Category: Life

The record holds

Another victory for Kerry yesterday. A few were in touch to say that Dad’s record was nearly broken. Paul Geaney came close, but not close enough. Ciarraí abú.

 2014: Paul Geaney scores 50 seconds after throw in


1962: Garry McMahon scores 34 seconds after throw in


Facebook: an Effin joke?

The Guardian (among others) has reported on how Facebook is refusing to allow residents of Effin, Co. Limerick.

Anne Marie Kennedy, who works at the University of Limerick, said yesterday that she, along with several more friends, have been trying to insert the village name into the “home” section of their Facebook profiles in recent months. But they have not been successful.

Kennedy also tried to set up a Facebook page entitled, “Please get my hometown Effin recognised”. But it too was blocked by the social networking site.

“It came back with an error message saying ‘offensive’,” she said.

It seems an appropriate time to post a recording of An Effin Man, by my late father Garry McMahon.

It’s a wonderful place as I’m sure you will find

And if you can’t see that you’re just Effin blind.

Which is more valuable: the State brand or €300,000?

The Your Country, Your Call saga continues. The Irish Times has reported that Martin McAleese, the “initiator” of the competition, has said that Government funding is no longer needed. I have written about this strange competition a number of times (1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4) but Simon McGarr posted an update yesterday which puts the latest news in context. He concludes by reference to the initial request for funding:

[T]he serving President’s husband contact[ed] the Taoiseach of the day about paying public money to a private company whose activities he was promoting.

Even I stopped for a moment when I read that.

This is the core of the issue with YCYC. It was run by a private company set up by a range of corporate enterprises, many of whom could benefit from the development of the winning proposals. To the public, however, it was presented as a quasi-official, State undertaking.

The “AIB/Cisco Ideas Campaign” would be just another prize giveaway with a winning slogan rather longer than the traditional 10 words. YCYC, on the other hand, was infused with official symbols.

The logos and names of its corporate organisers were given far less prominence than is usually the case, while the President and her husband were thrust to the forefront of the initiative. It was presented as a national competition with Government backing (which has now evaporated) and which displayed, at the heart of its logo, the national symbol.

As an aside: it was for that reason that one of my freedom of information requests was for information on any requested made by YCYC for authority to use an emblem resembling one registered by the State under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention. I also sought information of whether the Government considered whether such authority was required.

One of a number of harp images registered as State emblems

I got no information under this category, which suggests that the issue was never raised.

It all boils down to one fact: the State brand was used to promote a private enterprise which appears to have quite a pot of cash behind it. And it’s incredibly easy to gain access to that brand, once you go about it the right way.

Your Country, Your Call: “Corporate social responsibility at its best”

I was recently provided with some, but not all, of the documents held by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation relating to the Your Country, Your Call competition promoted by An Smaoineamh Mór, a private company.

Following an internal review, DETI released additional documents. However, some documents were not released, or were only partially released, on the basis that they relate to an ongoing deliberative process (section 20 FOIA, as amended). A 17 page email was not released on the basis that it relates to the President.

© An Smaoineamh Mór and/or its contractors
A "hard nosed" innovation workshop (or: My Ireland Moment)

The documents released are available at the end of this post or here and here.


In April 2010, DETI officials responsible for micro-enterprise were asked internally to prepare to provide a briefing on YCYC and to attend a meeting between Martin McAleese and the Minister later in the month (p.40 here). The response to that request opens: “It is not appropriate that we attend this meeting. We have no role in this matter.” This likely relates from the fact that the aims of YCYC were purportedly macro-economic (see p. 5 here), but note the forcefulness (“I think we need to be firm in our view on this.”).

An internal memorandum (p. 1 here) states:

The current situation is that a commitment clearly appears to have been given at political level to provide financial support to the YCYC initiative. However, no additional funding has been made available to the Department to provide such support. We therefore need to consider, in the absence of additional funding, how financial support can be provided

Furthermore, if financial support is to be made available, the Department must ensure that appropriate financial controls are put in place to ensure appropriate management and accountability of public funds.

Such controls would be difficult to apply, one would think, to an organisation that admitted it didn’t know what it planned to do with the money.

In September 2009, the Irish Times emailed an enquiry to the DETI press office seeking clarity on the proposed payment of €300,000 by DETI to ASM. The query was forwarded to Bernard Mallee, special adviser to Minister O’Keefe, who responded “i have dealt with this” (p. 54 here). No record of how he “dealt with” the query was released.


A document is included (p. 43 here) which is referred to as one “which the Tánaiste would have had at the most recent meeting with Martin McAleese.” It is not clear whether this was a departmental document or one supplied by ASM but the latter would appear likely as it mostly consists of aspirational statements. The author sees YCYC as akin to “community development” as “Government of itself cannot create community.” (You might remember, at this point, that YCYC was a business proposal competition.)

The document contains some impressive claims:

  • It is anticipated that the competition will have a very positive national psychological impact … we [who?] expect it to generate optimism and positivity and so to contribute to a renewal of confidence in ourselves and our country’s future.
  • YCYC is a competition with hard nosed outcomes at its core but it is also a vehicle that is capable of lifting the national spirit just as the Special Olympics did.
  • YCYC will complement the [Government] Framework Document, ‘Building Ireland’s Smart Economy’ … It will bring a populist dimension to it and will soften the ‘technology’ flavour of the document by proposing that all areas of potential innovation should be explored by adding the ‘Arts and Humanities’, our culture, classics, music etc. to the more usual areas of science, IT and business.

This, from the document above, is perhaps my favourite nugget from all the documents released:

The integrity of this initiative is underpinned by the fact that those involved in the organisation of the competition have no vested interest … It is heartening to see corporate social responsibility in operation through this initiative at its absolute best in these difficult economic times.

Given that the author is unknown but can be assumed to be YCYC, the sections headed “The Role of the President of Ireland” and “The Role of Government” are astounding. No doubt many other private companies would relish the opportunity to dictate to the democratically elected President and Government of Ireland the roles those offices shall play in the operations of that company. The Government role, the document states, includes:

  • Contribute to funding
  • Engage in supportive activities through messages, speeches and other material
  • Promotion of the initiative by Taoiseach/Tánaiste/Minister(s) at public events
  • Support the implementation phase

Corporate social responsibility at its absolute best indeed!

Something I hadn’t known about until now was RTÉ’s involvement:

RTE propose to do a series of programmes on the 20 potential winning proposals from 15 June 2010 to the conclusion of the competition in October 2010. These programmes will have a human interest format similar to the ‘Nationwide’ programmes.

This series does not appear to have materialised, despite the certainty of the above directions.


Our Country, Their Call

The Your Country, Your Call story trundles on and responses have been issued to freedom of information requests filed with the Department of Enterprise and Innovation.

I was hopeful, having received a weighty envelope from the Department, but such hope was misplaced. The response consisted mostly of a lengthy set of reasons as to why most documentation was not being released, extracts from the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 & 2003 and the four documents actually released.

The two interesting documents provided are the explanation of decisions and the schedule of documents held by the Department, both below. I will be appealing the decision not to release documents (though the “appeal” is in fact an internal review by the Department).

In the meantime, while it’s not clear what exactly is happening with An Smaoineamh Mór or its backers, it’s certainly clear that its PR machine still operates. Interestingly, a senior figure in an IT organisation that runs a range of blogs itself seems to think blogging is for do-nothing layabouts who fail to spend each and every minute of the day working.

Attention “country bumpkins”: Labour wants your vote!

Labour has never really had a presence in this part of Limerick West (soon to be North Kerry-West Limerick). However, the combination of Eamon Gilmore’s popularity and the party’s success in the opinion polls has put all constituencies in play and the party recently had a large billboard on the main road through Newcastle West seeking members.

In that context, I was interested to read the views of Labour’s Cllr Gerry “Ginger” McLoughlin on my neck of the woods.

These country bumpkins have no regard for Limerick. They have destroyed the city with the planning, and are no friends of ours. We are not here to serve Newcastle West, or other places in the a******e of county Limerick. I am a city man – I don’t go down there, and have no time for them.


From the National Library of Ireland
Newcastle West around the 1900s. Or, for the Labour party, yesterday.


Joking aside, these are pretty unacceptable comments for an elected representative to make about the county surrounding his constituency.

In addition, the planning issues he mentions could only realistically be tackled by the measures proposed by the Brosnan proposals, which McLoughlin and his urbane colleagues are now opposing with such charming arguments as that quoted above.

Update: Labour are unrepentant and Jan O’Sullivan has backed Mr. McLoughlin’s “colourful” comments.

Our Country, Our Call

Tomorrow, the winners of the bizarre Your Country, Your Call competition will be announced. Apart from a few isolated incidents, the media has avoided serious scrutiny of the competition and its organiser, An Smaoineamh Mór.

The following are some questions that might reasonably be asked:

  1. Who is An Smaoineamh Mór?
  2. Given that one of its stated aims is to lobby the Government for legislative change, has it registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission?
  3. Why has it accepted donations which exceed the limit allowed in respect of donations for political purposes?
  4. Why does the Government feel the need to make a significant cash donation to assist An Smaoineamh Mór in such lobbying, at a time of massive cutbacks in public spending?
  5. Why does the Department of Enterprise not want to know about these questions?

These and more have been explored in more detail over on, also the best source for future updates.

PS. Yesterday’s big news story was the 2009 report of the Comptroller & Auditor General. The C&AG is, as pointed out by Simon in the comments below, a member of the Standards in Public Office Commission with which it appears An Smaoineamh Mór should be registered.

Two of the high level comments by the C&AG in his press release, relating to “administrative matters that may merit consideration” are surely relevant to the existing or proposed provision of funding by the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Innovation to An Smaoineamh Mór:

  • The need to improve the capacity of departments to evaluate costs and benefits of proposed programmes so that evidence-based information and analysis is available to underpin decision making
  • The need to ensure that, where the State uses third parties to deliver programmes, there is an adequate control and inspection process to guarantee the regularity of expenditure and the correctness of the charge to public funds

Regional papers got that regional knowledge, right?

The Limerick Leader is one of those great regional titles with local knowledge and the occasional huge national story. They publish a West Limerick edition which this week includes a special feature on Newcastle West, the biggest town in the area.

I was drawn to the “Things to do in Newcastle West” section.

Scanned from the Limerick Leader. Copyright? Travelodge Hotels Australia

Eager to see if there was anything on the list I hadn’t done, I was surprised to fall at the first hurdle:

1. Discover the Bogey Hole: a hand-hewn ocean rock pool …

Hold on just a minute, thought I, there’s a hand-hewn ocean rock pool in NCW and no-one told me!

… carved out of a cliff face by convicts in the 19th century under the direction of James T. Morisset, the military commandant in Newcastle from 1819-1822, who used it for his personal bathing.

I’m no local historian, but this didn’t sound right. The later reference to scenic “Newcastle Beach” (NCW is landlocked) sealed the deal.

From where, one might wonder, would such a top 10 list originate? Why, here it is, verbatim apart from the addition of the word “West” in the title, on the website of Travelodge Hotels Australia.

So that would be the top 10 things to do in Newcastle, New South Wales.

A Down day from the archives

Today’s “From the Archives” in the Irish Times reproduces a match report for the 1960 All Ireland football final between Down (2-12) and Kerry (0-8).

GAELIC ATHLETIC history was made at Croke Park, yesterday, when the all-conquering champions from Kerry, with nineteen championships to inspire them, were well and truly beaten by a faster, a fitter, and far more uniform side from Down, who played very sound football and often beat Kerry at their own high fielding game.

Unfortunately it was a bad day for Kerry, perhaps not helped by my late father leaving the field due to injury, but as he sang himself:

We savour Kerry victories, we salute a gallant foe
And when we lose, there’s no excuse, we pick up our bags and go

He went on to score the fastest goal ever scored in an All Ireland footbal final in 1962 (Pathé newsreel).

Éigse Michael Hartnett

The eleventh Éigse Michael Hartnett arts and literary festival takes place in Newcastle West from 22 to 24 April. The line-up is impressive for a short festival, including poetry readings, lectures, puppet and music shows (brochure available here). Special guests include Jorie Graham, Fintan O’Toole and Mark Patrick Hederman.

Picture from the Éigse Michael Hartnett websiteMicheal Hartnett was the poet laureate of the area, born in Croom and raised in Newcastle.

Lovable yet separate, operating within his own field of force. I’ll never forget reading his first short hypnotic poems in the early sixties; they had a kind of Orphic throb, as if a new Lorca had emerged from Newcastle West. In fact, Michael shared Lorca’s ability to combine avant-garde daring with native tradition; he took the boldest of technical and emotional risks, living in and through and for his poetry to the end. Séamus Heaney

Newcastle West Community Council have, in advance of the festival this year, commissioned a public sculpture to commemorate Michael, for display in Newcastle.

Local businesses are running a literary trail, displaying some of his works in their shop windows. This example is Death of an Irishwoman, written for his grandmother Bridget Halpin.

Death of an Irishwoman
Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
all night were neither dogs or cats
but hobgoblin and darkfaced men
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.

She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.

© Michael Hartnett