27 Apr 2009
The post from a couple of weeks back about the unfinished housing estate in the midlands provoked an unusually large response. My attention was brought to this press release from Richard Young, who’s an SF candidate in Limerick in the upcoming locals. I’ve asked him for some further information and I’ll post it when it arrives.
21 Apr 2009
I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the Ballymun Regeneration Project which, when the Public Accounts Committee held hearings two years ago into the ball of chaos it had become, was running a HALF BILLION EUROS over budget and six years behind schedule (god knows what the situation is now). What happened at the hearings was that FF’s John Curran got proceedings under way by asking The Tough Questions (‘What the hell happened to the half bill?), but his colleagues on the committee (mysteriously) diffused any heat he’d managed to generate by subsequently tossing softballs across the room to relieved senior civil servants and assorted chairs of assorted committees. The hearing fizzled out in that way that only senior bureaucrats can make things fizzle out. And the media had nothing to say about it.
10 Apr 2009
Nobody – not even The Two Brians; not even The Two Brians if they were natural born blonds; not even The Two Brians if they were natural born blonds and members of an enclosed order of nuns – nobody, absolutely nobody in this country  believes that the Irish Government is capable of achieving anything at all in any sphere of activity whatsoever. For example, in our self-esteem-challenged "open economy", every Irish man, woman and child realises that only

a) the next big thing to come out of the United States and

b) a visit from Barack Obama to County Offaly, during which all sorts of dubious honours will be bestowed upon him and grovelling guarantees made regarding favourable tax rates for mid-tech American companies prepared to take up space along the M50,

will bring any kind of improvement to our unemployment mess.

Unfortunately, there are no obvious fixes for any of the other messes our government has made (banking, health care, planning and transportation amongst them) and it is this, the peculiar awareness that we are not capable of doing anything meaningful for ourselves which accounts for the especially helpless air that distinguishes the current Irish recession from the recessions of our neighbours. You see, when all else fails, the British, the French, the Germans and the Americans can still believe in the structures of their governments while we, in contrast, wander about unencumbered by that comfort.

So, what then have we got lose by opting for a spell of emergency government (we’ll find another names for it) during which time we establish, at the very least, the following reforms?

    * A directly elected Seanad (two Senators per County?) with the same powers to legislate as the Dail currently enjoys.

    * An all-party committee system for generating legislation.

    * A separation of Executive (in other words, the Cabinet) and Legislature, with powers to enact legislation passed by the Oireachtas vested in a real President.

    * A reconstituted Local Authority system with sufficient powers devolved to local communities to permit them to build their own schools and crèches as well as provide care for their own elderly, generate their own Development Plans, pave their own streets and generally do all those things which grown up people living in communities are capable of doing without a massive central government finding ways to frustrate them.

We’d lose nothing at all from introducing these few changes. Radical as they may sound to the Irish ear they would represent little more than a greater alignment between our system of government with those of most of our western counterparts (the exception being Britain, whose system stands out as being different from everyone else’s and forms the basis of our own). Furthermore, other people – American bond rating agencies in particular and Germans in general – might begin to have greater faith in our ability to manage our affairs, and that would be no bad thing. But the most important gain would be that we ourselves, free of the stress which comes from suffering under incompetent authority, might, once and for all, discover the dignity of living in a properly structured democracy.

10 Apr 2009

  ... with An Bord Pleanala running months behind in deciding on appeals, to what degree is the Bord’s inefficiency contributing to the downturn in the economy?     

10 Apr 2009
A colleague tells me of an application he lodged to have an existing retail space changed from use A to use B. The space – which was, as I said, existing and requiring no physical alteration either inside or out – measured about 15 ft x 12 ft. But, the comprehensive application was invalidated for, amongst a slew of other things (and remember now, no changes were proposed to the outside of the building in which it was located) not including a contiguous street elevation! And this, in a phase of Irish history when you would imagine planning authorities being delighted at the novelty of applications arriving across their desks?