Michael Green

About Michael Green

Michael Green is Manager of The Information about Ireland Site

It’s Official: Ireland Is The Best Country In The World

The results from the very first ‘Good Country Index’ have been announced.
And the winner is………….(drumroll)……. Ireland !!

Forget the never-ending Dublin traffic jams, the mediocre health care system, the high unemployment rate or the often abysmal weather. Using 35 indicators from the UN and the World Bank Ireland has topped the league table of ‘contribution to humanity’ by finishing near the top in four of the seven categories:

Planet & Climate: 45th place
Prosperity & Equality: 1st place
Health & Wellbeing: 9th place
Science & Technology: 20th place
Culture: 7th place
International Peace & Security: 33rd place
World Order: 4th place

One of the creators of the report is Simon Anholt:

(the intention is to…) ‘measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away. Using a wide range of data from the UN and other international organisations, we’ve given each country a balance-sheet to show at a glance whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between. Do (countries) exist purely to serve the interests of their own politicians, businesses and citizens, or are they actively working for all of humanity and the whole planet?

The message to the Irish people is that they can hold their heads up high. No matter how much they are suffering in the last number of years, they haven’t forgotten their international obligations and neither has the Government. They still can feel proud of where they come from.’

The author of the report was not at all surprised to receive a deluge of emails from amazed Irish people unhappy with the findings of his study.

‘I have advised 53 countries in my career and I’ve only come across three that do not suffer from low self-esteem – Sweden, the United States and Kazakhstan.’

The UK was ranked 7th while the USA was ranked 21st. Iraq, Libya and Vietnam propped up the bottom of the league table.

Back in Ireland, the citizenry of the country have been advised not to get too carried away with their status as the best on the planet.

25 Funny Quotes & Sayings About Fatherhood & Parenting

Oscar Wilde

May you die in bed at 95, shot by a jealous wife!
An Old Irish Toast

My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic.
Spike Milligan (Irish Comedian)

Fathers are biological necessities, but social accidents.
Margaret Mead (US Anthropologist)

Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.
Ray Romano (US Comedian)

Bob Monkhouse

I have always had the feeling I could do anything and my dad told me I could. I was in college before I found out he might be wrong.
Ann Richards (45th Governor of Texas)

There should be a children’s song ‘If you’re happy and you know it, keep it to yourself and let your dad sleep’.
Jim Gaffigan (US Comedian)

The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf.

Bertrand Russell (British Philosopher)

To be a successful father there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.
Ernest Hemingway (Writer)

The older I get, the smarter my father seems to get
Tim Russert (US Broadcaster)

Barbara Kingsolver

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Mark Twain (Writer)

There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.
Jerry Seinfeld (Comedian)

Forget about surviving 40 years in the music business. Just surviving 27 years of Nicole Richie has been a struggle-and-a-half, I want to tell you. I stand here as a survivor, I want you to know, for all the parents out there.
Lionel Richie (US Singer)

My father was a statesman; I’m a political woman. My father was a saint. I’m not.
Indira Gandhi (Third Prime Minister of India)

A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.
Billy Graham (Evangelist)

You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular.
Robert Frost (Poet)

My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.
Lee Iacocca (US Businessman)

Bill Cosby

A new father quickly learns that his child invariably comes to the bathroom at precisely the times when he’s in there, as if he needed company. The only way for this father to be certain of bathroom privacy is to shave at the gas station.
Bill Cosby (US Actor)

If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right.
Bill Cosby (and again)

Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch.
Jon Stewart (US Broadcaster)

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.
Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the United States)

A father carries pictures where his money used to be.
Unknown

‘Loo with a View’ may revert to a Public Convenience

This is perhaps one of the strangest headlines we have ever penned but bear with us – it will make sense. At the very height of the property boom in Ireland a decade ago even the most obscure, tiny, or ridiculous piece of land was fetching equally ridiculous prices. The huge punt on the old ‘Glass Bottle’ factory site in Ringsend is perhaps the most infamous of these property gambles, tumbling as it did in value from 411 Million Euro to an estimated 40 Million Euro today. It is currently an unused field.

But perhaps the full extent of our collective madness was demonstrated by the purchase of a tiny plot of land that was home to a toilet, overlooking the promenade at Lahinch. 400,000 euro was paid (over US$550,000) for what became known as ‘the Loo with a View’. Plans to develop the site came to nothing and it looks like the Council may buy back the plot to provide restroom facilities for visitors to the popular Lahinch beach.

Obviously the situation is getting critical with local politicians getting ever more agitated by the lack of action:

Councillor Bill Slattery:
I am very frustrated with the situation. Nothing has been done by Clare County Council or Fáilte Ireland. The criticism that we are getting in Lahinch because of the lack of toilets is unreal. We can’t walk down the promenade without being criticised. We have no public toilets in Lahinch and I think that is an absolute disgrace.

Rise of the ‘DONT GIVE A FECK’ Party

It is becoming apparent that not all politicians are taking the upcoming elections in Ireland seriously. A launderette-owner from Duleek in County Meath named Dave Keaveney cant have guessed how popular his campaign would become after he placed a poster in the window of his local business: ‘Vote Dave no 1 for a cleaner Duleek’.

Dont Give a Feck Party

It started off as a joke. I made up the poster because I’m fed up listening to the same bull from politicians and the same electioneering promises that aren’t kept.

He now intends to run for election as a non-party candidate in the Laytown-Bettystown Area. His campaign promotes a number of positions including the provision of Viagra to the Over-90s and to:

‘Give Ireland back to England and apologise for the state it’s in. It’s fecked!’

If I get elected, I’ll shake up the whole Council Chamber.

Irish Among The Happiest People In Europe

A study by the European Union has revealed that Irish people are a pretty happy bunch.

Irish People are among the happiest in the World

With a score of 7.4 out of 10 in the ‘experience of life ranking’ Ireland trails only behind Denmark (the perennial winner) with 8.4, Sweden and Finland with a score of 8, Luxembourg (7.8), Malta (7.7) and the Netherlands (7.7).

Surprisingly, given the recent economic devastation, the report found that Ireland was the third richest country in the EU, behind Luxembourg and Austria in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in purchasing power.

This study mirrors other recent reports including the UNICEF report that ranked Ireland tenth best in the world for kids and the OECD Better Life index that revealed that Ireland had higher levels of education and longer life expectancy that most OECD countries. Similarly the World Happiness Report ranked Ireland as the 18th happiest country in the world!

Commenting on the apparent contradiction in Irish happiness given the severe economic setbacks the country has endured since 2008, the co-author of the World Happiness Report, John Helliwell remarked:

This is just one more illustration that people’s happiness depends to a much smaller extent on their income than they think it does

The Report is based upon several variables:

- GDP per capita
- Life expectancy
- Perceived national corruption
- Freedom to make life choices
- Generosity of fellow citizens
- Having someone to rely on in times of trouble

These surveys are a surprise if you consider the media portrayal of Irish society. Certainly the economy has taken a hammering over the last few years but it is not as if the entire gains of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era have been wiped out. Infrastructure has improved greatly, quality of lifestyle has improved, social safety-nets are relatively well funded although the Irish health care system still leaves a lot to be desired.

If the news and television media are to be believed though, the country is awash with criminality, desperation, ‘ghost estates’, and unemployment.

Ireland does have all of these problems, just like many countries in the world, but the repeated proof of Irish happiness and good ‘quality of life’ from several international sources simply does not reflect the malaise portrayed by the Irish news media.

Simply put the Irish people are being told that things are desperate but those who have not emigrated, have a job, have a home and have access to health-care, just do not agree.

Those without a job or home certainly feel differently and while the current economic problems will certainly pass it will leave behind a society that has a much greater imbalance between the rich and those who are less well-off.

Happiness therefore is very much viewed through a personal lens.

As Oscar Wilde put it:
Ah, on what little things does happiness depend!
I have read all that the wise men have written,
and all the secrets of philosophy are mine,
yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.

by Michael Green
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Irish Government Reaps Reward for Exiting the EU/IMF/ECB ‘Bailout’

Calling it a bailout was never a good idea as it was anything but a bailout.

Loans to Ireland

The loans provided by the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the Irish Government had two main purposes: to keep the Euro currency alive and to allow Ireland to repay French and German banks and bond-holders who were owed billions by the bankrupt Irish banks. The fact that the Irish Government needed the cash to meet the wage-bill of the ridiculous numbers of public and civil servants employed by this tiny country was very much incidental. The EU/EBC/IMF had their own agenda.

But now they are gone.

Ireland has again taken control of raising its own finances and regained its ‘economic sovereignty’ amid much fanfare and self-congratulation. Ratings Agency Moody’s has added to the positive tone in Ireland by upgrading Irish 10-year debt bonds to ‘investment grade’ and as a result the cost of borrowing by the Irish Government has dropped dramatically from over 12% at the depth of the financial crisis to a much healthier 3.3% today. By comparison the US and UK borrow at about 2.8% while Germany borrows at 1.65%, Portugal at 5% and Greece at 8.5%.

Should the Irish economy recover and unemployment fall then this will be seen as a very significant turning point in recent Irish history. Fine Gael will claim the credit for steering the country through its darkest ever economic moments having implemented the Fianna Fail plan for recovery that they inherited, despite lambasting that same plan in the run up to the last General Election.

With the economy pointed in the right direction Fine Gael will expect to be rewarded by the Irish people with a second term in office. Despite being not quite half way through its five year term with the next General Election not due until 2016, the analysts in Fine Gael will surely be eyeing up the very best moment to ‘go to the people’, likely next year in 2015.

Of course a year is an eternity in politics and it is not out of the question that a fickle Irish electorate could yet punish Fine Gael for its failures, perceived or otherwise. Lack of political reform, controversial social policies and the never-ending implementation of the economics of austerity may yet come back to haunt the party.

For the time being Fine Gael are enjoying their time in office with the latest numbers from the opinion polls supporting their optimism:

Fine Gael: 30%
Fianna Fail: 26%
Sinn Fein: 16%
Labour: 12%
Others/Independents: 16%

This survey suggests a return by vast groups of voters to the more mainstream political parties and away from independents and fringe groups. Even the Labour Party managed to increase its support although it is still in a very poor position. Looking at the numbers above, surely a grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail is only a matter of time?

by Michael Green
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Canadian Astronaut Sings ‘Ride On’ to Lord Mayor Of Dublin

Colonel Chris Hadfield is perhaps the most famous Canadian Astronaut in history. Not only was he the first Canadian to walk in space but he also tweeted some marvellous images of Ireland and the world while serving aboard the International Space Station. His images became an Internet sensation.

Chris Hadfield in Ireland

Now retired from active service he visited Ireland recently as a ‘tourism ambassador’ and regaled the Lord Mayor of Dublin with his version of ‘Ride On’, performed before a packed hall at the Mansion House, the Mayor’s residence in the city.

The Colonel is also especially admired in Ireland for sending the first ever tweet from space in the Irish language:

Tá Éire fíorálainn! Land of green hills dark beer. With Dublin glowing in the Irish night.

He commented later that while in space he had a particular interest in keeping on eye on Ireland as his daughter is attending Trinity College in Dublin.

Proving himself to be an accomplished guitar player it looks like the sky is still the limit for the multi-talented Canadian.

Funeral Directors Aim Daggers At Irish Minister

The recent decision by the Irish Government to scrap the ‘Bereavement Grant’ has less than impressed those involved in the Funeral business in Ireland.

Funeral Expenses Grant abolished in Ireland

The 850 Euro grant was previously paid to families of the recently deceased to assist with funeral expenses. In an attempt to deflect from criticism of the grant’s abolition Ruairi Quinn, the Irish Education Minister, suggested that there is ‘insufficient competition’ in the funeral business in Ireland. Clearly he thinks that the cost of funerals is being inflated by the bereavement grant and thus has no problem disposing of it.

It is estimated that the cost of a Funeral in Ireland is about 5000 euro (just under 7000 US$). Welfare Minister Joan Burton pointed out that there is still a generous allowance in the event of the pensioner’s death:

“If one partner of a pensioner couple dies, their spouse continues to get the social welfare payment of the deceased spouse for six months. That is worth roughly 1,200 to 1,400 Euro.”

Apart from the Bereavement Grant the Telephone Allowance for Pensioners has also been scrapped while Welfare for those aged under 26 years has been reduced. The Fine Gael and Labour Party Government made much of the fact that they have not increased the rates of taxation in their most recent annual budgets. Nevertheless their tenure in office has seen a whole host of new ‘stealth’ taxes introduced in tandem with some pretty savage cuts to services.

These latest cutbacks are just one of a number of measures in the recent annual Budgets that have attempted to roll back some of the largesse offered to Irish citizens during the Celtic Tiger years.

Times are very different now.

With the country effectively bankrupt the last five years has seen some very severe so-called ‘austerity’ measures implemented by successive Irish Governments. It would be expected then that a people who enjoy their reputation as being ‘The Fighting Irish’ would hit back and hard.

Not so.

Opposition from the Irish population has been relatively minimal. No Greek or French style riots. No imprisoning of Bankers and Government officials as happened in Iceland. The Irish have taken the economic downturn pretty much in their stride.

Or Emigrated.

by Michael Green
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Alcohol Abuse in Ireland Targeted by Irish Government

A new Public Health Bill is to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol products based on the alcohol content of the drink.

Irish Government is trying to reduce Alcohol consumption

The new laws are an effort to reduce the consumption of cheaper high-alcohol beers, wines and spirits. For the first time products will be targeted based on the actual amount of alcohol they contain.

Other new measures include:

* From 2016 alcohol advertising on TV and Radio is to be confined to evening time.

* Advertising of alcohol in Cinemas will be confined to over-18 movies only.

* Outdoor advertising of alcohol will also be restricted.

* Supermarkets and other outlets will have to relocate alcohol products to their own separate location within a premises.

* All alcohol products will in future carry health warnings (but significantly not with the kind of graphic pictures used on cigarette packets).

The President of the Irish Medical Organisation, Dr Matthew Sadlier, welcomed the new regulations:

“In Ireland, despite high excise duties alcohol has become increasingly more affordable. Under a minimum pricing structure, the price per unit becomes more expensive particularly affecting demand by younger binge drinkers and excessive harmful drinkers. Thus minimum pricing can reduce alcohol-related harm without necessarily penalising moderate drinkers.”

The new laws have been criticized for not going far enough and especially for not banning the sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies. In a surprising ‘pact with the devil’ the Irish sports lobby successfully persuaded Government that the withdrawal of sponsorship by the alcohol companies would severely impact on funding for sporting activities.

Pat Hickey, the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, clearly disagreed with some of his colleagues in the Irish sporting community and responded by launching a scathing attack on the drinks industry in Ireland and particularly on the veiled threats by Diageo to reduce its investment in Ireland should a ban on drinks-industry sponsorship of sporting events be implemented:

I thought it was an absolute disgrace to read a report of an international company, Diageo, making an attack on the Irish Government and the Irish State about how they should conduct their business and investment. This is a multinational that has no interest whatsoever in Ireland except they happen to have a product beginning with ‘G’ and they promote that in Irish pubs just to get bigger profits around the world.

Abuse of Alcohol in Ireland costs Billions

A report that was recently published by the Health Research Board revealed that 58% of Irish people think the Government is not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption. 85% of those surveyed believe that the current level of consumption of alcohol in Ireland is far too high. Average consumption in the year 2010 was 145% higher than the average amount consumed in the year 1960, a huge increase by any standard.

While the drinks industry in Ireland may be concerned at the new regulations they will surely be celebrating their most recent success at being able to continue their sponsorship of Irish sporting events.

Where they can recruit new and young devotees.

And all aided and abetted by the Irish sports lobby!

by Michael Green
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Opinion Polls driving Fianna Fail and Fine Gael together – Doom for Labour Party

The prospect of Fianna Fail entering a coalition with Fine Gael after the next General Election is looking ever more possible. A recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll certainly points toward such a possibility and also makes very, very bad reading for the Labour Party.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Labour are currently in Government with Fine Gael whom they joined in coalition after the 2011 General Election. Fine Gael took the bulk of the Fianna Fail vote with Labour also soaring to new highs in the hope that the party would see off the money-men of the EU/IMF/ECB troika who were/are hated by large sections of the Irish population.

‘Burn the bondholders’
‘Let the banks fail’,
‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ were the rallying cries.

The reality has been very different for the Labour Party. Nurses, Labourers, Teachers, Public and Civil Servants, lower-paid workers and even the unemployed all voted for Labour in their droves at the last election. Now they are looking elsewhere.

Irish Nurses proitest against Government policies

By continuing the policies of the previous Fianna Fail government both Labour and Fine Gael chose to play a long game. Fine Gael could make the case that they have no choice but to implement the policies they inherited while alternately blaming Fianna Fail and then claiming the credit for the economy stabilizing. Labour however, have no such luxury.

It was the Labour Party that was supposed to represent the working classes. Instead they implemented cuts to services and installed the hated Property Tax, threatening and bullying the Irish citizenry into submission.

Eamon Gilmore is the Labour Party leader

Just 6% of voters now say they would now vote for Labour (down from 19%) while 23% say they would vote for Sinn Fein and 22% for Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein and the Labour Party occupy much of the same left-wing space on the political spectrum yet it is Gerry Adam’s party that now seems to represent the working classes. Historically though Sinn Fein have always done better in opinion polls than at the ballot box. This is probably because their support comes largely from a younger population who are in fact less likely to actually vote.

With 26% support Fine Gael cannot afford to be too smug either. Both they and Fianna Fail have repeatedly said that they would not go into a coalition Government with Sinn Fein. Logically then, if an election were held tomorrow the obvious new Government would be a coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail!

In the US this would be the equivalent of John Boehner cozying up with Barack Obama in a Democrat-Republican national government to run the country.

Could it happen in Ireland? This possibility has recently been floated by former members of both of these political parties. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have their genesis in the 1922 Irish Civil War. Over the last two decades any lingering differences have rapidly dissipated. Socially Fine Gael is viewed as being more conservative than Fianna Fail but there seems to be little to choose between their economic approach.

Is a grand union possible?

In Ireland after the economic crash, anything is possible.