30 Jun 2008

A quick follow up on that situation in Hunters Run in Clonee where local residents are going out of their minds because of the parking situation Fingal Council has caused in their estate. One local resident got an email from the County Manager last week which, amongst a number of suggestions offering advice to the resident on how s/he should be complaining to the council (‘stop bothering us, we’ll get back eventually and you'll get what's good for you’ kind of thing) states that putting together a Traffic Management Plan for the area would have been ‘unprecedented’. Well, Fingal, sounds like its time you sat down and carried out a precendent establishing exercise.

*

Don’t forget, lads, I’m still looking for Protected Structures (listed buildings) which are falling where they stand because the planning authorities are being way overly picky on planning applications, leading to planning refusals and, thereby, making bad situations worse.

I’m also looking for towns and villages around the country where the local authority is responsible for making them visually as unattractive as, or even less attractive than, Gort.

Much obliged to all for showing restraint in not actually naming the names of one or two planning folks who’ve been making impressions for all the wrong reasons lately.

But thanks, too, for reminding me about the planner who, despite being a psychopath, might have been said to have made a positive contribution during his career by approving anything put before him so long as it was made of red brick. This planner was known to stick forks into architects he didn’t like at alcohol fuelled corporate lunches, but I can’t ever say this happened to me personally (perhaps because on the single occasion I met him on a business matter following one such lunch, he actually passed out (passed out might be a bit of an exaggeration: laid his head on his desk and began babbling incoherently is a more accurate description. Anyway, I slipped out of his office, leaving the radio on (they were talking about the Flood Tribunal) in the hope that it would discourage people from entering until he’d had time to recover)). I was also spared the (at least two) occasions when parts of his anatomy escaped cover just as he happened to brush past attractive women at packed social events. Thankfully, on both occasions some decent people (not, I hasten to add, architects who had planning applications due to come before him for adjudication) clocked him one.

It’s not all that long ago since this kind of crap was going on. And it really was going on - sure, I'm using a little flowery rhetoric and hyperbole to get your attention, but it really did happen. Not all that long ago either - it's not as if we can all explain away our cowardice and lack of integrity by saying ‘oh, that’s the way things were done in the nineties’.

I’m not saying that there are any fork-sticking flashers in senior positions in planning authorities any more (although there may be a chair thrower) but the culture which allowed this kind of thing to happen has never been put under scrutiny. It’s not just enough to glibly announce ‘things have changed’. Situations have changed, personalities have changed but the structures and institutions and opportunities to which allow this kind of nonsense to occur remain the same. All a lunatic like Planner X requires is opportunity. And when that happens, we'll continue to turn a blind eye.

30 Jun 2008

You all saw this over the weekend. An artful picture of Christiano Ronaldo diving from a yacht in the Med.

It looks less artful right way up. For example, what is that kid doing, exactly, in the background?

30 Jun 2008
Public Private Partnership is an unbreakable colt out of a mare called Celtic Tiger by a sire named Lucifer. After a dodgy showing in Infirmary Road a few weeks ago, his career came to an end at Heustongate last weekend.
26 Jun 2008
In a comment from two posts ago, Emer, asked to see the text of the famous David Keane letter to Clare County Council of last year during which he accused the Council of incompetence. I dug out a copy and you’ll find it after the jump.
26 Jun 2008

I always thought the shrub topiary on the roundabout near Cork Airport was the Green Party Executive jet, because it’s made from locally sourced renewable materials, probably is carbon neutral and never goes nowhere.

Paul Lee, though, says it’s an environmental improvement project supposed to welcome visitors to Cork.

Only one of us can be right.

(Actually, Paul, is reminds me of the time when I used to work in the architect’s department of a Local Authority. The rule was that on all publicly procured projects, 1% of the total budged had to be set aside for artwork - ‘one-per-cent-art’ as us local authority types called it.

Driving along a newly completely motorway with my charlatan smart-arse brother one day, he wondered what the hell the stacked pile of turf was doing near the margin. ‘That’s one-per-cent-art,’ I explained. ‘Oh yeah?’ he said, ‘and what’s the other ninety nine per cent?’)  

26 Jun 2008
Never before having read the Mail on Sunday, I missed this recent article:
23 Jun 2008

If the amount of paperwork involved in even the smallest most insignificant application for planning development were any way to judge, we should have the most beautiful cities and towns in the world. Yet we don’t.

One of my favourite places to visit is Gort in County Galway. It’s got great little restaurants, nice bars, a river, some quiet little retreats and the most fantastic community spirit (half the town is Brazilian!) you’ll find in the whole of Ireland. Yet if you were to visit Gort for the first time and didn’t know how great a place it really is, nothing would encourage you to get out of your car – you’d be forgiven for thinking that Gort is, quite frankly, a bit of a hole.

Here’s why. While individual building owners, planning applicants and general townsfolk are made jump through hoops dealing with Galway County Council to make little modifications no one would ever really notice to their houses and premises, everything that the Council itself (and the other service providers like the ESB, Eircom, etc.) are responsible for – roads, paths, street furniture, lighting, landscaping, parking arrangements, overhead cables, etc. – is absolutely atrocious. I can't make up my mind which is the worst part: the parking area in the central triangle that looks like an open air car auction in the most out of the way town on the vast planes of North America;

or the multi-layered footpaths so steep you could abseil down them;

or the overhead wires the very sight of which is enough to give you tinnitus…


The contrast between the fine experience of sitting in one of Gort’s pleasant cafes and the frontier town experience of standing in the middle of the main square is quite somethin’.

Not just Gort, of course. Dozens of great little places around the country could double for Ukrainian towns in a C4 documentary about the devastating effects of Chernobyl. Is it maybe time that the responsibility for taking care of our town and village centres is taken away from the councils and handed over to the community? Gort would be in great hands if that were to happen.

Interested to hear about other places which would look less neglected if the council had nothing do to with them. Photos welcome.

23 Jun 2008

I’m sorry, all you folks in Kilrush, Carrick-on-Suir, Carlow Town, Ballina and everywhere else embroiled in planning/local authority situations which have no prospect of being resolved – the Minister’s comments aren’t intended for you because your situation is 'local' and Ministers don’t get involved in local situations. On the other hand, Dartmouth Square – where some fruit is driving South Dublin residents insane by threatening to establish a car park on their leafy green while he waits to see how much he can extort from the Council on some lease-hold technicality – is in Rathmines, Dublin, so that makes it a national issue and therefore worthy of the Minister’s attention. The litter situation in Dartmouth Square is just so, so bad that, as the Irish Times reported Saturday, John Gormley just had to meet with Dartmouth Square residents sometime last week to allay fears:
http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0621/1213999756838.html

People of Kilrush, I suppose the message here is: keep it real. If you want the Minister’s attention stop fussing over serious threats and menacing behaviour and anarchic scenes at Town Council meetings and all that kind of thing: its how overgrown and littered everything is that counts.

*

Oh, and remember last week I mentioned that the Public Accounts Committee is likely to give the Ballymun Regeneration €.5 billion overrun an easy time of it in its final report in September? Well both the Times and RTE ran lovely little infomercials for Ballymun Regeneration Ltd late last week. Here's the Times piece: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0620/1213911839444.html

*

The Wicklow person who sent me a message on Saturday afternoon/evening, can you email me again please? I’ve tried replying to your email address but I keep getting failure messages.

*

Given all that’s being going on in County Clare in the past while, what with the new Kilrush Town Hall situation, the Clare County Councillors work to rule, the mayhem at the last Council meeting and so on, I was surprised (I shouldn’t be, I know) to see what the Irish Times a few days ago found worth reporting on from the Banner:

CLARE COUNTY Council has spent €750,000 acquiring a parcel of land for the upgrading of a railway project. The two acres of land and house are owned by John O'Connell (84), father of the Mayor of Clare, Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind). However, Cllr McCarthy absented herself from the decision…

A whole €750,000! Heavens above, aren’t they just pure mad in Clare.

This €750,000 Council transaction is hardly worth talking about unless it’s to make that obvious connection between the land owner and the Mayor and to gratuitously repeat (as the piece does) that Cllr. McCarthy absented herself from meetings involving the purchase as if to imply – I don’t know – something. This ain’t no story. Anybody know how it got in the IT when everything else is ignored?

20 Jun 2008

.. (sorry, I've been listening to Duke Spirit).

This is an engineer's idea of a joke. It's why why architects are so reluctant to invite them to social events...

This will distract you for 30 seconds

http://www.illusionsciences.com/ 

This is kind of cool...

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080617/MULTI/80617040

This is a task that will never get done...

20 Jun 2008
So lets say you’re a small GAA or soccer club in the west of Ireland, or a doctor’s clinic on the outskirts of a midlands town or a beauticians near, oh, wherever and you lodge a planning application to extend, say, a bathroom or something and the planners send you a pesky letter telling you to submit a Traffic Impact Assessment. Such fuss and bother: all those unfocussed, unjoined-up, cut and paste reports costing €1,500 min. + VAT, which don’t mean all that much as they slowly make their way along some planning authority shelf to an inevitable rendezvous with a recycling bin… But at least, you console yourself, it’s not just you: everybody has to get these reports.
20 Jun 2008

Person of the Week

Madelaine Taylor Quinn

While I was rummaging around in the latest edition of the Clare People to see if they'd run my little planning ad, I couldn’t help but notice some pretty informed and plucky coverage on planning matters in general. I was particularly impressed with journalist Claire Gallagher’s handling of the anarchy in Kilrush. By all accounts it’s not an easy story to cover: there’s talk going around that a recent threat to a local businessman was taken so seriously that the Emergency Response Unit was called in.

Amongst the People’s more interesting stories was a case where two brothers from Corofin had each applied for planning permission to build houses for themselves. One received planning permission. The other didn’t. Apparently, because Brother Number 2 had spent some time in Dublin he didn’t qualify as a local.

Meanwhile, elsewhere the People told of a Dublin business man who managed to have the 'local' rules suspended for his application for a large family house somewhere outside Ennis.

Oh, then there was something about a gentleman who wanted €550,000 to withdraw an objection to an Board Planala. I thought we were still pretending this kind of thing didn't happen but following the news of a similar situation in Kerry a couple of months ago I guess it's no longer taboo.

And then there was this. Planorexia.
http://www.clarepeople.com/content/view/1676/864/

19 Jun 2008

If you are having a frustrating or difficult time on a planning application; if you feel you are being treated unfairly by the planning authority; or if you think that the Council is being in any way unreasonable with you on a planning matter, email me in complete confidence at info@garrymiley.com or go to my website at www.garrymiley.com 

Since then the Clare Champion appears to have declined as well. They didn’t contact me about it or anything, they just simply didn’t run the ad.

 

I've also sent the ad to the Clare People: now, it may be that my email didn’t reach the classifieds section in time, but the ad didn’t appear in the People’s Tuesday edition.  Interestingly, this did however.

 

 

So the Ombudsman’s money is good but not mine, I take it.

 

After I posted on this topic last week I mentioned that I got emails from people saying that the local papers depend so much on the local authorities for revenue that they are very unlikely to run something which would offend a good client.

 

And then Cllr. Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin of Cork County Council added another twist to the situation: he feels quite sure that a press release he put out on Monday was ignored by his local media because he was criticising a prolific ad-taking developer. It was like this: a builder in Clonakilty had blocked up a section of public path with a hoarding. In response to complaints from numerous irate citizens, Cllr. Ó Súilleabháin raised the matter with various officials. Nothing happened. Finally he put out a statement – the kind of thing you would normally expect to find in the local paper – to try to provoke some kind of response. Nobody would publish it.

19 Jun 2008

Remember that Public Accounts Committee Hearing into the Half Billion (I must be misprouncing the words Half Billion - no one seems to be taking any notice) cost overrun on the Ballymun Regeneration Project? Last week I posted that, with the exception of FF’s John Curran, the PAC had given Department officials an easy ride at the Leinster House hearing as regards where the money had gone and why the project was taking so long.

Since the hearings, John has been promoted to a Junior Ministerial position which means that his (and his alone serious) concerns about the situation will not make it into the Committee’s final report which is due in September. Apparently, there’s nobody around to take up the reigns form Deputy Curran: the unofficial word filtering back is that the Committee will let the whole thing slide. The half bill overrun is dead and buried.

19 Jun 2008
There’s been so much debate in the past week about the sneaky underhanded reasons why 53% of the population voted no to Lisbon. First, No Voters were a bunch of unreformed republicans; yesterday it emerged they were in league with UK fascists and jailbirds. But it’s always gone unquestioned that the Yes Voters were a happy and benign bunch of Irish Government supporters. Last weekend, in the Guardian of London, Colm Toibín voiced an intriguing and heretofore unreported reason as to why some Irish people supported the Yes campaign. He reminded readers of how the Irish Government of the 1970s had to be forced by the European Commission to introduce equal pay for women and decriminalise homosexuality before concluding:
17 Jun 2008
17 Jun 2008

I was at some meeting or other with some planner or other (guessing, not someone with a background in building construction) talking about a proposal for a Protected Structure. The building wasn’t all that important and had already been changed around quite a bit from its original condition. Seeking assurances that best conservation practise would be employed on the project, the planner remarked something to the effect that ‘it was important that the right thing be done by the building because, after all, the building is the client.’ The unusually poetic phrase lingered on my ear. How perceptive.

Until a friend of mine mentioned that another planner in a totally other local authority used the exact same phrase on a totally different project. Where are these non building professionals getting this dodgy metaphysical conservation philosophy from? Somebody's schooling them.

Anyway, I prefer Wittgenstein’s epithet that ‘the meaning is in the use’. Meaning, you can be as pernickety about the conservation details as you want, but if the building has no use, it has no meaning.

Which reminds me of the appeal I put out to you all a few weeks back looking for examples of how local authorities were assisting in the euthanasia of Protected Structures by being way overly picky on planning applications. Send me your examples.

Here’s another sampler: a fine little structure which has endured the Local Authority’s dictum that the ‘building is the client’ on more than one occasion over the past ten years.

This building in Salthill has been vacant and deteriorating ever since anyone can remember. A planning application lodged a couple of years back seeking to have it restored to use as a restaurant wasn’t considered ‘conservative’ enough by the powers that be. As a consequence, nothing happened (if you don’t count visits from vandals who camped out in it from time to time and almost managed to burn it down). It’s now before An Bord Planala on another application. I don’t know how much more do-gooding it can withstand. 

17 Jun 2008

   (Janey, I should have used this image for the Bilderberg Post the other day.) 

Brian Cowen said awhile back that senior public servants should be given greater autonomy to take managed risks and to experiment more.  “For the future, we have to… make sure that people have more discretion… to provide good services for the public on the ground… The whole idea is… to encourage innovation, to encourage risk-taking, to try new things,’ etc., etc.,

Nice dream.

Look, who doesn’t want an innovative planning system? Nobody. Unfortunately giving even more discretion to an already discretion burdened planning cadre is not going to achieve it. In fact, if Cowen understood anything at all about why the public service is the mess that it is, he’d realise that the root of the problem is that too many officials are already too free to interpret legislation and guidelines in whatever way they see fit.

The very definition of chaos, to me, is an office full of local authority planners with discretion. Mr. Cowan should know that it’s the Executive – i.e., his own Cabinet – which needs to exercise more discretion, innovation and experimentation. Rather than having a bunch of jobbing vote catchers (his Ministers) sit as nominal heads of Departments – farming out decision making and policy implementation to quangos (HSE, DTA) and Secretaries General as they go –  the public service will remain on its knees until we move to the kind of system they have in other parts of the world where government departments are headed up by qualified people with real knowledge and real power to implement policy. It’s the only way forward.

17 Jun 2008
At the start of The Planning Chronicles of Carrick-on-Suir, you might remember the whole thing kicked off when the Town Council initially refused to let Heitons home-furnishings suppliers take up space in an already completed retail park because the Council said Heitons wares weren’t ‘bulky’ enough to comply with the Department guidelines. Well, as many of you pointed out, if Carrick-on-Suir Town Council were reading the Guidelines correctly, eighteen other councils around the country which have allowed Heitons to quietly trade away must have read them incorrectly because, as we all know, if you’re looking for Heitons, the retail park is where you’ll find them (and bear in mind those councils who’ve given permission to kids birthday party organisers, Tons of Fun, to trade in retail parks – hardly what you call ‘traders in bulky goods’, eh?).
16 Jun 2008
16 Jun 2008
The Yes campaigners went on the various radio referendum aftermath shows to explain to us why we voted no. Apparently, we were looking for further concessions, but with tax harmonisation already conceded, neutrality guaranteed and euthanasia dead what more could we possibly ask for? One aspect of their analysis might have been interesting had it been teased out. As with Nice One, the referendum results showed there was a South-County-Dublin -v- the-rest-of-the-country divide. Much as it made the South Dublin pundits politely squirm to point it out, the fact remained that people from their area were a more affluent bunch and this somehow automatically made them both more informed and politically sophisticated (the implication being that people in other parts of the country were, well… whatever).
16 Jun 2008
When, twenty years ago, I read a long article in my local newspaper - The Village Voice – attempting to convince me that the 150 most powerful, most influential people on the planet (Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger, amongst them) were at that very moment shacked up in a top secret location deciding on the future of the universe, I simply didn’t believe it. It was just way too weird. And when the unhinged hack then insisted that this ultra elitist organization – known as the Bilderberg Group – had been meeting in secret every single year since the mid 50s, I decided it was time for me to get out of the East Village and live amongst the sane. First of all, what about the logistics? How do you get future US presidents (Bill Clinton 1991), CEOs of the world’s biggest companies, British Prime Ministers (Tony Blair), royalty (Prince Charles) and other ultra, ultra powerful types (George Soros) to coordinate their conflicting schedules and agree to create the biggest security nightmare imaginable by all arriving at the same place at the same time, all the while keeping the whole thing totally secret from the rest of the world? And, then, why would they bother?
12 Jun 2008

I'm bummed that my close friend and video artist Dimitri De Butleir was tragically running out of camera batteries when he caught me in an act of spontanaiety yesterday, making it look like I'm an unusually slow roller.

And also that he spliced out the supremely cool part where the LAPD had just threatened me with ADD LPRR for yelling 'COPS SUCK!' after they (the cops) had been giving an unnecessarily hard time to some tightropewalkers for strapping their lines to some date palms. How was I supposed to know the date palms were Historic? 

Everybody deserves to live at least a part of their life in New York. And I will forever thank The Lord that he let it happen to me. 

But, on the other hand,  soneone once said that, if the world were a big bag and you turned that bag on its side, the bits that fall out are Los Angeles. Well, I'm something that falls out of a bag.

10 Jun 2008

In my efforts to flush out planning nonsense wherever it might be, last week I began implementing my new policy of placing ads in the Classified sections of the local newspapers, inviting ordinary folk to assist me in my quest.

                                                                                                        

Carlow, where I know from my own experience as well as from discussions with others that things might not be as they ought, was first up. So. I sent the following copy off to the Nationalist and asked them to include it in their next issue:

If you are having a frustrating or difficult time on a planning application; if you feel you are being treated unfairly by the planning authority; or if you think that the Council is being in any way unreasonable with you on a planning matter, email me in complete confidence at info@garrymiley.com or go to my website at www.garrymiley.com

I received this response from the Nationalist:

 

Gary,

 

Thank you for your e-mail. I have been asked to run your advert passed the ASAI http://www.asai.ie/ in order to check its suitability for publication in our title(s). I will come back to you as soon as they respond to my query.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Advertising Executive

The Nationalist

(The ASAI is the Advertising Standards Authority.)

 

Then I received another email from the Nationalist:

Gary – the ASAI have come back to me to confirm that although the ad content does not infringe their code of standards, we are entitled to use our discretion in the matter of its publication. In the circumstances our General Manager has decided that it is in our best interests not to publish.

 

I apologise for any inconvenience caused.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Advertising Executive

The Nationalist

Hillcrest, Hanover, Carlow

10 Jun 2008
Cutting through years of history and skipping some unbelievable backstory, Kilrush Town Council recently began putting it about that they needed to move from their current home in the old courthouse in the middle of town to a larger facility. Several developers presented themselves as possible suitors, including the owner of an ideally located, newly renovated, perfectly sized building who offered the Council his turnkey solution for €1.7m +/-. (I don’t know much about the other offers, but I’m told that each in their own way had their merits.) Anyway, Suitor Number One was kept at arm’s length – in that arms length way that only Local Authorities can do – the Town Manager, Bernadette Kinsella, was playing her cards close to her chest.
10 Jun 2008

This is lovely. Thanks Mark.


9 Jun 2008

The Yes Campaign people were so busting-their-guts about Declan Ganley’s success in effectively communicating legitimate concerns about the substance of the Lisbon Treaty they resorted, as all pseudo-intellectual elites do when the hoi-polloi are in danger of thinking for themselves, to the Mud Raking Conspiracy.

Apparently, because Ganley once met a retired mid ranking US Airforce bureaucrat who’d discovered a loophole in some legislation which led to a secret meeting with some Eskimos which permitted mobile phones to be installed in Iraq which turned seven people in Galway into neo-cons, the whole No Campaign is a disgusting attempt to suck us into a nuclear attack on Iran. Or something.

Oh, these bloomin’ conspiracy theorists! Why, that’s just like saying some prominent Yes Campaigner – oh, I don’t know… say, former head of the WTO (as well as every other international globalisation quango ever invented) Peter Sutherland – is part of a giant world domination conspiracy, just because he’s a core member of the Bilderberg Group. (Bilderberg – you know, the most elitist (some say sinister) private club in the world which counts amongst its members a smattering of former and soon to be U.S. presidents, uber neo-cons Paul Woflowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, some German Chancellors, British Prime Ministers and (Lisbon Treaty author) Valerie Giscard D’Estaing, not to mention the CEO’s of the world’s biggest corporations, conglomerates and banks and which meets privately every year to impose/discuss strategies to protect the western political-economic way of life from communists and Islamists). Because that would be stupid.

On the other hand, were we to let our imaginations wander for a sec, the presence of a teensy-weensy global pro Lisbon conspiracy might help us to understand why Sutherland, such an unbelievably smart man and probably the only person in the country who really actually understands the Lisbon Treaty, does sometimes have some inexplicably Bilderberg Avatar moments.

Like that time when he said that by voting no Ireland would be ‘sleepwalking into catastrophe’: was the ‘catastrophe’ he had in mind the fact that he wouldn’t get the plum Euro President job which prominent Bilderbergers would like to see him get? And last week when, in a moment of apocryphal acid-trippery he said ‘a sense of outrage would permeate Europe’ if we vote Lisbon down, was he really thinking about the fall from eminence he’s currently suffering as the Bilderberg Gang get together for their annual gossip outside Washington D.C. at this very moment? (Curious timing, by the way.) And when he said that the Lisbon Treaty was necessary to tackle climate change, did he forget that he is currently the boss of BP?

Okay, now let’s drop this stupid Jim-Corr-type nonsense and get back to reality.

So, where were we? Oh yes, in an igloo with that dreadful Mr. Ganley hatching plans for world domination with the Eskimos…

6 Jun 2008

Somebody who speaks German, please tell me that there's some sort of clever irony in the headline that is funny and non rascist in German even if it appears otherwise to the rest of us.

6 Jun 2008

This is me in a moment of Universal Truth

A while back there was this thing going around the internet: English comedian Peter Kay’s Universal Truths. A collection of wry observations about the meaning of life, including, for example, his conclusion that tri-angular sandwiches always taste better than rectangular ones.

Anyway, over the years I myself have been thinking a little bit about the meaning of life and have come with some universal truths of my own.

For now, I’m prepared to share with you the ones which, possibly, more people than just me will find relatively universal. If you want to know my universal truths which probably apply only to me, you'll have to share your own weird Universal Truths first.

Here we go…

- Daddys' girls make better wives.

- People are at their most unnatural at Parents’ Association meetings.

- No matter how often it happens, it’s always surprising when gay people are good at sports.

- If someone isn’t really a nice person, they usually always own a Blackberry.

- Global warming is the boringest ever threat to the future of mankind.

- If you’re watching an art house movie, it’s not any good if it doesn’t have the sound of cicadas and/or crickets during the slow, atmospheric parts.

- If you’re watching a movie, the English guy did it.

- People who like being on committees aren’t into reading.

- People who like Lord Of The Rings aren’t good at maths.

- Car-salesmen have a very poor sense of direction (this is really true - I've had two car-salesmen clients and neither could find their way around a building).

- Before there were mobile phones, insecure people weren’t so noticable.

- If someone makes a peculiarly accurate prediction about what’s going to happen in the future and the tape of them making the prediction is played back after the fact on TV, it’s never as interesting as you think its going to be.

- If you have just witnessed with your own eyes a massive terrorist attack in your home town which has left hundreds of people dead and injured and you announce your intention of joining in the hunt for the perpetrators, you’re wife will tell you you’re overreacting.

So, Barack will be leader of the freeworld after all. Great news for the Middle East, the economy and such, but one of the reasons I think it's so excellent  is because of a story which was going around the internet a while back. Don't know how true it is, but here goes... Back when the movie The Bodyguard was doing the rounds and during his famously diffident college days when he was a total nobody, Barack crashed  a drag themed fancy dress party dressed as Whitney Houston. 

He must have made a very good Whitney because he was chatted up to for the entire evening by the real life Kevin Costner who was the guest of honour.  

*

Frustrating Epsom Derby this year - no real stand outs. Maybe/possibly Casual Conquest is what they say he is, but he's no great value at 4/1.

I'm going a tenner to win on Doctor Fremantle at 10s, and a  tenner each way on Alessandro Volta at 25s. If you can you beat those prices Paddy (Matthews), we have a deal. 

Have a great weekend, everybody, and keep voting No.

5 Jun 2008

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a piece for the Tribune about the Public Accounts Committee hearings into the Ballymun Regeneration Project and how (it seemed to me at least) Roisin Shortall gave the General Secretary at the Department of the Environment, Gillian Tallon, an easy ride in a situation where a project is running €500m over budget, is six years behind schedule and where there appears to be no real evidence that anyone was about to get a handle on things.

What I thought odd was that FF’s John Curran had gotten things off so well - setting an unmistakably serious tone. But when the time allotted to him for 'cross examination' came to an end, however, rather than picking up on the strands of Curran’s valid and probing line of enquiry (which would be the norm in these instances) Shortall took a different tack. Maybe I completely misunderstood, but it was as if she wasn’t aware of the fact that this was a hearing about a not-fully-accounted for half billion euros.

Sadly for us (but not for him), John Curran has received a promotion. He’s now a Minister of State, which means he is no longer a member of the Public Accounts Committee and, if I understand it correctly, is not permitted to contribute to the Committee’s final report on the matter. From what I’ve been told, John is concerned that the gravity with which he views the problems with the Regeneration Project will not now be reflected when the report is finally presented.

Our only hope is that other members of the Committee – Jim O’Keeffe and Ciaran Cuffe amongst them – will not let this one slip and bring focus to an issue which belongs on the front pages.  

On a more pleasant note...

5 Jun 2008

I suppose the younger element of the Dispatch's demographic (if there is a demographic (or a younger element)) won't know who Uinseann McEoin was. For the rest of us, this is from this morning's Times.

'THE MEMORIAL service for architect Uinseann McEoin, held in historic Tailor’s Hall, nearly did not happen, in a way that would have appealed to the noted conservationist.

About 100 mourners – who were also celebrants of his life – found themselves unable to enter the hall, because another party had requested that a fire officer to do whatever fire officers do when “one or more are gathered together in a confined space”.

In this case the antique building had to be inspected and numbers counted. For a while it seemed the entire attendance were about to be enrolled in An Taisce, which apparently would have allowed Uinseann’s admirers to partake in the consumption of food, drink and merriment which was Uinseann’s wish – under some different by-law.

After due process and some legal discussion, the service proceeded.

Rather like the stray horse which has been known to stop a jockey’s funeral, the irony was not lost on those present, as they heard fulsome tributes to McEoin’s work in saving many of Dublin’s historic and neglected buildings – including Tailor’s Hall, where a local branch of the 18th century United Irishmen was founded. He was a sometimes irascible, but always idealistic, campaigner and celebrants heard tributes from mountaineers, republicans and conservationists – reflecting the many interests of his life. And Tailor’s Hall stayed open ...'

He would have laughed and laughed and laughed...

4 Jun 2008

Here’s a secret that’s now so well known throughout South Tipperary it’s hardly worth keeping it from the rest of you.

Apparently, there’s a private investigator snooping around Council offices looking into variety of unusual planning situations.

Its all related to that story from a few months back where a convent in Clonmel Cashel (sorry, my careless error) gave the Council some land but only on the condition that it remain an amenity for the community. For reasons no one really fully understood, the Council proceeded to rezone the land to permit commercial development, increasing its value to the power of n. Very few people were happy.

Well, apparently, one of the unhappy parties  in the complicated affair has hired a private eye -someone with a serious reputation from previous high profile unpleasantnesses - to get to the bottom of things. He’s been talking to quite a few people including developers and planning officials. When I find out more I'll let you know.

And, by the way, I've decided to start placing ads in local newspapers to encourage people to contact me with local planning anomolies/situations/wrongdoings/unfairnesses, etc. First up is Carlow.  

3 Jun 2008

According to Sunday’s Indo, there’s a good chance the U2/McFoster Tower won’t be going ahead after all and, like everyone else in the world, I’m okay with that.

Except that there is a bit of a downside. With its probable demise, people will now be less likely to ponder just how unprofessional, questionable, dodgy, muddled and public-money-wasting the ten year McDrama has been. When it was a hot issue a few months back, I felt tempted into lobbing a Freedom of Information request into the DDDA offices to try to get to the bottom of it all, but with the McFoster now not likely to materialise, who’d be interested? And, anyway, unless you already know exactly which documents you want to see and which folders they are in, the bureaucrats will invariably find ways to steer you way clear of the facts (funny how bureaucrats will always find ways to outfox the likes of you and me when we’re looking for information, but never the Sean Dunnes or the Johnny Ronans when it comes to negotiating deals.) 

The other downside is that the non development of the Tower will take the sting out of any possible criticism of what’s actually been going on in the DDDA for the past ten or so years – how flexible and accommodating its development plan can be when it suits, how its planning decisions are made and, most importantly, how COMPLETELY UNACCOUNTABLE to anyone the Authority really is. If the ordinary Irish had a handle on what's going on down there, there’d be rioting on the streets.

If I thought there was a market for it, I'd have a go at writing up the DDDA story. I might do it anyway. 

3 Jun 2008

The 'new me' says I should stop taking pot shots at the Irish Times. Because, when you’re cocking a snoot at the Times for their planning/environment coverage you are, let’s face it, taking a pop at Frank McDonald. Which isn’t fair. Because, no matter how much you/I disagree with his more recently published views on planning chose divers, Frank really does deserve credit for shining a light on what was happening planning-wise in this country during the 70s and 80s. I’m not joking here – no matter what you think or say, he deserves credit for that. It will be his legacy. As legacies go, you could do a lot worse.

On the other hand…  What in the name of the Lord is this 'Academy of Urbanism' the IT has been reporting on for the past while? From what I can tell it’s an organisation that purports to, in some way, seek out and promote the world's best examples of urban design and invariably finds them.. on Blackpool pier. 

It's the beginning for a short week and I'm feeling sporty, so let’s play a game called Spot The Difference.

This years Academy of Urbanism award winners were announced in the Times a couple of weeks back. What I want you all to do is read the actual award's coverage as it appeared in the Times, then read the version below in which I’ve cunningly introduced some potentially humorous differences. See how many you spot. Here’s the original:

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0516/1210844562887.html

Here's the one with the subtle changes:

NOT ONE of the six Irish nominees for the Academy of Urbanism’s awards this year has survived on the shortlist, which was announced last night at a gala, red carpet event at the Cutlers’ Hall in, eh, Sheffield.

Both Belfast and Cork had been nominated for the Great World City award, but the two chosen by a vote of members of the academy were Hull and Wolverhampton.

Killester was in the running for the Great 'Ester’ Award, but instead the academy chose the English towns, Chichester, Chester, Manchester, Cirencester, Rochester, Gloucester, Dorchester, Towcester, Leicester and Winchester.

Rathmines, described as “a vibrant place just outside Dublin city centre with a unique history, beautiful garden squares, splendid public buildings and a beautiful Victorian architectural heritage”, was another Irish also-ran.

It lost out to the “bustling” Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, the Lace Market in Nottingham and the Stockbridge in Edinburgh for the 'For Every Cappuccino Joint There’s A Dodgy Internet Café' award.

Donegall Street/Royal Avenue in Belfast lost out to two famous streets in London – upmarket Kensington High Street and Portobello Road in the 'Hanging Baskets Hide a Multitude of Sins' award.

Mayor Square in Dublin’s Docklands was among 10 nominees for the Public Place Nobody’s Ever Heard of Award, but it was omitted in favour of some even less recognisable nonentities called Crosby Beach which is by all accounts sort of near Liverpool; and something called North Lanes which you’ll find at the junction of the M6 and the M something else.

The Academy chose Hadrian's Wall and Newcastle's Byker over the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Wailing Wall and the Walls of Jericho in the Iconic Walls award. 

3 Jun 2008
I’m trying to understand what happens at a meeting attended by the Taoiseach and his advisors on setting up a taskforce to address the criticisms of the now famous OECD report which pointed to some serious failings in the Irish public service system. The challenge facing the Irish public service is that, although we're a very small country with few, if any, public policy experts of international repute (certainly not in planning anyway), we still have to provide a service which in every respect is a match for those of our larger neighbours. It’s not an excuse to say that our planning and transportation systems are a mess just because our population is too small to produce experts of sufficient calibre. Whenever it becomes apparent that home grown expertise is not available to us in a critical area, the obvious way to deal with things is to seek advice from abroad.