Monday, December 21, 2009

Revelation of the (snowy) day

The Board greeted the sight of snow this morning with all the passion of a eunuch librarian at Spring Break.

In fact if it wasn't for the Caribbean juice waiting for me in my car, the Limerick Leader newsroom would be without my pithy wit this morning.

Havana Cultura - New Cuba Sound, the latest collection from BBC Radio One's Gilles Peterson, finally arrived in the post yesterday evening and immediately set about melting the God Damn Winter Morbidity that has become the soundtrack to my life.

By the time you hear Ipacuba with Danay, Julio Padron and Frances Del Rio, you'll be on a beach drinking rum, smoking cigars, watching cruiserweight boxing and eating fried chicken.

Get it. Get it now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh how we laughed

From The Rut. Brilliant stuff.

The Bishop of Limerick resigns

I expected to write something harsh; something bitter. But for better or worse, that's not how today was. This piece is from tonight's Leader city edition:

After his speech, the Bishop turned and lit three candles on an advent wreath to remember the pain of the children who suffered. When it was done, he lowered the lit taper and glanced into the flame. At that moment, the world seemed to stop and a second lasted an eternity. Then, he cradled his left hand behind the flame and blew it out.

It was finished.

Dr Donal Murray had said from the beginning of this controversy that he would find his judgement here, before his congregation. On a Thursday morning, as the winter air pinched noses and numbed fingers, he found his shelter.

Outside St John’s Cathedral, as the cameras and the microphones gathered, the words were harsh. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” says an old red face under a green flat cap, his Munster jacket zipped up to the last and his words whistling out through the gaps in his teeth. “They were all covering it up.”

Outside, there has been so much recrimination and fury about the Bishop of Limerick and his failure to pursue paedophile priests during his time as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Dublin Archdiocese. But inside, there were the soft keys of a harpsichord, the thatched roof of a nativity crib and the warm hearts of his flock.

In here, he found his shelter.

It was just after eleven when the Bishop stepped out of the sacristy, a phalanx of priests with dark overcoats and clasped hands around him. He delivered his resignation speech in a deep, thoughtful voice, the kind that shapes the last word of every sentence as if it were the end of a prayer.

“We are people who believe that God’s mercy and God’s healing are without limit,” he said, at the exact moment when the tower overhead began to strike out. The last words of his speech, his last words as Bishop, weaved through the air with the chimes of the bronze bells.

Once he had lit the candles, Dr Murray stepped back and bowed his head. Before an hour of prayer and music began, he walked away from the marble altar and sat amongst the rows of people who had come to listen. In his eyes, and maybe in theirs too, he was now just a member of a congregation again.

Outside, the cameras and microphones loiter and pounce on everyone who walks out. Around the corner, Phonsie Clifford from Garryowen glances at the bustle. He’s nearly 80, but he still remembers having to go and pray with the Holy Fathers at 6.30am everyday before work. “You had to do it,” he says. “They were different times.”

In his eyes, the Bishop had to go. “The thing here is the people who are still suffering. Lads have done away with themselves and everything over this, and the ones who are alive are going through awful pain. It’s a shame.” Later on, he’ll go out to St Camillus’ to collect his wife, who is in full-time care, and bring her back to John’s for an injection in her knee. “She has terrible pain. Age, I suppose.”

At the foot of the Cathedral wall, an electrician installing new lights kneels and digs through a web of cables spewing out of the ground. For a second he stops, rests his back against the deep stone and waits. Then he leans forward and starts digging again.

Knees, lights. Things change, but life carries on. But inside, the hymns disappear into the silver and glass and chestnut timber of the Bishop’s church. The lights are dimmed.

In here, he found his shelter.

A year in the life

The Board discovered this Thursday that not only has Facebook devoured his life, it has kept a tidy record of the process.

I share with you all, therefore, the highlights of my status updates in this year of years.

It's a depressing notion to realise that life is never as witty or exciting as we make it sound on social networking sites.

Alas, we all have crosses to bear.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revelation of the day

Emily Blunt is beyond wonderful and proof, once again, that Michael Buble is a twat.

Budgets, booze and the Hamburglar

This time last year The Board sent himself into a state of purple apoplexy when he found himself, against every fibre of his being, agreeing with the Government and their Hamburglar budget.

"Fine. Take my cheese slice and limited edition Ben 10 figurine, Lenihan. Just get capital spending under control" - The Chalkboard, circa 2009.

Here we are 12 months later, balder, wiser and with torn ligaments in our thumb (thank you, UL Bohs), and we find that our opinions haven't changed.

What is Lenihan trying to do? Dull my fury about how this country has been run? He's going about it the right way.

With his perma-dour ties and sharp delivery, Lenihan is totally auditioning for the Fianna Fail leadership.
While Dermot Ahern turns white hurling copies of the Constitution at the GRA, Lenihan is becoming the Woman of Substance in Bertie's first wives club, aka the cabinet.

Wednesday was a mixed afternoon for The Board, who is not a public servant and must therefore contemplate every day the possibility of being sacked for one of his many indiscretions.

Petrol and alcohol are the fuel of my existence, so with one up and the other down, the next 12 months of The Chalky Brunel Experience will likely be revenue neutral.

Likewise, it was a mixed afternoon for the two causes he hoped would be spared the knife of fiscal responsibility - education spending and carer's allowance.

2010 will still see €579 million for the school building project, including that slippery €72 million that Batt just couldn't get rid of this year. Likewise, there'll be €12 million for 500 extra teachers over the next three years, and another €14 million for 600 primary and 330 post-primary teachers specifically for the school year beginning in September 2010.


Carer's benefit is down from €221.20 to €213, while carer's allowance is down from €220.50 to €212.


Whether it enraged or merely disappointed you, the Budget was at least decisive. It won't save Brian Cowen or Fianna Fail, who need, deserve and maybe even want a spell in the Opposition to reflect on the frivolous monster they became.

But when the party do decide to look for a leader who can embody the prudence and diligence that were anathema to Bertie Ahern, Budget 2010 may well become Brian Lenihan's job application.

On this evidence, I'd give it to him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A fluid Christmas

They're starting to put the tree back in the river this morning. It'll be in Ballysteen by six o'clock.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shooting at Gary Oldman

Who here remembers going to see Lost in Space?

Don't you dare lie. Don't pretend that you had anything better to do in 1998 than go see Joey shoot some intergalactic crabs. It was a riot; a feast of blunt science fiction metaphors that required that Gary Oldman turn into a space mutant.

Anyway, it's easy to forget that the point of all that was the premise that Earth was dying from pollution and only William Hurt and a poindexter robot could save us.

The Board isn't sure if Hurt, whose past roles include a drug dealer, impotent Vietnam veteran and radio psychologist - all in The Big Chill - will be in Copenhagen this week.

Maybe he should go and add some sardonic commentary on the proceedings. Because Lord knows its going to be an otherwise uneventful 14 days in bacon country.

Yes, climate change is our silent pariah. Yes, it is the marriage of our collective sins that will kill us all - except for John Cusack, the smug fecker - in 2012.

But will there really be a new carbon emissions deal? Will Copenhagen do anything to dispel the notion that nothing will ever be done to tackle climate change until it's too late?

Today, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published a joint editorial calling for the UN climate change summit to become an era- defining moment; the time and place when the hands of power joined together to mend the ways of the world. It may or may not transpire as such.

But what is most galling are the recent poll figures in a Nielsen/Oxford University survey of 27,000 internet users in 54 countries which found that the number of people "very concerned" by climate change had fallen from 41 to 37 per cent since 2007. In the US, this number has fallen further, from 34 to 25 per cent.

How can anyone, least of all the editors of these 56 newspapers, expect world leaders to press for reform in how they burn fuel if their citizens do not force them?

Why do we always wait to react to something, rather than act first and stave off the worse effects?

Why do many Americans continue to deny that climate change is taking place, even as the Louisiana bayou disappears into the sea at a rate of miles every month?

Until the tremendous urgency of the climate issue enters the mind of every man, woman and child in the 192 countries that will take part in the Copenhagen debate, debates are all we will be left with.

Call me a sceptic, but The Board will be oiling his crab gun and begging John Cusack for a spot on his Cessna sooner rather than later.

Where power lays its head

If you have half an hour to burn, as The Board inevitably does on a Monday morning as he dusts the lethargy of a weekend off of his head, then read this fascinating insight into how President Obama considered, challenged and counselled before making that decision on Afghanistan.

Brilliant stuff from the New York Times, as ever.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Revelation of the day

George Lee is turning on the Christmas lights in Newcastle West tomorrow. The Board is looking forward to finding out how tall he really is.

The 9/11 of 1859

History, as always, holds the keys to the future.

Two days after President Obama announced that he was sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, Tony Horwitz draws a fascinating parallel in the New York Times between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11 (and as such, one of the instigators of this war) and John Brown, the American anti-slavery terrorist who was hanged on this day in 1859, 18 months before the outbreak of the civil war.

Brown's lesson on the cause and effect of violence is more poignant and striking than ever.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The sins of the father

David Simon's magnificent series 'The Wire' is many things to many people. But to Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who had seen the rotten underbelly of urban America, it was about institutions.

Institutions take good men and bad men and destroy them both in turn. Humans are honest and decent, but there is nothing human in the institutions they build.

Simon's wisdom resonates stronger than ever this week, as Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray faces into an abyss.

Everything he has achieved as a man - his entire life's work as a priest - is now lost forever. He will always be the man who failed to defend the defenceless; the auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese who listened to but did not act upon allegations of child abuse by members of his clergy. In a way, it is almost unfair.

In the wake of the Murphy report, the Bishop has become a convenient scapegoat for those who seek one, be they the terrified church hierarchy, the populist politicians or the families of the thousands whose lives were destroyed by perverted, molesting priests.

It is not fair that Bishop Murray is in this position alone, without the entire church facing judgement alongside him. But it is where he finds himself nonetheless.

He should resign, because he failed in his duty. He will resign, because he is not a man so brazen as to ignore a wave of public ire.

But in this, the true horror of the institutions of the Church is now apparent - not just through Bishop Murray, but through the hundreds of priests and bishops and lay people who have taken part in, one way or another, the greatest social crime ever committed in this country.

For generations, the Church chose to forget one of the most basic of human instincts, the protection of children, to preserve its own power and authority.

The Catholic Church in this country will never be forgiven. They must never be forgiven.

Monday, November 30, 2009

So fresh, so clean, so dead

So, how was it for you?

The floods didn't eat too much of The Board's week, thank Zeus.

Unlike last August, when floods ripped through Newcastle West in the night quicker and more destructively than Pete Doherty through Carl Barat's apartment, the water kept its filthy hands off west Limerick this time.

West Limerick is, for all of you suburbanites, where The Board now lays his journalistic head.

His sprite-like colleagues, the ones to whom East Limerick is an actual place and not just a deathly void between the city and the border, were spinning like dervishes in puddles and tributaries all last week.
Even El Newso Editora dusted off his long-perched reporter hat, threw on his wellies and got busy in Corbally on Monday night.

Oh how we laughed.

That was, until, The Board travelled home on Sunday to steal provisions and use the iron. Unaware that there was a boil notice in place in Feohanagh since Friday - due to an elixir of rugby and alcohol - I drank about three pints of tap water to try and quench my parched, hungover throat.

The Board now fully expects to die in the next two to three hours, sprawled and heaving on his desk.

There may be a cosmic irony in that somewhere. But The Board cares little.

Send my widow a ham.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A declaration of war

I'm getting my longbow and going to Agincourt. Those French need to pay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board's new favourite radio show is The Block.
The last three albums he's bought have come off the back of pc and his soundtrack to Saturday night.
Highly recommended.

Is football really that important? Oh my, yes

It is often very, very hard to get excited by football.

True, The Board is as loyal as a Templar in his support of Manchester United, but even this can't hide the fact that 90 minutes of football, very often, is a more numbing exercise than beating one's thigh with a hurley.

Yes, Ireland are playing in Paris tonight and yes, the nation is scavenging for straws to clutch ahead of our gallant, tedious 1-0 defeat to the worst collection of Frenchmen since the Vichy government.

But do we really care? Pro-rugby bias may be the fibre in The Board's rhetorical diet, but only a fool will deny that recent successes in the 15-man sport, coupled with the stoic crapness of the Irish football team, has murdered the passion of '88, '90 and '94.

But football still gets people going, of course. The Board highly recommends this article in the Lindo about Thursday's qualifier between Algeria and Egypt, and how it is likely to result in riots, blindings and the mass destruction of telecommunications equipment.

Similarly, the Guardian's excellent Paul Doyle has a very interesting piece about Alex Villaplane, the first man of Algerian origin to represent France, who later became a nefarious collaborator with the Nazi occupation and was later executed for all kinds of dastardly treason.
Even if tonight's match in Paris bleeds the enthusiasm out of you, take heed in the knowledge that now and always, football will be defined by more than just the game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is in love with Kate Beckinsale.

The Great American Investor

Finally, someone whose opinions people take seriously (i.e. not The Board) has fired a shot at the marketing jizz that would have us think that all there is to do in Limerick is play rugby.

Harry Fehily, he of Limerick Chamber of Commerce fame, has said that the campaign to portray Limerick as a rugby capital doesn't have any resonance in the US - where all the money is, natch - as they don't play, watch or understand rugby.

A fair point, albeit one driven on shamelessly capitalist petrol.

The Board has cranked his tongue for a while now at the generic, "G'wan Munster! From Peter's Haberdashery and Callaghan's Used Cars/Apothecary" mentality that has taken hold in this city since 2006. Businesses, like salubrious leeches, have clambered to be seen to have anything to do with Munster Rugby, just as Fianna Fail men gravitate towards the Dav:

Money has cheapened the object of our rugby affection into just another brand.

Having had a proper sit-down interview with Harry Fehily in the past, The Board can attest that he is a good-natured, hard working man, even if he is an arch capitalist.

Harry's point about Limerick Inc. getting into bed with Munster is the right one, for the wrong reasons. He'd much rather the PR people whore our rich arts and music scene to the Great American Investor.


Still, if that means we can one day go to a Munster game without having to run a gauntlet of salesmen with megaphones and over-enthusiastic radio station mandarins, The Board will be happy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Revelation of the day

Captain Morgan and fanta is the finest combination of anything since Gareth Edwards played alongside Phil Bennett.

Explosive chatter

Has it been two months already? Bugger.

You just get used to hunting wild bison in Yellowstone in November, skinning your prize using only otter teeth and a lot of determination, and suddenly here you are, back at your desk again.

Life is not without a sense of perspective.

What could draw a person back from seclusion like that? The Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kevin Kiely, had a few things to say about non Irish nationals claiming our unemployment assistance and other social welfare benefits while giving nothing back to society, aside from showing us how to do a dead lift properly.

The Board isn't going to weigh in with a holier-than-thou destruction of the Mayor's point. He's already received quite a seeing to in the national press in that regard.

But I would like to add a little perspective to this - having worked for the Department of Social Welfare in my box car years before becoming a journalist, I can say that the numbers of foreign nationals claiming welfare, rightly or wrongly, is minuscule compared to the popular stigmas on the matter lazily referred back to by the likes of Cllr Kiely when they want to strike a populist note or two.

For example, out in West Limerick there are 25,124 people living in the area. How many of these, do your figure, are from Eastern Europe? 6,000? 4,000?


Granted, this does not include the main urban hub, but even with the city taken into account the demographics will not be too ary. The Polish have, simply, all gone home.

While Mayor Kiely may win some cheap publicity by decrying the foreign national as the main culprit in our huge social welfare bill, I assure him that the real villain is the Irish person stealing €25,000 in lone parent allowances while living with their partner, or working and signing at the same time, or nominally taking part in dud FAS courses so that they can continue to claim their allowance of more than €200 per week.

PS - If you're wondering where The Board has actually been these past months, the truth is here. He has been writing about this place:

Playing rugby for this crowd:

Listening to this fella:

And reading this:

At least two of those activities have been worth it so far.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The State of the Union

No, The Board hasn't been on a secret Mars penal colony.

No, The Board didn't watch Pat Kenny's new show last night, perish the thought.

No, The Board does not wish to listen to another round of public commentary on the NAMA debate by persons who don't understand what it is they're getting so truculent about.

No, The Board is not happy with the way the Irish parliament has been reduced to a shouting box - a fourth plinth with a mahogany musk- where Government says yay and Opposition says nay and no exchange of ideas, attitudes or compromise takes place.

No, The Board doesn't harbour any strong feelings on the Lisbon Treaty. The Board will be voting Yes, as before, as he is pro-European and knows that the Commission is hamstrung by bureaucracy, the leadership of the Council too easily crippled by domestic backbiters, and EU foreign policy is too ambiguous to be taken seriously.

But No, The Board is not happy at the condescension of our leaders who are building a 'democratic' EU that will ask your opinion but only listen if you say Yes.

No, The Board doesn't think that Sarah Silverman is funny. Quite the opposite, in fact.

No, The Board doesn't like the way newspaper content has been devalued and taken for granted by consumers who want to read everything reporters write online for free, oblivious to the fact that those reporters need to eat and pay rent.

No, The Board doesn't like Green Day or people who like Green Day.

No, The Board doesn't like the way no sports shops in Limerick stock Old Crescent RFC socks, forcing him to wear Newcastle West colours while providing and receiving forearm smashes against the UL Bohs thirds.

No, The Board doesn't think Barack Obama is going to get a full healthcare Bill through Congress, because too many 'Blue Dogs' in the House and Senate who were elected on his coat tails have now bitched out in the face of Fox News' national disinformation campaign.

No, The Board will not be going to Istanbul this year, as he had hoped, because he has gotten awfully lazy.

Yes, that has happened before.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Revelation of the week

The Board has had a criminally sluggish two weeks on the blog front. For the six of you who were wondering, I've been writing about water flows, disappearing car parks and listening to Musiq Soulchild.

Normal dispensing of horrible opinions shall resume this week. Honest.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is listening to The Temper Trap.
More understated than Passion Pit, but still worth a rattle.

Pontificating, as always

Cardinal Sean Brady, speaking in St John's Cathedral at the weekend, attacked the Government's move to normalise same-sex civil partnership for tax and social welfare purposes.

Well that's hardly a surprising statement, is it? After generations of moulding the shape of Irish society in its conservative image, one can hardly expect the Catholic Church to suddenly change tack on homosexuality, what with the filth and the nonsense of it all.

Thankfully, this country has matured to a point whereby the Primate of All Ireland can condemn one of the most significant pieces of civil legislation in years, and the rest of us can simply shrug and carry on with the realpolitik of living in a modern world.

In 1937, De Valera wrote a constitution that was in effect an iron rod for the values and provisos of Archbishop Byrne and the Church. The result, on a social level, was almost 70 years of cultural conservatism that made it impossible for any debate on divorce, abortion or sexuality to take place without the condescension of the clergy and the placards of their congregations.

Opinions are the fuel of democratic society, of course, but in Ireland it was always the priest who claimed the deciding vote. No more.

Only the most rigid minds will be able to say that the rationalisation of civil partnership law to protect non-traditional family units, such as gay couples and long-term cohabiting partners, will be a bad thing.

Cardinal Brady may not like the movement away from the traditional nuclear family model, but not liking something does not make it vanish.

The fallout of the Ryan Commission's report into the institutionalised rape and abuse of generations of children under the eyes of the Church has broken whatever respect Irish people once had for the will of the cardinals.

The Ryan report was a traumatic moment for this country, but if the long-term result is a rational, secular society, it may yet prove its worth.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Football? Bloody Hell

Were you at the match on Wednesday? The Board was, flicking his press badge round and round in a failed attempt to entertain himself while that exhibition of 'soccer' sucked the life out of 20,000 people.

Still, he managed to gather himself and produce something barely legibile on what was a painful occasion, but an occasion nonetheless:

HMMMM. Were it not for the purple sunshine and our love for the grand sporting occasion, international soccer’s Limerick debut might be remembered as an uncomfortable and fidgety affair.

But the air was warm, the pitch was pristine and the banners were witty. And according to estimates, the match is expected to have generated as much as €5 million for the local economy. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad.

Still, Munster rugby and its shining city on the Thomondgate hill have been built on a sense of excitement and rapture. Perhaps we have grown too used to the sight of Denis Leamy dislocating men’s faces under the roar of the East Stand. Very little by the way of exhilaration was seen beyond Hassett’s Cross on Wednesday evening, and the night was drained because of it. Three-nil to the Antipodeans and not a wild bushman in sight.

It was a bit of an anticlimax.

But there was still crowds and noise and colour, of course. This is the national team, after all, and had Limerick failed in its patriotic duty to support them the angry ghosts of De Valera and Archbishop Byrne themselves would have appeared, wielding copies of Bunreacht na hÉireann like batons.

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Kevin Kiely was introduced to Irish and Australian players via a red carpet beforehand, a moment he described as “overwhelming”. “It was a great moment for myself and for the office of the Mayor of Limerick. I wouldn’t take any notice of this result. Limerick was the real winner last night.”

Once the swells of fanfare had peaked and the Spanish referee had blown his whistle, the struggle began. Ireland’s performance was stoic at best. Were the Irish team a mime on a Parisian stage, Oscar Wilde would have called him a dullard.

Australia were all intent and industry, passing and moving with ease. Then, twice within six minutes before half time, Tim Cahill scythed through the Irish defence to put the tie to bed.

Giovanni Trapattoni, the Ireland manager, seemed flustered by it all. Were this 1973 and Cahill had been Luigi Riva, Trap, the catenaccio purist that he was, would have fractured his shins and the ball would have rolled pleasantly to safety.

Come the 92nd minute and David Carney’s absolutely sublime third for the visitors, few home fans were reckoning with more than thoughts of the quickest way home.

But should the quality of the fare be allowed to sink what was, after all, another exhibition of Limerick as the nation’s second sporting capital? “We’re absolutely delighted with how things went, off the pitch anyway,” said Thomond Park stadium director John Cantwell. “It’s a pity about the result but we were happy to bring another group of people to Thomond Park for the first time. It’s now really established as an international venue.”

The organisation was indeed spot-on, the pitch was like a carpet, it was only a pre-season friendly, Australia are 21 places above us in the FIFA world rankings and Cyprus were reddened 6-1 by Albania on the same night. These all grew into more than just a bag of small mercies on another historic night for Limerick city.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like Rushdie before him

The Agitator and Leader of Men really boils The Board's blood sometimes.

There's his encyclopedic knowledge of everything, his perma-cool wit that is as dry as a sandbox, and his ownership of at least two Tribe Called Quest albums that I don't.

Like Piers Morgan and my housemate Padriag before him, The Agitator was always dangerously close to becoming the latest target of a Chalkboard jihad.

Alas, the trebuchet of professional fury is now pointed squarely at his desk, just three yards from my own.

He's only gone and used the funniest line ever written in his review of the River Bistro in this week's Limerick Chronicle, stirring more chagrin than The Board even knew he possessed.

In reference to a big portobello mushroom, he said this:

"My fungus was humungous."

Jihad. Jihad I say.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is in talks to become Viceroy of the second British Raj, and intends to set up his capital in Shimla in the coming days.

Incidentally, there are several openings in my new cabinet.

The posts of Minister for Silly Walks, Minister of State with responsibility for Chicken Gravy and Attorney General are all available.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In the eyes of the law

So that's it. One of the most heartbreaking, bitter and divise chapters of recent Irish history ran its full course on Wednesday when 44-year-old Pearse McCauley and 52-year-old Kevin Walsh walked out of Castlerea prison in Roscommon.

The last of the men convicted of the manslaughter of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996 have received their freedom. The rule of law has been served. But the bitterness of what these men did and the grief for the life that they took will last longer than the minutes and hours of any prison sentence.

Not since the murder of Mayor George Clancy and ex-Mayor Michael O'Callaghan on March 7 1921 had Limerick been so brutally forced to confront such intimate violence, be it in the name of national independence or the crimes of subversives.

Of course, by June 1996 too many people in Northern Ireland had endured lifetimes of fire and murder. But the peace of Main Street, Adare and the stillness of our opinions in the Republic were broken that day.

When societies and nations and regions are torn apart by endless struggle, their wars become self-fulfilling. The rape of Darfur, the destruction of Gaza City, the burning of West Belfast. If we allow it, they become inevitable monuments to human failure, over and over again.

People will forever need cold, personal examples to shock them out of apathy. What is already emerging as the symbol fo the recent Iranian protests - the pictures of 400,000 people gathered at the foot of the Azadi monument in Tehran, or the video of Neda Agha-Soltan being shot through her chest and bleeding to death?

Jerry McCabe's killing, coming as it did at a time when the IRA was fracturing and the shape of post-Troubles politics was beginning to form, was the example that a mute and uncertain Irish civil society needed to convince itself that peace, and nothing else, was required.

No doubt McCabe, the understated family man from the Ennis Road who enjoyed his golf, would not like anyone to consider him a martyr. His life and death were more about duty, respect and the quiet dignity a man can earn from national service.

But 13 years later, as the last of his killers walk free, that is how we must consider him. In an Ireland where Sinn Fein seek a path into the mainstream while collecting convicted IRA killers from outside of prisons, they as much as anyone should remember that visible paths to peace are the only ways forward that the Irish people will accept anymore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is busy.
To pass the time, read about Slick Willy's return to international diplomacy and the Orient here.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chalkboard in 'experimentation' shock

There are many things The Board cannot do. Pay his car tax on time, for example. And function adequately in civil society.

However, he was quite pleased with his most recent foray into the smouldering cess pool of music journalism through his review of Mos Def's very fulfilling new album 'The Ecstatic', featured in this week's Limerick Chronicle.

On The Beat, so often maligned on these pages as a pariah of the worst kind, was good enough to put said review up on his own blog here.

Bless his cold black heart.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Supreme Leader of Iran has the best personal website of any world leader, elected or otherwise.

Such colours! Such flagrant use of propaganda and the personality cult! I'm already a fan.


End this now

Despite his foppish, cowardly manner, The Board has flirted with trouble once or twice.

Back in primary school he tripped up Daniel Power, black-hearted bully and fastest man on the playground, in the 1996 St Bede's One Lap Wobble-Off. Only a madman would do such a thing, of course, but I just let the moment take me.

Likewise, this January he flirted with a small pickle when he seemingly encouraged people to assault Tanaiste Mary Coughlan with office supplies. It was all tongue in cheek, of course. If I really wanted to see her injured, I'd suggest some kind of sharpened shovel.

That same shovel logic came crashing back into our world this Wednesday morning when Dearest Mary, our deputy leader, made a holy show of herself explaining away the Government's commitment to the Mid West following the publication of the regional task force's interim report.

It's quite a hollow feeling, really, to know that had the Fianna Fail government been forced into growing a social conscience five years sooner, the money to invest in regeneration, create 7,000 jobs and completely re-make some of the most broken areas of our society would have been there.

Instead, here we are in 2009, bankrupt and ponderous and waiting for answers from the national disgrace that is Mary Coughlan.

Did you hear her interview on Live 95FM? It would be funny if it wasn't so enraging. This woman's propensity to answer meaningful questions about the fate of this region and her own competency with flippancy and candour is an affront to the idea of accountability among our politicians.

The Tanaiste, as one of Brian Cowen's chief allies in his coronation as Taoiseach last year, was awarded her position and portfolio, prizes that she has done little to justify.

If, as rumours suggest, the Opposition begin their push for a general election once the Lisbon referendum is over, Brian Cowen would be faced with a window of less than four months to shuffle his cabinet and provide one final indication that he wants to inject a new energy into the front bench.

He could provide no clearer declaration of positive intent than if he cut Mary Coughlan loose. She has no public credibility outside her home constituency, and has become the personification of the indecision and fluster of the Ahern years.

She is simply not up to the job.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lest we forget

Does anyone here remember Grease 2?

The Board can appreciate if that question draws nothing but forlorn silence. It was, after all, a painful homage of the sort of 50s retro-camp that kept alive the abhorrent 'diner' culture of middle America, something which we Irish have come to know through expensive, poorly cleaned Eddie Rocket's outlets.


I ask because one of the main story strands - or at least what little of the story I could make out from the bootleg copy The Board's sister rented from the musky video shop on Meads Lane in Ilford 'back in the day' - involved a shy, well spoken English exchange student whose syllables were stretched out unbearably in that horrible, Etonian way.

Our hero died in a horrible motorcycle stunt, or so we thought, only for him to return in a fireball of victory at the end, perhaps, just in time to have relations with Michelle Pfieffer outside of wedlock.

Like that pompous protagonist, The Board also has a penchant for English accents and random acts of disappearing.

Technically, I should say that I have been on holidays for two weeks. However this would be a liberal misuse of the word. 'Holiday' for a 24-year-old male implies exotic punch bowls, foreign sands, promiscuous blondes, house music and a general process of 'larging it'.

For The Board to admit that he spent two weeks watching Peep Show and failing to finish 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' would be too much.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Circus Maximus

Rod Stewart was in Limerick last Saturday. Did you hear?

The Board didn't, because he sits in the corner of the Limerick Leader newsroom, like an exiled harlot, and the cultural loop that you lot twirl around in doesn't swing that far.

On The Beat claims it was a smashing concert, but his opinions on all such things were discredited a long time ago.

But assuming that it was, it can be considered another victory for the globalisation of the Thomond Park brand, and hooray for that.

Back in his filthy corner of the workplace, The Board is sometimes imparted by El Newso Editora to pen the paper's main editorial piece, because I am too pithy to write anything factual or accurate.

As such, here's the example of same that was in last week's main edition, extolling from high the benefit that Thomond Park has for the city and the region.

In brief, Thomond Park= good.

"In recent years there have been drawings and discussions and debates about the possibility of an ‘iconic’ building for Limerick; something that would define the character and energy of this ancient city.

The more we think about it, the more we realise that we already have one.

On Monday, Thomond Park picked up the prestigious People’s Choice award from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

On Tuesday, accountants BDO Simpson Xavier published a report stating that through Munster’s four home Heineken Cup matches last season, and the marquee fixture against the All Blacks in November, the ground generated an estimated €58 million for Limerick and the Mid West.

Though few of us doubted it to begin with, the aesthetic and economic value of Thomond Park to Limerick is now clear. The construction of the new ground ahead of schedule and on budget was testament to the stadium development committee. The design by Murray O'Laoire Architects is simple, clean and perfectly matches the proportions of the site.

In every way, Thomond Park is a triumph of art and function.

The difference between a promising city and a thriving metropolis is often a modern stadium. Sporting events attract thousands of travelling supporters who might not otherwise ever think of visiting the city.

Frequent, high profile concerts help develop music and culture as well as putting people into restaurants and hotels. One night stop-overs become long weekends; money spent in local shops and bars creates employment, which in turn creates more expenditure.

The wheels of the local economy turn faster and faster, and it all comes from Thomond Park.

But none of us can take this for granted. In the coming months and years, Limerick’s public and private spheres must work even harder to maximise the potential of this fabulous piece of infrastructure.

That does not mean squeezing every cent out of everyone who visits the city. It means functional traffic plans, improved public transport, better information about other attractions and events in Limerick - a cohesive approach to marketing Limerick city and county as a place to visit for a rugby match and to continue visiting thereafter.

Thomond Park, whether it was intended to be or not, is now Limerick’s iconic structure. It is simply majestic to see its silver arches crowning the city sky.

It is now imperative that the people of Limerick, through our ideas, energy and hospitality, continue to do justice to this great amphitheatre."

Revelation of the day

Tony Benn is a legend.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Midget presidents and mixed berries

As anyone who knows me will attest, The Board has been in a state of quarter life crisis for about three years now.

When I turned 21, I realised that my hair was thinning. That's when it started. I then graduated from college and lost my last tangible excuse for never taking life, or anything in it, seriously.

We've been stuck in a delicate place since, with work and money and cars and girls simply becoming slippery pockets in the vacuum.

One day soon, possibly a Thursday, The Board is going to steal a canoe, paddle to Uvs Nuur in Mongolia and startle himself into writing the Great American Novel, unburdened by the handicap of only having been to America once.

But being the current affairs sponge and sociopath that he is, The Board is moved by the example currently being set in Moscow by Russia's midget president, Dmitry Medvedev, and his US counterpart, Barack Obama.

If they can set aside decades of phoney war and agree a framework to reduce their nuclear warhead stockpiles - the equivalent in international relations of the trusty Swedish penis enlarger - then perhaps The Board can find a way to define himself as more than a 6'8" pedant with a love of milkshakes and flippancy.

For example, at a bbq at his house in Raheen last Saturday to celebrate his 24th birthday, The Board made his first telling contribution to modern society.

He discovered that by combining Kopparberg mixed berry, West Coast Cooler and Southern Comfort, one creates a beautiful-tasting drink potent enough to knock out a small bison.

He christened it the 'Game Over' and was quite proud of it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Get your retaliation in first" - Willie John McBride

Paul O'Connell is lucky that Tendai Mtawarira has a ridiculous nickname, that Andy Murray is moody and Michael Vaughan is quitting.

Were it not for these distractions, you expect that O'Connell would be suffering a verbal beating from the English press at the moment.

The 2009 Lions tour to South Africa should not and cannot be described as a failure. The 2005 tour was a failure - it was shallow, commercial, self-important and undignified.

The mythical notion of the Lions as they were can never be recreated in an era of world cups, autumn tests and professionalism. But to its credit, 2009 was something closer to the expeditions of yore.

We may not have seen Phil Bennett and JJ Williams running double overlaps; Willie John McBride and Bobby Windsor querying the bone structure of Boland Coetzee's jaw or a series win over the Springboks a la 1974.

But the fact that O'Connell's Lions lost two of the most savagely brutal and utterly compelling test matches in history should not be a source of shame.

Lest we forget, since Lions tours began in 1910 they have been more often won against than won. In the professional era, the prospect of a scratch team beating one of the tri-nations on their own patch over a three game series is growing more unlikely by the day.

A judgement of this year's tour, and Paul O'Connell's captaincy, cannot be made through such simple criteria of winning and losing. Though you expect Stephen Jones, a jingoist of a writer if there ever was one, will attempt to hang O'Connell by any imaginary petard he can find.

This would be totally unfair.

Would this team, if lead by Brian O'Driscoll, Phil Vickery or even Stephen Jones' ludicrous pre-tour pick Ryan Jones (the cheek of it), have fared better in those defeats at King's Park and Loftus Versfeld?

Would the tiny margins of the victory and defeat have rearranged themselves in the Lions' favour because the armband lay elsewhere? No.

In professional test match rugby the captain is less a dictator than a first amongst equals, usually a triumvirate. O'Connell did not lead this side on his own, and should not be blamed for its defeat.

As the Lions leave South Africa, questions and frustrations and regrets will follow them.

But the tour has achieved what was it its core to do - portray Northern Hemisphere rugby in as positive a light as possible; to be fair, aggressive, competitive and skilled.

Whether this creates a win or a loss at the end is always at the mercy of the game. Paul O'Connell was a good captain for a good tour, and both he and the 2009 Lions will be remembered as such.

Don't let Stephen Jones or anyone else convince you otherwise.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

A genius, a legend.
We all have our favourites. This is The Board's.

Ill gotten glory

Funny how standards can slip so in the modern media.

Once upon a time, when mobile phones ran on uranium, the Irish young journalist of the year award was given to people with talent, skill and what not.

Today, they're giving it out to the likes of The Board, who spends his days trying to disguise how confused he is by work and life.

The world is truly becoming a dark, strange place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taming the savageness of man

Whenever there's a Terminator film in the cinemas, the discussion about how and when technology is going to murder us all becomes customary.

This, not the sight of Leonardo DiCaprio freezing to death, will be James Cameron's despicable gift to the modern world.

Tehran is tearing itself to pieces at the moment. Ayatollah Khamenei is trying (and failing, it seems) to quell the street battles by calling for the children of his nation to pause and show respite, so that his Basij thugs have time enough to shoot and beat them all in turn.

As long as there is power there will be protest. That much is clear.

But the unique facet of this particular unrest is the remarkable deployment of the internet, most notably Twitter, as a weapon for the student groups that are providing the energy and the enthusiasm and the blood that is rocking the Islamic Republic.

Twitter has allowed the co-ordination of protests and the sharing of intelligence, and has become the pulpit for the rallying cries that have kept the protesters united and kept Tehran burning.

The traditional tools of silence and misinformation (such as Khamenei fabricating quotes from Barack Obama in Friday's address to the nation) don't work in the modern age.

No regime has power over the internet.

But the problem with the individualisation of the web is that you have to suffer this kind of excess:
The Dundon gang's posturing for the camera to the sound of gangster rap shows another aspect of what anyone, anywhere can now do with the internet.

Of course, criminals have been boasting about their wealth and promising to murder their rivals for as long as there's been anything to steal. Al Capone built his image as much through manipulation of Chicago newspapermen as his crimes.

But the Dundons' video touched a raw, painful nerve with the people of Limerick; people who have had to suffer the murder and drug abuse that they have unleashed on our city.

In the past seven days, we have seen how an individual's interaction with the internet can inform, inspire and enrage.

Ayatollah Khamenei cannot stop Iranian students defying him through Twitter. None of us can prevent the Dundons posting their arrogant displays on YouTube.

The wonderful and the disgusting faces of humanity are now visible in everyone's inbox, on everyone's iPhones, behind everyone's keyboards.

This is the world we live in.