Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CORI challenges Government to reveal privatisation plans

CORI Justice challenges Government in social partnership talks on privatisation of services.

Government's proposed reduction in tax revenue suggests that resources will not be available to provide core services.

CORI Justice has challenged Government to reveal whether or not it plans to privatise large swathes of public services. Speaking after social partnership talks between the Government and the Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partners today Dr Seán Healy, S.M.A., Director of CORI Justice, stated that "A close examination of the Budget documentation shows that Government plans to balance its books while reducing tax revenue far below the EU average. If Government follows through on this then the only way that circle can be squared is by privatising large parts of the services currently provided in areas such as education or health. CORI Justice believes that such a move would have huge negative implications for fairness and for the vulnerable in Irish society."

Fr Healy went on to state that "Before the current crisis the Government's annual Budget raised about 27% of GDP in tax. Government's latest projections on tax revenue show it intends to raise 22.3% of GDP through the Budget in 2011. A fairer tax system is required which sees the tax-base broadened and tax-breaks removed. This would see total tax revenue remaining below the EU average level but rising to a level required to fund key services. However, the level of reduction envisaged in the Budget projections for the coming years is such that large parts of services currently provided by the Exchequer could not be funded and, consequently, would! have to be privatised. Is this what Government is planning?"

CORI Justice called on Government to clarify its vision for where it sees Ireland in five years time and whether or not privatisation of substantial parts of the social services funded by the Exchequer form part of that vision. If privatisation of major services is not planned then CORI Justice calls on Government to state how it will secure the revenue needed to fund these services in the years ahead.

"Government has constantly stated that it will protect the vulnerable while addressing the series of crises Ireland is currently facing. However, its own Budget documentation calls this commitment into serious question" according to Fr Healy.

Fr Seán Healy, Director of CORI Justice went on to state that, “As we approach the 10th anniversary of Minister Mary Harney's contrasting of Boston and Berlin, and the social models they epitomised, we find ourselves in a situation where the US is moving away from the Boston model while Ireland is moving towards it.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cycling in Ireland

It's difficult to understand how the minds of politicians work.
The report below about cycling has elements of madness about it.
Right now Irish Rail is trying hard to remove all bicycles from its trains.
I have been cycling in Ireland for 54 years. I wonder how long the author/authors of this policy document have been on two wheels.

May I invite Mr Dempsey to come on a 10 km cycle trip anywhere in Ireland with me and I'll explain the real rules of the road to him.

Cyclists must look much safer and greener when viewed from behind the windows of a plush State car.

HARRY McGEE, Political Staff

A NEW Government policy on cycling proposes to make Ireland one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world by 2020.

The National Cycle Policy Framework was launched yesterday by the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey who said he wanted to increase the number of people who cycle each day from 35,000 to 160,000 in a little over a decade – an increase of over 400 per cent.

The new policy contains 109 separate actions to make the transformation. Included are ambitious plans to retrofit all urban roads with cycle lanes and promises to introduce widespread traffic calming and bike-friendly road designs.

It also provides for the integration of public transport and cycling, allowing bikes to be carried on buses and trains; the provision of shared bicycles in major towns, like the French Vélib scheme; safe bike-parking facilities; and the retrofit of major road junctions which can currently pose dangers for cyclists.

Mr Dempsey acknowledged there had been a marked decrease in the numbers cycling to school and work in the past 20 years but said that this new policy would fully address it. He said he had sought the advice of the best cycle planners in Europe when drawing up the policy.

“I am determined that we will have a world-class cycling infrastructure in place in this country by 2020 so that biking becomes a safe and enjoyable option for commuters and school-kids alike,” said Mr Dempsey.

He accepted that the total plan has yet to be costed, though he said a total of €14 million would be provided during 2009 for various schemes, some of which are engineering and others promotional.
However, there is no specific commitments in relation to funding the actions.
“Over the lifetime of the scheme what we intend to do within the road-work programme is to provide specific funds for engineering to make existing roads much safer particularly in . . . urban areas,” he said.

The cycling campaign group,, gave a broad endorsement to the new policy.

Dr Darren McAdam-O’Connell of the group said that recognition of cycling by policy makers was long overdue. “We strongly welcome a document that contains many of the measures that cyclists have been demanding for a long time, such as stronger measures against urban speeding, on-road cycle training in schools, improved driver training curriculum, dismantling of dangerous multi-lane one-way systems and permitting of bike carriages on trains and buses.”
However, Dr Mike McKillen, also of, said it would never become a reality without a “fundamental change in attitudes in official circles”.

Fine Gael’s transport spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said that Mr Dempsey launched his cycling wish-list just as the roads programme was coming to an end. He claimed the policy would “gather dust” in the Department of Transport.

Likewise, Labour’s spokesman Tommy Broughan described the policy as being full of vague aspirations, without full commitments to implement them. “The policy is also vague on how and when funding will be provided and merely states that we will provide appropriate levels of, and timely, funding towards implementing the plan,” said Mr Broughan.

Main measures
- 160,000 people cycling to work each day by 2020 – up from 35,000
- Safe cycling routes to all schools in the State;
- A speed limit of 30km/h near schools;
- New secure bike parks in bus and train stations and other public
- Adapting trains and buses to carry bicycles;
- Shared-bicycle schemes in all cities
with populations over 100,000;
- Better training for cyclists and drivers in relation to cyclists;
- Traffic-calming in urban areas;
- Redesign of major road junctions to make them cycle-friendly;
- Retrofitting of roads, quality bus corridors and bus-lanes to accommodate proper cycling lanes;
- Two-way cycling lanes on streets that are one-way for traffic;
- A proposed scheme where workers who use bikes instead of cars will be entitled to receive travel/mileage expenses.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Guardian done it

How the mighty have fallen.

The lead story on page 29 of yesterday's Guardian runs 'America sunk these pirates, but the Age of Might is over'.

There is obviously a campaign afoot to interchange the imperfect tense of certain verbs with the participle form of the perfect tense.

It all seems to point in the direction that the Irish are ahead of the posse. After all many of us say 'I done' and 'I have went'.

Is this the relativism that Pope Benedict opposes?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dublin Bus

On Thursday Dublin Bus ran a large size advertisement in the daily press informing passengers of new timetable schedules. The new services were to come into operation on Easter Sunday.

It is now Easter Tuesday, the new timetable is not in operation and the company is back in the Labour Court with its employees.

Reading the ad it is clear that the PR department is not that well up on spelling/grammar as they mix up the possessive adjective with the abbreviation of 'it is'! Hopefully the company is run more efficiently than its - a word they cannot spell - ad writers.

What does it say for Dublin Bus and its management team that it can tell the public on Thursday of new operating times, then cancel it and without too much notice to the public.

Who pays for such crass inefficiency and poor grammar?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not all have been 'shocked'

Two distinct items in today's newspaper which deserve comment, one concerning paedophilia and the other homosexuality.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in a homily delivered in the Pro-Cathedral on this Holy Thursday said that the imminent report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation into clerical sex abuse 'will shock us all'.

He said, "It is likely that thousands of children or young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation and the horror of that abuse was not recognised for what it is. The report will make each of us and the entire church in Dublin a humbler church."

Not everyone is going to be shocked. There are and were people who recognised the horror for what it was. They were dismissed and told they did not know 'the full story'.

As for the church becoming 'a humbler church' is questionable.

In a report in today's Irish Times Tony Blair calls for 'rethinking on the 'entrenched' attitudes on homosexuality within the Catholic Church. He challenges Pope Benedict XVI's 'entrenched' attitudes on homosexuality and suggests it is time he and other church leaders started 'rethinking' the issue.

Mr Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving Downing Street in 2007.

He told gay magazine Attitude, "I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic church, particularly a well-attended one, on any Sunday evening here (in Britain) and did a poll of the congregation, you'd be surprised at how liberal-minded people were."

But Mr Blair, like so many 'high profile' people seems not to understand what has and is going on within the hierarchical Catholic church.

It is generally held that being 'liberal' means one 'accepts' homosexuality. It might be accurate to say that being 'liberal' means a person is open and honest about orientation.

The issue is far more complicated and anything but transparent within the Catholic hierarchy.
Many priests who are homosexual and closet about their orientation are also extremely 'orthodox' and 'right-wing' And that is at the core or heart of the serious problem within the church. Gay closet priests who speak words in public agreeing with the 'official' Vatican stand create a serious and worrying problem for the church. And the church is aware of this but never dares speak about it.

There is a serious problem here about honesty, openness and transparency. And when it comes to being open honest and transparent with homosexuality within priesthood, the church does not seem 'to do it'.

Good Friday is an appropriate day to ask forgiveness for all forms of deception and fear.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A broken promise

On Sunday morning in Prague in front of the statue of the Czech hero Tomas Masaryk, President Barak Obama gave a sensational speech where he outlined US policy on the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

Close to the end of his speech, referring to the Korean test rocket the previous day, he said, "Rules must be binding. Words must mean something."

The Irish Government made a commitment to the developing world and has now broken its promise. Do words mean nothing for the Irish Government?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No resurrection without a cross

This article appears in today's Irish Times.
Why there can be no resurrection without a cross

RITE AND REASON: HOLY WEEK is a time for essentials, for getting back to basics. For many, it is a sacred time; a time to gather with fellow believers to contemplate the distinct and defining elements of a shared Christian identity and community.

Even for many of those who have long since discarded any visible trappings of their church affiliation, it is a special time; a time to spend with family and friends, to live what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called “the dearest freshness deep down things”.

Having said this, some readers might wonder why we now turn our thoughts to a theologian, the 25th anniversary of whose death occurred on March 30th last.

To read, however, even a small selection of the writing of Hopkins’s fellow Jesuit Karl Rahner on the Easter mysteries of life, death and resurrection is to be reminded of just how appropriate it is that we should remember him at this time.

Just six weeks before he died, Rahner delivered his last public lecture, entitled Experiences of a Catholic Theologian, at a conference in Freiburg held in honour of his 80th birthday. In the last section of this lecture, What Is To Come, Rahner offered a personal reflection on death and eternal life.
He is critical, in kindly terms, of talk of eternal life which makes it seem more like a continuation of what we are used to in this life. Such talk is “clothed too much with realities with which we are familiar”. It does not do justice to what he calls the “radical incomprehensibility” of it all.

We cannot, he insists, downgrade the direct vision of God in eternal life “to one pleasant activity alongside others”. If we have the courage to accept, in a spirit of faith and hope, “the immense terror that is death”, we can experience it as filled with “God’s all-absorbing and all-giving love”.
It is, as always for Rahner, a case of “both-and”; there is no escaping the terror for any of us. There is no resurrection without a cross.

In an earlier essay called Experiencing Easter , written in the mid-1960s, Rahner speaks of the need for each of us to reflect on our own Way of the Cross: “Today the Way of the Cross means calamity, cancer, divorce, war, being thrown on the scrapheap” – but it is still the same Way of the Cross “which leads by way of tribulation and much pain to final death”.

The Easter experience is more than the sum of its parts. For Rahner, it is an encounter with the person of Jesus, with his love and fidelity as manifest finally and decisively in his total acceptance of the darkness of his death, even to the point of feeling abandoned by God.

Rahner describes Jesus as “an effective prototype for us all”: our life has a final and definitive meaning. It is capable of redemption, and this meaning has actually been realised in the first Easter experience of Jesus.

Rahner acknowledges the difficulty for many in believing explicitly and publicly in the resurrection of Jesus. He believes those who persist along their own Via Dolorosa , living in good conscience “as if” everything had meaning, are expressing their own resurrection faith.
The Way of the Cross has a 15th station, where all such take leave of the march of time and are gathered into God’s love, whether they have made a prior explicit act of faith or not.

Dr Pádraic Conway is a vice-president of UCD and director of the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama in Prague

The icing on the cake!
President Obama gave a sensational speech in Prague on Sunday morning. Yes, words are never actions but the speech has to be recorded as a remarkable piece of oratory.

During his European trip he said, "I am alays jealous about European trains. And I said to myself, why can't we have high-speed rail [in the United States].

Of course it is not possible to compare a presidential speech in Prague with a TV sermon. But the previous evening on ETWN a priest used his sermon to spend time talking all sorts of gibberish.
It was a wonderful piece of nonsense. Instead of preaching on the Gospel he was giving out about modern liturgical practices. Indeed, he was even breaking his own 'rules'.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Views in the media

On my desk is the April issue of Hotpress. Alongside it is the April edition of Alive.

In his editorial Niall Stokes writes about the pope and his recent comments on condoms on his flight to Africa. He says Pope Benedict is wrong about condoms.

The editor of Alive writes that divorce is simply a legal fiction that does not end a marriage. He says that re-marrying is, in fact, adultery.

The media is a broad church.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eschatology on April Fool's Day

A Dominican student writes on the Dominican Oxford blog on April 1 that the Dominican habit is an eschatological sign.

Is the Dominican habit not more a sign for those wearing it of not having to be worried about the current economic recession and turmoil?

No doubt there is an element of 'cheekiness' in making this point. But really to refer to the habit as an eschatological sign is taking it all a little too far.

I for one, have seen some right 'signs' prancing about in long white robes.

And getting up at 07.43 is regarded a 'great challenge'!

As to the Fr Ted reference - it certainly is a matter of life imitating art.

If the high sounding theology is as daft as this then it sure has to be gobbledegook.

Of course it is an April Fool's joke! Well done.

April Fool's Day

Nice one.

Today's Irish Times has a clever April Fool's gag on its front page.

Could anyone imagine Dr AJF O'Reilly or Dr Smurfit wearing the device?

Was RTE 1 caught by the trick? It did cover the item in its 'What it says in the newspapers' this morning?

The curtains are gone

The curtains have disappeared.

When Irish Rail introduced its new InterCity fleet on the Dublin Cork service, the Spanish built trains came with curtains on every window.

It seemed at the time to this blogger a terrible waste of money. Irish Rail PR personnel adamantly disagreed and pointed out the importance and value in the curtains.

The curtains are now gone and not a word from Irish Rail.

How much did it cost to fit out eight trains with curtains on every window?

An expensive bed time

We are living in unprecedented times. The economic situation is so bleak and unpredictable that what was said yesterday becomes irrelevant today. It’s as bad as that.`

There is little security in the world of labour and while there might be some divisions and differences between public and private sector, there are very few PAYE workers who are not greatly worried about the weeks, months and years ahead.

Employees have lost the security of their pensions and naturally scared about what lies ahead for them.

It was good to hear both the US Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, and Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke talk in the last few days about a ‘glimmer of hope’ on the horizon.

And we in Ireland seem to be at the bottom of the economic barrel. I find it difficult to listen to any sort of economic experts these days. It’s not that long ago since the present taoiseach reprimanded people for talking us into a recession. It’s far from a recession we are in right now.

Of course it is easy to scapegoat people. It’s easy to have hindsight. And maybe we are at present focusing all our anger on the bankers. Maybe the bankers were simply expressing the wishes and moods of the people. Those we pay to lead seem to have led us on a merry dance and certainly up the garden path. We’re the mutts.

Did you ever notice that if people ask cheeky or awkward questions they are considered ‘troublesome’, ‘people with chips on their shoulders’ or simply ‘angry’?

Anyone whoever stands up to authority gets a rough ride and authority always tries to win the day. Organisations and corporate entities are always stronger and have far more economic clout than the individual.

People who get to the top of corporations, organisations and institutions feel it incumbent on them to support and defend their outfit. In ways it is a comfortable massaging of egos. The organisation/institution makes its top people feel important and in turn the managers want to please their organisation.

I spent one night in hospital in January. It was a semi-private room. That meant two beds in the room. The food was mediocre and certainly not the healthiest. My time in the room was from approximately 15.00 on a Monday until 10.00 on Tuesday.

How much did the overnight accommodation cost? It cost €1,249.33. At least that is what it said on the charge and description details I received from mu health insurer. I happen to be fortunate enough to have a private health insurance, so I did not have to pay the bill.

There were other medical fees on top of that, which seemed high to my unskilled medical knowledge. But the price for the bed seemed so daft that I telephoned my health insurer. I was told it was part of the overall ‘package’. It was then a matter of telephoning the hospital.
The hospital tells me that €1,249.33 is a ‘package’ price agreed between them and the insurance company. They are unable to give me a breakdown of the sum paid and tell me to contact my medical insurance company. They do tell me that that price includes theatre time, equipment, etc.

I did find out that a one night’s accommodation in semi-private room in the hospital costs €305. And that includes breakfast! I still want to know what cost €944.33. That sum does not include doctors’ fees as they are separately detailed.

When I tried to ascertain from my medical insurer a breakdown of the ‘package’ I was told that was an ‘agreed package’ with the hospital.

That does not seem terribly transparent.

Another instance of how the individual person has little or no chance when it comes to the organisation or institution.

The way of the world.

Death of the past participle

Anne Marie Houriihane wrote in Monday's Irish Times,
‘He has showed us up – quivering, self-conscious girlies that we are. Casby got us all, with one satiric touch.’

Noel Whelan in Saturday's Irish Times wrote, ‘ … it should not have went out…..’

RTE’s Paul Reynolds is constantly using the wrong form of the past participle.

Is the past participle dying a death?

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