Danny Boyby Daniel O'Carroll
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Even for the most seasoned of tabloid readers, there's an element of shock to today's Irish Daily Star leading with the headline 'Ireland RIP: our future killed by wanker bankers and stupid politicians'.
How low does a tabloid have to stoop to sell copies that it will splash 'wanker bankers' over its front page and superimpose such an inscription onto a sepulchral image of a gravestone? The answer is very.
Despite the story having been pushed out of the Irish media limelight by the Brian Cowen 'Gargle-gate' fiasco, there have been several very important movements in the Irish medical cannabis question over the past few weeks, which have led many to believe that Ireland could be set to legalize medical cannabis within a couple of years.
The first significant development took place on the 10th of September, just over 10 days ago, when Ireland's Minister for Health, Mary Harney, said that she would be 'open' to the question of medical marijuana and would solicit expert opinion on the matter with a view to making a decision on the issue by the end of the year. This was in itself a huge jump from days previous, when the Tanaiste had explicitly told the Oireachtas that she would not consider the idea of legalizing cannabis in any form.
This was followed, shortly afterwards, by a meeting between Gordon McArdle,perhaps the country's most outspoken cannabis proponent, and Minister Pat Carey, the man with overall responsibility for Ireland's drugs policy. By the end of their sit-down, McArdle said that he was pleased by how 'open' the Minister was to the idea of introducing medical cannabis to treat a number of health problems, which furthered the notion that there had been a government-wide softening on the traditionally frigid medical marijuana stance.
It’s one of Ireland’s lesser-known problems, but looks set to become one of the main impediments to growth in Ireland’s upcoming economic recovery unless educators find a way of teaching the subject which yields better results.
This latest announcement is just the latest in a long series of calls from Irish educational, political and scientific bodies to improve the teaching of math in Ireland’s high-schools in order to produce the sort of math-literate and proficient graduates that companies crucial to Ireland’s future are looking for, but are not finding enough of.
Much noise has been made in the Irish press over the past couple of days about Brian Cowen and the allegedly drunken interview which he gave yesterday morning after what must have been a fantastic night out at the Fianna Fail conference in Galway.
There are already many versions of what happened, that night, and the back and forth between Fianna Fail and the Opposition parties would put a game of tennis at Wimbledon to shame, but I think that without doubt too much is being made out of it.
For me, it's clear as daylight that Cowen was a little tipsy when he took the mic on that morning. We've all had a few too many at least once in our lies, and that morning after slur is something we're probably all too familiar with. It's not to be confused with 'exhaustion' which at least in my mind doesn't cause the sort of drawl with which Cowen addressed the nation, though his followers are trying to make out as such.
Irish President Mary McAleese's recent address to the St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance has been called an 'astonishing attack' on Irish bankers, lawyers, and politicians (Belfast Telegraph), and a series of 'extraordinary comments' by our own Irish Central, and while I wouldn't call her speech exactly mesmerizing, at least not for what it said, I'd nevertheless say that it was a welcome break with convention. The President, for once, told it (almost) like it is.
The Irish President is basically a figurehead, conferred with largely representative powers by the Irish constitution. And like most worldwide figureheads, he or she rarely does or says anything controversial.
For that reason McAleese's remarks have been seen as highly unusual, for she broke with the long-standing convention of a President's non-comment, at least while in office, on matters of public and political importance.
He's a man who's elaborate pyramid scheme has earned him notoriety in Ireland, made him a poster-boy for the post Celtic Tiger era, yet who, unlike his approximate American counterpart, Bernie Madoff, is neither serving time behind bars or showing much in the way of repentance for his extraordinary financial misdeeds.
O'Brien and estranged wife Fiona Nagel were one of the Celtic Tiger's love couples. An investment adviser and a PR magnate respectively, they became known nationally for their lavish dos and lifestyle which often included government Ministers and entertainment tycoons on the guest list. Yet their extraordinary largesse was all coming from one not so legitimate source: O'Brien was running a pyramid scheme.
It's a story that could have come straight from the back page of the Irish Examiner, the space on one of Ireland's broadsheets reserved for ridiculous stories such as 'man escapes from prison through toilet', yet the story involves an Irish Cabinet Minister and a very real suggestion to deter kidnappings by increasing ATM charges.
If you're scratching your head at how on Earth this proposal was supposed to work, I think everybody but Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Minister for Justice and Law Reform, is wondering precisely that.
The context is that Ireland has suffered a spate of so-called 'tiger kidnappings' in recent years. Incidents in which a bank official's spouse or partner is held up until the bank official hands over a substantial sum of cash to the kidnappers.