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Politics and the state of the economy are the favourite topics of conversation in Ireland [oh yes, and the weather]. Everyone is keen to give you their opinion of how the government, through its incompetence, and the banks, through their greed, have run the once prosperous country into the ground. David spends many hours with the Doctor-on-Call drivers, whizzing along country lanes to minister to patients “in distress”.
One of the well-equipped Doctor-on-Call cars

One of the well-equipped Doctor-on-Call cars

The drivers are a great source of information and local opinion. Many of them are farmers: Diarmud recently gave up farming sheep on his ancestral farm because the poor returns did not compensate for the hard work put in. Michael still farms “dry stock” [cattle for beef]. Philip invested €15000 in a new, potentially profitable energy crop called elephant grass, only to have half the crop die due to mismanagement [and ignorance] by the company hired to plant the rhizomes. Mike farms dairy cattle, but battles to make ends meet because the co-operatives are squeezing the farmers dry; previously they were paid 35c for a litre of milk, but now they receive only 23c, whereas the cost of production is about 28c per litre. Everyone agrees that during the good times, masses of money was squandered by authorities and individuals, and future planning was non-existent.
A typical farmyard near Newcastle West

A typical farmyard near Newcastle West

The recession is biting hard and the rate of unemployment has never been higher. Those who do still have jobs are having to adjust to cuts in salaries. The cost of living here is the highest we have encountered in Europe. In France we usually bought wines for about €2 a bottle; here one cannot find plonk for anything under €5 or €6 a bottle. Hospitals are downgrading many of their facilities to save money. Everyone seems to be struggling, which has not happened in the past 30 years.

Headshops are very much in the national news.
A Headshop in Wexford

A Headshop in Wexford

These are vendors of “legal highs”, which are open throughout the night, selling cheap chemical analogues of well-known drugs to kids of all ages. These products are readily available on school playgrounds too. They are difficult to ban as the chemical structure keeps changing, but can be really lethal. Several kids and adults have died using them recently. Several headshops have been burned down by local communities in Dublin, as the authorities are powerless to close them down. The drug "mephedrone" [Mcat or Meow], responsible for several deaths recently, has just been banned for free sale in the UK.

Protests are taking place in London today calling for the Pope to do the decent thing and resign. Everyone is disgusted by the enforced oaths of secrecy and cover-ups in the catholic Church, now coming to light. People who were sexually abused by priests 20-30 years ago, are now speaking out and demanding justice. Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Church in Ireland and himself involved in enforcing oaths of secrecy in the 1970s, is refusing to resign. Apparently a secret Papal decree was issued in Latin in 1922 to all Cardinals, instructing them to keep all cases of sexual abuse contained within the Church.
The Pope has apologised to victims in Ireland, but the apology only came after public pressure, and laid the blame at the door of the Irish bishops. Now even the Pope himself has been implicated in cover-ups. We are surprised to learn that Good Friday is not a public holiday in Ireland, since 5 years ago! What is the Catholic Church coming to? A big national football match is scheduled for Friday and now the pubs have won a court case to serve liquor during the screening of the game.

Posted by davidsandi 14:19 Archived in Ireland

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