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Villager

Mates of Yates
Under this heading in the last edition Villager made reference to Leo Varadkar. The intention of the piece was to imply that sexuality is workaday and of no particular interest but Village accepts that the reference was offensive and a mistake. In general, Village does not support the outing of the sexual orientation of anyone. Villager and Village apologise to all concerned.


Saving trees from themselves
In keeping with its general philosophy of doing more to achieve less Dublin City Council has erected signs in Merrion Square signalling that it is about to begin cutting down 300 trees there in accordance with a Conservation Management Plan. The idea is… well actually Villager couldn’t really see the idea at all. But it’s dressed up as facilitating more visitors and of course deterring ‘anti-social’ and something about freeing up the lucky 700 trees that will be spared. Then-Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn told the Herald in 2013 that officials wanted to remove trees to protect older tree species. “And a sizeable number will be removed in order to revitalise it”. The foolish, busybody idea is to reinstate the park closer to the way it was originally intended, with views of the architecture beyond. No importance is afforded those of us who just want to get away from the city (and its Council) for a while. Merrion Square was laid out after 1762 and was largely complete by the beginning of the 19th century. The government of Éamon de Valera proposed plans to demolish the “un-natural” ie tree-filled Merrion Square. These plans were only prevented from going ahead by the Nazi invasion of Poland. Villager looks forward to a similar philosophy of weeding out excessive buildings on the square that surrounds the park. Inevitably a shop and “amphitheatre” are also on the way. Obedientia-civium-urbis-felicitas: Give it back to the Archbishopric.


 

Inishbuffoon
More than €9m was spent in the five years up to 2009 constructing airstrips on Inishbofin that have never been used and are dilapidating. The entire annual budget for the islands for Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht’s is now only €600,000. Éamon Ó Cuív was Minister for Community, Gaeltacht and the Islands from 2002-2010, so the usual rules did not apply.


 

DoEing very little
Village has now asked the Department of the Environment Press Office twice in the last three months if there is any progress on the advice from the AG received in August 2014. Or on the independent report into the other six planning authorities that was expected in June 2014 to “be concluded soon”; or on the possible extension of the independent report into other counties, notably Wicklow. To no avail. The Department won’t reply to emails.


 

Villager gets good story
“Exclusive: Irish VIP in Sex Tape Scandal. Naked hotel romp with escort”. So ran the cover of the Irish Sun in early January. But it wasn’t an exclusive, for Villager in his modest way had scooped the Sun in the last edition and even named Ben Dunne (“Zip it upstairs and down, Big Man”). Meanwhile the editor’s been assailed by emails from Dunne’s escort promising cash for “XXX videos, dates and room numbers”. He says the magazine can’t afford it. Other Celebrity Sex Stories to Villager c/o far corner, Village office, Ormond Quay. Exclusives only, please.


 

Silence from Law Library on defamation proceedings
Meanwhile the proceedings drafted by Michael McDowell last year rest on the Village mantelpiece. They seek “damages, punitive damages, aggravated damages and an order prohibiting the further publication” of unspecified statements the subject of the proceedings. The proceedings relate, if it even matters, to evidence given in the High Court by Gerard Convie, who worked in Donegal County Council as a senior planner for nearly 24 years and has claimed, in an affidavit opened in court, and reported in Village, that during his tenure in the Council there was bullying and intimidation of planners who sought to make decisions based exclusively on the planning merits of particular applications and that planning irregularities were perpetrated by named officials at the highest level in the Council including former Manager McLoone, as well as named county councillors.The action has not proceeded to court.


 

Curry my yogurt can coca coalyer
The Ceann Comhairle was beaten to the Village Idiot spot by Isis this February, so the editor gave him to Villager. Seán Barrett comes from the John O’Donoghue school of discreet speakery. He reminds Villager of urchins who, in the 1970s, used to stop him in the street and ask him if he was starting. To which there is no good answer. Talking to Miriam O’Callaghan about the Opposition, Barrett said they were “out to get him” but withdrew the comments in the Dáil. He said he made the comments in the heat of the moment. Speakers are only really supposed to have cool moments. Barrett has now told the Dáil the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will consider if the ambiguous standing order, under which he ruled out a debate on a motion setting up a commission of inquiry into alleged Garda malpractice in Cavan-Monaghan, is susceptible to another interpretation.
In December Barrett accused Sinn Féin of using him as a “pawn to deflect attention” from their own political difficulties, such as the Maíria Cahill controversy. “If there is one thing I take grave exception to, (it is) accusing me in the wrong and . . . briefing people outside. Morally, it’s wrong”, he fulminated. Of course: but you’re the Speaker, man, you’re not allowed to whinge. You’re supposed to be the sort of guy who dreams in the third person, not someone who goes on the media making personal comments.
In 2006 Barrett told the Mahon Tribunal he had been offered an £80,000 consultancy to lobby for a land swap involving the movement of either Killiney or Dún Laoghaire golf course to lands at Cherrywood near Loughlinstown in County Dublin. In 2000 Barrett, who stood strongly against the rezoning of Cherrywood in the 1992-3 period, admitted to his FG internal Inquiry that he received a cheque for about £600 from Monarch Properties which owned Cherrywood, or their agent, at the time of the 1991 local elections and gave it to his local constituency organisation and an unsolicited cheque for between £500 and £1,000 from Frank Dunlop at the time of the General Election in 1992. Monarch were found by the Mahon Tribunal to have obtained their rezoning corruptly, in 1993, but no taint applied to Barrett.


 

Milking the stats
Livestock emissions in Ireland are 503,400 tonnes per year (in 2011). According to Cambridge University climate economist Chris Hope who models the social cost of carbon emissions, this puts the unpaid cost of livestock climate pollution at about €670 million per year. This does not include nitrous oxide cost which is also considerable. And of course it is before the massive proposed expansion of the livestock herd. It amounts to a hidden cost of about €9,500 per dairy farmer per year.


 

Dismal and frightening
200 years ago, the field of economics barely existed. Today, it is treated as the queen of the social sciences. Or their whore. Using the new Chronicle tool that catalogues the entire New York Times archive, Justin Wolvers has discovered that in recent years around one in 100 articles mention the term “economist,” and these typically occur in the context of introducing a proponent of the dark arts. Far fewer articles mention the terms historian or psychologist, while sociologists, anthropologists and demographers rarely rate a mention. Unlike in Ireland where interest in economists rises and rises as the economy rises and sinks, the New York Times’ interest in what economists have to say rises and falls with the economy. It wasn’t always this way. Historians held the largest market share until the Great Depression intervened in the 1930s, leading a frightened public to take a greater interest in economics.


 

Blooming berg
For years it has been speculated that billionaire former New York Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, could be a white knight and save the New York Times which lost $9m in the year to October and has laid off close to 110 employees. John W. Henry, a one-time billionaire whose other holdings include the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, performed the trick for the Boston Globe in 2013, paying the New York Times, as it happens, $70m for it.
Near the end of Bloomberg’s time as mayor, he told Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr that he was interested in buying the Times but Sulzberger replied that the paper was not for sale.
Bloomberg has evidently returned from politics to media. According to one friend, who spoke to New York magazine he lunches almost weekly with Rupert Murdoch. “Before he came back to the company there was talk he was going to be a combination of Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch. Now he’s only going to be Murdoch. He’s not paying as much attention to the philanthropy. And to have media impact, he’s gotta get something bigger. He can’t just have Bloomberg”. Bloomberg is the thirteenth richest man in the world, worth $36.5bn. He could have Village (and Villager) if he wanted. Only saying.


 

Nobs
John Micklethwait has just left the Economist after 27 years, including the last eight as editor-in-chief, to join Bloomberg News. He was replaced at the Economist by its first woman editor, the formidably named Zanny Minton Beddoes. The chairman of the Economist is Trinity alumnus, Rupert-Pennant-Rea, most famous for nobbing (or being nobbed by) Mary Ellen Synon, aesthete and one-time scourge of Travellers, Immigrants etc in the pages of the Sunday Independent, on the floor in the Bonk of England in 1996 when he was deputy governor.


 

Nobama
Barack Obama hasn’t vetoed much during the first six years of his presidency. With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate for that entire time, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid could hold up any bills that weren’t favoured by Obama. So far, the president has expressly vetoed just two bills, the lowest number since Abraham Lincoln, apart from James Garfield’s brief six-month stay in office. That will soon change now that Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate.
Obama has tired of what little purchase he got from bipartisanship with recalcitrant Republicans and has announced he will consider vetoing key measures including: Keystone XL: the pipeline to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada oil refineries in Texas and Illinois; Repeal of Obamacare, Financial regulation to erode Dodd-Frank, the Democrat’s 2010 law to fix Wall Street; and Regulatory reform: In January the House passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill that would force all agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for each rule. This process tends to favour business interests over consumers.


 

Breeding
Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute is like the kids’ mums Villager remembers from his childhood. Anyway, she told ‘Morning Ireland’ in January that she didn’t oppose the Civil Partnership Act but she did. In 2007 she wrote in the Irish Times: “Brian Cowen believes that this will not dilute the meaning of marriage. One wonders what he thinks would, if this doesn’t? Of course marriage is not just about children, but about love, sexual attraction, and commitment. Yet this proposed Bill is yet another step towards removing from marriage the defining paradigm of mother, father and child. It begins to move it entirely towards the adult sexual relationship model, where the needs of adults dominate”. Unless Breda is in favour of the adult sexual relationship model, and she isn’t, this amounts to opposition to Civil Partnership. Hopefully she’ll get her coherence together for later in the campaign. It’s her speciality.


 

Getting money back for corrupt Haughey
Villager enjoyed ‘Charlie’, though primarily for the politics not the drama which was clunky. He enjoyed the caricaturing of the eejits who reigned in the era of multiple-adjectives-when-one-would-do. Not a scene seemed to pass without Haughey being smothered by another wad of cash and the short series managed to nail Haughey for most of his grubby delinquency. It did not, however, refer to his arranging Ben Dunne’s Capital Gains Tax bill reduction by £23m. The pressure Mr Haughey put on the Revenue Commissioners resulted, according to the Moriarty Tribunal, in “a complete about turn in the consistent thinking of the Revenue over the previous two years”.
Or to the fact Haughey embezzled £20,000 from his mucker Brian Lenihan’s medical fund. Haughey also received a £50,000 payment from a Saudi diplomat and businessman to provide Irish passports.
Taxi-drivers often claim that the Little Man never did anything actually corrupt but that is not the case. The dodgy, but probably not illegal stuff was different: Haughey pocketed secret payments totalling 171 times his gross salary between 1979 and 1996.
Councillor Sean Haughey bristled to an sympathetic and unquestioning media at the series but it’s very difficult to take righteousness from anyone in that family until they give back the proceeds of theft and compromised dodginess, including Inishvickillaune.


 

Smug and smugger editors
The Village editor seems to be following Phoenix magazine by signing his (self-indulgent) editorial. In January, Phoenix included a po-faced editorial signed for once (by editor, Paddy Prendeville) about the massacre of journalists in Paris: ‘Je ne sui pas Charlie [sic]’. If proof were needed that Phoenix is not ‘seriou’ this must be it. We do not need to agree with much of what Charlie says to stand with them after they were butchered. Since being Charlie is a metaphor it does not take much generosity to limit the metaphor to an effort at human solidarity in the face of grisly tragedy. Villager shares the view of many that Charlie often picked on Islam, a constituency that is beleaguered and therefore not a desirable target for systematic pillorying. Occasional blasphemy yes, but not to the point of oppression.


 

Smuggest
After the Charlie Hebdo massacre the Irish Times pontificated editorially that the “right to offend must be defended with courage and vigour”.
However it failed to take its own advice when last April its editors censored and removed from the web a cartoon drawn by cartoonist Martyn Turner. With reference to the mandatory reporting requirement to the Children First Bill, the cartoon depicted two priests and a bishop singing “I’ll do anything for children but I won’t do that”. The cartoon was removed following objections by senior members of the Irish Catholic hierarchy. The Irish Times’ apology said the paper “regrets any apologises for the hurt caused”.
This has, it went on, “unsurprisingly, caused considerable offence and we regret and apologise for the hurt caused by the cartoon whose use in that form, we acknowledge, reflected a regretable [sic] editorial lapse”.
The apology noted that the views of columnists and contributors are “largely sacrosanct”, but that under obligations placed on the paper by the Irish Times Trust, “there are ground rules”. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: “I know that many priests and people feel hurt by [the] cartoon. I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and of the vital role of satire in social criticism, but I object to anything that would unjustly tarnish all good priests with the unpardonable actions of some”.


 

Wherever I lay my hat…
JP McManus has paid €30m for the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunraven – the Quins, some of the few peers of Gaelic origin. Adare Manor hotel and its inevitable golf course and spa lie on 840 acres in Co Lmerick. He already owns the biggest (and vilest) private house in the country, a stud on 600 acres, which he built for €50m at Martinstown, Co Limerick. •