Thursday, April 30, 2009

Burning down the house

Roll up, one and all. It's May Eve, that wonderful day when greens in Rathbane, Garryowen and Prospect are lit up with the majestic sight of poor people burning all their crap.

Apparently, the Oidhche Bealtaine bonfires have their origins in Celtic rituals. But today they're driven by more practical concerns. After all, those four years' worth of Argos catalogues aren't going to walk out of the house by themselves.

Come this time tomorrow the city will be smouldering and the green brigade will be in apoplexy.

That grass will take 4,000 years to recover, they'll say. And dammit I'm never going to get that smell of burnt suitcase out of my linen.

Let them snarl. Who really cares?

People will complain about the lump of taxpayer money - about €50,000 - that it takes to clean up before, during and after these bonfires.

A spicy meatball, indeed. But were we to impose a blanket ban on all bonfires the cost would be higher. Banning what has essentially become a habit to so many people would only serve to encourage bigger fires, rowdier youngsters and a lot more collateral damage.

As long as no one throws a cat or a barrel of anti-freeze on any of them, The Board cannot see the harm in it.

Though he didn't see the harm in feeding bone meal to cattle either, and look how that turned out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stand up for the champions

United v Arsenal? Magic.

No clash of civilizations, no fighting for the soul of the game. Just great football.

Dip your toes into the history of the true glamour tie of the English game with the Daily Telegraph here.

Allotments in Southill? It's an idea at least

Through a happy mix of diggers and petrol bombs, Donogh O'Malley Park is becoming a rural landscape again as houses fall one row at a time.

The estate is still an abject sight of ruin and isolation. But there are shoots of ideas and creation under all that rubble.

Mattie Gardiner, who's lived in the estate since the 1970s, has spent the last three years tending to an allotment on land cleared after a row of houses was demolished.

He has strawberries, tomatoes, spuds, lettuce and carrots. He has dedication, ideas and pride.

His nephew Robert is running for the local elections, and is calling for more allotments to be provided for by the City Council in the space cleared by housing knocked for Regeneration.

Electioneering aside, it is clear that this land has to be used for something. It isn't sceptical to say that Regeneration won't get the money to build anything for at least a decade.

That's a bitter shame but it's a fact.

No doubt this idea will be dismissed by the local authority as too high an expense for a medium-term measure. But anything that would add any tint of character to an estate being drained of life cannot be dismissed.

It may be an unrealistic idea, but it is an idea nonetheless. Too much of our time and thought and energy has been lost to complaints and cynicism these days.

Fresh thinking should be celebrated in a city that seems bereft of it.

Haircut 100

First 100 days down. Verdict?

Feck off conservatives, he's doing fine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Numb and pensive in the AIL

Loitering by the side of the pitch in Coonagh last Saturday while the rain stung my face into a perky shade of royal blue, The Board got to thinking.

Nearly two years I've worked in this city, and I still don't have a rugby team. I've been to lots of club games, but the extent of my support is usually a haughty, preening salute to 'good play' that is every bit the burden of my London grammar school education.

But Dooradoyle isn't Fairlop. In Limerick that kind of objectivity will only get you beaten.

As such, I've decided that come the start of next season I will be a stubborn, unmoved, dried-in-the-wall, paint-my-face-and-slap-my-head Rugby Fan.

Easy? No no.

Who am I going to follow? I live in Raheen, so Garryowen, Old Crescent and Young Munster are all within a three mile radius. But would one of them be too obvious?

I went to school with Stephen Kelly of Shannon, and as such enjoy seeing them win, but I'll be damned if I'm going to drag my car along that dirty gutter of a back road to Coonagh every weekend.

I don't know anything about Thomond and Richmond, and I don't pretend to have the mental strength to drag my arse out to see UL Bohs or Bruff every Saturday afternoon.

Already it seems my choices are few.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Robert Fisk. No, I don't know what to make of him either

The lefties are in spasmic thrall this Thursday. No really, I had to step over two rolling around in road on Glentworth Street on the way to work this morning. They were sweating, eating their own fists and hurling curses at an invisible form of Ariel Sharon.


Their hero Robert Fisk is in town, and will be speaking at UL this evening.

I've never really known what to make of Dear Robert. He's as frustratingly layered as a wedding cake. Some parts go down well, like sweet, sweet vanilla, and others cause you to dry wretch and throw plates in disgust at an increasingly distraught bridegroom.

During my hedonistic UL days studying an Arts degree - *cough, splurt* - I spent a lot of time (too much?) with overbearing lefties and smelly socialists who groomed themselves once every lunar eclipse. They liked Robert, but I didn't really like them. As such, Fisk became tarred by association.

Children can be so cruel, I know.

But when my inner fool took me and I decided that I wanted to become a journalist, I started to read, and it wasn't long before I wandered across 'Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War'. That set me off, and before long I was buying the London Indo and piecing together as clear a picture as I could about this perplexing preacher of a writer.

Four years later, and I'm still confused.

He writes with such detail! Such agonising emotion! So why do I want to hit him? Why is he never, ever happy? In the morning Israel could hand back the Golan Heights, leave the West Bank, lift the blockade of Gaza, bend over on all fours and start whimpering like a King Charles and I think he'd still find cause to complain.

America elects a centre-left intellectual to undo the crimes of the Bush years. Is Robert happy? No.

But at the same time, Fisk has been a constant check on human rights abuses, political corruption and Western indifference in the Middle East. He has bravely lead the line in the search for truth in God's country.

The Board is looking forward to being able sit in the audience this evening and try and figure out what the hell is going on.

If you're there, look for the tall chap slouched in his seat, furiously rubbing his head in a vain attempt to understand.

I may or may not say hello.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The countenance divine

A fairly poorly kept secret will be revealed to the world at Heathrow tomorrow lunchtime when British and Irish Lions tour manager Gerald Davies sits down, strokes his perma-tache and announces that Paul O'Connell will lead the 2009 tour side into the South African bear pit.

For the first time since the Battle of Actium, our Irish sense of collective grievance will be silenced. As many as eleven of our countrymen will be selected in Ian McGeechan's 35, with Munster likely to be the best represented club side in the touring party.

Joy, Huzzah! and all that.

Some people say Paul O'Connell is a man of the people here in Limerick city. I don't think so.

Too many men, from Rush Limbaugh to Jacob Zuma, have labelled themselves as men of the people. The term has become another back scratcher for the egos of fools.

Paul O'Connell is too modest, too ordinary and too brilliant to be called such a thing. It is far more suitable to consider him a man for the people.

Do men best follow words or actions? Would we rather admire the self-importance of superstars or the understatement of nobler men? The Irish people have invested a lot of money and affection in the flashy and the indulgent over the past ten years, and look where that has gotten us.

At a time when we are looking inward for the kind of nation we want to be, we are lucky that men like Paul O'Connell are setting such a visible example.

As a person he is imposing, studious, decent and respectful. As a professional he is inspiring, dominant, aggressive and composed. From a rugby perspective, he is the Willie John McBride of our generation. He is an animal within those four white lines, and a gentleman outside them.

Tomorrow will be an intensely proud day for the O'Connell family and all the underage swimming, golfing and rugby coaches who each played their part in moulding this extraordinary talent in his youth. It will also be a proud day for Young Munster RFC, for Munster rugby, and for the supporters who have lent so much affection and respect to Paul O'Connell over these past eight years.

But perhaps more importantly it will allow us all a moment of reflection, a chance to see what can be achieved through diligence, hard work, commitment and character.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A war to be won

Apologies for the lack of blogging this week. As you can appreciate, there's been a lot on with regards the murder of Roy Collins. Brutal, heartless, needless. No adjective does enough. Here's the editorial piece I wrote for the paper this week in lieu of a full blog post on the matter.

"There is a disturbing familiarity to the brutal and heartless murder of Roy Collins in the city last Thursday. Just like Shane Geoghegan and Brian Fitzgerald before him, Roy Collins was an innocent man killed because of the murderous whims of criminals who care nothing for the shared laws and values of our society.

Once again, the people of Limerick are united in grief over a crime that has left two young girls without a father. Once again, we are confused and frustrated and angry. Once again, the Government have promised to give gardai the resources and legislation they require to secure convictions for the senior criminals who are squeezing the air from the lungs of civil society.

But there cannot be any more watersheds. We, as law abiding citizens, must use the tragic murder of Roy Collins to make unequivocal demands of our Government and of ourselves.

Gardai believe that Roy Collins was most likely murdered because four years ago, two members of his family had the bravery to testify against Wayne Dundon, the leader of the Dundon-McCarthy gang and one of the most dangerous criminals Limerick city has ever produced. This week, only days after his beloved son was taken from him, Steve Collins said with heart-wrenching conviction that if his family were presented with the choice again today, they would still step forward and testify against Mr Dundon.

However the frailties of our justice system have been exposed once more. The testimony of a witness remains central to any conviction of a senior gangland figure - a weakness that is easily exploited by powerful criminals with so much to lose.

Legislation that will allow gardai to build a case against criminals based entirely on covert surveillance is imminent. The Government made a commitment to provide this after Shane Geoghegan’s murder in November, and it is a welcome development. However it is not enough for the Government to simply legislate and walk away.

Gardai in Limerick must be provided with the equipment, resources and training to cripple organised crime in our city. The case may be made that the resources of the State must be diverted elsewhere in a time of recession.

This is not acceptable.

But the key challenge that Roy Collins’ murder has presented is one that we must face individually as citizens. These criminals have done more than end one life - they have launched an attack on the rule of law that binds our society. They have set their will and their bullets against the values we live by, in particular the respect for human life.

How do we meet that challenge?

There have been calls for emergency powers for gardai, armed uniforms on the streets and even internment without trial for those belonging to a criminal gang. This would be counter-productive. Due process, lest we forget, exists to protect the overwhelming majority of us who abide by the law, not the tiny minority who do not.

The murder of Roy Collins and this latest assault on civil society demands a severe response. But this must take place within the boundaries of the norms and laws that we all hold dear. Organised crime must be fought. But it should be fought on our terms, not theirs."

Pic: Sean Curtin/Press 22

Revelation of the day

The Board wholeheartedly believes that this article in the New York Time is one of the best pieces of journalism he's come across for a long, long time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ain't no burger high enough

No free chorizo. No explosive jerked chicken. No sweet scents of pineapple mixing with the tangy soot of charcoal. No juggling hot dogs while trying to pick that God Damn Fly out of your pint outside the Locke.

No barbecue.

The recession is taking our jobs and our sanity, but what of it. That's nothing a natural disaster or a Thatcher government hasn't done with equal abandon in days past.

But when it goes after the funding for the biggest free food extravaganza in the city, a line in the sand has been crossed. Truly, Riverfest without the BBQ is not Riverfest at all.

What do we do? The Board suggests a flash mob on Charlotte's Quay. Everyone bring a quart of vodka, my mate Mickey (the broker on the mall) will revisit the endless supply of steaks he somehow "found" in college, and I'll bring the fire.

We shall overcome.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fatal shooting in Roxboro

Pics of the scene of the fatal shooting in Roxboro this afternoon. Man in his 30s is dead, two men arrested. Link here, full story in the Leader city edition this evening.
Pics: Owen South/Limerick Leader

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board was given a copy of The Juan MacLean's new album by On the Beat, and has no intention of giving it back.

'The Future Will Come' is polished and funkalicious.

Groovy, in fact.

The Soviet, 90 years later

"Without the power of the Industrial Union behind it, Democracy can only enter the State as the victim enters the gullet of the Serpent" - James Connolly

It's the ninetieth anniversary of the Limerick Soviet next week. If you don't know about it, you should. For ten days, a mass co-ordinated strike saw the Limerick Trades and Labour Council effectively seize control of the city in protest at martial law.

It was one of the few victories of ideas over guns in the tumultuous days of Ireland's revolution.

Big feature on it in this week's Leader 2 section, and some very interesting commemoration events planned for the weekend and next week. Check out
Edit - self promoting link to said feature here

Chalkboard in 'agreement with Government' shock


Try as I might to dismiss the Minister for Finance, his brain and his Emergency Budget, I don't think I can.

I think he's gotten it as right as he probably could.

Let's get the inner lefty out of the way first - the poorest in our society are going to remain that way. That's no shock. No Fianna Fail government went near the poverty issue when it had money, never mind what it might do now that its wallet is on fire.

The halving of dole for under 20s is a good idea, but I'd have liked to have seen it incentivised a bit more with increases in learning/skills programmes for first time signers.

I've worked in Social Welfare and know that all they really do when an 18-year-old comes in to sign is ask them if they know where FAS is. He says yes, we give him a cheque. The system was flawed.

The phasing out of the early childcare supplement is regrettable, as it was one of the more forward-thinking welfare policies of the Tiger years. But just like public sector benchmarking, it was an idea derived from wealthier times. That cut was inevitable.

As for the bigger economy/jobs/banking clusterf*** we find ourselves in, I feel the budget was a marginal positive.

The Board's friend in blogging and bitter, bitter morning coffee Bock feels the banks have been let off. They have. Yes, senior bankers are detestable. Yes, they plundered and defrauded our nation's credit.

But we cannot go on waving our fists at clouds.

The Government have to create the best environment to attract investment into our country. The securing of all the bank's toxic debt into a State-backed 'bad bank' isn't desirable (We'd all rather we weren't in a recession, people), but it is what needs to be done.

The risk for this has been passed to the taxpayer, but I have to say I agree with the Minister's thinking. We could default on these loans and burn those scurrilous investors. But that would result in Irish bonds becoming as attractive overseas as mustard gas deodorant and Ebola-brand muffins.

Lest we forget, we do not make anything in this country. Our natural resources were sold to travelling merchants many a year ago. We are reliant on foreign capital.

Until someone changes the rules of free market capitalism, money will go where it feels safe and warm and happy. Now, at this critical juncture, we can't stick two fingers up at foreign investors. They might go away and decide not to come back.

Taxes are up, but we expected that. At least they left beer and petrol alone.

Junior ministries have been cut and the review of ridiculous payments within the Oireachtas is underway. This should all have been done two years ago, but we must be a tad happy for small, late mercies.

The context for looking at all this isn't if we like it or not. That luxury left a long time ago. What is needed is to look and see if the Government have succeeded in creating anything near the right framework needed for stabilisation and recovery.

The latter will depend on the Dow Jones and the resuscitation of American capital. The former is something we can influence ourselves.

This budget is just one tiny, tiny, tiny step, but it is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board thinks that Federico Macheda is Paolo Rossi re-born.

Even if Rossi isn't quite dead.

Sorry for the brevity today - I actually did some work for this first time this decade. A big budget extravaganza is coming your way tomorrow, sports fans.

Tighten up those knuckles.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't tread on me

It's Friday, so we all need a bit of a chuckle.
As such, The Board recommends this pompous, ridiculous rant by county councillors Kevin Sheahan (above) and Richie Butler demanding that it be made illegal to abuse and misuse the national flag.

Get ready to crack those diaphragms.

Cllr Sheahan is calling for a national media campaign to lay out guidelines on how not to use the flag - it should not be draped on cars or boats; it should not be carried flat, but should always be carried aloft and free, except when used to drape a coffin. And if used to drape a coffin, the green should be at the head of the coffin.

Cllr Butler even went so far as to ask Chief Superintendent Gerry Mahon - a man who one assumes has enough to do as it is - if new laws can be brought in to arrest and prosecute people who have the temerity to wear the flag on their backs or engage in other forms of unpatriotic sodomy.

This would be infuriating if it wasn't so laughable.

Never mind that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in Article 40 of the constitution.

Never mind that at a time when the public eye is scrutinising the value for money it gets from public representatives, Cllr Sheahan and Cllr Butler are engaging in this mindless ranting while on taxpayer time.

Never mind that as drug abuse and poverty continue to drive up urban and rural crime rates, these men choose to concern the county's first joint policing committee meeting with table thumping over tattered tricolours.

But do they honestly think that hanging a flag on the wall of a pub merits arrest and prosecution? The last time I checked Ireland was a democratic society of laws and freedoms; a place where a citizen's right to protest by burning a flag is one of the core values that that same flag represents.

The flagrant abuse of power that was the Government's handling of the Brian Cowen painting fiasco and the ridiculous claim of 'incitement of hatred' was rightly treated with concern and anger.

But we're lucky in Limerick that when our local politicians choose to completely misinterpret why we have laws in this society, they give us a chance to laugh ourselves silly.

It is Friday, after all.

Revelation of the day

My Xbox 360 has had a massive heart attack and died.

We had something special, so we did. Crapping my pants playing Bioshock; laughing hysterically at the ridiculous in-game dramatics in Lost Odyssey; ravaging my housemate Padraig over and over in Gears of War 2.

Warm memories of a simpler time.

Fear not, the nice German man on the phone said he'll have it back to me in three weeks, all shiny and repaired and wonderful.

I suppose I'll have to read or do something equally mundane in the meantime.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Election for election's sake

We start with The Economist:
A general willingness to give Mr Obama the benefit of the doubt was palpable even among the exuberant anti-capitalist demonstrators jamming the streets of London’s financial district—a minority of whom turned violent and clashed with police as they attacked a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. “He’s got good morals,” conceded a graffiti artist called Monkey, while helping his friend scale a traffic light and drape a banner: it depicted a grim reaper clutching fistfuls of banknotes.

Funny how good nature can transcend even the bitterest of opinions. A politician is supposed to inherit all of our hatred and scorn for simply being what he is. When we are young, our mothers teach us two things - 1. Don't do that, and 2. All politicians are gangsters. It's the way of the world.

But as I type, the G20 leaders are nearing consensus on how to tackle the global economic crisis. All twenty of them! From the preening Sarkozy to the house of Saud. The magnitude of this agreement, should it come to pass, cannot be understated. And a great deal of that is due, it must be said, to a collective willingness to side with Barack Obama. The magnetism of his popular support also crosses the seas, it seems.

Why? Because he is fresh, he is new, he is purposeful and he has a specific mandate for the times we are in.
Fianna Fail and Brian Cowen do not.

The emergency budget is only days away, and already it is hard to see where the inspiration and the clear thinking is coming from. All the noises coming from cabinet point to cuts across the board, and tax hikes in all directions (including VAT and income taxes). By the end of April, we'll be lucky if we have any disposable income left.

But that isn't the problem. Even if the Taoiseach was to find some forward-thinking, creative package for the nation, the nation would not believe him. He, his Tanaiste, his Minister for Finance and his entire party have, through a litany of fumbles, mis-statements and abuses of power (paintings, paintings, paintings) lost all the faith of the Irish people.

Their generic last line of defence in the face of this criticism has been that a change of government would not solve anything, so great are the problems we all face.

Not true.

A new government would have at least 18 months of goodwill and a mandate based on the here and now. Standards and Poor's caught a tongue lashing of sorts this week for suggesting new ideas for our car crash economy would probably only come from new government. Those words may prove a blessing.

If it takes the agitations of outsiders to wake us up, so be it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Never again

Take a knife and stab me in the ear. Remove my skin, stretch it into a rectangle and hoist it atop a galleon. Tie me to a chair, sellotape my eyes open and force me to watch Margaret Beckett shower. All this would induce less pain than paying to watch the Republic of Ireland soccer team.

Croke Park on Saturday was akin to queuing for The Ripsaw at Alton Towers as an eleven-year-old. Wide-eyed expectation was crushed into the pithy dust of cynicism. It was cold, it was boring, it was annoying. It was torment.

The Board left at half time.

At least the rugby gives you value for money. Even a boring game of rugby has collisions and set pieces - little moments of unpredictable excitement that warrant more than a passing glance. At least your eyes are kept on the pitch, and not on the five drunk ginger cretins from the north who arrive 20 minutes late, put their tongues in each other's ears and ask every 14 seconds what the score is.

Never again will I pay to watch Robbie Keane run away from the ball and attempt his reverse-twist, fat-man shots on goal.

That is all.