Rural Broadband Access in Ireland: The Lunatics have taken over the Asylum

Back in May 2015 we listened with interest to a representative of Eircom,(Now Eir) discussing broadband access in Ireland, explaining to a radio interviewer how they were going to work with Government on the roll out of high speed broadband to all and sundry in rural Ireland. The programme to be supported by the exchequer. Apparently we have about 700,000 people who have built their houses so far from civilisation that it will take up to €10,000 of Taxpayers money to connect some of them to Broadband. This is the point to call Stop!

Broadband accessThere are a significant number of this 700,000 who, with the acquiescence of the planning system, decided to build their detached little “South Fork” pastiche home up on “The Hill” or down the winding “Boreen” as far away from their neighbours as possible. Of course they now expect to have all public services provided by the taxpayer, including a Hospital or a least an Ambulance at the end of their winding driveway.

We have a real case of the chickens coming home to roost here, these Baby Boomers and Tiger wannabes who wanted to live far away from their neighbours as possible, certainly refusing to think about the possibility of living next door to some smelly neighbours in a Town or Village, have now discovered that they made a bit of a mistake and they want the rest of us to pay for it. As far as I am concerned they can take a hike.

The policy of allowing individuals to build their homes anywhere that suited them and demand that the community follow their stupid decision with services should never have happened and needs to stop and in fact be reversed.

At the same time as having to deal with these self inflicted hermits, we have our Towns and Villages dying for lack of population, with services closing because of lack of support.

This is my solution. All housing must be built within a reasonable distance of either a Town or Village that provides what we regard as “public services” I suggest that the distance to the centre of the Town or Village should be that which a reasonably fit sixty year old can walk within 45 minutes.(about 5k)

We then use taxpayers money to subsidise public services to the same level as those available in larger conurbations within the designated catchment area of the Town or Village.

If you live outside the catchment area because that’s where you built your dream home, you pay the full economic cost of your own folly and our hard earned taxes can be used for more useful purposes.

€10,000 to connect someone to Broadband, The Lunatics have taken over the asylum…….

The Annual Road Flooding in Rathfarnham

Flooding on Nutgrove AvenueFavourite number 2 daughter very impressed. Four weeks ago as we had the usual first big leaf fall around Rathfarnham, I predicted that the when all the leaves had fallen and blocked the drains, there would be a big rain event in early November (this has happened every year since I started noticing it in 1992) The drains will be blocked with leaves and everyone will express surprise and blame the annual road flooding in Rathfarnham on Global warming.

South Dublin County Council outsourced drain cleaning to Oxigen so now the blame game can start……

Note to SDCC and Oxygen. Put a big notice in your diaries for the 5th November 2015, reminding you that all drains in the county, and especially Rathfarnham please, should be cleared in anticipation of the annual large rainfall event that will happen around this time in November 2015.
To be revisited in November 2015…..

We need Water Charges but not Double Taxation.

Irish WaterDespite the increasing volume and intensity of the water charges protests I think it is fair to say that everybody knows that we have to pay for a domestic water supply, whether as part of general taxation or by direct water charges.

The biggest incentive for introducing direct metered water charges is that it will prevent waste, which of course will bring down the cost of providing the service. In fact direct water charges based solely on consumption would have a self perpetuating “reduction in costs” spiral.

The biggest problem we currently face is the deplorable state of the existing water infrastructure, years of under investment, haphazard management and a lack of joined up thinking with thirty four local authorities competing for central tax resources. We need some serious investment in the infrastructure and the best way to do this is by being able to access private funding in the immediate future, with the ongoing water charges being used to pay back the loans.

The only long term solution to managing our water is by metering and pay per use.Irish Water Meter

One of the biggest objections put forward by the opponents of water charges is that we already pay for water through general taxation and water charges are in fact just double taxation. With tax revenues growing as the economy recovers, we don’t need extra taxes so we need to look at a mechanism that moves us to a pay per use for water model with a very visible corresponding reduction in general taxes. This could be achieved by using refundable tax credits

A refundable tax credit is a tax credit that is treated as a payment and thus can be refunded to the taxpayer by Revenue. Refundable credits can be used strategically to help offset certain types of taxes that normally cannot be reduced, and they can also produce a tax refund that is larger than the amount of money a person actually paid in during the year.

We should define an acceptable usage policy. If we assume that our demographics are similar to the UK and they have had metering in place for twenty years, we can use their numbers as a starting point. In the UK, average usage is 150 litres per person per day. This is equivalent to 54,750 litres per person per year. Looking at the Irish Water website this would be the equivalent of 54.75 M³ of water (a M³ is 1000 litres of water) @ €2.44 per M³, which would be €133.59 per person per year.

I believe that we should declare this number, whatever it will be, and then implement a Refundable Tax Credit regime immediately to neutralise the effect on Irish Water customers. People will pay for water but they will see a real reduction in their general taxes to compensate. People who do not pay income tax, for whatever reason, do still pay taxes in the form of VAT on anything they purchase so these people will simply be getting a refund on the VAT they pay as they go about their daily lives. This will prevent the refund being regarded as an extra social welfare payment.

On the basis that the transition from 34 councils looking after water to a single water authority should have been regarded a five year program, I suggest that this system be implemented for five years or until water leakage rates are below 26% (The worst leakage rate in the UK) and all households have been metered.

After five years or once the system is completely in place, with leakage rates below 25% and all households being metered, households would be charged for the actual amount of water they use and the rebate would be capped at the Refundable tax Credit rate which would be the same as the current estimated average cost per household, which is €270. This rebate would then become part of the normal yearly Government Budget deliberations.

During the five year period anyone with a water meter that uses less than the allocated average would still receive the full Refundable Tax Credit as an incentive to conserve water. For example, in my house, using the above figures and not the current figures from the Irish Water website, we would have a water bill for three people of €400.77. As an incentive to conserve water, if we used less that the allowance we would still get the €400.77 rebate

The transition from the current dysfunctional system to a single water utility is a mammoth undertaking and there will obviously be some pain in the transition but the prize is well worth the effort. The initial Irish Water business plan on how they will set about achieving this can be found here,  Irish Water Proposed Capital Investment Plan

As I said at the beginning, we all know we have to pay for water, the only way to do this is by pay per use but we also need to show people that the water charges are transferred from general taxation in a very visible way. The Refundable Tax Credit……

Of course the charges for water also includes the cost of disposing of our waste water because other that which we drink, all water that comes into the house is sent back out again through our waste water systems


A Justice System Gone Mad, Garda Abuse of Power

My experience of vindictive Garda abuse of power twelve years ago in January 2002

6th of July 2001
I was sitting outside the Gingerman Pub in Fenian Street deciding whether to have a beer or not. My car was parked about twenty metres away outside the Telecom offices. I got a call on my mobile from a Garda Declan O’Rourke to say that my car had just been broken into and my Laptop bag taken. He knew this because he was at the other end of the street and saw it happen. He said that the thief had gone into the nearby flats and I believe he said that he knew who it was. I left and drove the car home, feeling a bit stupid for leaving the bag behind the drivers seat in the first place, especially seeing as the reason the police had my number was that my car had been broken into on the same street (outside the Telecom’s offices) during the day about a year previously. I had the window fixed the next day and forgot about the incident.

About a week later Garda O’Rourke called to find out the value of the property stolen. IR£80 for the laptop bag and IR£80 for an electronic organiser which was in it. He said they had arrested the guy who broke into my car. They did not retrieve the bag

Thursday night the 3rd of January 2002 9:30 PM (6 months later)
There is a very aggressive ringing on my doorbell. I opened the door to find Garda O’Rourke and another Guard standing there with a very intimidating and aggressive attitude. He hands me an envelope and says This is a summons for you to appear in court on the 23rd as a witness” No, “good evening” or “sorry to bother you” I enquired for what and was told that it was as a witness for the prosecution in the case against the guy how broke into my car. I asked him if my bag had been recovered, considering that he had seen it happen and knew who did it. He said it hadn’t been recovered. At that point I asked why I should waste my time going to court when I wasn’t going to get my property back and it was very likely that the guy would get off anyway. I also pointed out how amazing it was that Mary O’Rourke’s property was recovered within minutes when her house was broken into around the same time. “You’re not Mary O’Rouke” was the response. I said that I wasn’t certain that I would have the time to turn up, at which point his sidekick took a step forward and told me that, “if I didn’t turn up I would be arrested and jailed”. I closed the door and thought “ Now there’s one for the books, my car is broken into, my property stolen and “I go to jail”….. only in Ireland !” I decided that I would turn up, mainly to complain about the manner in which the summons was presented and the attitude of the Guards who presented it.

On Tue 22nd January an important meeting, which I was to attend at 4:30PM was cancelled and rescheduled for Wed morning the 23rd at 9:30. I went to the meeting which went on until midday, got to my office at 2:00PM had a very busy afternoon and also a hectic Thursday, as I was going to the UK on Friday for the weekend. Monday 28th I opened my briefcase and found the summons. “Oh Shit, I forgot all about that”

Tuesday 29th January
I made contact with the Courts and was advised to write in an apologise to the Court and explain why I didn’t turn up.

Wed 30th January
6:20AM I am woken by the sound of my doorbell ringing incessantly, my first thought was that there was an electrical fault and that the ringer was jammed. It took me about two minutes to wake up, get out of bed, find a pair of jeans and go down to investigate. Doorbell ringing all the while. Got downstairs and could see that there were Guards at the door. I opened the door to be confronted by four uniformed Guards, including the two who had been there previously, in what I can only describe as” ready for action mode” (two of them had their hands on their batons) Garda O’Rourke informed me that he had a warrant for my arrest and that I should go get some clothes on. I said “ You might as well come in then” They filled the hall. I went upstairs, phoned my solicitor but couldn’t get through, shaved and ironed a shirt. I phoned my daughter, told her what was happening and asked her to make contact with my solicitor as soon as she could and that I was been taken to Pearse Street Garda station. I came downstairs, said OK I’m ready, “not yet your not” at which point the handcuffs were produced, I was handcuffed and I had to walk cuffed and surrounded by four Guards past my neighbours houses to two squad cars which were outside the security gates of the complex I live in cross parked with all blue lights flashing I was driven to Pearse Street in the back of a squad car and had to walk, still handcuffed, across the rush hour traffic to the back entrance of the station.

At the station there is a Twenty something, probably Romanian, guy with very little English being released after spending the night. He is been roundly abused by the Garda in charge and being told that if he doesn’t sign the papers, admitting his offence, he will go back to the cells until he does. His “crime”, stamping on two half litre milk cartons in South William Street after the night club’s closed. He’s gone, my turn, name address DOB etc, given a copy of my rights, remove belt, and empty pockets. It’s 7:40AM I was brought to a cell, spread-eagled against the wall, searched, remove shoes, door closes. This is a stinking, filthy kip with an open, uncleaned hole in the floor, which served as a toilet, in the corner. I was offered a cup of tea and a copy of the Sun newspaper. ( I refused both)

10:15 AM I’m taken from the holding cell put in a van and driven to Court 50 in Brunswick Street. They forgot to return my personal effects and, as I have never even been inside a Police station before, other then in the front public office for signature witnessing, I assumed that that was the norm. It’s not, my stuff was brought to the court and I got it back after the hearing.

The hearing
My solicitor had made contact with Pearse Street Station and was told that I had already been taken to Brunswick Street. He sent word that he was on the way and asked that the hearing be delayed until he got there with Council. I wasn’t told this, I believe that council for the state, did tell Judge Haughton but he chose to ignore the information. During the time I was waiting for the hearing there was a least six cases where witnesses for the prosecution did not turn up, mostly Guards and the cases were dismissed. I assumed that when I apologised and explained that due to pressure of work, I had genuinely forgotten about the hearing on the 23rd that I might get a bit of a tongue lashing from the Judge and that would be that. I had also intended to enquire whether he approved of the bully boy tactics the Guards used in carrying out his warrants. In fact I was treated as if I was a criminal and started to fear that I was going to get a prison sentence. Not understanding how these things work, unlike everyone else in the room, including the defendant, I ended up being bailed, €25 which I had on me and my own surety for €50, to turn up in court on the18th February and being told that if I don’t turn up I will be rearrested and jailed until the case is heard.

In my life I have had two speeding fines and I think four parking tickets. I have been in business in this city for twenty nine years and the only interaction I have ever had with the police is when my business was, broken into (at least twice a year), vandalised, trucks stolen, being personally assaulted and when my staff were the victims of one of the so called “crime bosses” armed robberies.


18th February
I arrive at the court, after some period when the hard to understand procedures have been gone through, there is a discussion between Garda O’Rourke, a representative of the DPP, a barrister representing the state and a solicitor representing the defendant (defendant who broke into my car, that is). He didn’t turn up as the DPP had decided to drop the case, which he obviously knew. The case was dismissed by the Judge. I’m sitting there not knowing what had happened and had to ask another Garda who was sitting beside me what was going on. Nobody even had the courtesy to tell me that the whole thing was over. I met Garda O’Rourke on the way out and he asked me if I would like him to explain what happened……. I left. Never did get the bail money back, wouldn’t even know how to go about that.
Apart from my obvious annoyance at all this, it seems to me that the amount of police, (Two squad cars and four Garda) and court time wasted on this whole episode, was way out of proportion to the smash and grab crime committed by the drug addict who broke into my car. I have a suspicion that my treatment was because I had the temerity to question Garda O’Rourke.

Current comment on the above
The above was actually written at that time when it was fresh in my memory. I had intended to make a complaint but decided against it, precisely because of what has come out in the open regarding the treatment of anyone who complains about a Garda.

This episode still rankles with me in the way any personal assault would. The problem of course is that, as most people have always known, if you complain about a Garda you will probably regret it. The current cases coming out into the open are probably just a tip of the iceberg as most people who have suffered abuse at the hands of An Garda Síochána just have to put up with it.

Don’t Waste Your Vote in the European Parliament Elections

A vote for a Minority Party or an independent candidate in the European Parliament elections is a waste of a vote.

EU Parliament ChamberThe EU political structure is very different than that of our Local and National structures. In order to have any, that is any, influence in Europe an elected member needs to be a member of a group and that group needs to be in a position to influence the decisions of the parliament.

This EU election is different than previous elections because the MEPs will now have more power.  They will effectively choose the president of the Commission and with a power of veto, effectively control that Commission.

The Power groups in the EU are basically all “Centre Groups”, of the current 736 MEPs, 449 belong to two groups, The EPP and The S&D with the ALDE having another 84. Total Centre parties (left and right) make up 72.4% of the parliament. Between them these groupings will make all the decisions in the next EU parliament and from there control all decisions made by the Commission.

If the candidates people vote for are not part of one of these groupings, they might as well stay at home and not bother because they will have no representation in Europe.

Before making a decision, people should check which grouping their candidate is, or will belong to. Then check and see if that grouping is one of those with influence. To say it again, anything else is a waste of a vote for a small country like Ireland.

Eu Parliament GroupsWe need influence at the power bases, not people who were elected to protest at our local and National Government. That can be done in the local elections and at the next general election.

The EU is too important to us to waste a vote in a protest that nobody except Irish people will see. We need proper representation at the centre of EU power, let the larger economies (UK, Germany, France) look after the protest groups and the Euro Sceptics

Brendan Palmer is CEO of Electronic Recycling.
An environmentalist,
BA Law (including European law)

A City Boy on Farming 9: If we are what we eat, we’re in trouble

As part of a series of articles written for irish Execcutives “Blogger in Residence”

Antibiotics in foodOver the past year or so I have looked at the foods we eat as part of our modern lifestyle and discovered that our modern food chain leaves a lot to be desired. It may be that in the “first world” we have cracked the food availability issue, with more than enough food for all.  In fact 50% of all food produced never even reaches a table.  The question is this, what kind of food are we being presented with and what effect is it having on our long term health?  Has anyone connected the trend of children dying from the new lifestyle diseases, before their parents, to the food we eat?

Over the last year I have covered various subjects

The behaviour of the meat industry:
The additives in our food:
The quality of the food we are asked to eat:
The Turkey industry:
The Pig industry:

none of which covered the industry with glory

The food processing industry use the same additives for preserving their packaged “foods” travelling from production to fork,  as those are used in the manufacture of cleaning agents, lubricants, stain removers and degreasers. See “The additives in our food” above

For those on a meat based diet, the indiscriminative use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is creating a time bomb in our health industry as antibiotic resistant bugs transfer from animals to humans. If continued unchecked, all the advantages that antibiotics have brought to our health system since the early 20th Century will be wiped out.

The following is an abridged version of an article on antibiotic use in animals by Irish Radio and Television Presenter and Producer, Ella McSweeny

More than 25,000 people across Europe die each year because of bacterial infections that are impossible to treat.

We know that the same classes of antibiotics used to treat humans are given – sometimes liberally – to animals. Last month, a report from the Food and Drink Administration in the US revealed that the meat industry accounts for nearly four-fifths of all antibiotics used.

Scientists first spotted  MRSA ST398 nine years ago in the Netherlands. A sickly child was taken to hospital by her parents, who were pig farmers. When scientists tested the pigs, they found the same strain of MRSA in the child. “Pig MRSA” was born. In the Netherlands, ST398 accounts for just under 40 per cent of human MRSA cases.
In the UK last year scientists discovered MRSA ST398 in milk. In October, it was discovered that a retired part-time cattle farmer in the west of Ireland had been infected with the same MRSA ST398.

In 2012, Dr Mark Holmes, who led the UK team which discovered MRSA ST398 in milk commented, “If farmers were not screwed into the ground by the supermarkets and allowed to get a fair price for their milk, they would be able to use fewer antibiotics.”

In 2011, a new type of MRSA was discovered in two patients in Irish hospitals. This new strain belongs to a genetic lineage that was previously associated only with cows and other animals, but not humans.

That same year, UK scientists identified MRSA in cows with a near-identical profile to that of the Irish human MRSA. It’s clear that new strains of MRSA that can colonise humans are emerging from animal reservoirs in Ireland and Europe.

So what do we know about the use of antibiotics on Irish farms?  The worrying fact is that we don’t know much. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine does not collect data on antibiotic usage on Irish farms. Available data from the global market research specialist, GFK Kynetec, shows that antibiotic sales for large animals in Ireland is increasing.

According to Prof Séamus Fanning, food safety expert in UCD“ Increased surveillance of antibiotic use is critical or we will have no drugs available for future generations.”
The full article can be found here

It seems to me that, if the current system is allowed to progress without change,  we are moving inexorably towards the situation depicted in the movie “Soylent Green” where the food processing industry, having destroyed the ability to produce natural food from the planet, then ran out of raw materials for processed, concentrated nutrition, “biscuits” and resorted to using expired humans as the raw materials for their “Green Biscuits”

The question is, do we want “cheap” food or a healthy life?

To return to a theme in a previous blog, we give our farmers €1.6bn in CAP payments every year and this is a very small part of the €50bn the CAP will cost each year from now until 2020

Fifty billion Euros per annum and those of us who fund this through our taxes have no say in the quality of the food the farming and food distribution industry decide to produce.

Funding our food production by subsidies is a reasonable thing to do and I have no issue with the amount of money we allocate to the CAP. The issue is with how it is spent.

€50bn per annum,  we all know from our own businesses that people produce what they are paid to produce; it’s time we moved from a quantity based production system to a quality based production system.

He who pays the piper and all that……………..

How to manage this is a subject for another post, comments or ideas appreciated

Capital of The Digital World my Arse.

(31st  October 2013) Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared Ireland the new Capital of the Digital World today, during a massive internet summit in Dublin

Capital of the Digital World My Arse, I can’t pay for my daughter’s Junior Cert exam fees online. Not only do I have to go through the stupidity shown below, I also have to have her sign the ”Giro” form as well. This I discovered after I got to the bank.

Yes a “Giro”  a real piece of 1980’s Irish Government Technology, I can just see them sitting at their high desks,  licking their pencils as they verify the payment on the 60,000 forms returned to the Department  of Education, or whatever Government Department is in charge of box ticking for “The State Examinations Commission”

This is the 21st Century payment of exam fees process in Ireland. …..Students sitting for the Junior Certificate must pay an examination fee (€109). In early February of the exam year, the school sends parents who are paying the examination fee a form. The parent makes the payment through a bank and the bank must stamp the form. The parent then returns the form to the school…..  Look at that again, School teachers giving out 60,000 forms, 60,000 parents going to a bank/post office, minimum a half an hour per person, That’s a minimum of 30,000 man hours!!,  returning the form to the school, the school gathers the forms and sends them back to the Department, probably at least another 30,000 man hours!!   The cost is horrendous

The Students reference number is on the form, the bank address and account number is on the form, it would take me about five minutes to do this online.

I’ll say it again: Capital of the Digital World My Arse

I have posted this under Jokes in my blog, it is the only way to stay caaaalm

Charities, Unregulated and unaccountable

It is really unfortunate that the current scandal regarding top up salaries for executives has tarred all charities with the same brush. It must be very difficult for the hundreds of thousands of people who give their time free of charge to see their efforts on behalf of the less well off crumbling before their eyes through no fault of their own.

Having said that, the “Charity Industry”, and an industry it has become, must take the blame, they have operated a policy of secrecy and resisted any type of proper regulation for years.  It is this environment that has allowed unscrupulous people to hide behind “Charity Status” while paying themselves handsomely. The public can hardly be blamed for their reaction when the veil of secrecy begins to slip.

Some of these charities also operate like full blown businesses, with significant career paths for the management while competing unfairly with legitimate businesses, which are subject to stringent regulation.

Proper regulation and a willingness of people working for charities to completely transparent systems of accounting will fix the problem.

The legislation has been on the Minister’s desk for signing since 2009, he just has to sign it. It’s one of those “Do it now” things

I have already written on this subject last April in my Recycling and Business NEWS blog

It must be winter, the ESB Unions threaten to pull the plug

Electricity is of huge national strategic importance to this State. It is time to make the deliberate “pulling of the plug” a criminal offence, with serious consequences for anyone involved, including those who incite the action.

There are plenty of ways ESB workers can get at the company if they want to prove a point, holding this State to ransom should simply not be one of them.

Except for Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), all commentators from the organisations mentioned in the various newspaper article seem to have an “Oh woe is me” if this happens attitude. It’s time to really represent their member and camp out in the various Ministers Offices until the Government takes away the EBS workers annual winter “Give us more money or we will pull the plug” goody bag

There are comments like “turning out the lights”, as if lighting a candle was all we had to do. That was the Seventies, people need to think about this, in 2013, no electricity, NO ECONOMY

This is a leadership issue. It is up to the government to bring in immediate legislation to prevent this.

If they don’t, and the plug is pulled, all this talk about getting our sovereignty back on 16th December will be just another load of wishy washy hot air.

Justine McCarthy said it well in her recent article in The Sunday Times (17/11) “Kenny must show he is more than just a Taoiseach in name”
To address the issue of Ministers in the media talking about the ESB in the third person, as if they had no responsibility. With a holding of 95%, ESB is majority owned by the Irish Government. (not the State, The Government) The remaining 5% is held by an Employee Share Ownership Trust

Just to say that again, “The “Government” owns the ESB” This strike is their responsibility