Saturday, 24 March 2012

What has Mahon told us?

On Thursday here in Ireland, a small report was released called the Mahon Report. Now I’m not going to go into what it was or what it investigated, enough has been written about that. What I’m going to comment on is what I feel it says about us as a nation, the implications and I’m going to hypothisise on if things have and will change. The following strongly worded paragraph sums up the national psyche in my view:

“The general apathy on the part of the public towards that corruption meant that there was insufficient pressure from the public to compel their representatives to take firm action to curtail or eliminate it” is a most damming statement. Mahon attempts to allow some public wiggle room by saying that “this apathy may in turn have been attributable to a lack of understanding regarding the corrosive and destructive nature of corruption” but in my view, it’s more down to the lack of actual caring. Talk to most people on the street today and they’re fine complaining about the issue, but ask them what they’re prepared to do about it and you get an awkward stare as they try and find their excuse as to why they don’t have time to do anything or you get the age old ‘question’ – “sure what can we do about it? They’re all the same.” Unfortunately in one sense, that annoying cliché is slightly true in Ireland. But as a small island nation, we could look to Iceland for inspiration.  Terrible regulation and the banks ruined their economy. They’ve voted in a completely new style of government. So change can come, but people must really want it.

Another case in point for me would be the treatment of the ‘Occupy’ movement. These were people who took to the streets to fight the injustice people complained about on the radio airwaves, on the news, to the papers, to friends/family/neighbours. If you disagree with them – fine. But the hatred that was being thrown at them towards the end of their days in both Dublin and Cork was excessive. They did more to try and fight the injustices put upon us by the banks and successive governments than most people will do in a lifetime. They were willing to make a stand and when I hear and heard people saying they were unemployed, hippies, freaks etc., it bugged the bejaysus out of me. People do realise it takes many different types of people to make a society yeah? And that some will make different choices to others? Choosing to make a stand against the unfair capitalist society we currently live in was extremely admirable. Why do others feel the need to be such dicks and talk down the people who did this?

The Mahon Report will change little unfortunately. People immediately complained about the cost of it (without acknowledging that it brought in more money to that state than the state spent) and the people implicated in it of course denied everything. Vincent Browne succinctly sums it up when he says that “corruption never gets punished here because there is no will to do so. And ex-ministers found to have been corrupt will keep their pensions until their dying day.”  If there was real national will, that would translate to political will as people would be onto their elected representatives to change the system.  The evidence here of course is the fact that Michael Martin backed Bertie to the hilt, defending his ‘integrity’ and his ‘truthfulness’ during the last years of the Mahon Tribunal. The same Michael Martin now wanting to expel Bertie from the Fianna Fáil party for his behaviour.

An interesting way to question and look at this whole political malaise and societal disinterest would be to ask a philosophical question: Have the Irish People as a whole been turned completely ‘Docile’? Is it too controversial to ask if our ‘discipline’ by the British so severe that we’re now a politically docile people with only the few willing to challenge authority or fight? Or has time now elapsed enough to point the finger squarely at we, the Irish nation, have we just slipped into docility? Too few care, too many don’t. When the power rests with the few to make changes for the uninterested many, can the many honestly complain when things like the banking crisis occur?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Ideas for cyclists and drivers to coexist

It’s been a while! But your humble blogger has been busy! Deadlines loom for my thesis proposal and essays are being decided upon!  But I’ve made time today! Let’s get this baby written!

This little blog shall be about coexistence between cyclists and drivers. Bit ironic it’s taken until blog number 5 to write about cycling, you know, what the theme of my blog is supposed to be actually about…… but what are you going to do?! 
In Cork recently the council have started putting more cycle lanes around the city, the suburbs and are investing in more parking spaces for bicycles around the city center. It’s all really welcome and appreciated from this cyclist I can tell you. However there are still demons that need to be exorcised: Cyclists and Drivers. It astounds me how little regard there is for ‘rules’ of the road and how the rules are being casually disregarded by both. Currently, drivers seem to think the following:
Red lights are suggestive rather than enforcing.
Stop signs look nice, but what are they trying to stop me doing exactly?
Yie – “hmmm I missed the end of what that said due to me texting”
“Why is there a third lane in the road? It’s half the size of my car lane. I think I’ll drive in it to be safe.”
“Speed limit? I don’t understand. There’s nothing in my car to limit my speed?” *FOOT DOWN*

Person A drives this:

But drive it like they're driving this:

Or Person B driving this:

And they drive it like they're actually driving this:

GAH! ARGH! That's what being on the same road as the above makes me feel.

So firstly, a small rant. I feel very strongly that driving standards need to be improved in this country. I do not find it remotely acceptable that people are not giving respect to cyclists on our roads; that applies to both sharing the road and cyclists in cycle lanes. The amount of times I’ve had a car overtake me, then move into the cycle lane in front of me and join the other cars in their traffic jams is crazy! Drivers over-taking me on blind corners and then cutting me off when an oncoming car forces them back into their lane is another favourite move of mine.

Fellow cyclists do not escape my wrath either. I cannot stand the idiots who cycle through red lights on blind junctions with traffic coming from the right or left. Or idiots who cycle through pedestrian lights when pedestrians are crossing the road: they’re called pedestrian lights therefore right of way is given to the pedestrian. I do believe cyclists can and should be able to go through pedestrian lights. Just after the pedestrians have finished crossing! Simples!  And when it’s dark – em….. light up? Seriously? Unless you’ve consumed uranium, or have glowworm genes thanks to your distant 5th cousin’s uncle – you can’t be seen in the dark.

I think that with the upgrades to and investments in cycling facilities, there should be a greater emphasis on having minimum standards and even enforceable rules for cyclists. I’m not for discouraging people from cycling, but I think cyclists who break red lights should get a €20 on the spot fine. I also think people who don’t have some form of reflective gear or lights on their person or bike should get a €20 fine also. It’s enough to make you think about your actions and change your behaviour but it’s not going to force you off the saddle when you know a similar system exists for drivers. That’s right, I’m swinging back to them. People who break red lights should be given a whopping €100 fine if caught doing so. It’s extremely dangerous and completely ignorant. People using mobile phones when driving should be given a €200 fine and 5 penalty points. You are NOT in control of your vehicle or concentrating on the road or its users if you’re on your phone.  The driving test should be completely revamped also. But my ideas on that will be saved for another blog.

Neither camp are innocent and both drivers and cyclists need to improve their road behaviour. It’s about time our feckless behaviour behind the wheel of cars and on the wheels of bikes is clamped down on and we’re made responsible for our actions. Fine by you? Fine by me!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Little Arsenal

Apologies for the lack of writing this week. I was off on a mini adventure to see Mr Mark Lanegan in Dublin. Awesome gig. Today I want to write a little bit about Arsenal. We’ve had three solid victories since that game in the cup against Sunderland. Spurs was immense, Liverpool was nearly as immense. Mainly due to the fact we had to fight against 12 men. Halsey put in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from a referee. And of course, racist rat boy who suffered that awful friction burn in the first half when sock fibres touched, did not see his cheating result in a goal. AC Milan proved to be one goal too many to catch up with and being honest, with the state our squad is in, I’m kind of happy we didn’t get extra time or win it. I think this season, with what it has brought, would be better with Champions League qualification sorted than an extended run in the Champions League, thus exhausting an already threadbare squad. We still hammered AC Milan. The team leading Serie A. We restored pride and kept our momentum going. That’s what I hoped for pre-game. Let’s hope that the start of the squad re-building for next season continues. What better way of convincing Van Persie to stay than showing our intent now to strengthen. Podolski is someone I rate highly and while Cologne wouldn’t be a team I’d watch regularly in the Budesliga, he is someone that I’ve always enjoyed watching when he plays, both for club and country. At Munich he wasn’t given too many opportunities to impress and injury did him no big favours either. But for a team in the bottom half of the Bundesliga, 16 goals in 22 games is a fantastic return.
Standing as we do, right here, right now, I’d like to compare us quickly to Liverpool. They seem to be a good choice to talk about where we are and where we could be. The lines between success and failure, financial security and financial ruin are far too fine these days. Liverpool got very lucky that John Henry rescued them from Hicks and Gillette. Henry was thanked (screwed) when Dalglish told  him to sign Andy Carroll for £35 million and a racist for £22 million too many pounds. This partnership has helped Liverpool score 30 goals this season. In total.  In fact I’m not sure Andy Carroll has helped at all? I know Arsenal have their issues with only the one striker in scoring form…. Scratch that… in ANY form but at least our £35 million …..wait, where did I put that decimal point? Ah! There it is: £3.5 million was money wisely spent. But ultimately, come the end of May, would you prefer to reflect and bask in the shiny glory of a League Cup and a 7th place finish (just my own opinion as to where I think Liverpool will finish), or would you prefer to finish in the top 4 and know you have some amazing nights of European football ahead of you next season? I prefer looking to the future myself. Trophies are won, you then move on. To me currently, with the financial playing fields so uneven, silverware means squat.
Hear me out. We’ve been without silverware for a few years now. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts losing finals, but ultimately trophies are nice shiny things to lift over your head and yell at. They also look nice in cabinets (I’ve been to the Bernabeu and their trophy room is insane) but in today’s world, they ultimately mean little. Positioning in the league is my ultimate trophy. I look at Birmingham: relegated after winning the League Cup last year. Charlton, Leeds, Portsmouth and others who falsely attempted to achieve greatness spending more than they could afford. Where are they now? I look at Man City and Chelsea. If their owners got bored in the morning – what would happen them? Then I look at my club. It has history. It has a present. And it has a future. While Arsenal exist and work in a profession where money truly is everything, my trophy is seeing Wenger work miracles every season. No one has given us a chance of staying in the top 4 at the start of the last couple of seasons. Yet here we are. Battling to get 3rd from ‘them’.

We have our faults, don’t get me wrong. I think last summer was a disaster the way transfers were handled. I’d have loved to give everyone involved in our transfer dealings last summer a hoof up the arse on September 1st. Yes this season has been a rollercoaster, but when you follow a team and truly support them, you have accepted in the terms and conditions that you agree to go on any rides the team may take you on! Those are the ups and the downs my friends! Sport is emotive! I love it for the highs as well as the lows. But in a financially doped world, which is what football currently lives in, what do we want? We can demand Arsenal spend £57 million on two forwards who win us a League Cup. We can demand Arsenal pay so much in wages that come seasons end, they can’t afford the wages (Barcelona last summer) or we can become like Chelsea and have ‘people’ like Terry and Lampard in the squad. No thanks to all of the above. During the times of struggle, were there any dissenting voices coming from our club? No. They stuck together, fought together, lost together and won together. No undermining of the manager. That’s what I want from my club. Come seasons end – evaluation time. But recognise just how tough it is to do what Wenger does every year and get us our top 4 finish. Up the Gunners!