I’d not seen the broadsheet.ie posts referred to, but nice commentary!

Come Here To Me!

Many of you would have seen a recent post on broadsheet.ie, entitled ‘Everyone’s A Critic’. The topic was the manner in which Dublin City Council were placing art gallery information displays alongside pieces of street art, which were extremely sarcastic in tone.

The irony of this of course is that Wood Quay, and the Dublin Civic Offices, could be one of the greatest acts of vandalism in Dublin’s history. Viking Dublin was literally destroyed in the name of progress in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, in an act of wreckless cultural vandalism.

Thousands marched to save Wood Quay, but it just wasn’t enough.

Some Dubliners haven’t forgotten.

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As usual, Adrian hits it right on the nose. Keep up thegood work, sir!

"I care because I care"

Is anonymous donor assisted pregnancy and surrogacy the ethical solution for the many childless couples out there? In fact what is ethical pregnancy/surrogacy? For me there is only one question that needs to be answered in order for us to progress this debate. What is in the best interest of the child? We, in Ireland are about to have a referendum to put the child at the centre of the legislative decision making process. This is not before its time in relation to surrogacy as the current laws and guidelines are so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible.

(http://www.dfa.ie/uploads/documents/Passport_documents/surrogacy%20guidance%20document.pdf )

Two core areas really concern me in relation to surrogacy. Firstly the countries that are the leading producers of surrogate mothers are some of the poorest countries in the world, and secondly what and how do we tell our children when they start to ask questions about their conception…

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Bureaucracy is *fun*!

I keep telling people how efficient certain parts of the public sector are.  And it’s true.  No matter how much the Sindo would have you believe that every public servant is evil or incompetent or thieving or inefficient or lazy or… well, you get the picture – sometimes, quite often, in fact, we do stuff well.

With reducing resources, in adverse circumstances, and with a concerted campaign to demean and belittle us, and make us guilty for daring to get paid for doing our jobs – really, we do manage to be efficient.  And having friends at all levels of the private sector, I know that we are often more efficient than the private sector.

But not always.

I’d heard about an interesting vacancy advertised on PublicJobs so I go to have a look. Or, well, I try to.

First, I can’t get the site to do anything.  My browser has frozen.  No, wait now. It’s the site. They’ve put up a popup warning me about (SHOCK! HORROR!) the danger of cookies, and how their cookies aren’t really dangerous.  It’s just that the popup blends in so well with the site that you don’t actually notice it.

Close that popup and we hit problem number two – you can do nothing unless you’re logged in.  You can’t even download the application form.  So you have to register with the site so you can log in.

Oh, look – you have to create a Username. Which can’t be your email address.  That’s… quaint.  Security questions?  Yes, the same security questions most sites ask for.  At least they could phrase it differently – “What’s your pornstar name?” so they can get your first pet’s name and mother’s maiden name in one question.

We get there eventually. We get the form downloaded. We get told we need Adobe version 7 (no, we need Adobe reader, there’s a difference) but that’s ok.

Then we find out that to apply for a senior position in the Irish civil/public service you get  exactly the same application form as you would when applying for the most junior post.

“Give below, in date order (starting with your current employer), full particulars of all employment (including any periods of unemployment) between the date of leaving school or college and the present date. No period between these dates should be unaccounted for.”

For real?  I’m applying for a fairly senior post.  You make it clear people need relevant experience.  You’re not getting people fresh out of college here.  But you want to know everything they’ve done since they left secondary school or college?

In my case, that’s well over twenty years.  I do not see how filling out boxes about a FÁS course I did in the 1980s, some months I spent unemployed back then, or a couple of years spent working in a clothes shop can be of any benefit to you or to me.  In fact, even finding the relevant dates will be a pain in the ass – and will involve me taking up the valuable time of other public servants as I try to find this information during working hours. “Hello – I was unemployed twenty-something years ago for a couple of months – if I give you my PPS number, can you get me the dates?  And would there be anything about a FÁS course on there too?  Thanks, I’ll hold…”

Private sector people – middle-to-senior management job.  You’d be looking at what, last ten years only?  Add in other, older stuff if it directly supports the application?

The sad thing is this is pretty much exactly the same application form they were using five or six years ago,. the last time I filled one of these out.  So in six years, there’s been not one person in the Public Appointments Service who has said “You know, this is bullshit.  At this level, the interview boards always skip the early stuff  – let’s save everyone’s time and resources and just ask…”

Mind you, last time, I thought to myself “I’m scanning this, just in case…” and had a hard drive crash.  So yeah, there is a benefit to bureaucracy, and doing things in triplicate…

Apocrypha I and II

In a taxi recently, the driver started re-telling the story of the Blue Lion, the pub (pictured) formerly on Parnell Street and now a Chinese restaurant. For anyone unfamiliar with the Blue Lion – well, perhaps this review would be the most accurate.

The most well known tale of recent vintage is probably apocryphal. For those not familiar with this story, when the Celtic Tiger took off and Ireland began to be a destination for immigration, a large Nigerian population moved into the environs of north inner-city Dublin. The story goes that some of these decided, one day, to visit the Blue Lion, and suggested to the barman that it might be in his interests to pay a little money to make sure nothing untoward happened to the premises. “Ok,” said the barman. “But I’ve just opened. Can you come back later when I’ll have some cash?” The obliging protection racketeers agreed, left, and returned at the appointed time. The door was locked behind them, the pub fell silent, and the random patrons – all IRA men – took out their baseball bats and hurleys…

The moral of the tale being, no doubt, that if you’re going to be a criminal, then know who your potential victims are. And don’t mess with the locals.

I’ve heard the above story several times from several different sources over the years. Like all such stories, it’s just plausible enough that you can’t help feeling that if it isn’t true, it should have been.

While doing some research for the above (ok, for “research”, substitute “I Googled some terms”), I came across this story, also featuring the Blue Lion:

“Pubs are dull enough places at any time though not so dull in Ireland as they are in England. I suppose I know most of them in Dublin and I’d rather have them than the pubs in London. I remember being in the ‘Blue Lion’ in Parnell Street one day and the owner said to me: ‘You owe me ten shillings,’ he said ‘you broke a glass the last time you were here.’ ‘God bless us and save us,’ I said, ‘it must have been a very dear glass if it cost ten shillings. Tell us, was it a Waterford glass or something?’ I discovered in double-quick time that it wasn’t a glass that you’d drink out of he meant – it was a pane of glass and I’d stuck somebody’s head through it.”

Which segues nicely into the second (probably) apocryphal tale I heard on that taxi ride, that of the young Mr Behan’s family. After the family had moved from Russel Street in the north inner city out to Crumlin, Brendan’s father, Stephen, was somewhat lazy in digging their new garden. Nagged once too often by Mrs Behan, he phoned the Special Branch with an anonymous tip-off. The family being notorious republicans, the call’s information that “There’s IRA guns buried out the back of the Behan house” was taken very seriously indeed. Out arrived a whole bunch of coppers, armed with shovels – and several hours later, there was one garden, dug!