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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Enda Kenny accused of another ‘self-aggrandising story’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of making up a “self-aggrandising story” to add to his ‘man with two pints’ tale, after saying the Central Bank told him on entering office to put soldiers on banks’ doors due to Ireland’s dire financial crisis.

Speaking at a European People’s Party meeting in Madrid yesterday, the Fine Gael leader highlighted how far Ireland has come under his watch by recalling a conversation with outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan in early 2011.

Mr Kenny said the governor told him capital controls may be needed as Ireland was tumbling off the fiscal cliff due to the previous administration.
“The governor told me ‘it looks like this weekend, you’ll have to put the army around the banks and ATM machines, and introduce capital controls like in Cyprus’,” said Mr Kenny.

“We’ve pulled back from the brink,” he said, referring to the EU/IMF bailout as a “bloodless coup”.
The Taoiseach has referenced the conversation on three other occasions, including Tuesday’s Dáil, at an October 7 Fine Gael breakfast fundraiser, and during June’s Greek crisis. Defence Minister Simon Coveney also referred to it during a November 28 interview.

The Central Bank, and departments of the Taoiseach and Defence did not clarify the matter yesterday.
However, opposition parties noted Mr Kenny and Mr Honohan made no reference whatsoever to the discussion under oath at the bank inquiry and that the Central Bank has no security role.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said after Mr Coveney’s comments last November that Finance Minister Michael Noonan clarified in the Dáil: “The Central Bank would have no role in relation to briefing on security deployment.”

Mr McGrath said the painting of an “apocalyptic” 2011 scene “smacks of an attempt to make himself look good in front of his European colleagues”, and claimed the conversation was “another self-aggrandising story”.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty was equally damning, saying that, like Mr Kenny’s infamous “man with two pints” Irish Water remark, there is no proof the conversation took place and Mr Kenny must clarify the comment to the bank inquiry.

While casting doubt on the “colourful remarks”, Renua Ireland’s Lucinda Creighton said Mr Kenny is “right to remind us of bad economics”.
By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Thought for the day

                             Life is not a dress rehearsal,  it is the main event and you are it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The gloves are off in the latest boxing row

At the time of writing, it looks like Ireland has definitely lost Billy Walsh. The greatest boxing coach the country has ever known trods a well-beaten path.

He may reflect on the words of another who fled small mindedness on this small island, one James Joyce, who described Ireland as “the sow that eats its farrow”.
It certainly isn’t the first time that a talented individual has felt it necessary to go elsewhere in order to pursue excellence. However, the furore around the departure of Billy Walsh has given rise to what might well be a dangerous precedent.

All within and without boxing acknowledge Walsh is a first-class coach who will be irreplaceable. Since the inception of the High Performance programme in boxing 13 years ago, Ireland has punched above its weight.
Of nine Olympic medals won since 2000, seven have been in boxing. Walsh’s talents in coaching and motivating is referenced by boxers with reverence. If Billy Walsh didn’t exist, the playwright and fellow Co Wexford man Billy Roche would have had to invent him.

What adds greatly to the frustration at his departure is the circumstances. By all accounts, Billy Walsh does not want to leave. His disposition is not one of the man pursuing a challenge that is not available to him within the confines of his native country.
Neither is money the issue. The lure of big bucks could naturally hold sway over a professional coach. Commitments and the insecure nature of a career in sports would prompt most to follow the money at some stage in their career. But again, this is not what is dragging him away.

It would all appear to boil down to control and autonomy. Despite overseeing the High Performance unit in boxing since the Beijing games in 2008, Walsh was still working under the title “head coach”. He did not have autonomy to pick the boxing teams, but had to run everything by a sub-committee of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.

Once more, the suits are the problem. Once more in an Irish sporting context, excellence is expected to be subservient to a body’s democratic forum. Only a fool believes that elite sport and democracy are comfortable bed fellows in this day and age.
Can you imagine Martin O’Neill having to appear before an FAI committee to justify his team selection? Well, that’s exactly what his predecessors had to do up, certainly up until 40 years ago. In his memoir, The Rocky Road, Eamon Dunphy outlined how the blazers ran the international team, right down to selecting the destination for friendlies based on their desire for a jaunt to a particular country.

Today, we live in a different world, but apparently boxing is caught in a time warp. The fact that the IABA quite obviously did not see fit to move mountains in order to retain Walsh suggests an outlook in which priorities are completely out of sync with high performance sports.

One individual who probably best summed up the emotion of Ireland’s sporting public was the chairman of the Irish sports council, Kieran Mulvey.
On Prime Time he was downright angry, which was unusual for somebody who is normally as cool as a cucumber. This, after all, is an industrial relations troubleshooter who is probably as elite in his field as Walsh is in boxing.

Mulvey has been responsible for burrowing routes out of industrial trouble right across the economy and society over the last two decades. Through the darkest days of the recent recession, he was on the frontline ensuring that the country would not face mass strikes. He did overstretch himself once in thinking he could resolve the Cork hurling strike, but the man is only human.
His frustration about the country losing Walsh is entirely understandable. Last August, he was part of a delegation from the council that came to an agreement with the IABA on a package to retain Walsh’s services. The council provided the funding for Walsh’s salary.

Then, pretty quickly it became obvious that the IABA had further problems, unrelated to the finances. The chief executive of the IABA Fergal Carruth contacted the council to say there was an outstanding issue. That ultimately led to Walsh’s departure.
On Tuesday, Mulvey referred to the arrangement. “What was so unacceptable about the agreement of August 22 that it was never put to the board and never put to Billy Walsh even though it was agreed by him — what’s the problem? I don’t know what the problem is?” Yesterday, at the Oireachtas sports committee he was equally forthright.

“I will come back within the week and see how our funding is given and establish from the latest set of accounts how it is spent,” he said.
“We pay the chief executive, we pay other administrative staff and I’m not happy. I’m not happy how the chief executive has performed on this matter and I’m saying it bluntly here and that will be reviewed. Imagine Joe Schmidt being told he had to contact Philip Browne (IRFU chief executive) every time he selected a team or made a decision or talked to the media,” he said.

These are sentiments that would find widespread favour. But look beyond the emotion of the immediate crisis. Is it correct that the council — a funding agent for the government — should use its position to decide on matters internal to a sports body?

Whatever one may think about how the IABA handled this issue, it is still the body that organises and promotes boxing the length and breadth of the country. Is it proper that an agent of the government should decide who exactly should be in charge and how precisely they should select their coaches?
Denis O’Brien has said he wants no influence in picking the manager of Ireland’s soccer team despite funding half the salary. But what if the next private citizen to stump up decided he or she wanted a say on the basis that the Government does likewise in other sports?

Right now the IABA is unlikely to be on anybody Christmas card list. Practically everybody outside the sport — and most apparently within it — believes the executive has acted contrary to the best interests of high performance boxing in failing to retain Walsh.
But boxing, like all other sports, is about more than high performance. Those who administer the sport tend to be in situ on the basis that a large cohort of those involved in the sport, from the smallest club to the most elite forum, believe they are best equipped to do the job.

At a time like this, that reality sticks in the craw. But for somebody of Mulvey’s stature to set a precedent by interfering in the running of the sport in such a heavy handed manner would be in nobody’s interests.
Michael Clifford

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Political Vilification Of Gerry Adams Still Goes On

You either love the guy or hate the guy. I just like him. One thing is absolute: there would have been no peace in Northern Ireland without him while others have tried to claim the fame for it, and not least shifty Bertie and the rabid mad cleric, Ian Paisley. But the political vilification of Gerry Adams still goes on and that of his party, Sinn Fein, and it will not stop. 

Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams are polar opposites. Gerry looks good in a suit while Bertie looks like he lives in one. Their politics are different. Bertie was always in it for the money despite having no bank account, that anyone has found anyway, while Gerry was in it to make Ireland a better place. Bertie made sure it was a poorer place after leaving his party just before he would have been fired with a lot of work left to do. It was the day the party died and his one too. 

Bertie did not even need a digout for his reward for the corruption and bankrupting of the State was huge. A massive €3000 weekly pension and a thank you cheque of over €300,000 on his way out the back door where even tradesmen dare not go. He definitely needs a bank account now. Shifty Bertie indeed, and not a hair on his head touched or a mark on his conscience left. In fact, come to think of it, I hate him. Maybe that was a bit strong but I most assuredly do not like him.

Back to Gerry. He has had numerous threats made against his life and not all of them on the football pitch. Then the threats became real and they did try to take his life and more than once or twice. They were, of course, the erstwhile chums of Ian Paisley along with the RUC and the alphabet soup of all the other soccer hooligans in the hood carrying tattoos on their dense heads and AK47’s in each hand in case you had misunderstood or carried a different point of view. Why does he keep going? Yet it looks like Paisley will be made, you just wait and see, a fully paid up member of the Catholic church and a Saint replete with his own set of wings. 

Gerry has a bank account, well, I don’t really know, but in the interest of fairness and balance, it is at least likely. If he was in it for the money he would have been long gone by now and living safely in some bog neck town where nothing much happens and a bald tyre is a major event, and unless he has a few offshore accounts he is as rich and as poor as the most of us in this green land. You will not find sticky fingers here and he is lucky that he still has them in any case. 

Still, he has been accused of child abuse, as an accessory in mind at least but the media are still not satisfied and want him to be the actual abuser. They want him to be the rapist of Maria Cahill and will not let truth get in the way of a good story. Still, Gerry soldiers on. His past can tell you where he is going. 

There is little that has not already been done to Gerry Adam. He is used to being vilified, being threatened, being lied to and being lied about. He has shown support to those needed it, shown strength when everyone else had left the field, shown courage when to those that it had left. He does not need Ireland as much as it now needs him and his party. But Gerry will only go when he wants to. If nothing that has been proven over and over again, he is not for turning either. 

Gerry Adams embraced the peace and if he and his party get into Government they should be given the chance to change the fortunes of Ireland. And if they do not succeed where everyone else has failed, then they should be given the proverbial boot. 

They say it is called democracy and the worst form of government except for all the other forms of government that have been tried from time, as Winston Churchill said, but it is all we got and it is time for Gerry Adams to step up to the plate or at least be allowed to if he is chosen by the people. 

Barry Clifford

(previously published in November 2014)

To be continued very soon…………….

Photo Minute: Hanging out with friends in California

Wingsuit flyers from 12 countries - including the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, Poland and Russia

Photo Minute: Incredible clouds descend over Russia

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Video Minute: Dog licence - 96fm wind up [SUBTITLES]

This is a morning phone call from a radio host hosting The Big Breakfast Show in Cork to a man from the same county. The night before, this man/farmer had been bragging to his mates in the pub that he would never bother to get or pay for a dog licence.  One of his friends in the group had phoned the radio station the next morning and asked the radio host to pretend that he was the dog licence man. The following is the hilarious conversation from one Cork man to another, though their accents and backgrounds are so different (subtitles badly needed) that they may as well be from different planets. Enjoy!!!!!!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A lot to learn from Denmark’s successes and failures

No doubt surprising many of the people watching the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders cited Denmark as a role model for how to help working people. Hillary Clinton demurred slightly, declaring that “we are not Denmark”, but agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example.
Such an exchange would have been inconceivable among Republicans, who don’t seem able to talk about European welfare states without adding the word “collapsing”. Basically, on Planet GOP all of Europe is just a bigger version of Greece. But how great are the Danes, really?
The answer is that the Danes get a lot of things right, and in so doing refute just about everything US conservatives say about economics. And we can also learn a lot from the things Denmark has gotten wrong.
Denmark maintains a welfare state – a set of government programmes designed to provide economic security – that is beyond the wildest dreams of American liberals. Denmark provides universal health care; college education is free, and students receive a stipend; day care is heavily subsidised.
Overall, working-age families receive more than three times as much aid, as a share of GDP, as their US counterparts.
To pay for these programmes, Denmark collects a lot of taxes. The top income tax rate is 60.3 per cent; there’s also a 25 per cent national sales tax. Overall, Denmark’s tax take is almost half of national income, compared with 25 per cent in the US.
Describe these policies to any American conservative, and he would predict ruin. Surely those generous benefits must destroy the incentive to work, while those high taxes drive job creators into hiding or exile. Strange to say, however, Denmark doesn’t look like a set from Mad Max. On the contrary, it’s a prosperous nation that does quite well on job creation. In fact, adults in their prime working years are substantially more likely to be employed in Denmark than they are in the US. Labour productivity in Denmark is roughly the same as it is here, although GDP per capita is lower, mainly because the Danes take a lot more vacation.

Nor are the Danes melancholy: Denmark ranks at or near the top on international comparisons of “life satisfaction”.
It’s hard to imagine a better refutation of anti-tax, anti-government economic doctrine, which insists that a system like Denmark’s would be completely unworkable.
But would Denmark’s model be impossible to reproduce in other countries? Consider France, another country that is much bigger and more diverse than Denmark, but also maintains a highly generous welfare state paid for with high taxes. You might not know this from the extremely bad press France gets, but the French, too, roughly match US productivity, and are more likely than Americans to be employed during their prime working years. Taxes and benefits just aren’t the job killers right-wing legend asserts.

Slow recovery
Going back to Denmark, is everything copacetic in Copenhagen? Actually, no. Denmark is very rich, but its economy has taken a hit in recent years, because its recovery from the global financial crisis has been slow and incomplete. In fact, Denmark’s 5.5 per cent decline in real GDP per capita since 2007 is comparable to the declines in debt-crisis countries like Portugal or Spain, even though Denmark has never lost the confidence of investors.

What explains this poor recent performance? The answer, mainly, is bad monetary and fiscal policy. Denmark hasn’t adopted the euro, but it manages its currency as if it had, which means that it has shared the consequences of monetary mistakes like the European Central Bank’s 2011 interest rate hike. And while the country has faced no market pressure to slash spending – Denmark can borrow long-term at an interest rate of only 0.84 per cent – it has adopted fiscal austerity anyway. The result is a sharp contrast with neighbouring Sweden, which doesn’t shadow the euro (although it has made some mistakes on its own), hasn’t done much austerity and has seen real GDP per capita rise while Denmark’s falls.

But Denmark’s monetary and fiscal errors don’t say anything about the sustainability of a strong welfare state. In fact, people who denounce things like universal health coverage and subsidised child care tend also to be people who demand higher interest rates and spending cuts in a depressed economy. (Remember all the talk about “debasing” the dollar?) That is, US conservatives actually approve of some Danish policies – but only the ones that have proved to be badly misguided.

So yes, we can learn a lot from Denmark, both its successes and its failures. And let me say that it was both a pleasure and a relief to hear people who might become president talk seriously about how we can learn from the experience of other countries, as opposed to just chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

Paul Krugman (economist professor) as written for the New York Times

Gardaí find no evidence of IRA Army Council meetings in the Republic

A Garda assessment has found there is no evidence of the IRA Army Council meeting or functioning within the Republic of Ireland.

However, Gardaí say there are no major differences between their own assessment and that of the PSNI, which says the body continues to remain in place in a reduced form.

A report commissioned by the British government said the IRA still exists, and that IRA members believe the Army Council is responsible for both the IRA and Sinn Féin.

DUP ministers have rejoined the Northern government on the basis that the IRA has not approved criminal acts by its members.

Photo Minute: Just wow!!!

This incredible images, as well as the others showing the tornado, were taken by Russian Evgeny Drokov, who was on holiday in Genoa in Italy and they are not photoshopped. 

Fianna Fáil plan for €500 water charges in 2010

Cabinet records obtained under new Freedom of Information (FoI) Act rules show Fianna Fáil — which now opposes water charges — backed potential legislation to introduce a €500 water charge and metering system in July 2010, five months before the bailout.
Files published by RTÉ last night confirm that, despite long-stated claims that water charges and other austerity measures were only introduced due to EU/IMF demands, the then government was considering the move even before the bailout.
While the records relate only to the water billing system, the revelation has had the double impact of calling into question Fianna Fáil’s anti-charges position now and leading to further questions over whether the troika was used by politicians from both the current and previous government to impose other divisive policies to avoid the blame.

According to the FoI files, then taoiseach Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fáil/Greens/PDs government was considering charging people for water usage from summer 2010.
The plan was initially due to be discussed at a special cabinet meeting on emergency spending cuts in Farmleigh House on July 26, 2010, before being deferred to September 2010.

On September 8 and 15, 2010, detailed discussions took place over “water metering for domestic customers”, a flat charge of €500 recommended by the Department of Finance and the creation of a “water usage agency” which would directly employ 25 people and cost €4m to set up.

While the plan was not put in place before the February 2011 general election, the files confirm water charges were considered by Irish politicians without the encouragement of outside bodies.
Fianna Fáil’s ministers at the time — the late Brian Lenihan (finance), Mary Hanafin (tourism), Brendan Smith (agriculture), Noel Dempsey (transport), and Batt O’Keeffe (enterprise) — all supported charges.

Then Green Party leader and environment minister John Gormley and communications minister Eamon Ryan were also supportive, despite questioning whether a flat charge rate would encourage conservation and if the system would lead to privatisation.

Although the Greens continue to hold these views, Fianna Fáil now wants the abolition of Irish Water and the end of a charging regime. Ms Hanafin and Mr Smith — the only two then Fianna Fáil cabinet members in favour of the policy in 2010 and still active in politics — did not immediately explain the contradiction last night, with Ms Hanafin saying she did not want to add to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s explanation.
Mr Martin said charges “never happened” under the former government, while his party’s jobs spokesperson, Dara Calleary, said the current system is a super quango costing and employing multiples of what was envisaged.

However, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said the files “expose the total hypocrisy” of the opposition party, while Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “It is clear to anybody with an eye to see that there is not a whisker of difference between the last government and the current one.”
By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Monday, October 19, 2015

Putin has achieved more against ISIS in a fortnight than US did in a whole YEAR, Syrian MP

RUSSIA'S bombing campaign against Islamic State (ISIS) has achieved more in a fortnight than the West managed in a whole YEAR, Syria's top politician claimed today.

Putin and Jihadi John
Vladimir Putin's bombing campaign in Syria has been praised by the country's top MP

The country's most senior MP praised Vladimir Putin's "principled"aerial pounding of the jihadis and denounced Barack Obama as "treacherous and deceptive" during a tubthumping speech to Russian delegates. 
In a scathing assessment of Western foreign policy, parliamentary speaker Mohammad Jihad al-Laham said Russia's intervention in the region was having a positive difference whereas America and Britain had created instability and war. 

He also provided more evidence of Putin's growing grip on power in the war-torn country, saying that Syria was ready to forge even closer ties with Russia. 
The firebrand politician - who is little more than a stooge for brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad - also branded US-led airstrikes "illegal" because they had not been requested by the Syrian government. 
He said: "Things that have been done for last 15 days by Syria in cooperation with Russia exceed achievements of US-led alliance in the last year. 

“We will make efforts to develop friendly relations between Russia and Syria that will have positive effects upon the whole world and harmonize with norms of international law." 

Things that have been done for last 15 days by Syria in cooperation with Russia exceed achievements of US-led alliance in the last year
Syrian MP Mohammad Jihad al-Laham

He added that the Coalition bombing campaign, which is backed by other Arab states, “bares down the treacherous and deceptive policies of the US, which they use on the international arena.”
The top MP made his comments during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Valentina Matviyenko, who told him Syria can "count" on Moscow's continued support. 

However, his remarks are likely to be treated with huge skepticism given his position at the top of Syria's so-called People's Council - a phoney parliament controlled by the iron fist of Assad. 

Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria two weeks ago and claims it is targeting ISIS jihadis. 
Putin says his bombers have blasted more than 100 Islamist positions including a key command centre and a suicide belt factory. 

But the US and Britain have accused him of only looking to prop up Assad's regime, and say the vast majority of strikes are actually hitting moderate rebels including the Syrian Free Army.
Nick Gutteridge

Putin's ISIS destruction campaign is working very well

DESPERATE jihadis in Syria have taken to bombing each other amid a bitter feud as Vladimir Putin steps up his intense campaign to annihilate the Islamic State.

ISIS has reportedly targeted local al-Qaeda affiliate the Al-Nusra Front with three car bombs in the past week.
It is thought that the beleaguered groups are fighting over territory control and a lack of funds.

Rival terror groups are also enlisting young children in a bid to boost numbers after another round of strikes by Russian fighters.
Putin's jets have hit a further 51 targets in the past 24 hours – including arms depots and command posts.

They heavily damaged two underground bunkers in Homs that the terrorists use to hide weapons and move undetected, according to a spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry.

ISIS militants also fled when the air strikes hit an entire command structure in the Hama province.
It comes just days after mass desertions from the terror group emerged in a development that could potentially spell an end to the barbaric self-styled caliphate.

Strict rules and cruel punishments for breaking them have prompted desertions "en-masse" from jihadi training camps.
The aerial bombardment from Russian and US-backed coalition warplanes has also taken its toll.

Senior Russian General Andrey Kartapolov told a briefing: "The majority of armed gangs are demoralised - discontent with field commanders is growing amid the fighters, and there are instances of disobeying orders."
He added that cases of desertion among the jihadists were no longer isolated, with entire groups of extremist militants now abandoning the self-styled caliphate “en-masse".

Scott Campbell

Photo Minute: England's Autumn