Politics Sport

Ireland 16 – New Zealand 9. A New Metaphor for Brexit.

God, we needed that.

For so many reasons we needed to beat New Zealand but not least, may I submit, as an antidote to all this Brexit bullshit we’ve been enduring for what seems like the last fifty years.

We needed our boys to make a statement on that field at Lansdowne Road — I will never use the A-word when referring to that place — and by Jesus they stood up and gave the world a big, loud message.

It’s over. We’re no longer satisfied with being second. We’re here and it’s time to get used to us.

Oddly, this is the same message we’ve sent out in regard to Brexit, to the utter incomprehension of the smug, superior Tory toffs who have been goading Britain over the cliff edge for the last two years. How ironic that this is  the centenary of the bloodbath when the Brexiteers’ antecedents goaded poor British people over the walls of the trenches in France and Belgium to be slaughtered.

Our message to them? Precisely the same: We’re here, it’s time to get used to us and no, we don’t do what you tell us. Ireland’s victory in rugby demonstrates a different kind of independence. A new, self-confident freedom that doesn’t rely on anyone else to define it and that doesn’t exist in opposition to anything.

New Zealand’s captain, Kieran Read, to his credit, came straight out after the game and said “They were better than us”. No bullshit. No messing around. Just a straight acknowledgement that a superior opponent prevailed on the day.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Fromage, the cheesy con-man of Europe, on the other hand, trapped in a centuries-old bubble of incomprehension, aren’t quite able to process the ugly fact that the annoying neighbours refuse to do as they’re told, no matter how plummy the vowels one adopts.

Can you believe that Nadine Dorries (MP!!!) is today complaining that Theresa May’s deal with the EU means Britain will no longer have any MEPs or EU commissioners?

That is the  level of stupidity that exists within the British governing party.

Imagine leaving the EU and having no MEPs. Who’d have guessed?  That is the level of crass ignorance we have to endure every day in this country when we listen to the ruling party of our nearest neighbours and that is something we have finally decided to stop engaging with.

We have decided to move on, be the adults in the room and let the toddlers at the other end of the playschool slap each other. Let the parents take over. They’re not our problem.

Yes, they’ll leave a mess, but we’ve cleaned up messes before and we’ll get this place nice and tidy too, when the playschool management decide enough is enough and they’re no longer prepared to put up with ill-mannered brats.

There’s too much talk these days about existential issues. When I was a lad, existentialism was all about trying to look moody and interesting while reading French authors you didn’t really understand or enjoy. But these days, everyone likes to warn us about existential crises and I don’t like it. An existential crisis should involve being unshaven, wearing a vest and smoking a Gauloise. It should not be about countries collapsing.

Let me make a prediction, which as everyone knows, will probably be wrong, but why break the habit of a lifetime?

I predict that even if the Tories completely fuck up Brexit and crash out of the EU, we here in Ireland will be just fine after a bit of a bumpy ride.

Britain will try, disastrously, to trade on WTO rules, the only country in the world to do so.

They’ll quickly run out of Mars bars and mushy peas.

Spain will send all their train robbers back home.

Provence will eject all their authors manqué.

And then, after a few months of food riots, they’ll apply to rejoin an EU they didn’t understand in the first place, even though it was their idea.

They’ll be refused of course but we’ll welcome them into the new Irish Commonwealth, as long as they accept our rules. And they’ll have to wear a green shirt when they play New Zealand.

We’re decent like that.


Brexit, the Christmas Panto

I’ve decided to resign as Brexit Secretary.

And yes, before you point it out, I realise I never had the job in the first place. It’s just that so many people are resigning from it, I was feeling a bit left out. Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?

It’s like those pointless interrogations you got from your parents when you did something stupid.

Why did you do that?

Tommy did it first.

Did he now? And if Tommy resigned from Theresa May’s cabinet, would you do the same?

It’s not easy to be serious about this Brexit nonsense. The neighbours are at it again and Ireland does its best not to twitch the curtains as they squabble, but it’s hard to muffle the sniggering at their antics. Don’t annoy them, though, or they’ll be back over here starting fights like they used to do in the past, and they’re no strangers to a punch-up. Best to just wave politely and compliment their mangy pit-bull when they kick over your wheelie-bin.

Nice doggie.

Who could ever understand the role of this Raab fellow in the latest debacle? As the Secretary for Keeping Johnny Foreigner Out, he seems a little conflicted, given that he himself is the son of a refugee fleeing persecution, but besides that, what exactly has he been doing all this time? Did he not know what his own officials were negotiating and agreeing? Where was he during all these talks?

Was the shock of discovering that Britain does quite a lot of trade with the EU a bit more than his delicate constitution could bear?

What happened? Did some Foreign Office functionary hand him a briefcase marked Top Secret Draft Agreement With Johnny Foreigner? And when he opened it, did a spring-loaded clown jump out and punch him on the nose?

Seriously. How is it possible to be the Secretary in charge of an agreement on Brexit and at precisely the same time, not know what’s in the fucking agreement your officials have drawn up after months of effort?

Why didn’t Dominic Raab resign weeks ago when he first got wind of this heinous betrayal of all he stands for? Oh, wait. Stop. He’s a Tory. There was a time when they used to stand for things – some of them pretty horrible things, but at least they were things. Ah, but that was long ago. That was before Boris invented bendy bananas. That was before Moggy named his sixth son Sixtus, nestled snugly, no doubt, between Quintus and Septimus. That was before a putrefying sack of medical waste somehow fermented, began to speak and became Nigel Farage.


What a crowd of idiots these condescending, supercilious Tories are.

I urge my fellow Irish citizens not to be provoked by the patronising tone of people like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Let us rise above their jibes and their sneers and instead let us remember our countless friends among the ordinary British people who have nothing in common with Beano characters like Moggsy and Boris who stand to make billions from a collapse of the British economy.

Let us stand by our British friends and guarantee that if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead, we are ready to send those food parcels and those medical supplies.

We will accept refugees. We’ll pick them up in the sea, wrap them in tin-foil and feed them emergency rations of mushy peas.

We will not be found wanting.

And as for our Northern brethren, we won’t be bitter. Even when they travel to Dublin for a soccer match, waving a flag of the Parachute Regiment, we’ll rise above it.

We’ll feed them on confectionery of two kinds. We’ll offer them the cake they don’t want to have even though it’s better than the cake everyone else is getting because, you know the people of Ulster …

And if they don’t like that, we’ll offer them the cake of gay marriage.

Hold on. The Roman Catholic South must be dominated by gay-hating, anti-abortion religious extremists.

Isn’t  that right, Sammy?

Aye, Stratton. It is, surely.

Well, maybe not, boys but never mind.  We’ll find a pair of knickers for Sammy next time he goes wondering on a beach, sans culottes. We’re good like that.

Let me be honest with you. It would be a lie if I claimed we’re not enjoying a sense of schadenfreude at our neighbours’ discomfiture, but who wouldn’t? Suddenly, the UK has turned into the Jeremy Kyle show on a world stage and who doesn’t like watching dysfunctional families beating each other up on afternoon TV?

Come on. Brexit is even funnier than Trump and that’s not an easy act to pull off, but if Brexit is the panto, who’s the Dame? There’s no shortage of candidates, from Boris Johnson to Jacob Rees-Mogg, but I’ll tell you one thing. When the children shout Look out behind you, just hope you don’t turn around to find it’s Farage gurning at you while waving a pint of best British beer.



Candidates, Clowns and Ambition — What Really Motivates Peter Casey?

In a fit of whimsy tonight, I fell to pondering on the origins of terms like ambition and candidate, two words that are very much to the front of our minds in recent years.

Naturally, of course, we can’t help thinking about the current clown show that we in Ireland laughingly refer to as a presidential contest, but let’s not forget the procession of dangerous buffoons cavorting in the Big Top of the world’s circus these days. Compared to these mountebanks, our own transitory pretenders might seem like nothing but shabby court jesters, fit for little but to free a blackbird from a pie or to wring a grudging scowl from some trouser-patched monarch of piss-stinking back alley, some lord of mangy scrapyard hounds, some king of half-wit drunkards.

Forget them, you might snort, and it would be hard not to disagree with you.

After all, we have genuinely evil clowns to fear and with good reason, but I don’t need to tell anyone that. Even without the orange buffoon in Washington and his collection of fawning sycophants, there’s plenty left to go around, from Boris the Tousled to Viktor Orbán in Hungary,  the sort of clown who files his teeth and lurks in rainwater gulleys under streets. We have AfD in Germany, we had actual Nazis in Sweden running for government and we have another real-life Nazi as Austria’s prime minister. Besides that, let us not forget Kaczynski’s puppet government in Poland. The Law and Justice party  — a bunch of populists who have completely forgotten the lessons of history, or perhaps learned them too well.

They’re everywhere and they’re all trading on a seductive cocktail of fear, lies and populism. Everywhere except here, isn’t that right? Everywhere except the sainted isle of Ireland.

Sainted? Didn’t we legalise same-sex marriage in the face of bigotry from the likes of the Iona Institute?

We did indeed, fair play to us.

And didn’t we get rid of that pernicious constitutional ban on abortion, foisted on us thirty-five years ago by a sanctimonious bunch of statue-nibblers?

We sure did, to the great surprise of many, including myself. I thought we’d be another half century defeating these god-botherers.

What’s more, aren’t we about to eliminate the crime of blasphemy, thereby exorcising the malevolent ghosts of John Charles McQuaid and his satanic master, Paul Cullen?

Correct. It’s true. We are, and just before Hallowe’en at that. McQuaid’s chains must be rattling in whatever foul cave his shade inhabits.

Why then the word sainted?

Well, you see, it seems to me that in ridding ourselves of the old shackles, we’re in danger of clamping new ones on our wrists and ankles. Indeed, it seems to me that we’re busy introducing the New Blasphemy, a prohibition on thought and expression that will be policed just as ardently by our tolerant, liberal, well-meaning friends and colleagues as the old blasphemy ever was by angry young thugs in clerical cassocks or by grumpy old Civil War fossils in the Dáil. And yes, I know nobody has been prosecuted for the Old Blasphemy, but it’s also true that Ireland has only recently emerged from a cultural blockade as severe as anything Hoxha imposed on Albania. And it’s true that anyone who failed to conform to the old authoritarian Ireland was ground down and silenced.

It’s inevitable that the pendulum will swing the other way, but we need to be on our guard unless we inadvertently open the door to demagogues, hate-mongers and right-wing opportunists waiting for a toe-hold in this country, just as they have done everywhere else. Let’s not clap ourselves on the back just yet. Instead, take a look at what has happened to reasonable, tolerant Denmark before telling ourselves it couldn’t happen here.

We have made a mistake by rendering some issues taboo and in doing so we have left the door off the latch for those who lurk in the bushes.

It was plain stupidity to call Peter Casey a racist for articulating what a lot of perplexed people in Ireland were asking: is a stable for your horses really a human right? Casey should never have been given the space to present himself as a victim, but that’s what the New Blasphemy achieved, by shutting down reasonable voices who were reluctant to draw condemnation on themselves or risk being branded racists. That’s what happens when a subject is off-limits: the field is left open to fear-mongers who care nothing about being branded as bigots.

This has always been the modus operandi of extreme intolerance. Begin with a proposition that many people are in tune with to some extent and escalate from that point to the outrageous in gradual, incremental steps, each time pushing the limits of outrage until decent people become accustomed to something they would have found abhorrent not so long ago.

That’s what Trump is doing right now and who can say where he’ll finish?

I mentioned at the start that I was thinking about the origins of terms like ambition and candidate.

In ancient Rome, ambitus, from which we get the word ambition, was a crime. It meant trying to influence the results of an election, either through plain bribery or by other means, and was severely frowned upon. It was his ambition that led to Julius Caesar’s murder by Brutus and his co-conspirators if my hazy memory of the great play is correct. In truth, it meant nothing more than ward-heeling, clientelism and cute-hoorism. If Caesar was in Irish politics today, he’d be having a quiet word with the Council about your over-sized extension, promising to get that bathroom for your uncle and tipping you off about the new by-pass in case you were planning to sell that parcel of land too soon.

Who would that remind you of?

Of course, on a larger scale, it meant Gallic wars, Rhine-crossing, invasions of Britain and eventually, Rubicon-crossing. Not to mention becoming dictator for life. Who does that remind you of?

Now, a candidate was an ambitious fellow who went around his ambit, perambulating, so to speak while wearing a candida, or white robe, signifying purity. Somebody with nothing to hide. A perfectly candid candidate who wouldn’t dream of lying or manipulating anyone.

Not much changes over the centuries, and so, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, we arrive back at Peter Casey.

Peter is not a fool, whatever else you might think of him and therefore the first word that jumps to mind is Why?

Why does a man who has only 2% approval in the polls insist that he will win the Presidency?

Why would he agonise about pulling out of the race over the hurtful accusations of racism thrown at him but then relent, having consulted  his advisers (whoever they might be)?

Why would someone who claims to be a man of action, a doer, a decision-maker, wish to occupy a role that is largely ceremonial, with no executive power and little enough hard responsibility?

I can think of no logical answer unless Peter Casey’s ambition exceeds his candour. Unless he is simply testing the political temperature of Ireland, calibrating the right-wing gauge by seeing how much bounce he can achieve in the approval ratings as a result of mud-slinging and fear-mongering.

It’s hard to see what purpose this ludicrous campaign could serve other than to act as a feeler for the sinister authoritarian movements currently flexing their muscles all over Europe.

Why would Ireland be any different?



Presidential Campaign

Miggledy is going to win.

Let’s get that out of the way before we say anything else.

Miggledy has this wrapped up and the clown show that’s opposing him can do nothing about it, so what’s left to talk about?

Well, I suppose we could talk about the assorted no-hopers who somehow persuaded themselves and various county councillors that anyone would care what they had to say. We could talk about what drives people like Sean Gallagher, Peter Casey and Gavin Duffy.

Is it cynicism? Is it as tawdry as wanting this on their CVs next time they go hustling for business in the USA? Presidential candidate.

Or is it something else? Something that might be called ambition but should probably be called crass stupidity.

It’s hard to know which of the three male candidates is most irritating.

Sean Gallagher seems to have a natural gift for looking annoying, like some overgrown chest-burster who’s just gnawed his way through a crew-member’s ribcage in a spray of blood and offal, screeching empty platitudes at anyone foolish enough to stray too close to those razor teeth. Will he grow into a nine-foot killing machine with molecular acid for blood? Only time will tell.

Sean hand-delivered a letter of complaint to Miggledy in the Phoenix Park the other night, dripping saliva in the bushes outside the Áras as Miggledy paced his study floor, reciting stanzas from his favourite Inuit poet in an impressive assortment of accents. A candelabra cast his heroic flickering shadow on the blinds while Sean chewed on a small furry mammal, grunting foul imprecations as he hefted the half brick his letter was wrapped around.

What a shame nobody told him about this thing called a postal service. But Sean believes his own bullshit.

michael d higgins

Gavin Duffy, on the other hand, doesn’t quite carry such an air of tight-sprung menace. He looks more like that genial guy you used to know in school. That lad whose father put up the money to buy him a pair of record decks because books weren’t really his thing and it was either that or get a real job. The next time you met him, he was fronting a night-club for some rich alcoholic, leasing a second-hand BMW Z4 and sporting a brand-new accent that he caught in a tanning parlour. Nowadays he does some sort of property consultancy and he mixes with the social elite, or what passes for a social elite in your town: auctioneers and fast-buck money advisers. They all have the sunbed accent too.

Gavin would remind you a bit of that guy. The grin, the patter and most of all, the fact that he believes his own bullshit.

Peter Casey is harder to figure. He seems to be a genuine businessman and he seems to have made actual money for himself, which isn’t an indicator of anything in particular, I realise, except some primitive instinct to make money. But on the other hand, he seems to be as ill-informed about the nature of the Presidency as his two fellow Dragons, and equally prone to mouthing aspirational nonsense about what he would do if elected.

Casey, apparently, doesn’t believe in feminism. He spent a long time in America and thinks we have somebody called the First Lady. He says that when he’s in the Áras he’ll put his wife in charge of women’s things while he gets on with the important man-things, presumably things like jump-starting the presidential limo and whipping the flunkeys for failing to polish the silver.

Peter doesn’t like being challenged. He’s quick to tell interviewers how insulted he feels at their impertinent questions, which would lead you to give thanks for two things. First, our President has no power to have anyone lined up against a wall and shot, but second, and more important, Peter hasn’t a snowball’s chance of getting elected, which at least gives him something in common with the other two bozos.

And just like the other lads, Peter believes his own bullshit.

I don’t know what drives Joan Freeman. She founded Pietà House and seems like a well-meaning soul, although it is a bit strange that she can’t remember ever having had anything to do with the Iona Institute, despite the fact that half her family seem to be members, two of them prominent campaigners for a No vote during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign. Joan believes she was once miraculously cured of eczema at the Knock shrine. Joan also seems to believe that the Presidency should be about supporting mental health, thereby showing the same level of understanding as the three lads, though at least she does believe in something, unlike them.

Worryingly, Joan is Mattie McGrath’s preferred candidate and yes, I realise this is very shallow of me, but if Mattie McGrath was in favour of apple pie, I’d be ordering the rat salad.

At least Liadh Ní Riada of Sinn Féin has a coherent political agenda, even if it isn’t one that unites all of us.  Liadh says she’d wear a poppy, for the common good, even if some of her fellow party members don’t approve, which is very decent of her, though one uncharitable thought did cross my mind. Isn’t it a pity those Sinn Féin members who hold seats in Westminster didn’t take a similar view on the common good and use their votes to sink Brexit?

Without that economic and political calamity hanging over us, maybe we’d have more patience for the seven-year shit show that the presidential election cycle has turned into.

As we speak, the also-rans are at each other’s throats over some empty-headed tosh Casey uttered about Travellers and there are of course the predictable calls for him to drop out of the race, which would be a shame. After all, they’re diluting each other’s votes nicely here, although Casey’s 2% will hardly make much difference one way or the other when he’s ignominiously kicked out on the first count. He can go back to his millionairing, Gallagher can go back to eating people’s rib-cages, Duffy can go back to selling tickets for debs’ balls, Joan Freeman can go back to Iona and Liadh can go back to pretending we still have Articles 2 and 3 and wishing she’d never heard of the HPV vaccine.

Miggledy can go back to the Áras he never left and we can go back to pretending this didn’t happen.



[Seven years ago, this was the official Bock view on presidential elections.]

Bock's People

Bock’s Back

Ah fuck it. Everyone needs a break now and again but this is ridiculous.

It’s time to come back and spread ridicule. Time to vent spleen. Time to poke hornet nests again.

Those long months in the wilderness were worth it for the soul-cleansing they wrought but they took their toll. Let me tell you, a diet of locusts and wild honey isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your jaw would be sore from crunching the fucking grasshoppers and you’d be all night picking the jaggedy little legs out of your teeth. As for the honey, your hands would be like a football from all the stings, you’d be in mortal fear of fighting yet another bear and besides, wild honey isn’t like the nice clear stuff you buy in the shops. Wild honey has all sorts of dirty shite mixed into it.

Not great.

Let me also point out that the wilderness isn’t great for washing facilities. There isn’t much l’Oreal out there among the sand dunes and the wild scrub nor much of anything else either.

No indeed. ‘Tis a gaunt and unshaven Bock that trudges back into your life. A hollow-cheeked creature with wild, sunken eyes and a thousand-cubit stare, clutching at your collar with a claw-like grasp.

By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, you might well demand, now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

Wherefore, indeed.

Well, that will become apparent as time uncurls itself from a painful lotus position but for the present, let me say simply this.

‘Tis a new Bock that waves this gnarled old walking staff at thee. A new Bock and a changed one. A Bock with many faces and many voices.

A Bock whose name is Legion.


The Beatles at Abbey Road. Tomorrow Never Knows.

On April 6th 1966, after a three month break, the Beatles arrived into Abbey Road to start recording the album that would eventually be known as Revolver.

The first song they recorded was Tomorrow Never Knows.

The recording was completed the following day but what the Beatles achieved over those days and their revolutionary use of studio and recording techniques would completely change the way musicians would use a recording studio from then on. The studio, in effect, became a member of the band.

A number of factors contributed to this. One of these was that  John Lennon had spent most of the previous three months tripping on LSD, ingesting it almost every day, and he started to write songs unlike any he ever wrote before. George Martin was initially puzzled by this two-chord song that didn’t contain a chorus and sounded almost like a monotone drone. When he asked John what he thought the recorded track should sound like, Lennon famously described the sound in his head as ‘The Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan monks chanting on a mountain top’.

Another factor was that the Beatles had a new recording engineer. Norman Smith, who worked with them since the first album, had been promoted and George Martin appointed twenty-year-old Geoff Emerick as their new engineer. Geoff was a most innovative young man and because he had very little previous studio experience he was not bound by the ‘correct way’ to record songs. He was happy to try almost anything, often letting the needles drift into the red zone, something previously regarded as a cardinal sin in Abbey Road.

In recording Tomorrow Never Knows, Martin and Emerick created four innovative studio sounds or techniques that would be used by countless bands, even up to this day.

Ringo’s Drum Sound.  The sound of these drums is the first thing that strikes the listener. This incredible noise was produced by using dampened, slack-tuned toms, compressed and  fed through a massive reverb effect.  Emerick also tried something completely new by placing the bass drum mike inside the drum and stuffing a jumper into it to deaden the sound. Previousl the mike would have been placed on the ground, some distance from the drum kit

Backwards Guitar.  George Harrison discovered it by accident but was so impressed by this effect that he created a unique and complex method to record it. First he played and recorded the solo over the song as he normally would. He then played the recording backwards and notated the backwards solo. Then reading the notation he re-recorded the solo and finally George Martin played this recording backwards and added it to the song. 

John’s Vocal. Lennon hated having to double-track his vocals so Ken Townsend, an Abbey Road engineer, invented ADT (automatic double tracking) to solve this problem by taking the signal from the playback and recording heads and delaying them slightly, thereby creating two sound images from the original signal. This was the first ever recording to use this effect. For the second part of the song Emerick fed John’s vocal through a revolving Leslie speaker, originally used on a Hammond organ. This created the effect now known as Flanging. This gave John’s vocal his desired sound of ‘chanting Tibetan monks’. Again, this was the first time this effect was used in recording.

Tape Loops. Paul had spent a lot of the three months break with Jane Asher and her family and was introduced to modern classical music by them, particularly ‘musique concrete’. This involved recording everyday sounds on a piece of tape, joining the ends of tape to create a loop and playing it back on a tape recorder with the erase head removed so that every time the tape looped another layer was added, creating strange and sometimes wonderful sounds. Impressed by this, he started experimenting with samples himself. On April 6th he suggested that they use tape loops on Tomorrow Never Knows. That evening John, Ringo, George and Barry Miles all created their own loops and brought them to studio the following day where George Martin dubbed all five loops onto the song in a live recording using faders to bring the loops in and out.

Amazingly, all this was accomplished in 2 days. When you compare this song to what had appeared on the previous album it was a quantum leap. It truly was The Beatles’ Robert Johnson at the Crossroads moment.

While recording, Tomorrow Never Knows was known as ‘Mark 1’ but when it came to assembling the album John settled on a favourite phrase of Ringo’s for the official title.

Probably the most innovative and influential song the Beatles would ever record.

public transport

Bus Éireann dispute based on false business premise

Bus EireannWhy do we expect Bus Éireann to be a commercial entity?

After all, we don’t expect the fire brigade to generate a profit.

We don’t require our national police force to make money.

We don’t insist on the Coast Guard recording a handsome return year after year.


Because these are public services and we all agree that they exist for the common good, for the benefit of our society.

Why, then, would public transport be any different? Why are we talking about Bus Éireann, the company in danger of insolvency, instead of Bus Éireann, the grossly mismanaged public service?

And why do we focus on striking staff instead of looking closely at the antediluvian management practices that keep Bus Éireann and CIÉ as a whole, locked in the 1940s?

Yes, Bus Éireann is dysfunctional, and not just Bus Éireann but the entire CIÉ family. Anyone who has shivered at a November bus-stop knows about its casual disregard for timetables. Anyone who has raged on discovering that the bus left early understands the contempt some Bus Éireann staff have for the customers who pay their wages. Anyone who has been baffled by the fact that there’s only one way on and one way off a Dublin bus can see immediately that something fishy is at work here.

Why, almost uniquely in Europe, is it not possible to board an Irish bus without negotiating with the driver? Why are there no card-reading machines on our buses? Why can’t we board via a second door?

It’s insane, just as it’s insane that Bus Éireann’s customers, in an age of satellites, geo-tracking and downloadable apps can’t track the location of their next bus and find out at the flick of a phone how long they’ll have to wait.


Why is this?

Explain please.

One plausible explanation is that the old CIÉ attitudes pervade everything that happens in Bus Éireann.

It’s true that the drivers are militant and it’s true that their unions have always dominated the company and impeded every initiative tending to increase efficiency. But on the other hand, what is to be gained by management actively creating a crisis by presenting the workers with an ultimatum, based on a spurious premise? The company is not and will never be permitted to become insolvent. This is a State-owned company and it will not go broke, nor should it.

If the State could bail out banks that engaged in highly dubious activities, endangering the very foundations of our democracy, why would it not bail out a company that provides a public service to those who require it? Furthermore, if our commitment to the environment is to be credible, should we not be doing all in our power to offer an alternative to the private car?

It’s all nonsense.

Bus Éireann workers are on a cushy number and we can’t deny it. They’re well paid, but the answer is not to crush them. The answer is to mould an efficient transport system using the best logistical techniques available. If that means trampling on some cherished, established practices, well and good, but let’s not demonise the workers or the unions, even if those same unions treated the public with contempt by calling a lightning strike.

And let’s not allow Bus Éireann management to hold a gun to the heads of their employees when they themselves would not withstand professional scrutiny if subjected to examination by an external agency.

Finally, let us consider again our attitude to public transport.

Why does everything have to be subject to market forces? After all, it isn’t so long since those same forces threatened to destroy our country.


US President Donald Trump to set up European HQ in Ireland

Donald J Trump has accepted an invitation from Enda Kenny to visit our country in his capacity as president of the USA, as opposed to simply being some random boorish clown who happens to own a golf club.

I know. It’s dispiriting, but what are we to do about it?

Actually, the answer is surprisingly simple. We should show Trump’s office the sort of respect he himself doesn’t understand. We should show him the kind of dignity he has no experience of. We should demonstrate to Trump what it means to be a fully-functioning human being.

In other words, we should greet him as we would greet the leader of any foreign country. Needless to mention, that doesn’t include green-clad maidens playing harps at the steps of his plane nor any government minister dancing attendance, as Michael Noonan embarrassingly did long before Trump’s handlers managed to hijack the White House, when he was still just a two-bit hustler working with a big bag of roubles.

No. We should greet the Leader of the Redneck World with a multicultural musical ensemble as he descends from Airforce Wad. We should invite the leaders of all major denominations to greet him. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim.

We should invite the children of immigrants and of those who fled from oppression to present him with flowers. Syrian children. Libyan children. Afghan children. Iranian children.

Welcome, Mr President.

Of course, if we’re to have any credibility, we’ll have to do something about our appalling Direct Provision system, our unique Irish gulag archipelago capable of swallowing up entire families for decades, depriving them of normal human existence, refusing them even the possibility of preparing a family meal together. And we’ll have to do something about those appointed to hear appeals from the residents of the Direct Provision camps. Some of those highly-respected professionals have never granted one solitary appeal, despite being paid large amounts of money to sit in judgement over desperate people. What are the chances that not even one application has any merit?

Well, them’s the breaks, as they say. Tough.

But never mind any of that. This is modern Ireland and nothing like the old days, when remote authoritarians sat in judgement over unmarried mothers and jailed children convicted of being orphans.  Ignoring the plight of children confined to Direct Provision camps is nothing like ignoring the children locked up in industrial schools or the women locked up in Magdalene Laundries. These days, we lock them all up together and eventually, when the children become thoroughly Irish, become fluent Irish speakers in school, with no connection whatever to their parents’ home place, we send the whole lot of them back to Africa.

We’re good like that in this land of missionaries. We’re really great.

Of course, Enda made a big pitch to the Oompaloompa-in-Chief about Irish illegals in the USA. And yes, they are illegal, not undocumented. And yes, it would be great if they could all get green cards. And yes, I’m all in favour of it.

But why do we think there’s something special about us as Irish? Why do we always reach for the fool’s pardon? Why do we participate in this annual festival of paddywhackery with the likes of Paul Ryan slurping a badly-poured Guinness and Trump slurring his way through a Nigerian poem, thinking it’s an Irish proverb?

Why do we acquiesce with such bullshit instead of having some dignity? Why do we roll over and let our bellies be tickled?

The latest we hear is that Trump is going to base his European headquarters in Ireland and some of us wonder what it all means.

After all, Trump is the President of the USA. He has one HQ and that’s in Washington. The USA does not have a European headquarters and yet the Irish papers slavishly reported this nonsense as fact.

What’s the alternative? Simple: Trump, in violation of US statute, continues to operate independent business interests across the globe and proposes to set up an illegal offshore operation here in Ireland to evade Federal law.

Isn’t that what it amounts to? Will we facilitate Trump to engage in activity that would be illegal in the USA?

Is that in our long-term interests?

Never mind growing a pair. Isn’t about time we grew a brain and realised that this man is determined to destroy the European Union if he can? Isn’t it about time we realised where our long-term interests lie and isn’t it about time we stopped sending our Prime Minister to the White House for Saint Patrick’s Day like some performing monkey for the enjoyment of Irish-Americans who are less Irish than my cat?


Bishop Eamon Casey Dies

Yes, it’s true. Bishop Eamon Casey was a hypocrite. And it’s true he represented everything that was wrong about the Ireland he inhabited, from his self-important speeches to his personal ego-trips on the Late Late Show where he found himself fawned upon by Ireland’s half-squire of smugness, Gay Byrne.

It’s true that Casey was a true Father Ted stereotype, long before the series hit the screens, with his love for strong drink, fast open-top sports-cars and a combination of the two, leading to his multiple  convictions in Britain for drunk driving. In many ways, Casey was Father Noel Furlong.

Of course, if he had been stopped in his own country with a strong smell of alcohol, things would have been different in those days, because that was the Ireland Casey and his confreres inhabited. A land of abject deference to the collar. A land that still has not fully disappeared.

It would be unfair to ignore the fact that Casey took a strong stand against American foreign policy in Central America on purely moral grounds. Indeed, he was one of those who stood in the hail of bullets that killed Archbishop Romero in San Salvador, fired by supporters of the savage right-wing Arena party backed by the CIA. Casey was one of those who opposed Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland in 1984. But somehow, Casey’s outrage never extended to his home country, where women were illegally  imprisoned and enslaved by his church. Indeed, Casey continued to condemn women who had children outside of marriage, long after he himself had produced a child with Annie Murphy.

In so many ways, that makes him an even worse hypocrite, since he knew full well how wrong it was to oppress these women, and yet he knowingly ignored their plight.

He knew this was going on and he failed to intervene, preferring the rock-star notoriety of his campaigns against Reagan and the CIA.

Casey abandoned the slaves of the laundries because he did not care about them. Casey preferred singing on the Late Late Show before a grovelling, uncritical, unquestioning host. The same host who prostrated himself in front of Bono many years later.

Furthermore, Casey took emotional advantage of a vulnerable young woman, even though it’s true that Annie Murphy was 24 years old and therefore a grown adult. But Casey was at the very same time using his public profile to lecture the Irish people on their sexual mores. He and his colleague, Michael Cleary, both of whom had fathered children, had the utter cheek to talk down to Irish people as if they were infants.

And that was when the authority of the Catholic clergy in Ireland finally collapsed.

That was when the Irish people, who had for a century and a half been treated like children, finally realised how they had been duped by a bunch of hypocritical charlatans. How they had been deprived of love and intimacy by sexually-inadequate old men. How they had been cheated by a bunch of witch-doctors.

It wasn’t the shocking revelations of child abuse that alienated Ireland from the Catholic hierarchy, though of course, those exposures deepened the hurt.

It was Bishop Eamon Casey. We were the innocent spouse and he was the cheater. We’d been lied to, and there’s no forgiving a lie.

Ireland, Casey’s loyal Catholic spouse, had lived a chaste, joyless life for 150 years and now we learned that he and his crusty old friends had been fucking all around them. Is it any wonder the Irish people wanted to string them all up?

As for Brendan Smyth and all the other child abusers, that was just piling insult on insult.

After Bishop Eamon Casey cheated on Ireland, the details of the clergy’s disgrace hardly mattered.

A lover scorned is a hard enemy.



Donald Trump’s behaviour is that of a closet alcoholic.

Much has been made of President Donald Trump’s aversion to alcohol and yet his behaviour is that of a man who drinks heavily at night, alone.

His tweets speak of it. His rages speak of it. His tantrums speak of it.

Trump behaves exactly like a man with a serious alcohol dependency, despite his very public claim to be a life-long teetotaller.

What are we to make of this?

Anyone who drinks, anyone who has been drunk, knows what it is to go on social media and say something utterly stupid, something so cringe-inducing you want to jump around like Basil Fawlty with your head tucked between your knees. Aaarrrggghhh!!!

But what if you don’t possess the ability to be embarrassed?

What if you have the sort of character that is incapable of shame?

And what if you happen to be a pathological liar?

In addition, what if, much to your surprise, you happen to have become President of the USA?

You find yourself in the chocolate factory and you can do whatever you want, or at least, that’s what you think.

What would you do if you were a pathological liar with no sense of shame, no sense of dignity and with a serious reliance on alcohol?

What would you do if your chief strategist and personal Svengali also happened to be a heavy drinker?

I suppose you’d claim to be a teetotaler.

I suppose you’d sit up all night surfing the internet and tweeting insane accusations at imaginary enemies.

I suppose you’d be Donald Trump.