Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Seamus Duke News Column

BERATING BRIAN: is the media determined to drive Cowen from office? 

There was a lot of publicity about Brian Cowen completing his first 100 days as Taoiseach last Thursday and it seems to me that the media campaign against the Offaly man has, if anything, been stepped up. I referred to the very obvious campaign by the Sunday Independent to undermine Cowen a few weeks ago and that campaign has been maintained in recent weeks. Then last week, the daily papers took up that baton and ran with it. 

  I know that the economy is in a state of recession – and that thousands of people are losing their jobs and that the stock market has collapsed – but very little of that can be attributed to Brian Cowen or his government. 

  The one big mistake that was made over the time of the economic boom is that the economy was far too dependent on the construction industry. The government were certainly guilty of aiding and abetting that process. However the Irish government did not create the credit crunch, they did not raise the price of a barrel of oil to 135 dollars, they did not cause the stock markets to fall nor are they responsible for the weather that has caused so many problems this summer. 

  The things that I would fault the government for are their complacent attitude to the Lisbon Treaty which saw them lose the vote heavily, and their failure to secure a deal on pay (however that process is not over yet). 

  Just because Brian Cowen is not as good as Bertie Ahern at courting media favour, he is deemed to be a disastrous Taoiseach. The fact that he would lose and find Bertie in terms of intelligence does not seem to matter. It is certain that the media are determined to get Cowen out of office as fast as they can. Maybe it’s a Dublin thing, but I cannot understand it.

  Last week Enda Kenny had a real go at Brian Cowen and the government and as the leader of the opposition he was dead right to do so. That’s his job. In fact a lot of Fine Gael people would say that he does not do it often enough. However I have a feeling that the Dublin media don’t like Kenny either. 

  The way things are going, Fianna Fail are set to take a pasting in the local and euro elections next May. That was going to happen anyway but the fact that huge sections of the national media are totally anti Brian Cowen will mean that the losses by Fianna Fail will be even bigger. The tough thing for the Taoiseach is that there is not one thing he can do about it. Perhaps he could start to repair the damage by knocking heads together to come up with a pay deal early next month. It would be a start.

Gavin a super-sub!

RTE Radio 1 should be renamed ‘Gavin Jennings FM’ after this month of August. The affable broadcaster seems to be on every time I turn on the radio over the past three weeks. 

  He is filling in for Sean O’Rourke on News at One, he is presenting Saturday Sport and I tuned into Monday Night Soccer on RTE 2 TV and lo and behold if Jennings wasn’t doing voiceovers for the match highlights they were showing! 

  Everyone knows at this stage that Pat Kenny, Joe Duffy, Marian Finucane, Gerry Ryan and many others get substantial time off during the summer. To add to that there is the 50 or so RTE staff that are in Beijing at the Olympics. 

  Jennings is a very accomplished broadcaster but the sad thing about it is that when all the ‘heavy gang’ come back he will be reduced to doing the sports news and an odd time on Morning Ireland. I met Jennings a few times and he is very nice guy and in fact is the holder of a medical degree. He is certainly played a blinder while the ‘stars’ are away.

Olympics analysis

I have been watching bits and pieces of The Olympics on RTE and although swimming would not be at the top of my list of favourite sports I always find myself watching when I see that Gary O’Toole is doing analysis. He is superb – well-informed, a great speaker and good craic too. 

  He calls a spade a spade too and his take on the massive and sudden improvement in the performances of the Chinese women swimmers at the Games was revealing. He simply said that what they had achieved “wasn’t possible” under normal circumstances. 

  It shows that there is a massive cloud still hanging over the Games and the performances of certain athletes. So why are these athletes not tested, I hear you say? I for one would not like to be the guy who tested a gold medal winning Chinese athlete and found them to be cheating. Would you?

Greed leads to tourism fall-off

It was interesting to watch the TV reports last week on the collapse of the tourist industry in Ireland in 2008. The surprise to me is that people were surprised! The facts are that there has been a massive rip-off going on in this country over the past ten years and it could not be sustained. 

  Visitors who came here and experienced the rip-off are staying well away for future holidays. Anyone who has been abroad in recent years will agree with me. We have killed the goose that laid the golden egg with greed. 

  The people on the TV last week who were whinging about the massive fall in trade this year are the very people who were charging the tourists rip-off prices over the past ten years and who thought that they would never see a poor day again. 

  Thankfully the collapse in tourism numbers will not have too much affect in Roscommon because we have suffered here badly over the years anyway. 

  The people in the big tourism locations have only themselves to blame for the downturn. I know the poor weather has played its part in the drop in figures this year but then again, was there ever any guarantee about the weather in Ireland? 

  The day of Ireland being ‘Ireland of the thousand welcomes’ and that being enough  to get us by with tourists is long gone unfortunately. We have often heard that people do not come to Ireland for the weather or the value or the prices – it’s for the craic – well it’s not true anymore.

Some good news…

It’s not all bad news…….anyone from this region who has to drive to Dublin on a regular basis will have been delighted at the opening in recent weeks of the motorway all the way to Athlone. 

  The new road is a fantastic addition to the infrastructure of the region and will speed up the journey to Dublin for Roscommon people – and will make it safer too. 

  The only thing that’s annoying at the moment is that the section between Athlone and Kinnegad is still restricted to 100 kph. But I presume that will be rectified soon.

Why I’m against third level fees

Last week the results for the 2008 Leaving Certificate were released and the race for college places is now on again. There is an increase in the numbers going to college this year – for one very simple reason. The amount of jobs available for those who wanted to go that route in recent years is not there any more. The points race is still a massive rat race and it’s hard for students to try and get the course that they are interested in. 

  The debate about the re-introduction of third level fees was also started last week by Minister Batt O’Keeffe. I would be totally against that idea. The cost of sending a student to college, even the way it stands at the moment, is enormous and a lot of people do not realise that there are massive registration fees being charged now for almost every course. 

  We have got to invest in the future and if we re-introduce fees then many young people will decide not to go on to third level education. The only alternative after that would be emigration because there is not exactly a flood of jobs available in Ireland at the moment.