US Tourists to Benefit From Fall in Value of the Euro

The continuing fall in value of the Euro currency has proven to be a timely boost for the Irish tourist sector in particular and the Irish economy in general.

Suddenly Irish exports are 30% cheaper than they were! Visitors from the US have also reaped the benefit with their greenbacks now going a lot further on the Emerald Isle than before. Dublin airport will for the first time ever be among the top five European airports welcoming US visitors (after Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Heathrow in London, Schiphol in The Netherlands and Madrid in Spain).

Ireland Tourism

The 1916 Rising events in six months time will also attract a lot of visitors to the country in what could be the greatest ever year for Irish tourism.

Such optimism is based on the statistics. The CSO has reported that here has been a 12.3% increase in US visitors to Ireland during the crucial July-September period this year, compared with last year. That is a huge increase by any standard.

Just how far the Irish tourism market has travelled can be judged by the statistic that shows that in 2000 there were 1 million transatlantic visitors to Ireland while this year the number is expected to top 2.1 million. An incredible increase.

Web Summit to leave Dublin for Lisbon

In what can only be viewed as a shocking slap in the face for Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael Government the well-regarded Web Summit will be relocated to Lisbon in 2016.

The founders of the summit, which is an international gathering of the brightest and best in the world of computing, have continually expressed concern and frustration with their dealings with the Government and have finally had enough.

Web Summit to leave Dublin

Co-founder Paddy Cosgrave has been scathing in this criticism of the Irish Government who he accuses of…

‘…operating in a parallel universe where a jobs announcement or a photo opportunity at Web Summit is the biggest opportunity you see. Meanwhile other governments are cleaning up under your nose.’

Despite attempts by Government press-spinners to downplay the loss of the summit, it is clearly a blow. The web summit event was born in Ireland. The organizers again and again communicated with the Government about their concerns that the infrastructure around the event was insufficient. The Government did little or nothing and now the organizers have moved the event to Lisbon.

Where they were greeted with open arms.

Banking Enquiry May Disintegrate into its Political Parts

In what many commentators have suggested is merely a cosmetic exercise designed to boost Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the run up to an impending General Election the release of the final report by the Banking Enquiry in January is now in some doubt.

The Banking Enquiry was set up to examine the facts surrounding the Government bail-out of the Irish banks. On the one hand there are the Fianna Fail politicians who facilitated the bail-outs, repeatedly pointing out that they had no option but to comply with their European masters who were going to underwrite the loans that were so badly needed. ‘The ATMs were about to run dry’ is their reasoning.

Irish Banking Enquiry

On the other hand you have a Fine Gael machine that is intent on beating Fianna Fail with this stick, despite the fact that they continued to implement the exact same policies over the term of their Government, to the despair of so many who had voted for them.

The timing of the final report is also very telling as a General Election is likely to be called in the early months of 2016.

Against this backdrop there is mounting concern that several members of the Enquiry may refuse to sign off on the final report. Of course the split is along party political lines, once again demonstrating the uselessness of this kind of exercise, where you have rival foxes arguing over who skinned the rabbit.

And what a skinning it was! Ireland was foisted with over 70 Billion Euro of debt by the EU/ECB/IMF that will take nearly half a century to repay. Of course the European ‘troika’ insisted that the German and French bond-holders (ie rich investors), be paid back the money that they had risked or else no money whatsoever would be provided to keep the ATMs working. Effectively this was what the famous documentary maker Michael Moore described as a ‘financial coup d’etat’ (in the context of the similar scheme that occurred in the US).

The Banking Enquiry has members from all of the main political parties including Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Socialists, while Independents are also well represented.

How could any kind of consensus ever be expected to be reached among such a disparate group of people with such different agendas remains a mystery. But perhaps consensus was never the point of the exercise. There is a General Election on the way after all.

Ireland Ranks in Top Ten on World Prosperity Chart

The results of the annual 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index for 2015 have been announced and it is good news for Ireland.

Global Prosperity Ranking 2015

It may come as something of a surprise to the baffled Irish citizenry that their country is ranked as the tenth most prosperous in the world. Given that the Irish health-care system has been regularly described as ‘third-world’ and ‘not fit for purpose’ it is amazing that Ireland is so well regarded in these kinds of polls.

142 countries around the world were surveyed and once again it is our Scandinavian friends who top the poll. With Norway, Denmark and Sweden in first, third and fifth places respectively it is again the job of the rest of the world to look on in awe and amazement at how these countries are so consistently ranked so well in surveys of their citizens well-being.

Galway Voted World’s Friendliest City

The United States-based ‘Travel and Leisure Magazine’ has announced its latest ranking of the friendliest world cities and there is good news for Ireland,

The west of Ireland has for generations been considered one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and it seems that the beauty of the Connemara scenery is matched by the demeanor of its inhabitants. Galway has been voted the most friendly city in the world in what is sure to be a great boon to the Irish tourist industry. The city is a tourist hub with countless festivals within the town itself that serves as a great base for exploring Connemara, Oughterard, John-Wayne country, Clifden and beyond.

Irish Bar Sign

Amazingly, the good news did not stop there.

Dublin managed third place while Cork was fourth. Obviously the people running the Irish tourist industry have done a great job in promoting what is probably Ireland’s most important indigenous industry.

The full list:
1. Galway
2. Charleston, South Carolina
3. Dublin
4. Cork
5. Siem Reap, Cambodia
6. Auckland, New Zealand
7. Melbourne, Australia
8. Sydney, Australia
9. Edinburgh, Scotland
10. Savannah, Georgia

The well-regarded Travel Magazine remarked:
‘Galway won readers’ hearts with its festive nature, lively population, and musicality. Fiddlers and banjo-players, flautists and whistlers bang out traditional Irish reels on pedestrian streets and in all the pubs.’

Dublin was recently voted in second place by another US travel site, Conde Nast Traveler, so clearly this is no fluke!

Ireland’s Top Tourist Towns Revealed

With Dublin, Cork and Galway dominating the tourist scene in terms of ‘big cities’ the focus has turned to smaller towns that offer the most to visitors.

It comes as no surprise that five of these towns are in County Kerry with the south-western County continuing its reputation as the tourist capital of the country (in the opinion of many people).

Gallarus in Kerry

Fifteen towns have been short-listed to win the ‘Failte Ireland Tourism Town Awards’ with the winner to be announced later this year.

The 2014 winners were Westport and Kinsale but neither of those towns were short-listed this time around. Noticeable absentees also include such tourist hot-spots as Dingle, Kenmare, Lahinch, Bundoran, Donegal, Sligo and Clifden, to name but a few.

Lismore, Waterford
Ardmore, Waterford

Killarney, Kerry
Tralee, Kerry
Sneem, Kerry
Kenmare, Kerry
Portmagee, Kerry

Clonakilty, Cork
Youghal, Cork
Cobh, Cork

Belmullet, Mayo
Adare, Limerick
Carrick on Shannon, Leitrim
Mountsannon, Clare
Kilkenny City, Kilkenny

Sinn Fein Will Hold Office of Mayor Of Dublin During 1916 Commemorations

Although the position of Mayor of Dublin is largely ceremonial with the office-holder yielding little if any real power the position does have a number of distinct benefits, including being a representative for the city at major public events.

Criona Ni Dhalaigh

Perhaps there will be no larger public event in Dublin next year than the centenary celebrations to mark the 1916 Easter Rising. Councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh is the Sinn Fein Councillor who was elected to the post and will officiate as the city’s ‘number one citizen’ during the many events that are planned.

Not everyone is happy with this turn of events.

Irish citizen Austin Stack is one such person. His father was killed by the IRA in 1983 and he has accused Sinn Fein of trying to establish a link between their Political Party and the rebels of 1916.

‘It’s nauseating to think that a person who is a member of an organization which supported the slaughter of thousands of Irish people over the last 40 years will now take a salute on a reviewing stand, on a day which remembers those who gave their lives for democracy and inclusiveness. (It would be)…very insensitive (to ask Gardai and Defence Forces to salute) …somebody whose organization supports the actions which led to their colleagues being murdered.’

He called on Councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh to decline her invitation to be part of the ceremony in ten months time.

Strong words, but Sinn Fein remain defiant with the new Mayor responding:

‘It is a hugely important year and I just want to reiterate – and we’ve said this until we’re blue in the face – that the celebration and commemoration of 1916 does not belong to any one single party. It belongs to the people of Dublin. My party has been celebrating 1916 for years, so it’s nothing new to us. We will commemorate it, and the important thing is that the people who do commemorate the brave heroes of 1916 do so in a fitting manner.’

Ireland Among Most Peaceful Countries in the World

Ireland has ranked very well in the latest Global Peace Index

The index is compiled by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace and releases an annual report on the peacefulness of 162 of the world’s countries. 23 factors such as violent crime, weapons importation, prison population, political instability and internal conflict are all considered in the compilation of what has become an eagerly awaited ‘peace league table’.

Global Peace Index 2015

European countries claimed six of the top ten places reflecting the relative stability of the region. Ireland placed in twelfth position among the worlds most peaceful nations with the list headed by Iceland, then Denmark, with Sweden in thirteenth place, its Scandinavian neighbors all managing to finish in the top twenty yet again.

1 Iceland

2 Denmark

3 Austria

4 New Zealand

5 Switzerland

6 Finland

7 Canada

8 Japan

9 Australia

10 Czech Republic

11 Portugal

12 Ireland

13 Sweden

14 Belgium

15 Slovenia

16 Germany

17 Norway

18 Bhutan

19 Poland

20 Netherlands

The US ranked in 94th place with the UK in 39th position. Iraq and Syria propped up the bottom of the list which is unsurprising given the ongoing terrible conflicts in those countries.

Side-Effects Of The Same-Sex Referendum In Ireland

There were wild scenes of celebration in most of the main Irish urban locations as the result of the Referendum to legalize same-sex marriage was announced.

Gay Marriage Referendum in Ireland

The vote was carried by a big margin with 61.2% in favour of the proposed new laws with 37.9% against. Dublin Castle was the epicenter of the joyous scenes which redefines marriage in Ireland as a union between two people, regardless of their sex. Ireland is the first country in the world to approve such laws by way of a national ballot in what is being seen as a landmark vote. Many US states have already legalized same-sex marriage while some other countries have similarly done so by enacting laws rather than conducting a national vote.

Given that Ireland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country the response from the Vatican has been swift.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin is the Vatican Secretary of State:
‘Not a defeat for Christian principles, it was a defeat for humanity. I was very saddened by this result.’

With the dust settling the attention has turned to the not-so-obvious consequences of the ballot which may yet prove to be a massive turning point in Irish political and social history, and for more than just the issue that was proposed.

Young people participated

For example, the degree to which younger people became engaged in the political process amazed many commentators who now speculate that a whole new raft of voters will continue to make their voice heard. In a manner similar to the way in which US President Obama was first elected to office, the gay marriage Referendum in Ireland was greatly supported by younger people at a grass-roots level. Many had never even voted before but were now actively campaigning, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets and taking part in a way that has never been seen in Ireland.

Decline in Church influence is confirmed

For the Catholic Church this perhaps represents the absolute end of its influence in Ireland. Of course the largest religious organization in the country will continue to have a huge following, but here is a situation where a massive number of its own followers actually voted against one of the basic tenets of their own religion. The fierce control that local Priests exercised over the Irish citizenry has all but evaporated in the face of the increasing secularization of Irish society. Church attendance has plummeted with scandals badly affecting the Church and this in tandem with increasing modernization in the country allied with greater wealth and a better standard of living.

Perhaps the tipping point can be traced back to 1995 when the divorce Referendum was carried in Ireland by the incredibly slim margin of 50.28% to 49.72%, just over 9000 votes. Just nine years earlier, in 1986, the same vote to allow limited divorce was heavily defeated by over 63.48% to 36.52% in the wake of huge pressure from the Catholic Church. It is no coincidence that the following decade saw the beginning of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era in Ireland with the country greatly modernizing, immigration increasing, and the overall standard of living greatly improving. Surely the divorce Referendum of 1995 was the turning point with the most recent gay marriage Referendum the final nail in the coffin. The domineering influence of the Catholic Church in the country is no more.

Nearly 40% of voters said ‘no’

While the ‘yes’ side celebrate it has not gone unnoticed that nearly four in ten actually voted ‘no’. The majority of these are located beyond the main urban centers, in rural towns and villages that have been decimated by emigration and economic depression. In the context of Irish politics they are simply unrepresented. Fine Gael can be regarded as the most conservative of the Irish political groups and yet it was Fine Gael who brought the referendum to the electorate!

Most of the other political parties are either centrist or left-wing to varying degrees with what could broadly be called a ‘conservative’ minority having no political frontage. Surely this is an opportunity for Fianna Fail or the newly formed Renua party, or perhaps a break-away wing of Fine Gael?

Media bias in Ireland is incredible, and dangerous

If conservative voters are unrepresented in Dail Eireann then they are also largely unrepresented in the Irish media. The degree to which Irish newspapers and television supported the ‘yes’ campaign was incredible. Of course some commentators who were opposed to the vote were given their opportunity to be heard but the overwhelming emphasis in the media was to encourage a ‘yes’ vote. Disgracefully so in some quarters with any semblance of objectivity being binned in the face of apparent public approval for the new proposals.

Ignoring the gay marriage issue for a moment, it has to be acknowledged that a compliant media that refuses to question its own Government (think of the US media in the run up to the Iraq war) and cheer-leads its own agenda is a very dangerous influence in a supposed democratic society. While the ‘yes’ voters may not be concerned today about this issue, perhaps the next Referendum will be one on which they find themselves on the wrong side of the media pressure. This affects everyone in Ireland.

External lobbyist money influenced the debate

In a new development in Irish political and social life the US-style lobby group has reached new heights in Ireland. Of course there have always been lobbyists for all manner of issues in Ireland but the degree to which an external agency (Chuck Feeny and ‘Atlantic Philanthropies’) funded the ‘yes’ campaign with staggering sums of money is a new development.

Regardless of the issue at hand, the influence by lobbyists that are funded from abroad cuts to the very quick of the democratic ideal. If foreign money can indeed buy and make Irish laws (whatever the subject) then the Irish Republic that is to be celebrated in 2016 is dead.

Irish voters are unpredictable

The degree to which the Irish political landscape is so complicated can be gauged by the fact that on the same day that the gay marriage Referendum was carried by a big margin, another Referendum was heavily defeated by 73.06% to 26.94%. This second vote sought to lower the age at which a candidate could be elected to the office of President of Ireland from the current 35 years to 21 years.

How the electorate could be so tolerant of peoples rights in respect of marriage and so intolerant of their right to be elected to a political office because of their age really takes some advanced thinking to understand.

We can offer no explanation.

No Likelihood of Abortion Referendum in Ireland Before Next General Election

Still celebrating their stunning success in the recent gay marriage Referendum those on the ‘liberal left’ in Ireland are desperate to get the abortion issue back onto the agenda.

Abortion in Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is unlikely however to risk further alienating his mostly conservative base by broaching what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive social issue in Ireland (and perhaps in the entire western world).

Enda Kenny: ‘I do not believe that this house should be rushed into making a decision… This requires the most careful consideration by whoever is elected… There won’t be a Referendum on this in the lifetime of this Government’

Abortion is illegal in Ireland with the effect of the ban being to export the abortion problem abroad. Countless hundreds of Irish women are forced to make the trip to the UK in order to have an abortion. Despite widescale support to have this issue tackled successive Irish Governments have failed to take any meaningful action with the current Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition no different from their Fianna Fail predecessors.