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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Water charges botched because the Government’s drowning in incompetence

YOU ALL remember that famous election poster, don’t you? It appeared in the 24 hours before polling began in both the 2002 and 2007 general elections. It was believed to be a clincher.
The poster read: “Vote Fianna Fáil. Pay More Tax To Repair And Maintain Water Infrastructure”. The voters, concerned about water quality, proper waste-water treatment, and solid public services for all, were won over.
And the rest is history. Right you are. Of course, the above is slightly inaccurate. Fianna Fáil did have a gee-whiz poster in the last days of those elections, but it read: “Vote Fianna Fáil. Less Tax.” Short, to the point, and highly effective. This is an illustration of the weakness paucity of arguments being made against charging for water.
The ‘double taxation’ line is redundant. “We’re already paying for water,” they say. No, we’re not. The treatment and distribution of the water infrastructure are accounted for within general taxation, but we haven’t been paying for them for a long time. To do so would require a major hike in taxation, and most likely income tax.
Even setting aside the argument that overly high rates of income tax cost jobs, it’s a brave party that would attempt to get such a hike past the electorate on the basis that it is required for a 21st century water infrastructure.
Without a ringfenced, dedicated income, directly for the provision of water, the resources will not be made available for what is required.
That dedicated income is the way they do it in every other developed country. If we were living in a utopia, supported by some great source of wealth, or even a country where there was a superlative regard for the public good over the private individual, it might be possible to account for water out of general taxation.
But we’re not, and anybody who believes otherwise is living in Never-Never Land.
The abolition of domestic rates in 1977 was an electoral ploy that instigated the dilapidation of the water infrastructure. Part of the rates income had been dedicated to water.
The system was unfair, particularly on council tenants, but rather than repair it Fianna Fáil used it to buy votes. (Similar to Labour in the 1990s, who, rather than address the unfair covenant system for college fees, abolished them, precipitating the crisis in third-level funding).
Over the last 40 years, standards befitting a developed country have been imposed by the EU. Public health and basic regard for the environment demanded no less.
We played catch-up. Right now, the water infrastructure is creaking badly. Boil notices in places like Roscommon and Ennis are just a glimpse into the future. Plants right around the country are not meeting proper standards, and won’t until considerable investment is made.
Transmission is another issue. Up to 40% of water is lost through leaks. That can’t continue.
Then, there is conservation. Human nature dictates that as long as the illusion persists that water is free and plentiful, it won’t be regarded with respect. What bothers you more: leaving a tap drip or forgetting to turn off the cooker?
One doesn’t cost you directly, the other does.
Or, ask yourself whether, in recent months, with the prospect of charges looming, you have been more conscious of the use of water? I know I have.
Down through the decades, there were attempts to address the funding crisis. A few times, proposals were made for a charge.
Each time, the body politic shied away. The most notable of these was in the 1990s, when a by-election campaign in West Dublin saw Socialist TD Joe Higgins elected on an anti-charge ticket.
On that occasion, most of the country was on board, but the government ran scared and abandoned charges. Higgins has been a serious addition to the body politic, but the fallout from his first election did long-term damage to the water infrastructure.
Then, finally, in the depth of an existential economic crisis, and under instructions from the Troika, a government had the opportunity to do the right thing.
And, by God, did they make an unreal hames of it.
Irish Water should have been set up solely as a collecting agent. If collection of a charge was left to local authorities, councillors would have gotten their mitts on it and interfered all over the shop for votes.
If that had been Irish Water’s primary function, it could have managed on a staff of 50, rather than 700. Instead, the Government saw fit to put Irish Water in charge of managing the infrastructure, while it continues to be operated by local authorities until 2025.
Apart from anything else, this merely duplicates an overseeing function already performed by the Environmental Protection Agency. (And hands out bonuses for doing so).
Irish Water should have been compelled to engage with local communities, and particularly local politicians. This would have enhanced the view of public ownership; reassured doubters; and educated about the need for a new model of funding.
Instead, it was set up as a commercial entity and provided with a captive market.
Is it any wonder that there is deep suspicion that privatisation was a glint in the eye of those behind its establishment?
If it was really felt necessary to set it up as more than a collecting agency, an appropriate model would have been a mutual entity, owned directly by the people, probably on a regional basis.
There should have been proper provision for ability to pay, similar to the proposal on water credits, as designed by the think-tank, TASC.
There should have been a lead-in time of at least two years, in which a flat charge would be made, making provision for ability to pay, to complete the water-metering project, and determine what to do in a fair way about those homes that can’t be metered.
This would also have prepared the public for paying according to use. Instead, the Government set up a company to shovel all the problems out of the political realm. And, it has to be assumed, saw the long-term solution as privatisation, not necessarily for strict ideological reasons, but just to get it as far away from governing as possible, and with it any ongoing hassles.
Were sold a pup. More than anything, the design of Irish Water illustrated the incompetence of the Government in the real business of governing.
They righted a listing economy, under a plan from the previous government and with the oversight of the Troika. But when it came to a vital element of the State’s long-term health, like the provision of water, they have shown themselves to be cynical, gutless and plain useless.
Now, we’re left with a mess. Some will make political capital out of it. Others will sit back and myopically declare that we shouldn’t have to pay ‘twice’.

But, as usual, the common good is shown the door.

Michael Clifford

Photo Minute: Busy Lives of Nature (double click on photos for best results)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Poised on the cusp of disaster, a pigheaded farmer, Donal Connaughton, in Longford, had ready for his disposal 25 massive tanks above and below ground of highly toxic slurry.  Like a great monolith, these tanks contained 4 million gallons of slurry over an area of 8000 sg meters. Half of this area contained unauthorized tanks, that begs the question how did he get planning permission in the first place for the other half that contained 2 million gallons alone. The judge presiding in the courts described just one tank as being the size of an Airport terminal.
It was not until March of 2013 when this toxic still was finally discovered about the  non-complaint Donal, and maybe it all just came to light when one of the sharp eyed officials from the department of the Inland fisheries Board who visited Donal, noticed 14,000 pigs were grunting about the place shouting: ‘Over here you dummy, over here.’  Or perhaps the light went on in his head when he spotted numerous pipes leading down to Lough Slawn from the piggery which feeds into Lough Ree, which, if the rumours are true, is soon to be renamed Lough Slurry. Only in Ireland, only in fu…ing Ireland.
Donal was just being his usual self:  thick and ignorant, but he had help by the thicker heads of Longford Council to make sure he stayed that way.    
He pleaded guilty at the courts, citing financial difficulty, and threw himself at the mercy of the court after doing the same thing with the State earlier for his weekly allowance, and got it too.
The judge talked tough, and is holding Donal solely responsible for this disaster, citing that he is the architect or the author of his own misfortune, that is if you could call the concrete that he poured over 95% of his property- architecture.
Still in shock after being shown photographs of the tank containing slurry and rainwater, Judge Hughes described it as “one of the most frightening photographs ever shown to this court”. There is talk that it was the farmer he was looking at and not the tank, but perhaps a moot point at this stage.
Judge Hughes added: “The Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency need to know everything that’s going on, even though they apparently did, but really are more about protecting their jobs than anything like a few rivers and lakes.
Only in fu….ing Ireland indeed.

Barry Clifford

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't get done on

A CAPPAMORE man is at the loss of thousands of euro after he was the victim of an elaborate scam which was carried out by criminals using the Done Deal website.
On November 10, last Edward McCarthy paid €7,800 in cash for a 10-G registered silver Toyota Corolla which he saw advertised on the popular website.
However, unknown to Mr McCarthy, the vehicle had been bought from its original owner just hours earlier by criminals who had used a fraudulent bank draft.
During a Police Property Application, Limerick Court heard the original owner of the car - Serena Silke - had sold it for €14, 500.
She told the court she had bought it 12 months earlier for €16,000 and believed she had sold it for a “fair price”.
She said she advertised the car on a number of days earlier and agreed to sell it after being contacted by a named representative of “Butterly Cars” in Dublin.
She said she met another representative of the company in the car park of a Galway Hotel on the morning of November 10 and handed over the car, log book and keys.
However, it wasn’t until the following day - after Mr McCarthy had bought the car - that she realised the bank draft was fake.
“I was duped completely,” she told Mr McCarthy’s solicitor Gerry Kingston.
Ms Silke immediately made a complaint to gardai and the court heard the Department of Transport was also alerted.
In his evidence, Mr McCarthy said he contacted the seller by phone shortly after he saw the advertisement at around lunchtime on November 10 and agreed to meet him later that day.
He said the man he spoke to identified himself as “Johnny” and originally asked for €8,600.
However, after some negotiation, a price of €7,800 was agreed.
Mr McCarthy told the court he met another man - a foreign national - after travelling from Cappamore to a petrol station on the outskirts of Naas.
The meeting took place at around 5.50pm and he said he took possession of the car after taking it for a short test drive.
The witness said he checked the chassis number, the log book and took a photograph of the seller’s driving licence before handing over the cash.
He added that he had been given all of the original keys to the car by the seller.
“I bought the car in good faith, I done everything I could do,” he told the court.
Mr McCarthy added that he put the car through the NCT even though it is not due until next February.
Being cross examined by Ms Silke’s solicitor, Ted McCarthy, Mr McCarthy accepted that the car had been “taken improperly” from Ms Silke.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly was told the car was subsequently located by gardai in Thurles, County Tipperary on November 27, and that it has been in the possession of gardai since.
Investigating gardai have spoken with both Mr McCarthy and Ms Silke and they have viewed CCTV footage from both the hotel in Galway and the petrol station in Naas.
Inspector Seamus Ruane said investigations are ongoing and that the purpose of the court application was to facilitate the return of the vehicle to its lawful owner.
However, he said as both parties were claiming ownership of the car, it was a matter for the court to adjudicate on.
Handing down his ruling, the judge said he accepted the evidence of both Ms Silke and Mr McCarthy which he described as “honest and truthful”.
He said he had sympathy for their predicaments and commented that the case highlighted the dangers of dealing with individuals purporting to be legitimate car dealers and meeting them at locations other than at their business premises.
“Both have been the victim of a classic confidence trick,” he said.
Finding that Ms Silke was the owner of the car, the judge said the “first principles of law” applied in the case.
“There can be no transfer of legitimate ownership based on a fraud,” he said.
The judge commented that even though Mr McCarthy had purchased the car in good faith and had taken proper precautions on the day he was “was not entitled to the same protection” as he would have been had he bought it from a legitimate car dealership.
“The loss falls on the last person on the chain of deception,” he said adding that had Mr McCarthy not been so vigilant he may have found himself before the court charged with handling stolen property.

After ruling that Serena Silke was the lawful owner of the Toyota Corolla, Judge O’Kelly ordered that gardai return it to her as soon as possible.

Two Psychopaths

Psychopath: A mental disorder resulting in a greatly diminished lack of empathy and remorse with an increased feeling of boldness without boundaries wrapped in a disinhibited personality; a sense of fecklessness, of uncaring or unfeeling.

Uness you are born one it is not easy to become a psychopath and they are even harder to identity. There are also many levels of what it is to be one. I know two of them. One is violent if provoked and the other of a passive but uncaring nature. The first guy you can see coming and at least have time to get out of the way of his sword, and the other will still be smiling at you as he draws the knife out of the main artery of your heart; at least this scenario will play out only in his mind. 

The former is all testosterone still and the latter possesses a masked gentler side. To insult them would be no good for they would not know the difference for it is only what they desire that counts to them and nothing more. 

How did both become this way against the generalities of the 'normal' family dynamics, considering they were raised under an unbrella of the reasonable functioning  democracies of England and Ireland? The easy answer is that you take away all that they ever had, starting with family, and leave nothing to hope for. Rip apart any sense or pride of self and you are left with primary instinct against feelings of empathy or sympathy; then they will quickly learn not to ask anymore and only take it, one way or the other.

The Irishman was left in an institution since birth, never met his parents, never hugged, not even an accidental one, but was beaten as a matter of routine and got raped at ten years old before that became routine too. He was finally left on the streets at fifteen years old. Stealing was his survival and he never cried again long after he forgot when he ever did.

The Englishman was also left in an institution, albeit a better one, not beaten, fed marginally better, and like the Irishman, had never known a hug or any kind of affection. He adopted the identity of another and many more, and depending who was in the room, showed them the best one on the day to either in order to be left in peace or get what he was looking for. Their paths were set to enter the wider world and never cross. 

The Irishman killed a man before he reached twenty years old, stayed homeless for many years, and eventually found a peace with his wife in a home that they could both call their own. She showed him at least how to to feel in some form and trust just a little. His life of crime was over and had just really begun too.  

The Englishman set his course onto lockdown from the wider world and waited, still like a beggar, in the hope that something better would come long. He built his own prison in a room little bigger than a coffin where no one could break in and he could not break out. He is is still there. He had never realised the waiting itself was what was killing him, and doesn't know yet.

Statistics prove that if a child does nor receive love of some kind and emotional support by the age of five years old, then they have a much higher degree of having a troubled adulthood. But if they have none of these supports at all by the age of eleven years old, they have an even higher chance of becoming  psychopaths; And that is how and why these two became one.

Barry Clifford