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Bad start

And now Ruairi Quinn is at it too.

“This is one of those questions you can’t win either way, women know more about children than men because they spend more time with children.”

Yesterday, in the library, I met a dad with his little girl. After they finished reading their stories, they were heading off to do the shopping. Then the dad was going to work. Earlier this week, my own little girl’s dad took her up to an open night for her new school. I couldn’t go, because I had to work.

I have the height of respect for Ruairi Quinn as a politician, but his comments are just insulting – to men as well as women.

Yes, more women than men still do spend time with children (I’m sure the stats would bear this out), but more and more fathers are doing day shifts, night shifts, any kind of shifts with their kids, as Irish families change and evolve. I love to see my daughter heading off with her dad to go to ballet, or to do the shopping, or just to hang out. Do I know more than him about her? Probably. Does this mean, when he is put to it, he won’t do as well as me at the open day for the new school? Unlikely.

This is a bad start lads. Pigeonholing women – and men too – is a bad start. Bad start Eamonn Gilmore. Bad start Labour. Bad start Government.

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On Joan Burton

Agree with both maman poulet and Olivia O’Leary that Joan Burton deserved a senior economic ministry.

Why was she sidelined? She is articulate, informed, frank, courageous, honest and consistent. She will, as Maman Poulet says, no doubt make a great minister for Social Protection. But she deserved, given her record in opposition, to be at the heart of the situation. And we, the women – and the people – of Ireland deserved it too.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is what our friend Michael Lewis, of Vanity Fair fame, had to say about her last year.

“And in an hour of chatting about this and that, she strikes me as straight, bright, and basically good news.”

Of course, he also said this: “But her role in the Irish drama is as clear as Morgan Kelly’s: she’s the shrill mother no one listened to. She speaks in exclamation points with a whiny voice that gets on the nerves of every Irishman—to the point where her voice is parodied on national radio.”

Dear God – could we care less about her voice? Bertie spoke in riddles, yet he got to be Taoiseach. Cowen spoke in jargon, yet he was still elevated to the highest position. If Burton was a man, would she have been offered an economic portfolio?

Just asking boys…..

Here’s the Michael Lewis article. Read it and weep.

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Losing the Greens

“Former Green Party ministers Eamon Ryan and John Gormley have said they will give their payments to charity or to the party.

Other TDs who did not get re-elected are entitled to a lump sum of up to 75,000. Government ministers are entitled to a further 90,000.”

Once again, all at the bequest of the cheerful taxpayer.

For all that Greens stayed in government too long, and to my mind, should never have allowed the IMF/EU deal to bed down, the Green ministers did achieve something tangible and were arguably the best-performing ministers in that sorry administration. The fact that they are willing to give their severance payments to charity indicates a level of idealism that is hard to imagine anywhere else in Irish politics. (Will Dermot, Noel, and particularly Bertie ‘the architect’ Ahern be following in their footsteps? Not likely.)

No Greens in the Dail is a loss to Irish politics, and the party did not merit its recent wipeout. We, the electorate, need to be very careful of turning the smaller party in government into the whipping boy. To do so is largely to miss the point.

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Remembering Patrick Neary

Apart from making you want to drown yourself, or at the very least, pack up and turn off all the lights, the funniest line from Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair article has to be Colm McCarthy’s description of what people thought when former Central Bank regulator Patrick Neary was wheeled out onto Prime Time on October 2008.

“What happened was that everyone in Ireland had the idea that somewhere in Ireland there was a little wise old man who was in charge of the money, and this was the first time they’d ever seen this little man,” says McCarthy. “And then they saw him and said, Who the fuck was that??? Is that the fucking guy who is in charge of the money??? That’s when everyone panicked.”

Oh god. You have to laugh… if it wasn’t so tragic that is.

You can ready more about this article on vanity fair.

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Bailout blues

My review of David McWilliams’ outsiders, first published in the Sunday Business Post.  And below, yet another economist on why the bailout won’t work.

05 December 2010 Reviewed by Rachel Andrews


By David McWilliams

Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork On national tour until Dec 16

Rating: ***

David McWilliams has built a career upon distilling tedious economic information into both plain English and entertainment.

He has already proved himself – through books, lectures and TV appearances – to be a superb communicator.

But while his charisma might not be obvious on television, it is crystal clear in this live, one-man show.

As soon as he bounds on stage (on the night the grisly details of the IMF bailout have been announced), younger and slimmer than he appears on television, brimming with energy and, despite the dismal news, hope – it is clear why the Abbey theatre felt he could hold together a 70-minute show that attempts to put into context the tumultuous events of the past two years.

In order to do so, the show draws upon McWilliams’ previous work. Caricatures, such as the infamous ‘Breakfast Roll Man’, make an appearance, to remind us that people from all walks of life were buying and selling property during the boom.

He also discusses the potential impact on the economy of harnessing the Irish diaspora, the premise upon which his second publication, The Generation Game, is based.

But the primary argument here comes out of his most recent book, Follow the Money, in which he considers the theory that Irish society is divided between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.

The insiders are the politicians, bankers, builders and developers, but also members of the professions; all of which have a vested interest in seeing the system put back exactly as it was before the bust.

‘‘The insiders have got away with it,” he tells us, ‘‘and given us the bill.”

Made against the backdrop of carefully chosen images – such as that of Bertie Ahern standing knee high in floodwater, and the ominously rising number clock of Irish debt – the arguments are compelling.

As in the past, the Sunday Business Post columnist shows his knack for coming up with memorable metaphors by using the analogy of the ‘Good Room’, a room no self-respecting granny would have been without when he was growing up, to explain why Irish politicians and civil servants appear terrified to lose face in front of European bureaucrats.

‘‘We need to stand up for ourselves,” he tells his audience, as he advocates ideas such as a ‘‘debt for equity swap’’ and, ultimately, the nuclear option of default.

Although the piece is directed by the experienced Conall Morrison, it is, in truth, more performed lecture than theatre. But that doesn’t matter to a full house on a wintry night.

This, if nothing else, proves that McWilliams is saying something that people are ready to hear.

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Things fall apart

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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More default considerations

From Elaine Byrne in today’s Guardian:

So, is default the answer?

The repayment on the 5.8% interest of the €85bn bailout alone will amount to 20% of annual tax revenues. The severe fiscal austerity measures, including the contentious €1 reduction in the minimum wage, will never be enough within a framework of a fixed exchange rate.

This method of internal devaluation, or the attempt to “buy more time” has merely kicked the issue of default down the road. As Paul Krugman suggested: “It’s hard to escape the sense European policymakers are just completely out of their depth.”

The problems caused by an incredible transfer of privately accumulated debt into public hands is most acute in Ireland, but it is now a European concern. Yet, when the Irish delegation negotiating with the EU-IMF raised this issue, “the Europeans went completely mad”, according to a senior government source quoted by the Sunday Independent. Sovereign default is not been considered by government as a policy option. The reputational damage from such an event, as in the case of Argentina, may last for decades in the international markets.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ajai Chopra, the head of the IMF mission to Ireland, left the door open to senior bondholders taking a significant hit. “We have to see how this programme evolves. Various options will need to be kept on the table and we just have to see how things go.”

Irish people have a deep and traditional sense of moral duty when it comes to repaying debts. That sense of obligation may not hold, however, when the responsibility for prolonged austerity is due to poor policy decisions, such as the Irish government’s September 2008 blanket guarantee, the straitjacket of euro membership and a political unwillingness to burn senior bondholders.