Ireland Callingby John Spain
- "Greed is good", especially in Ireland it seems with pillars of society on the take
- Vintage pamphlets offer a glimpse at the rules of 50s-era Irish Catholicism
- A leap of faith by Ireland, the exit from the IMF/EU bailout
- A temporary detour from ecomic issues to Irish soccer madness
- Give Britain a break after decades of Irish emigration to the UK
Greed is good, Gordon Gekko said in the movie "Wall Street."
You young ones are going to have to be a bit patient with us oldies this week.
Because this week the “Ireland Calling” column is dipping into the past, into a different time in Ireland when everyone not only said they were Catholic but behaved like real Catholics. And in those days, real Catholics were obedient and unquestioning.
Ireland is to make a clean exit from the IMF/EU bailout when we leave the program on December 15. There will be no precautionary credit line negotiated with the European Central Bank or the IMF, no backstop, no insurance policy in case we get into financial trouble again in the months and years ahead.
We're going it alone. It's a brave move and we can only hope that it's the right one.
The decision not to seek a credit line came in a dramatic announcement by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny in the Dail last week. There is no doubt that the decision was based on political concerns more than on economic policy.
There was plenty of heavy political and economic news here over the past week to do with the bailout exit, a new housing bubble in Dublin, property tax and other serious subjects.
But really there was only one show in town for the media. All anyone wanted to hear about was Martin and Roy.
"The Irish Are Coming" is being published here this Thursday, November 7, and if you can’t wait for it to come out over there, you can always get it now via Amazon.
Here in Ireland, the Gardai need to be very careful never to act on the basis of racial profiling. But particularly in cases where children are involved, never investigating is never going to be an option.
Against all the predictions by political experts and opinion polls in the past few weeks, the government lost the referendum last Friday that proposed the abolition of the Seanad, or Senate.
The Senate, the upper house in the Dail (Irish Parliament), is famous for being useless. But it is part of our structure of governance, enshrined in the Constitution, which is why a referendum was required to get rid of it.
When the realization sinks in that nothing is going to change any time soon and tax hikes and cutbacks are not going to ease off for years, the question is not why would you leave, but why would you stay?
Don’t hold your breath.
Next week many of the thousands of junior doctors who actually do most of the work in Irish hospitals are due to go on strike. And the interesting thing is that, unlike most strikes, this potentially disastrous threatened strike is not about money. It's about grossly excessive working hours.
For years the junior hospital doctors here have been pleading that their working hours should be reduced. Many of them routinely work 70 or 80 hours a week and 100 hours is not all that unusual.
A few weeks ago in this column we were looking at the signs of an end at last to the five-year downward spiral in the Irish property market.
In some areas and for some homes, mainly family size houses in good areas in Dublin, there has been a slight recovery in prices this year, although they are still around half what they were at the peak of the bubble.
Those days are gone forever. And good riddance.
Immigration reform is not just needed in the U.S.
Last week was abortion week in Ireland. A shameful 30 years after the X-Case (involving a pregnant and suicidal 14-year-old rape victim who the Irish state attempted to stop having an abortion in the U.K.), the Dail (Irish Parliament) passed the first law ever to allow abortion in Ireland, albeit within extremely restrictive limitations.
In practical terms, there will be no change for Irish women. The thousands of Irish women who go to the U.K. for abortions every year will continue to do so since abortion here will only be available in extreme medical cases in which the life of the mother is at substantial risk.
Public anger here at the Anglo Irish Bank tapes revelations is beginning to shift in the right direction at last.
As we hear more and more of the leaked tapes, it's becoming more and more obvious that the main villains of the banking collapse which led to the bankrupting of the country are not the frazzled, foul-mouthed executives at the top of Anglo Irish Bank.
The Anglo Irish tapes has been the biggest story here for ages, an Irish Independent exclusive that has enraged the country and led to calls for a public inquiry and prosecutions.
But when you strip away the bad language and the macho talk, what the tapes reveal was not really that surprising.
What did the Obama girls do to deserve such torture during their 24-hour visit to Dublin last week?
Bored stiff by some ancient book in Trinity College, forced to listen to ancient diddle-aye music at the now ancient show Riverdance, eaten alive by midges while looking at an ancient rock in Glendalough and, worst of all, having a pub lunch with some ancient, nauseating rock star called Bono.
It's about time for us.
Looking out my study window right now on Tuesday morning I see things are back to normal. It's raining!
But for the past week and right through the weekend things have been far from normal. Not a drop of rain. Hot unbroken sunshine from clear skies all day long. It was like the Mediterranean.
The reaction of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, senior politicians and the IDA boss to the accusation in the U.S. congressional hearing last week that Ireland is a tax haven reminded me of the famous Jack Nicholson line: "You can't handle the truth."
Our leaders can deny it all they want, but the simple truth is that they've been caught with their trousers down. Ireland is indeed a tax haven, and it's the tax haven of choice for some of the biggest high tech companies in the world like Apple and Google, most of which are American.
Those so-called pro-life demonstrators at Boston College really need to get a grip. As Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny made clear to them, Ireland has one of the most restrictive attitudes to abortion in the world.
“There is no change in the legislation in regard to abortion which has been on the statute books now since 1861,” he told them, as if that is something to be proud of.
The outline of the government's proposals for legislation on abortion were agreed by the cabinet and published last week.
It's important to remember that what we have so far is the heads of the bill rather than the full detail. There will be much discussion as all the detail emerges in the coming weeks, and the overall bill may be finessed somewhat before it becomes law.
The abortion debate in Ireland gathered pace here last week as the outlines of what the government has in mind began to emerge. The proposals are so ridiculous they are laughable.
We've always been known as the island of saints and scholars. To that should now be added the word hypocrites.
The inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar did not blame anyone for her death. Despite all we have heard over the past two weeks, no one is to be held accountable.
Even the hospital is not to be blamed, despite the admission of the consultant (senior doctor) involved in Savita's care that her death was due to a "systems failure" in her treatment in hospital (mainly due to poor communication and mistakes). Instead the main finding of the inquest is that Savita died of "medical misadventure."
There were two big stories here last week.
First, there was the seven year extension Ireland was given in the schedule for paying back its bailout loans.
One thing is sure -- it's going to be painful for everyone.
At midnight last Thursday the disastrous blanket guarantee given to the Irish banks in September 2008 by the last government reached the end of its extended term and finally came to an end.
The present government believes that the banks are strong enough now to function without the guarantee and will be able to access the funding they need without state back-up.
Here's hoping you all had a great St. Patrick's Day. In Dublin it was less ecstatic than usual, possibly because of the unseasonably cold weather that has afflicted us for the past two weeks.
I see from the TV pictures that it was the same over there, with what looked like sleet showers falling on the New York parade at some stages. That did not seem to dampen enthusiasm in the Big Apple.
In the last few weeks we have been listening to lots of positive noises being made about Ireland. For the first six months of this year Ireland holds the EU presidency, so there are important people visiting here all the time for important EU meetings and they tend to say nice things about us when they're here.
Recently it was European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso who hailed our economic recovery, saying the country is "turning the corner" and well on the road to recovery.
Viewing the sequester controversy in the U.S. from this side of the Atlantic last week was a reminder of how much we have in common with you guys over there.
The financial crisis in Europe, in the wake of the global downturn, has been caused largely by governments (like in Ireland) that can't balance their spending with their revenue and that run massive, unsustainable budget deficits. And it's the same in the U.S.
Last week Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny delivered an emotional apology in the Dail (Parliament) to the women who had spent time in the notorious Magdalene laundries in Ireland, mainly in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
The name of the Magdalene laundries -- called after Mary Magdalene, the fallen woman or prostitute who was forgiven by Jesus -- gives you a good idea of what Irish society of the time thought of the women who were locked up in these grim institutions.
Don't you love the way the Irish laugh in the face of adversity? Whatever the problem is, you can count on us to turn it into a joke. And let's face it, this horse meat scandal was just made for it ... it's all over Facebook and Twitter here.
There are the ones that give advice on ordering in an Irish restaurant: "I'll start with some horse d'oeuvres before I go on to the mane course."
What a week! You will have read about the dramatic events in Ireland last week, culminating in a deal with the European Central Bank that the government claims is a significant victory in our battle to get some of the massive debt burden we carry lifted off the nation's shoulders.
The deal means that our borrowing will be cut by €20 billion, the headlines said.
The callous, almost casual, murder of a detective Garda (police officer) here more than a week ago united the country in outrage and grief. It also made it a very uncomfortable week for the reformed IRA gunmen in Sinn Fein who now sit in the Dail (Parliament).
Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was part of one of the usual two-man security details that accompany significant cash transfers here. This involves two armed detectives in a car who accompany the cash vans as they do their rounds transferring money between bank branches and savings and loans offices, post offices, credit unions and so on.
Meanwhile, the death of rural Ireland continues.
He is young, conservative and tough, even if it's hidden behind an informal, engaging personality. It's church business as usual, then.
There will be more detailed coverage of the church's position here as the abortion debate develops in the weeks ahead.
This week there are people all over America deciding on Christmas gifts for their children. Well here's an idea -- tell your children that one of your presents to them will be a promise that next year you will campaign for or support major change on gun laws in the U.S. And explain to them why this will be the best Christmas present the children of America will ever get.
It all makes a very bleak prospect for Christmas and the New Year.
Now it's up to the government to decide what to do. It's not just a question of meeting the demands of the European Court. It's because we do not want to see another tragedy like Savita.
Thanks for nothing, Enda.