Monthly Archives: February 2012

‘Yes’ vs ‘No’…for the ‘maybes’

‘YES’ or ‘NO’?

If you’re the sort of person who knows the inner workings of the European Stability Treaty then you won’t  need to ponder that one.

But if you’re haven’t decided, don’t know, or just can’t get interested then prepare to be bombarded with various pro and anti messages in the coming weeks.

The arguments can be boiled down to a number of essential points on either side.

Reasons to Vote Yes:

– We need the money. Badly. Pulling out of Europe’s bailout fund means we won’t get it. As a spokesman for Angela Merkel’s party coldly put it yesterday: “Whoever doesn’t accept the treaty has no protection from the bailout fund. If the Irish people think they don’t need any protection they can, of course, reject the fiscal treaty.”

– Without the bailout cash it will be impossible to pay public sector wages, paychecks to gardai, nurses, teachers. You can kiss goodbye to public services. Likewise there’ll be little cash to fund pensions.

– Voting ‘yes’ is vital for our international reputation – or what remains of it. After acquiring a reputation for reckless borrowing to fund wild flights of property speculation Ireland has clawed back some kudos by embracing austerity. Albeit at the barrel of the Troika’s gun. Rejecting the Treaty and closing off bailout funds would likely lead to debt default. This in turn would make borrowing from the markets well night impossible, in the short term at least.

– The promise of a cheaper bailout. It’s already speculated that €3.1bn being handed over next month to cover Anglo’s debts could be cut. The move would raise the prospects of further cuts to the Anglo bailout burden, which totals (a staggering) €31bn.

– The future. Another argument offered by the Merkel’s colleagues yesterday, and echoed by Enda Kenny. They argue that a stable EU is vital for ensuring the financial wellbeing of future generations.

Reasons to Vote No:

– We’re an independent Republic. A ‘yes’ vote would give the imprimatur to the EU’s bigwigs, France and Germany, having a say in our economic policy. Opponents will call for a ‘no’ vote to protect our sovereignty. Cynics may argue that – since the arrival of the Troika- this is non-existent anyway.

– Expect more charges in the name of ‘austerity’. Since the EU-IMF-ECB Troika first arrived here we’ve had a household charge,  a VAT increase, cuts to child benefit and rent payments, a reduction in the fuel allowance and back to school scheme, among others. The EU believes austerity is the way forward, so more of the same can be expected.

– Because we should burn the bondholders. Rejecting the treaty would give two fingers to the ECB, which is adamant that no such burning should take place. The cash shortfall of rejecting the treaty could be offset  by, for example,  not paying Anglo bondholders.

– To put a halt to the EU’s gallop. Eurosceptics, whose numbers are growing here, argue that this treaty is the latest is an encroaching series of treaties which see faceless EU bureaucrats increasingly controlling our lives. Rejecting the treaty would send out a defiant message, they argue.

– We’re becoming closer to Boston and Beijing than Brussels. Major job announcements by the likes of Paypal, coupled with the recent visit of Chinese vice president Xi Jinping, mean we’ve more in common economically with the US and China than the EU. If – and it’s a big if – we become Europe’s Hong Kong, that is.

 This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 29, 2012.

‘A type of sadistic killer all but impossible to rehabilitate’

BRUTAL, depraved and sordid. Michael Bambrick’s killings have assured him a unique place in the annals of Irish murder.

His crimes must rank as among the most grisly – and at times amateurish – ever seen here. Few killers have strangled their victims, dismembered their bodies and concealed the evidence, only to use a bicycle and a wheelbarrow to dispose of the remains. And cross dress to try to put people off the scent.

But Bambrick was far more than just a blundering sadist who went too far in a sex game.

The manner in which he killed his two victims, in September 1991 and July 1992, led Judge Paul Carney to warn that he was likely to reoffend.

Both Patricia McGauley and Mary Cummins were strangled with tights after – Bambrick claimed  – engaging in bondage sessions.

Jailing him for 18 years, Carney, now the most esteemed criminal judge in the country, starkly warned that he had “a propensity to reoffend.”

“The probability is that he will have a pent-up appetite for his form of bondage,” the judge stated.

Bambrick had a propensity for cross-dressing, bondage and violence.

He was born in 1952 in the UK  but later came to live in Dublin, with his family, and at the time of the killings resided at St Ronan’s Park in Clondalkin.

This property, which he shared with his common law wife Patricia McGauley, later became known as the House of Horrors after details of the killings emerged.

His first killing took place on September 12, 1991 when Bambrick suffocated his common law wife Patricia McGauley following a bondage session. He had been drinking heavily beforehand.

In a surreal twist, Bambrick then put on Patricia’s clothes, lipstick and heels and strolled around St Ronan’s Park. He was spotted by suspicious neighbours – but they weren’t aware of what he had just done.

Bambrick, who had locked his wife’s body in a box room at their small home, took their daughter to school the next day before returning to cut up the remains.

The killer then used a knife and a hacksaw to dismember Patricia’s body, removing her head, arms and legs. He then cycled, with the remains in a bag, to an illegal dump at Balgaddy, Lucan, and buried the body parts. A day later he made a second bike trip to the dump, this time with Patricia’s torso.

As Patricia remained a missing person, Bambrick remained at large.

On July 23, 1992 he went drinking on Francis Street in the south inner city, where he met Mary Cummins. He plied her with alcohol as their children played together in the bar. Hours later, again during a bondage session, he strangled her using a pair of tights, which he’d stuffed in her mouth.

Once again he stashed the body in the boxroom of the house. The following day he used a hacksaw to cut off Cummins’s legs and put  them into a refuse bag. This time he used a wheelbarrow to transport the dismembered pieces to a large field close to Balgaddy school. Three months later, Bambrick was quizzed over the disappearance of the woman, but he denied involvement.

More than two years then passed before Bambrick was again arrested, this time after an allegation of physical abuse of a child. In the months afterwards, gardai dug up his back garden and, in a search of the St Ronan’s Park house, found blood on floorboards there.

In June 1995, he was arrested for an unrelated firearms offence and, after questioning, broke down and admitted his role in the murders. He showed gardai where he concealed the woman’s remains.

He was charged with two counts of murder but the charge was reduced at this trial, in July 1996. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter instead and was jailed for 18 years.

Judge Carney said he wanted to jail Bambrick for life but could not do so because of existing case law. The killer was freed in April, 2009.

Writing in the Herald yesterday ex-detective superintendent PJ Browne warned that Bambrick could attack again.

“In my professional experience, Michael Bambrick represents a type of sadistic killer who is all but impossible to rehabilitate,” he stated, echoing the remarks of Judge Carney more than 15 years ago.

Since his release Bambrick has lived a quiet life. Instead he has lived under the raidar, in west Dublin. One of the country’s most sadistic killers, he has not come to garda attention, and remains a free man.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 28, 2012.

Good jobs news at last…thousands of miles away

THE Canadians are in town – and they want 80,000 of our workers to go west.

Good luck to them. Judging by the exodus of the last few years many of our unemployed young have already left.

But those remaining are likely to spend this week frantically googling ‘Canadian visa’ and ‘British Columbia’.

That’s where the jobs are. Along with Toronto, London, Sydney, Berlin, Auckland, Boston… just about anywhere except here.

The arrival of a dollar-waving delegation from the British Columbia Construction Association show that there are good jobs stories in the news.

It’s just a pity that many of them involve positions located thousands of miles away. Last week the Sydney Morning Herald reported that one Perth job agency was so overrun with migrant Irish workers that they felt they had “half of Dublin in it on a Friday afternoon”.

With reports like this one wonders just who will show up to the Dublin Working Abroad Expo next weekend at the RDS?

Whoever and however many they are, they’re likely to be former workers in our once glorious building industry – the driver and eventual destruction of the Irish economy.

The Canadians have surely come to the right place.

Because when it comes to construction booms, as we’ve seen, you’ll never beat the Irish. (As long as the Canadians don’t ask us to fireproof their buildings that is).

In fact, we’re so well suited to what Canadians need that the delegation is not bothering to go anywhere else at present. They reckon that Irish people alone could fill up to 80,000 jobs in British Columbia – population 4.5million but ten times the size of Ireland.

The construction will be in residential (no problem there, see above), mining, oil and gas. A lot of it sounds like dirty work – but it’s lucrative and the Canadians are crying out for us.

Which bring us to the point.

Sadly, there’ll be plenty of tears if the Canadians fill their quotas. Skilled tradesmen, most of whom are older that the post-college Coogee Beach crowd, will contemplate uprooting themselves and their families.

People will prepare to say goodbye to parents, to relatives, to their local GAA clubs, their friends.

Many of them, with the exception of the odd trip home, won’t return.

Have no doubt the coming of the Canadians is good news. it’s just a pity that – like all good news nowadays – it comes with a bittersweet twist.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 27, 2012.

Back to the hospital drawing board – for another 10 years

SUFFER little children.

Because, as civil servants dither, planners consider and health ministers come and go, they’re the ones in distress.

Today’s decision will further delay the opening of the long overdue National Children’s Hospital.

It’s ironic that the news broke a day after it emerged that some children are waiting for treatment on trolleys for 24 hours at Crumlin and Temple Street hospitals.

The country’s paediatric services are clearly creaking under the weight of cutbacks.

With little cash to alleviate the situation, and now a fresh delay to the National Children’s Hospital, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Health Minister James Reilly has, until now, been trumpeting that the new children’s hospital would be open by 2016.

Some chance now. Try 2026.

It’s back to the drawing board. Not only will a new building have to be designed but the Government, as of today, don’t even have a site to put it on.

With parents’ hopes are dashed and children continuing to lie on trolleys serious questions must be answered on who advised the Department of Health on the location of the hospital.

Recent comments from Minister Reilly that building would begin in the Mater area next year gave the impression that its D1 site was a done deal.

But a clear majority within An Bord Pleanala disagreed.

Common sense might tell you sticking a 16 storey 445-bed building in a built-up urban area may have been problematic.

But common sense is clearly non-existent in the Department of Health. The result being yet another shambolic, hugely expensive farce.

The real tragedy behind this debacle is that €32m of public money has been thrown away on the Mater site bid – €4m on planning preparation alone.

That’s €32m could go a long way to treating seriously ill children. But it’s gone.

Back on your trolleys, kids.

 This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 23, 2012.

Do the Chinese believe we’re worth a punt?

‘IRELAND – yes, poor, bailed-out, austerity afflicted Eire, was the place Xi Jingping, putative third (or fourth?) most powerful man in the world, chose as a next act. Not Brussels, Berlin, London or Paris.’

That was the take of the Slate magazine- the influential political website – on the Chinese visit to Dublin.

Brace yourself, it gets better.

“In all the talk of China riding to Europe’s rescue recently, Beijing has done very little of substance. It may be that Xi’s visit to the Emerald Island is a sign that China has chosen it port of entry.”

Of all the ports of entry for our economic rescue a small farm in Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, may have seemed the most unlikely.

Yet that’s where the Chinese leader-in-waiting visited yesterday, opting for a chinwag with a local family instead of, for example, a highpowered business breakfast in the The City of London.

The fact that Mr Xi spent the days before his visit involved in some serious power politics in Washington makes his decision to visit here directly afterwards even more telling.

Either our embassy in Beijing’s been working overtime or the Party Elders there really believe we’re worth a punt.

There’s little doubt in international press coverage which scenario’s more likely.

Reuters drew comparisons between a “high tech zone near Shannon Airport” and a similar project in Shenzen, which the Chinese used to drive as a poster development for their economic reforms.

Bloomberg reminded us that: “Ireland’s merchandise exports to China were valued at 2.25 billion euros in the first 11 months of last year”.

So in terms of international PR Mr Xi’s visit is heaven sent.

As are headlines like “When Chinese eyes are smiling”.

All this serves to distance us from our fellow PIIGS, ensuring that an economic recovery will come sooner rather than later.

Or, as Slate magazine put it: “Ireland looks like a fairly good buy right now if you’re an emerging power with cash laying around the old sovereign wealth fund.”

And China’s coffers, it points out, hold about $400bn.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 20, 2012.

A health service sicker than its patients

DON’T GET sick.
That’s the only option if you live in north Dublin or its commuter counties in light of this HSE plan.
And if you do become unwell be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait.
Because there’s no way you can remove €120m and 961 staff from a health service without seriously disrupting patient services.
Or worse, causing deaths that could be avoided.
The HSE or the Health minister’s spindoctors usually try to explain away cutback stories as best they can.
But when the HSE itself baldly admits that direct patient services will suffer then you know the diagnosis is bad.
The cuts will affect some of the State’s biggest hospitals – the Mater, Beaumont and Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, to name but three.
Unfortunately these facilities are already among the country’s busiest.
At this stage a visit to A&E is essentially a day-long expedition – even for a minor ailment.
With €71m now set to be pulled directly from hospitals who knows what state emergency departments will be in over the coming months.
According to the HSE there is already a lack of staff on frontline service delivery.
So those nurse, doctors and paramedics bravely battling at the coalface are set to be, simply, swamped.
Outside the hospitals themselves the cuts will, as always, hit the vulnerable, such as the elderly, those require home visits or those with mental health problems.
The Dublin North East cuts are part of €750m that will be slashed from health spending this year. This comes after cuts of €727m last year.
One wonders how much more our health service can take before it begins to collapse.
One thing’s certain: we’ve reached a new low when the system itself is sicker than the patients it treats.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 15, 2012.

Waste collectors’ refusal stinks

FIRST THEY collect didn’t the bins. Now they won’t.

Greyhound Recycling’s decision not to collect refuse from 18,000 households from Thursday – unless they sign up for their service –  risks sinking Dublin into a ocean of rubbish.

An initial reaction may be to marvel at Greyhound’s cheek.

After all this was the company who, after being awarded with the contract to take over the City Council’s waste collection, failed to make bin collections – leaving wastebags lying on the city streets.

Greyhound claimed all bins were collected on time – but Dublin’s City Manager conceded that three out of ten households did not have their waste collected in the first week of last month’s handover.

It’s one thing to miss a few households in the first week, but to cut off collection from 18,000 is a serious move.

It result in waste festering outside houses and business, something that’s not just unsightly but could also pose a health risk.

While Greyhound’s record to date has been less than exemplary there is no doubt where responsbility for the impending rubbish crisis lies.

Blame for the mess – like the uncollected bags of rubbish  – should be placed firmly at the door of non-paying households.

With waivers for 33,000 customers and an instalment plan for those short of money to refusing to pay up is simply a blinkered move. It’s selfish too because someone – likely the taxpayer – will have to pick up the eventual bill to remove the waste.

City councillors should think twice before advising people to withhold  the fee. Suggestions of leaving rubbish at recycling centres in Grangorman and the North Strand may simply transform those areas into urban landfills.

And Greyhound’s move affects every householder. You might have diligently signed up and paid but if you’re neighbours have not then you’ll be likely picking trash from your front garden next week regardless.

As well as transforming Dublin’s streets into de facto dumps the decision will inevitably lead to an explosion of fly-tipping. Which will, in turn, will place further pressure on strained City Council resources.

With two days to go it’s unlikely even a majority of the Greyhound’s missing 18,000 households will sign up.

Prepare for dear, dirty Dublin to get a lot dirtier.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 14, 2012.