I was watching an interesting documentary last night on BBC 2 called Equator with Simon Reeves.

At one point while he was travelling in Uganda (32 min) I noticed, in the background, a large roadside billboard with the message:

Corruption is deadly: Stop it.

I find it interesting that so many countries openly recognise the disease of corruption and actively take measures to counteract its deadly effects.

Everybody knows that corruption is rampant in Ireland but the State has yet to even recognise that fact let alone actually initiate a concerted campaign to root out the disease.

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My question to the Data Protection Commissioner was very simple – do citizens have the right to know the names of politicians who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Act.

The reply from the Data Commissioner is equally clear:

No, citizens do not have any such right. In other words, when a politician breaks the law it becomes a state secret.

The Commissioner’s full reply:

Dear Mr Sheridan

I refer to your recent email to this Office.

In relation to your query,

There is no basis for publishing names of individuals fined in such circumstances.

The introduction of legislation providing for such publication is not a matter for this Office.

Informing you of political parties who have been fined rather than specific individuals would be a matter for the Council to reply to (as it refers to
organisations, not specific individuals) but we are not aware that they
would be under any obligation to release that information.

Yours Sincerely

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Exactly 100 years ago this month humans were digging trenches in France in preparation for a war that was to kill millions.

Exactly 100 years later humans are digging trenches outside the city of Mariupol in preparation for full scale war.

Conclusion:

The evolution of the human brain is slow, too slow to ensure the survival of the species.

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After reading this article by Irish Times columnist Stephen Collins I’ve decided to add a new category to the blog – ‘Clueless journalists’.

I’m not going to waste valuable minutes of my life actually analysing the article.

The following quote will be sufficient to demonstrate that this particular journalist has no notion whatsoever of the actual underlying political reality in this country.

Since the economic crisis struck this country in 2008 there has been a lot of talk about the collapse of public confidence in our politicians and the need to reform our political system.

It’s an interesting subject for debate but doesn’t really affect the underlying political reality one way or another.

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During a discussion on Albert Reynolds’ legacy columnist Brenda Power told an interesting story (RTE, last item).

In the late 1980s, when the country was in deep recession, then Finance Minister Reynolds was was preparing to introduce his first budget.

His wife, Kathleen, suggested that he introduce a means test for Children’s Allowance as a result of an encounter she had with the enormously wealthy Norma Smurfit while buying shoes in Brown Thomas.

Are you treating yourself Norma?

No, the taxpayer is treating me. I save my children’s allowance every year and buy one decent pair of shoes.

The shoes cost £300, the same price as the average industrial wage of the time.

Reynolds did consider introducing the means test but in the end decided not to.

After all, Norma was a member of the ruling elite, she had her ‘entitlements’ just like the rest of the Golden Circle.

The response to the story by RTEs Sean O’Rourke was also predictable.

In fairness to Norma Smurfit I suspect she gave a multiple of that amount to various good causes that she has been supportive of down through the years.

There are two possible reasons for O’Rourke’s comment:

One: He/RTE are so afraid of litigation or of being seen to be biased they have to balance out every story no matter how trivial.

Two: He/RTE operate so closely with the ruling elite mindset that they instinctively defend against every negative attack, no matter how trivial.

I suspect the latter is the truth.

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As Taoisigh go Albert Reynolds was not the worst. Mind you, this half compliment is greatly diluted when we reflect on the long list of criminals, chancers and buffoons who have held that office.

There is truth in the claim that Reynolds made a significant contribution to peace in Northern Ireland but then again that particular building is becoming more overcrowded than the GPO in 1916 – over three million at last count I believe.

In functional democracies, when former Prime Ministers die, there is usually a respectful response with a lowered emphasis on the negative aspects of the office holder.

In Ireland history is immediately and comprehensively rewritten and the man/woman is instantly elevated to sainthood. This is an instinctive/automatic reaction that ensures the fog of denial that envelopes our failed state is maintained.

So when a criminal like Haughey or a chancer like Ahern (oh wait, he’s not dead – yet.) dies they ascend on high without a stain on their character, or, at the very least, we’re assured that history will be kind to them.

The media and in particular RTE play a major role in this rewriting of history.

For example, consider the following quote from Sean O’Rourke talking about his memories of Reynolds and his family and ask yourself the question – Would you trust the objectivity of O’Rourke if he was the producer of a documentary on the life of Albert Reynolds?

It was an extraordinary experience to go into that family home. They got on so well and they all were so affectionate towards each other.

Clearly they worshipped him and they were so well reared and so well behaved.

I remember meeting them, I think they were all teenagers at the time in the late 70s, early 80s.

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Dear…

Thank you for responding to my query regarding the publication by local authorities of persons fined for not removing election posters.

Unfortunately, your reply has not been very helpful.

Your reply consists of two parts:

Name and Shame Schemes and the situation regarding private individuals.

The Name and Shame Schemes seem to refer to criminal convictions and the Courts Service.

I fail to see the relevance of these schemes to the withholding of names by local authorities of political parties/politicians/candidates who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Acts.

I’m also puzzled by your reference to private individuals when the context of the issue is public elections and public election campaign activities.

Surely a citizen is not acting in a private capacity when involved in an election campaign? Surely when a citizen, who has publicly registered as a candidate for election, publicly breaks the Litter Pollution Acts, they are not acting as private citizens.

It hardly needs to be stated that political parties are, by definition, public entities. It is therefore difficult to understand how local authorities can refuse to divulge the names of such parties that have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts.

I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions with absolute clarity.

Under Data Protection legislation can local authorities refuse to divulge the names of political parties who have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts?

Under Data Protection legislation can local authorities refuse to divulge the names of elected officials who have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts?

Fingal County Council have provided the following interpretation of the Data Protection Act in relation to this issue:

Fingal County Council has obligations under the Data Protection Acts 1998-2003 in relation to protecting the privacy of individuals. Specifically unauthorised disclosure of personal data is prohibited. Section 2 of the Act (as amended) prohibits such disclosure.

Is Fingal County Council correct in this interpretation given that the issues involved are entirely public matters?

I strongly believe that this important issue needs to be clarified to a level where there is no room for doubt or fudge.

Either citizens have the right to be informed of the identities of politicians and political parties who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Acts or they do not have that right.

As custodian and operator of the Data Protection Acts your decisions on this issue could have serious consequences for the rights of citizens regarding access to information in respect of elected representatives and political parties.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

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Great letter in today’s Irish Times.

The high cost of water

Sir,

How many people does it take to install a water meter? Anyone still reeling from the cost of the drinking water (the supply of which we mistakenly believed we had been paying for all along through central taxation) may be interested to know that – with the arrival of Irish Water – the answer is about 18.

That many appeared in our street today, about half working for contractor GMC-Sierra, the rest with Uisce Eireann logos on their shiny new hi-viz jackets. Most stood around idle while one or two installed meters.

When I asked why so many, an Irish Water woman replied “It’s a trial.”

To all of us still grappling with the astronomical fees paid to “consultants” to set up a body for which there was no need in order to impose higher taxation by stealth – it most certainly is.

Yours, etc,
Graham Stone
Dublin 8

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During a discussion on the 100th anniversary of World War One Marian Finucane expressed a strong view on how people refer to that war.

It annoys the living daylights out of me, the slaughter of 16 million boys because the average age was 17, and we call it the Great War?

At 64 years of age, a university education and decades of experience working in mainstream media Ms. Finucane thinks that World War One is referred to as the Great War because people think it was a great event as in – wasn’t that a great party?

RTE journalist Myles Dungan gently put her right.

It’s called the Great War because it was the Great War, not as in good war but as a huge, enormous, monstrous war.

Silly girl.

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I see former Taoiseach John Bruton thinks that the Easter Rising and subsequent War of Independence were completely unnecessary.

Now there are many who will criticise Bruton for his views but I think such people should take comfort from the fact that the reaction time to political events by Irish politicians is reducing.

Bruton’s reaction brings the time scale below the 100 years mark.

We can therefore look forward, for example, to a Fine Gael Taoiseach in, say 95 years time, courageously expressing the view that Enda Kenny did indeed fire a Garda commissioner and should make himself democratically accountable.

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