Saturday, October 10, 2015
Clarence Darrow (1857- 1938) was a lawyer known best for his defense of Leopold and Loeb in the murder trial of 14 year old Robert Franks in 1924.
“All men do the best they can. But none meet life honestly and few heroically.”
“An agnostic is a doubter. The word is generally applied to those who doubt the verity of accepted religious creeds of faiths. Everyone is an agnostic as to the beliefs or creeds they do not
“At twenty a man is full of fight and hope. He wants to reform the world. When he is seventy he still wants to reform the world, but he know he can’t.”
“Autobiography is never entirely true. No one can get the right perspective on himself. Every fact is colored by imagination and dream.”
“Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails.”
“Hell, that’s why they make erasers.”
“History repeats itself. That’s one of the things wrong with history.”
“I am a friend of the working man, and I would rather be his friend, than be one.”
“I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.”
“I have always felt that doubt was the beginning of wisdom, and the fear of God was the end of wisdom.”
“I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.”
“I never wanted to see anybody die, but there are a few obituary notices I have read with pleasure.”
“If there is to be any permanent improvement in man and any better social order, it must come mainly from the education and humanizing of man.”
“In the great flood of human life that is spawned upon the earth, it is not often that a man is born.”
“It is not for the world to judge, but to crown them all alike. Each and all lived out their own being, did their work in their own way, and carried a reluctant, stupid humanity to greater
possibilities and grander heights.”
“Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.”
“Liberty is the most jealous and exacting mistress that can beguile the brain and soul of man.”
“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”
“No other offense has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.”
“One cannot live through a long stretch of years without forming some philosophy of life.”
“The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right to think as much as the strongest in the land.”
“The objector and the rebel who raises his voice against what he believes to be the injustice of the present and the wrongs of the past is the one who hunches the world along.”
“The trouble with law is lawyers.”
"The world forgives almost anything but stupidity.”
“There is no such thing as justice — in or out of court.”
"To say that the universe was here last year, or millions of years ago, does not explain its origin. This is still a mystery. As to the question of the origin of things, man can only wonder
and doubt and guess.”
“Valiantly he fought on every intellectual battlefield.”
“Voltaire was not the first or last man to convert a prison into a hall of fame. A prison is confining to the body, but whether it affects the mind, depends entirely upon the mind.”
“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”
“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the
betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.”“You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can be free only if I am free.”
AT TIMES like these, the media can lose the run of itself. All week the chatter out of Leinster House was “will he, won’t he, call a November election”. Does anybody who lives beyond the political bubble really care?
Sure, there is a cohort that can’t wait to rush to polling booths to express their anger or disappointment at this Government. There is another grouping that want the damn thing out of the way so the present incumbents — or at least the senior coalition party — can bag five more years and continue as they have started.
Most people though are disengaged with the speculation, and will only sit up and take notice when a campaign gets underway. If anything, the media-driven obsession with the date reflects the paucity of real political ideas in the system. In such a milieu, personalities, dates, and process all fill a vacuum.
If Enda Kenny does opt for a November election, he will be demonstrating the customary indifference that successive governments, and particularly his own, have had for the Oireachtas.
Last Tuesday, Mr Kenny agreed to an extension to the Oireachtas banking inquiry for publication of its report. The inquiry was originally scheduled to report next month, but the huge volume of work it has undertaken has unsurprisingly resulted in the need for an extension.
“The chairman has requested more time and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be granted,” Kenny told the Dáil on Tuesday. Publication has now been pushed back to the end of January.
Since beginning its work last year, the inquiry’s staff of 45 has parsed through 42,000 documents, containing half a million pages, which the various institutions were required to hand over.
The 11 parliamentarians which constitute the inquiry have met for 413 hours. All members were present for the questioning of all 131 witnesses. This was required of them to ensure they would be in the best position possible to determine what went wrong, but even more crucially, to make recommendations.
If an election is called before the report is published, the whole inquiry falls. All that work will have been for nothing. No recommendations on what needs to be done to avoid a repeat will see the light of day. Even more importantly, a basic function of parliament will have once again been usurped.
Is there a functioning democracy anywhere that would have gone through what this country has over the last eight years without an inquiry into what exactly happened? Yet, that will be the ultimate outcome if Mr Kenny decides to cut and run in the name of snaffling an extra seat or two for his party.
Some among us, including this columnist, were sceptical about the whole notion of a banking inquiry during its torturous conception. Initially, it looked to be designed as an electoral tool to excavate Fianna Fáil’s chronic governance failures during the building boom. The composition of the inquiry was manipulated to ensure that the Government had a majority of members.
There is plenty reason that we should not forget the culpability of the Soldiers of Destiny, but using a parliamentary inquiry to do it is little short of depressing at this stage of a democracy’s evolution.
Yet, to the credit of those involved, the inquiry managed to stand tall. There was no “Gotcha” moment. Former senior politicians drew on lifetimes in politics to present evidence in a light most favourable to themselves. Bankers said sorry, but offered plenty of excuses and pointed fingers elsewhere. Regulators did likewise.
If there were hopes in Government that the inquiry would deliver a blow to Fianna Fáil’s solar plexus, that evaporated pretty quickly. Ironically, the senior politician who probably came off worst from giving testimony was Enda Kenny.
He was unassured and hesitant in his recollection of his walk-on role back in the bad old days. His evidence also conflicted with that of another witness.
He told the inquiry that a conversation he had with Anglo Irish banker Matt Moran in 2009 did not include any reference to the future of the then listing bank. Moran last told the inquiry that the matter was discussed between them.
So the inquiry did not fulfil any grubby political aim, but it certainly did some good work, adding detail to the overall picture and doing so in full view of the public. Recommendations on how to proceed in future will be welcome, if it ever gets that far.
Is it possible that Mr Kenny is factoring in the collapse of the inquiry in his musings on a date? For instance, now that the inquiry did not perform as a political tool for the Government, could it be that he would prefer shot of it?
Any recommendation that reflects badly on the system of governance that still persists might not be welcome in the Taoiseach’s office, as wouldn’t any further references to the conflict of evidence in which he was involved. After the fall-out from the Fennelly report, from which he emerged with his credibility bruised, he might be inclined to run a mile from anything that might impact negatively in a year of election.
Irrespective of that, his seeming indifference to the fate of the inquiry is symbolic of how far he and those around him have come from the days of the “democratic revolution”.
That was the laughable phrase used during the general election of 2011 and even included in the preamble for the Programme for Government drawn up weeks later. “On the 25th of February a democratic revolution took place it Ireland,” it began. “Old beliefs, traditions and expectations were blown away. The stroke of a pen, in thousands of polling stations, created this political whirlwind. The public demanded change and looked to parties that would deliver the change they sought.” And what did the public get? Ultimately, more of the same. The coalition government deserves credit for putting the economy back on an even keel. It did so by accepting and following through on the dog-eared plan fashioned by Fianna Fáil and the Troika.
In reality, Mr Kenny’s government has done precious little outside of its managerial function in implementing the plan it inherited.
Reform of politics has been negligible. The ballooning of social problems, particularly in housing and health, reflects badly on a government that promised a break with the past.
The theme Fine Gael intends to use in the forthcoming election says it all. “Stability versus chaos”. Or, to put it more bluntly: ‘You think we’re bad? You should see what the other crowd would do in power’.
It’s all a long way from the democratic revolution, and it also explains why the Taoiseach appears to have such a cavalier attitude to the completion of the banking inquiry.
Friday, October 9, 2015
RAMBLE out any night of a winter week in Dublin and you’ll find more culture than you’ll find in Galway in the middle of its arts festival.
There is no comparison between the two cities, which is hardly surprising, because the greater Dublin area has a population 1.8m while Galway city’s is less than 80,000. Galway’s boast it is the “unofficial capital of culture” in this country is over-blown. But Galway’s bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2020 deserves to win.
My family hates me for this. Some of them are actively involved in promoting the Dublin bid. But I think Galway deserves to beat Dublin for the title, and it deserves to beat Limerick and the “Three Sisters” of Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny, because Galway is a city which was built by artists.
Ireland has been chosen as the host country in 2020, along with Croatia, as part of a new queueing system for getting the title. The bids must be in by the end of next week. The four Irish campaigns are busy working on the 80-page book they will present to the 10-person EU-appointed expert panel which will arrive here in mid-November. They will be joined by two members appointed by the Department of Arts.
The prize is a big one. The Melina Mercouri Award amounts to €1.5m for the successful bidder and all of the cities have cultural industries which could do with a bit of that. On top of the upfront cash, the designation offers cities a huge opportunity to market themselves to the rest of Europe and the world.
Some cities do this brilliantly, perhaps most notably Glasgow 1990, which for a time managed to change its image by using the designation. Cork at least has a lasting legacy in the revamp of its city centre in 2005. But the only thing I really remember about Dublin 1991 was the Great Book of Ireland, a volume of new Irish writing and art, which recently bought by UCC for €1m. It was a good idea but it still played to the traditional view of Dublin’s place on the world stage: the city of Joyce’s Ulysses, the city with more Nobel Prizes for Literature than any other.
Dublin has changed. What I love about Dublin City Council arts officer Ray Yeates’s bid for the 2020 designation is that it is completely different. His team is presenting a very young, very vibrant and enormously diverse city. We do need a new way to map ourselves into Dublin now, so dizzying is the range of its peoples and its cultures.
But the reason Galway deserves to win is that Galway is a city created by culture. When I first went to Galway as a student in the 1980s, I found one coffee shop in Galway, the Lydon House on Shop St. But there was also one theatre in Druid Lane. Out of Druid Theatre Company, out of Macnas, out of the Galway Arts Festival and Cúirt and the Film Fleadh and Babaró on and on, Galway’s artists created the city.
Yes, Galway had some natural advantages: a few medieval streets and a great location on a rushing river beside the sea. But what interests NUIG geographer Patrick Collins is the fact that contemporary industries are mostly not dependent on their physical location which means that contemporary companies have “softer” reasons for locating where they do. This is where Ireland has scored.
Collins is convinced that low corporation tax is not the main reason that American multinationals are choosing to locate here. Talking to the heads of Microsoft and Dell and Intel about their location decision, he says the words that kept coming up were creativity, culture, livability and culture.
Galway scores so heavily on all these fronts that it has been possible for companies like Nortel, Boston Scientific, Hewlett Packard and Cisco to attract highly-skilled multinational workforces to live there. As one senior manager of a US-owned multinational told Collins, “The city has a quality of life second to none.”
Of course this throws up another series of questions, such as Galway’s hideous maze of business parks which seems to be a design-free zone. Meanwhile the city-centre is like a big Temple Bar at weekends and Patrick Collins warns its hard-won cultural brand could easily be lost if investment is not made in the city’s cultural life.
The city of culture title would help. Much has been made by the chief executive of Galway City Council Brendan McGrath of the need to invest in the city’s cultural infrastructure. There is no big municipal gallery, no large concert/conference venue, and no modern city library in Galway. There is the possibility of developing Comerford House in Spanish Arch, which is owned by the council and there is the possibility of developing the Black Box Theatre site on the Dyke Road. Project manager Patricia Philbin cautions that Galway can only sustain so much infrastructure year-round and advocates multi-use, flexible arts spaces.
It is vitally important that the title, if won, is not about buildings but about artists, some of whom have seen very little of the wealth which they help generate in the city. Artists built the city in the 1970s and 1980s — a generation of artists at the Galway Arts Festival and Druid Theatre Company and Macnas such as Garry Hynes, Páraic Breathnach, Tom Conroy, Pete Sammon and Ollie Jennings.
They built a culture which was international in scope but grounded in Galway’s Atlantic location and closeness to the Irish language. Even now when you look at what has been going on in Galway, you see Mark O’Rowe’s adaptation of Shakespeare for Druid, DruidShakespeare, and hear comparisons to the company’s rediscovery of Synge through the cadences of the Irish language. And you see Dublin-based curator Mary Cremin curating an exhibition in Tucla 2015 (November 13-29) which takes its inspiration from the legendary western island of Hy-Brasil in the context of the UN climate change summit.
It was, arguably, the presence of NUIG which facilitated Galway’s explosion of creativity. The “Three Sisters” of Wexford, Kilkenny and Waterford should renew their argument for a university to drive their cultural life if they fail to make the cut while Limerick should look to further build the connection between the university and the city.
But Galway should win hands-down because of the four contenders Galway is the only city in Ireland — and surely one of the few cities in Europe — which was built by art. If Galway wins the crown, this fact alone could be a beacon of light to the artists of Europe and the world, illuminating the true importance of the work they do — and a lighthouse warning how cruel the rocks are if the light of culture goes out.
As a student in the 1980s, I found one coffee shop in Galway, on Shop St — but there was also one theatre
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
We’re into the ass-covering phase in Longboat Quay. Everybody with a stake in the good ship Longboat is scurrying to ensure that no blame in the developing scandal ends up in their particular quarter.
The main man, developer Bernard McNamara, has gone to ground. He doesn’t have to worry about covering his ass, as the law has done that for him. The corporate vehicle he used to build the 299-unit block in Dublin’s docklands has expired into receivership. And with its corpse lies corporate responsibility for the scandal.
There are a number of State bodies which have questions to answer. On Monday, this newspaper published details of a fire safety notice recommendation made by a senior officer in Dublin Fire Brigade in May 2014. He compiled his report after a detailed inspection of the building.
The recommendation was that a notice be served on the basis of a dozen serious deficiencies, which rendered the development — made up of two blocks — dangerous. This would have been the first step towards evacuation if remedial work couldn’t be started immediately.
The deficiencies also had major repercussions for rank and file firefighters in the event of a blaze. They would be exposed to dangers about which they would theretofore not have been informed.
The chief fire officer rejected the recommendation. Yesterday, the fire brigade responsed to the Irish Examiner’s story. It said that instead of a notice a decision was made that a “full and comprehensive fire risk assessment” be carried out. The report it had in its possession was pretty comprehensive, yet the response was to order another report.
It went on to say that: “Following agreement on these measures, the chief fire officer decided to defer serving the fire safety notice. Letters were issued to the owner/occupiers in this regard.”
Instead of proceeding towards evacuation or immediate remedial works, a decision was taken to sort out the deficient fire alarms and, in the meantime, have fire marshals patrol the two blocks 24/7.
On the face of it, this might appear like a reasonable response. Peer behind the spin and a major question keeps popping up. When serious fire safety concerns were discovered, was the imperative to act expeditely in the name of resident safety, or to keep everything under wraps?
The first item on the agenda should have been informing those whose lives were now potentially in danger. The fire brigade asserts that this was done. Not so. Some communication was made with residents at the time through the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), but no effort that would be commensurate with the seriousness of the situation.
Many, if not most, of the 600-plus residents were left in the dark. Any communication made was done so in the casual manner of minor notices for residents. And none were informed, as inferred by the fire brigade statement, that a fire safety notice had been deferred.
Some residents did not know anything concrete about the dangers until an information meeting last Tuesday night, nearly 17 months after the fire brigade report.
Fire marshals were installed last year, but most residents were unaware of their function. At least five residents have informed this newspaper that when any of the marshals were approached about what they were doing, a coy or evasive response was given.
“I was told by a couple of them on more than one occasion that they were extra security for the building,” one resident said. “I had a friend over from America and we joked that his must be the most secure apartment block in Dublin.”
For the record, when I visited Longboat Quay last January, and spent two hours examining common areas and stairwells, I did not encounter a single fire marshal, or anybody fitting such a description.
The recommendation for a fire safety notice last year included the detail that services behind the walls of the buildings were installed in a substandard state.
“Fire separation between apartments and adjoining service risers in common areas is inadequate in respect of service penetration and absence of compartment wall construction,” the report stated. This was just one of many references to shortcomings in the services provision.
Yet, according to Dublin City Council, its building regulations department was not informed of these issues last year when discovered. (So the council told this newspaper last February).
The fire brigade discovers major problems within a building — apart from immediate fire concerns — and the relevant arm of the local authority never hears of it? We do know that the local authority was aware of the major problems by June of last year, so how come nobody from building regulation was sent down to check things out?
That could be down to a lack of communication, but it may be that a little hush hush was regarded as the best way to proceed.
The recommendation for a fire safety notice provided three main reasons why one should be served:
• Lobby at each floor not provided with 1.5 sq metre automatic smoke vent;
• The fire resistance of the stair enclosure at the junction with the service riser enclosure at ground and first floor is not adequate;
• Building services installation within service riser enclosures accessed from common areas not adequately sealed or fire-stopped.
Irrespective of the measures ordered by the fire brigade after this report was compiled, none of the above deficiencies have yet been addressed. If a fire were to occur, the upgraded alarm system would alert everybody in reasonably good time.
The dangers laid out above, however, would still pertain. Fire would still spread rapidly. The system of smoke vents is still inadequate. And firefighters would still be faced with enhanced dangers.
All of these items are expected to be addressed in the remedial work that is now at issue. If the money can be found, the building will eventually be rendered safe.
But all the evidence suggests that when this matter first arose, the main focus was not the safety of residents, but the imperative to keep things under wraps because of the scandal and particularly the financial cost that would accrue.
When Sheriff's Deputy Ric Lindley arrived at the scene of the wreck in Leeds, Alabama, on Tuesday he checked to see if there were any victims. Four people were injured after an ambulance, a tractor trailer and three cars were involved in the crash. As he went from car to car on the I-20, he noticed a baby inside a car seat. So he picked the girl up, held her over his shoulder and quickly calmed the youngster down.