Deep in the heartland of Donnybrook, hidden in a crescent behind the fire station, surrounded by houses and leafiness there sits, intact, a building which embodied part of our cruel social history. Known locally as the Donnybrook laundry, but more widely known in subcultures and State reports as the Magdalene laundry of the Sisters of Charity.
No mention is made in the Colliers’ brochure for sale of the site of its former use. No mention of the many women who toiled there, scrubbing shirts, washing socks, endlessly ironing, endlessly starching, endlessly washing. Nor of the clients that came from the affluent families in the surrounding areas, nor that Áras an Úachtaráin was a client too. The labelled basket that carried the laundry – pressed, starched, immaculate spotless – now lies discarded with a pile of others, rotting and abandoned.
According to Dublin City Councillor, Mannix Flynn, who served time in an industrial school in Letterfrack which has been turned into a wood-turning school (to eradicate the memories he says), this is the real thing. If ever there was to be a memorial, a gesture, an acknowledgment – this is it. This is a place of anger and atonement. A place of loss and maybe a place to be found.
So last month Villager predicted there’d be a hung Dáil: “Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will struggle to work out whether they should coalesce risking their exposure as ideological charlatans and the long-term growth of Sinn Féin. Another election within a year”.
Village’s twitter account now features two dinosaurs, rutting. But what is the correct term for a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael? We’ve seen Fianna Gael and Fine Fail. We’ve seen Tweedlegael and Tweedlefail. Tweedle Dummer.
And what about an election slogan for them? “Let’s keep the doing going”.
Bargaintown is a faintly tacky furniture store on Queen’s Street Bridge on the quays in Dublin. The late Terry Wogan (much missed by the TV generation) once voiced an ad with the stage-Irish slogan, “the prices are only famous”. The tightarses in Bargaintown used his recording for a decade or more.
Anyway Bargaintown which was once in fact a cinema, the Phoenix picture house, is now the name of a movie which showed at the Irish Film Centre before Christmas. It’s an evocation of Dublin in the 1980s, a meditation on urban decay made by then teenage German film-maker, David Jazay, in Dublin in 1988. Featuring interviews with antique dealers, barbers and barmen – it is a record of the lives and opinions of a vanished Dublin, before the Celtic Tiger overhauled its fabric and its atmosphere. Highlights include an animated auction at Tormey Brothers, a night of song and dance at the old Workingmen’s Club on Wellington Quay, and performances by out-of-key blues-man Frank Quigley.
The highlight for Villager was the piece on Dick Tynan, featured playing jazz drums in a run-down building on Ormond Quay and bemoaning the fire in his building that precluded re-opening his Essex guest-house. There once was a famous picure on the gable wall of the Ormond Hotel with a picture of Tynan looking like a 1970s Elvis proclaiming “I can get it for you wholesale”. When the sign was removed in the 1990s it revealed a picture of Tynan delivering the same message, but this time as Elvis circa 1960. Villager’s interest was piqued because Tynan is shown playing the drums in what is now the Village office. The only difference is seems to have been in better shape in 1988.
MISINFORMATION DRIP, DRIP
The abolition of Irish Water by a new government would cost the State up to €7bn over the next five years, according to its own – unreliably inflated – internal estimates. Losses are envisaged under four heads: cash costs, sunk costs, benefits forgone and the lost possibility of getting its debts off the exchequer’s books.
The actual cash costs, it says, would be around €100m, and largely involve paying off staff who would not be transferred to local authorities. It would also include the cost of breaking leases and contracts, and the costs of transferring back the property already put into Irish Water ownership. The concept of a one-stop shop for Water is a good one – it works in Scotland and, though Simon Coveney and the EU, among others, seem to have seen it as a vehicle that could be privatised that need not have been the case. It is also desirable to spread the tax base, to see what your lifestyle costs, and to pay the environmental and economic costs of water, partly on the basis of the polluter-pays principle. The Social Democrats unwisely proposed its abolition and stated it would cost nothing as the administrative costs were greater than the revenue from the charge. This failed to account for legal and logistical difficulties. Now as part of its hermaphrodite mating ritual it seems Fine Fáil may simply suspend payments for a few years.
An Taisce has complained to RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that the recent ‘Prime Time’ programme on climate change gave a voice to Ray Bates, a professor of meteorology whose expertise is weather – day-to-day climate events, not climate which deals with the long-term. An Taisce says it is aware of at least two academic specialists who were invited to participate in the panel, but who declined to do so citing concerns that the presence on the panel of Bates, who chairs the Royal Irish Academy’s climate committee, would very likely result in a “false balance”, so undermining public understanding and “promoting a perception of doubt around what are, in fact, extremely strongly established, robust, results from state-of-the-art climate science”. At the time of writing RTÉ was late in replying to the complaint.
Alan Kelly went ape went he won the last seat in Tipperary. Villager wonders how he’ve have taken it if he’d lost.
Miriam O’Callaghan dodged dealing with her brother Jim, during his long and ultimately successful election count in Dublin Bay South. Villager was terrified of what warmth she’d devote to him, particularly if he lost. But her cloying is cast widely. The night of the election count poor Brian Hayes, Fine Gael’s director of elections, had his confidences about how badly the party was doing interrupted not once but twice by Miriam’s special simpering, whimpering.
The leaders’ debate she chaired was much less edifying and extracted less from the candidates than the one Claire Byrne hosted. Miriam is inclined to personalise, to offer her own opinions, to over-use the “I” word. The TV3 one was worse still – at one stage co-presenter Colette Sexton had to step away from Pat Kenny who was the merest shadow of yesterday’s plank. The highlight was when the doyen of Ireland’s political broadcasters nally mustered the sense to draw the excruciating gaggle of leaders’ attention to the fact no-one had actually been able to hear them.
Fostering the Foster + Partners, starchitects behind London’s Gherkin and auto brand Nissan have combined technologies including wireless charging, autonomous driving and battery storage in a proposal for the future of vehicles and cities. The proposal concludes the companies’ year-long project to redesign electric-car fuel-stations.
But instead of a physical station, Nissan and Foster suggest that the cars themselves could be used to store and distribute renewable energy along a “smart street”.
Nissan is already doing trials of a vehicle-to-grid system in Europe. This could allow cars to operate as individual “energy hubs” able to store, use or return clean energy to the grid.
A recently released video shows a further development of this idea, with cars connecting to an underground electricity grid wirelessly through points in the road surface of parking spaces. This power would be generated from a combination of solar, wind and wave sources.
The cars would park themselves into the bays to charge overnight, and automatically swap with other vehicles when fully powered. Unfortunately it still amounts to unsustainable energy embodied in a gratuitous metal box for use by self-oriented anti-social squanderbugs.
So far, the planning tribunal has cost €116m, including €52m in fees for the tribunal legal staff and €33m in administration costs.
The estimated final cost of the inquiry is now €159 million. Judge Alan Mahon predicted in 2006 that the cost would be €300m. Former Minister for Justice, barrister (for and against – though not quite at the same time – Village) and exciting new Seanad candidate, Michael McDowell, said it would cost €1bn.
€1.4 million was irritatingly paid recently to lawyers for the late whistleblower and property developer Tom Gilmartin, and €738,315 to Mac-Geehin Toale solicitors, who represented former Fine Gael council Tom Hand and his family. Hand, who was found to have repeatedly sought corrupt payments, died in 1996, two years before the tribunal got stuck in.
€419,000 was also paid in legal fees to the recently deceased former planning official, George Redmond, who died in February but not before he had (legally if not factually) undermined the findings of the tribunal about him and everyone else implicated by James Gogarty. There remains no sign of the barristers and judge who allowed this offering to reimburse the state for their bloated fees.
Redmond’s indefatigable solicitor, Anthony Harris, who has written in these columns, wrote a feisty letter to the Irish Times accusing it of publishing an article by its former Environment Editor, Frank McDonald, that was “long on self-serving vitriol, short on evidence supporting such a sweeping claim, manipulative of the facts and replete with serious inaccuracies”, including its central themes – that Redmond was complicit in Dublin’s frenzy of dubious rezonings and that he subverted its proper planning and development. Intriguingly Harris claims that if Redmond was responsible for undermining Dublin’s planning system, he could – because of the limited nature of his role – only have achieved this as part of a cabal of corrupt officials. “But who and where are these officials? Certainly the planning tribunal unearthed none of them”.
Harris concedes that his former client “was a man who clearly had been on the take and has carried the answers to many questions about his activities to the grave…To the many councillors who should have endured more of the tribunal’s attention, he must have been a welcome distraction…Once rumbled, he cooperated with the tribunal and with the Criminal Assets Bureau, he had to sell his house and surrender his ‘savings’ to pay his tax”.
Redmond himself admitted in the witness box: “I took the money. It was a sword of Damocles. I lived with that sword over my head and it obviously has ruined my life”.
THE PEOPLES’ ISSUES
Vincent Browne berated the left for getting bogged down in distractions and stunts during the recent election, instead of focusing on the overriding issue of inequality in society. But surely the primary platform for the Left’s vituperations on Water and Property, were the populist People’s debate. In 2012, Village assessed Browne as the third most influential person in the country. His programme was influential too, in allowing access to the airwaves to unheard voices, but also allowing a lot of populist bleating from right-wing antagonists of state intervention through redistribution, including by taxation.
Fine Gael ‘s Mark Mortell, the perennial enfant terrible of its electoral stragety was central to the conception and stubborn retention of the smug slogan “let’s keep the recovery going”. “To see Cabinet Ministers, who are very intelligent, parrot a slogan like a wind-up toy is embarrassing”, one party source told the Irish Times. Villager would have though that Cabinet ministers are as a rule only quite intelligent and that a bit of parroting could be close to the limits of their largely idea-and-ideology-free range.
Mayo TD Michael Ring derisively dismissed the cabal around Kenny as a “Dublin 4” outfit. Brian Hayes, Mortell, Tom Curran and advisers Mark Kennelly, Majella Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Conlon, Andrew McDowell and Terry Murphy met daily during the campaign, to little avail.
Fine Gael’s intellect beats best in the vapid cerebella of silver fox, Frank Flannery, the man who milked Rehab, and golden-tongued Big Phil Hogan. Flannery went everywhere after the election, gloating like the cat who got the cream but Hogan is now to way important to crow.