Monthly Archives: September 2009

Fab Vinnie, David Lee Roth and Michael O Leary

Back in the early eighties Dave Lee Roth, the spandex wearing ‘wella’ haired front man for 80’s superband Van Halen was being interviewed by Vincent Hanley otherwise known as ‘Fab Vinnie’ for the then hugely popular MT-USA Show on RTE. Vinnie, obviously in awe of the golden haired Roth, couldn’t contain himself and asked him what it was like to be so fabulously wealthy?

With a deft wave of a gold and diamond bejewelled hand, Roth flicked back his hair and looked right at Vinnie with those dreamy eyes and said

‘ You know Vincent, by the time I get to pay my manager, my lawyers, my accountants, my staff, my entertainment bills and the taxman, I’ve just about enough left to buy a small Caribbean island!’

I was reminded of this the other day while watching Michael ‘Arc Angel’ O Leary tell the nation in RTE’s Prime Time debate on Lisbon that we should vote for Lisbon because we are broke, because it is good for business and because he would rather have Europe run Ireland than the ‘Shower of incompetents in Leinster house‘. Michael went on to tell us that he was an important businessman. He employed a thousand people. He paid huge amounts of taxes here in his home country and told the nation that he brought inward investment with his company Ryan Air. Readers should note that it was at that point the memory of Vincent Hanley interviewing Mr Roth nearly a quarter of a century ago popped into my head.

You see, when Michael pays all his taxes etc you can be sure that his take home cheque wont leave him standing at the ATM machine praying to the God of ATM machines to please give him something, anything except that heart sinking message of

‘Sorry you have insufficient funds for this transaction’.

That aside, as long as Mr O Leary pays his fair amount of taxes and covers his costs which I’m sure he does, no matter how much he pays he should not feel that he has any rights or privileges over other tax payers, or that this gives him a right to a bigger say in our democracy than any other citizen of this state, be they taxpayer or welfare recipient.

And there’s where my problem with Europe lies. Deep under my skin I get the creeping feeling that Europe is getting more concerned about markets than people. More concerned about the economic imperative than the  social one. The more I hear ‘We need to be at the heart of Europe winning friends and influencing people‘, I can’t help but wonder if the whole European project amounts to nothing more than a lobbyists paradise? If so why not send a ‘Frank Dunlop’ to Brussels and save all this voting malarkey. Frankly speaking, a word in the right ear from a ‘Frank’ would surely see a jacuzzi in every house in the land. Just imagine it. A Europe with a budget worth billions of euro, covering nearly half a billion people, controlled by a gargantuan political structure where things get done by ‘winning friends and influencing people’ and where the social agenda is being tamed to allow free market conditions to prevail. What’s not to like for  Michael and many like him. It’s a businessman’s paradise!

So every time I hear a well paid business man, politician, economist, banker,  or lawyer tell the nation that they too are sharing the cuts and the pain like everyone else in this seemingly ‘banama’d’ republic, the memory of Mr Roth comes back to me. It rises up when I hear well paid commentators and journalists tell the nation that public sector pay must be cut, education and health cuts must be implemented, that we are all living beyond our means. And it really hits home when one realises that the cuts that the well heeled are taking are more than the average yearly wage of over 80% of the people in this country.

Europe and Ireland. A world of equals? I don’t think so.

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Guest of the Nation

A short film I made some time back about an asylum seeker awaiting news of his family back home. Given the issue of asylum seekers raised it’s head this week I thought it would act as a reminder to people what many of them are running from.

The film highlights the plight of many asylum seekers who have been traumatised and tormented by forces in their own countries, many of whose regimes are encouraged and supported for financial and geo-political reasons by the very countries in the west that seek to stop such people seeking sanctuary. The film hopes to stimulate debate as to whether we should be looking at the push factors in the refugee issue as well as the pull factors.  What drives them to travel great distances, risk life and limb to get to our shores? In many cases it is because of brutality and human rights abuses, in many more it is for economic reasons brought about by appalling corruption and mismanagement of their economies by corrupt Governments, many of whose leaders are welcomed here as ‘Guests of the Nation’ having millions of taxpayers money spent on lavishing them in gifts, honours and trade.

A very different welcome than we extend to the victims of these same leaders.



It’s Not Easy Being Green!

It’s not easy being green. So goes the old Van Morrison song, and in today’s political and economic climate, as John Gormley and the Irish Greens are finding out, never was a truer word spoken (or sung).

Having derived their political power from concerns about the future of the planet they seem to have largely forgotten that they need to have a social vision as well as an environmental one. Their support of Fianna Fail seems to be predicated on them getting what they want in terms of bettering our environment, at the expense of bettering our society. The unwritten rule seems to be that Fianna Fail can bail out banks, slash and burn services, and generally have a free hand at whatever they want as long as they allow the Greens to pursue and implement their own agenda. Listening to John Gormley today on RTE one would get the impression that he was the one responsible for the recent and forthcoming amendments to the NAMA legislation. No doubt someone more qualified than me will remind him that were it not for the grass-roots revolution in their Green party, John and his fellow Greens in Cabinet would have allowed the NAMA bill to go through unchallenged.  Their relative silence regarding the social devastation which much of the McCarthy report will bring on the most vulnerable in society is indicative of their ‘keep the head down and plough on with our own Green agenda’ policy which they seem to have  adopted since taking up their positions in Government. One does not have to be a Pulitzer prizewinner to know that were the Greens in opposition right now, they would be screaming from the rooftops in protest at the McCarthy report and the totally unbalanced Commission on Taxation Report which puts the burden on ordinary citizens and gives more tax breaks to business thus allowing the economic imperative to supersede the social imperative yet again.

Whilst I am in total agreement with them on their relentless pursuit of the Green agenda, I am also fully aware that these Green policies and initiatives will not be sustained if the Green Party is, like the PD’s, decimated and banished to history in the next election. Mr Gormley’s call yesterday for a social dividend to be paid from NAMA might be seen as a sea change but might also be too little, too late. The price they might have to pay for their political singularity could be total annihilation and a collapse in public support for all things Green.

That, dare I say it, could set back the environmental agenda by decades, something which would be disastrous for everybody and which could plunge Ireland into an even deeper economic, environmental, and societal black hole.


Deja Vu

Listening today to An Taoiseach Brian Cowan on RTE’s News at One exhorting us all to vote yes in the second, upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, I had a terrible sense of Deja Vu. You know that feeling where you are sure you have heard or lived through something before?

Our glorious leader warned us all that the best way to keep our commissioner was to vote yes. If we wanted to be at the heart of Europe we should vote yes. If we wanted to retain our ‘influence’ in Europe we should vote yes. If we didn’t want to be shunned by Europe we should vote yes.

Hadn’t I heard all this before not more than fifteen months ago? Did not our Taoiseach Mr Cowan himself tell us all this during the first and very recent referendum? Didn’t he have anything new to bring to the table? Then it occurred to me that I might possibly be listening to an interview which RTE had dragged up from the archives of the last referendum debate, but no, the presenter clearly informed the listeners that the interview was conducted live in the studio today Wednesday Sept 02 2009.

Is it truly possible that this Government thinks that it can win this referendum by repeating the arguments of the last one, arguments which were rejected by the people little more than a year ago? Is it conceivable that despite all the consultations, summits and other activities since the last referendum the Taoiseach can only come up with a repeat of the same arguments put forward back then? Or is it possible that Mr Cowan, having seen the so called ‘legal guarantees’ being exposed as little more than a toothless political agreement between heads of state, now realises that in fact what he is putting to the people next October is exactly the same as was put to them over a year ago, hence the repetition of the same argument as last time? And if this is true then could not Mr Cowan and many on the yes side be accused of corrupting and manipulating our democratic process to suit their wishes over those of the people by presenting the exact same argument which the people rejected on June 13 last year by a sizeable 53.4% of the votes?

A further worrying familiarity is that at the end of the interview Mr Cowan was asked again if he had read the treaty. This was a question he chose, for whatever reason, not to answer, instead preferring to tell us that the Government and all Departments would be ‘au-fe’ (I’ve never really understood what the hell that means) with all aspects of the treaty.

Today’s interview raises many questions which those who have been through the first referendum will find familiar. That is because they are exactly the same questions raised last time out. Questions like, if we vote no will we lose our Commissioner? If we vote no will we be shunned by Europe, and if so, who wants any part of that kind of democracy? Is our influence in Europe dependent on us saying yes to everything Europe demands? Oh and one last but very important one. Has our Taoiseach actually read the treaty this time?

Please tell us that you have Taoiseach….Please….

See what I mean about Deja Vu!



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