Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I want, I want, I want!

I want my Gardaí to be managed and resourced such that they maintain public confidence and have the best possible detection rates. I want my Director of Public Prosecutions to be vigorous in the conviction of those who transgress our laws such that we maintain respect for the rule of law. I want my politicians to be bold and courageous as they frame new and reform existing legislation. I want my Attorney General to be the best possible lawyer for the state and remember that he/she serves the Irish people.

Do I want too much? The current shameful statutory rape debacle seems to suggest so.

It appears that only a small percentage of those who are raped ever report the crime. Of that percentage, sufficient evidence is gathered in only a small number of cases. Of those cases that are investigated, charges are preferred in only a small number of cases. Of those cases for which evidence is gathered, the DPP proceeds with a criminal prosecution in only a small number of cases. Of those brought to court, only a small percentage result in a conviction. Of those that are convicted, a fraction serve time in jail. Of those jailed, only a fraction serve a full sentence.

We wonder why there is so much rape and so little respect for human dignity.

It is customary in our country to blame the guards for everything from why we speed to why we take drugs. Despite not resourcing them or taking any interest in how they are managed we expect them to be the best police force in the world – oh, and if it isn’t too much trouble if when you catch Uncle Joe the County Councillor drink driving, could you please send him home with a warning rather than arresting him for attempted manslaughter? In current Statutory Rape fiasco, we can exonerate the boys in blue. Indeed I’d suggest that these fine men and women must be driven spare by a criminal justice system that makes such a mockery of serious crime.

Our Director of Public Prosecutions has no role in deciding what laws are framed. So it is unreasonable to blame him for the bad law that was left on our statute books or for the supreme court decision that has released child rapist(s). It does seem reasonable to hold him in part accountable for the failure to vigorously pursue criminal convictions.

The supreme court, the high court, Justice Mary Laffoy and the Law Reform Commission have illuminated both the underlying problem and the obvious consequences for antiquated laws. There is no point in blaming any of them. The Minister for Justice and the Attorney General however should have no hiding place however. This is their job. Ignorance of the law is no defence.

Had Michael McDowell been a hotelier from Donegal, a school teacher from Limerick or a bookmaker from Wexford thrust into the challenging role of Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, he would have had just reason to plead that he didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation. The fact that he is a barrister by training and profession, a former Attorney General and an enthusiastic holder of the Justice portfolio magnifies his culpability. That he changes the Constitution with the same frequency as you or I would change our underwear, demonstrates he has the capability to respond. That he failed to act and continues to prevaricate is a sad indictment of his competence to hold his portfolio. As a father and a human being how could he not be enraged and motivated to act.

Many years ago Irish society decided that we should protect our children by outlawing sex. In our adversarial legal system, it protected the victims from further terror by legislating that they were incapable of giving consent to sex.

Our children have a right not to be sodomised by adults. They’ve a right to protection by our under the law. They have a right to expect that if society fails to protect them, they at least shouldn’t have to suffer further ordeal in our court rooms. Is this too much to expect?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Radio Gaga Part II

I begin with an apology to Omani and a ‘plague on both your houses’ to Ana Leddy, the Head of RTE Radio One. Some months ago, I began the Blankpaige ultimate radio selection guide. In my view, radio is most certainly a ‘hot’ medium. It just grabs and holds your attention in a way that television never could command. I’m fortunate enough in my work to be on the road a lot and so I get to hear a lot of radio. A Radio Guide would be a sure fire winner, I thought and would stave off the dreaded blogger’s block.

I did my first piece on the morning slot and, if I might be so bold, navigated my way through the choppy waters of programme selection quite well. A few bloggers told me that they liked the cut of my jib and some even altered their listening habits. Emboldened by the ease with which I could knock out a blog post, I performed a similar careful appraisal of the drive time slot. This one, I would hold back until my demanding public could take it no more. Okay, until Omani asked for it. And I was all set to unleash my analysis when what happens but RTE panic and launch their whole new scheduling masterpiece.

The conventional wisdom is that radio is becoming more and more personality driven and none more so than the drive time slot between 5 – 7pm. RTE Radio 1 allow Rachel English and the 5-7 Live team to take you home. Rachel is an excellent broadcaster. Confident, composed and articulate, she has a brilliant radio voice and is very knowledgeable. She has a nice sense of self-deprecating humour and puts her guests at ease. The emergence of her father as a betting pundit by proxy is a testament to the on-air rapport she has developed with her sports reporter buddies. Her only problem is the programme format manacles that her employers insist on shackling her with.

Today FM lead the competitive charge with the redoubtable Matt Cooper, who after a nervous start replacing Eamonn Dunphy, has grown into his own. He still has a tendency to get too caught up in arguments (believing his own opinion of the discussion subject as always worthy of an airing) and tries to elevate minor differences of opinion into fundamental ideological schisms. Nevertheless, Cooper regularly gets the best discussions and there is never enough traffic on the M50 when he is on form. George Hook (Newstalk 106) is everything that Rachel English is not and takes some of Cooper’s worst traits. He mangles the English language, often takes longer asking the question than he gives his guest to answer and constantly cuts across responses with some apparent non sequitur. Yet for all this, he consistently produces compelling radio. His Thursday interviews are a joy to behold.

You really don’t need to worry about RTE 2FM as they seem to use the drive time slot as punishment for their most incompetent or misbehaved broadcasters. Lyric FM produce another fine programme at this slot but really now is the time of the day when you want challenging debate not Mahler’s unfinished tenth symphony. If you are Dublin-based, the brilliant DCAL (Dublin City/Anna Livia) is well worth an occasional blast. Broadcast from the Road Traffic Bureau, their Live Drive programme provides the most impressive and accurate road traffic news interspersed with the most fantastically eclectic music selection.

Both Newstalk and Today FM have brought forward the start of their programmes in some pathetic attempt at stealing a march on RTE. Both stations seem to forget that the drive time slot is called that because it signals the start of the evening rush. Flexitime hasn’t become so widespread that large numbers of people are able to leave the office by 4:30pm particularly given the delays at the beginning of the day.

However, it is the format differences that are most noteworthy. RTE bookends the working day with two broadly similar programme formats. News- and current affairs-heavy, all topics are dispatched after 5 – 7 minutes of discussion. The confrontation which is the order of the day in Moaning Ireland is replaced with a discernible distain in the evening. There is no doubt but Moaning Ireland is unrivalled in the morning. But what RTE fail to notice is that for all our cantankerous ways, Irish people generally don’t like an argument first thing in the morning. For this reason, Today FM wisely steer well clear of current affairs and offer the harmless light-hearted Ian Dempsey to ease us into the day. Each subsequent Today FM presenter becomes slightly more edgy until we’ve been warmed up nicely for The Last Moan with Matt in the evening. Newstalk haven’t done this math either and put on Eamonn Dunphy in an attempt to best RTE at the serious news stuff.

It is in the drive time slot that both Today FM and Newstalk up the ante. Both stations understand that we’ve had a hard day and so are now sufficiently awake to sustain our attention on discussions over 20 minutes and longer. Both cut loose and allow the conversation to flow. Meanwhile, Rachel battles on bravely through interruptions for farm news (could this not be broadcast to the six big farmers on the am band?), business and sport, she fights a loosing battle. The way in which she has to concede the microphone to the various specialist journalists who then conduct their own interviews particularly undermines the programme.

Had RTE adopted the BBC 5 Live drive time format that allows a single main anchor, Rachel English would blow both Cooper and Hook out of the water. You see the conventional wisdom is wrong. Radio is not becoming (any more) personality driven. Radio always is personality-driven. It’s just that it is personality- not celebrity-driven. The medium is powerful enough to convey the personality provided it is not constrained by a broadcasting format that has more to do with keeping contract employees engaged than with public service.

This post is now far too long. So I’ll hold fire on the ludicrous axing of the brilliant Rattlebag (instead of broadcasting it at a time when people who work for a living can hear it).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sprechen vous gaelige?

The always excellent JL Pagano takes the recent Fine Gael proposals to make the teaching of Gaelige and develops an interesting discussion. Drawing on his own education experience, he demonstrates his 'cupla focail' before having a pop at TG4 and Hector O'hEochagain.
JL does it with his customary style and no little humour.

As a child who grew up in England, I was exempted from studying Irish at secondary school. However, I did study French, German and Latin for 5 years as well as Spanish for 3 years.
Maybe I'm just not a languages person. Despite (or was it because of) these education efforts, I am unable to converse in any of the three European languages even at the most rudimentary level.

I'd suggest that the way in which we teach languages in our schools is what is wrong. We should teach our students with a view to them being able to converse rather than on an ability to read, write and correct grammar in the language. I believe the negative experience of learning Irish that many like JL recall is similarly experienced by those studying other languages in the Irish educaton system.

Maybe it's time that we considered Irish to be like any other European language. Perhaps if we recognised the abysmal command that we Irish (and our nearest neighbours) have of languages, we might be more motivated to reform how we teach our children. That the children in almost every other European country are polyglots gives us a clue to how we could teach languages better.

As an aside, despite not having a word of gaelige, I thoroughly enjoy watching TG4 (with/without subtitles). The standard of home produced programmes is consistently excellent. I watch these programmes in much the same way that I love watching French and Italian movies. I secretly hope that this immersion in these foreign cultures will one day miraculously allow me to speak these languages. Well after all, having French and German grammar beaten into me for 5 years hasn't worked.


(*) Apologies to all gaelige speakers but I've not managed to determine how to add "accent" punctuations in this basic blogger text format.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My kind of Social Partnership

I generally glaze over when it comes to pensions and associated financial matters. However, Jim Power, the Friends First Economist could convince me to take out a different life assurance policy every day and start my own additional voluntary contributions. He's just so interesting, straight forward, articulate and ... well lets face it, incredibly sexy.

I've heard Jim's polemic on Social Partnership several times now. How it is a cosy club for non-elected special interest groups to get to make all the key decisions and ignore the fact that there isn't really a true social partnership. Jim is most convincing. It is a joke - agreeing not to strike (and being rewarded for it) in a small open economy with near full employment and where wages get bid up/down by the market. Social partnership has brought us years of industrial rest but at the price of benchmarking. The 'one size fits all' model just doesn't work for sectors which are so radically different and so differently competitive. Jim argues that the unions want to have an additional negotiation clause for those industries which are doing very well. The unions have been the real winners ; Employers have allowed there competitive base to be eroded and the Catholic Church are still setting the agenda.

Then I thought. I remember when the country was held to ransom by the trade unions. I remember how two or three unions regularly competed with each other for the mantle of defenders of the working class and at the same time, really couldn't give a tinker's curse for the plight of the workers. I remember having a shit salary, tiny pay rises and no prospect of getting another job. I recall wage restraint for years on end for the prospect of 'jam tomorrow'. I remember how US companies wouldn't set foot in Ireland 'cos of it's militant unions.

I remember that in previous partnership agreements a clause was put into effect that allowed employers who couldn't pay the chance of opting out. If a hardship clause could be invoked by IBEC surely it was reasonable to implement a 'time of plenty' penalty also. I notice how despite programmes for prosperity, partnership & peace and sustaining progress we've done nothing about social housing, the poverty trap or the plight of family carers.

I know the current talks performance is all about posturing and pretending to solve an intractable problem. Jim is right, they'll come to an agreement and everyone will slap each other on the back. Crisis averted. However, I'm just glad enough people woke up to the fact that 'win/lose' is always less satisfactory than 'win some/lose some'.

So I wonder who has gained most from Partnership? I wonder if Jim is really just rattling the sabre outside of the tent on behalf of IBEC so that Begg and the boys agree any deal is better than no deal.

Also I wonder why I even care, and why at 23:35 on a Tuesday night I'm writing about social partnership and not snuggled up in my bed. But then when Jim tells it, you've just got to listen. Balance of payments ..... interest rate hikes ....... market economy ....... I'm melting at his feet. Damn those Munster men, they'll send me to a home for the bewildered!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lordy, Lordy Eur a Winner!

Relax, this is not one of those you have won $1,000,000 in a Nigerian lottery but first we most humbly and respectfully seek that you give us your bank details (see Curly K for a more interesting exchange on that!).

No, it would seem that a big lumb of heavy metal and a scary monster has won a major European competition. Major respect to Paul O'Connell and co. And while I'm at it, so to the lads from Finland.

I know who I'd like to meet in a rolling maul!


(P.S. Sincere thanks to the warm hugs which my last post has generated. I now feel positively cleansed as a result of my cathartic vent and positively loved by my blog buddies!)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

No man is an Isle

Domestic upheaval notwithstanding, I feel I have to get this one out of the system before tomorrow’s match in Cardiff. You see, win or lose, it doesn’t really matter. One important question remains.

A friend of mine used to say, “How do you know that a man is a lawyer?” He’d then answer this rhetorical question with the telling line “Don’t worry, he’ll tell you soon enough!” And that’s kind of how I feel about Munster men. What is it about them that makes them want so desperately to tell you that they are from that province - an almost mythical yet irrelevant demarcation of Irish counties?

It’s the first thing they will tell you about themselves. With everyone else it is “Hi, I’m Basil…and I’m a dentist” or “Jacintha Merriman, Oisin’s mother, we live in Blackrock” or “Lovely to meet you, I’m Derek’s other half, Alice”. But no for Munster men, it goes something like “Howya, girl, I’m Enda from Macroom. Irish by birth and a Munster man by the grace of God!”.

I should of course point out that this has nothing what so ever to do with Rugby. As ball games go, rugby seems to have all the disadvantages associated with grown men chasing a ball around a green field with none of the advantages. Any field game were the object seems to be to kick the ball out of the park or send it forward by passing it backwards, has to be considered up there with American Football in the world’s most moronic sports categories.

That said, thanks to the dramatic efforts in recent years, of Munster, I’ve grown to have a begrudging respect for the drama that this band of warriors seem to squeeze out of an otherwise dull spectacle. I would even go so far as to say I not only know the name of a few of their players, I even have a mental picture of their characters. Accurate or otherwise. Peter Stringer is your impish rogue that your mother warned you about. Paul O’Connell is a big hapless huggable cousin from the country who envelopes you with a big hearty embrace. It’s the same sort of hug he gives round bales or a calving cow and it only gets confusing if your name is either ‘Yahoor’ or ‘Betsy’. And then Ronan O’Gara is the guy you knew you should have slept with in College instead of Brian but then you are pathologically attracted to jerks and programmed to repel nice decent boys.

The whole “Munster” thing, I just don’t get. To me, Munster is a nice, if a little dull, town in Germany and is spelt with an umlaut. Munster is the sort of adjective builders use if they want to avoid fierce parochial tribalism. You know, like “Munster Joiner”. If you are from Limerick, you are not sure if they are from Cork and hence to be hated. And then that’s the other thing. Limerick folk hate anyone from the Rebel county. Waterford folk hate Cork people, and Cork people are even despised by those otherwise nice folk from Kerry. Tipp v Cork – let’s not go there. The term “Munster” allows everyone in the southwest to lay claim to the exploits of Cork people without having to concede that a Corkonian excelled at something other than walking out of the team training camp in a strop.

You never ever hear someone from Louth laying the same claim to Offaly success under the guise of being a Leinster man. When has anyone from Longford proclaimed, ‘Irish by birth, a Leinster man by the grace of God’? It just isn’t necessary. ‘You are now entering Westmeath, home of Tom Allen and the Travelling Minstrels’ is not a phrase you hear every day. If you drive across the border into Ulster you don’t get bombarded with ridiculous claims about Monaghan being the largest county in Ireland taking into account it’s undulating terrain. Laois people never tell you that theirs is the only county in Ireland bordered by a county that has a coast line. Well okay they do, but they never put the significance down to some divine “Province”.

The folk down south get misty eyed over the “Munster Final” when everyone knows that it is at least another six weeks before any decent hurling gets played in Ireland. The Connacht, Leinster and Ulster finals in both football and hurling don’t evoke childlike whimsy like a poorly attended horse of a match in Thurles does. Maybe it’s something they put in their hang sandwiches?

Of course, geography isn’t their strong suit – doesn’t anyone have the heart to tell them that Athenry is Galway and not in Munster? Hence it’s probably not the best choice as provincial anthem. (Liverpool FC fans of course bring that sin to ridiculous levels but at least they are sufficiently shamed to change the lyrics.) Maybe that’s what it is. In the primary school curriculum perhaps (because they are not as sharp as the rest of the country), they only articulate the south of Ireland vaguely and hence don’t mark out the boundaries too clearly. It’s sufficient to know that you are a Munster man – even if you are a woman.

It is home to the third largest city in Ireland. By population it is the third largest of four provinces. It has the third largest number of counties of any Irish province. So it is the smallest quarter of the third largest European Ireland and you can’t fly from it to anywhere in the world without a Government enforce stop over en route to Dublin.

So perhaps the province doth protest too much. Maybe it is an innate insecurity that has they clutching for the Munster security blanket. Maybe the fact that Irish life and history has tended to pass them by almost completely has caused them to clamour for attention. If Munster was partitioned from the rest of Ireland in a dastardly plot (as Ulster was - by two men from Munster incidentally) in 1922, I seriously doubt anyone would have bothered initiating a terrorist campaign to free these six counties. Of course in some respects, by their constant differentiation from the rest of Ireland, Munster folk enforce their own cultural partitioning.

Our country is famed as the land of saints and scholars but few if any of these came from Munster. Apart from holding a Nobel prize for literature, Shaw, Yeats, Beckett, Heaney all have the distinction that none of them are from Munster. Never was Joyce. I have it on good authority, that there is much debate in Vatican circles on if there was ever a St Finbarr!

Beating a severely hungover All-Black team by one score sometime in the Seventies seems to have been sufficient sporting achievement to sustain these men of Munster. You just never ever hear Shelbourne fans tell that Matt Busby or Ron Greenwood or some other courteous English gentleman ever described their pitch as being second only Wembley as a playing surface. The atmosphere at Inchicore or Tolka Park is never feted as the “ethereal” Turf Lodge is by men from the South West.

But for all that – and maybe it is despite your protestations – we love and cherish you no differently from any one else from Ireland. We, the rest of Ireland, sincerely hope that you prevail tomorrow and we’ll be cheering you on like you were one of our own. Because you know what, despite your claims of a unique birthright, you are just one of us.

[Disclaimer : The Blankpaige would like to point out that her ex-boyfriend being a Munster man and their recent separation has provided some cathartic energy for the above post. Tony also should be held responsible much of my twisted view of Munstermen. But boy, that felt good! Tune in next time for the next instalment in a series entitled ‘Working through Issues!’]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Normal Service resumes shortly

When I started blogging, I made myself a solmen promise. I wouldn't blog about himself, work or my new car. These three things were important in my life and not the sort of thing that I'd talk to perfect strangers about.

The fact that over the last ten days, I've lost one and had the other two stolen kind of changes things.

But I'm trying desperately hard to hold it together and blogging about losing my brilliant new job (through no fault of my own), my honorable wee car (thanks to some ignorant scumbag) and my boyfriend (thanks to that blonde leggy bitch from his past) in rapid succession, is more than this blog virgin can handle.

Anyway there are so many other things to tell you about. The approach from a political party to contribute to their election preparations (I'm sworen to secrecy, but it does go to show you that politicians are beginning to catch on to this blog stuff). The Champions League Final. Westmeath v Offaly, not! Or the importance of provence to men of Munster.

But all in good time. First, I beg your forgiveness faithful reader for taking my leave without as much as a by-your-leave. I hope you've missed me as much as I've missed your warm embrace. (Right now, even an angry riposte from Twenty Major would be a welcomed interaction!)


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

These days it is the lack of an alternative that really scares me!

Regular readers know that I don’t do politics very well. In fact, I only seem to get exercised about the whole democracy lark when something really annoys me. Now I’ve found a new motivation – fear!

The reason that I’m not ‘in to politics’ is not because I don’t find current affairs or social policy interesting. It is like religion – great in concept but the organised options just don’t inspire. I’m an ‘a la carte’ person. I pick and choose my views on subjects and these just don’t align with party politics.

Each party has some ‘flawed pedigree’ that repeals me from their otherwise easy charms. With Fianna Fail, it is the shyster/cute hoor complex that seems to be a prerequisite for party membership. I get the feeling that intellectually they are at the front of the class, it is just that they are pathologically driven to screw everyone over. Apart from being founded on the principal of a collective abhorrence of Charlie Haughey (not in itself unreasonable), my biggest issue with the Progressive Democrats remains their odious Minister for Justice. In my opinion, he’s a boot-boy bully who has done untold damage to our criminal justice system and has single-handedly brought the PD’s into disrepute. Frighteningly, Labour who should be most attractive to my left-of-centre views, elicits no particular strong emotion. Under Pat Rabbitte’s stewardship, this party evoke nothing more than a dull irritating pain in the butt. Mr Rabbitte’s smart-arsed wise cracks just annoy me and don’t enthuse me to support his party.

My mother had an expression that she reserved for people who were mentally or physically handicapped. “God bless the mark”, seemed to explain away all sorts of unjust afflictions. This saying comes to mind every time I encounter a Fine Gael activist. Like a gormless fool that you know you shouldn’t laugh at, I can’t help but smirk at poor Enda’s hapless efforts. Being less crooked or cunning than the other shower is as damning a raison d'être as you can imagine. Like “Wales, it isn’t as bad as it sounds” or “Donegal, up here it’s different”, if Fine Gael was a holiday location it would be Beirut. Perhaps not as bad as Rammalah but not exactly the Seychelles.

But I’m mixing my metaphors and I apologise.

The latest Fine Gael campaign showing a presidential Enda Kenny sums up both the lovely Mayoman and his party. “I’ll sack the wasters of tax payer’s money” as a slogan doesn’t quite do it. It has all the hall marks of why poor Enda flatters to deceive. He can’t resist the temptation to add five or six unnecessary words into each sentence. This gives the impression of a man who doesn’t want to offend, isn’t sure of his ground or is just helplessless caught in the headlights like a startled bunny.

In the interests of making Fine Gael more accessible, could I suggest the following improvements?

Enda : “I’ll sack those FF wasters” (Now we know who proposes to sack)

Enda : “Sack those FF wasters” (Recognising that it is the electorate who does the hiring and firing)

Enda :”Stop wasting Tax Payer’s Money” (Keeps the focus on the problem, not the largely irrelevant sacking)

Enda : “FF are wasting Tax Payer’s Money” (A more direct confrontation that lays blame unambiguously)

Enda : “I won’t waste Tax Payer’s Money” (Creates the impression of FG in power, something the electorate struggle to conceptualise)

If you offer no alternative to the incumbents in terms of policy and you only differentiate yourself from them on the basis of what you don't have, I think it is hard to convince anyone to vote for you. Being a pleasant, decent guy is not enough when you are up against a pleasant, decent guy who happens also to be a bit crafty.

Paige Harrison political consultancy service is available to all parties irrespective of the extent to which they have no distinguishing features. For a one-off no obligation consultation, please email Paige at paige.harrisonATgmailDOTcom.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Aud-aciously De-fence-less

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I've r-jigged my blogroll links recently. (Well in actual fact, I can't fathom blogroll but have been able, whenever mentally alert to insert the appropriate html code into my blog file.)

Recognising the fact that the brilliant
JL Pagano has adjusted his blog habits, I've added his main blog which I only occasionally visited. The bloggerati cognoscente know that JL is the Godfather of Blogging.

I realised that there are many bloggers that I visit via a circuitous route - I link to one blogger find his links to another etc., etc. So I've added these links also.

Now I realise that the one blogger who has been constant in my blog life doesn't appear on my blog links. Given that these are some of the links that inspire me, I must rectify the situation.
Fence is an interesting blogger that, if you havent, you really should check out. I can't say that I always understand where Fence is coming from but you can always guarantee that it is pretty cunning! 100,000 apologies to you Fence for this heartless oversight. I've no excuse other than my incompetence.

Still in two minds about adding
Twenty Major as a link. I know that he is the head blog boy but being a bit of a contrarian, I prefer not to be that obvious.

Update :
I'm not the kind of gal that casually throws about a blog link but like everyone else, I'm a sucker for the old subliminal messages! Also, it is important that everyone has a medically qualified blogger to turn to every now and then. For these reasons and because Springsteen-excepted she has a good taste in music, I strongly recommend that you check out Auds for a dose of reality. Having avoided the health service for most of my adolescence and now increasingly having to access it, I suspect I will be turning to her more and more!

But who else is out there that I should be regularly checking out?
Do let me know.

To : Marian Finucane, RTE Radio 1

Dear Marian,
Perhaps it was unwise to tune in this morning, what with me suffering the after effects of one too many G&T’s last night. You see I’ve just started a new job, and trying to be sociable, I agreed to mark my first week in situ with a spontaneous first Friday drink with my new colleagues.

With no particular place to be or things to do, I lay in bed reading all morning and sought a bit of company by way of RTE Radio 1. I heard you interview that very nice man from the GAA, Sean Kelly. A man who has won universal praise for his delicate, yet purposeful, leadership of Ireland’s largest amateur organisation.

Answering all your questions with characteristic self-deprecating Kerry humour, you pressed him on the GAA’s recent renewal (for one year) of their sponsorship deal with Guinness. Outrage and horrified, you demanded with, no little indignation, to know why the GAA was taking the Diageo corporate buck.

Sean prefaced his answer by explaining first, the steps that this amateur Sporting organisation had done to try to counteract the scourge of excessive drink and drug taking by the Irish youth. "But this is so hypocritical!" you interjected more than once before Mr Kelly could answer your question. Why take the corporate sponsorship and tell the kids, ‘do what I say, not what I do’.

Please allow me to explain what is hypocritical. The state broadcaster pays you an obscene amount of money to broadcast. Much of this money is generated by advertising on RTE radio and television stations. The majority of the revenue comes from adverts for alcoholic beverages.

It would impress me a lot more if you had turned your indignation on your own employers. Your station's broadcast of 'Desperate Housewives' is sandwiched between persistent advertisements for Lindeman wine. (Kind of ironic given that one of the current story lines is a woman battling with alcoholism!) Ryan Turbidy regularly gives away alcoholic beverages to his studio audience. ‘How low can you go’, is a television programme the purpose of which seems to be how much alcohol can you consume in foreign lands and still talk coherently to a television camera.

There are many professional sporting organisations that accept sponsorship by drinks companies but this never seems to be an issue. The Heineken cup has been feted as a near ethereal experience. The Irish Derby has become the property of Budweiser. I doubt that Diageo’s sponsorship of the All Ireland Hurling Championship is the biggest single reason for why so many young people drink to excess. Any more than the Football Championship causes impressionable young men and women to sign up for a mortgage with Bank of Ireland.

As a society we have not managed to develop a responsible attitude to drink. But like blaming Gardai for road deaths, it is ridiculous to suggest that the GAA promotes hard drinking among our youth.

I wish that I had grown up in an area that had a strong GAA organisation. If so, I might have played sport a little longer in my youth. I might have developed better social skills that would have enabled me to celebrate major milestones in my life without recourse to an alcohol crutch.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Back in the Game!

Blankpaige is pleased to report that normal clock functioning has now been restored. The management would like to take this opportunity to thank your patience while this minor technical hitch was rectified.

My sincere thanks (as ever) go to the brilliant Omani who tends to spot when things go right and when things go wrong. (There is so much more to say on that subject, but I'll wait until I'm a little less delicate.)

Sun is shining. Everyone is wearing shades. Isn't Dublin just paradise?


Friday, May 05, 2006

Ahead of the Curve

Blankpaige likes to think of herself as a girl that is ahead of the curve. So it comes as a particular point of contention that my clock is not showing the correct time.

I suspect it is something to do with GMT/Summertime differences. But that would require me to think, amend html code and remember my blog account password.

I'd much prefer to go and have a cool G&T with my new work buddies who haven't lynched me after my first day as the new girl on the job.

Have a love filled weekend,

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Brave New Language

All this (lack of) talk about Beckett, got me thinking. Well in actual fact it got me reading. And some. I read so much that I got a headache reading. Okay so it was only the Irish Independent, but I tell you sometimes that sub-Editor is a genius of Joycean proportions. You kind of get the gist of things if you just say the words without really believing that they mean anything. The evocative sounds, the unforced assonance, the eye-catching alliteration it’s like a crazy kaleidoscope of words until something half-sensible jumps out at you.

But my excuse for reading the Indo (stuck on a broken down train south of Sydney Parade) is another blog in itself. It’s just that I feel too violated to commit that to Blogosphere just yet.

Any rate, what with the marathon newspaper read (I even read the obituaries and death notices)(remember will them well by giving to the Irish Cancer Society) coupled with a heavier than usual reading workload has left my brain somewhat addled.

A very nice client is paying me good money to analyse a boring briefing document about investment potential in the next Bratislava. All I can see are the words. They’ve no meaning. No matter how hard I try to construct sentences or half-thoughts, it just won’t come. Where is the Indo Editor when you need him?

This set me thinking. What is it about language that it must evolve? And why is it that its evolution seems to be a fashion-ridden as every other field of human endeavour? And is there an element of survival of the fittest/natural selection?


The era of the long sentences with immaculate, if unexpected, punctuation brought us such gems as…..

A Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play.
I’d like to teach the world to sing …
This tape will self destructed in ….
We have the technology to rebuilt it
Now why don’t you…..
Now that’s what I call…..


This decade showed us how we’d exhausted all know word combinations (and lifted all possible signature tune/avert slogans) that we could start to abbreviate whole sentences…..



Joining the best of the two previous decades, in this era we created ‘descriptive phrases’ and then abbreviated them

Dual Income No Kids, Yet. (DINKY)
NIPPLE (New Irish Professional Person Living in England)

If abbreviating sentences into a series of letters wasn’t enough, then we started to abbreviated words by dropping vital letters …..


You can tell texting baby boomers by their ability to combine word abbreviation and sentence abbreviation with the ancient 70’s art of spelling their every thought out in detail, if not in words.

Snd me txt msg b4 skl if ur goin to shps at mmm-tme.
Hpe u lkd de prsnt I gt it 4u in brn toms. Hve rcpt if it dnt fit u.

And all this is by way of introduction to a message that I got from a work colleague. I can’t for the life of me make out what it means. Although I believe he may have been drunk and horny when he wrote it. Which brings me back to Joyce n Beckett.

P, lv da skt u wr wrn 2day. It rlly shws of u lgs n ? a fntstc rse u hv. Wood lv 2 rde u rite nw – E

Answers on a blog card to …..

Tuesday, May 02, 2006