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Fighting White-Collar Crime

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The Government's latest proposals for fighting white-collar crime don't go half far enough given the scale and complexity of the problem and singular failure of the current system to efficiently investigate and successfully prosecute cases.

For example, the measures fail to facilitate class actions and champerty; to make reckless lending a crime; or to extend the statute of limitations.

In addition, they could have permitted rewards to 'bona fide' whistleblowers, granted immunity to 'first confessors', allowed plea bargaining, placed onus of proof on defendants and made perjury a crime.

More far reaching measures could have included a white-collar criminal court, extending the use of the civil standard of proof and providing for punitive damages at corporate and individual levels.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 4th November 2017.

Water and Electricity Meters

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Would swapping all our under-used water meters for smart electricity meters be a shocking idea?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 23rd September 2017.

Spin Doctor's Dictionary

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"Elevate"should be added to the ever-growing dictionary used by spin doctors alongside "mature reflection", "fake news", "alternative facts", "mental reservation", "scapegoating", "forgetfulness", "systemic error" and "post-truth".

Letter published in Irish Times on 20th September 2017.

Water Meters Down the Drain

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In the light of the Drogheda water supply failure, it is worthwhile marking the water meter debacle by estimating its cost and placing this in context. 

The total cost could hit €714 million covering meters (€574 million), conservation grant (€90 million) and related administration for billing, grants and refunds (say €50 million). This 'sunk cost' equates to 13 per cent of Irish Water's capital expenditure plan for 2014-21 and ignores the recurring benefits that would have accrued if the same amount had been invested in productive leak-prevention or supply-security projects.

The €714 million can be compared with about €200 million expended on the HSE's PPARS computer system and €54 million lost on e-voting machines, to name just two recent financially-challenged projects,

Letter published in the Irish Times on 26th July 2017,

Here is the text of a letter sent on 28th January 2016 to Dr Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, about quantitative easing:

I am writing to you as an Irish citizen who, like yourself, is concerned about the state of the EU's economy. I refer to your recent statements about extending the ECB's programme of quantitative easing to help stimulate Eurozone growth and inflation.

If I may be so bold to say so, I don't think that simply acquiring financial assets from major institutions will achieve these objectives as your measure is much too remote from the real economy where growth and inflation actually occur. My view is supported by many leading experts (including the Fed) who seem to agree that QE may not be working as intended1

Horses and Health

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If food labelling fails to disclose ingredients, how can the nutritional information be accurate?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 9th February 2013.

OMG, WTF, LOL

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OMG, what has become of the paper of record?

On Tuesday last Fintan O'Toole and Frank McDonald (Opinion and World News, December 11th) both used the term WTF in their articles. Do you plan to explain what WTF means to uninitiated readers? LOL.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 17th December 2012.

Say Cheese

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The big cheeses say 'hard cheese'. They must be crackers if they think people will swallow this.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 6th November 2010.

Name for Dublin's Wheel

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How about "The Spinning Wheel" to reflect the fact that our politicians are always spinning and going around in circles?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 25th August 2010. Other suggestions included:

  • Ireland's Eye
  • Whirly Gig
  • Dublin Money-Spinner
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • The Wheeler Dealer
  • Roulette
  • Dublin Eye Soar
  • The Turning Point
  • Wheel-a-Wheel-Abhaile
  • Eye of the Tiger (RIP)
  • Dub Hub
  • Eye'll Go On
  • Pointless

Changing the Irish Constitution

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As indicated in my posting Your Country Your Call, I submitted an idea entitled New Republic - New Constitution proposing that a Citizens' Assembly be established to help prepare a new Constitution to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. You can vote for my entry here.

In this posting, I elaborate on the proposal by suggesting some possible changes to the 1937 Constitution, I cannot be too specific as I don't have all the answers and don't even know all the right questions!  Purposefully, I have steered clear of some potentially controversial issues like the status of Irish, religion and the family. Constitutional law can be very technical and it would be important to consult widely via the proposed Citizens' Assembly and to secure the help of experts and other interested parties.

You can view the Constitution or buy a copy in bookshops for under €3. Relevant material on the Internet includes the following:

Of course, the political parties have their own views on possible constitutional changes as do many representative and special interest groups.

Here are my thoughts to get the ball rolling:

Your Country Your Call

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I have submitted a proposal entitled New Republic - New Constitution to the Your Country Your Call competition which was launched by the President of Ireland. You can see my entry and, hopefully vote for it, at http://tinyurl.com/y7en6rh.

It proposes that the Citizens' Assembly mechanism be used to undertake a comprehensive review of the 1937 Constitution with a view to a new Constitution being put to a referendum ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Rising. A New Republic with a New Constitution would be a much more appropriate way to celebrate this than the predictable parades, flags and monuments.

I had been kicking the idea around for some time but was unable to see how it be progressed without being high-jacked by politicians for their own ends. Several references to Citizens' Assemblies in the inspiring Renewing the Republic series (published by the Irish Times during March/April) were the keys to the door!

Here is my full proposal:

Mental Reservations and Mature Reflection

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Is it too much to expect people in public positions to answer questions truthfully without recourse to mental reservations, mature reflection or overnight consideration?

Letter to editor published in the Sunday Business Post on 6th December 2009.

Citizens' Initiative

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Given that the main political parties all supported the Lisbon Treaty, would they consider adopting a measure for Ireland similar to the Treaty's Citizens' Initiative whereby at least a million EU citizens from a significant number of member States could request the EU Commission to bring forward proposals on a particular issue?

Based on the Lisbon model, we could be talking about a minimum of eight thousand citizens from, say, six counties being able to oblige the Cabinet or Dail to consider an issue or for the Government to hold a referendum. Apparently, such a proposal was included in a draft of the 1922 Constitution of the Free State. Citizens' initiatives operate in Switzerland, New Zealand, Estonia and about half the States in the US. A measure along these lines might help bridge the yawning gap exposed by Lisbon between our politicians and the electorate. What issues would readers propose as citizens' initiatives?

When the Wind Doesn't Blow

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In his opinion piece on behalf of the Irish Wind Energy Association, Paddy Teahon (2nd April) suggests that Ireland has one of the best wind resources in the world and that wind is the only creditable option to achieve the one-third renewable target. He highlights the main challenges confronting his industry including uncertain policies, moratoriums and planning restrictions. However, he completely fails to mention the greatest challenge of all - uncertain supply of wind. At time of writing, wind is supplying just 13 MW out of a total demand of 3,885 MW, that is 0.33% of demand. Is the wind industry whistling in the wind or in the dark?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 6th April 2007.

Tongue in Cheek

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I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about RTE's latest series, Rip Off Republic, which features a standup comedian and a large audience which laughs hilariously at his vile jibes. He imparts a verbal stream of cheap shots and below-the-belt digs at many important national institutions, industries and individuals.

Subjects of abuse have included ministers, TDs, publicans, importers, builders, taxation, government policies and competition rules.

RTE should be severely censured for broadcasting such drivel under the guise of a factual program and the offended should be offered a right of reply to rebut the scandalous and outrageous insinuations about their alleged high prices, weak policies and unscrupulous behaviour. 

I'm so incensed that my tongue is stuck in a cheek.

Our Second Language

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Surely, the second most widely used language in Ireland is either Polish or Mandarin rather than Irish. I wonder what the Polish for Dingle is?

Whitewashing

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Given that heads are rolling within the BBC as a result of faulty reporting, can we assume the UK Government and heads of its security services will resign if no weapons of mass destruction are found. What a widgery, oops, I mean whitewash !

Letter published in Irish Times on 30th January 2004.

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