government Health

Health Service Executive has disrespect and sloppiness at its heart

Today I finally understood the reason why our Health Service Executive is unable to deliver a modern health service.

Today I accompanied an elderly relative to hospital for a simple outpatient procedure, and I saw a highly-trained specialist nurse wasting a full half hour transcribing information from one file to another by long-hand. I saw a highly-trained professional struggling to read notes written by a doctor who, in his infinite arrogance, couldn’t be bothered to write clearly and who therefore endangered a patient.

This is the country Enda Kenny claims is at the leading edge of information technology, and yet our health service doesn’t know what its patients are doing unless a vital highly-paid professional laboriously writes it out time and time again.

Database systems have been in existence for many decades. Most developed societies have properly-designed computerised records of patients available to all health professionals at the touch of a button. This is not some sort of groundbreaking new technology, except in Ireland, so why was I surprised at the 1950s technology still pervading our public health system?

I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the reality is that the 1950s technology is also the 1950s mindset.

The people who run the Health Service Executive are trapped in the past and until the government understands this, nothing will change.

I’ve been talking about the malaise at the heart of the system for many years but at the same time it’s easy to blame systems when in reality it isn’t a system that humiliates or disrespects a patient.

The system doesn’t disrespect patients. People disrespect patients. Bad nurses disrespect patients. Arrogant doctors disrespect patients. Slovenly domestic staff disrespect patients. Sniffy administrative staff disrespect patients. And all of those people should know better but many can’t be bothered.

Ultimately, though it isn’t their responsibility, since a properly-functioning system should do three things:

A working system should educate them to understand that respect is vitally important.

It should warn all health employees that they are the employees, not the masters.

A functioning system should impress on medical consultants that they are simply employees paid by the public and that they are obliged to show respect to their customers.

If none of that works, a properly-functioning system should remove people  from their jobs when they fail to meet the appropriate standard, but ultimately, none of this works if disrespect and sloppiness are at the heart of our society.

Is it as simple as that?

Do we tolerate doctors with a god complex (people whose education we paid for) and administrators who treat us like dirt because that sort of thing is embedded in the nature of who we are?

Do we tolerate condescending receptionists and gruff nurses because that’s how it has always been?

Are we simply a disrespectful society? Are we a bunch of ill-mannered boors and is that why we have a boorish, ill-mannered, incompetent arrogant health service?

Sadly, I suspect we are.

I  suspect that the Health Service Executive is no more than a reflection of the sloppy, arrogant, class-ridden, incompetent, slovenly society we have created for ourselves.

Isn’t it time we changed not only the Health Service Executive but the way we behave?


Goodbye, Rumpole

brendan nix

The wonderful Brendan Nix has died, to my shock and sorrow.

There was no kinder man, no more decent man and no more humble man.

Brendan confounded every stereotype of the snooty Senior Counsel with his basic, earthy grasp of life’s realities and his compassion for those less fortunate.  He was never pompous, never self-important, but always ready to defend the weak and the vulnerable, often to his own cost.

He had no love for the inflated egos of certain judges and no fear of their wrath when he called them out as the fools he perceived them to be.

Brendan cared nothing for status but valued friendship and loyalty no matter what quarters those qualities extended to.

He was a decent man and I’m sad tonight to hear of his passing, for which we are all the poorer.

Some might say he took his case to a higher court.  If so, I hope he’s giving them a hard time as always.

Goodbye, Rumpole, you crazy diamond.

Democracy government

Queenwars. Elizabeth beats Victoria

You have to hand it to QE2. It took a while, but she finally beat VR for the title of longest-reigning queen and fair play to her for that, even if poor old Charles has been wandering around in the background like an unwanted, 66-year-old royal stripogram.

queen victoria

This  I remarked to an elderly acquaintance earlier today.

Now that Elizabeth has beaten Victoria’s record, maybe she’ll abdicate and give Charles the throne.

What? he replied. She’ll have to be pulled out by the leg.

And of course, he was right. It  will take the blow of an axe to remove the old queen from office, something the British royals are no strangers to, even if their aristocratic scruples prevent them from doing so with their own finely-shaped hands.

Meanwhile, Charles fumes, or perhaps not, as he approaches his seventies, the Man Who Might be King, wondering if his mother’s longevity was simply a sustained attack on his personal strength of character, a very public commentary on his unsuitability to be a monarch.

Who wouldn’t wonder that? What potential potentate would not ask himself what exactly was wrong as his mother reached retirement age twenty-five years ago while he was still in his prime at forty?  A youngish vigorous man in the shadow of a powerful matriarch and in thrall to an assortment of fake-medicine charlatans, what was poor Charles to do?

Married to a child bride chosen for him, with his two children, he still had his beloved Camilla but he also had his obligations and in the end, where did it all get him?

Here he is now, a man of 66, immensely wealthy it has to be agreed, but with money he did not earn. A figurehead of nothing in particular, doing no specific job, having no special knowledge of anything, interviewed on TV for nothing other than his family connections.

Meanwhile, there’s the old queen, shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, backslapping with Cork fishmongers, building alliances with the most unlikely old enemies, while the British people, or some of them at least, simmer with rage, wondering why they pay for a privileged family of wasters and drunkards to pose as their heads of state.

Now personally, I can think of no better sinecure than to have the entire United Kingdom pay for my drunkenness and excess, but that’s a pipe-dream granted to few, and every one of those few happens to be a member of the Royal Family. You could understand why so many British tax-payers resent these people, but still, what would happen to Northern loyalists if the royal family should happen to up sticks and quit? What would Sammy and Billy do if no royal family existed? It hardly bears thinking about. They might have to become loyal to the rule of law and order. Heaven forfend.

What’s the Queen’s exit strategy? The old dear is 88 now and probably doesn’t expect to reach the century, so what exactly is she thinking? It surely can’t involve Charles, since her very continuance on the throne for the last decade is an insult to him and a statement to the world that she doesn’t consider him to be good enough. Why he hasn’t charged into the royal boudoir with an axe we will never know, but that’s noblesse oblige for you. Gordonstoun was good for something.

The exit strategy is probably to install one of Charles’s legitimate progeny on the throne, and of those QE2 might prefer William, to ensure a smooth transition to the future monarchs bred impeccably on Kate Middleton by the Buck House stable lads.

How long the monarchy can endure is anyone’s guess, despite the grudging affection earned by the old girl, not only in Britain but also in Ireland. However a monarchy is one thing, while an entire family of unproductive spongers supported by the taxpayer is quite a different matter.

For ourselves, it matters little, apart from the abiding interest in the British monarchy that everyone here seems to hold.

Law Politics

Denis O’Brien – confusing Ireland with Haiti

Parallel universes have become quite the topic du jour lately, with Denis O’Brien threatening to sue Waterford Whispers for a satirical article.   Deducing solely from a letter written by Meagher Solicitors on behalf of Denis O’Brien, the article seems to have lampooned the mega-billionaire, describing how, in a parallel universe, a different parallel Denis O’Brien receives a 20-year prison sentence for improper payments to parallel politicians.

They assert that this satirical article is defamation which of course requires that a person’s reputation be lowered in the eyes of a right-thinking member of society.

Did the Waterford Whispers post lower Denis O’Brien in my estimation as a right-thinking member of society?


I already held him in extremely low esteem after the things said about him by the Moriarty Tribunal which, found that he had paid a government minister large amounts of money and that the same minister subsequently helped him to secure the second mobile phone licence on which his fortune is based. Denis O’Brien did not sue the Moriarty Tribunal for these findings, even though they are, on the face of it, grossly defamatory if they are untrue.

He did, however, choose to issue legal threats to a bloke with a laptop on his kitchen table, which is essentially what Waterford Whispers amounts to.

He also chose to issue legal proceedings against our national parliament, for failing to discipline elected members who spoke disrespectfully about him.

Now, the fundamental law in Ireland is the Constitution.  It’s the document on which everything else is based, and it’s written in reasonably plain language, as all laws should be.

Anyone can understand this.

The members of each House of the Oireachtas shall, except in case of treason as defined in this Constitution, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest in going to and returning from, and while within the precincts of, either House, and shall not, in respect of any utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself.

Let’s leave out the bit about being stopped on the way to the House and focus on the part that annoys Denis.

The members of each House of the Oireachtas  … shall not, in respect of any utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself.

Got that?  It’s so simple, even a billionaire could get it. Even a billionaire’s lawyer, for that matter.

Translated into even simpler language, it says that no court in the land can tell elected members what not to say in the national parliament. It says that the parliament can make its own mind up about its own rules. And by implication, it says that if angry billionaires don’t like it, they can go and get stuffed.

Ireland, despite all its flaws, is a constitutional democracy, not a country where some random oligarch can dictate the shape of the law, but Denis doesn’t seem to understand that.  Perhaps Denis has been spending too long in the land of Papa Doc and Baby Doc where no such concerns have ever applied.


The Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015 is deeply flawed

electronic communications bill

The Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015 is an ill-conceived and flawed piece of work, even if the intentions behind it are sincere.

This is its title:

An Act to protect against and mitigate harm caused to individuals by all or any digital communications and to provide such individuals with a means of redress for any such offending behaviours directed at them.

Well and good.  All perfectly laudable on the face of it, until we read the actual text, which defines two offences:

  • Harmful electronic communication.
  • Malicious electronic communications.

Section 3 states as follows:

(1) A person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly shares a harmful electronic communication shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered harmful where it—

(a) incites or encourages another to commit suicide,

(b) incites or encourages another to cause serious harm to themselves, or

(c) includes explicit content of the other, and it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

Section 4 states:

(1) A person who, without lawful excuse, persistently shares malicious electronic communications regarding another shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered malicious where it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

Both sections provide for a fine of €5,000 or 12 months in prison or both.

Clearly, nobody could argue with criminalising anyone who encourages another person to commit suicide or cause serious harm to themselves, unless that person happens to be an open and notorious despot, such as Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad or Osama Bin Laden, but there’s the first problem.  However unintentionally, the proposed Bill gives protection to the likes of those who lead ISIS. In theory, anyone calling for their suicide or self-harm is a criminal, even though most of us would be perfectly happy if they did away with themselves.

The big difficulty comes with the sections that criminalise causing alarm or distress to another person by means of electronic communication and the reason for that difficulty is plain.  The definition of alarm and distress doesn’t rest in my hands but in yours.  If you choose to be alarmed or distressed by anything I say on line, I am a criminal.

Thus, for example, if this Bill had been enacted prior to the Marriage Equality referendum, I could now be a criminal simply by saying that I supported same-sex marriage, since so many absolute lunatics expressed alarm and distress at the very thought of anyone suggesting such a thing.

Not only would I be a criminal, but so would the bill’s sponsors, Pat Rabbitte and Lorraine Higgins, both of whom supported marriage equality, to the great distress and alarm of many traditionalists. Not to mention more than one authoritarian ideologue.

Should I be entitled to make a criminal complaint because I’m alarmed or distressed by anything the ridiculous Iona Institute says, or the crazies from Mothers & Fathers Matter?

No I should not.

I find them offensive. I find them alarming. For that matter, I find them repellent, but I do not find them criminal.

If this bill happened to be law today, Lorraine Higgins herself might well be a criminal for sharing photoshopped images of Luke Ming Flanagan on line, but perhaps she wasn’t thinking of herself when she drafted the Bill. Perhaps she was thinking of those faceless internet trolls who aren’t real people.

Pat Rabbitte could be clapped in irons for making sarcastic remarks on line if he knew what the internet was. Luckily for Pat, as a Jurassic politician, his defence is absolute.

But still, that’s the problem with trying to define what is offensive. It places power in the hands of those who would silence us.

We can’t draw up laws based on how sensitive people are to the views of others because, apart from anything else, such a law would probably be found repugnant to Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution: Freedom of Speech. We can’t legislate based on how unstable an individual’s personality is, how badly they desire to be insulted or how deeply disordered they might be.

The thickness of my skin is not a measure of your criminality.

The lack of logic is disappointing for a Bill devised by a qualified barrister like Lorraine.  However well-meaning she  might be in proposing this legislation, the bill deserves to go nowhere until it has been properly thought out so that it no longer offers a veto to every bigot and religious maniac who chooses to be offended in order to silence you and me.

Offence is not given. It is taken.


Full text here.


Crime Favourites Policing

Garda Reform Most Extensive in History of Force

An Garda Síochána is to be reformed, apparently.

In the most radical restructuring since the formation of the force, Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has imposed strict limits on doughnut use and announced intensive courses on the correct pronunciation of “vehicle”.

Hawks are to be curtailed.  No member of the force will henceforth be able to buy more than twenty items at cost price from retailers in any given year.

Young drunken off-duty gardai who flash identification at fellow night-clubbers  before beating them up will from now on be called in front of the Super, who will be required to say For fucksake lads three times. before shaking his head ruefully.

Any Garda checking out a car for a friend will be required to provide a reason before looking up the ownership details and passing them on.

Gardai will not, in future, be permitted to copy personal information about citizens from the PULSE system and place it on their personal laptops, if their children are likely to use the laptop for Facebook.  Gardai without children will be exempt from this requirement.

However, Templemore will continue as a monastic settlement, where recruits are taught that society consists of two groups: An Garda Siochána and potential criminals.

An Garda Síochána, unlike the PSNI, will continue to be a security agency as well as a police force.

There will be no concerted attempt to confront the entrenched inertia that keeps the force rooted in the attitudes of the 1920s, diverting allocating  resources to such vital tasks as the enforcement of pub licensing hours.

An Garda Síochána is dragged kicking and screaming into the 1950s.





Garda Acquitted of Theft and Assault in Taxi Row

If there was a video of what Garda Pádraig Dennehy did, we’d all be cheering and clapping.  Somebody might even put it on Facebook.

He thought the cop would take his side but you won’t believe what happened next.

What did happen?

Rimas Bastys, from Lithuania, a place where the police are famously approachable and honest (not), got into the cab of Mr Nadeem Mirza.  The place was O’Connell Street in Dublin and his destination was Blanchardstown.  For reasons best known to himself, Bastys got it into his head that the driver was going in circles to inflate the fare, so he jumped out of the cab at Parnell Square and approached Gardai, who happened to be diverting traffic from the scene of a collision.

He was drunk. He accused the taxi driver of cheating and Garda Pádraig Dennehy took time out of his assigned task to sort out the problem, which he did very effectively by taking Bastys’s wallet, removing a ten-euro note, handing it to the driver and returning the change to Rimas Bastys along with a receipt.

The evidence is that he then told Bastys to fuck off, which I sincerely hope is true.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that he slapped Bastys in the face, kicked him up the arse or pushed him into a giant custard pie but again, although I wish it were so, that’s not what happened.

Instead, the Garda Ombudsman Commission investigated a complaint from Mr Bastys, and then the DPP prosecuted the policeman for the theft of €6.25.


I’m glad to say that the matter was finally settled today when the District Court kicked the case out.

This is a story of a good practical cop doing his job with the minimum of fuss.  He stole no money.  He just paid the driver, Mr Mirza, and he gave Bastys his change, along with the receipt that proved the taxi had not travelled anywhere near as far as the drunken complainant imagined.

Do we need this kind of thing when there are genuine issues about the Gardai we need to be addressing?  When we have so many examples of genuine abuse of power, do we need our cops to be worried about petty unfounded accusations?

Do we need police who are reluctant to intervene informally in any minor dispute for fear they might find themselves in front of a criminal court?

To my way of thinking, Pádraig Dennehy is the kind of cop we need on the streets and the last thing we want is to kill his initiative with this sort of trivial prosecution, but unfortunately he’ll probably think twice before he gets involved with the next drunken loudmouth.




Garda Inspectorate Report Reveals Deep Problems in the Force

When the Morris Tribunal came out, they said it was just a Donegal problem.

When the Guerin report came out, they said it was just a Monaghan problem.

When the Smithwick Tribunal reported, they said it was just a Dundalk problem.

I wonder what they’ll say now that the Garda Inspectorate has issued a report confirming what everyone already knew: an Garda Síochána is a deeply dysfunctional, undertrained, secretive, unprofessional police force?

This latest report makes depressing reading, cataloguing failures in every aspect of policing within this State.  It paints a picture of a force  with little understanding of how a modern organisation should investigate crime or how it should relate to the victims.  A force with almost no grasp of technology.  A force with little or no advanced professional training, little ability to develop strategies or to adapt to changing circumstances and stuck in a siege mindset more appropriate to the 1950s.

A force with a remote, authoritarian leadership more concerned with political considerations than with policing a modern European country.  A force managed by people who are all political appointees.

It”s no accident that not a single candidate from an Garda Síochána senior management made it to the short-list for Chief Constable of the PSNI.  They weren’t good enough.   It’s that simple.

One thing is clear from this report.  Templemore, the Garda training college deliberately located far from any city, has to be closed down.  The attitudes of them-and-us drummed into new recruits in that policing monastery  do not serve us well in the 21st century.

The entire force needs a root-and-branch reconstruction but if that doesn’t happen after this it will never happen and we might as well get used to having a police force that’s a laughing-stock internationally.  We deserve – and pay for – something better.

Feel free to read the report here in all its dispiriting glory.



Previously on BTR

Alan Shatter Resigns

Martin Callinan Decommissions Himself

Garda Meltdown Is Only A Symptom of a Deeper Irish Problem

It’s Time to Reform an Garda Síochána

Gardai and Catholic Church. Both Losing Hearts and Minds

The Smithwick Tribunal Report — Would It Have Been Cheaper to Read Tarot Cards?

The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

The Framing of Frank Shortt

McBrearty Settles Action Against Irish State for €3 Million


Wayne Dundon and Nathan Killeen Convicted of Murdering Roy Collins

When the Dundons arrived in Limerick from England, they brought with them a vile pestilence that infected our town for years.  I don’t know what precisely was wrong with that family, but I can guess.   After all, we know for instance that their father, Ken Dundon, brought 12-year-old Wayne to witness a brutal killing.

Nobody knows how Ken Dundon became Satan.  He was from a decent, hardworking family, but he was a thug, and he married Anne “Doll” McCarthy, daughter of John the man.  Annie was the grand-daughter of Bridgie McCarthy, a nice old lady who described herself as a tinker woman.

Many Limerick people remember Bridgie with affection as a regular in Joe Malone’s pub.  She was a tough old lady who looked like Sitting Bull, but she had a sense of decency and everyone in Limerick respected her.  Many also remember that travellers were barred from Joe Malone’s, but not by the proprietor.  Bridgie the matriarch insisted that no members of her family should ever be served in the pub, in case they caused trouble, as they were inclined to do, and the matriarch’s word was law.  Every night, Bridgie’s son, John the Man, turned up with a van to collect his mother.  John peeled off however much he owed from a fat roll of notes and took the old lady home.

Anne Doll and Ken DUndon moved to London, they had six kids and Annie became a junkie.  She made the mistake of having an affair, and Ken brought his eldest son, Wayne with him to witness the brutal killing of his rival.   Wayne was twelve years old.

You get the idea.

This crowd arrived back in Limerick about fifteen years ago and imposed themselves on the local scumbags who had never seen such ferocity in their lives.  They seemed to be without sympathy, without remorse, without mercy, and they forced the local thugs to do things they had never dreamed of doing, even by the brutal standards of their ignorant upbringing.

Sadly, such stories are the life and soul of cynical reporters, who jumped all over the Limerick stereotype, and to be clear about that, it wasn’t only the Dublin media who were culpable.  All the other local hacks gleefully bought into the lazy, work-saving narrative they found dumped in their laps.  And so it happened that those who reported for the Examiner, the Independent, the Star, the Mirror and, disgracefully, the Limerick Leader, recycled every stupid criminal-related rumour that came their way because it was easier than working.

And of course, RTE lapped it up, as did the likes of Paul Williams, a man who wouldn’t know a serious criminal investigation if it shot him between the eyes.

It was a PR disaster for Limerick, a town of decent, creative people and it infected our lives for at least a decade and a half, thanks to the ignorance of the reporters who kept pushing it, including those from RTE and from local papers such as the Limerick Leader.  Nobody is guilt-free in this cynical narrative.

We marched against the bastards but it made no difference to the local and national hacks.

Thankfully, Wayne Dundon and the deranged young killer, Nathan Killeen, have now both received life sentences for the murder of Roy Collins, but we in Limerick are faced with a challenge we didn’t either create or deserve.

For the sake of our children, we have had to throw off an unfair image created to a large extent by incompetent and unprincipled journalists, many of whom come from within our own community.  Bad, cynical  journalists who used the McCarthy-Dundon story as a stepping stone to personal advancement without regard to the consequences for their friends and families.

Shame on them.

As for the McCarthy-Dundons, I feel certain that their great-grandmother would be ashamed of them too.


Limerick — A Catholic Council for a Catholic People

Remember Kevin Sheahan, the Limerick county councillor who got himself into hot water last year with his remarks on immigrants?  Kevin, in true FF style with an eye to securing the votes of the very thickest in his West Limerick constituency, came up with a headline-grabbing statement about immigrants receiving priority over Irish people in housing lists.

No foreigners need apply.

kevin sheahan


Kevin’s Ballymagash-style bluster was praised by members of the racist, white-supremacist Stormfront website, but such minor considerations never deterred backwoods councillors.  He got his column-inches, he got his soundbites and that was that.  Job done.  Like all well-honed parochial political hacks, Kevin understands that people only remember the row, never the rational responses to the nonsense they dream up.

That was then and this is now, but Kevin’s dream goes on forever.  With the amalgamation of Limerick city and county, Sheahan somehow managed to grab the role of Chairman, and he came up with a new plan that excludes not only foreigners but quite a number of Irish citizens as well.  In Kevin Sheahan’s view, this is what he calls a Christian country, and that’s why he has commissioned a crucifix — a specifically Catholic emblem — to be installed in the Council chamber.

I have great devotion to the Cross, said Kevin.  This Christian symbol in a Christian country will be erected there, that’s my intention.

No Irish need apply, it seems, unless they come within the definition of what it is to be a valid citizen, as laid down by Blessed Kevin of the Cross.

I personally don’t qualify, for instance, even though I was born and bred in this country, as were all of my antecedents as far back as I can trace.  Neither does any other atheist or agnostic.   Protestants don’t qualify as Irish citizens under Kevin’s criterion.  Neither do Jews, nor Muslims, nor Hindus, but we still don’t know what position Blessed Kevin takes on yoga.

Still,  that’s quite a significant number of people Kevin Sheahan doesn’t think deserve to be represented by the local council they recently voted for.  You’d have to wonder where this is going.  Will people be asked about their religious beliefs before being considered for inclusion in the council’s housing list?  Going on Kevin’s previous utterances, that would seem to be the logical next step.

How about emergency medical treatment?  Do I deserve that, even though I don’t follow the one true cross like Blessed Kevin?

Where have we heard this sort of talk before?  Let me think now …