Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Recent happenings surrounding the Gardai and the Rossport protests no doubt have piqued the interests of many sections of society. Scrutiny of the lack of government leadership or intervention, the abandonment of natural reserves to private interests all deserve further commentary and government action. Not to mention the use of the Gardai as instruments of the state with seemingly no consultation, comment or discussion with the citizens of the state as to how they would like this power exercised.

The latest black mark on the boys in blue has come through an unintended recording of conversation between a number of 'boys in blue' in a squad car discussing the methods for extraction of information from detainees. While the press has danced around trying to describe the use of rape as an 'interview technique', it has been spun as innuendo, jovial comments or just a bit of craic, I'm afraid it belies a much deeper problem.

While the individualist explanation may point to a few bad apples, a Stanford Prison explanation which pins the actions of a group on the exemplars. I prefer to look at this as an example of a group who has become so detached from the reality of their role they no longer consider themselves in terms of their commonality with others. In Rossport the gardai now see themselves as separate from the community and protesters are a threat that must be dealt with through the use of force. It the only upshot of this polarization of groups is a jokes about using rape as a weapon against them then I for one would be amazed, as previous examples of this manner or inter-group conflict does not lead to happy endings without serious intervention. This kind of rhetoric is not part of the banter surrounding arresting women in most circumstances, but these women are not like other women, they are not sisters or daughters or girlfriends, they are not the girls who might be picked out of gutters on Saturday night and taxied home for their own good.These are protesters and that group are not to be tolerated. Let me be clear that this is not 'normal' Garda behaviour, this is specific to the situation these gardai are involved in, and as such must be dealt with there. This talk of rape is not specific to all gardai, it is the product of hostilities and division that has been allowed to fester in this little community, in the Taoiseach’s back yard. The gardai are no longer a part of that community but a force, which on this evidence seems to be separate from and opposed to those who they police with. With those divisions of power come struggles for control and what could be more controlling than using rape as a weapon, joking or not, it belies a deeper need for power.

While there is considerable footage of aggression and force being exercised on both sides of the ongoing Rossport protests the reparation of these two communities must begin in earnest. There must be immediate action not to punish a few bad apples but to encourage a different identity for the gardai in Rosport. I grew up naively believing that the gardai were there to protect people, but the purpose of the Gardai is to exercise the will of the state, the state is involved in this debacle and it is up to the state to renegotiate what it means to be a Garda in the face of opposition from the populus. Are they simply a private security force for multinationals beholden only onto themselves or are we going to tackle these divisions before they become endemic. Let this piece not lessen the valuable and selfless work done by many members of the Gardai in Ireland everyday. We cannot allow the positive aspects of the identity associated with being a Gardai to be eroded by unguided actions of a few and norms allowed to merge in the face of situations that gardai have not traditionally dealt with must be tackled.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Return your seats to their upright position and stand by for cabin depressurisation

After a late night meeting with a tea and chocolate support group on Sunday one more woman said she would run with me. I will admit that I was afraid to go forward as a candidate alone, I’m not the worlds biggest extrovert, more an introvert who can when the situation demands turn on some sort of inner Amazon button. Having others to run with me lessened the pressure on me, it made it harder to track and target me. Or so I felt the weekend I decided to run for the General Election 2011.

I had collected 50 signatures Sunday evening, ignorant to the fact that I needed special forms on which to collect them, it was, after all my first time and I had no inside knowledge as to what the mechanism for putting oneself forward for election was. I took Monday off work, drove to the courthouse and picked up the 30 correct assenters forms necessary at the registrars office. I asked if I could pick up a number of other forms for the other ladies, (we were still hoping for 10 more) the lady in the office said she’d have to photocopy them as she did not have enough, ‘call back at 4, I’ll have them ready for you’

The office filled with men in suits, no smiles from these ‘boys’, clothes that cost more than my car, and me without even a hairbrush pulled through my barnet. Then suddenly I was faced with one of the ‘poster faces’ a candidate from the main party. He looked at the forms in my now shaking hands, suddenly this had moved from a plan into the real world, it was concrete, there was a flash of realization in his eye.

‘Are you collecting them for somebody?’

‘No, Im putting myself forward’ I replied rising my feet to meet his handshake.

‘Very good, I look forward to having a woman at the debates’ Knees knocking now, I laughed and said ‘Shur’ Ill add a bit of glamour to the occasion’. Not a Duchene smile to be had from the ‘boys’ but a series of polite but intolerant looks.

The room started to empty almost as soon as it had filled, the men were ushered to the registrars office to hand in their nomination papers, the second party candidiate was the last to leave the room, he shook my hand. I mumbled something about having a few women going forward the next time and suddenly they were gone. My legs were still shaking when the office worker returned to inform me I had to go to the Council offices to collect a copy of the draft register.

The council employee who I was sent to was quick to inform me I was ‘Too late, closing dates finished’ I replied that I had just come from the registrars office. ‘Oh, yes, sure, we keep it down here, come on I’ll get you a copy’

Leaving with a box full of documents the arduous task of collecting people, bringing them to the police stations in ones and twos and getting their details right began. I was taken aback by the proliferation of names of townships and boroughs which many assentors had never used to address themselves or knew about. The option of having a solicitor sign the papers instead of the gardai was explored. I rang 3 solicitors who could have notarized the documents. None of them required me to bring the people in person to their office. One offered to do it for as little as ten euro a form. That’s 300 euros, without actually witnessing one signature. I’m sure that these are mere trifling things when you’re in ‘the party’ but as a fresh horse I was learning fast that there are rules, then there are RULES. As I wanted to run in as honest and transparent a way as possible I would not be spending money I didn’t have, so the rounds of friends and family looking for 30 registered voters began, with it the constant trips to and from the garda station.

I returned to the courthouse at 2 to collect the papers for my running mates, the woman who dealt with me earlier was different. ‘I’m sorry but I cannot give you the papers, they have to come in and collect them themselves, I was told this’. Her body language and demeanor told me it was not her decision. It was strange that a task that was ‘no trouble’ less than 4 hours ago had suddenly become trouble. The machinery works fast, rumors abounded that I was not alone, that there were possibly 12 women going forward. It had been 56 hours since my decision, and despite the fear, the lack of sleep, the realization that this was getting very real, I relished every wall or problem that appeared, these were things I could deal with, they made me stronger.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

FETAC madness

Having sat through Primetime investigates the care of older people withing Ireland by private service providers I needed to get a few things off my chest.

I have lectured for over 5 years delivering FETAC approved modules for various service providers within Ireland. Nothing makes me cringe more so than the insinuation that anyone is qualified for anything after a level 5 course.

Last week I was handed a Level 5 portfolio to second mark, there was no evidence of any learning, understanding or analysis in the piece. I confirmed that the first marker was correct in not passing the student. I was then informed that the student had contested the grade, staying that she had 11 FETAC awards all of which were at ‘distinction’ level over the last 3 years. All of these were earned through CE schemes. It brought home to me once again the truth that FETAC marking, course teaching, lecturing and provision differ wildly between ‘colleges

FETAC modules also have wildly differing timescales to implement them, a course which runs part time over 6 or 8 months in one institution will be miraciously completed in 4 Saturday sessions in another service provider. With sketchy and often vague learning outcomes interpreted by service providers in the interest of balance sheets and budget this is an ongoing problem with FETAC awards. I once put together a tutor and student pack for a mental health module, I warned the service provider that only a suitably qualified person should deliver the course, less than 12 months later they offered the course to a woman who had no third level qualifications whatsoever.

I started out developing modules for working with clients with learning difficulties and special needs. The ethical considerations of this vulnerable group were not addressed sufficiently by FETAC, I pointed that ‘using’ vulnerable adults and children as work experience for a week or two was unethical, outside of garda vetting, people deserve the right to privacy, this was ignored by the course providers. Neither FETAC nor the service provider wanted to change, it was ‘in the interest of THEIR students that work experience remained so unable to stand over what I was doing I left.

I now work with an organisation who actually has ethics enshrined in their daily business, who cares about students but not to the point of passing those who make no effort. They are the exception rather than the rule in the business.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tiger chicken

I love chickens, they are just about the coolest thing to watch so having one in my living room would be better than watching them in the back garden arguing over slices of bread. After reinforcing some of the chicken play zone with chicken wire I wanted to see what else I could do with this fantastic material. Its so malleable and fun to mess with, gives great shape and easily kept the kids entertained for a day making shapes

To start with I made an approximation of a chickens shape. Getting it to balance out was tricky but I weighted the feet with more wire and hoped for the best.

A pair of wire cutters or kitchen scissors that you no longer love will cut through the chicken wire easily, be prepared for scrapes and nicks off it.

I made my paper maiche with just flour and water, I added some salt to prevent it from becoming a home for bugs and use a good breadsheet newspaper for paper, Ive found that the aper tends to be a little heavier in big newspapers so that it survives being dipped more. (Use the tabloids to cover the working area!)

Start layering from the top down, being careful to cover all the wire. Allow to dry somewhere airy for at least 3 days, it can take longer depending on how thick it is in places. When that's done back you go to your pot of boiling water and flour and repeat the process.

As you can see the chicken wasn't really bang on, it was somewhere between a Pekin shape and a Brahma, but it worked!

I spray painted the hen yellow as I had a can of yellow paint lying around, I also speckled bits of orange across the body, the tiger stripes were a late decision and for the life of me I cant imagine a more suitable finishing touch

Make and Re-do

Re-urposing items as gifts is the only way that I can afford to keep up with the ever increasing lists of people who I feel the need to reach out a hug, here are a few thingys I kooked up from assorted 'shite' Ive gotten in second hand shops or had scrap around the place.

First up a Zombie survival emergency box.

Raw materials were a tea tray and a Spanish french dictionary from a thrift store. The gun was an airsoft pistol that my son begged and pleaded for only to promptly break within days. I could tell you to go get a cheap kids gun, but in this case you want something that looks as realistic as possible

Next up I took the 'handles' off the tray and resprayed the inside so it was bright white again. I printed a cover for the zombie survival guide from its amazon gif, and used that to cover my dictionary.

The bullet box was constructed from a tampax box with the design done on stupid MS Publisher because I didn't have Adobe took ages but finally managed to make an approximation of a browning 22's box

I arranged the items in the tray and glued them down with a hot glue gun, the gun needs to be well covered in glue to stay put as the replicas are heavy. Its up to yourself which way you arrange the objects I found this one worked for me.

Final piece of the puzzle is a piece of perspex to cover the tray, measure twice, fit once, the stickers were done up for very little by a local signwriter and give an air of authenticity to the project. Glue the perspex in place, affix mirror plates to the back to hang it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The brainchild of the government who single handedly sold an entire 3 generations of a country into debt overnight, NAMA is the current Irish governments answer to questions that they don't yet know how to answer. Many would say that the Government strategy at NAMA's inception was to bore a hole straight through to the centre of the earth, where legend has it the King of all Crooks, a Mr. C.J. Haughey lives in palatial grandeur attended by his army of Coir handmaidens.

This strategy suffered from an array of problems synonymous with Irish government plans, lack of planning, accountability, actual figures, direction or timescales lead to the interesting development whereby the optimum strategy was to line the route to Chez Haughey in Tax payers kidneys. This long and protracted effort lead to the reinstignation of 'family values' at the heart f Irish politics, whereby those unable to breed successful future kidney donators were ostracized from public life. The old, the sick, the very young and other marginal groups were written out of Irish history as the government turned Ireland from a sovereign country into an 'Economy'. All things in the new Ireland revolved around the twin gods of 'tax payer' and 'competitiveness' in a race to the bottom.

Future plans for Ireland involve an auctioning off of lesser substates, such as Longford and Cavan, occupants of these boroughs will be available as serfs for the new landlords bidding, although work rates and comely-ness of maidens associated with these burroughs is debatable. The main hub of the 'Country formerly known as Ireland' and soon to be known as '' looks less sure, as the NAMA black hole continues to demand fresh organs. The current monkeys who dance for these organ grinders, Messieurs Cowen et Lenihan make an affable double act shrieking and dancing in a desperate but yet unconvincing attempt to show the international community the logic behind the pursuit of the black hole prince.

Future plans for involve creating an international talent show hub, where the best of light entertainment and mild animal abuse can be broadcasted worldwide hosted by a plethora of stars whose pay packets single them out as the best broadcasters in the world.

This article is also available at also

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I'm deleting my Facebook account

I’ve always been an enthusiastic proponent of social media, I had a MySpace page before anyone I know. I looked with disdain on Bebo as positively amateur but was an early Facebook user. Now Ive had to watch as the post Bebo generation have infected a perfectly adequate platform with horoscopes and hangover updates. I’ve face palmed when ‘I love the cock’ gets 300 ‘likes’ but ‘I’m feeling pretty low today’ gets no reaction in friends, acquaintances and randomers updates.
I have defected to twitter, which seems to encompass all the people I want to be my friends without the creepiness of trawling through their unprotected photographs on Facebook. I meet minds, I ignore, I have no fear of recrimination or insult, I will not be tagged with a double chin….. perhaps if I want to find out what friends are doing I will hence forth call them.

There are a number of key annoyances in the land of Facebook, firstly,
Apple did something right when it chose to filter apps for iphone, and while my open source heart breaks to admit it, its time to put a clamp down on half the garbage that ends up in my timeline. I block and block, but for each one I chop down 2 spring up in its place. I sometimes wish there was an 'idiocyfree' button I could click to remove all horoscope/celebrity/I dont know how he survived THIS-click like to see' pages from my life permanantly.

Secondly Adverts

No matter how many times I inform Facebook that an advert is offensive (they all are, I didn’t come here to buy anything) they continue to replace them, it would appear as though feedback is not listened to, and god damn it, I want to be listened to. Every other page is populated with adverts and frankly Facebook, I don’t need a fucking bra for a backless dress today, thanks (I just checked my profile to give you an honest answer and that’s what they ‘targeted’ me as needing)

Perhaps I’m not as much of a leftie liberal as Id like to believe, but allowing pages to go up unfiltered such as in the ‘Raoul Moate is a legend’ case but censoring pictures of women breastfeeding is a tad skewed in my thinking. Filtering any mention of sex but allowing hate groups to put pages together to bash gays, muslims and minorities seems to me to be a bizarre criteria for inclusion in the Facebook universe.

If another U13 year old child of a friend sends me a request I am highly likely to loose my mind. Not only am I bothered that parents will allow unsupervised access to the social media for primary school children, Im peeved that they think Im a suitable ‘friend’ candidate (I must be going soft) I don’t want to filter my status or worry about the suitability of my posts, I do not want people to access my friends list and find the kiddies on there. I do want Facebook to engage in more rigorous age verification techniques. When it started out it was most definitely a grown ups forum, now its Bebo on steroids.

The final straw came this week, I turned 35 (I’m admitting it, I will revert to 32 in about a week) a pretty big occasion in my humble estimation. The 'divisible by 5’s' are the unit to go by past 21. I got the obligatory Happy Birthday wishes from many people, very nice, very nice, but there are limits to this.
1: If you are a close friend/family and have somebody’s phone number a call or text is polite on a birthday
2: For people who wouldn’t talk regularly or have a close relationship, through distance or other reasons a message through Facebook is fine.
3: If you are MY ONLY BROTHER AND CLOSEST SIBLING a fucking wall post on my birthday doesn’t cut it… even my 2 sisters managed the monumental task of sending a text message.

And this is the proverbial straw, I have become so distanced from others, even my family that they consider a wall post an effective means to communicate with me on an important occasion, there is simply no choice left but to abandon it.