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OPINION: Something not quite kosher in run-up to referendum?

March 5th, 2018 11:45 AM

By Southern Star Team

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THE abortion controversy has reached the placid streets of Skibbereen. Our philosopher friend, who occasionally holds court at Dinty’s, announced its arrival having perused the excellent website of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment (pro-abortion) and making this truly earth-shattering discovery: you don’t have to be a woman to have an abortion!   
Shocked at the discovery of a total inversion of what was considered a matter for the female sex, he hurriedly sought the assistance of people who could provide information and reassurance, namely those at Réalt a’ Deiscirt.
 So, as best we could, we offered a tricky and somewhat toe-curling explanation of what we believed the pro-abortion people had in mind. They were referring to individuals who described themselves as ‘CIS,’ ‘Trans’ and ‘Gender-Fluid,’ which (as far as we were aware) was the terminology for unusual gender identities. We warned that such gender identities can vary in response to different circumstances and may not be exclusively masculine or feminine. Hence the confusion.
Totally flummoxed, and having absolutely no idea of what we were talking about, or that the abortion referendum could contain such intricate conundrums, our philosopher friend declared: ‘Ah yes, CIS. Now I understand. That’s the Confederacy of Independent Systems, as in the Star Wars movie, right?”
‘Got it in one!’ we answered, making our excuses and desperately fleeing to the sanctuary of Cahalane’s pub, where we swore that for the rest of our life to never mention again the gynaecological dilemmas of CIS people, and ambiguous gender definitions.  Or, for that matter, Star Wars!
 
More confusion
And then there’s this bubbling controversy. Anti-abortion groups are claiming that something may not be quite kosher with the government’s referendum because of the controversial way it is conducting the run-up to the plebiscite.  
So concerned are the groups that they’ve reminded Minister Harris that all the organisations involved in the abortion referendum must comply with instructions from the Standards in Public Office Commission, which prohibits the use of public funds to support one side of a referendum debate. 
They are also unhappy that the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), an organisation that they claim is at the forefront of the Yes vote campaign, received over €2.7m in public funds since 2011 and recently had its funding increased by €80,000.  Harris has met this particular group to brief them on ‘the process ahead of the referendum.’ 
That’s not fair, say the anti-abortion people who seek an end to what they call ‘secret government meetings.’ In a recent communication to this newspaper, they complained that ‘there is one rule for the repeal campaign, and another for everyone else,’ and that the government in its desperation to win the referendum was ‘flouting the laws of the land with reckless impunity.’
It was also critical of another ‘repeal’ group, the Irish branch of Amnesty International, for not returning to an American donor a very large sum of money.
 
Distressed mortgages
The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, has written a Bill that would give some kind of protection to families confronted by loathsome American vultures ready to seize their homes. According to De Paper, the Bill ‘would set up a co-operative system to allow for the purchase of distressed mortgages which could then be rented back to the mortgage holders.’  And, said its drafter, ‘the Bill sets a high bar for repossessions and it’s a bar which really the vulture funds will not be inclined to jump.’
So far, government politicos have said nothing, other than the statement from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe who claimed Permanent TSB’s decision to sell 18,000 mortgages to vulture funds was good for the economy. Although Permanent TSB was three-quarters owned by the State, Donohoe was adamant that he would not interfere with commercial banks and the way that they sell their loans.
 In the meantime, his boss, Vlad, waffled-on about an opportunity that still existed to prevent Permanent TSB from selling 20,000 distressed mortgages and that his government ‘very much stands on the side of people trying to pay their debts.’
Certainly, the Master of the High Court was not impressed by Varadkar’s personal advice to people facing repossession which, he said, consisted of information on where to get a voucher for €200 worth of legal advice before going into the circuit court. Mr Honohan described it as ‘a sick joke.’  
 He also asked why the Taoiseach’s office was so misinformed about the situation and why they were unable to formulate a ‘reasonable policy’ to cope with the wave of repossessions that was about to break.
 Vlad did not respond – presumably because the question was ‘a hard one’ – although he had seven ‘advisers’ reporting directly to him, including the chief government spokesman. They’re paid between €65,000 and €110,000 and, last month, enjoyed increases that ranged from €650 a year up to €1,100. Question is: what do these guys do?
 
Hitting a bum note
And now for something different. Just before Christmas 2017, RTÉ furtively suggested that its two orchestras – the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra –  could be for the chop. They cost €15.6 million to run, had a €2.9 deficit and, presumably, RTÉ management is brassed-off at having to fork out such a large amount of cash on arty-farty stuff.
The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to classical music, while the RTÉ Concert Orchestra includes popular music and has a wider audience. The station is legally required to maintain the two orchestras – after all, we purport to be a culturally advanced country – but grouchy RTÉ philistines declared that they intended to ‘review’ the operations of both orchestras ‘and to assess their role as the station plans for the future.’
They say their intention is to take into consideration what current and future audiences want.  And that’s ominous shorthand for dumbing down classical music to the lowest common denominator – possibly even to the Marty in the Morning level (Interestingly, Berlin has seven world famous orchestras and Finland eight). 
Already SIPTU and the Musicians Union of Ireland have warned that any cutbacks in the ranks of our highly talented musicians would be met by significant opposition – but nobody knows what that means, if anything!
So far there’s been no murmurs of dissent from the politicos, which suggests that, instead of taking pride in the achievements of our orchestras, they couldn’t care less. Perhaps their padlocked ears only open when the music is loud.
Oh, and talking of ‘sick jokes,’ here are a few corny musical ones to entertain RTÉ vulgarians. For instance, this one: Middle C, E Flat and G walked into a bar. ‘Sorry,’ the barman said, ‘we don’t serve minors.’  
Or this: Why didn’t Handel go shopping?  Because he was Baroque!  Or this truly awful one: Why couldn’t the string quartet find their composer?  He was Haydn.  (You’re fired – Ed).
 

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