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A watery grave awaits for all our hard earned lucre

Francis Farragher

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Water down the sink . . . and your money too!

Country Living with Frances Farragher

It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed such a hullabaloo from normally quietly spoken people in ‘the local’. The subject was the water charges, and like a lot of other things, it’s not a topic that has much sign of going away. At a time when there was just about to be a fairly good reaction to Budget ‘15, the blood pressure about the water charges is rising rapidly with the first bills due to arrive in letter boxes by early January.

Back in the days of World War II, there was a phrase about the American soldiers stationed in Britain of being ‘oversexed, over-paid and over here’ and it’s the kind of line that could be applied to the monster that is now Irish Water. Whatever about the first couple of words on the American GIs, Irish Water very definitely are over-paid and they most certainly are over here.

After taking a whacking from the last six or seven budgets, and at a time when there’s a mention of good times returning, the water charges are landed on our doorstep: another new tax, that once introduced, will never again disappear from our payments list.

If people felt that they were getting genuine value for money and if something had been done to repair a system where over 40% of water produced leaks away into the ground, then there might have been some modicum of support for the charges. Instead we seem destined to keep feeding a money devouring monster where fat bonuses are already part of the culture.

We do all know full well water is an absolutely precious commodity that here in Ireland gives us our lush countryside. Every year without fail, we receive about 40 to 50 inches of rain from our skies, but when it comes to storing the stuff and putting it through a pipe network, we have been pretty awful at it.

The real problem with this water charges business is that every worker and taxpayer throughout the length and breadth of Ireland believes, with some justification, that the taxes and various levies/charges imposed upon them since they received their first pay-packet, should have included the cost of water provision. And maybe ‘so be it’, if they had to cough up a bit more in ‘normal’ tax to cover that.

Whatever chance Irish Water might have had of winning over the public, and it probably was pretty slim from the start, it has dissipated completely over recent months with a disastrous PR and information arrangement. Members of the public with queries have been left waiting and waiting on the phones while the simplest of press queries, that in fairness the local councils would have answered within a matter of minutes, take days, and sometimes weeks, to elicit the most basic of information. Even at that, when the reply comes, it is invariably short on detail and devoid of any semblance of ‘on the ground’ knowledge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council’s ‘systematic neglect’ of Irish in Ireland’s bilingual city

Dara Bradley

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An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Oifig an Coimisinéir Teanga, an office established to safeguard language rights, published its annual report for 2020 recently.

In it, Galway City Council was criticised for erecting a large number of Covid-19 signage last year, written in English only.

The investigation, which was used as an example in the annual report, was not new. It was covered in the Tribune in January, after the Council had its knuckles rapped.

But publication of the report by Rónán Ó Domhnaill highlights once again the general attitude of officialdom towards the Irish language.

Galway was declared a bilingual city by the local authority that didn’t bother to use Irish on its Covid-19 signs. What does that tell us?

Basically, that the cúpla focal are good for restaurant menus and street signs when we’re trying to shake down the Yanks for dollars, but Gaeilge is surplus to requirements when using signs to tell people how to stay safe when there’s a killer virus on the loose.

The Council put its hands up when An Coimisinéir Teanga launched an investigation following a complaint made in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

And after the annual report was published, it even sent its Irish-language officer onto the airwaves of RnaG to declare “tá sorry orm” on behalf of the Council.

The Council argued, as a mitigating factor, that breaches of the Official Languages Act occurred when it was, “operating under unprecedented circumstances in the middle of a global health pandemic which resulted in a significant percentage of our staff operating remotely in crisis-management mode”.

Far from mitigating, it actually just made it worse. If the State won’t communicate with you in your native tongue during a global crisis, when will it respect your rights?

You could argue, ‘why burden the Council with red tape about bilingual signs during Covid?’ But doing it correctly and not breaching the Act, was just as easy. We see bilingual Covid signage all the time now. Why not do it right in the first place?

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s investigation found: “The erection of bilingual signage was simply omitted. This failure was caused by systematic neglect in the administrative practices of the City Council in relation to language legislation.”

Systematic neglect, no less; in other words, they couldn’t be arsed about Irish.

Unless, of course, it’s useful for winning Capital of Culture designations or wooing American tourists. City Hall is all about Gaeilge then.

(Photo: An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Homeowners living in fear of walls coming tumbling down

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Pyrite and Mica-affected homeowners protest this week at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Mica and Pyrite are two words that have been lifted from a technical manual or a science textbook to become part of common speech in Ireland in recent years. The presence of both substances in construction materials has had devastating consequences for families from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Sligo and other counties. We have seen the TV documentaries and newspaper reports where distraught homeowners show huge cracks in the gables of houses or show a block to the camera that is crumbling in their hands like dust.

Sometimes it looks like somebody has built a giant bungalow-shaped sandcastle that’s going to be washed away by the next spring tide.

We are talking about people’s family homes here. This is where all the life savings – past, present and future – have gone. They (or rather their builders) bought the blocks in good faith, little knowing they were so defective they would endanger their houses, and indeed their own lives.

As Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald remarked in the Dáil this week about these families: “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down.”

So who is to blame? The companies who manufactured the blocks? The State for not having robust safety standards for the material or manufacture of blocks? The State, again, for not conducting sufficient inspection?

It’s complicated. Like Pyrite, apportioning blame is a tricky business. What is not in doubt is that people who have built family homes cannot live in them anymore, because they are dangerous and falling apart, and it is not their fault. They deserve compensation.

The focus of the Sinn Féin motion this week was for the families to get 100 per cent open-ended compensation. That would mean the State would foot the entire bill to remediate their houses, to rectify the faults, and sometimes to rebuild the whole lot.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Exam points are not the only measure of education success

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

By now, the next batch of around 60,000 students set for third-level education are over a week into the Leaving Cert – the exam that will determine what course they attain a place in for the new academic year.

Their success – added to the performances of their class-mates – will determine their alma mater’s position in what are commonly known as the school league tables.

This is a calculation of how successful a secondary school is, based entirely on the number of its Leaving Certs it gets into third-level education.

In turn – based on this – parents will choose where to send their little bundles of joy when the time comes for them to make the transition from primary to second-level.

And it’s such an arbitrary method of determining the relative success or failure of a centre of education, because it leaves so much out of the equation.

Firstly, it means performance is entirely based on the numbers who go on to third-level, ignoring those who gain apprenticeships or go straight into the workplace.

Admittedly, that’s not a large cohort these days because Careers Guidance seems to begin and end with helping you to choose the right course, not the right career.

But more fundamentally, getting a good student to pass his or her exams and gain a place in college isn’t the ultimate test of a teacher; getting a student who is struggling with reading or writing to a level where they comfortably do both is a far better achievement for any teacher.

Bringing a student who is in danger of failing mathematics, for example, to a position where they pass their exams – but more importantly understand how it works – should be recognised in any measure of performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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