Monthly Archives: May 2007

How beastly the bourgeois is …

… though D.H. is not really appropriate here, because the utterance originally came from the female of the species, and she was an Essex nimby:

A spokesman for the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign told BBC News: “If Stansted were permitted to expand to maximum use of the existing runway, the local environment would suffer, the national economy would suffer and we would have taken a giant step backwards in the battle to combat climate change.”

Carol Barbone, from the campaign group, said the expansion would not help the economy because it was encouraging people to go on holiday abroad.

Malcolm, with his usual perceptiveness, read the sub-text: it’s all fine and dandy to have a convenient airport for us business types, but — my goodness! — the lower orders are getting above themselves! Going orf to Spain and Ibiza when they should be quite happy at Cleethorpes or Whitley Bay.

The point is reinforced by the delicate tendresse with which the BBC treats its chosen few:

Protesters lobbied the first session of a public inquiry into expanding Stansted Airport. But the campaigners from nearby towns and villages were far from the stereotype of green activists.

They wore Barbour jackets rather than camouflage gear, and sensible brogues in place of Doc Martens.

Not so much a protest, more a Daily Telegraph fashion parade.

There is, of course, nothing new here. The class system is based upon such things. Wordsworth, recently appointed as Poet Laureate, wrote a letter to Gladstone, the President of the Board of Trade, on October 15th, 1844, asking him to prevent the railway coming to Kendal :

We are in this neighbourhood all in consternation, that is, every man of taste and feeling, at the stir which is made for carrying a branch Railway from Kendal to the head of Windermere.

He could have been as well standing at Stansted in his Barbour and brogues to declaim his accompanying sonnet:

And is no nook of English ground secure
From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown
In youth, and ‘mid the busy world kept pure
As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,
Must perish; — how can they this blight endure?
And must he too his old delights disown
Who scorns a false utilitarian lure
‘Mid his paternal fields at random thrown?

Malcolm finds it remarkable, and depressing, that the mind-set, the attitudes, the prejudices and even the vocabulary of English Toryism passes unchanged through generations. So, appropriately, back to Lawrence:

Full of seething, wormy, hollow feelings
rather nasty—
How beastly the bourgeois is!

Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools, and left to melt back, swiftly
into the soil of England.

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Filed under D.H.Lawrence, leisure travel, social class, Stansted Airport, Tories., Wordsworth


The block’s wee wood chip

The Ulster sense-of-humour gets to Malcolm (when, eventually, he deciphers it). For example, the son of “Mad Dog” must be “Mad Pup”. And there’s the one about the bomb in the pet-shop: “You’re not giving the tortoise much of a chance”. Or the bucket of manure: “We’re decorating the wee fella’s room: he get’s out o’ the Kesh next week.” Sorry, you’ve heard them all.

Therefore Malcolm was delighted to see Ian Paisley, Junior, maintaining a long tradition. It must be traumatic to one’s self-esteem forever to be son of the “Big Mon”, meaning one is doomed to be the “ween”. Or, worse still, “Baby Doc”. Tough.

So, let us turn to the BBC website:

Mr Paisley is quoted as saying: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong.

“I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.

“That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do.”

The proverbial ton of bricks duly arrive, generously lobbed by Sinn Féin (“dangerous homophobia”) and SDLP (“extreme personal views”) alike.

Junior is a “junior minister” in his father’s Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (notice the neat symmetry there). A main function of the Office is promoting equality. This includes a legacy from Direct Rule, delivering the Single Equality Bill:

The legislation aims to harmonise existing anti-discrimination and equality legislation as far as is practicable and will update and extend existing provisions where appropriate.

It’s the way you tell them, indeed.

Malcolm wonders whether and, if so, why this outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease was greeted wholly chortle-free in the Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson households.

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Filed under DUP, homosexuality, Ian Paisley Junior, Northern Irish politics


Sinn Féin’s election: the dog that didn’t bark?

The Irish groan and shout, lads,
Maybe because they’re Celts,
They know they’re up the spout, lads,
And so is everyone else.
Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!
Trouble is on the way.

Thank you, Noel: don’t call us, we’ll call you.

At Slugger and elsewhere (politics.ie, and now at Mick Fealty’s other home, comment is free, for examples) there is some serious debate going on (provided one tiptoes round the usual exchange of ritual insults) about:

  • why Sinn Féin fell so far short of expectations in the Irish General Election

and

  • where they go from here.

The general consensus seems to blame the disaffection of the Republic’s electorate with all things to do with the Black North, but identify Gerry Adams’s performance in the also-rans debate as a special factor. Those pesky dogs, the critics and pundits, are snapping at his heels.

Malcolm feels that this debate has a long way to go.

It wasn’t only SF that underperformed: all the radical parties suffered similarly. So that we all know what we’re talking about, here’s the meat:

FF 78 (-3);
FG 51 (+20, neatly restoring their position in 2002);
Labour 20 (-1, and still going nowhere);
PD 2 (-6, and effectively wiped out, except as an adjunct to FF);
Greens 6 (no change);
SF 4 (-1, after barking big, a very small bone);
and the odds-and-sods 5 (-9).

It isn’t quite a two-party system, but it’s getting pretty close.

Now, in hindsight, the outcome should not greatly surprise. The electors were asked if they liked prosperity, a housing boom, full employment, and, after a nanosecond of thought, decided “It’s the economy, stupid”.

Seán O’Faoláin, writing in 1969, noted:

time was when common words on every lip in every Irish pub were partition, the civil war, the republic, the gun. The vocab of the mid fifties and sixties was very different — the common market, planning, growth, rates, strikes, jobs, education opportunities or why this factory failed and that one flourished.

That’s why the RoI moved on, while too many in NI didn’t, and still haven’t. Forty years on from O’Faoláin, the “vocab” of SF and anyone else trying to occupy the radical left, north or south, needs to adapt again.

He didn’t recognise it at the time, but Malcolm, sitting in the public gallery of the Dáil of the early ‘60s, might have observed O’Faoláin’s change: the old men were still challenging each other about which side they and their fathers had fought in 1922: the younger sparks (and newspaper columnists) were rolling their eyes, and backing the Whitaker Plan.

That produced a step-change in the growth of the Irish economy, directly accountable to successfully attracting foreign investment and dismantling the protection racket that was the Irish economy. Exports, especially to the European market, rose; and the Irish
economy continued to grow throughout the 1970s (and began to free itself from dependency on Britain). Despite two oil crises in 1973 and 1979, high public spending kept the supply side of the economy buoyant, with the GDP growing at 4% a year. The cost was a structural deficit.

By the 1980s, though, the RoI was back in the mire. GDP growth fell back to 1.5% a year. Unemployment soared: by 1987 it reached nearly 17%, and emigration was back. Worse still, this emigration was mainly of the educated and talented. A consensus emerged between government, employers and unions: the new policy was tax-breaks to suck in the investment, expenditure on education and training, and industrial harmony. By 1992, some 37% of US investment into the European market was coming to Ireland. By 2003 unemployment was down to 1.5%, and 65% of the population were working.

So, in 2007, with Ireland one of the top-four burgeoning economies, the last thing on the popular agenda was “change”. But:

… the present pleasure,
By revolution lowering, does become
The opposite of itself.

And what then?

There should be an opportunity for any party which can cobble a convincing programme to cope with after-the-boom, when the appetite for “prosperity” is sated, when the economy turns. At that point, the place to be is outside the tent pissing in. Which party is capable of that posture?

On the other side of the fence, SF, the Greens and the Trots are the only parties who have been left off the roundabout of power all these years (though both SF and the Greens would love to be invited aboard). Therefore they have been the only parties credibly capable of arguing for “change”.

And that is why Malcolm’s reading of Adams in the also-rans debate was somewhat different. Adams seemed not to have, or didn’t know, an economic policy. He vainly tried to shift the argument to social policy. (SF’s social policy looks somewhat threadbare too, but Malcolm leaves that thought aside.)

There is a case to be made for a new social programme: social inequality is growing; there is a two-tier health service; Ireland (pace the UN Development Programme) has the highest level of poverty in the Western world, behind only the US; a fifth to a quarter of the population are functionally illiterate; and Ireland is observably becoming a less tolerant society. (Malcolm, generous to a fault, omits corruption from that list.)

The opportunity is going to be there. Malcolm despairs that any party, least of all the factional, and provincial party that is SF, is presently capable of grasping it.

As in 1957, with Lemass, and 1987, when Haughey effectively picked up the policies of Garrett Fitzgerald, reform will probably be left to opportunist politicians. It will come slowly as the mainstream parties apply balm and healing salve, just enough for their own survival, declaring that it is all in “the national interest.”

When Truman Capote complained about a bad review, André Gide replied with a proverb (now a cliché) from the Arabic: The dogs bark but the caravan moves on. It presently looks that the SF caravan, at least south of the border, is going nowhere.

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Filed under Celtic Tiger, Fianna Fail, Irish Labour, Irishn politics, Sinn Fein


Doublin yer mumper

Just when we all thought the thing was done and dusted, a cloud no bigger than the High Court’s hand…

It seems that the hot money is on the Ahern Government continuing with the rump of two Progressive Democrats brought on board by offering Seanad seats to departed brethren. That makes 80 seats. The Independents, who never like short Dails, will tend to support a Fianna Fáil government anyway. Two of those Independents are former FF members: Jackie Healey Rae in Kerry South, and Beverley Flynn of Mayo. Ahern and FF are thus one further seat short of a bare majority. The two Dublin Independents, Finian McGrath in North Central and Tony Gregory in Central, are both making frantic signals that they wish to snuggle up to FF. FF can ease the wheels of democracy further by having a Ceann Comhairle from FG or (more likely?) Labour. So that’s fixed.

Except …

There’s a story in today’s Sunday Tribune that might disturb this arithmetic:

[Beverley] Flynn sued RTÉ over broadcasts in 1998 reporting that she had assisted tax evasion by setting up bogus non-resident accounts while working for National Irish Bank. She lost the High Court case in 2001 and costs estimated at 1.5m were awarded against her.

According to court documents filed by RTÉ last week, she owes the station 2.84m in taxed costs, including interest, for the longest-running libel case in Irish legal history.

And RTÉ are now filing to have her declared bankrupt. An undischarged bankrupt is not eligible to be a TD.

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Filed under Beverley Flynn, Fianna Fail, Irish politics, RTE

“Dad: this one’s on you”

Malcolm’s Yorkshire Dad is presently rumbling round Harrogate Crem.

He spent the last decade of his life in a wheelchair: a double disability for a man for whom sport (football, cricket, and later crown-green bowls) was vital. This was a man for whom the Elysian Fields were Yorkshire Cricket Club’s posthumous away game.

Only towards the end of the Old Boy’s life did Malcolm discover that Dad (and his mate) had been offered a Yorkshire trial. They turned it down: it would have meant a day off work from the LMS shops at Sheffield Brightside. Instead, they served their time, collected their cards, and went to London. The Met Police needed lads capable of playing a decent game at Inside Right, or bowling consistently at Canterbury Cricket Week.

Then there was the story about turning up at White Hart Lane to play the Army (by then it was wartime: professional football had been suspended; Highbury was, appropriately, a boot camp). At the last moment, Denis Compton turned up, borrowed a pair of boots, to play for the Army. Dad was, in effect, up against an England front five. He never disclosed the score.

But the Headingley Test was always something different. Once, he calculated how far his electric wheelchair could make, but was defeated by the trip home. He would not stir from watching the screen. The Old Boy liked vision from the TV, supplemented by the radio commentary (at maximum volume: the ears had gone, in part a legacy from tending three Packard engines on a war-time MTB up the Aegean).

Today he would have relished. He would have been psyched up by Vaughan’s ton yesterday (“The least he could ‘a done. He’s Lancashire, ye know.”). Then, today: Pietersen (“Bloody South African!”) playing like the reincarnation of Compton in his pride, Viv Richards in his style (a comparison already made by Graham Gooch). And, for the cherry-on-the-cake (alas: Dad was diabetic), Yorkshire-reject Ryan Sidebottom pitching it up, line-and-length.

At stumps, the Old Boy would have tended his pipe, and muttered something about “Hope to see sumthin’ better tomorrow, before rain sets in.” We knew that was praise indeed.

Thanks, Kev. Thanks, Arnie. Have a pint on Dad.

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Filed under Harrogate, Headingley, Metropolitan Police, Test Match, Yorkshire Cricket Club


How many shades of green?

Malcolm was amused and repelled by the story of the Arklow jobbies. It gets worse. And, bless their little cotton socks, Sinn Féin tried to make it an election issue.

It seems that Dublin City Council (in Malcolm’s day, it used to be the “Corporation”) export their “human waste” to be spread across the countryside. This practice is illegal in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. More northern Irish county councils (Cavan, Meath, Offaly and Roscommon) are also forbidding it. So, the muck-merchants move on, and over 8,000 tons were added to the County Wicklow landscape last year.

Here’s how to do it: take your crap, add lime (which is supposed to kill the bacteria, but doesn’t — e.coli persists at fifteen times the permitted level), mix with liquid leached from landfill (lots of lovely heavy metals), spray over farmland. There are three companies involved in this practice:

  • Land Organics of Kilkenny. Last year, this firm was denied permission to build a “waste-recovery facility” for 20,000 tonnes a year of “human sludge” near Portlaoise. The crap of Portlaoise amounts to about a tenth of that. Then, this April, the Galway village of Eyrecourt got the sludge spraying treatment, to considerable local disquiet.
  • SEDE Ireland, Ltd., of Tallaght. This is part of the Proxiserve Group (based in the southern suburbs of Paris), which in turn is a subsidiary of Veolia Eau, a Paris-based multinational.
  • Quinns of Baltinglass, a decent family firm which began in seeds and fertiliser (indeed!) and has branched into a pub and a supermarket.

Nor can Malcolm neglect Louis Moriarty. Mr Moriarty traded as Dublin Waste, which was a pseudonym for Swalcliffe Ltd (though why a fine and ancient Oxfordshire village should be invoked defies reason):

Louis Moriarty, a staunch Fianna Failer, has been involved in a number of court actions over illegal dumping by his former business, Swalcliffe Ltd, trading as Dublin Waste.

Malcolm will worry at that in a moment. Meanwhile, let’s stick with the court action against Swalcliffe for illegal dumping:

Wicklow County Council prosecuted Swalcliffe and the Moriartys last year [2002] to recover the cost of cleaning up a twoacre site at Coolnamadra, Donard, near the Glen of Imaal.

The council found that the Moriarty’s company had illegally dumped about 8,000 tonnes of waste, including bloodstained bandages, scalpels and laboratory waste.

The council estimates that it will cost €20 million to clean the site but Swalcliffe’s accounts for the year to April 30, 2002 say that “the estimated cost of remediating” the land and associated costs is €1.65 million…

In 2001, Wicklow Co Council discovered two major illegal dumps and commenced investigations along with the Gardai. Court proceedings were also issued against Swalcliffe Ltd.

The company was fined a total of IR£7,500 and ordered to pay IR£8,000 in costs for illegal dumping.
A hearing in Dublin District Court was told there were discrepancies of up to 8,500 tonnes per month between the amount of waste that Dublin Waste said it was disposing of and the amount received from it by two dumps approved by the Environmental Protection Authority.

But Mr Moriarty has friends in high places: it’s that “staunch Fianna Failer” thing. While the case against Swalcliffe was in process, Moriarty solicited his T.D. for help with obtaining a waste permit:

The Taoiseach was lobbied three years ago by the businessman with whom he was photographed in Kerry earlier this week.

Louis Moriarty, whose €20 million hotel development in Sneem Bertie Ahern visited on Tuesday, is at the centre of a series of investigations into illegal dumping.

Mr Ahern’s constituency office also contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the activities of Mr Moriarty who is a constituent of Mr Ahern and who lives on Griffith Avenue close to Mr Ahern’s home.

There is more, much more on this at village.ie, including the rocky road from Griffith Avenue to Sneem.

Moriarty quickly rid himself of Swalcliffe. It was sold to Greenstar for €5M, which apparently went to finance the €20M Sneem hotel in Mr Moriarty’s native Kerry, which was later graced by a visit and photo-op by Taoiseach Ahern. Thereby hangs another tale:

Greenstar is 88 per cent owned by National Toll Roads, the multi-million-euro company owned and controlled by Tom Roche and his family.

Ah, yes, sooner or later we get back to the late Tom Roche:

A legendary figure in Irish business … a Fianna Fail mover and shaker of the Haughey era … started off making blocks and selling coal from the back of a truck with a £250 investment from his mother. His connections with Charles Haughey enabled him to establish a cement monopoly in the Irish state.

CRH (Cement Roadstone Holdings) control the concession, NTR, which milks the Dublin toll roads and bridges. The money from NTR has financed the move into waste disposal, that is Greenstar, and thereby into electricity generation from waste.

Malcolm pauses to reflect upon the record of CRH:

Two men charged last week with illegal dumping and pollution on Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) sites have been described by An Taisce as “fall guys” for the company’s poor environmental record.

John Healy from Blessington and his son Francis were charged with illegal dumping in relation to incidents in January 1997 and December 2001 when they are accused of disposing “lorryloads of waste without a waste licence”. A second charge was brought for dumping “in a manner that caused or was likely to cause pollution”.

Frank Corcoran, chairman of An Taisce, said the decision by James Hamilton, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), not to bring criminal charges against CRH, the owners of the land, is clearly contrary to European Union environmental law…

The two men charged last week are directors of Blessington Plant Hire, which was contracted by CRH to dredge pools used to clean gravel extracted from the Wicklow quarry. They are also directors of Blue Bins, a sewage and refuse disposal company. The plant hire company had unlimited access to CRH sites for several years.

During the course of the investigation, environmental investigators from Wicklow county council discovered eight separate illegal dumping sites by overflying the 600-acre site with thermal-imaging equipment that spots the higher temperatures of decomposing waste. Three of the sites were described as having “substantial” amounts of waste and three more as in need of remediation.

Half the estimated 100,000 tonnes of dumped material found by investigators was domestic and the rest was construction and demolition waste. Wicklow council has ordered CRH to remove the waste, but the Environmental Protection Agency must issue a licence.

Which brings us back to the topic of the day: coalition partners for Fianna Fáil. As “Dewey Finn” said “Read between the lines”:

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent, who looks set to head a total of six Green TDs in the Dáil, said that once his party had clarified and focused on the issues in hand, they would “definitely” be discussing with other parties the possibility of forming a stable government.

However, Mr Sargent insisted that Green Party policies needed to be discussed before any such arrangement was reached.

He said banning corporate donations would be high on his party’s agenda if it was to enter into a government with Fianna Fáil. His party’s decision would depend on how serious other parties were about forming a stable government.

Mind where you tread!

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Filed under Bertie Ahern, Fianna Fail, Green Party, human waste


Thanks, Ethical Man!

Malcolm involved himself, again, in the mud-wrestle that is Slugger O’Toole‘s comments.

This should be regarded as a mistake, because it is as inevitable as an English team losing on penalties that the “discussion” will come down to a slanging match. Usually it is orange versus green, and everybody knows for which side to shout.

One of today’s side-dishes (the main course being the Irish General Election: two submissions, a knock-out or a twelfth recount to win) was City of Derry Airport. Much of Malcolm’s submission has already appeared here. Later, he found himself defending the City Council’s involvement in fostering Eglinton thus:

  • Private enterprise has not been much in evidence in the Province in recent decades.
  • The notion that the whole of Ulster (yes, Ulster) can be properly served, now and for the future, through Aldergrove and Dublin seems fallacious. That’s not in the local, provincial, national or European interest.
  • Demand is increasing at at astounding rate, passenger traffic at regional airports doubles every 15 years (at Eglinton that has happened, albeit from a low base-line, in just two years).

Malcolm also knows there are many, and good arguments against airport expansion: they all receive endless publicity. Nevertheless, people, however much they intellectually are convinced by those arguments and publicity, still emotionally want to fly. Malcolm’s essential liberalism means he finds distasteful all the Green nay-saying which amounts to arguing that someone, somewhere must stop this Gardarene rush, deny ordinary folk their wish to holiday in Spain, inconvenience them, force them to conform, deny them occasional pleasures.

Malcolm felt just a trifle sweaty maintaining this, knowing the pressures of global warming and the consequent death of his beloved beech tree were somehow involved.

So, hooray for Justin Rowlatt, the BBC’s Ethical Man! He writes a delightful (and informative) blog at the Newsnight site:

here’s the good news: when you look at the numbers, modern jet aeroplanes are actually a very efficient form of transport.

Indeed, the jet engine is one of the most effective ways to convert the energy from fuel into thrust. The best jets are 37 per cent efficient. By contrast it seems modern petrol engines are around 25 per cent efficient while a finely tuned diesel will achieve, at best, 32 per cent efficiency…

The average jet plane now uses around 4.8 l/100 km per passenger – just a little worse than a Prius with no passengers. But the manufacturers say that modern jets are much more efficient.

Collooh! Callay! Malcolm chortled in his joy.

Now, of course, that does not mean we should belt around the planet for the sheer hell of it (a couple of hours as hostage of Ryanair would cure that affliction, anyway). Nor does it means we need Heathrow Terminal 19. It does mean that a bit of balance might, just might be reasserting itself.

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Filed under air travel., City of Derry Airport, Eglinton, Ethical Man, Justin Rowlatt