Less about the world, more about me.

Month: October 2010

Still a Progressive Democrat!

I was questioned recently about my virulent hatred of Fianna Fàil, while trumpeting, with pride, my past membership and support of the Progressive Democrats. Fianna Fàil were not alone in Government these last 13 years. The PDs were right there with them, part and parcel of those successive administrations, which destroyed our Country. The pride however, remains?

I know I am unquestionably a hypocrite and that I’m inconsistent, but I retain my pride for two reasons. The first reason is that the PDs, or we the PDs, paid the ultimate price for our negligence. We no longer exist and our place in history will be forever tarnished for having had a hand in this economic tsunami.

There is something quite bracing in receiving one’s righteous punishment. We erred, erred dreadfully and we were destroyed. Justice was done and even if one is on the receiving end of that justice, its very rarity makes it well worth the experience. It also helps with the guilt of course, well it does for those who accept that guilt is an appropriate response to the mistakes of the past.

The second reason for me still having pride, in being a PD, will take a little longer to explain. It has to do with their place in my history.

I still remember that evening, in 1985, when the formation of the Progressive Democrats made it onto the news. I was 11 at the time, but even at that age and coming from an apolitical family, I was instantly a supporter.

Back then there were two themes which dominated our reality; the recession and Haughey. Coming from a working class family, I understood even then, what a recession meant. The shortage of money, the parcels from America and the less than salubrious accommodation were my family’s experience of that time. It was not beyond the wit of a child to know that we were at or near, the bottom of the pile. (it was also a time of mass emigration, a 60% tax rate, a crippling National Debt, a rampant Black Economy and the Church still had us in its death grip)

And even a child was aware of Charles J. Haughey. Even a child had to take sides in the great narrative of that time. It was either Saint Haughey or Evil Haughey. There was no middle ground and I definitely saw him as evil. At 11 that perception, could not have been altogether of my own creation. Family, friends and media, must have played their part in making me see Haughey as the villain of the piece. Whatever the Genesis of my opinions were, Haughey was the enemy.

I could not see (and still can’t to be honest) any goodness in him and thus I could not feel hope for the future. He did bestride the world like a colossus to my young eyes. He was the leader, he was a strong leader, and if he continued as such, we were doomed. (a big reason why I still mistrust the Irish desire to have a strong man to lead them) Then came Des O’Malley and even more than Garrett The Good, he represented the rising of the people against the scary Overlord. That he came from within Haughey’s own ranks, made him even more impressive.

Yes, I’m being melodramatic, but I am speaking on behalf of a child, a child who became a Progressive Democrat in his heart, at just 11 years of age.

That was then though, I could remain idealistically, even naively, loyal to the PDs, but now I must reexamine my Party and its actions. With so much time having passed, one can now bring twenty-twenty vision to bare on where the PDs went wrong.

For the longest time I blamed everything on Michael McDowell. Just because he was such a poor politician. I still consider him a cut above many TDs for both his intellect and his integrity, but a politician he is not. Two decisions I thought were the killers of our Party. The first was his reaction to a Labour Party Bill on Same Sex Partnerships. McDowell killed it, as he knew it would prove unconstitutional. Making it easy for the left-wing media to paint him as a fascist. He was correct of course and saved the State some millions but the smarter thing to do would have been to back the Bill and let the dice roll.

The second big mistake he made was not knifing Bertie Ahern at the earliest possible opportunity, I really wish he had knifed Berie. Though it would have given our Party an undeserved boost. With the benefit of hindsight however I no longer blame Mr McDowell for a thing. The rot set in, I believe, the very moment that the PDs entered Government in 1989, supporting Haughey as Taoiseach.

I say this as someone who knocked on doors in support of the 1997 coalition. My distaste for FF was still there but I also thought we were a party with a future. I didn’t at the time question what O’Malley had done and I didn’t question what Mary Harney was doing in 1997. It’s is only in the last year that I have concluded that O’Malley (one of the very few people I actually admire) destroyed his own creation by going into Government with his bet noir, Haughey.

In the short four years from its inception in 1985 to the election in 1989, the entire play book of the Progressive Democrats had already become National Policy. Taxes were being lowered and the State rolled back. The Tallaght Strategy formalised this ideological shift, Fianna Fàil and Fine Gael put aside their differences on the economy and began to turn it around, leading to the boom.

The liberal agenda, championed by the PDs also finally began to gain traction. Try to remember that this was a time before even Marital Rape was a crime and that Des O’Malley lost the Fianna Fail whip because he refused to vote against a plan to make contraception easier to access.

I have to wonder what if O’Malley had demanded Haughey’s head in 1989? How different would our recent history have been? Would FF have had to wait all the way to Brian Cowen for a leader untouched by personal corruption? Would our politics have been so reduced? Would we be less cynical about our leaders during this crisis? FF could of course have called the PDs‘ bluff, which may have resulted in our obliteration, but what a way to go.

We are a conservative people and so for their time, the Progressive Democrats were as radical as they come. And their radicalism also offered many people what they wanted most, but could not find in the Ireland of that time, hope!

History may not be kind to the Progressive Democrats, but there are a few of us who will always remember that they did eventually see off Haughey and preside over the destruction of his name, they played a vital role in ending the previous recession and they prevented FF ever again ruling alone.

We were dealt with harshly, but fairly, by the electorate. I just hope the electorate do to Fianna Fàil what they did to us and what we should have spent our entire existence trying to do to Fianna Fàil.

Moral Hazard

As appeared in Letters – Kerryman – 27 October, 2010 edition 2010

There is an ugly term being used by bankers and politicians during these economically troubled times. The term is ‘moral-hazard’ and while moral is in the term, it isn’t in the meaning of the term. Moral-hazard is the dirty little piece of philosophical sophistry that the banks and politicians have invented that will allow them to reenact the evictions of the nineteen century.

What moral-hazard means is that if our government doesn’t beggar several generations of taxpayers to save the banks, instead choosing to save the heavily mortgaged tax payers of today, we citizens would party like twas 1999 and never again pay back a loan.

The banks, the professional lenders, are more trustworthy than we fools who availed of the services of these licensed loan-sharks. Think on that, think hard on that, the politicians, and by politicians I mean all 163 members of the current Dàil, have opted to save the banks at our expense. The men and women whose fabulous wages and outrageous pensions we pay have decided, on our behalf, that it is morally acceptable to save the bankers but morally dubious to save the rest of us.

How do we react to this? How can we react to this? I am hit by my desire for two, apparently contradictory things, fairness and vengeance. If the bank ends up owning my house, then I will want some conditions met before I can be sanguine about being thrown to the State’s mercy.

Moral-hazard is particularly galling as it should also apply to banks, to bankers and to politicians. If a bank is considered too big and important to fail, then why would it concern itself with conducting its business in a proper manner? If the tax payer is always available to bail it out, it can behave in whatever way it wishes.

As for the bankers themselves, well their behaviour is easy to understand. Some got rich through the mishandling of their banks and it seems the worst they face is living off their hefty pensions. Banking seems to be a consequence free profession.

Speaking about consequence free professions however one has to look at the politicians who destroyed our country. Thirteen years of Fianna Fàil rule has brought us from recession to recession, but this time it’s a recession with the added pain of huge personal debt. It took 20 years, from 1977 to 1997 to recover from the previous Fianna Fàil recession, just in time for them to learn from their mistakes and make the this recession the most destructive of them all.

Consequences however for the Fianna Fàil ‘brains trust’ who did this to us? Fat pensions and a delusional refusal to accept that they destroyed us. A delusion so strong that they would rather see politics debased beyond repair than resign, a confusion so deep that they cannot distinguish between Fianna Fàil and Ireland.

Men and women so divorced from normality and morality that come the next election, they can look forward to six figure pay offs, when they are thrown out of office. That is their future, comfort, ease and a few decades of writing memoirs that show it was all the fault of an American bank.

What though, can we do? How can we endure these hardships, while those responsible get to put their feet up and relax on the money we are paying them? How can the pain of every death caused by cut backs, every suicide, every life ruined, every family torn apart by emigration, be placed at the feet of these vile creatures, these bankers and politicians of ruin?

We are exhorted to come out onto the streets in protest. Irish people don’t do protest. What we do is follow, doesn’t always matter who we follow, but that’s what we do. Now we need someone to follow who will make the right promises. Don’t downplay the pain to come, we know now thats unavoidable. Do promise that no one is going to get off easy this time.

Make us just ten promises and Ireland will follow;

  1. Promise us a new Constitution.
  2. Promise us less TDs on significantly less money.
  3. Promise us that incompetence will cost a banker or a politician their pension.
  4. Promise us that this will be back dated to include every member of the Government now in power.
  5. Promise us that the banks will pay back every penny, with interest and without them passing this onto their customers.
  6. Bring the solicitors, barristers, consultants dentists, judges and anyone else, paid for by the tax payer, to heel.
  7. Break the Public Sector Unions.
  8. Eradicate the quangos.
  9. Dispense with all the higher grade civil servants. The tax payer is forced to pay for expensive Government advisers anyway. Why pay double?
  10. Finally and most importantly, any TD not pulling their weight, should be forced to face a by-election.

A Party who promises to remake, punish and lead will be able to save those of us who remain on this benighted island. A new Ireland may just be able to avoid destroying itself again.

The real moral-hazard the Irish people of today face, is if we bequeath a nation worth living in to our children, or do we just pass on our debt?

Atheism for Children

I recently spoke to a class of 7 year olds about Atheism and Humanism. It was in an Educate Together school in Tralee, County Kerry. I found the prospect quite intimidating. I was worried because the audience were 7, not because of any problems with explaining my philosophical stance. I may be a strident Atheist, but if a child asks me about Santa Claus, then I’m playing the believer without pause or doubt. Of course I wanted questions, but the Santa question scared me.

I was sharing a platform with a Biblical Christian and a Moslem. It was to be an explanation of points of view and not a free for all of competitive proselytizing. I was glad of that, converting people to atheism is not something I would ever do. I of course believe the World would be a better place if magical thinking was consigned to the history books, but atheism does not provide the warm fuzzy feelings that many people require and can only achieve through religion.

Richard Dawkins is a hero of mine. I do however disagree with him about spreading the word, as it were. Mr Dawkins has a much higher regard for humanity than I and indeed many other atheists have. His zeal is an expression of his devotion to the betterment of his species. Most atheists would settle for a world where simply our beliefs are not outraged. Mr Dawkins wants to show people that our species could create a paradise, if we would but accept reason.

I think many people confuse Mr Dawkins‘ personal contentment and his enthusiasm for the rest of us, as smugness. I suppose so many of us have come to mistrust those who display any degree of certainty that we instinctively think Mr Dawkins must be on the make. It is horrible how cynical we have become, a cynicism that Mr Dawkins seems to have avoided.

None of that entered the class room thankfully. Difficult enough to explain an unfeeling and consequence free universe to children, without bringing orthodox and non orthodox atheism into the discussion. My concern was primarily how to pitch such an idea to an age group this young.

So I cheated, I made sure I was last to speak. This way I could glean some idea of who I was speaking to. One of my brighter ideas I must admit, though the fact that these 17 children were bright and well behaved and interested and open minded made the job of the speakers much easier than we had a right to expect.

My plan was to break my plan up into three parts. First define atheism and humanism, second, play a game of Chinese Whispers and finally talk about kindness, the Golden Rule and the Great Apes.

The first part went OK, but I did slip in an unworthy joke equating God with Harry Potter. In retrospect that was uncalled for, a hackneyed jibe more appropriate for the pub or a tweet. I explained that atheism describes an absence of belief in magical creatures and events. Humanism then is a philosophy of ethics based on reason and logic and science. They appeared to broadly understand these ideas.

The Chinese Whispers portion of the talk was a disaster. Seven year olds are literalists. So the concept of just passing information on as best as possible is foreign to them. It is the correct information or none at all. The game was quickly abandoned and never referred to again. I still think however that it is a good game to play when seeking to demonstrate the probable accuracy of any information passed down from the distant pass. I didn’t however panic, I did vomit in my mouth a little, but still appeared almost as if in control of the situation.

The third and most wordy portion of the talk was a tad under-prepared. I tried to sound bite too many things instead of picking one particular point and knocking it completely out. I didn’t trust the children enough, unfortunately I should have and would have delivered a more coherent and concise speech.

I began with a brief description of the Golden Rule, i.e. ‘treat others as you would have them treat you,’ a maxim as old as civilisation and explained that this was how I tried to live my life. I then explained that kindness is built into evolution and that our species could not survive without it. I then spoke about studies using the Great Apes that proved kindness and fair play are part of what define our closely related species’.

Then the questions began. The two most important were what happens when we die and do I believe in any kind of spirituality (the internal kind not the ghost kind). I was quite abrupt about death. I said we cease to exist, except possibly in the minds and hearts of our loved ones. Glib I know, but with a grain of linguistic truth.

As for spirituality I said that I did believe our species to be unique, we are unique in that we alone can tell the future. We alone know we are undoubtedly going to die (I said ultimate fate instead of die, they are children after all). It is how we deal with this unavoidable futility that I choose to call spirituality. We can embrace despair or choose to live full, kind and useful lives. This is my spirituality. There the talk ended.

I didn’t make a fool of myself and I didn’t misrepresent atheism and I almost avoided denigrating the magic thinkers. So not too shabby. I really hope I get the opportunity to speak on this subject again.

Bring on the IMF

As appeared in Letters – Kerryman – 13 October, 2010 edition


Over the years, there have been many things used to scare entire countries. The Vikings, the Normans, the Protestants (or Catholics), the Communists, the immigrants have all scared or been used to scare populations. In Ireland it used to be the English that scared us. Today however, the rich people, who took over from the English, are telling us that it is the IMF that should be feared most.


The International Monetary Fund is the big scary monster that the powerful, suit wearing, men in Dublin harp on about, when we dare to question why they are mortgaging our unborn grandchildren’s futures. Their argument can be summed up as, ‘if you think we are bad, the IMF will eat your children. ‘


What is the IMF? It is the organisation which tries to keep all financial crises local. They will lend money to nations that no longer can borrow money from the usual sources. They do this to keep the global financial system operating smoothly. It is an organisation which a country goes to when there are no other options. Think 19th Century Poor House. A person would avoid starvation, but only just and pay a painful price.


They are an organisation that cares for one thing and one thing only, financial stability. They don’t do emotions. They also don’t do small print. They will say exactly what they want for their money and what they will want, what they always want, are cutbacks. The young, the old and sick will suffer.


I can’t bloody wait. I can’t wait because I can no longer see any other options. We all know that our Nation must be restructured, must be rebuilt, to save it from our suited men in Dublin. The IMF are the only ones who will break these rich men who are sucking the life blood from our county.


Only the IMF can cut out the cancer of cronyism that threatens our 90-year experiment with independence. The cronyism that is the small number of men that run our Government, our banks, our civil service, our Public Sector Unions and our quangos. This small number of vastly over paid men are guilty of destroying this nation through a combination of greed, incompetence and rank treasonous stupidity.


They still have the power and they won’t give it up. They won’t give it up because just like the previous bunch, the English, they think they are not only entitled to rule and rob us, they think themselves best qualified to rule and rob us.


The IMF will bring with them suffering, there will be tears and despair. They will however give us back our country. We will be a poorer country but we will be a wiser country. We will have learned that allowing a small number of men to run absolutely everything in the country, for their own benefit and their friend’s benefit, is not to be endured. We may then finally see patriotism as it should be, politicians wishing to serve, not to benefit.

Green Party

This is an article that I had published in The Kerryman in April, 2008

It seems that not a day goes by without some reference to the environment. Be it the melting ice-caps due to global warming or eagles being reintroduced to Kerry or stringent planning laws to prevent house building. Decisions are being made and laws passed that seek to reduce our freedoms and choices to make the environment better. How can this be happening, when only 4.7% of the electorate regarded the environment important enough to vote for the Green Party at the last General Election?

Where is the democratic will of the citizenry in a situation where six TDs can inflict their ideology on an entire nation? We now find ourselves having this, tiny Dublin based entity, deciding how we in Kerry should conduct our lives. And the focus of their ire is directed at ‘one-off housing’. There is no democracy in changing a way of life without the agreement of those who are most affected. The values of the Green Party are not our values and in a democracy they are obliged to convince us not impose upon us.

Why however do these city dwellers so object to us building our houses wherever we choose? Why having lost the argument at the last election do they legislate as if they had won?

There are few people living in Kerry today who pine for the past. One would have to be absolutely perverse to miss the unemployment, the emigration, the crippling taxes and the sense of hopelessness. One cannot but be staggered by the new found wealth and energy of our county’s people. Anywhere one turns one can see new houses built and new house being built. Our lost generations are returning to enjoy the prosperity and in their wake we are experiencing the entirely new phenomenon of inward immigration.

Yet the environmentalists say that our house building is objectionable, unsustainable, harmful and even ugly. Would they have us return to the bad old days of stagnation and Christmas parcels from America? Where are their arguments and their respect for our culture and our democracy?

We should not however object to the environmentalist agenda just for the sake of it, we should first examine their case in detail. Give them the respect of the open mind that they seem unable to show us. There are eight headings under which the environmentalists object to one-off housing. They are all about sustainability, which really means that we will suffer in the future for what we are doing now. The arguments are as follows:

1) The environmentalists speak about ‘visual impact’. In other words what we are doing is making Kerry a lot less pretty. Unobstructed views of fields, trees, rivers and mountains are what bring the tourists to Kerry, not apparently the multitude of bungalows, dormers, holiday homes and mansions which have been built in the last ten years. This they say has and will impact on our spiritual and financial well being.

2) One-off housing also leads to increased reliance on cars. I suppose that’s an obvious one really. With everyone spread out then of course we will need to travel more. And public transport can only survive if heavily subsidised by the tax payer, who will also have to keep the roads in good shape. And the car users themselves are going to see the cost of keeping their cars going up and up.

3) Then of course there is the problem of electricity, water, phone lines and sewerage. We now have the most polluted water in Europe. This according to the environmentalists is because everyone has their own septic tank, whose contents are seeping into our drinking water. Plus we didn’t spend the money in the first place to upgrade our sewerage system. And phone lines and electricity pylons cost money, and do admittedly look ugly as they run through the countryside searching out every new house.

4) They also speak about other things such as schools, shops and jobs. The more scattered a population the more difficult and more expensive it is to provide essential services. And as mentioned before, it is becoming more expensive to actually travel to these increasingly expensive services.

5) Then there are the old people, who are used as yet another weapon in the environmentalists’ attack on our freedom. The more our population ages, in our scattered bungalows, the more difficult it will be, to provide the type of care needed to keep older people in their own homes and out of institutions. The number of carers provided will grow hugely and the cost of this will be borne by the tax payer. This is yet again a very expensive outcome.

6) The environmentalists don’t stop at that however. They also claim that we have a moral obligation to people who don’t even exist. They assert that in destroying our environment, we are destroying the environment of the unborn generations that will follow us. How can we be expected to build our homes based on what may be in the best interests of people not yet born?

7) There is also the issue of rural isolation and rural pubs. Without massively subsidised public transport or the relaxing of drink-driving laws then the time honoured culture of meeting up in the local pub will die out. We either stop drinking and drive to the pub or we all live within walking distance of the pub or we pay for someone to transport us all there. Whatever we do the present situation cannot be allowed to continue as in extreme cases it is leading to suicide.

8) Our creaking and crisis ridden health system has it in mind to centralise services. It is hoped that the fewer centres they have the better their expertise will be. This for many will mean eight hour return journeys for things like chemotherapy. So we can have substandard services on our door steps or we can travel for days for life saving services. It appears that where we live will decide if we will survive cancer or not.

This summary highlights the obvious weakness of the Green Party philosophy. They speak to us about prettiness and unborn generations and spirituality when they should be speaking about taxes. Stop talking about the environment and ask us if we areprepared to pay for our current life styles.


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