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EUROPEAN JITTERS MAY SCUPPER IRISH TREATY APPROVAL
Recent events in France and The Netherlands may combine to influence the outcome of the crucial May vote on the EU Fiscal Treaty. The prospect of the defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy in France by Socialist Francois Hollande has put the spotlight on the plans within the EU and in particular Germany's insistence on austerity as being the way out of the current crisis. Mr. Hollande is quoted as saying 'Either there will be a new treaty or there will be a modification of the existing treaty. It's about negotiation.'
Ireland is currently implementing Draconian austerity measures with huge increases in taxes being coupled with severe cutbacks in services. Should the French elect a new leader who is demanding a revision of the Treaty that Ireland is about to vote on then it will be next to impossible for the Irish government to convince its citizenry to approve it. Developments in The Netherlands have also rocked the European establishment with one of the Eurozone's most stable governments collapsing under the weight of the austerity burden.
How can the Irish electorate realistically vote in favour of a Treaty that may be changed dramatically should the French and Germans decide? Rejecting the Treaty would have as yet unknown repercussions for Ireland with the doom-sayers indicating that the country would be refused any future 'debt crisis' funding while those who want the Treaty ditched see any defeat as a path towards Ireland leaving the Euro currency (whether by choice or design).
Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour all support the Treaty while Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party and the coalition of independents oppose it. Individual Trade Unions have already being advising their members to reject the Treaty, much to the embarrassment of the Labour Party. It seems that the vote is also likely to be used as a whipping tool to punish the government for its recent mishandling of various policy initiatives including the introduction of water charges, the new property tax and even septic tank and turf-cutting measures. An unlikely alliance of left-wing causes could fuse with popular mainstream opposition to yet more austerity to give the Fine Gael and Labour Government a bloody nose.
MAJOR IMPROVEMENT OF MATER HOSPITAL IN DUBLIN
The pivotal Mater Hospital in Dublin has been expanded with the imminent opening of new state-of-the art operating theatres, 120 one-bed rooms, as well as a vital new emergency and out-patients department. The Mater hospital is one of the busiest in the country and the improvements will come as a great boost for staff and patients alike.
The decision regarding the location of the new national children's hospital has still to be made after the original plan to locate the new hospital adjacent to the Mater Hospital was rejected by the Irish planning authorities. Despite this setback it is expected that a scaled-down version of the original plan may yet see the development go ahead, turning the Mater Hospital site into perhaps the most important health-care facility in the country.
ECONOMY STILL IN DOLDRUMS DESPITE TECH JOBS BOOST
Despite the high profile jobs boost from companies such as Apple and Google, the depth of the economic situation in Ireland has again been brought into sharp focus by the release of some pretty startling statistics:
* Unemployment in 2006 was 4.3%, by 2012 it was over 14%.
* Just recently over 10,000 people applied for a mere 600 Army and Navy jobs.
* An illustration of the severity of the construction industry crash has highlighted the fact that in 2006 house completions numbered 90,000 while in 2011 the figure was just less than 10,500.
PRIVATE HOMES TO PAY FOR WATER
Fresh on the heels of the property tax debacle the government has announced its plans for the taxation of water usage in Irish homes. In Ireland businesses already pay for water usage but private houses do not, the funding for which comes from general taxation revenue. The new plans to install a water meter in every house in the country have, like the property tax, been greeted with dismay by a population groaning under the weight of an already huge tax burden. It is expected that average annual usage would cost approximately 400 euro, with heavier users paying more.
It is broadly accepted that there is a case for charging for water usage. Estimates put the wastage of usable water at over 50% from the country's creaking and in some cases Victorian water pipes network. Owners of rural houses often have to sink their own well or else join a water scheme while urban houses do not have any such expense. Taxpayers can however, reasonably argue that they already pay for water in their income and sales taxes so why should they pay again?
LABOUR PARTY UNDER PRESSURE
The new water charges are another touchy issue for the Fine Gael government but particularly so for its coalition partner, the Labour Party. Elected as an advocate of the working class, the party is taking a huge risk by:
* supporting the introduction of the property tax
* supporting a new water charge
* supporting the EU Fiscal Treaty
Sinn Fein seem best placed to benefit in the next election, gleefully predicting that the Labour Party will be destroyed with their assuming the mantle of the true party of the working class. A recent opinion poll puts Labour on 13%, Fianna Fail on 14% and Fine Gael on 33%. The real news though is that Sinn Fein are on 22%, easily making it the second most popular party in the country. Labour are very much on the back foot.
DEATH OF IRISH ARTIST LOUIS LE BROCQUY
The death has occurred of the prominent Irish artist Louis le Brocquy. He was aged 95. He was best known for his portraits of literary and artistic figures including Francis Bacon, Samuel Becket and Seamus Heaney.
The Tuatha de Danann, the people of the Goddess
Danu, were one of the great ancient tribes of
Ireland. The important manuscript 'The Annals of
the Four Masters', records that they ruled
Ireland from 1897 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
The arrival of the tribe in Ireland is the stuff
of legend. They landed at the Connaught coastline
and emerged from a great mist. It is speculated
that they burned their boats to ensure that they
settled down in their new land. The rulers of
Ireland at the time were the Fir Bolg, led by
Eochid son of Erc, who was, needless to say,
unhappy about the new arrivals.
The Tuatha de Danann won the inevitable battle
with the Fir Bolg but, out of respect for the
manner in which they had fought, they allowed
the Fir Bolg to remain in Connaught while the
victors ruled the rest of Ireland.
The new rulers of Ireland were a civilised and
cultured people. The new skills and traditions
that they introduced into Ireland were held in
high regard by the peoples they conquered. They
had four great treasures (or talismans) that
demonstrated their skills. The first was the
'Stone of Fal' which would scream when a true
King of Ireland stood on it. It was later
placed on the Hill of Tara, the seat of the
High-Kings of Ireland. The second was the
'Magic Sword of Nuadha', which was capable of
inflicting only mortal blows when used. The
third was the 'sling-shot of the Sun God Lugh',
famed for its accuracy when used. The final
treasure was the 'Cauldron of Daghda' from
which an endless supply of food issued.
The original leader of the Tuatha was Nuada
but, having lost an arm in battle it was
decreed that he could not rightly be king.
That honour went to Breas, a tribesman of
Fomorian descent. His seven year rule was not
a happy one however, and he was ousted by his
people who had become disenchanted with hunger
and dissent. Nuada was installed as King,
resplendent with his replacement arm made
Breas raised an army of Fomorians based in the
Hebrides and they battled with Nuada at Moytura
in County Sligo. The Tuatha again prevailed and
the power of the Fomorians was broken forever.
The victory had cost the Tuatha their King as
Nuadha had died in the battle. A hero of the
conflict named Lugh was instated as the new King
The grandsons of the next King, Daghda, ruled
during the invasion by the mighty Melesians. The
Tuatha de Danann were defeated and consigned to
mythology. Legend has it that they were allowed
to stay in Ireland, but only underground. Thus
they became the bearers of the fairies of Ireland,
consigned to the underworld where they became
known as 'Aes sidhe' (the people of the mound
- fairy mounds).
The Melesians used the name of one of the Tuatha
de Danann gods, Eriu, as the name of their new
kingdom. Eriu or Eire is still used in modern
times as the name of Ireland.
As an American with no Irish ancestry you might
wonder what I am doing here in Sligo. I have the
best of landscape with Knocknear in the backyard
and Ben Bulben up the road but surely, the history
of Ireland is 'write' in the names of the towns
The prefix 'drum' in a name indicates a 'fort' and
there were plenty of forts in Ireland. For example,
near Cookstown are Drummond, Drumard, Drumgarrell,
Drumearn, Drumcarn, Drumraw and Drumballyhugh. In
Dublin we have Drumcondra and Dundrum.
Leitrim which is also known for its ridges has its
Drumshanbo and Drumahair which is where I went to
visit the famous abbey.
But see how much more the name can tell us about
Donegal is the fort of the foreigner
('gall' in Irish means foreigner)
Kildare is the church of oak
('cill' in Irish means 'church', 'dara' means 'oak')
Kilkenny is the church of St. Canice.
Sligo is named after the Shelly River.
Dublin has its black pool in the Phoenix Park
(Dubh-Linn, from Gaelic, 'the black mire')
Derry is Doire, the oak again.
Ardboe in the North means 'hill of the cow'
(from the Irish word 'bo' meaning cow).
Lissan means 'Anne's Lis' who was a Fairy Queen and
guardian spirit of the O'Connor family.
The Irish word for Ulster is 'ulidia' meaning
'the land east of the river Bann'.
Tyrone is from 'tir Eoin' - the land of Owen.
(in Irish 'tir' means 'land')
Lough Swilly is the lake of shadows.
Tulluhogue is the hill of youth
(in Irish og, ogue, means 'young')
Howth in Dublin is derived from the Danish hoved
or head (The Vikings landed here!)
Glendalough in Wicklow is the valley of the
Naas in Kildare is really 'Nas Na Ri', Naas of
Meath, a central county is 'Midhe'- the middle,
Dowth is from the Irish for 'darkness', found
Cork is from 'Coraigh', a marshy place
Killarney is from 'Cill Airne', the church of
Omagh is the seat of the chiefs
Belmullet in Mayo is 'Beal a Mhuirthead',
the mouth of the Mullet.
Reading the landscape can give one an insight into
what has gone before. I urge all people coming to
Ireland to get off the beaten path and look into
the least traveled sections of this, my adopted
home - somewhere where you can have your
own personal link with the past.
by Lisa Bertram
Oh she waits on Inishmore for her man to come home
He's been gone many weeks now a fishing
Oh the water's turning cold and the winds are blowing bold
For the time is near past for that season
Oh the ladies in Ireland knit the sweaters for the fishermen
Each stitch and each one they make different.
You may never know the man if the sea decides to keep him
Except for the designs in his sweater
She hopes not to see those stitches made just for he
Unless it is in them he comes walking
It's a cold and lonely life being a fisherman's wife
Never knowing if you'll see him again
To share him with the sea that has cast it's spell on him
Will she ever win against the waves that entice him
But still she awaits keeping peat on the fire
With a candle in the window so he can see
A light to the one who will always be his love
If the fates will give her one more chance to be