every morning smoker, I accepted, nay welcomed, the smoking ban without a qualm. I didn't even mind becoming an impromptu cloakroom attendant to my smoking mates during the period I gave up when the ban was first introduced. But the grand panjandrums of ASH Ireland, the anti-smoking campaign, have gone one step too far even for one of my liberal leanings when it comes to the demon weed.

In a run up to National Anti-Smoking day which this year, ironically enough falls on Ash Wednesday, they have called for a ban on smoking in private cars. According to Professor Luke Clancy, the chair of this crypto-fascist health quango:

"Smokers must light up, hold the cigarette, deposit the ash and dispose of the cigarette - all whilst driving," he said. "If it is not safe to hold a mobile phone while driving, it's difficult to see how it can be safe to smoke."

Clearly our Luke should have stuck to croaking the Auld Triangle above in Donoghue's because whatever he's a professor of, it clearly isn't ergonomics. While driving along, or more accurately sitting in traffic waiting for the rare opportunity to engage in some forward motion, I, for one, rarely if ever engage my cigarette in ennervated discussion about what Orla said to Carmel at the photocopier this afternoon. I do not use it to text frantic messages about picking little Fionn up from under-8s rugby.

My in-car cigarette habit has never caused me to fail to indicate a turn before braking, cruise through a red light, or pulverise a cyclist at a major junction because I was too busy giving my secretary my current geographical location, a discourse on the state of Irish roads and ETA at the photocopier warehouse.

In fact, the capacity to partake in a smouldering tube of finest virginia makes me a safer driver. Without its calming effects, there is more than one road-user around this city who would have experienced the salutory experience of a trip to A&E to have a Toyota wheel brace removed from his or her jacksy. When confronted by road craft that suggests that the driver obtained his/her licence in a brown envelope deal with a Fianna Fail TD, the swift inhalation of an auld Sweet Afton facilitates a zen-like transcendance of mere human emotions like rage and the desire to remove body parts with an oily mole-grip.

A safe driver prepares for the road

If Clancy had bothered to learn correlation when he was studying whatever he's professor of, he might have noticed that air-rage incidents increased exponentially once smoking was banned on airlines. I am of the sincere view that if flight attendants firmly adhered nicotine patches onto passengers as part of the pre-flight safety protocols there'd be a few less Irish passengers bringing the nation into disgrace every year after being booted off a 737 at Luton Airport on the way to Ballyponza.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The price of everything and the value of nothing

In a last gasp attempt to portray themselves as a party of civic responsibility rather than one of sub-Thatcherite free marketeers, the Progressive Democrats (or the Regressive Autocrats, as they're known around my gaff) have announced plans for a scheme of social befriending in which volunteers would be paid cash money to pester the bejasus out of the old and infirm in their local communities.

Announcing the scheme, Tom Parlon said
People who might be recruited to do this work would include stay-at-home mothers or fathers who might have free time when their children are at school, or part-time carers who may be in a position to work limited hours outside the home....Changing demographics and lifestyles mean that older people, particularly, are at much greater risk of social isolation.

What a load of arse. You don't have to be a sociologist to recognise that if you allow house prices to run riot, otherwise stable working class communities, of which there are many around this city, will be broken up. The children of those communities who would have provided the social support for aging parents have to relocate further and further into the sticks if they want to find an affordable place to live. As a result there's no one to drop by on a daily basis and make sure Mammy or Daddy hasn't fallen over and broken a hip.

It is a supreme irony that it is the very party which presided over the rocketing house prices of the past decade and which did nothing to ensure that developers' commitments to affordable housing were enforced that should come up with this cack-handed scheme. I can't see the wannabe yuppies with their fucking carriage lamps and designer kitchens who have been filling up areas like Smithfield, Ringsend, Irishtown and the East Wall over the last few years popping in next door to see if old Mrs Mulligan is all right for a pot of Barry's and a slice of seed cake. No. too busy stuffing these noses with cocaine and worrying about the price of Beamers, them lads.

And what of the recruits to such a scheme? Every fucking nosey-parker, busy-body and out of work PD TD and councillor (of which there should be a good few after the next election, please God) in the 26 counties will be queuing up for the chance to spy on their hapless elderly neighbours. If it goes ahead we can look forward to an epidemic of elder abuse, contested wills and even more unsavoury goings on a few years down the line.

Meanwhile in Wexford: keep believing it, shit for brains

He whose name cannot be spoken gees up the beige shirts

And I quote...

In the next 90 days we will put before the Irish people a visionary agenda for a prosperous Ireland that cares for all its citizens, and that cares for its environment.

I believe that the Irish people respect and will elect politicians who show vision, conviction, capacity and honesty.

I believe that the Irish people see through phoney promises which are the fruit of desperation, not conviction.

Ireland needs you more than ever. Roll up your sleeves get out and work to give Ireland the government that the next generation deserves.

For us and for Ireland now is not the time to turn back. Don't throw it all away, the best has yet to come.

And he miched off the Dáil debate on Moriarty to write this shite?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reasons to be cheerful Part 1
I was very gently taken to task by a friend of mine recently about the content of this blog. It was, we agreed, somewhat downbeat in its attitude to life on this small Ireland. Thankfully, the conversation did not extend into one of those 'if you don't like it go back to where you came from' raps that invariably accompany any utterance of complaint on my part regarding the parlous state of the nation. Quite the contrary, the criticism offered was constructive, helpful and concluded with a task to be completed before we next met: A blog consisting of items which make life here worthwhile or at least bearable. It was hard at first, but once I started, begob didn't they just pour out.

Here's a sample in no particular order:

Dublin Taxi Drivers

Anyone notice, lads?

I love these guys. Almost policeman like in their ability never to be there when you need one, they've put up with a lot of shit from the 'de-regulate everyone but our mates' government over the last few years. This has barely put a dent in their cheerful demeanour and willingness to put themselves out for a fare. I especially like the ones that suffer from geophasia between Lord Edward St and Crumlin Road. Makes getting home less of a journey and more of an expedition worthy of Rider Haggard into the lesser visited parts of West Dublin.

Being shifted on a Friday night
Not so many years ago a regular feature of my Friday nights on the tear was finding myself pulled into a doorway by some woman who had been ignoring me all night to engage in a wet and slobbery chardonnay-scented snog. This would often be accompanied by an admonition along the lines of 'It doesn't mean you're getting a ride, yeh know.' Even though it often did mean precisely that. As I've moved to the further end of the age demographic those days have gone thankfully. I have passed from the 'desirable when enough drink's been taken' category into the 'amazing you still have all your own teeth at your age' slot. In the late evening having had my fill of porter I can now concentrate my efforts on persuading a jolly taximan to chauffeur my arthritic old bones home in time for a cup of Horlicks.Mmmmmmm!

The cafeteria at IMMA
In the bad old days, I used to be able to recover from my hangovers by lounging quietly in the corner of the beautiful courtyard of this 17th Century hospital. I could realign myself with sobriety while having a coffee and a cigarette and contemplating the generosity of one of my ancestors in bestowing such an
architectural gift to the nation. Since the cafe's removal to the cellar, I now avoid both an unhealthy exposure to the elements and simultaneous consumption of those deadly drugs nicotine and caffeine. The chairs are really much better for my posture too.

Admin Staff @ DCU

I used to work at Trinity College, the last major bastion of Ascendancy elitism on this island. One of the doubtless vestigial characteristics of that heritage was the sense that non-academic staff (secretaries, porters, librarians, security staff, and so on) genuinely felt that their role was to help and support you in the institution's avowed task of educating students. After a term at DCU, I realise just how much of a dinosaur Trinity is in the Ireland of today. Not a bit of that forelock-tugging, obsequious Uncle Tim-ism for our administrators and support staff. Indeed no, it's not their job to help you educate the young effectively. Just what their job is often, it would seem, for them to know and you to find out. Learning that I should not expect to be treated like Lord Mountcharles has been of incalculable value to me over the last few months in understanding how far this country has come in shedding its post-colonial shackles.

Evening Fixtures: One more step on the road to nationhood

The Kildare Nationalist might not agree with me but they're just a bunch of culchie naysayers. The erection of floodlights at Croke Park, the home of our real national games, must rank as a feat comparable to Mussolini getting Italian trains to run on time. Unlike other Irish infrastructural projects not only did it come in on time but, as I'm given to understand, also on budget. Neither, would it appear was a single consultant given a fat sinecure during the planning stage. We should seriously consider handing over the running of the country to the GAA (Sorry, didn't we already do that?). The only drawback is the Republic of Ireland's next home game will now be visible.

Honesty in unexpected places
Best typified by the English-trained health worker at the Mater Hospital who, when interviewed by Newstalk 106, described his colleagues as 'amongst the best medical staff in the world' and the service they worked in as 'amongst the worst in the world.' Such honesty was doubtless followed by a fast taxi to Dublin Airport and the sound of doors failing to catch his arse on the way out.

I love 'em one and all. When they're not murdering each other in drug wars or smoking dope on the top deck of the 77 bus before throwing the back seat out of the emergency exit, you couldn't ask for a nicer bunch of people. They like their locals local and their parishes parochial. As a visiting friend from Liverpool once remarked after a trip to my local local ' Eh Liam, I thought you said dis town was friendly, dis place 'as the atmosphere of an open grave.'

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's special: From green to blue

I recently came across the shocking news that a Scandinavian porno company is touring the length and breadth of the land offering hard cash to induce the flower of Gaelic Irish womanhood to get down and dirty on digicam.

According to my sources (i.e. The lrish Daily Mirror), pornography with an Irish theme is a booming market on t'internet. Known as 'Lepreporn' and featuring amateur artistes, this particular example of polymorphous perversity has been kicking around in cyberspace for the last year and a half. An industry insider quoted in the article said
Irish girls are very popular in the US market - it's their accents....Irish girls look more natural [I love this bit-LG] even if they are carrying a few extra pounds or their teeth ain't perfect.

Aren't we all, one way or another?

The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines pornography in the following way:

1 : the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2 : material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement

The key concept in both definitions seems to be the concept of 'sexual excitement' and I while I appreciate that folks' boats can get floated in many, many different ways when it comes to sexual behaviour, the very concept of a specifically Irish pornography stretches my over-stimulated erotic imagination. In fact it would probably stretch the combined and extensive libidinous imaginations of Freud, Kinsey, Havelock Ellis and the Marquis de Sade.

Despite extensive (and I do mean extensive) on-line research, I have been unable to locate any examples of this sub-genre (or at least any I could download for free) but rest assured I shall continue my tireless search leaving no stone unturned until I emerge stiff and possibly satisfied from my labours on your behalf.

Whatever. In the absence of physical evidence it seems to me that this is just another example of the kind of shamrockery aimed at exploiting gullible Americans of Irish descent who, God love them, no longer feel obliged to pass their tithes to Noraid since peace broke out and are looking for other outlets for their thanatic impulses.

The idea of ethno-erotica aimed at the kind of folks who provide a much needed annual boost to the Irish bawneen and gansey industry (now re-located to Bangla Desh for cost reasons) and who think tweed is the fabric de rigeur amongst natives of this isle (Have you seen that episode of Murder She Wrote?(and before you ask, yes I do work at home during the day)) frankly takes the chocolate Kimberly (but hopefully not after it's been applied to some erogenous zone or other).

Lepreporn can only be a disappointment to them. We are talking here about people whose first questions on arrival tend to be about the state of affairs in Glockamara or the paddling proclivities of a certain mountain range. Their Celtophilic fantasies probably consist of comely, if somewhat cuddly and crooked toothed, cáilíní doing the auld Riverdance down the crossroads before snuggling up for a chaste kiss under the counterpane with a cross between John Wayne and Piers Brosnan. Somehow I can't see signs appearing in Carroll's gift shops warning of 'adult oriented material beyond this point'.

Sex in modern Ireland: The early years

Now in my limited experience, sexual fantasy is always best kept just that. The moment you start turning your fantasies into reality there's only a couple of destinations to end up. Surprise(it wasn't like that in the movie); disappointment (ditto); embarrassment (double ditto) or a painful mixture of the three are probably the least consequences when you endeavour to translate erotic imaginings into sweaty reality.

Unfortunately, in Ireland, that necessary separation isn't the rule. Traditionally, at the level of fantasy, the peak of Irish ecstasy culminates in a expensive wedding followed by years of fraught conjugal relationships, a clutch of ungrateful offspring and some property to pass onto same.

If that were not bad enough, the actuality of sexual behaviour in Ireland (Temple Bar on a Saturday night, notwithstanding, or perhaps very much withstanding) is still rooted in a kind of rigourist Catholic sensibility that would not be out of place in dungeons the darkest practitioners of BDSM. When John Lydon said 'What's so good about two minutes of squelching?', he was revealing less about his anarchist ideology than his Irish Catholic up-bringing.

The Father of echte lepreporn cashes in his chips

Shame, guilt, pain, not to mention the loss of your mortal soul still figure highly in the background of contemporary Irish sexual conduct. Translating the price of an impure thought or an occasion of sin into an appropriate imagery and still remaining within the law would have the Marquis de Sade tearing someone else's hair out.

Anyway, to our American guests who flock to these shores clutching their copies of Fucked in Ireland enjoy your Valentine's day, but remember; be careful out there.....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The state of the nation

If I was depressed yesterday, then today I have even more reason to look through rose petalled spectacles at lengths of rope, car exhausts, gas stoves razors and the other miscellaneous contents of my bathroom cabinet (Thinks: I wonder how much fizzy echinchea tablets it would take to put an end to my abiding misery about life in this country. Hmmmm, at least I'd bow out with a healthy immune system).

The exponential increase in this writer's unhappiness quotient in a mere 24 hours can be explained succinctly as follows:

San Marino 1 Republic of Ireland 2

To some of you this might be just a football result. To others it might prompt a 'Feck it, we got the 3 points and we're still in with a chance of qualifying' sort of response. Such optimists deserve nothing less than being frogmarched to the Cliffs of Moher and gently nudged into the Atlantic swell. Survivors would be encouraged to join contemplative religious orders where their benign idiocy might be of some use.

Like many Irish descent people I have followed the fortunes and misfortunes of the Republic's team since the days when it was, as they say, neither popular nor profitable. My support for my country's side originates in a mythical long forgotten age before they sold prawn sandwiches at Lansdowne Road.

I put up with abuse and piss-taking from my English contemporaries and resisted the sometimes strong temptation to pin 3 lions to my chest and get with the local programme. I can honestly say I must be one of the only people on these islands who has never seen the 1966 World Cup Final (I actually spent that afternoon with a Scottish mate playing a hybrid game of Hurling and Shinty in a local playground).

I have seen the Republic play great games, good games and bad games, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (and more often the reverse) and receive pummellings from the 'big' footballing nations. I have memories that I will carry with me to the grave. Like the afternoon a Scouser headed a ball down to a Jock who slipped it into the back of the English net and thus brought to an end 800 years of oppression (or at least made it more worthwhile). A day in New York when a London born,alcoholic black orphan kept the Italians from getting an equaliser. I could go on but you get my drift.

What I never saw (or more often heard via a crackly Radio Eireann) in those times was an Irish side play with less than conviction. If they lost you were proud, if they won, or even drew, you were ecstatic. But whatever the result, you knew that pulling on that green shirt meant the same to most of the players as it would to you, given the chance. And it meant the same to them wherever they were born, whatever their seed breed and lineage.

In later years, we're talking about guys who played for some of the top clubs in England who, without complaint, would be bundled into cattle class for away games while the gombeens from the FAI sipped champagne and negotiated dodgy property deals up front in business class. Men who would run headlong into a goal post and feck the consequences for their careers if it meant conceding or scoring a goal.

Last night, the game against San Marino washed all that away like footprints in the sand. For the first time in my life, I found myself cheering for the opposition. When San Marino scored an equaliser, the choreography of which would not be out of place in a Mack Sennett one reeler, I cheered. Worse still I began to hope that the result stayed 1-1. It might teach us a lesson. When the equaliser came (thanks only to a liberal dash of extra extra time by the Danish referee) I was plunged into schizophrenic paralysis by the emotional conflict I was feeling.

Staunton squeezes out a victory over the mighty San Marino

I haven't read a paper today and I don't intend to. I know what they'll say: sack the manager, change the tactics, give the players a good kick up the arse, blah blah blah ad infinitum.

I can't blame Stan. Anyone who bothers to think about it knows that he's just warming the seat in the dugout until that Cork guy, whose name escapes me, learns his trade as a manager up at Sunderland. That's the reward he gets for nearly dying of heat exhaustion in the we were robbed game against Mexico in Florida.

I can't even blame the players. They're just a product of an age when playing professional football changed from being a vocation or an expression of artistry into that pernicious construction of late capitalism called a 'career'. The young ones with talent are just Celtic Tiger cubs who don't know any better, the older ones, who are by and large not so talented, know their international days are numbered and have given up hope.

A particularly telling and sad moment came when an Eircom apparatchik shuffled on to award man of the match Kevin Kilbane an auld glass salad bowl. He looked like he was handing a bedpan to a particularly noisome and incontinent geriatric in-law. I don't even think he shook his hand.

Kevin Kilbane explores alternative career avenues after winning man of the match against the mighty San Marino

In my view, there are two related factors which explain last night's dismal performance: The economy and the FAI. Think about it.

In 1988 Ireland was a 3rd World nation, a banana republic without the sunshine.The economy was sinking fast and emigration was as high as it was in the 1950s. When the lads marched out to face England in Stuttgart the pride of the nation was the only thing at stake. Even in defeat we could extract a moral victory through effort, determination, and sheer bloody minded refusal to roll over and lie down (fear of Big Jack in the dressing room afterwards probably played a part it should be noted).

Not so today. Irish pride is at its apex and verging on arrogance. The problem is we still live in a banana republic and in our hearts we know it. All the wealth generated in the last few years has been translated into SUVs and inflated house prices, holiday homes in Malaga and dodgy property deals in Eastern Europe.

Things that might give us pride in ourselves and in the sacrifices and achievements of previous generations, like a decent health service or education system, care for the old and vulnerable, a less than corrupt political establishment, an efficient civil service, or an improved quality of life in general have just been pissed against the wall. All we're waiting for now is the bottom to drop out of the housing market.

We can't blame anyone else but ourselves and we know it. We're not the plucky little country we once were, fighting for our dignity and our place amongst the nations of the world. We're bloated, smug and self-satisfied. Our performance last night simply reflected that zeitgeist. All the players did was act out what Ireland has become.

Which brings me to the FAI. This cabal of gombeen men are symptomatic of the Irish ruling class a whole and appear to have wandered straight out of the pages of Frantz Fanon. They have invested next to nothing in the team or the game here and contented themselves with exporting 14 year olds to the football factories of the Premiership to be fattened up for onward sale and then abandoned them when they don't crack the big time over there.

They have extracted the maximum value from the successes of the past two decades in the form of franchises, ticket prices, licensing deals and so on. They must be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of games at Croke Park with its executive boxes and corporate facilities. It's only a shame they have to split the profits with the culchies.

If there was any justice in this country the FAI should be forced to give away the tickets for their next home game to the plain football supporters of Ireland free, gratis and for nothing. Now that's an election winner for Bertie, Enda, Pat or the other fellow whose name cannot be spoken.

But there isn't and they won't.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's too depressing for words....

My apologies once again to regular readers for the protracted absence of entries on this blog. An annually recurring bout of winter sadness is partly to blame but a more significant cause was the bleeding state of the bleeding nation.

For months now the news content of the Irish Times might has well have been produced from a computer template permutated from the following:

Another health service crisis, Harney denies responsibility/blames nurses/doctors/managers/patients/God

McDowell introduces more controls on on immigrants and asylum seekers

Bertie is economical with the truth on health/law and order/the economy/house prices/education/whatever you're having yourself

Enda fails to get Bertie to answer the simplest question on health/law and order/the economy/house prices/education/whatever you're having yourself

Labour to form electoral pact with anyone who'll have them (The fecking St Vincent de Paul wouldn't take that shower in).

Ryanair imposes a passenger oxygen consumption surcharge on European flights. O'Leary blames anti-competition legislation for rising costs of air.

In an effort to obviate the mass suicide of their readership before they get as far as page 2, the old lady's editors have taken to putting cheery, 'aren't we a quirky little nation to be sure, to be sure' stories on the front page. These are somewhat like the 'skate boarding duck' tales that used to end local news programmes on the BBC in the 1970s.

Today's was a classic about Galtee Merci, a Holstein Bull based at the Dairygold Artificial Insemination centre who was put down after apparently fathering somewhere in the region of 100,000 daughters

Hero of Irish agriculture or a load of old bullocks?

A cursory examination of this bull's story tells us a lot about the sad state of the nation's psyche (or at the very least the state of the Times' sub-editors' psyches). The stories of skate-boarding ducks in Warrington and a Jack Russell in Blackburn that could sing Verdi which I remember, at least had the merit of being factually correct, locally (and often yokel-ly) relevant, and they were tucked away at the end of the newscast. Their ideological function was to lighten the relentless litany of 'it's grim up North' stories which made up the bulk of local news in my youth. The Galtee Merci story has none of these marginally redeeming characteristics.

This 'truly great hero of Irish agriculture', 'the father of the Irish herd' and 'the first and greatest' local bull was, in fact, an immigrant of Orangeman stock (born in Holland, don'tcha know). Estimates of his fecundity are just that. No-one knows how much of his bovine spunk actually gave rise to off-spring. And we all know what us chaps are like when it comes to giving our quantity of sexual conquests a bit of an upward spin. Why should bulls (or their handlers) be any different?

In other words this is a bullshit story which just happens to be about a bull. It's as thin as Oxo gravy and wouldn't make a one inch side-column insert on page 7 of a national newspaper during August anywhere else in the Northern hemisphere How it came to be below the fold on the front page of our nation's paper of record is beyond me.

In the words of Myles 'The public should be told...'