Monday, August 23, 2010


This is my editorial from last week's paper. I've noticed similar pieces a couple of places,in yesterday's Agenda magazine and elsewhere, but this was written last Tuesday.

There are a lot of euphemisms about these days, masking unpleasant news. We’re all familiar with downsizing, resizing and – the most recent word from the world of human resources – ‘rightsizing’. De-energising is the latest one. Coined, seemingly, by the ESB, it refers to what the rest of us call ‘disconnecting’.
Last month, the state-owned energy company ‘de-energised’ 900 households for failing to pay their electricity bills. That’s up from 500 last August.
The news also comes in the same week that the Government floated plans to bump up electricity prices by 5 per cent, adding an estimated €30 per year to household bills as part of a new levy.
€30 doesn’t sound like a lot.
But it is when you remember that this is on top of already well-inflated prices. A 17.5 per cent jump in late 2008, just before the start of the coldest winter most of us can remember, and consistent, small, increases both before and after that.
And it is when you remember that many households have taken substantial pay cuts. Pay cuts have been well documented at this stage, and while some in the private sector – usually those who are still working in their pre-bust jobs – have seen their salaries return to ‘normal’ levels, there are still plenty who haven’t. Public sector workers are still at about 85 per cent of their previous salaries. 13.7 per cent of us are unemployed.
The new levy will come on top of an increase in mortgage rates – the increase varies, but for some customers the hike is as much as €40 per month.
It also comes on top of a 9.2 per cent increase in the costs of education (according to the latest Consumer Price Index figures from the CSO, for July), and an increase in transport costs (2.7 per cent).
In her book The Shock Doctrine, sociologist Naomi Klein discusses how private interests so often triumph over public ones in the wake of disasters. ‘The shock doctrine’ is defined as using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.
And what greater shock has this country had since its foundation than the economic crisis? While the Government discusses selling off essential services like Cork Airport and Bord Gáis, we have taken on the liabilities of some of the country’s most reckless private interests.
While economic theory may not seem relevant to your pocket or mine, take a minute to think about it. Why, with no consultation and no opportunity to protest, will we all soon be paying 5 per cent more for electricity, supplied by a company that we own? Why, when we own the banks, will we be paying one or two per cent more interest on our mortgages, while bank staff play golf at our expense? Why, if we can’t manage our bills as it is, and that five per cent makes paying a bill on time every time unachievable, will we be cut off from a service supposedly run by the Government for our benefit?
Naomi Klein has one term for it – the shock doctrine – but we can thank the marketing department at the ESB for coming up with a new and better one. De-energised is a much better term to describe the state of the nation. We’ve lost the energy to fight back.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - it's pretty simple!

There are some evenings you just don't want to cook. I love cooking, and even I will admit this. But I'm usually pretty reluctant to get a takeaway - I've watched all those 'You Are What You Eat' shows where they show you what you eat in a week on a big table, and I'm determined that my big table would, firstly, be a little table, and secondly, mostly be constituted of things I can identify, rather than chemicals.
This isn't a food blog, but my Twitter followers will be aware that I love my grub and I love to cook.
Having spotted that, the lovely @EimearMcCormack from contacted me to ask if I'd like to write a post on the company's service. With an offer of €20 to pay for my meal, I was in. (Insert 'cheap date' joke, here).
Living in Cork I'm lucky to have some fantastic restaurants on my doorstep for the nights that I do go out to eat. It's rare enough that I get takeaway, but Cork has some very good choices in this regard - even for the health-conscious.
My favourite pizza in the entire world comes from Uncle Pete's on Pope's Quay. These guys are really passionate about their food, and it shows. Now, it's not the cheapest - my usual, the personal sized primavera, is about €12. But it's well worth it. You can customize your pizza as it's made right there in front of you. They also offer a range of pasta dishes and wines. They are a devoted takeaway, with no sit-down area, and as a proud nouveau Norrie I love the urban legend that they don't deliver to the Southside. I don't think it's anything more than an urban legend though.
Using the system was so simple I could do it on my iPhone. Their site is not really made for iPhones, and they don't have an app (yet, I presume), but it was still quick and easy. You register, using your email address and password, and you can either pay by credit card - very handy if, like me, you don't tend to have cash on you for the delivery person - or by cash when you get your food delivered.
I submitted the form - for one of's fantastic €5 feast offers each for me and the boyfriend - at about 6.40pm.
A word on those offers - they're amazing value - as I said, Uncle Pete's is not cheap so €5 for one of their main courses - we both chose spaghetti with meatballs - is incredibly good value. The offers are still open, I think, and my next adventure is Banna Thai on Maylor Street, which comes highly recommended.
About a minute after we submitted the online form I got a call from Uncle Pete's confirming the details and giving the usual 'wait' warning. Not to worry - our food arrived about 20 minutes later.
Very quick, very easy, and very, very delicious. Uncle Pete's do the best meatballs I've ever eaten, in Ireland, Italy or anywhere else. Can't recommend them - or - highly enough.
Watch out for the next post, when I check out Banna Thai!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I've been doing some work with Newstalk recently. Here I am on last Friday's Lunchtime show, with Newstalk's Cork correspondent Jonathan Healy, talking about two things I really know very little about - children and the GAA! So you'll forgive me if I sound a bit, well, blonde. Because I had done lots of research on Larry Murphy and this is what I ended up talking about. (From 35 minutes).

The following day I was on Saturday Edition with Brendan O'Brien, as part of their newspaper review panel with Evelyn Cusack from Met Éireann. The podcast isn't online yet, but once it is, it'll be here.

Protest power

This is my editorial from last week's Cork Independent 

As I drove to work last Wednesday, I was delighted to hear on the radio that a protest against the attitude of the Catholic Church to women is being organised, for 26 September.
Finally, I thought, women are getting angry.
I have been angry for quite some time at the treatment of women by one of the world’s largest organisations. We in the West tend to look down on Islam for its perceived subjugation of women, but in this case we are almost certainly living in glass houses.
And the woman who got angry? Step forward ‘the monk’s mother’. So named by the Irish Times, Jennifer Sleeman from Clonakilty (who informed Morning Ireland  that, in fact, she has five other children), is very angry, and hurt.
She has cause to be angry. A former Presbyterian, she is one of very few people in Ireland to have actively chosen Catholicism. The rest of us simply accepted it as our birthright.
Well, most of us do. Some don’t – quite a number of Irish people have registered on the website, which formally removes a person from the Catholic Church, and many more are practicing Catholics only insofar as they marry in churches, baptise their children and send them to Catholic schools, whether by choice or not.
But back to Ms Sleeman. At the age of 80, she is the only woman I’ve heard of trying to organise a response to the increasing disregard for women the Catholic Church, under Pope Benedict XVI, is purveying. She is asking women not to attend Mass on Sunday 26 September.
I have heard French women and American women being interviewed on Irish radio about this issue – mostly on Newstalk, funnily enough – RTE doesn’t seem that interested. But I have heard no Irish Catholic woman, before this, speak out on the issue as if it was one they wanted to do something about.
Could it be that the majority of us believe the Church has done us such a grievous wrong that there is no going back? Or, worse, could it be that so many see the Church as an irrelevance, something anachronistic that has no import on our lives?
For those who are believers, the most recent betrayal of women by the Church – proclaiming the ordination of women with paedophilia as equally serious sins – must have been devastating.
Leaving aside the terrible revelations about sexual and physical abuse, the mismanagement of these scandals, the suffering of women in the Magdalen laundries and other issues which have arisen in relation to the Church, this latest blow on its own was bad enough.
For women who have worked all their lives for the Church as cleaners, sacristans, flower arrangers, altar decorators, tea makers, choir mistresses, singers, housekeepers and all the hundreds of small, menial jobs the organisation requires to keep going – largely unpaid – it is nothing less than a slap in the face. They have not been given robes, homes or livelihoods by the Church. They are not adored; they do not have titles.
And now, they are discovering that they do not even have the respect of a religion many have devoted their lives to.
I have great admiration for Jennifer Sleeman. She loves her religion and wants to make it something worthy of that love and respect. While I am not myself religious, I hope that those who are will join her in her protest and make its deafening silence reach all the way to Rome.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Silly season

Thanks to The Guardian's Organ Grinder and, of course, The Sun, for this image, which you can find at

My predictions just two weeks ago that silly season had begun (following a nervous chat with a journalist and photographer from another fine Cork publication, in which the sense of dread felt by all three of us was palpable) has proven, sadly, to be correct.
The Ivor Callely story - which took pride of place in our paper this week - is giving both national and local media (in both Cork and Dublin - thanks Ivor) something to chew on. For a while.
Otherwise, though, it's pretty dreary. The newsdesk email is dead. Nobody is answering the phone. Even political press releases on subjects as enlightening as potholes, pavements and mortgage interest relief, are thin on the ground. It's the time when the contents of your average popular YouTube video featuring an animal or a dancing baby actually qualifies as news (as opposed to the rest of time, where we include Cork-related ones just for the laugh, like this, and this).
It does make me wonder, though - how come PR companies haven't latched onto August as the time to make hay for their clients? I know they need holidays too, but in terms of easy coverage, August is a no-brainer.
When we have real news to report, press releases are thrown on the slagheap, but when there is no real news, we still have to fill pages.
It can be one of the most depressing parts of the job for both journalist and editor, but "filler" is a huge component of modern newspapers, especially local newspapers, where we can't bump up the 'international news' section to make up for a lack of local news, and that quirky tale of someone's dog eating their foot  is just not appropriate for our use. (Unless we can figure out that the guy had an ancestor from Cork).
There are only so many pictures of kids eating ice cream you can put in one newspaper, and the weather isn't very conducive to that. Plus, most freelance photographers seem to be on holidays too.
We are using the extra time we have in the newsroom, and the extra news pages, to do some in-depth news features, which usually we don't have room for. I'm quite excited about this, as it gives the reporters some room to carry out proper research and multiple interviews, rather than the usual fast pace of our researching and writing.
Having spoken today, via The Twitter, to @GavinGrace, a broadcaster working in Clare, it seems every media outlet in the country is having the same problem. It's a good time to use imagination and a bit of flair, and sometimes to try out new things, although it's a pain having to bear in mind that you may try out a new set piece / column / feature only to find that when things start happening again in September you have no room for it.
Like I said before. If you know of a footballing dog - please, now is the time. All cute animal stories, community groups with a new toilet in their premises, and potholes, will be covered.*

*Maybe not "all". Some. The interesting ones.