Monday, February 28, 2011

The Changing Face of Irish Politics - An Electoral Triumph for the Next Generation

We are all in a state of euphoria in Ireland this weekend as the General Election results roll in - still four constituencies count goes on ...and on...and into recount territory. But the good news is - Ciara Conway, Labour's candidate for Waterford, got elected on the tenth count to the third seat in Waterford, following the elimination of her running mate Seamus Ryan, whose transfers went a long way to securing the third seat of four. In fact when the final tally was in, she had the second seat from the transfers. I've blogged about Ciara's launch already here, and this is the sequel!

The Ciara Camp at the Selection Convention, Jan. 2011
Ciara speaking at launch
The Government party Fianna Fail has been eviscerated, as have their former bedfellows, the Green Party - who lost all six of their seats to return a big fat zero. Fianna Fail have dropped from 77 seats in 2007 to a current 18 with little chance of more than one or two more seats. This is such a historic election as there is only one FF TD in Dublin - Brian Lenihan - and no woman TD elected. Their talk of regrouping is all a bit hollow given the anger of the public towards their arrogant behaviour regarding expenses and salaries and pensions - many ministers get such wonderful pensions that a number didn't bother standing for re-election knowing their chances were nil, and instead they'll be spending more time with their pensions and lump sums!
Ciara with Labour leader Eamon Gilmore

It was a nail biting evening - and I wasn't even at the Count Centre in Butlerstown in Waterford City. Hubby Jan was Ciara's Director of Elections and he has been busy for the past month running the campaign and organising canvassing schedules all over the county and city of Waterford. It was a major exercise to try and cover as much of the constituency as possible but it certainly paid off! Our three sons were at the count as Tallymen, and it was a very close call. I find it bizarre how accurate the Tallymen can be, as it seems so chaotic and random in the Count Centre.

The total to date for Labour is 36 seats, Fine Gael 70, Fianna Fail 18, Sinn Féin 13 and Others 18 00:15hrs on Monday 27th - there are still 15 or 16 seats undecided

Ciara and Jan, her Director of Elections, at the launch
I was with the team on two days canvassing in Tramore, and then I spent a number of evenings canvassing in Lismore with Jane, another Labour member and stalwart supporter of Ciara. We got a great reception on the doorsteps as many people said we were the only party to call and they hadn't any Fianna Fail canvassers or candidates - they were only leaflet-dropping and running along!

I suppose given the state they left the country in they hadn't the bottle to knock and face an electorate whose lives have been thrown into turmoil from job losses, negative equity in home-owners, and children forced into emigration. That's a far cry from the voluntary emigration of my own experience, not driven by unemployment but by a sense of adventure and altruism that moved me to become a development worker and volunteer.

Ciara with Jane and me at her campaign launch
So I thought it worth sharing the good news of the election of Ciara, a new young woman TD (MP) to the 31st Dáil Eireann (Irish Parliament) which will convene on March 9th. Whether Labour will form a coalition with the majority Fine Gael Party is yet undecided as Eamon Gilmore the Labour leader hasn't been approached yet by Enda Kenny the Fine Gael leader who will lead the next government as Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Ciara and Aoife
The results are not all in - Ciara was elected at 3:25am Sunday morning after a gruelling ten counts to the third seat - a process of Irish democracy that took from when the Count started at 9:00am on Saturday morning. I won't even begin to describe the Irish system of PR-STV - Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote. It is an arcane, complex and exciting system that differs from the first-past-the-post system that the UK operates. It beats Electronic Voting (which the Irish trialled disastrously in 2002 and has been a notorious white elephant ever since - just ask former TD Nora Owen how heartless it was to lose a seat in a heartbeat on election night)  for the thrill of count and transfers and recounts and it gives political junkies like me a day or more of nail-biting anticipation glued to the TV, Radio and this year for the first time, Twitter and Facebook as well as numerous websites.

The WLRFM Candidates' Debate, Dungarvan
RTÉ was one of those offering live coverage yet it fell behind the live Twitter streams from the various Hashtag sites. I followed #GE11, #wd (Waterford constituency results and #RTE which gave a good general overview. There was a lot of criticism of the dearth of TV coverage of the Waterford count, and they only focused on the first two TDs elected, Fine Gael's John Deasy and Paudie Coffey. Deasy was returned as TD, and Coffey was a first time elected TD, having lost in 2007 and gained a Senate seat as recompense. That sort of nepotism might all be a thing of the past as the Senate's future looks bleak. Having two houses of parliament is seen as a bit excessive in a country of 4 million so it might bite the dust as it was mooted by Fine Gael and Labour as part of their Election Manifesto.

About to exercise my democratic franchise on Friday!
The photos show the path to Leinster House for Ciara since Eamon Gilmore came to Waterford in January for a Constituency meeting, to the Selection convention and the Campaign launch and the WLRFM Town Hall Candidates' Debate last week. Then there's one of me going into the polling station to cast my vote.

We are delighted to have a talented and energetic young woman like Ciara representing Waterford in the 31st Dáil and wish her every success and good luck!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spot the Typo - and beat the Pre-Election Moratorium

Today I was in Dungarvan Library at lunchtime, reading and knitting (a cap to match the lovely ballerina cardigan in the photo) my way through a relaxing lunch hour. The library's a little haven of tranquility and I go there fairly often when I don't have to dash around Lidl or if I'm not going to lunch with friends or colleagues. I hasten to add that while I don't quite fit the label of "Ladies who Lunch", I do go to a nice place at least once a week for a great value lunch - the Local in Grattan Square. It deserves a little plug and for those who haven't been, don't miss their wonderful healthy option - Spicy Chicken Pitta - it's the business if you're ever in Dungarvan (or Fungarvan as it's sometimes designated!)

I was finishing off Jonathan Franzen's terrific Freedom, and when that was done, I read the Irish Times, to catch up on the last-minute pre-election news, before the Broadcast Media Moratorium kicked in at 2p.m. this afternoon. I was listening to the news at one on my phone radio, listening to the various Party Leaders' final desperate pleas to the electorate before the news blackout began. I don't know if this is a phenomenon peculiar to Irish Elections, or an internationally  recognised practice, but it is the norm here that there will be a total ban on any Election-related broadcasting on TV or Radio (all stations) from the day before the Election to the close of polling on voting day.

This campaign has been a whirlwind, and we are all rooting for the local Labour Candidates, Ciara Conway and Séamus Ryan, who are both aiming to retain the Labour seat vacated by Brian O'Shea, who held it for 24 years, and even hoping for a second seat. Hubby is Director of Elections for Ciara, and she has run a great campaign, which I've been involved in from the periphery, in that I joined the canvass a couple of days in Tramore and spent four or five evenings canvassing  in Lismore. We got a great reception overall, with the recurrent refrain of "You're the first/only ones to come knocking on the doors" or "the rest of them are just leaflet dropping and running away"! This seems to apply particularly to the outgoing Government Party Fianna Fail who have really banjaxed the country with sellouts to the IMF and ECB, as I've previously ranted about. We are hopeful for a positive change of regime, with a strong Labour presence in a coalition being the most realistic outcome.

Where was I? Oh yes, this was to be about the Terrible (or wonderful!) Typo that jumped out at me from this O2 ad on the front page of the Irish Times. Out with the camera and captured for posterity and a blogpost. I feel an anorak attack coming on, but I'll take the tablets! (I'm guessing you can all spot it - it's a real sore point with an apostrophe nerd like me!)

 We all need a laugh and while I'm at it I'll share the best of the satirical asides from the plethora of Election and Current Affairs programmes on Irish TV at the moment - it's Mario Rosenstock on Tonight with Vincent Browne Show on TV3 - a terrifically animated programme that electrifies audiences nightly from 11:10p.m. to 12:30a.m. The Twitter stream for #vinb is too busy to follow live, such is the reaction it provokes.

Enjoy Mario as Vincent, Willie "Crackshot" O'Dea and Micheál "Choirboy" Martyr (Martin). It may be a bit obscure to those not in the know of Irish politics at present but it's hilarious as a stand-alone. Suffice to say, Vincent takes no prisoners, Willie famously posed with a gun for the media when Minister of Defence, and Micheál is the current Fianna Fail leader after Brian "Biffo" Cowen (was) stood down, and he has gaffed spectacularly last week by doing a bad imitation of a Chinese accent  á la Prince Philip - he's hardly racist but it had a surreal Father Ted feel to it - "should we all be racists now, father? what's the official line the church is takin on this? only, the farm takes up most of the day, and at night i just like a cup of tea, so i might not be able to devote meself full-time to the old racism." That's an episode worth checking out!

Happy Voting tomorrow for all of you in the Constituencies - just remember the old adage - "Vote Early and Often"! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My First Sock Pattern - Variation on a few Themes

Et voilà - the finished sock!
I've been asked to share the knitting pattern for my latest sock project, and as it's an adapted one and not a straightforward copy, I am going to try to write it as a pattern should be written. This is a new challenge as I have to strive to be accurate, but I might  manage it. I met a lady yesterday who's an avid knitter and she has also bought the lovely pre-patterned wool from Lidl that is specifically (but not solely - hey, unintended pun but I like it so it stays!) for socks.

Having made a half-dozen pairs of socks over recent months, I decided to go for these with variations. I used the stitch numbers as per the pattern with the sock wool (Lidl are great for enclosing patterns and sometimes needles with their knit-kits.)
My Lidl Sock Stash - with first completed sock

I have tried plain stocking stitch (Stockinette in US) and it is just too baggy for socks, unless you've very elasticky yarn, which I'm not sure this wool-mix is (75% pure wool, 25% Polyamide).

So I made it a K2P2 rib throughout, except for the sole and gusset which is in plain stocking stitch, and the heel flap which is nicely textured in a fancy rib.

Ribbed Socks
 Gauge for these socks = 42 rows and 30 stitches over 10x10cm) 
 (Use 4 DPN (Double-Pointed Needles -Size 3mm/     )

Sock as in pattern

Some Abbreviations: 
RS = Right Side; WS = Wrong Side; Sl = Slip (take stitch off left-hand needle without knitting it)
N = Needle K or k = Knit; P or p = Purl; sl1,k1,psso = slip 1, knit 1, pass slip stitch over knit stitch (you can use ssk instead = slip1, slip1, knit 2 tog.)

Socks Pattern
Cast on 60 stitches and divide between 3 needles - 20 per needle (duh!)
K2 P2 rib for desired length - about 6-7 inches is fine for ankle boot socks

Heel Flap
Knit 30 stitches onto one needle and put remaining 30 stitches on Stitch Holder (or a big nappy/safety pin!)
Knit back and forth on heel flap as follows:
Heel & Gusset close-up
  • Row 1 (RS) - Slip 1, K1, *P1, K2 Repeat from * to end
  • Row 2 (WS) -Slip 1, P1, *K1, P2 Repeat from * to end
  • Repeat these 2 rows total of 15 times - you'll have 15 slip stitches along edge of heel flap.

Turning Heel
 (I used stocking stitch, but you could continue the K2 P2 rib of main sock if you prefer - gives a springy sole!)
  • R1(RS) – Sl 1, k16, ssk, k1, turn.
  • R2(WS) – Sl 1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • R3 – Sl 1, k6, ssk, k1, turn.
  • R4 – Sl 1, p7, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • R5 – Sl 1, k8, ssk, k1, turn.
  • R6 – Sl 1, p9, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • R7 – Sl 1, k10, ssk, k1, turn.
  • R8 – Sl 1, p11, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • R9 – Sl 1, k12, ssk, k1, turn.
  • R10 – Sl 1, p13, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • R11 – Sl 1, k14, ssk, k1, turn.
  • Modelling the sock!
  • R12 – Sl 1, p15, p2tog, p1, turn. (18 sts. remain)
Slip 1, knit 8 sts (to middle of heel), this will now be the beginning of round.

(I copied and pasted this part from a Ravelry downloaded PDF pattern for SKYP Rib Socks by Adrienne Ku - here is the link)

Heel – gusset
Set-up Round
  • Needle 1 - knit remaining 9 stitches from heel turn, pick up and knit 15 stitches along heel edge flap plus 1 extra between flap and instep. (Total = 25 stitches)
  • Needle 2 - transfer instep stitches from needle holder to needle and K2 P2 Rib across instep.
  • Needle 3 - pick up and knit 1 stitch between instep and heel flap, pick up and knit 15 stitches along heel edge, K 9 from sole. 
There are now 3 needles with 25, 30, and 25 stitches.
You will need to decrease 1 stitch at instep edge of alternate rows until you are back to 15, 30 and 15 stitches.
Do this as follows:
  • Round 1 -N1 - K to last 3 stitches, k2 tog., k1. N 2 - Continue K2 P2 rib across instep. N 3 = k1, sl1,k1,psso, k to end 
  • Round 2 - Knit N 1 & 3, K2 P2 rib on instep
  • Repeat these 2 rounds  until you are left with 15, 30 and 15 stitches on each needle.


Continue sock foot in rounds until 2 ins/4cm shorter than length of foot (allow for some stretch)
Another angle

Toe shaping

Round 1: Knit
Round 2:
N1: K to last 3 stitches - k2 tog. k1.
N2: k1, sl1,k1,psso, k to last 3 stitches, k2 tog. k1.
N3: k1, sl1,k1,psso, k to end.
Continue these 2 rounds until 16 stitches remain. (4, 8, 4). Put 4+4 on one needle = 2 needles of 8 stitches. Graft toe with Kitchener Stitch. This is a neat seamless finish for a toe.

Here's a video clip of how it's done

Kitchener Stitch Video Clip

Finishing can also be done by casting off two stitches together (One stitch from each needle knitted as one, then knit next stitch from each needle as one and pass the 1st one over the last one. Repeat until all cast off, then weave in cut ends of yarn. I am sure there's a video for that method too but I  haven't found it yet. I'll be back like Arnie when I do!

There are endless variations possible with these socks. You can use the SKYP Rib Socks I referenced above, or a simpler ribby pattern, liek K4 P2 or K2 P1. I hope you see it as a basic pattern, and I might make it a PDF to upload to Ravelry in the future, when the General Election's over and I get my life back to normal - this time next week all will be revealed - let's hope Labour will have a new woman TD from Waterford!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 2011 Irish Blog Awards: And the Nominees!

2011 Nomination!
I noticed on Twitter the other night that the nominations had been posted for the 2011Irish Blog Awards and I am delighted that I got nominated - in two categories!

I got a nomination in the Best Personal and Best Food//Drink Blogs. Thanks a million to my nominees - you know who you are, even if I'm just guessing! I promise I won't make a cringe-making Oscar/Bafta/Ifta-style acceptance speech - unless I make it to the shortlist or the finalist list!

There are a multitude of great blogs in the numerous categories - Humour, Newcomer, Political, Politician, Best Post, Personal, Food/Drink, Youth, Irish Language (eat your heart out Fine Gael!) and  so I am delighted to get to the longlist.

Last year I was lucky enough to make the shortlist and while I didn't win, it was great to follow the progress of the awards and to read so many new (for me) blogs. So I hope you enjoy them as much as I do - life's too short to be reading them all (and do other stuff as well, like work and knit and read!) but there are plenty of good ones out there.

I already recognise a lot of the names in the various categories, some that I follow and some who follow me - and there is a great camaraderie in the blogosphere that makes everyone happy for their fellow-bloggers when they appear on the list. At least that's how I see it; maybe I'm hopelessly out of tune and everyone's really gritting their teeth to see their nemesis nominated! Well, I'll keep up my Pollyanna-ish faith in human nature and believe in my theory - there's plenty of room in the Twittersphere for acerbic wit and cutting-edge scathing commentary!

If nothing else, it's great to see the increased traffic to my blog in the past few days - for a while there I felt I was blogging for myself as there seemed to be a decline in visitor numbers, but it's turned around since the list went up, so it definitely has an impact.

I've mused before on blogging and its appeal - and while I do it mainly because I enjoy writing and sharing recipes and reviews and ideas on issues that interest me, I'd be disingenuous if I said I didn't get a buzz from having new followers and seeing comments - so keep up the ego-massage, people!

Keep on visiting, commenting and following - and I'll keep on posting Dispatches from a cold and damp Déise!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm a Stylish Blogger - or so the Award says!

I was chuffed when I got this award recently - it's been a couple of weeks ago but better late than never, Stylish Blogger no less! - from Laura in California who blogs at Our Scented Cottage, well worth a visit. Thanks a lot Laura!

I will now tell you what the Award sharing entails, for those of you who will receive it from me - if you wish to share with your fellow-bloggers just follow the guidelines below. I don't think this one is too onerous; I have refused to pass on Awards in the past that were too difficult or intrusive, so it's entirely up to you what to do. It's all a bit of fun, not something to agonise over accuracy or factual verification thereof - even if you're using a bit of poetic/artistic licence to embellish it's not a hanging offence!

To Accept The Award Requirements: Thank and Link Back to the Blogger Who Awarded You With The Award and Share 7 Things About Yourself. Award 15 Recently Discovered Great Bloggers and contact the bloggers, inform them of the award.

Right - here goes - Seven things about me (that you were afraid to ask?!)

1. I love reading - I am in a real-world book club and an online Bloggers' Book Club - which is worth checking out and much thanks to Lily for setting it up. I am not always great at reading the required books as I am always short on time - but I try. I enjoy sharing the reviews and seeing other people's opinions on a favourite read.  Our house is full of books - hubby keeps wondering where we're going to fit any more and yet there's a certain elasticity in our bookshelves! I am always reading some book or other, usually multitasking it with something else like knitting (see 2 below!)

My latest socks project - ribbed wool socks
2. My current favourite hobby is knitting - small projects like socks (See photo) which can be done anywhere - in the car, the coffee shop, watching TV, waiting around for people, hospital appointments - it makes the wait tolerable and combined with No. 1 above is the perfect relaxation. I do enjoy crochet but I am not as good at it as I once was so I defer to my daughter-in-law-to-be who has become a whiz at it since I showed her how to make a pot-holder a few short months ago - now she's teaching me her wonderful projects! Check out her Facebook Group (Jany's Cozy Crochets) for her work. Also the advent of YouTube tutorials on knitting and crochet make it accessible to the masses and the plethora of wonderful crafty books now available have reawakened interest in these terrific pastimes.

Sofia's No. 1 Cake!
3. I have always loved baking since learning the craft from my late mother as a child - I also had a friend whose grandfather had a bakery and she taught me how to make yeast bread, something not very common in Ireland - home of the Soda Bread (brown bread made with buttermilk and with Bread Soda (Soda Bicarbonate) as the raising agent. No waiting around for proving or rising and knocking down, it's a simple fast mixing method - can be wet or dry as wished, depending on whether you want to bake in a loaf tin or shaped round or whatever you fancy. Now I mostly bake cakes, buns (cupcakes) and tarts and pies. And I have a Facebook Group (Cakes, Bakes and Tasty Treats) which showcases some of my favourite recipes, all of which I've blogged about. My most recent was Sofia's First Birthday Cake which you can see here - we celebrated the big day yesterday!

4. I never travelled outside of Ireland until I was 17, when I went overland on a youth pilgrimage to Lourdes in southern France, the famous Marian shrine. I was a helper to a disabled girl, as were a a number of classmates who'd signed up for a bit of adventure, which was in short supply in the Black and White TV days of the early 70s! We had a blast - something not usually associated with pilgrimages, but perhaps there's a clue if I say the pilgrimage  was led by that notorious party animal Bishop Eamon Casey. He was quite the man-about-town then, little did we know then what we knew twenty years later - that he was a father in more than the religious title, which was disclosed by the mother of his then 17 yr old son, a handsome American lad, whose mother had fallen for the popular Bishop's charms all those years earlier. Sadly, he was vilified by the church and sent into exile in the South American missions, in contrast to all those paedophile priests whose crimes came to light years later which were covered up by the institution all the way to the Vatican. If ever there was a case for married priest and an end to compulsory celibacy, Bishop Casey epitomised it. He was a coward of course, in that he ditched Annie Murphy and embezzled diocesan funds to pay maintenance for the kid, and he never acknowledged him until Annie Murphy went public. But theirs was a consenting adult relationship, and as such should have been acknowledged by the hierarchy. 

5. I never flew until I was 22, when I went to Tenerife on my first and only package holiday after I'd finished my midwifery. Nine of us went, all girls, all just-qualified midwives, and we were ready to party. I remember being more excited by the flight than the holiday destination - until I arrived. I had little experience of sub-tropical climes to then, and revelled in two weeks of glorious sunshine in a then largely unspoilt island just discovering its tourist potential. We climbed Mount Tiede, the highest volcano/peak in Europe (not the mainland of course, but the Canary Islands are part of Spain so they are European even though they lie off the coast of Morocco, near the Western Sahara end.

6. I lived without electricity or running water for over a year - in the African bush in the mid-80s when we worked withTutsi refugees from Rwanda near Lake Burigi, the most beautiful place between Lake Victoria and Rwanda. We drew water from the river and in the rainy season collected rainwater in a tank. That was our most basic living ever - we had a small generator which would run a light bulb or two but if you put on the cooker it would dim the lights. I cooked on charcoal and got very creative - anyone who knows those little charcoal jikos or stoves knows they're slow to fire up and can be temperamental, but I ended up baking bread with two African cooking pots - like a bastable oven, one had the bread, the other sat on top with more hot coals in it, and that baked perfect bread. Murder on the tin pots though, as the heat of the charcoal on a dry pot burnt it away after a couple of uses. Happy days, the kids were small and it was pretty idyllic for them, aged 4 and 1, and I was 8 months pregnant with no. 3 when we left for the relative civilisation of Wales and a study break.

7.  I was taught Irish for 13 years in school and I still don't speak it comfortably or anywhere near fluency. This is probably a damning indictment of the school system in how it teaches Irish as a compulsory subject which was foisted on us, as it still is. In fact, it was so forced that if you failed Irish in the Leaving Cert you failed the whole exam, regardless of the rest of the exam - straight As or not. That requirement is now gone, but the baggage it carries for my generation is irreparable. I work in an Irish-speaking area and did a conversation course a few years ago which showed  me how  much I could recall and it was a fun way to learn. I see kids going to Gaelscoileanna where they're taught everything through Irish and they seem fine with it, and there's a resurgence outside Gaeltacht areas. I think future generations will be okay with the language but the teaching has to change and be relevant to everyday life. I speak near-fluent Dutch, am very comfortable in Kiswahili after years in Tanzania, and could even cope with some Lao, a tortuously difficult script and tonal language (like Thai)e that would make Serbo-Croat look like a walk in the park! 

So that's some random things to share - I tried to get a different perspective than in a previous  list for the Versatile Blogger Award I got from Mimi last year, so I hope I achieved that. I will now forward it to the following bloggers I enjoy and who won't mind being tagged with an award - I will not send it to any award-free zone! 

It's been fun to do and I hope you enjoy it too, pass it on and hopefully bring a lot more readers and followers to your blog - which is always nice. Though I write this because I enjoy the process of writing an open diary - as I see a blog - and it documents my life in a way I'm happy to share in the blogosphere. 

And the Award goes to.....
  1. Mimi @ MimiinDublin 
  2. Rudee @ A Knitting Nurse
  3. Ann @ Inkpots n'Quills
  4. Alycia @ The Curious Pug
  5. Susan @ Joyous Flowers
  6. Brownieville Girl @ Brownieville Girl
  7. Corry & Heleen @ Dutch Sisters
  8. Michelle @ MichelleTeacress
  9. Peggy @ Organic Growing Pains
  10. ShannonAnn @ One Size Knits All
  11. Lilly @ Stuff I make, bake and love
  12. Barbara @ Tanzania 5.0
  13. Maeve @ The Delights of Tea and Other Things 
  14. Kitty Cat @ Red Lemonade
  15. Barbara @ From my Kitchen Table 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Irish Blog Awards 2011 - Nomination Time again.

Hard to believe it's a year since the Irish Blog Awards and they have rolled around again. I was lucky last year to get nominated and shortlisted to the last 25 which was a great morale boost for this blogger. I was nominated in two categories, Personal Blog and Food Blog. It was great fun browsing the nominations and seeing the quality of the blogs was a humbling experience.

As far as I know I haven't been nominated thus far, so I will be delighted if any readers see fit to put my blog forward in any category they think it fits. It will be a great honour and very exciting if I do get nominated onto a category, and I will be looking through the blogs I follow to nominate some of them, as they are surely deserving.

It's fun to follow the progress of the blogs through to the finals, and to see who the ultimate winners are.The finals are in Belfast on March 19th and the only criteria for entry is to have been actively blogging between March and December 2010.

Have a look at the website and nominations page and perhaps you will find a category that fits some of the Irish blogs you follow, and you'll have a friend for life if you nominate that blog.

Happy browsing and keep in touch with the awards site as it updates through the heats. I will continue blogging my heart out for the foreseeable future as it is a nice outlet for writing about everything day-to-day in life - from the sublime to the ridiculous.

This is especially relevant now that it's open season on venting and rants with the 2011 General Election about three weeks away. Happy days will be here again, as we all hope for change, echoing Labour leader Eamon "Happy" Gilmore, the persistent poll-topper for Taoiseach. Let's see if the polls' accuracy stands up to scrutiny after the election. Watch this space!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Labour of Love in the General Election 2011

Lismore Labour Women with Ciara the Candidate!
Today has  been a  historic one for Ireland - the 30th Dáil (Parliament) has just been dissolved and the road to the General Election 2011 Campaign is open. Until the dissolution of the Dáil the campaign posters couldn't go up in public places - not that that stopped some of them stealing a march on their opponents - I saw posters for another candidate (not Labour!) this afternoon in Waterford City - about 3 hours too early!

The Labour Selection Convention 25th January 2011 Waterford
Since two Labour Party Candidates for Waterford Constituency were selected last week I've hardly seen hubby Jan - he's been appointed Director of Elections for Ciara Conway's campaign. Seamus Ryan is the other candidate for Labour. He's based in Waterford City and Ciara in Dungarvan, so there's good countywide representation. Hopefully they'll both get plenty of canvassing done across the county in the coming four weeks leading up to the General Election which will take place on Feburary 25th. If you like you can scan the Labour Party policies which they will bring into government should they be in that position in a few weeks time - which looks like a distinct possibility, if they can negotiate a coalition deal with Fine Gael.

Labour Waterford Women supporting Ciara for the Dáil
 The ruling junta party Fianna Fail (take as read - there should be a fada (á accent) over the "a" in Fail but I prefer it without - more appropriate!) has just bit the dust after being in power for 61 of the last 79 years. For the past 14 years they have brought the country to its knees with their self-serving economic stroke politics of favouring jobs for the boys, propping up dynastic political families with no claim to serve other than taking over the seat of a father or uncle, and creating a housing and property bubble that made millionaires out of developers while crippling people with mortgages for inflated house prices that will never recoup their original value, leaving thousands in negative equity and with job losses, at risk of repossession.

Ciara's campaign launch - Director of Elections Jan speaking
 It's probably a good idea to comfort eat our way through this recession. My previous post is a good example of this, with the recipe for a slow-cooker casserole. Cheap cuts of meat do well in slow-cookers too, so that's another plus! Since the start of the year I am down about €150 a month nett with the new USC - an nice innocuous-sounding acronym for the most inequitable charge we've seen since the pension levies of 2009. This Universal Social Charge is hitting poorer lower-paid workers far more than higher earners, as it draws into its net people previously exempt, because they were deemed too poor to pay levies like health and income levies if they had a medical card.
Ciara speaking at campaign launch

Ciara and her Director of Elections Jan
The charge is now levied on all earning above €4000 p.a. - in other words, everyone in work. So while I might be hit with €150 per month less take-home pay, someone on half my salary could be disproportionately hit and lose €100 - €150. By the way, under the Croke Park deal the public sector didn't get any wage cut - our gross pay stays the same. Just what's in our pocket at the end of the month is down. So it's like a pay cut of about €2000p.a. for  me, and I would bet if I was being means-tested for anything like a grant for college it's my gross pay that'd count!

I wanted to mark this historic day as I hope we're on the cusp of a new age in Irish politics, with Labour at the forefront, even in coalition, where they'll bring in their key policies of Jobs, Reform and Fairness. These aren't mere waffle, as their modus operandi is clearly outlined in the Policy document.

We had Ciara's launch last night in Dungarvan and there will be canvassing and campaigning ad infinitum and ad nauseum for the next three weeks. Fianna Fail canvassers will get a rough time on the campaign trail so even though they go into the campaign with a new leader after Biffo/Brian Cowen bowed to the inevitable opprobrium heaped on him by his own fellow party members, Micheál Martin, his successor, is tainted with being in the cabinet and Minister of key portfolios during the years of excess and waste otherwise known as the Celtic Tiger.

Surely the words of former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy will come back to haunt the Soldiers of Destiny (a.k.a. Fianna Fail) - If I have it, I'll spend it, was his style during his giveaway budgets during the boom years. Trouble was, we didn't actually have it, it was all built on the bubble of property and development that was totally unsustainable and has come crashing down around us in the past two years, leading us to the arms of the IMF and the ECB, our new taskmasters. It looks like we'll be indentured to them for many years to come. Time for Bono to start a Drop the Debt campaign, as I suggested in another post. Little chance of that!