Friday, October 30, 2009

It’s the Economy Stupid!

Well can you believe it, the country in its worst economic state since the foundation of the state and what do our beloved leaders do? They’re about to shut up shop and take a three month holiday, the Opposition in full agreement. Just imagine someone with a business going down the tubes and taking a three month holiday first. But hold on, On Bord Snip Nua report has landed on their desks, which may upset holiday arrangements. In the meantime we’re told of an improvement in the US and European economies, so all our crowd have to do is sit tight and wait for the ‘trickle down effect’ to take place. The rising tide lifting all boats!
But will the rising tide lift all boats equally? Not if we are to believe the figures that came out a week or so ago. The only growth industry in town is the public sector, where thousands of extras are being employed and in the same breath thousands in the private sector are losing their jobs and joining the dole queues. The pay in the public sector is a fifth more than in the private sector, and it’s nearly impossible to get sacked. For years now the government has been promising to reform the public sector; in other words get it into line with the rest of the country, but so far all they’ve done is set up another committee, On Bord Snip Nua. Their report is out today, and it makes grim reading. Everyone gets a lashing. One can be forgiven for wondering how long it will take for any of its recommendations to be implemented. Apart from a three month break coming up there’s an election in the offing in the not too distant future, and that will surely concentrate the minds of our elected representatives much more than the deliberations of On Bord Snip.
Some time ago I wrote and said that until we became competitive with our neighbours we were going nowhere. This wasn’t any great vision on my part, everyone was of the same opinion, but the powers at head office failed to grasp the nettle. Sure what need was there to do anything. The developers and builders were running the country and the money was rolling in. Now with the country in free fall there’s a great urgency to do something. So what’s their first move? They start with a section of the community that are most vulnerable; cut child benefit, and while we’re at it give them pensioners a belt. Yes I know there was a cut off point regarding the pensioners, but only yesterday I spoke with such a person in that category who told me that he had lost his medical card and had just paid out 90 euro for very necessary heart tablets, and that was only one prescription. Anyone on a lot of medication might find it a financial struggle to keep that up and quit taking the tablets, consequently ending up in hospital on long term care, and that would surely cost more than 90 euro per week or month! And what’s to be done about child benefit. Means testing can be a long drawn out operation and coming to a satisfactory conclusion is difficult to achieve. There are many and devious ways of hiding a true income. Let everyone with children get it, the money will be recouped from the high earners who pay tax. The same criteria can be applied to the medical cardholders. One can only come to the conclusion that the senior civil servants who cook up these grand strategies are not living in the real world.
We live in a crazy mixed up world. The ordinary taxpayer is bailing out the banks, but nobody is bailing out the ordinary taxpayer who has defaulted on his house mortgage repayments and is facing the prospect of having his or her home reprocessed. The banks now own these reprocessed properties and will put them on the market at greatly reduced values, so why can’t they do the same with the overvalued developments they went bail for when the property bubble was at its peak? Financially speaking we have to get in line with other countries if we wish to be competitive so we have to expect cuts in some form or other, but it doesn’t make sense to cut expenditure and raise taxes on the one hand while bailing out banks on the other, or cut primary school funding, and at the same time spend millions of euros on a ‘research corridor’ whatever that is, linking TCD with UCD. I know there is some ‘expert’ out there who will say that I’m talking through my hat. Maybe, but if someone can explain to me in simple terms why the ordinary Joe and Jane Soap have to pay for the crass stupidity of so called financial experts I’d love to hear the reasons.
It was the late President John F Kennedy who coined that cryptic phrase, ‘It’s the Economy Stupid’. It was his answer to a question on the state of the Nation at the time. It covered a multitude and stopped the questioner in his tracks. John F was Irish wasn’t he? Don’t be surprised if it’s regurgitated from one of our own as he/she packs their bags and hurries off on their three month break. Yrs Jeffers.

OXEGEN 2009 a Muddy Success
Good Humoured Youth, Excellent Gardai and Management programme
ensure the festival finds favour with all
Local groups and businesses benefit greatly by festival spin-off
Floppy sunhats, micro mini skirts or short shorts (v short) and wild wellies were the order of the day for party animals at Oxegen 2009 – that’s the female attendance I’m referring to! I can tell you the lads in work would have been happy to move their desks on to main street, Naas as they oogled the wellie brigade make their way to Punchestown for one of the biggest and most impressive festivals to date.
Lady Ga-Ga, The Killers, Lily Allen, Blur, Elbow, Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol featured amongst a mega line-up of top Irish and International artist; only the latter two would be of interest to an ol’ rocker like me. I’d have killed to see A.C.D.C. “na-na-na-na” in June but was at the Irish Derby on the day………
New Mobile Drug Testing
A new mobile drug testing laboratory was set up on the site by the Garda Forensic Unit, the first of its kind in Ireland and will be established at all similar events in the future. 80,000 attended the festival with over 375 drug’ seizures and 114 arrests (as opposed to 137 arrests in 2008). At least one serious assault took place on the Friday night and another youth was rushed to Tallaght Hosptial in the early hours of Monday am, unconscious with severe bruising to the head. The youth admitted to drinking 7 cans of beer during the previous night and could only recollect being offered a “slug of vodka and white from a girl who entered their tent”. When the youth recovered consciousness, he had no memory of any incident that could have led to his receiving a severe beating or indeed could not recall anything after his having drank of the vodka. Further testing indicated the possibility of Crystal Meths having been present………scary for his parents who were told that a kick to the side of his head was only mms away from causing his eye to have ‘popped out of its socket’……..
I know that’s a dreadful worry for parents of youth from 16 years and upwards; its always been the main aim of any teenagers, underage and over, to have alcohol, that’s nothing new. Its bad enough worrying about them drinking when they are underage anyway but then the added fear of their drink being ‘spiked’……..
80,000 in attendance
All in all, over 80,000 people descended on the 450 acre site of Punchestown over 4 days and only 2 major assaults and 114 arrests for possession of drugs/drug dealing offences, drink driving, aggravated assault etc is not a bad result. The combined efforts of Gardai and festival organisers kept ‘trouble’ to a minimum, traffic flow was good, transport support systems excellent with Naas Shuttle Bus, Park & Ride from Goff’s, pedestrian collection at night, onsite first aid facilities and camping facilities were as good as possible within the horrible, wet weather conditions.
Almost 150 acres were dedicated to 65,000 festival goers who braved the elements in the 3 designated camping areas which were specially kitted out with shower areas, 24 hour convenience store, a phone charging station and even a beauty salon! A beauty salon, I ask you – none of that at Woodstock…, I wasn’t at Woodstock, I’m not that friggin’ old.
Massive Clean-Up Operation
Naturally with an attendance as large as this, the clean-up process was going to be a massive operation; by Tuesday evening on my return drive from work, there wasn’t a piece of litter along the sides of the road. I noted a collapsed tent in the ditch opposite The Baron de Roebeck’s entrance in the past few days and suspect the windy conditions carried it there. (Well done, Ryan’s Cleaners who deployed 350 staff on the site and along all access roads for litter collection).
The team at Punchestown endeavored to cause minimum disruption to local residents during the Festival with over 400 Naas GAA and 80 Ballymore GAA volunteers doing ‘sentry duty’ outside neighboring houses ensuring no illegal parking or entry. Naas GAA will receive approximately €40,000 and Ballymore GAA to receive €15,000 and local charities also benefit to the tune of €70,000. Past beneficiaries include NAS Na Riogh Housing Association, St Vincent De Paul, Ballymore and Eadestown Parishes and the Kildare Youth Services.
The Oxegen spin off was not only evident locally but nationally with every retail outlet ranging from the supermarket chains to the local stores doing specialist camping and festival goer packages. David Hatchell, General Manager, Eurospar Naas said “We had a bumper weekend!. Even in the build-up to the Festival, business was on the increase but over the duration of the festival itself we did a great trade in everything from cosmetics to the deli counter”.
But we leave the last word to Michael Byrnes, Chief Garda Superintendent – “Like all good policing and traffic plans, they are constantly under review with all parties involved and thankfully, this one really worked very well. Above all, we would like to compliment the 80,000 people in attendance for their good humour and courteous behaviour - they were a pleasure to deal with”.
Too right, we complain enough about youth when they do something wrong but I think the good humour displayed by the 80,000 gathered for Oxegen 2009 should be complimented – great music, great facilities, crap weather but sunny smiles all round. Mind you, there weren’t too many ‘hot’ babes passing through Naas on Monday am but rather a lot of washed out, exhausted lookin’ creatures in need of a good night’s sleep……..
Oh, to be that young and energetic again……….

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