The looming Brexit deadline and the chaos which may be envisioned at ports here, in the UK and on the continent from January 1, 2021, help concentrate the mind on the drama, whether tragedy or farce, that may be ahead for the people of this island.
We will all rely, as never before, on shipping and haulage companies to transport our imports, including medicines and essential foods, such as flour, for example — and our exports, whether fresh fish, beef, sausages, dairy, and other products on which livelihoods and families depend — as quickly as possible.
Truck drivers, who may have to wait many long hours in port queues and spend days away from their families, will be among our vital frontline Brexit workers.
Both the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney have recently stressed the importance of transport companies avoiding the UK “landbridge” whenever possible and going to and from Europe directly. (Irish Examiner, November 16 and 24, 2020).
While there is little humour visible in the bleak Brexit landscape and seascape, deal or no deal, there is a short scene in playwright Brian Friel’s play Translations, which, when paraphrased as briefly as possible, gives an interesting perspective which may be relevant for us now.
Two British blokes are in Ireland in 1833, working on the Ordnance Survey — basically anglicising Irish place-names. One of them, Yolland, a lieutenant, who considers himself “educated” (as they do!), engages in conversation with Hugh, the headmaster of the local hedge-school, who writes and quotes Latin poetry.
Yolland mentions the English poet Wordsworth and is surprised by Hugh’s response — “Wordsworth?… No, I’m afraid we’re not familiar with your literature, lieutenant. We feel closer to the warm Mediterranean.” And then, with a dramatic wave of his hand, he says: “We tend to overlook your island.”
The UK landbridge needs to be overlooked and bypassed whenever possible from now on. Perhaps we also need to change our thinking somewhat — less Anglo and more European, just as thousands of Irish monks, teachers, sailors, and soldiers did for many centuries.
The hypocrisy on environmental issues exercised by Cork County Council (CCC) was once again confirmed in the Irish Examiner edition of November 24 when reporting on the annual budget meeting of the local authority that adopted a 25% increase on those visiting civic amenity sites that received the unanimous support of the elected members.
The increase in charges will simply have the consequences of adding substantially to the escalating plight of illegal dumping on our countryside.
In contrast what CCC and other local authorities should be doing, is collaborating with the Government in the creation of a proactive national waste management strategy. Where waste is taxed at the point of production to reflect the environmental impact of the quality and quantity of waste we create as a society.
The finance raised from such a progressive form of taxation would provide the revenue to enable local authorities to return to what was for generations their primary statutory function, namely the collection of waste directly from the doorstep of businesses and householders alike.
Tadhg O Donovan
This is a time of regular warnings on radio, TV, and the newspapers regarding “scams” to separate people from their money. Yet this very week, all three arms of media supplemented by every available avenue of communication available, perpetuate and encourage, in a frenzy of hype and advertising, one of the greatest scams of the 21st century.
Black Friday, or as it now develops into a complete Black Week or Black Month, has one objective in mind; to get people to buy items they do not need or want and are probably unlikely to use.
Originally associated with market crash and financial disaster, the term was slyly resurrected by slick American sales motivators, to suggest discounts large enough to herald a “black day” for sellers, while in reality it takes advantage of Thanksgiving holiday goodwill, to get rid of surplus stock so that a range of new merchandise can be presented with a similar purpose in mind, during the following four weeks.
Initially the sales holiday served a useful purpose. Relatively expensive goods of all sort, often in limited supply and unaffordable, were genuinely discounted enabling those who could not normally do so, purchase life enhancing product as genuine bargains.
Similarly, after Christmas and seasonal sales provided similar genuine opportunity. In the last number of decade however, things have changed dramatically as merchandise has become abundant and inexpensive, and we now find ourselves in a permanent “sales” and discounts selling arena.
Indeed it is often suggested that feverish hype and advertising, hide the fact that “black” discount is often less than what is available throughout the year.
The festive atmosphere which “black” Friday tries to generate, hides however one of the greatest economic difficulties confronting modern economics. How to control, restrain, and manage gross global overproduction which provides everything in far greater abundance than the human race can consume? The only item in short supply for grossly overstocked global markets is “customers”.
The human race, approaching 8bn and assuming those who at present are deprived will one day become inclusive, is simply unable to consume all, or anywhere near all, modern technological ability can supply. The only logical solution is to restrain output to an appropriate level. Who will do it; who has the will to do it, and how?
The EEC used restraint to curtail output of agricultural produce from the 1960s onwards until the “smart” guys of the early 2000s, got rid of it just at the time it should have been expanded to cover all forms of output.
In the meantime, the problem, similar to the output, has got much bigger. Black Friday, even extended to months or to the whole year, is not even an adequate sticking plaster. The situation is however, that if economics are to survive gross oversupply must be tackled and remedied. Otherwise the future will be very “black” for all.
Jim O’Sullivan tells us in his letter of November 25 that people who draw attention to the damage the dominance of Dublin is doing in the GAA are indulging in “begrudgery” since, he says, the “All Ireland gives players the chance to represent their county on a national stage”.
Dublin has a population of 1.3m and has consequently no problem in relation to access to resources.
In comparison it plays against places such as Leitrim which has approximately a 30,000 population and very limited resources.
That raises fundamental questions about the amateur status of the GAA.
Pointing that out is not begrudgery.
However, that is not the whole story.
Irish counties were set up by the colonial power in London as its way of governing the country.
Since independence, however, the native government has divided Dublin into four counties.
Why should the GAA not recognise the counties set up by the Irish government since independence in the same way as it recognises those set up by the colonial government of the past?
That would, as Jim O’Sullivan has reminded us, give even more players the chance to represent their county on a national stage.
It is shameful to see 500 pristine rivers reduced to 20 in last 30 years. Human waste, soaps, and detergents are discharged from buildings to undergo an eight-step filtration process.
It is easy to change these to eco-friendly products. However, there is one missing from the Water.ie website which shows a video of the eight-step filtering process.
Every year, 730,000 gallons of toxic, industrial grade, contaminated, and unlicensed chemicals are added to our drinking water for over 50 years in homes, schools, hospitals, offices, and factories.
Scotland, Wales, Europe, and most of UK do not do this for health, legal, and environmental pollution reasons. It is time for Ireland to join them. The removal of these noxious pollutants might go a long way to helping restore our rivers to a more pristine condition.