100 Irish Words for Rain

I was very aware of the rain while my Australian relatives were in Ireland. I was afraid they would hate it, but actually I think it was a novelty for them. But they weren't completely prepared for it, which is how Uncle and Niece ended up each buying a hat from a stall in Grafton Street. And since rain is such a major part of our lives, I was wondering why we don't have more words for rain - like the 100 words the Inuit are supposed to have for different types of snow. Of course maybe there are as Gaeilge.

Anyway here are some of the different types I've thought of so far:

Soft rain - so light it falls up as well as down. So no escape

Light rain - catches you unawares and causes bad hair day before you notice

Rain - MOR rain that can be kept at bay with an umbrella or a raincoat

Heavy Rain - serious waterprooofs needed for this

Driving Rain - best stay indoors as umbrellas will blow inside out and the water will seep through everything

Then there is thunder, lightening, hail, snow and rainbows that all add to the mix.

Anything else I've forgotten?

The Aussie view of Ireland

Well I waved off my Australian Aunt and Uncle this morning as they headed for the North Wall and took the boat to England. Very sad to see them go. As my teen said, they were everything you expect Australians to be: blunt, energetic and full of fun! And my cynical bubble has been burst because they LOVED this country, in November, despite the floods and national mood of depression. Of the cities they voted Dublin the best (tho' this could have been because the sand bags were being put out in Cork as they arrived). Top marks went to the Queen of Tarts, Bewleys, Dublin Castle and the Kilkenny Design Shop - not necessarily in that order. They also raved about the Ring of Kerry, Connemara and West Cork - no surprises there then. But most of all they enjoyed the traditional Irish welcome, which it seems is alive and well. Not just in the hotels that they stayed in, but in every pub and shop, they were made feel like royalty. Gives me hope for the future anyway. Oh and finally in case Irish Ferries are reading this, they loved the Ulysses - said it was like going on a cruise - without the sunshine obviously!!

I had hoped to add in a picture of uncle and niece in new hats bought from a stall in Grafton Street, but so far they have not appeared in my in-box. Maybe for next post....

The new 'vulnerable'

Please do not read this if easily offended...it's just that I sooo fed up of hearing the same old cliches and generalisations trotted out by all sides in the run-up to the budget. And I know it was covered in Morning Ireland today, but this is my take:

We will protect the 'vulnerable' say the politicians.

But who do they mean? There are vulnerable long term social welfare recipients, especially those who are sick, disabled, indebted, addicted or supporting large families. Others are doing fine especially if they can pick up a few bits of work in the booming black economy. What about pensioners? Again some are very vulnerable, and do not have the luxury of a second chance at building up an income. But some are living a very comfortable lifestyle with their defined benefit pensions (remember them?) and mortgage-free homes.

The Government is planning to protect these groups from the worst of the cuts.

I think that the group most at risk in this recession is young families. And the Government seems to be ignoring their plight completely. These are the decent young people who worked very hard and bought new homes during the Tiger years believing that they were doing the right thing.

Now all over the land the lights are going out in the tidy new estates that encircle our towns. One by one at first, but soon there will be clusters of empty homes as families stretched to breaking point, lose EVERYTHING that they have worked for, and worse, many will be left with debts they cannot ever hope to repay. No NAMA for them.. Some will also lose their marriages or even their lives.

Those people and their families are scattered throughout the economy, in all sectors.
I heard a woman on Liveline a few months ago who was caught in a property trap and reduced to begging off friends and family so she could feed her children. Who is speaking up for these people or helping them? They are not an easily identifiable group like the flood victims. And don't get me wrong, I know the flood victims need help and it has been fabulous to see how communities have rallied around. But hidden beyond the neat garden walls are other tragedies that families are maybe too embarrassed to tell anyone about. And now these families are likely to be hit with carbon taxes, reductions in child benefit, increased A&E charges and who knows what other stealth taxes in today's budget.

PACAB is trying to help in a small way with their Hamper Hugs this Christmas, providing a hamper of goodies for families in trouble, but far more needs to be done or there is going to be CARNAGE. They say that the measure of a country is in how it treats its most vulnerable - Government please take note.

This is not a self-serving rant as I do not fall into this category in any way! But from talking to PACUB supporters I know how difficult things are for some families.

I used to vote Green

PACUB received a response from Green TD, Paul Gogarty, this morning after founder Treasa Dovander wrote to him about our opposition to proposed cuts in child benefit. Depressingly he closely followed the Fianna Fail mantra: Unfortunately we need to reduce the €22 billion we borrow every year to keep things going and this requires some tough but necessary decisions.

I do believe he is correct when he says that the deficit needs to be reduced as I don't know enough about international finance to tell what would happen if Ireland just carried on gaily with the current regime.

And economics is such an inexact science! Very hard to predict what will happen, because there is always the chance of a shock - such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But, cutting spending is not the same as reducing the deficit. It depends on the type of spending. Currently the Government seems to be looking at putting the bulk of their planned cuts in the easiest places, where they can just cut with the stroke of a pen - and they are cutting the incomes of the 'spending' classes, thus just taking money straight out of the economy, With knock on effects on expenditure, VAT receipts, jobs, income tax receipts, social welfare claims etc.

Ideally the problems with the tax base (ie dependence on stamp duty, capital gains tax etc) should have been tackled in the good times. At the very least, more should have been done in the April budget.

Some people are saying that the rich need to pay more tax. But I'm not sure that increasing income taxes on high earners is the way forward - experience appears to show that increasing income taxes can reduce the tax take and vice versa. But as has said before, there are plenty of other ways to tax the rich and reduce the number of tax shelters available to them.

Even though so much time has passed it doesn't look like the Government has come up with any creative solutions that would help preserve jobs and incomes and also close the deficit. They have an army of people in the civil service - many very intelligent people who care about the future of this country - who should have been encouraged to work on solutions. Earlier this year websites were set up to allow the public to contribute ideas of how to save money and reduce waste, and radio stations did similar. There has been no response from the Government as to whether they took on board any of these ideas.

We know that there is money pouring into NAMA, into the National Pension Reserve Fund, into administration in the HSE, all the levels of local Government, Quangos and many Government Departments - why is there a huge Department of Health as well as the HSE? Why are more prisons being built? That has to be the most costly way to punish someone for not paying their TV licence...why can't they do community service instead. Or make it fit the crime. They could mow the grass on the Donnybrook campus!

There is about €87 billion in savings. There has to be a way of tapping into that. Can DIRT be increased with an exemption for non-tax payers and pensioners? To fit in to the green agenda, put more financial inducements in place - perhaps tax relief - to put in solar panels etc, though you would need a regulator to avoid builders simply putting their prices up.

Then there is a need to reduce costs in the economy, such as the utilities, and professional services. If these are cheaper, it will encourage investment.

Reduce bureacracy and help small businesses - where has the talk gone of a Government Bank to help small businesses with loans? What about the proposal to provide some funding to help people to stay in genuine jobs?

I think that imaginative expenditure cutting, genuine reform and intelligent stimulus would be far more effective and would provide what Ireland really needs right now: a Happy Christmas and a hopeful New Year!