Thursday, November 19, 2009

Support for Big Apple Irish

One is the most powerful woman in New York and whose name is being spoken about in terms of the presidency in the future.

The other is one of the most powerful men in Ireland whose name is also being spoken about in terms of another big job in the future.

And yesterday, the two met up in Dublin when Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin welcomed the Speaker of New York Christine Quinn to Leinster House.

Her visit to Leinster House was to talk with Minister Martin about supporting the Irish community in New York.

Quinn is listed as one of the five most powerful women in the States and is regarded as a key ally for the Irish community in the Big Apple.

Quinn and Minister Martin jointly launched a new helpline to support older members of the community last year to combat loneliness and isolation.

She was also named as Irish-American of the year in 2008.

Yesterday they discussed how the city of New York and the Government here can co-operate in a wide range of areas such as helping those who have fallen on hard times, supporting Irish cultural events and promoting the GAA.

Micheal Martin also used the opportunity to brief the Speaker on current developments in Northern Ireland.

Christine Quinn, whose name has been mentioned as a possible future candidate for the White House, spent the morning in Dublin before travelling to Belfast.

The Morans of Uruguay

Staying with events of a Foreign Affairs nature, it seems that the Morans of Uruguay are coming home!

Our strong links with South America were to the fore at this week’s Cabinet meeting when one Nestor Moran was approved as the new Ambassador from Uruguay.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told colleagues that Nestor Julio Moreira Moran is taking up the post as ‘Ambassador of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay to Ireland’ to give him his proper title.

The Ambassador comes with strong credentials after serving in a range of posts across Europe.

Over 700,000 people in Uruguay and Argentina claim Irish heritage.

The region has strong links with Wexford and the Midlands – with settlers, ranchers, soldiers and missionaries travelling to both countries for decades.

Ambassador Moran is also accredited to Britain and is based in London,.

It remains to be seen if he will try to trace any Irish roots when he visits to present credentials to President Mary McAleese.

Robin Hood Budget

The countdown to the most feared budget in the history of the State has well and truly begun and here starts the rumour and speculation as to what Brian ‘The Knife’ Lenihan will do.

Bookie Paddy Power has ponied up some odds for those of you who like to have a little flutter on such speculation - and he feels it is going to be a ‘Robin Hood’ budget on December 9.

And if Paddy’s odds turn out to be correct, it signals bad news for Ireland’s elite!

Paddy Power are quoting 1/10 that child benefit will be reduced for parents earning €100,000 plus per annum, and just 5/2 that one or more of the income levies will be increased for people earning €100,000 upwards.

As far as tax and PRSI are concerned, Paddy Power are betting 3/1 that a third rate of income tax will be introduced for people earning over €100,000.

Another area that could be hit in this year’s budget could be ‘Trophy Houses’.

It’s 2/1 that Taoiseach Brian Cowen introduces a special tax on people who own trophy houses – that’s any house worth more than €1million.

It’s still unclear what lies in store for the public sector but it’s 10/1 that the top public sector salary gets reduced to €150,000 or less per annum.

Sharon McHugh, spokesperson for Paddy Power said: “If the Taoiseach plays his cards right Budget 2009 could be an opportunity for him to change from the Sheriff of Nottingham to Robin Hood!”

Priorities Please!

With all the NAMA stuff, the pre-budget stuff and the Ceann Comhairle’s resigning, it seems that one vital legislative measure slipped through undetected and without comment.

SI 402, 2009, AKA the Greyhound Industry, (Racing) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 was laid before the Dail a few weeks ago.

This vital piece of law has the effect of reducing the qualifying time for novice greyhounds over a distance of 525 yards from 31.00 to 30.70 seconds.

How the media did not spot this is beyond me!

On a serious note, this SI and others like it, do clog up the legislative process, and presumably would have to be drafted by somebody in the Attorney General's office.

In the meantime, badly needed legislation in areas like climate change, protection of people in mortgage arrears etc have failed to appear.

Priorities, politicians, please!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Was Hanafin the original target?

I bet Social and Family Affairs Miniser Mary Hanafin was breathing a sigh of relief on Monday night as RTE’s Frontline was interrupted by a man with a bee in his bonnet over Pat Kenny’s salary.

The live mauling of Pat Kenny has become an internet hit because of its ‘car crash TV’ nature - a bloke in the audience verbally tearing Kenny apart over the vast salary RTE pays him.

But what was interesting was just who was playing who?

The heckler in question is an Inchicore man called Alan O’Brien and despite being escorted out of the studio - live on air - he was unrepentant about his TV rant.

He got emotional, he didn’t hold back, he went for the kill - all things he and the rest of the audience were told to do by Pat Kenny in advance of the show going on air.

And it seems that poor Mary Hanafin - a Lady of the cabinet - was the intended victim of this huge outpouring of ‘emotion’.

Speaking on radio, O’Brien denied that his rant was a stunt.

In fact he said it was ironic that he managed to harangue Pat Kenny as the presenter had warmed up the audience before the broadcast by telling them to let their emotions out and not hold back.

But I bet the RTE King of Current Affairs didn’t bet on himself being the target of the emotions of the audience.

I suppose it is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ - RTE may have wanted memorable TV at the expense of Mary Hanafin. It seems it got memorable TV at the expense of Pat Kenny!

Santa comes to Sinn Fein

It seems that Christmas has come early for the politicians and workers inside Leinster House.

Just a year ago, Sinn Fein’s Caoimhghin O Caolain claimed that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had ‘cancelled Santa Claus’ thanks to his brutal budget.

Now it seems that Sinn Fein has resurrected Santa Claus and yesterday paraded him in front of Leinster House.

Santa was joined by another bearded figure - Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams - for the launch of the party’s campaign to have the Christmas Bonus Social Welfare payment restored.

No doubt, Mr Claus himself had his hands full quizzing all the TDs as to whether they were naughty or nice during the past year.

But the little TDs should be warned - due to the recession there is a good chance that all they will get under the tree on Christmas morning will be an IOU note, signed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen!

Big guns come out for Ogra bash

The young ones are at it again - the annual Ogra Fianna Fail Youth Conference will take place this weekend at the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran.

And the theme of this year’s conference is ‘Renewal’.

Among the guest speakers will be CEO of the Road Safety Authority Noel Brett and Dragon’s Den star Sean Gallagher, who himself was a member of Ogra in his youth.

One of the plenary sessions at the conference will be dedicated to job creation and will include panel speakers representing growth sectors which the Government is targeting for future jobs creation in the smart economy.

Among the political heavyweights who will be attending the bash include Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher as well as a number of Fianna Fail senior and junior ministers as well as Senators.

Deenihan to chronicle the glory days of Kerry football

First it was George Lee doing a bit of moonlighting by presenting an RTE special on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Now his party colleague Jimmy Deenihan is set to pen a new book on the golden years of Kerry football.

And nobody in the Dail is more qualified to write such a book than one of the finest corner-backs the game of football has ever seen - Deenihan himself.

Jimmy will draw on his memories of one of the greatest periods in the Kingdom’s footballing story - including the four-in-a-row high between 1978 and 1981.

It is hoped that the book will be published in the first half of the New Year and proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to pay off the remaining debt of the Lartigue Monorail revival in Listowel - a project close to Deenihan’s heart.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Cabinet meeting where?!

A Cabinet meeting in a rat-infested classroom to highlight the problems in education? Or how about the weekly top brass gathering on hospital trolleys to bring attention to the ailing health service?

Maybe our Ministers could hold their weekly meeting of minds on the queue for food parcels outside the Capuchin Friary on Dublin’s Church Street to let people know about the new poor of Ireland?

Sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? Well when it comes to other Governments around the globe, they have no problem changing the location of their cabinet meetings to highlight problems.

Take the Nepalese Government, for example. They will be holding a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest later this month to highlight climate change in the world.

The entire cabinet of the 22-party coalition will move to the Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,585 feet for the landmark meeting.

The decision by the Nepalese cabinet to decamp from their cosy offices to Everest base camp comes just weeks after the government of the Maldives held an underwater cabinet meeting - YES, you read that right - to focus global attention on rising sea levels ahead of a key UN summit in December.

So if our Government want to highlight the conditions of schools in Ireland, I’m sure the INTO would be able to come up with a few choice locations for them where they could meet the local rats and mice that inhabit the school buildings on a frequent basis?

Or there are bound to be plenty of people who have been forced to endure long waits on hospital trolleys waiting for admission who would be honoured to point the way for the politicians.

But it seems that when our cabinet moves from the cosy confines of government buildings, they have more luxurious venues in mind - think back to the stately Emo Court outside Portlaoise in 2003 or Avondale House in Co Wicklow in 2006.

But we can all live in hope!

Lenihan takes the bulbs by the horn!!

Don’t be fooled by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s dark eyes or the fact that he seems to have no problem lurking through the corridors of power in the dead of night getting NAMA bills passed.

Brian is no vampire and his eating habits prove this!

It seems economist David McWilliam’s new book is a book of contradictions (everybody seems to be contradicting his version of events) but one nugget that stuck in our minds from it was the fact that Brian Lenihan is a huge fan of garlic - RAW garlic!

Just as easily as someone would pull an apple out of their pocket and bite into it, Brian will take whole cloves of garlic into his mouth and munch away to his hearts’ content.

Well his heart must be very content with this unusual eating habit as raw garlic is known for its health benefits - lowering blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, regulating blood sugar and reducing bacterial infections.

But it also has another very handy benefit which Brian Lenihan obviously finds useful for dealing with pesky TDs/union bosses/bankrupt developers - raw garlic is great for getting rid of intestinal parasites and worms!!

TDs tighten their belts!!

And so RTE’s Operation Transformation is making a bee-line for tubby TDs and mountainy ministers.

Our politicians have been telling us to tighten our belts for ages now, so it will be comforting to know that after losing a few pounds, the politicians themselves will be able to tighten their own belts.

Needless to say, the letter from the producers of Operation Transformation was received with much hilarity by some TDs, who have now made slagging each other off a bit of a national pastime inside the corridors of power.

But our lips are sealed on the identity of the Minister who, on receipt of the letter, laughed and said: “If they could come up with a way of getting me to put on some weight, I would be in.”