Sunday Tribune 16 August
Tenner for the first person who guesses what ‘Carbon Wine’, ‘Brace In Now!’ and ‘Bare Cow Inn’ have in common. My travelling companions didn’t make the connection. One threatened to connect his fist with my gob if I didn’t shut up, though.
On Tuesday we headed to Tullamore for a lads’ night out with a friend who has swapped the Liffey for Offaly (he’s a ‘Liffo’). I spent the journey shouting out stupid anagrams of people’s names to irritate the other passengers. I can be really, really, really annoying when I’m bored.
Brian Cowen’s name is stuffed with good anagrams, like the ones above, but I discovered one that describes him perfectly. It’s ‘Baron Wince’. You know the way you wince at your bills these days? That’s down to Baron Wince – Ireland’s Lord of Pain.
We headed to the Baron’s local, the Brewery Tap, because I wanted to ask him what he knows about bi-location – being in two places at once. Noel Dempsey got me wondering about this last week as he defended the latest news from Tara. The Baron wasn’t about, so my question had to wait. (We’ll return to it later.)
The news from Tara is that we will have to compensate the operators of the M3 if the number of cars using it falls below a target agreed by the state. So what’s that target? Don’t ask the National Roads Authority. It would only say last week that it was “competitive”.
Don’t ask Dempsey either. Newstalk’s Eamon Keane asked him if the public will ever be told. Not if it’s commercially sensitive, he replied, adding “what we WILL know is if the target is NOT reached”. So there you have it. How many cars make the M3 viable? Answer: mind your own business.
Even after all the crookedness Fianna Fáil has displayed towards Tara, this latest revelation stopped me in my tracks. What next? Are they planning to sell the rights to Tara’s name, like The Point did to 02? Will we see ‘Welcome to The Hill of Eurolink’ as we approach Tara? It wouldn’t surprise me.
The M3 scandal embodies all that is wrong with Irish politics: greed, wastefulness, ignorance and a total disregard for democracy. Nobody wanted it in Tara/Skryne bar Fianna Fáil, which was so eager to destroy the valley that it paid almost €69,000 an acre for it. So eager, that it bulldozed the national monument at Lismullen, sparking an expensive European Court case. If/when we lose, we could be ordered to do a new environmental impact study and go back to scratch on the site.
Unesco may also order the road to be moved if it deems Tara a World Heritage Site. Environment minister John Gormley is afraid of this so he delayed presenting it for consideration. The obvious thing to do now is halt the M3 pending Unesco and the court’s decisions. ‘Green’ Gormley, however, is hell-bent on completing a motorway that is destroying a heritage site, may have to be moved and may not prove viable.
A shortfall is highly likely. Last April it was predicted that almost 23,000 vehicles would use the M3 daily when it opens next July. Those numbers need to be readjusted because of the recession. Last month, Meath experienced the largest increase in people signing on – an extra 17,000 people, or 4%. That means a lot of cars off the road until the gloom recedes. On top of that, the remaining workforce won’t want to pay €11.20-a-day in tolls when the rail service to Navan opens. Incidentally, neither Dempsey nor Gormley will have to pay the tolls – ministerial cars are exempt.
The pair’s record with sums is appalling: last year Dempsey spent €70,000 on a new logo for Transport 21. The existing one had been developed in-house… for free. At around the same time, Gormley spent €15m on a climate change advertising campaign and only €5m on the Warmer Homes Scheme.
Two men, two things in common: the M3 and financial incompetence.
Remember I wanted to ask Brian Cowen about bi-location? The M3 bail-out has made it theoretically possible for me to be in two places at once – driving through Meath while at home in Dublin. Here’s my question: why should I pay a toll on a road I don’t want, will never use, in a county I don’t live in, to a foreign consortium – for the next 45 years?
Fianna Fáil has secretly shackled us to a road that’s in the wrong place. It agreed to underwrite a bad development that was in trouble from the start. How many other similar deals has it done? After this, how can we trust its judgment on Nama?
Last week, the Greens made noises about holding a convention on Nama. Under party rules, Gormley and Co can be ordered to vote it down, effectively ending the coalition.
Here’s another question about location: where were the Greens’ grass roots when the rest of us were discussing Nama? Why have they suddenly discovered their voices when the Dáil is on holidays? Are they serious or just posing?
Considering the Greens’ hypocrisy to date, another two-word anagram comes to mind. It’s of ‘T-a-r-a’ and is normally preceded by “I smell…”
It’s also always associated with sinking ships, Mr Gormley.