Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s My Life…

My twitter feed is full of moaning this morning, mainly by people who are not Garth Brooks fans moaning about people who are.

We seem to have an issue in this country whereby people judge others for the simple sin of not conforming to their narrow definition of what is being acceptable. It’s a problem, and it’s writ high in the reaction to the Garth Brooks concerts. He’s just sold out three nights in Croke Park.

To put that into context, so have One Direction.

So there are a lot of Garth Brooks fans about. Given that he doesn’t, compared to One Direction, get that much air play on most of the radio stations here, and hasn’t played here for quite a while, in music business terms, that’s quite the achievement.

My twitter feed is full of people who have:

  • never heard of Garth Brooks
  • if they have, are dismissing concert purchasers as culchies
  • dismissing concert goers as lacking class and intelligence
  • suggesting they’d be better off spending their money on 2 or 3 bands which are less famous shall we say.
  • despaired for Ireland because Garth Brooks has sold out 3 nights in the biggest concert venue in the country

All this misses one major point. There are people out there – approximately 200,000 of them – who have done a quality/price assessment and decided Garth Brooks is worth the money. Good luck to them. They are out to enjoy themselves.

So motivation – Out to Enjoy themselves. 

The moaners, the complainers are not. They are out to put people down, judge them, be nasty. It’s sad if that’s what constitutes enjoying themselves, but hey…this is Ireland. You’d never get on with living your own life and let other people live theirs right?

And yet, I think the whole idea of living and let live is likely to result in more happiness than bargying on about how stupid Garth Brooks fans are for queuing for tickets. It’s just a pity not enough people realise it sometimes

declaration of interest: I own no Garth Brooks CDs, no One Direction CDs (although you should watch this by the way) and I have tickets for neither concert and tried to get tickets for neither concert. I really just wish people would focus on what makes them happy rather than complaining about other people making themselves happy.

An open letter to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Dear Aodhán,

You are my local TD and I voted for you at the time of the last election.

In fact, I found the last election difficult because there seemed to be so many more candidates not to vote for than to vote for. But I voted for you because

a) you seemed to have a reasonably decent record as a councillor

b) you were young and I firmly believed that what the country needed then, and now, even more so, were new voices, a new generation of representatives, for a country desperately in need of a vision; desperately in need of change.

So there’s this

 

And now, I find the next election will be even more difficult because in this little tweet are encapsulated a lot of reasons not to vote for you or any of the government parties again. It is fair to say that the Green Party got more out of Fianna Fáil than the Labour Party has gotten out of Fine Gael.

I am not happy with the budget, Aodhán. If it is key in rebuilding our Republic, and its values, it is clear that the values are not values I can identify with.

The budget does nothing to suggest that post recession we will get the values of a Republic. All it does is tell me that the government will protect some people while hanging others out to dry. It hung a lot of groups of people out to dry.

Take this:

Eamon Gilmore: “We’re not cutting their benefits.”

Jennings: “But you are. From 188 to 144 or 144 to 100 Euros.”

Source: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2013/10/16/were-not-cutting-their-benefits/

Under discussion is the younger generation of Irish people. A generation that you and your colleagues appear to be working very hard to either a) radicalise or b) force to emigrate.

I was 22 the winter of 1994. I emigrated for 5 years. I am not saying it was a bad thing; I learned a lot from the five years I was out of Ireland. A lot of people did, and a lot of my generation came home and, I would say, along with our new European neighbours, had a great impact on Irish society and values. What I am saying is that if I was 22 now, I would not be hanging around to try and get on a FAS place if that’s all that was on offer, or stay in full time education, if that’s all that was on offer. People start in education at the age of 5. Seriously, trying to keep them there until they are 25 so you don’t have to acknowledge a youth unemployment problem is infantile and cowardly.

How Eamon Gilmore – your party leader – can, in all conscience, claim not to be cutting the benefits of those under the age of 25 is absolutely beyond me. Welfare paid x, now it pays x-44E.

This is a cut, Aodhán, and if you understand it, please ensure that Eamon Gilmore learns it.

He went on to say this:

Well to be clear about it, what this Government is about is ensuring that young people have a job or have education or training.

To that end, I’d like to note – because I checked the other day – that youth unemployment in Ireland is about 30%. Getting people into non-existent jobs is a fools’ errand. Cutting the support they have will not get people into jobs that do not exist.

I can’t comment on training in general, but Aodhán, I’m back in full time education following redundancy, which, incidentally, I am paying for myself, and I can tell you that being in full time education is not cheap, even allowing for the fees structure which we have here. When I hear talk about keeping young people in education and training, I see politicians trying to paper over the crack that there are no jobs.

I could talk about a bunch of other things – but no doubt you’re already aware that the medical cards streamlining/free health care for the under 6s hasn’t done much to suggest the government is offering a value system worth anything. Care for the under-6 cohort is a nice idea, but at the expense of people who’ve already gotten sick?

It’s perverse in my view.

One of the issues I have, more than anything, is that the budget speeches by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, revealed the current government as petulant children. I expect more from highly paid politicians who are screwing me over than I do from four year old children.

The story of insolvent Ireland is familiar to all our people and the sacrifices people have had to make in recent years are well known. Reckless policies were pursued by the Fianna Fáil led Government. (Michael Noonan)

and

This Budget and Estimates sets out to deliver on this Government’s promise to the Irish people at the last General Election – to fulfil our commitments under the troika programme foisted on the Irish people by the previous Government and to restore Ireland’s economic sovereignty. (Brendan Howlin)

Fine Gael and Labour have been in government for almost 3 years now. Barbed comments about the previous government like this are unbecoming to professionals.

Why should I vote for parties who think this is acceptable behaviour? And seriously, in a budget which removed tax credits from redundancy payments, cut unemployment support for the youngest unemployed people, and cut maternity benefit having taxed it last year?

Here’s the issue Aodhán. You and your colleagues left income tax and USC alone. And your colleagues peppered their budget speeches with barbed comments against the previous government. This is the activity of a government desperate to stay in power, and completely lacking in vision or even basic cop on. If your colleagues were seriously good at their job, they wouldn’t have to keep reminding us how bad the previous lot were.

It is in this context that you want to talk about the values of a post-recession Republic. I believe that values, in general, are typically absolute. Are we the kind of people who screw over the weakest in society and protect the strongest? Are we the kind of people who wait until our back is against the wall before we do something about a major problem? Is our primary value “Sure it’ll be grand”.

Why do you think those values need to change whether we’re rich or poor if they are based on how we treat each other?

The budget was one for I’m alright Jack. Those who lost most from this budget are the ones who aren’t alright.

It is in this context that you will be looking for my vote again in a couple of years time. The context of being someone who seems to think values are negotiable based on whether we’re in a recession or not.

I can’t see myself supporting you.

Regards,

Treasa

 

 

 

on the Seanad referendum

I’m deeply concerned about the order in which we do things in this country. Enda Kenny has given us an opportunity to abolish or retain the Seanad but without the sense of reforming the Dáil first. Given that the Seanad provides some oversight and debate, it seems to me that if you want to get rid of it, you’d sort out the Dail and oversight requirements in that chamber before you get rid of the Seanad. I fear that if we get rid of the Seanad before we sort out the Dail reforms, we will never see the Dail reforms.

In normal circumstances, I don’t understand why we can’t have the Dail reforms first and I don’t see any discussion of that with Fine Gael and Enda Kenny. Enda is refusing to debate the issue with opposing politicians which is – in my opinion – not really the actions of a genuine leader with his heart behind his policy. All they are doing is bleating about saving money, but the figure they have put forward, they cannot actually stand over.

A lot of the argument appears to centre around the notion of “I don’t know what it’s for therefore it’s a waste of money”.

Well I don’t know what a lot of things are for but that doesn’t automatically make them a waste of money. The sad part is, this is used in an argument in a country which is simultaneously boasting of its high rate of education. I am at a loss to support the idea that we are such an educated nation when many of our debates take place on a massively superficial level and are often coloured by a culture of envy.

I am voting against the abolition of the Seanad. In my view, Fine Gael and Labour, and the other supporting parties, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party, have singularly failed to make a rational case to abolish it. It’s incumbant on them to do so, to change the status quo. If their argument amounts to, grosso modo, “it costs money and I don’t know what it’s for” plus “it’s elitist” when there are simple solutions to both issues a) education and b) universal suffrage, then I do believe the rational response is to reject the referendum.

Having your time over again….

It’s not 9am yet on a Saturday morning and I have already read quite a lot. I have read about the headteachers in the UK wanting someone to deal with the moving of the GSCE English goalposts during the past school year. I have read about a woman who quit California to move to Costa Rica at the age of 35. I have read about a woman diagnosed with MS climbing Mount McKinley and in that random roundabout not fully awake way I noticed something. My reading material came from The Guardian, Outside Magazine and Adventure Women and it struck me that there was so much of a discussion to be had about the choices you make at the age of 16 and the choices you would have made at the age of 16 if you knew then what you know at 35.

And that discussion very often gets summed up as people starting sentences with the words “If I had my time over again….” and end with no evidence that they live in the now and that things are possible in the now.

I think they’re afraid of the choice.

But it’s not a question of restarting from the age of 16 to have your time over. You can start any time to change things to the way you want them to be now rather than the way they are if you wish things were different.

Moving mountains.

I’m actually completely covered in red, blue and orange ink at the moment as I have been working on my Bucket List.

I hate the term bucket list but everyone uses it so occasionally I capitulate. Anyway I own three books on calligraphy, two dip pens, many bottles of ink, a number of nibs and some sort of will to try out calligraphy. I got the books out today. I do a really nice letter V, it must be said.

Then I decided I was going to hand write a blog entry and then realised that actually, today I wasn’t. But I’m still covered in ink.

About 25 years ago when I was still a young girl at school, and like most schools in Ireland, I had to do some religion classes. I recall one or two of them for various reasons, but the one which springs to mind today relates to the question of the power of faith in God, and how much it could achieve. On the day in question, we were told a story about a woman who lived in a house near a mountain and the mountain cast a shadow over her house and really, she didn’t much like it. Excuse me if I paraphrase it.

Anyway, she got wind of this prayer and faith power thing, and got it into her head that if she prayed hard enough, God would move the mountain out of the way and her kitchen wouldn’t be dark half the day, so she prayed before going to bed one night, that the mountain would be gone the next morning.

Unfortunately, as things would have it, when she woke the next morning, said mountain was still in place, casting a shadow over the house and her reponse was “Ah sure, I knew it wouldn’t be gone when I woke up”.

Strictly speaking, you can’t exactly blame her. The whole mountain moving thing, you’d like to feel, would be news all over the shop, were it to be happening on a regular basis. But this was not the moral of the story as it was sold to me as a 15 year old. No, the issue here was that she didn’t have enough faith. If she had had more faith, that mountain would be gone.

I have issues with this for a lot of reasons. There are a couple of reasons here. If you have a mountain in your life, there are certain inalienable truths about said mountain – unless it is a rather nasty live volcano – of which “it ain’t moving” is one. Anyone suggesting prayer could do this is actually not being very nice because ultimately, it sets them up for blaming the person doing the praying for just not being good enough. Nice if you’re not the person for whom this mountain is a problem. Issue if you’re the person whose kitchen never sees sunlight.

Secondly, there are other ways of addressing the mountain problem. Mountains cannot necessarily be moved, but places of habitation can. IN my view, the whole thing with the mountain is that you could suggest to someone that the things which are in their control can be changed. Where they live often can be changed. The location of specific mountains not so much.

Praying for the impossible generally results in disappointment, but more importantly, and perhaps more dangerously, it distracts you from the possible. This, incidentally is not an attack on religion per se, but it is an attack on how we seek to control other people’s lives. An awful lot of that goes on, even without the benefit of any sort of religion as a supporting argument.

Currently, in Ireland, there is a donor drive on for people to carry donor cards, be they kidney, or multi-organ and in that discussion, it has been noted that generally, the people who are doing the donating of organs are people who generally have died some point in their lives when frankly, they were not expected to. It is heartbreaking for the families concerned, but that is pretty often how it is. When you bear this in mind, and bear in mind that most people have some sort of a vague list of things somewhere stashed in their mind or on a post it note or something of stuff that they would want to do before they die, there’s a lot to be said for dealing with the here and now, sometimes, and not so much the future. This is not something people in Ireland tend to be fantastic at – they very often go to the pub and talk about it instead.

So.

Last year I knocked three items off the winds and breezes list of stuff. I went to an Olympic Final. I went to the Dublin Piano Competition final. And I went to the European Figure Skating Championships which also meant that I got to see Sheffield, not necessarily something I had ever planned to do but it was a fringe benefit.

I’ve taken lessons – at various stages in my life – in windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and attempted at various other stages – whitewater rafting, bodyboarding, cableskiing, cross country skiing and climbing. I still occasionally climb. I do intend to go back surfing this year and hopefully kitesurfing. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunities to try some of these things, but I have also contributed to the effort to do so rather than just talking about it. Today, as mentioned above, I covered myself in ink and tried calligraphy. I know it took me hours because it is now 20 to 9 and I’m sure it was about 4 the last time I looked at a clock.

 

How can you ruin music?

According to the Guardian, Krystian Zimerman decried Youtube as destroying music. He was reacting to someone recording one of his concerts on a mobile phone – here’s the report.

I’ve mixed feelings about this. Mainly I have reservations about this because Youtube is full of absolutely exceptional music, and not all of it, or even much of it, is recorded on a mobile phone. I take the view that recording something on a mobile phone and sticking it up on Youtube is of questionable manners. But that’s a specific problem. The truth is Youtube acts almost like a world radio station on demand. I’ve bought a lot of music thanks to Youtube, and some of it is classical. A lot of the really good classical stuff on Youtube comes from television broadcasts. I don’t think you’d argue that Youtube is killing music if we are talking about well recorded television broadcasts. The Berliner Philharmonik has a fairly decent channel on Youtube, for example, and you can find some rather interesting, and previously difficult to find things there, like, for example, Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

But you don’t ruin music by putting it up on a website. I don’t know if you can ruin music because to some extent, it is a living breathing thing. You can maybe change the paradigms of the music business – massively – but this is not unique to Youtube. At the heart of it, we’re not really talking about music there, but the ability to raise money from music.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the measure of successful music was large sales of sheet music. No one much cared about recording. The business moved and adapted to recording as that disrupted the existing music industry. Even now, the digital piano market is hugely disrupting the analogue (for want of a better description) market and putting piano tuners out of business right left and centre. The business winds up evolving and changing. Music itself, however, goes on. We still play Schumann, we still play Chopin, some of us on CD, some of us on pianos, some of us streamed from Last.FM or some other radio station.

Arguably, it’s not so much killing music to record something on a mobile phone. It is, however, deeply impolite.

I’d prefer that people were reminded of that, rather than being lectured about how they are killing music. Music has been around for a very long time, a bit like life itself, it survives and adapts. Manners, on the other hand….

 

Nice shops in Dublin

One of the things which worries me most about life around me at the moment is the tendency of people to complain and moan and whinge. So as far as possible, I am trying to avoid falling into that trap and I will freely admit I do not always succeed.

I want to say nice things about a couple of shops in particular, both shops which I have been in a bit recently, one where I tend to spend quite a lot of money and one where I will, at some point in the next year or two, spend what is for me, a seriously amount of money, in one go (and no, I am not talking about a car dealer).

I’ve written, previously, about the people at the Pen Corner. I want to reiterate this. I have significantly more pens in my possession now and a substantial collection of bottled ink to go with the fountain pens, all of which came from the Pen Corner. The staff there, in my experience, are unfailingly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about their stock. They have beautiful pens (I learned this weekend that they have Du Pont fountain pens, another thing for me to aspire to) and they have beautiful stationery downstairs. They are a reliable source of Rhodia paper, for example, some beautiful greetings cards, beautifully handbound notebooks. As a source of beautiful things, it is second to none in Dublin.

I’ve lately been in a place called Pianos Plus too. This shop used, quite a long time ago, be in the city centre, somewhere around Temple Bar I think. It is now somewhere off the M50,. I know how to get there (now, after several occasions getting lost somewhere around what I think is called Park West or the Nangor Road – it’s a bit like a vortex in there).

I love Pianos Plus. I have just one childhood dream left at this stage of my life and that is to buy a grand piano for myself. It is why, for example, I haven’t bought any piano yet. A piano is for life and I want my piano to be a grand piano. And having spent time in Pianos Plus, I have also decided that it will most likely be a Kawaii. I’ve wanted it for a very long time, and a few weeks ago, knowing that it will be another few months to a year before I get there, I just felt the need to go and check that this was still the case. It is.

The people in Pianos Plus are, like the people in the Pen Corner, unfailingly helpful, and absolutely knowledgeable about the pianos they sell. I can tell you right now that there is a most beautiful reconditioned 1882 Bechstein in there; I played it a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. I’ve been in a lot of piano shops over my life. Some of them have been more or less precious about the instruments they sell. In my experience, if you can demonstrate you know how to play the piano, Pianos Plus are not so precious because they know pianos are there to be played, and not just dusted. This is why, when the time comes, I will buy my piano from them, regardless of where I live in the country. Because they have built a relationship with me ever before I walk in there with the credit card to pay for the piano.

Another shop I want to mention is a shop called John Gunn. If you are interested in photography, the staff in Gunns are unquestionably the sweetest people to deal with. I bought my last camera and my most recent lens in there. Again, they are unfailingly helpful. Their staff demonstrably take photographs. They may be selling you a camera, but they are selling you also the soul that goes with taking good photographs.

Two other specialist shops which I will mention in passing are Kitchen Complements and Stock, both specialist kitchen shops. Pretty much all of the specialist kitchen equipment which I have bought in Dublin has come from one or other of those shops. Again, their staff are unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable about their stock. There is a lot to be said for shops of this nature sometimes.

We lose sight, I think, sometimes, of the importance of the smaller shops, the lower profile shops, the ones that cater to specific audiences. The market for pianos is growing smaller over time, especially for non-digital pianos, for example. Many things are being bought over the internet. The Pen Corner may be a landmark on Dame Street but it is still at heart, a specialist independent store and more people know the outside than the inside.

A city lives and dies on shops like this. If I love Paris, it is because shops like this abound. If I see Dublin, there are far fewer of the specialist independent stores, and those that exist are not really that well known and visited sometimes. This piece is just a little reminder that Saturday afternoon shopping trips are not just about Brown Thomas and the Grafton Street chains.

echoes

The cold woke me up around 4.45 this morning and somehow I didn’t get back to sleep. 5am is usually okay – I function on 5am wake ups most days – but 4.45 tends to be just a little bit early, more middle of the night than early morning.

I didn’t get back to sleep. I wandered around the interesting wasteland that is my overnight twitter feed and found myself looking at urban exploration of abandoned theme parks in America. The one outside New Orleans is quite impressive; I hadn’t known it existed – mostly when I see photographs of dead places of fun, they are in Japan. There’s one waterpark in Dublin, on the seafront in Dun Laoghaire  as well, Rainbow Rapids, and even the urbex specialists in Ireland consider that dangerous (see page two of that link in particular). New Orleans Jazzland closed in advance of Hurricane Katrina and never re-opened. Of such odd journeys is an early waking Saturday made up.

It was the rain eventually got out me out of bed, to switch on last.fm and have tea. If I am going to be awake, I might as well be up.

Getting up early on a Saturday morning is madness to a lot of people. I don’t understand why. I hate myself when I stay in bed late; attempt to justify it with “well you must have been tired”, when, staying in bed until 10 or 11 just leaves me feeling with so much of the day wasted. The world, in the words of Calvin and Hobbes, (I think) is a magical place and let’s go exploring.

And the thing about it is, you can do it from your desktop if it’s raining. Well I could probably do it from bed with an iPad but somehow it’s less wasteful of time if you’re sitting at a desk rather than curled up under a duvet.

I have beside me tea, at least though, and the wherewithal to start exploring things I don’t yet know.

The Eire Markings

78 - EIRE

UPDATE: PLEASE GO TO WWW.EIREMARKINGS.ORG FOR MORE INDEPTH INFORMATION ON THIS SUBJECT. 26 SITES STILL REMAIN.

In 1986, I went to Donegal on a family holiday and before we were finally washed all the way down to Hurricane Charlie and Bantry Bay, we visited Malin Head on a cloudy, cool enough day. I don’t remember very much about it, but I remember seeing markings on the headline pointing out that this was Eire. We’d never seen them before, and somewhat surprisingly, my mother didn’t know anything about them. After some careful consideration, I assumed it went back to the early years of the state, and possibly linked to the fact that Malin was the pointiest bit north of the country. Logically I wouldn’t have been surprised to know they existed on Slyne Head (west). Mizen (south) and Wicklow Head (east).

In fact, they probably did, but it had little to do with the earliest years of the state. The subject of those markings came up during the week and somewhere along the line, between 1986, and 2012, I did learn that they had something to do with the Emergency. Following the discussion I had with a colleague during the week, I started looking in to them again. The best known appears to be the one on Malin, but it is far from being the only one. I tracked down the one on Malin on google maps and, having done a little research around them, I realised there really is no clear piece of information about them on the web.

I’m not a historian but in the way that various things catch my attention, I’m interested enough in these because they are a snapshot of time, and mostly, we tend to march over those snapshots.

During the war years, a number of coastal look out points were built around Ireland to monitor shipping and air traffic. Ireland had declared itself neutral. In total, 84 of these lookout points were constructed. They consisted of what can best be described as a little concrete bunker. About 50 of those structures have left footprints or are still standing. They look cheap, they are built of concrete, and most of them are in a state of disrepair. The only one I can recall ever being in is the one on Brandon Point in Kerry. I took some photographs from it.

IMG_1134

You really have no idea just how small this thing is. There was a tiny fire place in it, and otherwise it was pretty much open to the elements. I don’t know if they had glass in them. Having seen photographs of a lot of them lately, I doubt it. It cannot have been pleasant on a winter’s night in them.

Volunteers were assigned to each of the look out posts on eighthour shifts, one to watch, and take phone calls – these things were on the phone network – to keep abreast of any news from the other posts – one to patrol. Part of this was linked to the risk of an invasion of Ireland, a neutral country. Wikipedia has an interesting entry on Plan W. I really wouldn’t mind looking into that a bit more closely in the future but it’s a good starting point for the purposes of this piece.

The Clare Champion has a piece about the lookout post in Loop Head which is well worth a read.

Each of the lookout posts were numbered, 1 to 84, starting in the north east and finishing in the far north of the country. You can find an overview of the lookout posts here, along with photographs of the sites of all of them. I really appreciate this site because it speeded up some of what I wanted to do during the week quite a lot. Tim Schmelzer deserves an awful lot of kudos for that project but he concentrated mainly on the buildings and for myself, what interested me most was the markings.

According to one comment I have seen, the markings were put in place at the request of the American Air Force. I suspect that not only were they lined up to inform overflying pilots that they were over neutral territory (and shouldn’t be flying over) but as most of them were numbered and seem to face in specific directions, they may have also functioned as navigational aids. You can see this in a number of them. There are existing pictures of the marking in Inishowen, for example, and also of the one on Erris Head in Mayo. Interestingly, the numbers do not appear to have survived in all cases although the EIRE letters themselves have.

What I wanted to do was try and locate them on web available satellite imagery. There is very, very little information about the markings on the web so even now I am not sure how many of them still exist to be seen. If there is more than a dozen, I will be surprised. Most of the information I could glean about them have come from threads on Boards.ie and IrishMilitaryonline.com. From boards.ie I have learned that at least one other person has had a go at mapping them but I haven’t seen any evidence of the map. I initially looked at plotting them on Google but have found that the resolution on Bing’s service is slightly better for key parts of the west of Ireland

Until very recently, the EIRE sign linked to Loop Head was buried. In fact, it was uncovered so recently that you cannot see it on the Google map of Loop Head. Again, according to the Clare Champion it was unearthed and restored this year. The Bing map for West Clare has no resolution for that area.

As things stand, I can locate about ten of the signs on Bing Maps. I’m aware of an additional 1 which is in an area with inadequate resolution. In addition, I believe there are four more between Slieve League and Achill Island which are still visible but I have not yet been able to locate them. The two at Slieve League in particular have been noted as being in a state of disrepair.

Located on Bing Maps.

  1. Malin Head, County Donegal
  2. Saint John’s Head, County Donegal,
  3. Dursey Island, County Cork
  4. Black Head, County Clare
  5. Erris Head, County Mayo
  6. Horn Head, County Donegal
  7. Melmore Head, County Donegal
  8. Inishowen Head, County Donegal
  9. Toe Head, County Cork
  10. Arranmore Point, County Donegal
Location known but not available at time of satellite scan
  1. Loop Head County Clare
Known to exist but not located on a map:
  1. Achill Island, County Mayo ( 59 – Given as Moyteogue head on Tim’s site above) (x 2)
  2. Slieve League, County Donegal (x 2) <<<one of these located, other is now gone
  3. Baltimore 29 has been renovated. There are photographs of it but I can’t find it on a map (ETA)

My hope was to locate a dozen of them. I’ve a feeling I’ve actually seen the Black Head one driving past and just forgot. I don’t know why. I didn’t expect to find it too easily because I expected it to fade into the background of the Burren stone landscape.

I have seen a picture of one above which I haven’t identified (see here) so I’d obviously like to track that one down as well. The image is very clearly from google, but it doesn’t match any of the ones I have.

When I’ve done all this, I’ll write a proper summary of what I know about these markings and post it to a page either here or on my primary website. The map is very much under construction so I’ll post it here later.

The current map of those I have located is here:

It transpires that to get the pushpins, you need to view the larger map. You’ll also need to choose AERIAL view to get the images. This is not ideal for me – I’d prefer Google but seriously, the resolution is nowhere near adequate in a lot of key places.

There’s a bit of research going into this, so any help would be appreciated. In addition to the map plots on Bing and Google, I will look at seeing if an OSI map can be put together. I’m also interested in collecting photographs of the sites taken from the air, if possible, with a view to tracking changes in their condition. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Referenda – serious business

We had a referendum here in Ireland on Sat 10 November. The results were out today and the referendum was carried.

I don’t want to go into the rights and wrongs of this particular referendum, but one of the things that has been concerning me lately is that we seem to have spiked in the number of referenda lately. When I was a child, referenda were a big deal. They were quite talked about. It just feels like we have referenda at least once a year lately. So I wanted to have a look at the underlying data and see if there was an increase in referenda lately and additionally, because a key feature of yesterday’s referendum was a particularly low turnout, I wanted to have a look at voter turnout in Irish Referenda.

This is building up towards a bigger post on the subject later on one of my other websites but this is just a WIP which I’d be interested to see some comments on.

First up, the data relating to referenda, dates of same and turn out came from Wikipedia:

Okay.

The first thing I did was graph the number of referenda per decade. The output graph is here. graph of number of referenda per decade in Ireland

 

Okay, a couple of notes about this. There was only one referendum in the 1930s, and that was the referendum for the enactment of the current constitution in Ireland. There were none in the 1940s and from then on there’s a fairly clear suggestion that we’ve been having more and more constitutional referenda. We’re only in 2012 for the current decades so it’s not a full interval but we have already had 4 referenda since 2010 – 2 in 2011 and 2 in 2012. There were drops between the 70s and 80s and the 1990s and 2000s but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re having more and more attempts to amend the constitution.

Now to turn out.

Okay, there’s a bit of work to be done here. One of the things that surprised me is that the turnout on 10 November 2012 isn’t actually the lowest turn out ever. Two referenda held in July 1979 came in lower and after that, one held in November 1996 was lower. The plateaus you see above by the way are where several referenda were held on the same occasion.

The data here are, in my view, a bit all over the place – there’s an argument to suggest turnout is on its way down – the highest turnout was the enactment of the constitution itself in 1937. The second highest was in 1972 for accession to the European Economic Community as it as then. For every other referendum since then, turnout has been below 70%.

So I wanted to see for how many referenda there was a turnout in excess of 50% of the electorate. There have been 35 referenda including the referendum to implement the 1937 constitution and of those, in 12 cases, the turnout was below 50%. This figure includes this year’s children’s referendum, however, the six previous to that were above 50%.

I want to have a look at the data in a little more detail, I want to look at the subjects of those referenda for example, and I believe I need to check some of those dates against the dates of other elections such as general elections – my memory is unclear on this but I’m pretty sure that at least one referendum has been held in tandem with another election. So more research is needed. I also want to see what the impact of running several referenda together is.

Part of this is based on a wider concern I have about how fit our constitution is for our country in today’s age. Our constitution does not require a minimum turn out for a referendum which I think is regrettable. I think it’s important to have this debate now because Fine Gael has flagged an intention to remove the second house of the Oireachtas (this would also be subject to a referendum) and I wonder if it might be a suitable time to consider implementing a change to the constitution regarding a minimum turnout for referenda. I am inclined to wonder how governments would react if constitutional amendments failed because there was not an adequate turn out to get the change implemented. I cannot help feeling that they would not like it.

I also have to question whether a constitution which needs to be updated as frequently as we have ours in the last 20 years is actually really suitable now. There are a lot of good things in our constitution but….we’re chopping and changing it quite a bit lately.

Subsequent to the Constitution being accepted in 1937 there were two amendments passed by the Oireachtas per a special provision in the Constitution. Between then and 1972, no changes were made to it. Three referenda were put to the people, one in 1958 and 2 in 1968 but they were rejected on turnouts of 58.4% and 65.8% respectively. Of the 35 referenda in total, 9 have been rejected, four since 2001.

The key issue I have, however, is that the creation of a new constitution requires someone with a bit of vision and someone who will not draft a constitution by committee. One of the key comments around the Children’s Referendum in 2012 was that wording it was extremely difficult. I honestly believe that the constitution of a country should be something a bit visionary and very accessible to the people in that country without law degrees. Again, the Children’s Referendum caused some difficulties in this area – some commentators are claiming the low turnout was linked to confusion. I’m not an expert in law but I believe that a constitution which requires approval from the people should be drafted in such a way as it doesn’t necessarily cause confusion for the people voting on it. This has been a massive issue with respect to European treaties as well.

I’m still looking at the numbers so this is a work in progress.