Fires no Longer Free?
'Fury over Fire Brigade Charges' reads the headline in the Mayo News. Mayo Fire Service is to introduce charges for attendance at domestic and other fires - €100 for domestic buildings and 'a whopping €500 per fire tender per hour for attendance at all other types of incidents.' This means that if a business goes on fire it could cost the owner at least €1000 for the call out. The piece does point out that Ballina Town Manager Seamas Granahan stated that these were simple an increase in the existing fees and insurance policies cover these charges. Ballina Town councillors described the new charges variously as 'scandalous' and 'simply not good enough'. Cllr Padraig Moore stated that if the council were claiming the charges directly from the insurance companies it was 'worse than people making false claims'. In reality the biggest problem with charges is the few split seconds before you realise that you cannot extinguish the chip pan yourself and you need help. 'I can put this out for less than 100 euros!' The longer you wait before calling for help perhaps the more serious the outcome and the more damage done.
Forget those rural walks folks!
According to the leader in the Mayo News rural walks may soon close. Farmers want to be paid whenever you walk along pathways that people have walked on for centuries. The Mayo News Editorial supports the farmers' position.
The old insurance chestnut is raised again - has any farmer ever been sued by an injured walker? Never. But they don't really like people having rights of way to enjoy the Irish countryside. They also see it as an opportunity for another few bob. REPS payments to farmers with land on recognised walks have apparently been withdrawn by the EU recently. Perhaps because they were in violation of the principle that payments cannot be made for something that they are legally required to do in any case. This was the major objection of the IFA against the introduction of the Nitrates Directive. They argued that if they have to comply with a legal requirement the voluntary REPS payments would stop as REPS cannot pay over money for something that they are legally supposed to do in any case. Hoisted on their own petard perhaps? But why ruin the second biggest industry in the country in the process? And tourism is arguably the biggest single industry that we have here in the damp, peaty-gleyed land of the West. Tourism is worth a hell of a lot more than farming nowadays. By definition almost, REPS farmers are uneconomic. They depend on second off-farm incomes - from teaching, nursing, civil service and service industries including those that support the larger tourist industry in many cases. They are cutting their noses off and their neighbours noses off! For what? So that they can say "That field is my field - you are not goint to walk here on my land?" Anyone who doesn't believe the sheer dog-in-the-manger mentality of it just has to look at the farm warning signs, the private property signs, the keep out signs. And of course that famous beach-blocking fence at the end of Killary Harbour that protrudes at right angles from another fence and goes nowhere, delineates no property. It just extends out across some seaweed-covered rocks down towards the sea so simply to prevent you walking on one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. The beach of course is also below the high water mark and you are perfectly entitled to walk on it. Great TG4 TV programme recently in which the presenter walks down Mweelrea and approaches self-same fence from the 'wrong' side.
Stevens and the Ugly Truth
Side by side with the Mayo News' editorial on farmers closing down the countryside is a second one commenting on the recent Stevens' report: "The only surprise in the aftermath of the Stevens' report was that there was any surprise at all," it says.
Indeed! Are we living in a new era of clarity and openness one wonders? The recent tribunals - Charlie Haughey, Ray Burke, Liam Lalor, Liam Cosgrave, Frank Dunlop big businessmen - we were all convinced for years that they were either on the take or else bribing politicians to do their bidding; but only a brave few reporters would ever dare to print a word. Now we know - it's official. We can call the bribes 'corrupt payments' without fear of libel or fear having every copy of a newspaper being bought up to prevent us from reading the truth! Similarly, with Northern Ireland we just knew - the whitewash reports of the 1970s were never believed except by those who really wanted to believe them. The beef tribunal similarly obscured rather than clarified down here. The whitewashing just provided a comfort zone for the establishment view. We knew immediately that we were reading cover-ups. But the establishment view is incredibly powerful so there was always a nagging doubt that perhaps black was actually white after all and we just hadn't realised it? The police could not be involved in murder and mayhem now could they? Now that comforter has been taken away and we've all had to grow up and face the horrible truth - the awful truth. Gardai accused of planting false evidence - just like a Hollywood movie. RUC colluding with paramilitaries to eliminate awkward lawyers? Ditto in the USA Watergate revealed a lot about how politics really works but there's a lot more - grassy knolls and book depositories and earlier whitewash reports come to mind. Even when the truth is out there and very clearly documented it doesn't count unless supported by the 'establishment' and by establishment media - it simply doesn't take root. The powerful media moguls and spin doctors can make us believe that black is white. We know that the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction presented by Tony Blair was in part at least plagiarised from a student thesis found on the Internet - presumably using a Google search! But that didn't undermine the drive for war. We know that evidence presented to that solemn body, the UN, about Iraqi weapons contained obviously faked material that was confirmed as fake by UN officers. But this cheating or at best careless stupidity was somehow overlooked. It's obvious as hell that Iraq is all about control of the oil and making big profits for big business. We know the CIA put Saddam Hussein in power so why should we thank GW Bush for finally removing his own monster after what 40 years? Unlikely that we will see a Stevens-style enquiry on this one though. So hats off to the guys like Stevens and Flood who in the face of overwhelming pressure came up trumps and lay it on the line.