Square Pegs – Thinking Of You

Need a pick-me-up?

This should do the trick. An Irish supergroup of all the talents, Square Pegs comprises Colm Quearney, Conor Brady, Justin Carroll, Cian Boylan, Graham Hopkins and Naomi Macleod.

The result is every bit as good as you’d expect.

Nick says: Be Square.

Square Pegs


This morning.

Gougane Barra, County Cork.

What a racket.

From top: Steward’s Lodge, Phoenix Park; distance between Carpenterstown and The Wellington Monument Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and friends at the Monumnet last Sunday;

This morning.

Via Independent.ie:

On May 13, on ‘The Dermot and Dave Show’ on Today FM, the Taoiseach was asked if he was working from home and he replied: “It’s a bit of a combination, so I’m set up half in the office, half at home.”

He was then asked what the room he is working in is like to which he said: “No, no actually I’ve use of a house on the grounds of Farmleigh.”

However, when one of the hosts said this sounded “very salubrious”, Mr Varadkar said: “I’m still in my flat in Carpenterstown, though.”

The Taoiseach added there was “stuff ” in the State-owned lodge that he doesn’t have at home.

A statement issued by the Taoiseach’s Office when photos of Mr Varadkar in the park emerged said: “The Taoiseach has been in Steward’s Lodge during the last few weeks as it has secure office and videoconferencing facilities, which allows him to work from home.”

The response followed suggestions Mr Varadkar may have breached social-distancing rules by meeting his friends by the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park.

The Taoiseach’s apartment in his Dublin West constituency is almost 8km from the monument.

Varadkar said two weeks ago that State lodge ‘only for work’ (Independent.ie)

Yesterday: Picnicked

Monday: Sunday In The Park With Leo

Wikimedia/Google Maps/Twitter


From top: The GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1 last week as many sought access to emergency welfare payments; Eamonn Kelly

Cheap Labour and Free Money

Ever since Leo Varadkar inadvertently revealed on Newstalk Breakfast last week  that Fine Gael’s job creation claims included almost a quarter of a million Irish people working for wages below the CSO poverty threshold of €235, there has been almost total silence in the Irish media.

Anne Rabbitte of Fianna Fáil burst out on radio and seemed outraged that people were “getting a hell of a lot more than they should be getting”.

Brenda Power bellowed from her Sunday Times pulpit and declared that the people receiving the Covid-19 payment, the same people working for wages below the poverty line, were “scammers”.

The interesting aspect of what has emerged is less to do with pay rates, and more to do with the attitude of these people towards those they clearly consider undeserving of the same benefits and privileges that they enjoy.

This attitude was apparent too a few weeks back when Leo Varadkar invited laughter and incredulity when he told that anecdote about “hearing” about people on part time schemes asking to be let go to avail of the Covid-19 payment.

All of this belittling of these underpaid workers is most likely a deliberate grooming for a fresh round of austerity measures.

Media Bias

Gene Kerrigan, writing in the Sunday Independent (May 24), noticed the general silence of the mainstream media on the issue, and noted that the Irish Times, rather than covering the mysterious case of the quarter of a million Irish workers living below the poverty line, chose instead to report on a story about President Higgins, who had given a short interview to an Italian Communist newsletter interested in the views of a socialist president in a European country.

On a normal day the story wouldn’t make page 7. During that interview, concerning the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown, Michael D opined that a return to austerity would not be a good thing.

The Irish Times, as Kerrigan showed, drummed this non-story up into a kind of red scare story, insinuating that the president was a troublesome communist who had “raised eyebrows” in government circles with his comments.

But the Irish Times failed to mention anything about the 240,000 people working below the poverty line, who are counted by Fine Gael’s statisticians as job creation successes.

Who are these impoverished workers? Why is the Irish media not interested? Is it the same attitude that saw them described elsewhere as scammers? Why are these people not important enough to mention?

The “Clients”

Many of them are carers working full time for €203 per week, a full €32 below the CSO poverty threshold.

But the majority are most likely part-time workers working for private employers, or on one of the several job-creation schemes, such as CE, Tús, JobsPlus, Yess and similar schemes organized by the government, where employers, organisations and sponsors are paid by the government to take on employees.

The Community Employment schemes employ the most people, 21,500 in 900 schemes across the country. Ostensibly a re-training and work experience programme, the work generally involves caring, maintenance of sports facilities, upkeep of churches, and various arts and cultural initiatives.

The wages for CE are €20 extra on top of the €203 jobseekers’ allowance, coming to around €12 below the CSO poverty line of €235. CE participants used to receive an extra €50, but this was cut during austerity and never restored.

Participants on CE work 20 hours a week, but in practise it is more usual that they are expected to be “flexible” and on call for the entire week to facilitate the needs of the sponsor.

In 2017, following an embarrassing report that showed only a 3-7% success rate for the JobPath employment activation programme, it was decided that CE schemes would be re-classified as “real” jobs, but only for the purposes of live register and job creation statistics, not for minimum wage obligations.

Community Work, Private Profits

The confidential contract that exists between the DEASP and the private activation companies, Seetec/Turas Nua, ensures a payment in increments tied to duration of employment, with 12 months continuous employment qualifying for a payment of €3,718 per “client” under a “sustained” employment agreement.

It is believed that the same contract also involved some kind of quota system where Seetec/Turas Nua would be promised x-amount of “clients” per year, each “client” being worth initially €311 on registration, with the potential for further payments, on a sliding scale, if placed in employment during the term of the “client’s” agreement with Seetec/Turas Nua.

It is thought that there simply weren’t enough unemployed people to meet the quota in the contract, and that the state was in danger of being sued by Seetec/Turas Nua.

The first solution was to keep sending the same people back through the activation system, but even that apparently wasn’t enough, though many people were sent through the system up to 4 times.

So, the CE schemes became “real” jobs, and were tied by the minister to an agreement that all CE schemes must be accessed via Seetec/Turas Nua.

The majority of CE schemes last for 12 months (There are some exceptions), the same period of time that qualifies as a period of “sustainable” employment in JobPath.

Since all CE schemes must now be accessed via Seetec/Turas Nua, it is reasonable to assume that all placements on CE would be regarded as sustainable employments “created” by Seetec/Turas Nua, with each new start-up qualifying for a full payment from the DEASP to Seetec/Turas Nua of €3,718 per “client” assigned to community work.

Community work that those workers could probably have accessed anyway without any help from the middlemen JobPath organisations.

Since there are 21,000 CE places in Ireland at any one time, Fine Gael’s policy change on CE comes to a potential windfall to Seetec/Turas of €86m. And since the majority of CE schemes only last one year, this is potentially an annual turnover of €86m to Seetec/Turas Nua for simply routing new CE placements annually through their system.

Who says there’s no such thing as free money?


Here we have a system that compels Irish people to live and work in poverty, serving private organisations, while the elite deliberately turns a blind eye, supporting the injustice with a prejudice that they’re all “scammers” anyway, and don’t deserve any better.

What a strange echo that narrative makes. It’s not unlike the system of industrial schools and Magdalene laundries of old.

But the richest irony is that many of those people working on those schemes, in an act of desperation, like to see themselves as being in “real” jobs; among the elect of Varadkar’s early-rising heroes, they are often quicker than most to castigate “welfare cheats”.

No one wants to be at the bottom of this Irish class system, with contempt constantly heaped on you from above. But this time the low paid workers have not been spared the insults of the elite. They are not on Varadkar’s team after all.

They are still perceived as scammers, no different than the “welfare cheats” they agreed to scorn and condemn in return for pitiful jobs that don’t even deliver a living wage. They’ve been duped and dismissed, their silence and obedience taken for granted, their labour sold cheaply.

It will be interesting to see will that 240,000 votes ever find expression.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet


From top:  St Vincent’s Hospital; Dr Peter Boylan (left) Archbishop Eamon Martin

This morning.

Dr Peter Boylan writes:

[Irish Times Religious Affairs correspondent] Patsy McGarry reports that an unnamed canon lawyer believes that “there is nothing in the letter of grant” from Rome which could be seen as “a stipulation that church canon law, doctrine or teaching must be observed by St Vincent’s Holdings, or the proposed NMH”.

This opinion is baffling.

I too have seen the letter of grant of March 16th, signed by senior Vatican official Sr Carmen Ros Nortes. She states that the Vatican grants the transfer request by the Sisters of Charity “in conformity with the petition” and that, “The provisions relating to the validity and lawfulness of alienations, found in Canons 638-639 and Canons 1292-1294 of the Code of Canon Law and in Proper Law, are to be observed.”

This last sentence is emphasised in bold type in the communication.

Thus, everything the Sisters of Charity now do in respect of transferring their 100 per cent shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG must observe canon law, specifically the canons cited and must be in conformity with the reasons they gave the Vatican for wanting to undertake the transfer.

In this respect, Canon 1293 is particularly relevant. Canon 1293.1.1. requires that the Sisters of Charity must have “a just cause, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, piety, charity, or some other grave pastoral reason” to make the transfer.

Canon 1293.2. requires that “other precautions prescribed by legitimate authority are also to be observed to avoid harm to the Church”.

As a result of the Vatican stipulations, the problem now facing the Sisters of Charity is how to effect a transfer that brings 186 years of Catholic healthcare ministry to an end, the result of which will facilitate a hospital which will perform abortions and other procedures absolutely forbidden by Catholic teaching?

Where is the “just cause” and what is the potential for such approval to cause “harm to the church” in the eyes of the faithful?

No wonder many Irish Catholics are alarmed and confused.

In comments published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Archbishop Eamon Martin stated that “the carrying out of abortions or morally illicit medical procedures at the NMH would be repugnant” to Catholic teaching and “regardless of the eventual outcome of the proposed transfer, the church will remain clear in its public statements that there is no place in a maternity hospital for abortion”.

How does Archbishop Martin reconcile Catholic teaching on abortion with his support for the Sisters’ request to the Vatican which will clear the way for St Vincent’s Holdings CLG to own a hospital in which abortion, IVF, elective sterilisation and other procedures will constitute part of the daily routine?

What does the Primate of All Ireland consider to be the “just cause” for this transfer? Is he concerned about harm to the church?

The constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, which will own the new NMH, will surely be subject to the provisions of the canon laws outlined in the letter of grant.

This is not a theoretical discussion. The taxpayers of Ireland who will fund the new NMH, and the women of Ireland who will attend it, deserve clarity.

None of the information currently in the public domain allays well-founded fears about the potential for Catholic ethos to influence clinical practice in the new NMH.

And all this before full consideration as to why even the Irish Government would hand ownership of a €500 million maternity hospital of key national importance to a private charity. – Yours, etc,

Dr Peter Boylan
Life Governor and former Master, National Maternity Hospital,
Dublin 6.

National Maternity Hospital and canon law (Irish Times Letters)

Last week: ‘The Makings Of A Very Irish Scandal’


From left at top: Keith McErlean, Simon Delaney and Don Wycherly in Bachelor’s Walk (2001-2003): Heber Rowan

What Bachelors Walk, an Irish television series from the 00s, does better than many other shows is its ability to present the awkwardness of contemporary life. Recently, I stumbled upon the entire boxset available online via the RTÉ player and felt compelled to write about it.

Nearly two decades ago, the show came out and even looking back at it now, it bristles with relatability and a lightness of tone unfamiliar amid the pessimism of many contemporary Irish dramas.

Certainty its not the ‘pull your teeth’ out awkwardness of the likes of ‘Peep Show’, a London near equivalent comedy show about co-dependent housemates. Bachelors Walk paints a living scene of Dublin in the summertime with a simple use of light jazz and some cracking tunes from the time that make Dublin, Paris. No longer is Dublin the dirty auld town but a place with actual sunshine and people falling in love.

As a millennial watching it, there is an overload of the distant familiar, a nostalgic orgy. The VRC computer screens, the ashtrays on the tables, the cans of Dutch Gold and the haunting ‘bleep bleep’ of a text message received by a Nokia 3410.

Time has passed, and much of Dublin has remained the same. All over the city, there are familiar characters we all know and love in our own communities who bear significant similarities to the trio of unmarried men living in Dublin.

Bar the extraordinary situation of their low rent in the middle of Dublin just as the economy was revving up…. Complaints in the show about an apartment for rent being €800 are laughable today, with average rents being nearly double that. We all know it.

That is why watching the series once again you feel that Paris-like idealism reinforced. A fantasy of what Dublin could be and for the most part actually is.

We might ask ourselves, why is Dublin considered so idealistic in it and even from the days of Joyce meandering around Dublin on a June summer’s day.

A sense of home you might suppose. An uncomfortable love for the mélange that uniquely Dublin creates. A barrister, a journalist and an unemployed guy living together: if that could happen anywhere, it would be in Dublin.

That is what the writers of the show perhaps consciously did. They gave us that sense of comfortable incongruity that we have in so many neighbourhoods in Dublin.

A fancy coffee shop might neighbour a drug treatment centre just down the road, or a chipper will have a little gallery just next door. It’s all part of what Dublin is. Cosmopolitan.

From the Greeks, the idea of a city-state is one that is a comfortable mix of the populous, a blend of many flavours of humanity all within the one place they call home. Cosmopolitan.

In Bachelors Walk, living in number 49, our three lads give us a sense of happy leisure. Sure they have their problems, from romances to nagging parents but tthey give us a sense of a life less hurried. A life more filled with random encounters from three lads living together beginning their day with coffee on their front steps looking out at the Liffey.

The buses are yellow, and the acting is a little awkward but the characters in the portrait of Dublin from the early 00’s we call Bachelor’s Walk cannot help but make one stop and marvel at the idealism it brings to a city consistently portrayed as dirty and ‘auld’, with three lads awkwardly figuring out their lives.

Here’s the first episode, take a look.

Heber Rowan is a Sligo native with a passion for politics. He works in public affairs and enjoys listening to and narrating audiobooks. He can be found on Twitter and occasionally blogs on Medium.com.

Looking back on Bachelor’s Walk (Heber Rowan, Medium)


Terry Pattinson writes:

I was tested for Coronavirus in Dun Laoghaire [County Dublin]on Friday, May 15 and this leaflet (above) was handed to me. It recommends (twice!) keeping a distance of 1 metre (3 feet) from other people.

It amazes me that there has been no comment on the fact that the HSE has already printed and is distributing advice leaflets which state: ‘Keeping a distance of more than 1 metre (3 feet) from other people is recommended.’


Ministers to question Chief Medical Officer over two metre social distancing rule (RTÉ)

Now Donald has never been shy
Of making things up on the fly
So he doesn’t think
There should be a link
Suggesting his words are a lie

John Moynes