Politics

Articles of a political nature

Smokeless Fire,

image, Thisislondon.co.uk

“In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end,”

These words were stated issued by the Dutch health and Justice Ministers in a joint strongly worded letter to Parliament four months ago. The Laws are coming into force tighter than anyone ever expected after a spate of serious fines and imprisonments most notably a 10million euro fine to a cafe owner who was also sentenced to sixteen weeks in prison. No longer the land of hookers, drugs, cheese and dykes but a country battling to restore its image as Europe’s economies slide and falter. A government committee has declared that cannabis with higher than 15% THC be declared Hard Drugs. Only the district of Maastrict has obeyed the rules of abstaining from selling cannabis to tourists and one wonders that regardless traveling masses will find a way to get what they truly desire.

From 2012 onwards it may be that each cafe of between 1000-1500  adult dutch citizens inclusively will operate similar to a nightclub with members only allowed. The issue of these new laws has put the spot light on the producers of cannabis for commercial use whose status is still illegal, loopholes do exist with a dutch citizen entitled to grow up to five grams for personal use but when it comes to the issue of wide scale distribution and production the authorities have yet to clamp down.

The drug tourism worth 100s of millions of euro to the Dutch economy may go up in smoke or possibly lead to an underground black market of dutch cannabis cafe club members selling their memberships or drugs for inflated prices or for the use of their passports.

Whatever happens over the next five to six months one thing is sure the sex trade in the Netherlands is either braced for a surge in revenue from disgruntled cannabis consumers or a slide from drug tourists who make the pilgrimage to a new more lax nation that is waiting in the wings to take up the mantle.

State of Affairs, Irish Presidency 2011.

Irish Presidency

Seven contenders, four independents, three political parties, one goal, the highest office in the land. With under four weeks to go until polling day the media is awash with rants and raves, polls and plaudits and above all else a desire to sell stories and dig into the past.

Mary Davis’s recent earnings have really thrown to light the lack of either real experience or credibilty the woman has as a contender. Her connection to Bertie Ahern and complete inability to mention anything other than the Special Olympics leaves her clutching at straws. One must commend her accomplishment with the Special Olympics which was a fantastic occasion but asides from that she is truly lacking in political weight and experience.

Gay Mitchell, without a shadow of a doubt, seems a decent enough man albeit lacking in any form of inspiration or energy. He comes across as  a gentleman mildly disillusioned with this campaign and often left wondering as  to why he is truly here. His reference to his working class childhood and background on the Late Late Show debates was a poignant moment and an attempt at moving beyond the comfortable middle class political image to a man more in touch with modern Ireland. He will struggle to find true support outside of Dublin.

Michael d Higgins is without a shadow of a doubt a true contender in this election, his vast experience both in academia and politics and global affairs makes him a worthy candidate and a man who has true support from a party in power. Higgins’s core vote will come from elderly and rural areas and he is not afraid of saying what’s on his on mind. His political machine and financial clout will keep him in this race until the end, coupled with his strong advisory team and clean record,

Martin Mc Guinness really blows this election into the world media in a way Norris almost accomplished. His terrorist past and inability to answer the tough questions leaves him lacking in so many areas. He is an accomplished politician and a talented speaker and a man who should never be under estimated, a master stroke by an ever growing and astute  Sinn Fein who have tapped into the unease in modern 21st century Ireland.

Sean Gallagher, the farmer, the politician, the tv star, the social worker, is there nothing this man can’t do? The answer seems to be run and inspire a presidential campaign, Gallagher has  a vast amount of ability yet leaves the ordinary neutral voter unphased. His work and career in this country is impressive and he deserves to be in the running but unfortunately he lacks the final gloss or quirky trait to push him into the true dog fight.

Dana Scallon is both a controversial and mildly inspiring figure who does not know when to give up, whether this is commendable fighting spirit or plain ignorance is up to the voter. Her resolute catholic views and staunch traditional approach make her appealing to the older generation and the rural vote of which she is battling it out with Higgins. This looks like another failed attempt by Dana but none the less she deserves credit for throwing her hat in again and again.

David Norris, the peoples choice, the Irish Rocky, call him what you will he is still the stand out candidate in this election. With or without controversy he is the most talented speaker and one of the most experienced politicians in the field. His habit of waffling and being overly out spoken at times needs to be reigned in. These letters have overshadowed first his campaign and now his comeback but he needs to keep pushing through and it looks like a two horse race for the Aras between himself and Higgins.

As a conclusion, the men with the most experience will be the contenders, Norris, Higgins and Mc Guinness, all three bring something different to the table, my heart tells me Norris but the intelligence and political know-how of both Higgins and Mc Guinness will make this a vastly intriguing race till the bitter end. Good Luck to all.

Summer in the USA, Wanderings

As the United States loses an A in its credit rating and hurricane Irene is declared a category three the United States still stands and braces itself in the face of adversity and the ordinary everyday American remains optimistic.

From the sheltered Ivy League existence of Dartmouth College and its Frat and Sorority lifestyle to the dangers of Gary Indiana with its astronomical gun crime issue American people are carrying on with their lives. A recent interview with a  US Navy marine opened my eyes to true optimism in America as unemployment drops slightly to 9.1 million, The marine in question engaged at 20 after six months of a relationship with his fiancee stationed in San Diego spoke excitedly about true love and living for now as America was built on dreams and optimism so why wallow in misery and self pity.

As one in six Americans wake up hungry, one in four children remain under nourished while 30 per cent of the population are deemed over-weight,  Obama’s job becomes harder and harder as Bauchmann and Palin’s Tea party members climb and climb. A nation of extremes boasting three of the worlds five richest men yet has 43.6  million people living in poverty.  A country where the middle class is being lost to college loan debts and banks while many more enjoy lives of extreme excess in country clubs dotted all over the east and west coasts; positivity must stand face to face with these  major issues threatening modern 21st century America.

As the emblem of the Eagle sits surrounded by the phrase E Pluribus Unum, America must draw on Heraclitus’s words, “Out of Many One”,

Sex and a City

Sex and A City

A culture built on men being answered to by women, with one in two marriages ending in divorce and a culture where women feel empowered by prostituting their bodies to drunk men in the hope they will find someone to financially take care of them.

Is this a completely wrong view of New York city? unfortunately the more i delve into the relationship patterns of New Yorkers the more it seems of that persuasion. Women are viewed as pieces of meat by so many men in this city, they are a commodity that can be bought with bullshit and alcohol in their eyes. The women i have spoken to ranging from 19 to 30 have said that they can get men through sexual favors not through their personality, interests or common grounds as all the good men are gay or married.

A university of Iowa study has shown that American women who lose their virginity in their teens are likely to divorce within five years of marriage coupled with the constant fickle media presence showing the perfect husband, family and children can only lead to pressures and stresses in a society dominated by consumerism, advertising and materialistic nonsense. The New York Times survey of April 2011 on sex patterns of New Yorkers found less sexual encounters among 15 to 25 year olds but rampant reckless sex among those in their mid 20s and over. The disregard for self respect stems from an American cultural vice, Television, where women believe offering themselves to multiple men continually is the Sex in the City way to empower themselves and makes them better than men and more in control. Unfortunately the majority are only being used as affairs for these men who are already married or in long term relationships and are usually mistreated and disregarded by the men they are involved with in the long run.

Human Rights Watch has recorded that there was a 25 percent increase in rape cases in North America between 2005 and 2007 alone with one wondering where is it going wrong?  The Gutt Macher Institute has found that although Americans have the same level of sexual activity  as their Canadian, Swedish, French and English counterparts they do so in shorter relationships, and with the continued use of the pill over condoms. This point leads on to the staggering issue of STI’s,  with 9million new infections occurring every year among American adults this is a whopping 19 out of every 1000 adults in the US which puts it on a par with Western Europe and  edging slightly ahead if trends remain the same.

As our world is filled with more sexual content be it on billboards, music videos, clothes shops or in movies and tv, the rates will continue to rise and the reason they are escalating here in NYC and in North America is the fact that they have more advertising and consumerism than most locations  in the world with USA Today stating in an 18month study over 300 separate advertising companies in the US would prefer to go with the SEX SELLS approach regardless of its impact on youth or the sexual degradation of young female Americans.

New York Follow Through

Subway NYC

A gasping Puerto Rican women in her late fifties gasps and blesses herself as the subway rumbles through station after station heading towards the upper east side. Her oxygen cable becomes tangled and she struggles with desperate fingers to loosen it as blank faces turn the opposite direction. She blesses herself frantically again as the train surges forward and she staggers falling into my arms and looks at me with tears rolling down her cheeks and then looks away knowing death is near.

This is NYC,  a city where people once could dream and achieve life goals and now they lose their job, lose their apartment and sometimes their lives.  This is just one of many incidents that have occurred in the last week that common New Yorkers ignore and seem both conditioned and indifferent too. At what point in you life will you see someone dying and not show compassion. When your life has hit rock bottom you don’t care and that is the unfortunate reality of 21st century America. A software engineer with a University Masters fills my salad bowl in a deli speaking sadly of his sixty thousand dollar a year job in the Empire State building he had this time twelve months ago only to be axed along with many others in an economic slump that leaves the majority in jobs they hate, with people they loath and returning home to a family they can’t cope with.

The American Dream seems to be fading as a Dominican college student stands forlornly outside F.A.O Schwarz telling me of how she dreamed her degree would be of use only to be left taking pictures of people who disregard her in a subtle racial fashion. Heart Attacks, Blood pressure and the focus of money, money, money to afford to live a life you think will make you happy but doesn’t is a damn bleak existence and i don’t blame New Yorkers for being disgruntled and cranky as their lives are so full of bleak realities that they can’t possibly be radiantly positive.

City of Dimming Lights and Economic Slumbers

Nyc, Paris, London, Tokyo, all centers of power, control, affluence and success to the casual observer but as the western world slips further into the mire of economic misery the lights are slowly dimming.
A city built on potential, ability and possibility is left wallowing in the worst employment crisis since the twenties.

Yet what we are seeing first hand is actually a leveling off at 8.9 per cent unemployment down from over 10 per cent only five months ago in January. The city that has propelled Bloomberg and Trump to success and Sinatra to Gaga is on its knees. While walking around the Lower East Side and even Soho a bleak neglected look is to be seen among people who hate the jobs they are stuck with seeing no way out.

Abandoned and boarded up retail spaces and shop sales 24/7 only further display a city whose divide between rich and poor is widening and widening. In a recent visit to a Social Security office the desperation of ordinary Americans trying to cope with their current economic situations was none more obvious. Single mothers, retired couples and unemployed men from all over the world lined up and argued their case in the hope of financial aid, with one man in question storming out in frustration.

Subway after subway is lined with the filthy rich standing side by side with begging and desperate homeless at a rate i have never seen before. Academics with Masters and entering Phd’s being rejected right left and center for jobs way beneath them in run down bars and half open t-shirt shops.

As hundreds of young people from across the world continue to flood to this city in the hope of prosperity and success the words of a local jean shop owner come to mind, “get out while you can, we wont be far behind’

The Spring is in its Autumn, The Summer in its Free Fall

The Queen in Ireland

So we are one third of the way through 2011, and what has changed?
Emigration is still soaring, unemployment rampant, and confusion and discontent omnipresent.

Enda Kenny’s role as Taoiseach has been to many a success, in that he hasn’t done any severe damage as of yet which is always a plus!
The removal of the Seanad however is a contentious issue and he has touched a nerve, the reality is that we don’t actually need it, similar to the British Royal Family, it serves very little purpose but may have in the past but surely won’t in the future.

Nationalism and Anglo Hatred aside, the hullabaloo over the Royal Wedding is uncalled for, the level of farce and fickle nonsense that British Press has descended to, is pathetic, from a nation that once prided itself on its literary and media outlets it has become one obsessed with Jordan’s breast size and Kerry Katona’s coke rise. A come down from Shelley and Keats. Android phones, I-PADS, I-PHONES, I-TURNIPS and the progression of technology and WIFI has made news more accessible than ever but the over exaggerated claims that 2 billion people watched the prince of whatever-his-name is and the Kate chick walking down the gap is rubbish.

We live a world where one would think that everyone should have the ability to be journalists and share news and explore and educate the masses but instead we are resorting to spreading nonsense and bullshit through these mediums that should be used to better ourselves.

As a society we are reducing ourselves intellectually while claiming we are educated because we read papers or know the headlines! This does not deem one an intellectual it just means your eyes work proficiently. With a summer of discontent and emigration ahead, the embassies of the world will once again face the illegal immigrant syndrome of Irish abroad who have a fondness for the lack of rain. As our brain drain resumes and Australia and Canada fill we send our most esteemed academics since Joyce and Yeats to represent us in front of 100 million of our European peers. Already seen as a joke of a nation and experiencing subtle racism due to our debts to our EU cousins we then show them how we are spending our time. While we could be financially rebuilding ourselves we instead are funneling attention into Jedward for Eurovision.

As May day approaches and 80 countries across the world celebrate the workers movements we can at least spare a pleasant thought for Obama and the Queen who must be wondering what to do and what to wear and say when they arrive on our little island of saints and scholars and John and Edward.

With or Without You/Ourselves

Haiti Capital Devastated by Quake

The sun finally reminds us that it does in fact exist and the country goes into melt down, we deserve a good spell now, we deserve many good spells.

A new government, new weather and the President is rocking it up in Madrid, life seems pretty damn good, what is it that a sunny day does that leaves everything else in the back of ones mind.

As human beings we are easily distracted by simple materialistic objects and desires yet Japans recent disaster puts a lot into perspective;

We will wake up tomorrow morning, warm and safe, we will walk to the toilet and have running water and we will go online and have laptops, we will have clothes, we will have food, we will have a life!

Why is it that for the majority of us we have to see true suffering for it to show reality, to show that we are a society that desires too much and longs for control and influence yet mother nature can take it all away in less than 24hours.

We can fight and control so much in this world, but we cannot take on nature and win effectively, over 9000 people dead in a matter of minutes, shows how frail our existence truly is, our phones, our ipods, our existence is so frail yet we obsess about such simple things as the color of our cars and the shape of our hair.

In the years to come our world will have to face up to serious issues we have long tried to forget exist, oil crisis, middle east unrest and the widening divide between what is the western world and the east.

Japan is regarded as one of the strongest economies in not only Asia but also the world and it will bounce back but how does a country like Haiti cope with 4million homeless.  How will our world cope when money will no longer talk when the value of life will have to be seen as something true and real and not just a figure on a report.

With or without each other we will fall and falter, and as a people we have to move forward both in this country as a unit and find a resolution to our internal difficulties and as a race the history and the boundaries will have to crumble as we face into a century that will either make us or break us.

Students Union 2011/12? United we Stand, Divided We fall

Students Union of Ireland

James Mahon

In Our first week in Nuig we are given an amusing and usually entertaining speech by the students union president which is usually a means to convey their presence in our new college lives; yet with elections approaching we must ask the tough questions such as do they perform any real function or merely mill around in hoodys giving condoms and pamphlets?

As a class rep for the duration of my degree and a former member of the Academic Council I have never ever felt required to make the transition to SU officer, when I spoke to numerous students and staff members prior to writing this article I was met with a lot of the same indifference to their real function or purpose.

The majority of students felt that the SU is to be judged by their rag week now of course college week, yet the sustained backlash to this raise and give week that now seems more about college life and drinking rather than charity has left a lot of academics and students wondering why the SU should even exist other than to write apology letters to papers and radio shows. For all the backlash they receive the money they raise has in the past been staggering and the success of the charity element has always managed to eclipse the unruly elements. Yet Is the charity element now waning?

The reality is that we as a student body need representatives and the Students Union do act as a strong representation of many of the issues affecting us.
However each administration has had numerous officer positions for example an equality office and Irish language officer yet when I asked a group of second year students who were the SU or what impact had any of these people on students lives, they couldn’t name anyone except some guy called “peter Something”.

As a former graduate of the UCC Summer Academy I was surprised on a recent trip to their campus to see the pride and involvement of the SU in everyday life, the drive and passion their SU has for their students and desire to not just hold meetings and handout free pens but to be active and make wheels turn was very exciting and interesting. Their constant presence to aid students who are marginalized and who don’t feel included or who are subjected to either cyber bullying or isolation was pleasant to see in action and the approachability factor is one that seems essential to a strong and functional SU.

A Union or body can only be as good as the sum of its parts and we must take responsibility for our SU and play a function but if they aren’t inspiring or aiding us sufficiently then we must return to their manifestos or the lack of them. As our nation turns a corner and aims to move forward we need to give time to an even more pro-active SU that is felt around us every day, an SU that drives the college forward and pushes the boundaries to make differences; to walk the walk and not just talk the talk! Its no longer about Wispa Bars or college bars it needs to be about sustained student support and presence as the Celtic Tiger’s cage lies empty and Ireland’s Golden years lie in facebook albums and bebo memories maybe we need to re assess the function of a Union we are part of but often don’t feel belonged to.

Trees to Tension, The Irish Language 2011,

ogham writing

What started as lines and marks  on trees in the form of Ogham writing, became an official European Language on Jan 1st 2007 and now is on the verge of going in reverse. How would you gauge progress in a language that is all around us on sign posts and in media yet according to our most recent census only 80,000 people can speak it fluently out of a population of 6.1 million, that is a staggering 1.31 per cent!

The forcing of such evil horrors as the Tuisceal Ginideach and Modh Coinniollach on children from age 5 to 18 has always been a debated topic in the history of our little island, and if Fine Gael comes into power in the next few weeks, the reality is we might be able to cut 3 years of that linguistical hell off  but will we benefit as a people or are we losing something unique and valuable?

The inclusion of the language on the curriculum for decades  has led to Gaelscoileanna, TG4 and Sharon Ni Bheoilin, is this enough to merit its inclusion further; the longer we have had the language the less people we have had who can claim to speak it fluently! ironic or what, however those who  have partial Irish has increased due to the gaeltacht summer schools etc.  The reality is that maybe we should accept Scotland’s model and have it as an option for the leaving cert but keep it compulsory for primary school and junior cert, and those who truly love the language can take it for Leaving cert while others can focus on other subjects.

A recent article in the Irish Times let secondary school students voice their opinions and i also spoke to  number of these young adults and they were very clear in their message. We dont need it! we need to get jobs not to say Ciunas, Bothar, Cailin, Bainne! Many students feel the time dedicated to Irish could go into learning a further European or world language enabling them to gain further employment after or before college.

We need to ask ourselves the tough question though and say was Irish a true luxury of the Celtic Tiger years and now that we are broke we are cutting off our heritage! Maybe we are, maybe we are not, but no one should have to endure forced education that many dont enjoy and very few accept Daithi o Sea and Hector have benefited from.

Making the language sexy with Des Bishop hasn’t helped a considerable amount and although NUIG is a bilingual campus most students find the names of the building confusing and dont know what they mean or why they are called áras Blahhh and Aras this n that.

For those who love the language it should remain and be supported fully, for those who dont maybe we need to allow something else to be included on the leaving cert course, more important areas to be covered like enhanced Sexual Education, Improved Road Safety and First Aid or Drug and Alcahol awareness courses.

Dont bin the Gaeilge, Dont Shelve it! Its our Heritage and OUR language but maybe give the Optional leaving cert a run and if the Gaeltacht areas are being financially affected then look to further employment out there for those families in other areas that will benefit them and educate them in something new and exciting, we cant ever forget where we came from and our language is a huge part of our identity so Fine Gael dont Bin it but respect it and those who speak the words of  our generations.

James Mahon, Diploma in Irish, TEFAL/ESL