work&life THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS
ISSUE 5 • SUMMER 2009
AXING YOUR INCOME How the levy broke.
PLUS WOMEN FIGHTING FIRE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS IMPACT’S EUROVISION CONTESTANT HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD WIDE WEB
PREMIER SECOND HAND CLOTHES
YOUR VOTE. BELGIAN TRIPS. DETOX PLAN. VEGGIE FOOD. SPRING GARDENS. 3-D MOVIES. RECESSIONARY MUSIC. MAYO LIBRARY MYSTERY. WOMEN’S BOXING. SAVE ON SPENDING. LETTERS. ALL THE NEWS. COMPETITIONS. www.impact.ie
In this issue
work&life – Summer 2009 COVER FEATURES
TRAVEL & TRIPS
BRUSSELS SPROUTS What’s the point of voting in the European Parliamentary elections? BERNARD HARBOR asked some Irish MEPs.
TECH – NO FEAR! Try some “techno-joy” to celebrate the World Wide Web’s 20th birthday.
Brussels is not just for bureaucrats.
BRAND NEW SECOND HAND TRISH O’MAHONY finds that second-hand clothes shopping is in a different league these days.
KAREN WARD reveals her easyto-follow detox week.
IN THE KITCHEN Early summer is the perfect time to try some vegetarian treats says MARGARET HANNIGAN.
39 39 39 39 39 40 40
GREEN FINGERS It might be grim on the economic front, but JIMI BLAKE’s garden is springing into bloom.
AT THE MOVIES MORGAN O’BRIEN on the latest 3-D revival.
SPORT Ireland’s Olympic tally could rise if women’s boxing gets the thumbs up, says KEVIN NOLAN.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
HEALTH CUTS CONTINUE EDUCATION CONFERENCE TRAVEL AND SUBSISTENCE NORTH PETITION PALESTINIAN FRIENDS CAMPAIGN EUROPEAN PUBLIC SERVICES
Recessions are good for pop music? RAYMOND CONNOLLY thinks not!
Win Win Win…
YOUR MONEY COLM RAPPLE on how to cut those monthly outgoings.
WOMEN FIGHTING FIRE Fire fighting used to be exclusively men only. But now more and more women are taking on this difficult and dangerous role. We spoke to one of them.
BOOKS IMPACT member PAT WALSH has uncovered the curious history of a controversial Mayo librarian.
HEAVY LEVY The public service levy is hitting family budgets hard. NIALL SHANAHAN talked to IMPACT members about how they are coping.
Don’t lose your hard-won right to vote in June’s local and European elections.
We talk to the IMPACT member who’s representing Ireland in this year’s Eurovision song contest.
Win a family break.
Put pen to paper and win €50.
Test your crossword skills and win €50.
Tell us what you think and win €100.
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 1
That was then…
THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS
work&life From Eurovision to Euro Vision
THERE’S A European feel to this issue of Work & Life. We’re among the first to congratulate IMPACT member Sinéad Mulvey, who is off to Moscow in May to represent Ireland in the Eurovision song contest. See her profile on page four. And our travel feature lifts the lid on Brussels, the political capital of Europe and gateway to value-for-money breaks in Belgium’s beautiful cities. Get yourself In Bruges! While we were at it, we talked to some of Ireland’s MEPs to find out what exactly they do over there, and why it’s so important to vote in June’s European elections. We also look at what Europe’s trade unions – including IMPACT – are doing to put European candidates on the spot about our public services. Elections are big news at home too. The five-yearly local elections also take place in June and our ‘rights’ features advises on how to ensure you’re able to cast your vote. Along with important local issues, the Government’s handling of the recession will loom in voters’ minds. So Niall Shanahan spoke to some of the IMPACT members who have confronted their elected representatives about the public service levy and looked at the union’s campaign for a fairer approach to economic recovery. Colm Rapple says you can get something back from the banks as you adjust to leaner times and Trish O’Mahony’s fashion column takes a look at how second hand clothes shops have undergone a makeover and can now offer high fashion and designer gear – at knock-down prices. Looks good!
Work & Life is produced by IMPACT trade union’s Communications Unit and edited by Bernard Harbor. Front Cover Illustration by Chris Judge. Contact IMPACT at: Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. Phone: 01-817-1500. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Designed by: O’Brien Design & Print Management. Phone: 01 864-1920. Email: email@example.com. Printed by Boylan Print Group. Advertising sales: Frank Bambrick. Phone: 01-453-4011. Unless otherwise stated, the views contained in Work & Life do not necessarily reflect the policy of IMPACT trade union. Work & Life is printed on environmentally friendly paper, certified by the European Eco Label. This magazine is 100% recycable.
Forget the doom and gloom for half an hour and enjoy Work & Life!
IMPACT trade union IMPACT is Ireland’s fastest growing trade union with over 61,000 members in the public services and elsewhere. We represent staff in the health services, local authorities, education, the civil service, the community sector, aviation, telecommunications and commercial and non-commercial semi-state organisations. Find out more about IMPACT on
HALF A million extra people are visiting a US public service jobs website every week after incoming President Obama declared his determination to “make government and public service cool again.” A recent survey of US graduates also found public service organisations made up the single most popular choice for future employment.
The Financial Times has reported Scott Kirk of CareerPro Global saying: “There has not been this level of interest in public service since the Kennedys,” as a record 350,000 people applied for the 3,000 positions in Obama’s new administration. Of course, the economic recession is one reason why people are looking for state jobs – any job – as unemployment rises. But it’s still a far cry from Ireland where relentless attacks from politicians, journalists, commentators and business leaders have given the public service an undeserved hard time – and a morale-sapping bad name. Maybe our elected representatives should take a leaf out of Obama’s book. After all, he’s the most popular politician both in the USA and around the world, and he knows how to win an election. Brians in public life take note: Here’s a guy who’s not afraid to celebrate the vital role of the public service in economic recovery.
20 years ago Tens of thousands of Chinese students take over Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in a democracy rally on 19th April 1989. The massive demonstration is brutally repressed in June. Ray McAnally, one of Ireland’s most versatile and respected actors, dies suddenly on 15th June, aged 63.
50 years ago On 9th April 1959, NASA unveils the ‘Mercury seven,’ the group of military pilots earmarked to become the first US astronauts. On 2nd May, Nottingham Forest beat Luton Town 2-1 to win the FA Cup. Sean Lemass becomes Ireland’s third Taoiseach the following month.
60 years ago At midnight on 17th April 1949, the 26 counties officially leave the British Commonwealth. A 21-gun salute on Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge ushers in the Republic of Ireland. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) is established on 23rd May. Earlier, Icelanders opposed to their country’s participation in the proposed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) stage a proneutrality riot in March, but NATO is formed the following month.
On the down side, Raymond Connolly challenges Noel Gallagher’s view that recessionary times necessarily deliver better music. Meanwhile, Morgan O’Brien takes a realistic look at the prospects for a much-vaunted 3-D film revival. And we’ve got all the usual fantastic features like food (fancy a vegetarian?), books, news and sport, where Kevin Nolan discusses Katie Taylor’s chances of becoming the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold. And lots of competitions too!
It’s nice to be appreciated
Work & Life Magazine is a full participating member of the Press Council of Ireland and supports the Office of the Press Ombudsman. In addition to defending the freedom of the press, this scheme offers readers a quick, fair and free method of dealing with complaints that they may have in relation to articles that appear on our pages. To contact the Office of the Press Ombudsman go to www.pressombudsman. ie or www.presscouncil.ie.
All suppliers to Work & Life recognise ICTU-affiliated trade unions.
80 years ago The restored General Post Office is officially opened by President W T Cosgrave on 11th July 1929. Eleven days later the Shannon hydro-electric scheme is opened at Ardnacrusha, County Clare. Stock market prices collapse in the USA. US securities lose $26 billion, marking the first phase of the depression and world economic crisis in the USA.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Sinéad shoots for Euro stars
“When I was a kid we did this thing where we drew countries out of a hat, and whoever drew the winning country got €20. It was great!” Sinéad on loving Eurovision. What piece of music really makes you want to dance? Right now I really like Poker Face by Lady Gaga. I also really like Lily Allen’s new album, It’s Not Me It’s You. It’s not really dance music, but I love listening to it in the car.
IMPACT member SINÉAD MULVEY will represent Ireland at this year’s Eurovision song contest, along with backing band Black Daisy. Work & Life caught up with the Aer Lingus cabin crew member before she set off for May’s competition in Moscow’s Olimpiysky indoor arena.
What’s your favourite movie? Tough one that. I love collecting movies on DVD. But my firm favourite would have to be The Shawshank Redemption, alongside The Bucket List. It’s a Morgan Freeman thing. There’s something about his voice that makes you want to listen to him all day. Who would play you in the movie of your life story? Catherine Zeta Jones. People used to say I looked like her when I was younger. Though it would be even better if I could play her in the movie of her life story! After doing a lot of acting on stage I’d love the experience of acting on camera.
How would you describe yourself? I guess I would describe myself as fairly easy going and funny. I am always up for a laugh and I don’t take life too seriously.
What is your favourite place in the world? There’s no place like home. I love all the travel, and visiting different places that comes with my job, but I love to come home to friends and family. I would love to go to South East Asia or Australia, as I’ve never been there. Maybe for a little holiday after Eurovision!
How did you get started in show business? I went to stage school when I was very young and then I got involved in pantomime. I appeared in panto every year at the Tivoli theatre between the ages of 13 and 19, which was always a really great experience. Then in 2005 I competed in RTÉ’s You’re A Star. That’s how Niall Mooney (one of the composers of this year’s Irish Eurovision entry) spotted me and got in touch about competing for Eurovision with Etcetera.
What really annoys you? Impatient drivers, especially when they drive up right behind you flashing their lights and you’re already doing the speed limit. Annoying and dangerous.
Tell us a few of your favourite things? I can’t leave home without my mobile phone. Home-made spaghetti carbonara. I love my credit card as long as it’s not maxed out! And I adore Leonardo Di Caprio, especially in Catch Me If You Can and Blood Diamond, even though his South African accent was a bit ropey in that one.
“I know a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs recently so it isn’t something I take for granted.” Sinéad on working for Aer Lingus.
How long have you worked for Aer Lingus? I’ve been with them for two years now and I love it. My cousin works there and told me they were recruiting for cabin crew. It was something I always wanted to do, so I went for it. Along with my singing career, it’s like having two dream jobs. It is a great job, I work with really great people, and of course I have IMPACT behind me! I know Christina Carney (IMPACT’s official for cabin crew) really well at this stage. I always ring her when I have a question. What inspires you when you’re having a tough day at work? Shopping! I often do transatlantic duty, which involves long
shifts. But I always look forward to shopping around in places like San Francisco. It’s a great city, very laid back and not as crowded as somewhere like New York. But I’m always happy to have a job too, especially at the moment. I know a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs recently so it isn’t something I take for granted.
What’s the best advice you have ever received? My Dad has always advised me to keep a positive attitude about everything, so that’s something I do. I try to avoid being negative. There is plenty of negativity out there, especially in the music business. Staying positive about things is important and it helps you to get along with people and achieve the things you want to do.
What does Eurovision mean to you? It means a lot. It’s always been a big thing in our house. My family has watched it every year since I can remember. When I was a kid we did this thing where we drew countries out of a hat, and whoever drew the winning country got €20. It was great! How have your cabin crew colleagues reacted to the news that you’re representing Ireland? They’re all delighted and very supportive. Every day I go into work I’m with a different crew, and the reaction is always great no matter who I’m working with. It’s great to have that kind of support behind you.
Sinéad Mulvey & Black Daisy will fly the flag for Ireland in the second semi-final in Moscow on Thursday 14th May. Interview by NIALL SHANAHAN l
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Public service levy NIALL SHANAHAN found out how peoples’ experience of the public service levy is shaping the unions’ campaign for a fair approach to economic recovery. THE ONLY mistake the Government made during the good times was to be too generous to the public service. So said finance minister Brian Lenihan in a recent interview. In other words, don’t blame the recession on bankers and speculators or the governments that failed to regulate them. The fault lies squarely at the feet of ordinary people who recklessly wanted hospitals, schools and other vital services. Oh, and the people who work hard to provide them.
IMPACT knocked Government plans for a 10% across-theboard pay cut off course earlier this year, before the focus moved on to pensions. But talks between the social partners and Government collapsed in the middle of a blizzard in the early hours of 3rd February. With the clock ticking on a deadline to reach agreement, and bereft of ideas to fill a €2 billion hole in exchequer funds, the Government decided to come after public servants. They felt confident that they’d be hitting a popular target. The following afternoon Mr Lenihan announced that a levy averaging 7.5% would be placed on all public service incomes.
Photo: Moya Nolan
Opinion polls show that most people disagree and believe that the public service levy is unfair. But our most strident critics share minister Lenihan’s view and they’re already baying for more. They’ve quickly digested the pound of flesh delivered in the form of the levy and now they’re looking to inflict more pain on ordinary public service staff. Just scan through the pages of the Irish Independent, Sunday Times or Sunday Tribune, or listen to a weekend radio show.
W hen the levy broke
In all the haste and confusion, it took another 24 hours for the Government to clarify whether or not this levy was to be tax deductible. It was. But it immediately became obvious that low and middle income earners were going to be hit the hardest.
Jobs So far, virtually all the pain associated with the deepening recession has fallen on workers – public and private – in the form of job losses or cuts in income. For public servants, the unrelenting mantra from every Government minister is “be thankful you still have a job.” IMPACT members, especially those whose jobs are on the line, are understandably furious. In the days that followed the announcement of the levy, IMPACT mobilised its members to undertake a mass lobby
Over 20,000 IMPACT members joined the national demonstration in February
of TDs. It was a crucial starting point in a campaign which, while accepting that the crisis would demand sacrifices from all of us, sought fairness in the pursuit of economic recovery. TDs, senators and local representatives were left in no doubt about the often-devastating effect of the levy as they received thousands of emails, letters, phone calls and visits to their clinics over Saint Valentine’s weekend. What began as an IMPACT campaign gathered momentum as members of other public service unions joined in. On February 13th, as the mass lobby was in full swing, IMPACT placed a series of advertisements in the national press, outlining the arguments against the levy. Their appearance stoked the debate very publicly, and equipped members with
the arguments, which go way beyond self interest. As IMPACT members made contact with their political representatives, they expressed their deep anger and spoke candidly about how the levy would affect their families. I spoke to some of them about their experiences. Helen Jones, an administrator in the Dublin Institute of Technology, told me her net income would be reduced by approximately €1,650 a year. “As someone who earns considerably less than the average wage this is a substantial amount of money,” she said. The effect on Helen’s income reflects the impact of the levy on low and middle income workers, the largest group affected. They can expect to lose between €1,500 and €2,800 a year.
But the hit to Helen’s income was only the beginning of the story. “I am also very aware of the hardship hitting those working in the private sector. My husband and son have both lost their jobs in recent months so now I am the main wage earner in our house. My other children are still studying and are not in a position to contribute much to the household finances,” she says.
Helen’s family circumstances are by no means unusual.They reflect the experience of a lot of members who contacted IMPACT in the days after the levy was announced. Helen had a very clear message for her local representatives: “There are five votes in our household and they will not be easily won in future elections.” u
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Public service levy Other families facing a similar crisis included that of Marie Carroll* who works for the HSE in the midlands. “This levy will lead to an annual gross reduction of €4,250 in my pay and [the minister] claims it is justified because we are not hit like families in private employment. My husband works in construction and expects to be out of work in the near future when the present project he is working on is complete. Our family income will then be reduced to less than half our present combined earnings,” she says. Marie also stressed the need for fairness. “I am prepared to pay my fair share to get the country going again as long as it applies to everyone in employment. I don’t think any public sector worker would argue about paying a fair and equitable share. We all realise that times are difficult and the lack of public finances must be addressed. Government continually talks about the need for everyone to work together and it hopes to bring everyone along with it – the public sector is not everyone.”
Unions have united to fight for a fair approach to economic recovery. Through ICTU they organised an impressive national demonstration, which attracted over 120,000 people to the streets of Dublin in February. It was an unprecedented show of solidarity among workers from all sectors and the biggest public outpouring since the 1980s.
Susan Allen*, an IMPACT member who works in for the HSE in North Dublin, had a simple question for local TDs: “I didn’t create this economic mess but hard-working ordinary people are being singled out. What about bankers and property speculators and the Government’s failure to regulate them?” The Government continued to take a bullish line, kept their heads down and the Taoiseach went as far as to warn his cabinet that no one would thank them for the measures they were taking. Opinion polls continue to indicate that the Taoiseach was at least correct in that assessment.
Members of IMPACT’s Wicklow Health Branch turn out in force to lobby Minister Dick
Over 20,000 IMPACT members were out in Roche at his constituency clinic in Arklow on St Valentine’s Day force, many participating in a demonstration for the first time in their lives. And they It won’t be easy. It will depend on workers being prepared to traveled from every corner of the country to take part. All the stand up and be counted, with the support and leadership unions have since agreed to ballot members for industrial of their unions. But one thing is certain: You won’t get the action. country off its knees by beating its public servants over the
Photo: Denise Lynch.
Marie’s comments reflect the country’s outrage at the other story making the news as the levy was imposed. Public anger swelled as daily reports of deceit and greed in Irish banking emerged. Creative accounting, golden circles and a re-capitalisation plan that seemed to reward this culture of greed and incompetence in Irish banking. The anger of workers throughout the country was stoked until it was white hot.
IMPACT members at the demonstration on February 21st.
Leonie outlined how she had already become involved in efforts to reduce costs. “I recently started a reduced working week in a bid to help the council cut its payroll costs by 3% and also to try to help save some temporary jobs,” she says. Like all workers Leonie had also begun to pay the 1% income levy on top of this.
“I am prepared to pay my fair share to get the country going again. I don’t think any public sector worker would argue about paying a fair and equitable share. We all realise that times are difficult and the lack of public finances must be addressed.” The same polls revealed that the majority of Irish people feel the levy is unfair – a majority that increased in the week the legislation passed through the Dáil. At the heart of the Government’s flawed argument was the idea that every public servant retires on a full pension. It simply isn’t the case, as Leonie Hannon, an assistant staff officer in South Dublin county council explained: “The public service pension levy is unfair, unaffordable and in my opinion discriminatory. It is unlikely that I will working until I am 65 and therefore I will not have full service of 40 years to enable me claim a full pension even though I’m paying this ridiculous levy.”
Photo: Wicklow Health Branch, IMPACT
Trade unions remain determined that workers – whether public or private – will not bear the cost of recession alone. In response to the crisis, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions developed a ten-point economic recovery plan, which was influenced by policies adopted in Sweden when its economy hit similar problems in the early 1990s. Among the ICTU’s proposals was a demand to reform the levy, in order to reduce the burden on low and middle income earners.
There are further concerns about what will come next. A supplementary budget in April heralds more pain for wage earners. With unemployment soaring, the Government’s original projection that it needs to save €20 billion over five years now looks hopelessly optimistic. And with the Taoiseach and finance minister refusing to rule out pay cuts, public sector workers are asking if they are going to be in the frame again. Valerie O’Reilly is a clerical officer with Laois County Council. Her question to local politicians was: “How can we be assured that this levy won’t be increased next year and the year after? How can we have any confidence in this Government or any of our TDs? How could our Government let this happen?” u
THE STAR, Friday February 13 2009 7
Speaking at the demonstration, IMPACT general secretary Peter McLoone reaffirmed the union’s commitment to playing its part in economic recovery. “Our members don’t want to avoid their responsibilities as citizens and they’re prepared to make sacrifices for the common good. They simply want to ensure that measures are fair and that vested interests aren’t allowed to walk away scot-free,” he said McLoone also criticised attempts to divide workers along public-private lines. “Attempts have been made to pit private sector and public sector workers against each other. This is a distracting device to ensure that workers are forced to take all the pain. Public sector workers are well aware of the hardship and difficulties facing a lot of their private sector colleagues. They live in the same communities. They are members of the same families. “But the levy will do nothing to alleviate the difficulties facing private sector workers,” he said. Now that the legislation has been pushed though the Dáil and signed into law, the unions are continuing to mobilise their members in the fight for a better deal. They are determined to defend the Towards 2016 national agreement and push the case for a fairer approach to economic recovery along the lines set out in ICTU’s ten-point plan. This includes seeking changes to the public service levy, which IMPACT insists can be changed at least as quickly as it was implemented if the political will is there. The union also believes it will have to respond decisively to any future attacks on its members, including at a local or sectoral level.
One of IMPACT’s press ads protesting against the levy in the Irish Daily Star, February 13th 2009.
* These are real IMPACT members, but not real names.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Win! Win! Win!
A man’s world?
a family break at the
Tullamore Court Hotel Located in the heart of the Midlands in Co Offaly, just 90 minutes from Dublin, Galway and Limerick is the four-star Tullamore Court Hotel, the perfect destination for you and your family’s getaway. As the Midlands’ leading hotel, the Tullamore Court Hotel offers exquisite accommodation complemented by fine dining, award winning leisure facilities and a warm, friendly welcome to create the ideal ambience for your family break.
The fire service has tended to be a man’s world. But that’s changing as NIALL SHANAHAN found out when he spoke to fire fighter paramedic TERESA HUDSON.
Aside from the many sightseeing and shopping opportunities in the town centre which is located five minutes walk away, the hotel offers an award winning White Flag leisure centre which includes a 20-metre swimming pool with kiddies pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and fitness suite. Harry the Hedgehog’s Kids Club will also entertain the young ones while you kick back and relax on your well-deserved break. Harry the Hedgehog’s Kids Club is available on all bank holiday weekends and all school holidays.
Photo: Conor Healy
To check out special offers at the Tullamore Court Hotel visit www.tullamorecourthotel.ie. Work & Life readers can avail of a 10% discount on our weekend break - two nights, bed and breakfast and one evening meal, €140 per person sharing. You can also enjoy great value midweek breaks for just €119.00 per person sharing to include two nights, bed and breakfast and one evening meal. As a Work & Life reader you will receive a bottle of wine with dinner with the hotel’s compliments.
The Tullamore Court Hotel is offering one lucky reader a fantastic weekend family break for two nights bed and breakfast and one evening meal for two adults and two children (sharing family room). To be in with a chance to win simply answer this question and send your entry to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life Tullamore competition, IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1: Where is the four-star Tullamore Court Hotel located? A: Offaly B: Wicklow C: Donegal Entries must be received no later than Friday 5th June 2009. Children aged 12 and under are complimentary when sharing with 2 adults. Children's meals are charged for as taken. To make your reservation please call 057 934 6666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and quote WL TCH. Offer ends 1st September and is subject to availability. Terms and Conditions apply.
COURAGE, DETERMINATION, skill and dedication are all essential traits for a fire fighter paramedic. But, in her three years in the job, Teresa Hudson has learned that a sense of humour is vital too. “There’s plenty of laughter and plenty of dark humour too. We couldn’t function without it. The camaraderie is the mainstay of the service. We have an understanding even though we are a very diverse bunch of people,” she says. Before joining the service Teresa studied tourism and then worked for Diageo for nine years. She struck up friendships with many fire fighters through her involvement in the Reserve Defence Forces. “I was always very interested in their work but I wasn’t sure if I would be up to it. But when the opportunity came along I just jumped at it,” she says.
There is high demand for fire service jobs and the selection process includes aptitude tests, a series of individual and group interviews and a manual dexterity test. After successfully navigating this, Teresa was two years on a panel before being called for a medical, which included tests for claustrophobia and acrophobia.
“You are meeting people on the worst day of their lives but, for you, it’s part of the working day.” Then the rigorous training starts. “I did my initial six months training in the O’Brien Institute in Marino. Then I did one year as an intern on the ambulance, first observing and then attending cases. All fire fighter paramedics are fully trained in pre-hospital emergency care,” says Teresa.
Did she have any doubts about what she was getting into? “It’s different to what you expect, but I never looked back. I worked with great people in Diageo, with whom I am still very friendly, but now I can say that I’m in a job I love.”
Women Teresa is one of about 40 women in the Dublin fire service – just under 5% of the staff. “I suppose you could say we are few and far between,” says Teresa. There were eight women in the last training class – the largest group so far and an indication of a very gradual change over the 15 years since women were first admitted to the job. The relatively small number of women brings challenges. “I suppose you stand out in a group! There’s a process of finding that balance of being a ®
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 11
Fighting fire woman in what’s perceived to be a man’s world. You adapt, you find your way, but you’ll never be a man!” Thankfully, most of us never confront the situations that come with a fire fighter’s daily working life. In times past, trainees were told they would see at least one gunshot victim during their time. Now they’re advised that they will definitely see a gunshot victim in the early stages of their career. Is this the hardest part of the job? “It’s hard to single out any particular aspect of the job, but you do have to learn to put distance between your work and home life. You see all kinds of things and you have to stay focused on the job you have to do. You are meeting people on what is probably the worst day of their lives, but for you it’s part of the working day. It takes time to learn that balance and it’s not easy, but its part of what we do. It’s a job, and we all have lives outside,” she says.
Attacks Each year, the Dublin Fire Brigade control room takes 90 to 100 thousand ambulance calls and between 30 and 40 thousand fire and rescue calls. There are other pressures too.
Photo: Conor Healy
Attacks on emergency staff are a growing problem, with convictions for assaults both rare and lenient. But as a culture of attacking workers takes hold, they still have a job to do. “I’ve
been in a fire engine as it’s being pelted with stones on Halloween night, and I know someone who has been attacked. Attacks on emergency services are random, fuelled by drink, drugs or just pure aggression. But we are there to help, regardless of what
“I’ve been in a fire engine as it’s being pelted with stones and I know someone who has been attacked. Attacks on emergency services are random, fuelled by drink, drugs or just pure aggression.” people are getting up to, and there is a catastrophic ripple effect at a scene if a paramedic is injured.” So what’s the best part of the job? “The group you work in, the job satisfaction, the diversity of the work, the craic. No two days are the same.” She also enjoys the support of her family. “They were initially surprised but they are immensely proud, which is great. There is generally a great respect for people who do the job and sometimes from unexpected places; doctors, solicitors, people from different professions who openly express their respect for the work we do.”
Service Teresa feels that meeting the changing needs of the community is the biggest challenge facing the service. The demand in Dublin alone, and the expectations of what the service can deliver, is immense. “Getting the budget is always a challenge. Our ambulance budget comes from the HSE, though we are employees of Dublin City Council. We do need more ambulances. As a service we need to make it work, because everyone deserves the best,” she says. And Teresa has some advice for other workers who wonder what it would be like to do something different. “I’d say go for it if that’s what you’re thinking. You’ll never know if it’s for you until you try and you could spend a lifetime wondering. Do your research, talk to firefighters. It’s a good career.” Teresa explains that people stay in the job until retirement, very rarely tempted to change career. “Despite the absence of bonuses or anything like that, people stay. We are on an incremental pay scale, so we live within our means. The public service levy will make that harder, especially as it is the first hit to our income, and we know there is probably more to come. But you still need us, and we’ll still be here!” That’s good to know G
European elections Gxxxxx
Brussels sprouts election fever
Time on your side
I HAD come to Brussels to find out if June’s European election really mattered and I got my first inkling while exchanging small talk with an Irish MEP’s staffer, who expressed surprise at how cheaply I’d found a hotel room in the centre of town. She explained that I’d arrived during the European Parliament’s committee week, when huge multi-party committees debate and amend legislation before it goes to plenary sessions of all 785 MEPs from 27 countries. “The city’s always full of lobbyists this week and the prices are usually sky high,” she revealed. They’re obviously not here for the famously strong beer or traditional mussels and chips, I thought. In a couple of months Irish candidates from all parties and none will be vying for our votes as they hope to become the target of the lobbyists’ attentions as one of Ireland’s 12 MEPs. We all have a vague notion that Europe influences, or even determines, a lot of the laws that guide our lives as workers, citizens and consumers. But what’s the point of sending our MEPs ‘over there’ to Brussels and, for one week of each month, Strasbourg? Do their activities and decisions really matter to us? And, when we place our X in the box come June, will we be thinking about real Europe-wide issues and concerns, or simply voting
Last year, the European Commission proposed changes to an existing EU working time directive, which would have meant longer hours and more countries opting out of European working time laws altogether. IMPACT actively supported a campaign by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), which led to MEPs roundly rejecting the proposals. on the popularity of the Irish Government?The European Parliament is the only directly-elected EU institution. Yet it’s often portrayed as the poor cousin of Brussels – a relatively insignificant body compared to the European Council (made up of Government representatives from each member state) or the Commission (the permanent EU ‘civil service’ and instigator of new EU legislation). Dublin’s Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald broadly agrees. “This is largely true. The Parliament cannot initiate legislation; that falls to the Commission. The Council also has the ultimate say in a number of areas,” she says. But it’s a representation of the Parliament that Dublin’s Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa strongly rejects. “No European laws can be passed without the approval of the Parliament. So, although the Commission drafts the laws, 80% of Parliamentary amendments are adopted. That compares to less than 1% of opposition amendments in the Dáil,” he says.
Rights De Rossa cites the Services Directive, a law proposed by
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members 13
Photo courtesy of EPSU
Photo: Courtesy EPSU
What’s the point of voting in the European elections? BERNARD HARBOR asked some Irish MEPs.
photo: Maxwell Photography
European Europeanelections elections
Credit – dreamstime.com
of the world. “Europe’s population is shrinking relative to America, China and South East Asia. It will be a smaller player so it must become a stronger player. That requires more cohesiveness, not less,” he says. All the MEPs I spoke to dismissed the notion that they were in Brussels solely to don the ‘green jersey,’ and said that political differences and voting records should determine how we use our votes in June. Equally, most urged their constituents to take an active ongoing interest in what’s going on in the Parliament, just as they do with Dáil proceedings. Mary Lou McDonald says citizens are often the poor relations in EU decision making. “The big EU bureaucracy is distant and difficult to influence. One of the big challenges for the EU project is to create meaningful channels for participation by the citizens,” she says.
European Union Offices, Brussels
the Commission that united IMPACT and other trade unions across Europe in a massive campaign for amendments to protect public services and workers’ rights. “The Parliament managed to turn it around completely and, in Ireland, the combined efforts of the trade unions and Labour forced our Government to abandon its support for the most damaging aspect of the original directive,” he says. The North-West’s independent MEP Marian Harkin, who describes herself as “an accidental politician,” agrees on the power of the directly-elected Parliament and says it would increase even more if the Lisbon Treaty came into force. And she says MEPs have a responsibility to help ordinary citizens through the EU maze. “There is a sense that decisions taken at a distance impact on their lives, but they have absolutely no control. As politicians we have a duty to facilitate people to get some control back,” she says.
welcomed the outcome of the Services Directive legislation and the Parliament’s recent decision to veto changes to working time rules, even though the biggest (centre-right) parliamentary group would have instinctively been expected to take the opposite view. It’s not easy for MEPs from 27 countries to reach compromises, according the Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness. “It’s easy for the public to decry what we are doing, but no one gets 100% of their own way. It would be wrong if one country achieved everything as others would suffer.” De Rossa agrees: “Sometime you have to vote for second best because best will be voted down and you’d get a worse position,” he says. McGuinness also says politicians at home often cynically blame ‘Europe’ for policies they have supported. “It’s easy to blame Brussels bureaucrats, as if elected MEPs have
“The people you elect are your conduit to what happens at EU level. Don’t just elect them – use them.” Although most MEPs sign up to a political group in the Parliament, they also represent countries and regions with different interests and perspectives that sometimes clash with their political allegiances. Most also belong to one of hundreds of domestic political parties, and their big parliamentary constituencies mean they have to respond to the extremely varied needs of constituents, often including those who don’t vote for them. This complexity means our European representatives have to be expert in finding compromise. The biggest bloc cannot simply force through legislation, as it usually can in a national parliament, and outcomes often defy the parliamentary arithmetic. For instance, trade unions across Europe
no influence. We’ve done it so often that, in one sense, the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty was rooted in an idea that Europe does all the bad bits and Irish politicians do all the positive things,” she says.
Fianna Fáil MEP Eoin Ryan says the European institutions have a communication problem, which has fuelled negative opinion despite the massive financial support Ireland has received from Brussels, and a rake of positive legislation covering everything from trade to health and safety. Ryan says this needs to change as the EU faces tougher challenges on issues like jobs, financial regulation, climate change and the continent’s declining population relative to the rest
“The MEP’s mentioned a range of well financed lobbyists who’d knocked on their doors, ranging from farmers’ groups and pharmacuetical companies to employers’ bodies and even chief executives of Premiership football clubs.” According to Proinsias De Rossa, the trade unions’ Services Directive campaign was a watershed in this respect. “Before that, people only used to come to me after an issue was done and dusted. A lot of people leave Europe to the Government and MEPs. But if they are not feeding back to us, they have no way of influencing European decisions,” he says. You can be sure that plenty of others are working to influence the decisions. Between them, the five MEPs I spoke to mentioned a range of well-financed lobbyists who’d knocked on their doors recently, ranging from farmers’ groups and pharmaceutical companies to employers’ bodies and even chief executives of Premiership soccer clubs. Even if we don’t have the same resources, trade unions and other civil society groups will increasingly have to be in the mix too. Marian Harkin agrees and says that, to a large extent, her priorities in Brussels are led by the people who contact her over issues. “The people you elect are your conduit to what happens at EU level. Don’t just elect them – use them. Be part of it, not outside it,” she urges l
IMPACT and other unions across Europe campaigned to change the EU Services Directive.
Check your MEP’s public service cred
TRADE UNIONS are making it easier for you to check your European candidates’ commitment to public services before you vote in the European elections. The European Federation of Public Service Unions, which counts IMPACT among its members, has invited existing MEPs and election candidates to sign a ‘Public Service Pledge,’ which identifies a range of policies the next European Parliament should prioritise to defend and extend public services. The pledge asks candidates to support a set of framework laws that recognise the special role of essential services in the European Union, and specifically calls for initiatives to protect and promote quality for users of public services. As Work & Life went to press over 100 MEPs and candidates had signed up, including two from Ireland. The second largest group in the Parliament – the Party of European Socialists (PES), which includes the Irish Labour Party – has also backed the pledge. So have the Parliament’s Greens. You can check whether your MEPs and candidates have backed the pledge on the EPSU website – www.epsu.org. IMPACT has written to all Ireland’s sitting MEPs and candidates to seek their support for the pledge, which commits future MEPs to support proposals for legal protection of high quality public services across the EU. In health, it commits signatories to work for legislation to ensure accessibility, affordability and universal provision in public health services. It also calls for well-funded and accountable local government services and respect for civil servants. And it commits signatories to vote against the commercialisation or privatisation of water. Speaking at the Brussels launch of the pledge earlier this year, Portuguese socialist MEP Joel Hasse Ferreira said the Parliament’s recent protection of European working time rules showed how protecting ordinary citizens was essential for the legitimacy of the EU. “We in the Parliament must be able to stand up to the Council of Ministers, and the Commission, and to protect issues such as fair, safe working hours for Europe’s workers,” he said. Find out more on www.epsu.org
14 SUMMER 2009
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members 15
Pagerights title Your
Don’t lose your vote in the June elections
Going away? Compared to some other European countries, entitlements to postal votes are tightly restricted in Ireland. To register for a postal vote you have to be a member of the defence forces or Garda Síochána, an Irish diplomat posted abroad or their spouse, a full-time student studying in a place other than the constituency where you’re registered to vote, or have a physical illness or disability that prevents you from voting in person. This shouldn’t present any problems to you unless you are away from home on election day as polling stations are open from seven in the morning until ten in the evening. But you won’t be able to get a postal vote if you are away for pleasure or even most work purposes.
We’ll soon be going to the polls to cast our votes in the local council and European parliamentary elections. BERNARD HARBOR looks at how the rules on voting impact on public servants and other working people.
If your job takes you away from home at certain times, it would be best to raise this with your boss now to ensure that any travel arrangements can be scheduled to avoid polling day. It’s much better than waiting until June, only to have to choose between losing your vote or having a row with the boss.
OVER THREE million people are entitled to vote in the local government and European parliamentary elections on 5th June. The elections, which take place every five years, will have a huge influence on important local and European policies during a crucial time in our history. For many, they will also be a chance to register a mid-term verdict on the Irish Government.
If it’s a normal part of your job, there’s nothing in law to prevent your employer requiring you to be away on 7th June. But in the vast majority of cases it should be possible to avoid this. Contact your IMPACT branch if you have a problem.
Restrictions For years IMPACT has called for a relaxation in restrictions on public servants’ political activities. These are most stark in the civil service where a 1932 circular banned civil servants from membership of political parties and associations, and forbade them to make their political views public. Issued when Fianna Fáil first came to power and civil war resentments were still very much alive, the general thrust of the direction hasn’t changed much in over 70 years.
Everyone aged 18 or over and resident in Ireland – regardless of their nationality – is entitled to vote in the local elections, which will take place in 258 local constituencies. To vote in the European elections you have to be an Irish citizen or a citizen of another EU state. Again, you must be over 18 and resident in Ireland.
Most civil service ‘officer’ grades above clerical officer are also barred from standing in any election. Similarly, local authority staff can no longer stand for election to the council they work for. In the past they were allowed to run on the understanding that they would relinquish their council job if they won a seat. While the union accepts that conflicts of interest have to be avoided, it has argued that the bar is set far too low and imposes unnecessary restrictions on thousands of staff whose jobs give them no discretionary authority over decision making.
You can’t vote if you’re not on the electoral register, but it’s not too late to register if you haven’t already done so. ®
Now is the time to check, and the easiest way to do it is to go to www.checktheregister.ie. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can check the register at your local council office or a public library, post office or Garda station. If you’re not registered, but are otherwise eligible to vote, you have until 18th May to get yourself listed on the supplementary register. You’ll need to get an application form from your local council – or you can download one from www.checktheregister.ie. Then you must get the completed form witnessed at your local Garda station or, if you can give a reason why that’s not possible, by a council official. If illness or disability prevents you getting a witness, your completed registration form must be accompanied by a medical card. Voters with disabilities may also be eligible to register for various special voting arrangements. You can get details on the Department of the Environment website – www.environ.ie. This article is for information only. It is not a definitive interpretation of the law.
The rules on party membership haven’t been heavily policed over the years, but you should still be aware of the rules and take care that you don’t fall foul of them. Finally, when you go to vote, don’t forget the teams of IMPACT members who are keeping the wheels of our democracy turning. Many local authority rate collectors have been working hard to compile and update electoral registers across the country, while other local government staff have worked to organise the elections and run the polling stations. Don’t forget to vote! G
Find out more
You can check whether you are on the electoral register on www.checktheregister.ie. But hurry because, if you’re not registered, you only have until 18th May to get yourself listed. You can find out more about electoral rights and how the elections work on the Department of Environment and Local Government website. Go to www.environ.ie and click on ‘voting’ under the ‘local government’ headline on the homepage. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 17
Tech? No Fear As the World Wide Web celebrates it’s 20th birthday, NIALL SHANAHAN takes you through the techno-fear, techno-joy and techno-anxiety, and wonders what we’d do without it all.
TECHNOLOGY. IT can be a bit scary. Okay, not for everyone. But the world seems to be divided between those who embrace it and those who try to keep their distance from anything with buttons, programs and an LED touch screen. Comedian Eddie Izzard makes the distinction between techno-fear and techno-joy, which sums it up rather well. I’m techno-joyous. I like gadgets, computers, technology and anything that promises to make life more convenient and digital and modern. Some of my colleagues have even confused my techno-joy with techno-competence. But they are not the same thing. Being able to boil an egg doesn’t make you a Michelin-starred chef. GIS Ireland is a trading name of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Ireland Limited which is regulated by the Financial Regulator.
Face to face with malicious technology. Dave takes on Hal the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Conversations begin with people telling me: “You’re someone who knows your way around computers/iPods/global positioning systems,” as they proffer some piece of unresponsive hardware with a ‘please fix my machine’ expression on their face. Even if I have no idea what I’m doing, I gamely give it a go. And sometimes I get lucky, which only serves to perpetuate the myth that I know what I’m doing. People like me probably populate IT departments all over the world. How hard can it be to advise someone to turn something off and then turn it on again? By the way, that works about 97% of the time.
Cyber toilet We pride ourselves on being able to surf the web and programme Sky Plus boxes, but there is still lots of technology that makes us miserable, confused and angry. Just think ‘this programme is not responding’ and ‘if you end now you may lose any unsaved data’. ® WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 19
Embracing technology And, having selected the ‘end now’ option, aware that a morning’s work will likely be flushed down the cyber toilet, the computer helpfully asks if you’d like to send an error report to the software company. Why on earth would I want to do that? I’ve already lost half a day’s work. I haven’t got time. Ah, time. At the heart of our relationship with technology is the conflict between its ability to do things faster, while at the same time accelerating the amount of information it hurls in our direction, which leaves us less time to do anything else. How much easier was it to get through a planned morning’s work when you didn’t have to wade through a pile of unread email in your inbox? And how much of that unread email was vital to completing any of your work? Very little I’ll bet.
You have now entered the emotional state called techno-anxiety: The sense that, despite your love of technology, it has refused to love you back. And how about those repeat offenders who mark every single email with a priority exclamation mark? Have they never heard the story of the boy who cried wolf?
Rubbish Last month, new research claimed that Irish employees waste more than two hours a day on personal online activities, checking and sending personal email and surfing the internet. Employers are now disciplining their staff while social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter face workplace bans. And, as the working day gets crammed with emails that have to be separated into urgent, non-urgent, rubbish and personal, technology designed to comfort and entertain when you get home is fraught with different – but equally frustrating – obstacles. Digital TV services and hard drive recorders have promised to take the pain out of missing your favourite TV programme. With a few clicks of the remote your favourite series or movies can be recorded automatically (as long as you leave it plugged in). No tapes. No discs. No messing. 20
But after a few months you discover there’s 57 hours of unwatched television in your little box. Do you delete it? No, you’ll get round to it eventually. Except that you never do because you were working late again dealing with a host of emails marked ‘urgent’.
R STA R TE LET 0 €5
Mourning You have now entered the emotional state beyond techno-joy. It’s called techno-anxiety: The sense that, despite your love of technology, it has refused to love you back. Think about that when you feel like having a go at the folks in IT. Most of them are in mourning for what they once thought was a beautiful relationship. But it’s not quite as dysfunctional as all that. Technology has given us a degree of connectivity that was unthinkable a decade ago. It’s easier to keep everyone informed of developments and, as we adapt and incorporate technology’s latest modifications, we are all developing skills – even if it’s unconscious.
I HAVE been watching closely the influx of shoppers travelling from the south to the north in search of bargains.
economy, I would urge members in the south to consider channelling their money to the local economy. This would sustain small businesses, which are rapidly disappearing off the radar.
Now that the differential between the euro and the punt is very little, combined with the downturn in the
Shoppers, particularly ones with families, should also bear in mind that when it comes to securing summer work for
Work & Life
Or you buy an MP3 player capable of storing 80,000 songs. After hours of loading your CDs into the computer and transferring them to the new gizmo (coping with numerous ‘this programme is not responding’ messages as you go), you discover that your entire music collection, several years in the making, takes up less than 10% of the available space. Then you face the anxiety of making sure you get some use out of all that excessive memory before your MP3 player becomes an antique. This happens when the next generation is launched three days after you bought yours.
Shop in the South
Work & Life is the magazine for members of IMPACT trade union. IMPACT members can have it mailed to them by contacting Work & Life at IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1 or by emailing email@example.com. Or call Roisin Nolan on 01817-1544. IMPACT also produces a monthly ebulletin with more detailed information about the union’s activities and campaigns, and developments in your workplace. Sign up via the website on www.impact.ie. IMPACT is Ireland’s largest public sector union with members in health, local government, the civil service, education, the community sector, semi-state organisations, aviation and telecommunications. For IMPACT, email and the web have made it possible to keep a conversation going with members. That conversation is the lifeblood of any campaigning organisation. IMPACT now has about one third of its 61,000 members registered on its website. Daily traffic has grown enormously since the site was launched and, this year alone, as the crisis in the public finances deepens each day, members have come to the website in large numbers looking for answers to their questions. It’s impossible to imagine how we could handle the volume of queries without this tool. The technology has now stepped out of its awkward adolescence. On 13th March the World Wide Web turned 20 years of age. It's hard to overstate the impact this relatively young technology has already had and, now that it’s spanned two decades and found its way into every conceivable corner of our lives, it is hard to imagine life without it. Feel the techno-joy G
their offspring it is of little value to them to attempt to seek employment in the north. So please give this a little thought because, when you weigh up the cost of travel and the long queues, the savings are minimal. So please, please support your local Dunnes Stores, Super Value, Tesco not forgetting Aldi and Lidl. Gertie Lohan, Mayo Branch
You never write, you never phone... Work & Life pays €50 for the best letter published each issue and €30 for the rest. Let us know what you think about the magazine or the issues it’s covered. Come to think of it, let us know your views on anything at all! Get out your pen and paper today. And don’t forget to keep it nice and short. Write to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life, IMPACT Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We only publish signed letters. Work & Life may edit your letter for size.
10% discount for Work & Life readers
at the Tullamore Court Hotel Located in the heart of the Midlands in Co Offaly, just 90 minutes from Dublin, Galway and Limerick is the four-star Tullamore Court Hotel, the perfect destination for you and your family’s getaway. As the Midlands’ leading hotel, the Tullamore Court Hotel offers exquisite accommodation complemented by fine dining, award winning leisure facilities and a warm, friendly welcome to create the ideal ambience for your family break. Aside from the many sightseeing and shopping opportunities in the town centre, the hotel offers an award winning White Flag leisure centre which includes a 20-metre swimming pool with kiddies pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and fitness suite. Harry the Hedgehog’s Kids Club will also entertain the young ones while you kick back and relax on your well-deserved break. To check out special offers at the Tullamore Court Hotel visit www.tullamorecourthotel.ie. Work & Life readers can avail of a 10% discount on our weekend break - two nights, bed and breakfast and one evening meal, €140 per person sharing. You can also enjoy great value midweek breaks for just €119 per person sharing to include two nights, bed and breakfast and one evening meal. As a Work & Life reader you will receive a bottle of wine with dinner with the hotel’s compliments. Offer ends 1st September and is subject to availability. Terms and Conditions apply. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 21
Brand new second hand
Photo: Courtesy of Oxfam.
Some swap shop owners will collect from your house while others will even go through your wardrobe with you. Some give 50% in advance of selling; others pay you an agreed percentage when items sell. They are quite choosy about the goods they intend to sell for you, preferring new or barely worn. Some of the best around the country are Oxfam Vintage in George’s Street, Dublin and Castle Street, Belfast. All the clothing has been donated and the range includes pieces from the 1950s through to the 1980s, as well as modern clothing and accessories. Oxfam manager Julie Green describes it as a win-win situation. “The customer gets fashionable clothing at affordable prices while helping to change the life of someone in need for the better,” she says. I also visited Wear It Again in Dublin’s Lower Baggot Street (phone 01-661-0060) which was very recently opened by Sharon Smurfit. It’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for very good quality investment pieces by top designers. Missoni, Helen Cody, Temperly, Prada and Armani featured along with shoes and bags by Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Christian Laboutin. Garments are well priced, but it’s worth asking for a further reduction. You have nothing to lose. Sellers receive 50% of the retail price and can have the clothes collected from their door. It really is that simple. Shebeen Chic, in Dublin’s George’s Street, hosts a clothes swap every Saturday and, if you’re looking for something more retro, this may be the one for you. You don’t have to swop though – you can just buy.
These Christian Louboutins, priced €150, have never been worn. From Wear It Again in Dublin.
Don’t let the recession interfere with your retail therapy. It’s time to try some second hand chic says TRISH O’MAHONY. INDIVIDUALITY IS the key message coming from the catwalks this season. Be creative, wear what you want, and you’re in fashion. Very true, but how to work it in these straightened times? Where do we look for it and how much will it cost? Well, why not take a trip to your nearest designer swap shop, or vintage charity outlet and combine your purchases with some of the latest trends – strong shoulders, skinny leggings, gold, white and cream. It’s cheaper than you think. Designer swap shops and charity shops have been around a long time, but recently they’ve been making a huge revival. While the traditional charity shop relies on donations, some 22
designer swap shops will take your unwanted clothes and sell them for you. Not only are they great to shop in, but you could make a few bob too. What better place to go in search of our individuality? Apart from the obvious financial incentive, it’s ethical and great fun. My very close friend, a dress designer turned boutique owner, told me she’d enjoyed many happy hours rummaging in Notting Hill’s second hand shops hoping to find Paula Yates castoffs. She might not have found them, but she had great fun looking and came home with some high-class bargains to boot. You might say e-bay is an easier way to shop, but it’s just not the same as seeing something in the flesh, feeling the fabric, checking the seams or trying it on. If you’re a little ‘iffy’ about the idea of second hand clothes, remember that a lot of the stock in these shops has never been worn. Some bridal shops and boutiques donate end of line stock to charity shops and, of course, you have the person who bought the wrong size or wore it once for a special occasion. So, it might not be this season’s collection but, as you know, good fashion doesn’t date. ®
Tosca in Henry Street, Newbridge (phone 045-438-978) is considered one of the leading designer swap shops in the country, with more than 75% of its stock brand new. Isabel de Pedro, Ou est mais de la Soleil, Shirt Passion, Ghost, Chine, Lainey and Mary Grant are among the labels stocked. According to owner Sally McEllistrim everything is at least a third of the original price with a lot of the more expensive names – Chanel, Hermes, Gucci –- often much less. Tosca has a great selection of labels in larger sizes too.
Oxfam Vintage is a million miles from the old image of the charity shop. Check out your local store for high fashion and vintage looks.
I’m also very reliably told, by that same close friend, that Naphisa Boutique in Cook Street, Cork (phone 021-4273787) is a shopper’s heaven, and the only new and nearly new designer shop in the south. Going strong and getting stronger 25 years on, it stocks super labels like Sarah Paccini, Miu Miu, Paul Smith and John Rocha to name but a few. Staff at Naphisa know their customers’ tastes so well they even hold stock for them. Top marks for customer service.
091-562-882). The proprietor is described by a valued customer as being very choosy about her very well presented stock. Just B, Sandwich, Fenn Wright and Mason and Coast are some of the labels in stock and, remember, new stock comes in on a daily basis.
Another designer swap shop that comes very highly recommended is Bridge Mills in Bridge Street, Galway (phone
Sounds like the ideal place to visit the next time we’re in Galway G
Top tips for swap-shopping
Buying Allow plenty of time. Swap shops are not like your regular boutiques and you need time to root and rummage. Visit regularly. The clothes change constantly so visit often and you won’t miss out. Use your imagination. It’s easy to adjust clothes by changing buttons or turning up a hem. Don’t forget to haggle. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Create spending power and space by clearing out your unwanted clothes and bringing them to your nearest swap shop. Some shops collect from your home. Be realistic about prices. Don’t expect to receive more than half what you paid for it. Include accessories to make your garments more attractive. Bring M&S clothing to any Oxfam shop and receive a €7 voucher redeemable against a €50 spend on clothing, home or beauty products at M&S. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 23
Travel and trips
Belgium’s beautiful cities offer great value
This strange Brussels obsession is manifest in similar statues of a little girl and a dog performing the same act in other parts of the city centre. Look out for the huge Tintin murals scattered about the place too. THE SIGNS in Brussels airport tell you that you’ve arrived in the “capital of Europe,” emphasising the city’s main pull as the centre of EU politics and the commerce that comes with it. Arguably, the EU tag has also done this great city a bit of a disservice.
There’s more to Brussels than bureaucracy. BERNARD HARBOR reckons the Belgian capital offers a great weekend break at a reasonable price.
Too many people see the Belgian capital as a place you go to do business, rather than as the fascinating and quirky place it really is. Not to mention its quick and easy access to the beautiful and relaxing cities of Ghent and Bruges.
Brussels Grand Place by night. SUMMER 2009
quaffing. And avoid the so-called Irish bars like the plague.
A short walk south of the Grand Place will bring you to the famous MannekinPis. As the name suggests this tiny statue, which attracts hordes of sightseers, depicts a small boy urinating.
If it’s culture you’re after, head for the Mont des Art, about 20 minutes uphill walk from the Grand Place. You’ll pass an excellent museum of musical instruments on your way to the Musées Royal des Beaux Arts. This excellent and extensive collection of old and modern art may not quite be among the Premier league of national galleries, but it’s certainly top of the Championship. And it might just get promotion if its longpromised Magritte gallery opens this year as promised.
One advantage of the business-focus is that, uniquely among European capitals, it’s often cheaper and easier to book flights and accommodation at weekends. Play your cards right, book well in advance, and Belgium can deliver a relatively cheap weekend break.
Art buffs should set aside a good three or four hours to see both the ancient and modern collections (one ticket covers both). Others should definitely check out the Breugels, Hieronymus Bosch’s bloodcurdling Temptation of Saint Antoine, and Jacque-Louis David’s masterpiece The Death of Marat.
It’s a sprawling city, replete with faded glamour and the art nouveau architecture that, visually, sets it apart from other places. But the starting point for most tourists is its famous central square, the Grand Place.
The modern art collection is also excellent and includes Francis Bacon’s Pope with Two Owls and works by Belgian impressionist James Ensor and surrealists Magritte and Delvaux among others. Great stuff!
Dominated by the Hôtel de Ville, this UNESCO world heritage site was described by Victor Hugo as “the most beautiful square in the world,” an assessment that’s debatable but not too far off the mark. Despite having been to the city many times, I’ve yet to tire of taking an overpriced beer or coffee in one of its cafés while watching the world go by and trying to identify the various guilds associated with its impressive buildings.
Eating and drinking
There’s a rake of tourist attractions in and around the Grand Place including the Hôtel de Ville itself and museums celebrating Belgium’s world famous chocolate and beer. You can buy chocolates, bottles of the 300-plus beers and traditional lace in the surfeit of tourist shops that surround the Place.
The city also offers plenty of retail therapy opportunities from familiar high street outlets to quirky specialist shops. Or lose yourself and a couple of hours in one of Brussels’ Saturday or Sunday markets – you’ll get details from any guide book or tourist office.
This international city is littered with restaurants good and bad, reasonable and pricey. If it’s traditional Brussels fare you’re after, the Aux Arms de Bruxelles (Rue des Bouchers) stands out among the many eateries around the Grand Place. It’s a bit pricier than the others, but its art deco interior and traditionally-clad waiters put it in a different class. Try the traditional mussels and chips.
Great bars include the classy Cirio (Rue de la Bourse), which also does good snacks, La Mort Subite (Rue des Potagères) for fruit beers, Le Greenwich (Rue des Chartreux) where you can watch locals head-to-head over the chess boards, or my favourite La Fleur en Papier Doré (Rue des Alexiens) the former haunt of the surrealists, which also does decent and decently-priced lunches.
Day trips Belgium has an excellent train service which puts Bruges (50 minutes) and Ghent (30 minutes) within easy striking distance for a day or overnight trip. Now made even more famous by In Bruges, the ‘Venice of the North’ really is as beautiful as it looks in the movie. The romantic city centre, which teems with tourists in the summer, is another designated UNESCO heritage site. It’s a fantastic place to wander around, take a canal boat trip or look at the many attractions, which include a Michelangelo madonna and child statue in the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) – a real rarity outside Italy. Ghent is highly recommended too. I first went there to see the famous and fabulous Jan Van Eyck altarpiece (Saint Baafskathedraal) and discovered a delightful medieval city, which boasts more listed buildings than the rest of Belgium put together. Be careful about language, which is a contentious political matter in Belgium. Although it’s geographically located in Flemish-speaking Flanders, Brussels is an autonomous bi-lingual region which, by and large, is French-speaking. You’ll be able to use English in most cafés, restaurants and tourist attractions, but it’s safe to practice your French here. Bruges and Ghent, on the other hand, are firmly Flemish and, unless you have the language, you’re much safer trying English than widely frowned-upon French G
La Kasbah (Rue Antoine Dansaert) offers good, reasonably-priced Moroccan food in a great atmosphere. But my favourite is the family-run Rugantino (only slightly off the beaten track at 184 Boulevard Aspatch), which offers excellent, simple and reasonably priced Italian fare. Don’t leave Belgium without trying the one or more of the world-famous beers. Remember, this strong stuff is for sipping, not
Ghent WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 25
Be good to yourself
Ideally a Sunday. Feeling: Headache, a few spots, sleepy.
The detox side effects are starting to wear off.
A Do two stretches.
B Drink your hot water. Eat your fruit and porridge.
KAREN WARD outlines a simple week long detox plan and identifies the bits you can include in your normal daily routine.
The devil’s in the detox
E For lunch eat a salad with a vinaigrette dressing and
C Do your usual Sunday pursuits and nice things to
D Have your piece of fruit and herbal tea.
keep yourself occupied.
E Have a similar lunch to Day 1. G Do an hours exercise. Snooze afterwards if you need to. H Eat two types of vegetable for dinner with some
A to D from day three.
some protein like fish or goat’s, sheep’s or organic cow’s cheese.
F Walk for half an hour either at lunchtime or directly after work.
G Eat two types of vegetable and some carbohydrate for
H Chill out with a feel good movie or your favourite soap.
Soak in a warm bath for an hour with relaxing music coming from the next room. Use essential oil of lavender to soothe and calm.
DAY 6 Feeling: More energized, in good form. Same as yesterday, but do an extra hour’s exercise of your choice.
DAY 3 Ideally first work day. Feeling: Headache’s over, still sleepy.
I HAVE a very simple detox plan that you can do in a week. Now we’re not talking about a scary strict diet regime that will upset your metabolism and be hard to do. Holistic detox is done in conjunction with your regular routine – with three meals a day. A detox should be done for a limited period of time – ideally one or two weeks. After this you may decide to incorporate some sustainable elements into your normal healthy eating and living. Toxins are basically anything not natural to your body systems like smoke, pollution, additives, and food colourings and flavourings. Over years they clog up your body, soak up all your natural energy, age your facial skin, and drain your motivation leaving you feeling down. The excellent side effects of detoxing are clearer skin, more energy, and a flatter abdomen. And it will help eradicate the dreaded cellulite. This seven-day plan is ideal for men and women. Check with your doctor if you are very overweight, have not exercised for six months or have any medical conditions.
Do three stretches.
Ideally a Saturday. Feeling: Excited, motivated and ready.
Drink your hot water. Eat your fruit and porridge.
A Wake up at the same time every day (choose your normal
C Take it easy work-wise if you can. Explain that you are on
weekday wake-up hour). Stretch yourself slowly. Hands up and toes down, or pick a manageable stretch that you have learnt at a reputable class or from a physiotherapist.
B Drink hot water with lemon as you prepare a breakfast of
fruit and organic yogurt or fruit and porridge. Eat slowly and digest.
C Keep yourself occupied in nice ways. Visit a food market,
museum or art gallery. And do your usual Saturday pursuits.
D Have a piece of fruit and an herbal tea at 11am. Bring it in
your bag if necessary.
E For lunch – either in or out – eat a salad (only vinaigrette
Preparation is the key. You will need to shop for healthy food and plan your week. Ideally start at the weekend when you have time to rest and get used to the initial discomfort that indicates that the plan is working.
Take note: There is no wild socializing or alcohol on this week-long detox. You can have as much water, herbal tea and fruit as you like. You will be going to the toilet a lot – this is a sign that the detox is working. The pounds and toxins have to get out of your system somehow!
dressing) with some protein like fish or goats, sheep’s or organic cow’s cheese. Do an hour’s exercise of your choice, making sure you warm up and cool down. An aerobic exercise that gets the heart and lungs working (cycling, swimming, fast walking or running) would be good.
G For dinner eat two types of vegetable and a carbohydrate like brown rice, boiled or baked potato, or wholemeal pasta.
H Watch a feel good movie and chill.
Feeling: Success. A full detox week nearly done!
D Eat a piece of fruit and herbal tea. Bring a supply of
favourite fruit into work.
Have a big bowl of healthy soup and two slices of wholemeal bread for lunch.
Follow A-F as before. Try some protein (lean meat, fish or tofu) stir fry with brown rice for dinner, then dance at home with a few friends or Karaoke. Celebrate by drinking fancy homemade juice cocktails – non-alcoholic of course. And, when you reach day eight, don’t fall into the trap of overdoing it. Introduce some simple treats – a glass or two of good wine, one chocolate bar 70% cocoa, a slice of carrot cake, etc.
Walk for half an hour at lunchtime or directly after work.
G Eat a salad and some protein (lean organic meat, fish or
Simple detox tips for your daily routine
H Potter, then go to bed early with a fabulous new book or
1. Drink boiled water cooled with a squeeze of lemon in the morning to prepare your digestive system for the day and gently ease elimination of the previous day’s food.
dairy) for dinner.
2. Drink the equivalent of at least three small bottles of water a day. Often you get headaches and low backache because you are dehydrated. Our bodies are made of 70% water so we need to replenish it daily.
DAY 4 Still feeling tired and spotty. Same as yesterday. Phone a friend in the evening or invite them around for a smoothie. You can either buy them or, if you are inclined, have fun making an apple, celery and pear one.
3. Use honey instead of sugar in your tea or on your cereal. There is very little nutritional merit in white processed sugar and the amount you take will affect your insulin levels. 4. Steam, grill or stir-fry your food to hold more flavour and nutrients in. 5. Don’t buy sweets, cakes or biscuits for home. You don’t need them and neither do your children or teenagers l
Karen Ward is a holistic therapist and presenter on BBC’s The Last Resort and RTE’s Health Squad. She is co-author of The Health Squad Guide to Health and Fitness. www.karenwardholistictherapist.com.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members 27
From the kitchen
To beef or not to beef? Ever thought of giving up meat, or just cutting down? MARGARET HANNIGAN says the early summer is the best time to part company with the Sunday roast and full Irish. SEVERAL YEARS ago, I attended a work camp in Cuba comprised of volunteers from various European countries. We spent a month picking fruit and labouring, and ate at the camp most of the time. As well as trade unionists, feminists, and hard-line lefties, we had a large number of vegetarians in the company, which left our guide feeling quite nonplussed. One day, he drew himself up to his full six foot four inches and looked our sole Irish herbivore in the eye. “When there is no more meat,” he solemnly intoned, “I will eat my friends.” We kept him very well fed. While most of us wouldn’t go that far, there’s a widelyheld belief that a diet lacking in meat is somehow second rate. While it will certainly support a guinea pig, sophisticated, multi-tasking omnivores like us need something more. This, of course, is nonsense. Today, vegetarian food is firmly in the mainstream of everyday eating, rather than the sole preserve of bearded eccentrics and neurotic would-be poets.
Cholesterol Some evidence suggests a meat-free diet lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of various cancers. But the main arguments for vegetarianism still revolve around the exploitation of animals and the huge environmental damage caused by intensive farming practices.
Otherwise, changing the eating habits of a lifetime requires a firm commitment, plus a fair amount of research and preparation. For a start, you have to like vegetables. Not just carrots and peas, but the whole market garden from asparagus through to zucchini (relax, that’s just American for courgette).
Style You have to be prepared to learn new ways of cooking, and to educate yourself about finding a proper nutritional balance. Vegetarian is a different style of cooking, and while some people advise adapting your existing meals to meat-free alternatives, I favour the more adventurous approach. Get yourself a good cookbook – anything by Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso in Cork will be hugely encouraging – and let fly. And chances are you know a few vegetarian options already – things like quiche, lasagne (made with veg rather than a ragu sauce), omelettes, and soups. Take it gradually, building up your meat-free meals until you have perhaps just one meateating day in the week, and then none at all if that’s your goal. This may be easier to achieve in the kinder months of summer than in the hibernation of winter. These are the salad months, when all the spring planting pays off. And the greens, soft fruits and tomatoes, peas, courgettes, cucumbers and more are finally, gloriously, in season and on our doorstep. What a relief to eat something that has ripened naturally, and has accumulated no air miles! Treat yourself to fresh, good quality, seasonal produce, and respect the care that went into producing it. And finally, if there is ever a sudden meat shortage, watch out for a tall Cuban man called Oscar. He has a lean, hungry look and absolutely no friends left on his Facebook page G
But where does that leave you, reared on the mammy’s Sunday roast and the full Irish, if you’re thinking about giving up meat?
If you don’t like the taste or texture of meat, then you’re away in a hack, because it’s much easier abandon foods you don’t like than to persuade yourself that certain foods are ‘wrong.’ ® SUMMER 2009
2 small red onions
100 mls olive oil
6-8 red and/or yellow peppers
1 fresh mild red chilli
10 cloves garlic, halved or sliced thickly
4 ripe tomatoes
12 black olives, stoned and halved
320g new potatoes
200g mange tout
1 bunch basil leaves
1 ciabatta loaf
Pesto or tapenade
Goat’s cheese (or any cheese you fancy)
Heat the oil, and add the thinly sliced onions. Cut peppers into quarters, discard seeds and white membrane and cut the quarters into diagonal slices. Slice the chilli in half and cut each half into thin slices. Add the
Countdown to a meat-free you 1
Why, for instance, are we clearing rainforests to grow grain to feed cattle while 840 million people are starving? Grain diverted to animal fodder leaves less for human consumption, while intensive farming practices swallow hundreds of thousands of litres of precious water and add to pollution and carbon footprint problems. Chickens and pigs are reared in conditions that would cause outrage if inflicted on dogs or cats, but are happily ignored in pursuit of a pallid tasteless meat. Unless you find an organic producer, chances are you’re getting a cocktail of chemicals in every bite.
Summer Stew with Goat’s Cheese Ciabatta
Phase out meat gradually, building up from meat-free meals to meatfree days.
Slice the loaf in half lengthways, and spread with a thin layer of basil or tomato pesto, or tapenade, and cover that with thinly sliced goat’s cheese. Bake at 200C/400F until the bread is crisp, and the cheese lightly coloured, Cut into chunks and serve with the stew.
Eggs should be free-range, and cheese must not come presliced in plastic wrapping. Some frozen vegetables are acceptable (peas, spinach). Tinned vegetables are forbidden!
Avoid meat substitutes like TVP (textured vegetable protein) as they will only confuse you and tend to vary wildly in quality.
Find your nearest health food shop. Spices and pulses, which will feature largely in your future, are much cheaper here.
Look for locally produced cheeses you haven’t tried before. You need to move on from Cheddar and Brie.
Invest in some sharp knives and a really good vegetable peeler.
Chop the potatoes in half if they are golf-ball sized or smaller, or into thick slices if bigger. Steam or boil until just tender and add to the stew for the last few minutes of cooking. The stew is done when the peppers are soft and very sweet. Just at the end, snip the ends off the mange tout, pull away the stringy bit, and stir into the stew with the roughly torn basil leaves. Season well with salt and pepper.
Locate good sources of fresh produce. Local farmers’ markets are good, and a fishmonger if you’re going to continue eating fish. Let them tell you everything they know.
peppers, chilli and garlic to the pan and toss well to get a good coating of olive oil. Chop the tomatoes in half, then cut into thick slices and add to the pan with the olives. When everything heats through, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Get a good cookbook. Indian cooking has fantastic options for vegetarians. Stick on the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire and give it a try.
Vitamin supplements should always be taken with food, and iron tablets are better absorbed when swallowed with orange juice.
Wine and chocolate are eternally vegetarian. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 29
Green fingers Always use good-quality potting compost for indoor plants. Soilbased composts (John Innes potting compost) are generally most suitable because they contain and retain more nutrients, dry out less quickly, and are easier to re-wet than peat based composts. They are also heavier, providing stability for big pot plants. Select a pot that is one or two sizes larger than the old one and put moist compost into its base. Insert the plant so that its soil mark is level with the base of the pot rim. Fill the pot with compost to within 1.5cm of the rim, making sure not to leave air pockets in the new compost.
Spring into action Things aren’t too sprightly on the economic front, but JIMI BLAKE says they should soon be brightening up in your garden.
THIS IS my favorite time of year. Everything is bursting into life, the sun is climbing higher and its rays are getting stronger. Once the temperatures rise above 6°C plants start to grow and, after the shocking cold winter we had, I want to get out into the garden again. The new growth and energy of late spring and early summer inspires me to get pruning, planting, tidying up and generally looking forward to – and working towards – a (hopefully!) fabulous summer in the garden.
Magnolia With their pink, purple, yellow or white flowers, magnolias are among my favorite shrubs for this time of year. Most magnolias dislike lime, but I’m always surprised to see so many looking glorious in limey Dublin gardens. If you’re gardening on limey soil and your magnolia foliage is yellowish in hue, annual watering with iron sequestrate will often put things straight. What magnolias resent most
is disturbance of their fleshy roots. They can be moved if necessary, but this should only be done in spring. Magnolia Stellata is a distinct and charming slow growing Japanese shrub forming a compact, rounded specimen, usually wider than it’s height which seldom exceeds three metres. The white, fragrant, star-shaped flowers are borne in March, April and May. They like a good depth of decent soil with added leaf mould, garden compost or a bag of brown gold compost as they like rich living. Magnolia Stellata is available in most garden centres. If you have room for some of the larger varieties with the huge leaves, I would suggest Tripetala and Macrophylla.
Indoors If it’s still uninviting for you outside, use the time to pot on any tired-looking house plants. Knock the plant from its pot and if its roots take up all or most of the available space, it’s time to pot it on. u
If your indoor plant is already too big to go into a larger pot, I suggest giving the plant a top dressing by removing the the top 2.5-5cm of the old compost, taking care not to damage the plant’s roots, and replacing it with fresh moist compost to which a small amount of fertilizer (osmocote) has been added. Firm in the compost and water l
Now’s the time to…
The snowdrops were stunning in Hunting Brook this February and March, even after two feet of snow sitting on top of them for a fortnight. If the clumps are large enough, now’s the time to dig them up and divide them to create graceful drifts instead of circular blobs.
Stake border perennials before it’s to late.
Plant out summer bedding plants when the risk of frost is past. Even though the garden centres are over- flowing with annuals from early spring, we can still get frost until the end of May.
Sow winter cabbages and cauliflower seeds.
Plant out canna lillies and dahlias with a good serving of well rotted manure, and keep an eye out for Mr Slug!
Plant out courgettes when the risk of frost is past. These are very hungry plants and need lots of manure. One plant will produce a wonderful supply of courgettes for the summer.
• • •
• Sow runner beans outdoors in mid- May. But no earlier as they hate
Your vegetable garden THIS IS the most important time for sowing and planting vegetables. Most hardy plants can be sown straight out into the ground. Or do as I do and start most of the nonroot crops in pots and plant them out when they are a few inches high and less susceptible to slugs and poor weather. Rotation is simply the grouping of different vegetables into families and growing them in a different piece of ground each year. The practice will reduce the effects of soil pests and diseases. Try a simple three-year rotation moving families from plot A to plot B then plot C. Year 1: Legumes, brassicas and potatoes. Year 2: Brassicas, potatoes, legumes. Year 3: Potatoes, legumes, brassicas. Don’t lose sleep over rotation, but try to avoid planting vegetables from the same group in the same area in consecutive seasons. I suggest organising your vegetable growing area into small beds for each different group of vegetables.
Peas please One of my favorite things to do in the vegetable garden is to pick peas, pod them and eat them raw in the garden. They’re deliciously sweet and bursting with flavour. They’re a great vegetable to grow if you’re trying involve your children as they’re easy and rewarding to grow and kids will love to eat them too. I use a variety called Green Long Shaft which is available in most garden centres. When you buy the packet of seeds there are lots in a packet so they give a good return for the money. I like to sow my peas in individual pots or module trays using organic seed compost during April, May and June to maintain a supply through the summer. I plant the pea plants out when they are 10cm tall and insert supports like bamboo canes around the plants like a wig wam. Peas like rich moisture retentive soil which does not dry out. As peas are prone to soil-borne root infections, never grow them on the same site for more then one year at a time. Other varieties worth growing are mangetout (Oregon Sugar Pod), sugar snap (Sugar Ann) and peas for shelling (Feltham First).
Spinach Be generous with you’re sowing spinach so that you can gather great big handfuls for the cooking as it cooks down to almost nothing. Sow the seed directly into soil with plenty of well rotted manure added from May to August. Sow in drills 1cm deep and 30cm apart. It is one vegetable that will tolerate light shade and tends to run to seed in a warm summer. When it does this, just discard the plants and start again. If you are limited for space, I suggest growing in large pots. Recommended varieties include Palco, Tarpy and Bordeaux l Jimi Blake is available for gardening consultations. Contact him on 087-285-6601 or email@example.com. www.huntingbrook.com. Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
At the movies
Stage set for
The emphasis is on projecting things out from the screen rather than drawing the viewer into the action.
Filmmakers are promising to take you to a new dimension. MORGAN O’BRIEN has his doubts. AN APOCRYPHAL tale in film history runs that when the Lumiére brothers first projected their film Arrival of a Train at a Station in 1896, it appeared so real that many in attendance rushed from their seats to get out of the path of the oncoming locomotive. In the century or so that has passed since the creation of cinema, filmmakers have continually sought to match and even surpass the experiences of those first audiences. One such attempt has been the periodic revival of the 3-D format, most recently in the Disney animated feature Bolt. Recent technological advances have led filmmakers like Jeffrey Katzenberg, John Lasseter and James Cameron to declare 3-D as the dawning of a new era in cinema. But, much as 3-D is seen as heralding a new leap in cinema culture, it is also an indelible part of the medium’s past. Since the 1950s the format has been used to impress upon the public the unique and distinct aspects of the cinema experience, especially in the face of falling audience numbers after the arrival of television and, subsequently, video and DVD. The first feature length film in 3-D was 1952’s Bwana Devil, a largely forgett32
able African adventure tale, memorable only for its visual gimmickry. But the film’s commercial success prompted a spate of 3-D releases from the major studios. Notable in this period were the film noir Man in the Dark, which featured a climactic roller coaster ride, and the horror House of Wax with Vincent Price.
Many of these films sacrifice content for style. Scenes are designed around visual setups, constructed through a series of predetermined shots around which a story is then fitted.
them. This aspect of 3-D films, which critic Mark Kermode has characterised as “pointy,” means that the emphasis is on projecting things out from the screen rather than drawing the viewer into the action. prominent examples were Friday the 13th III (1982), Amityville 3-D (1983), and Jaws 3-D (1983). These films employed the 3-D technique in some notable sequences, such as Friday the 13th’s ‘eye-popping’ scene and the shark’s emergence from the water in Jaws. However, while these films hold a quaint feeling of nostalgia for those of a certain generation, they also demonstrate a continuing problem; that these films are designed around visual setups, sacrificing content for style.
These movies’ financial success was primarily due to their novelty factor. But the initial enthusiasm waned due to the format’s lack of technical sophistication, which caused headaches and nausea, and the overall poverty of the films themselves.
A potential difficulty, then, with a reliance on visual devices such as 3-D is that films will be constructed through a series of predetermined shots around which a story will then be fitted. For example, last year’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth featured a number of somewhat incongruous visuals, which seemed purely designed to exploit the 3-D format and randomly threw things at the viewer rather than contributing to the film as a whole.
While 3-D was used periodically during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly within the horror and science-fiction genres, it was during the 1980s that the format had a renaissance. Three
The technique proved more suitable to the self-conscious horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3-D, which subjected audiences to no small amount of sharpened objects being thrust at
However, the makers of Bolt were recently explicit in their commitment to creating an “immersive experience” for the audience. This remains something of a moot point for Irish audiences, with the relative lack of 3-D screens meaning many will have had to view the film in more traditional 2-D form. Even for those with access, there exists the disincentive of having to pay extra for 3-D glasses. While the number of Irish cinemas equipped to screen 3-D is increasing, the uptake across the country remains somewhat slow. In the United States, it’s reported that only about 1,300 of the nation’s 40,000 screens can carry the format. With upgrading costs running to around $100,000, it may be some time before the vision of a 3-D cinema is a reality. But these economic constraints do not appear to have dulled filmmakers’ enthusiasm, with reports suggesting that there are currently 30 3-D pictures on Hollywood’s production slate. However, while the technology exists, past history tells us that there is still the need for caution against the application of 3-D visuals in the service of 2-D stories if it is to yield truly remarkable and groundbreaking cinema G
3-D spectaculars MORGAN O’BRIEN spies some forthcoming 3-D releases through his green and red specs. Monsters v Aliens
the future has been the subject of continued delays. 18th December.
Launched with a 3-D advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl, the latest animation feature from Dreamworks is about a group of monsters, kept secret by the United States government, who are charged with the task of defeating alien invaders. 3rd April.
Alice in Wonderland
Coraline Director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) adapts Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed fantasy novel in a 3-D stop-motion animation film, which has been winning high praise from the critics. 8th May.
The Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience An acquired taste, the Jonas Brothers live show follows U2 and Hannah Montana in getting the big screen 3-D treatment. 29th May.
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s enduring masterpiece is a mix of live action and animation, and features an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Alan Rickman. Date not yet confirmed.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn The considerable weight of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson is behind a proposed three-film adaptation of Hergé’s comic book creation. Scheduled for release in 2011 the film will be shot in motion capture 3-D.
Avatar Self-anointed ‘King of the World’ James Cameron (Titanic) makes a long-awaited return to feature film directing with Avatar. Due for release in December, this science-fiction movie set 200 years in WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 33
Play it loud
Boom time for pop? THERE’S ONE sure thing about an economic crisis. The scope to generate philosophical debate in the public house is second to none. I was recently a willing participant in one such whirlpool of wisdom. The initial debate centred on the view that one positive thing about the economic downturn would be the return of some form of charm and humility to our society. Remember the days before the baguette and breakfast roll, when a trip to the shops for bread and milk (luxury!) included a 10-minute chat with the shopkeeper and customers? Where kids actually walked to school together, the older ones looking out for the younger ones, learning street skills along the way. Or the pre-Sky TV saturation days when football happened at three o’clock on a Saturday, followed by an evening illuminated by Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game followed by Dixon of Dock Green?
Photo: Joep Mens, Kamerado
The debate somehow moved on to the thorny and, I have to report, very personalised, subject of music. The theory proffered by my company was that art, including music, becomes far more creative in hard times and standards rise accordingly. It’s a perspective recently supported by Noel Gallagher whose band Oasis, ironically, hit its critical and commercial peak during the boom time ‘Cool Britannia’ years.
Noel Gallagher reckons music gets better during a recession. RAYMOND CONNOLLY’S not so sure. 34
Wonderwall notwithstanding, my gut instinct was to accept the theory as given. But, probably fuelled by a few more units, I began to challenge this pearl of wisdom. ®
Vivid It’s part of the ageing process to hanker after the past where, for those of us who are of a certain age, hard times remain in one’s memory most vividly. While growing up in the 1970s, I clearly recall my dear old dad extolling the virtues of the 1940s and 1950s. “I had to carry eight stone of coal on my back, we only had two slices of bread between eight of us, at Easter we got a hard-boiled egg, etc, etc.” But those were great days! And you could leave your key in the door. Not least because there was nothing in the house to rob. Is it not possible then, because music can be so uplifting, that we tend to recall occasions when the fine art lifted us from our gloom more readily? Take the rose-recession-tinted glasses off for a second and have a look at how the facts stack up. In the prosperous swinging sixties, we had the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Small Faces and the Beach Boys. Rewind the radiogram to the grim 1940s and, aside from Hitler and Lord Haw Haw, you might have heard George Formby singing My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock on the radio. Maybe that argument is a tad unfair. George Formby had the misfortune to pre-date Bill Haley, Elvis and Buddy Holly. And you could argue that he wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on one of those Small Faces ‘concept albums’. But take the 1980s. Millions unemployed. Mass emigration. Miner’s strike. Musically, things started okay with the likes of XTC, Joe Jackson, Blondie, et al. Then along came the ska revival, still carrying the flag for chic postpunk new wave. The Brixton and Toxteth riots of 1981 were brilliantly captured by the Specials in Ghost Town. So far, so good for the ‘Gallagher theory’.
Redundant Then as the decade moved into the nadir of the miners’ strike in 19841985, some musical hope was provided by the Smiths, the Housemartins and the occasional decent redundancy package. But, that aside, the creative wheels flew off the musical juggernaut. Try this for size: Footloose by Kenny Loggins, All Night Long by Lionel Richie, Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Junior.
During the last recession Starship were building this city on rock and roll, Glen Frey was moaning about the heat being on, and Foreigner were busy wanting to know what love is.
Even Stevie Wonder got in on the act with I Just Called To Say I Love You as Black Lace’s Agadoo stormed the charts.
And if 1984 wasn’t bad enough, 1985 didn’t improve. Dire Straits completed the descent from Sultans of Swing six years previously to wearing headbands and ski-pants and torturing us with Money for Nothing. Starship were building this city on rock and roll. Glen Frey was moaning about the heat being on and Lou Gramm and Foreigner (plus a choir load of kids) were busy wanting to know what love is. These are merely samples, my friends. Music in the early 1980s was tipping along just nicely until Howard Jones turned up with his “mini-moog” machine liking to get to know us well and opening up the door for such luminaries as, er, Nick Kershaw. But one 1984 event should not go without a mention. Yes it’s that working class icon and saviour of the universe Mr Paul Hewson and his mates from U2, with the release of the completely forgettable Unforgettable Fire. Debate over! G
Summer 2009 Soduko Solutions (From page 48.)
5 6 2 8 3 7 4 9 1
9 4 3 5 1 2 7 6 8
1 7 8 4 6 9 3 2 5
2 1 7 6 5 8 9 3 4
3 5 6 9 4 1 8 7 2
4 8 9 2 7 3 1 5 6
6 3 1 7 2 4 5 8 9
8 2 4 3 9 5 6 1 7
7 9 5 1 8 6 2 4 3
7 2 3 5 4 1 6 8 9
8 4 5 9 6 2 7 1 3
6 1 9 8 7 3 2 4 5
9 7 1 3 5 4 8 2 6
5 8 2 1 9 6 3 7 4
3 6 4 2 8 7 5 9 1
1 3 6 4 2 8 9 5 7
2 5 7 6 1 9 4 3 8
4 9 8 7 3 5 1 6 2
Election reflection With the European and local elections fast approaching, RAYMOND CONNOLLY name checks 10 tracks to get you in the mood.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Little Willy (Won’t Go Home). The Sweet, 1971. Limerick Minister canvasses 24/7. Happy Bertie To You. Stevie Wonder, 1980. The election season finds the former Taoiseach in fine fettle. I Second That E-Motion. The Miracles, 1967. Martin Cullen still believes e-voting is the way forward. (It’s Not Easy) Bein’ Green. Kermit the Frog, 1970. John Gormley suddenly realises he’s in government. Looking Through Eamonn Gilmore’s Eyes. The Adverts, 1977. Any time you feel like seeing red. It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want to. Lesley Gore, 1963. Mary Harney considers re-establishing the PDs. Magic Bus. The Who, 1968. Noel Dempsey explains the new transport policy. This bus is so magic it disappears. Mary. The 4 of Us, 1989. “Oh Mary, why don’t you have some sense.” No offence, Tánaiste. Elected. Alice Cooper, 1972. The one thing they all agree on they wanna be elected! Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Monty Python, 1979. Straight from the Life of Brian.
Making your mind up I SEE that, on page six of this issue of Work & Life, IMPACT member Sinéad Mulvey is featured in her capacity as Ireland’s Eurovision song contest entrant. Well, congratulations and best wishes to you Sinéad. I see also that Niall Shanahan, who in the pages of the last issue displayed himself as aficionado of cooldom (“being a Joy Division fan”) has come out in support of all things Eurovision. Niall, it’s time you started “makin’ your mind up” before you get into “all kinds of everything.”
Spring 2009 Crossword Solutions
See page 48 for the competition winners from Issue 4.
Across: 1. Promise 5. Eject 8. Units 9. Routine 10. Brittle 11. Leers 12. Menace 14. Addson 17. Moral 19. Trample 22. Evident 23. Grove 24. Sweat 25. SceneryDown: 1. Plumb 2. Opinion 3. Inset 4. Earned 5. Equal 6. Elite 7. Treason 12. Members 13. Collect 15. Suppose 16. Status 18. Raise 20. Argue 21. Every. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 35
From the author
You’ll love this book MY MISTRESS’S SPARROW IS DEAD Edited by Jeffrey Eugenides (Harper Perennial, £9.99 in the UK). SUBTITLED GREAT Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, this book is an absolute must for anyone who loves great writing but doesn’t have the time to extensively read the works of the writers who appear in this collection. Literary luminaries like William Trevor, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver and Vladimir Nabakov are just some of those whose works are included. In the introduction, Jeffrey Eugenides writes a fine essay on what exactly constitutes a love story. This in itself is well worth reading. From the Latin poet Catullus, whose poem gave the book its title, through Plato and onto the modern writers, it is both enlightening and entertaining. In his own words “Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.”
Photo: Conor Healy.
“Love stories give love a bad name.”
These are not pink and fluffy love stories but stories of lost love, unrequited love, painful first love and inappropriate love. All richly conveyed. Buy this book, keep it and dip into whenever you want to enjoy a master at their craft. The proceeds go to charity too!
uncovered IN THE AFTERMATH of the Irish civil war, the newly formed Free State was struggling to assert its authority, while communities and families were coping with the rifts that define the aftermath of bitter struggle. Hidden histories are part of the currency of a society coming to terms with itself and many are eventually forgotten, even if they are a matter of public record. However, one such hidden history has been unearthed and recorded in masterful detail by IMPACT member Pat Walsh. The Curious Case of The Mayo Librarian is a very accessible and entertaining record of a dispute which attracted interest across the globe and threatened to bring down the Government of the day. In July 1930, Letitia Dunbar Harrison was chosen by an interview panel for the post of Mayo county librarian. However, Mayo County Council refused to endorse her appointment, defying a specific instruction from the Local Government Department. It should have been an uneventful, routine app36
ointment, yet the decision set church against State, county council against Government and members of the same political party against one another. The reason? Ms Harrison was a protestant. Pat had an immediate affinity with the story when he stumbled across it. He hails originally from Ballinrobe and works as a librarian with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. He explains the origins of his interest in the case, “I came across a brief reference in JH Whyte’s ‘Church and State in Modern Ireland,’ but it was little more than a footnote. Then I came across some more material by historian Joseph Lee, and that was enough to get me started. I was delighted no one had seized upon it before,” he says. As a graduate of Trinity College and a protestant, Harrison was regarded by the Mayo establishment as antinational. The original pretext for her
Here, then are stories as diverse as Alice Munro’s The Bear Came over the Mountain, in which a husband makes a hugely selfless act for his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease, or the more unconventional Mouche by Guy de Maupassant, where four friends love the same woman.
What ER did next
Pat Walsh: New book.
rejection was on the grounds that she lacked proficiency in the Irish language. The Local Authority Commission (LAC) overturned the rejection. The conflict played out over the pages of the national press, and had audiences as far away as Boston and London, as the Irish diaspora became fascinated with the story. “It was the first time the State stood up to religious authority,” Pat explains. The stakes were high for all involved. Many county councils had already been abolished in the fallout from the Civil War, and central government was determined to assert itself. Mayo County Council faced abolition as the issue gathered heat. Pat’s book draws on the State papers of the period (1930-31), newspaper coverage and correspondence to the national papers. Harrison was eventually ‘promoted’ to Dublin, working in the military library in Parkgate Street until her marriage to Methodist Minister Robert C Crawford. She eventually
moved to Whitehaven in Northern Ireland with her husband where she lived until her death in the mid-1990s.
BLOODLETTING & MIRACULOUS CURES Vincent Lam (Harper Perennial, £7.99 in the UK).
While Harrison is central to events in the book, it’s not a biography. It is, however, a very well structured anatomy of an unusual moment in Irish history. The central characters are the political and religious figures of the day, and there is as much colour as there is heat in the various accounts of public meetings and debates.
IT’S A funny old thing this doctoring business. On the one hand, we want our doctors to be smart, calm and so decisive they seem to be almost a different species. On the other hand we never want them to forget our common frailty, our need to feel cared for, and our abiding terror of death.
Pat wrote the book over an 18-month period, gathering his material from the National Archive and National Library. He has produced a definitive record here, but much more significantly, he has produced a book that is accessible and entertaining; a great way to lift the lid on a hidden history.
Here we get to hang out with the medics, go home with them, get drunk with them, and see how life looks from the other side of the latex glove. It’s a collection of 12 stories about four interconnected characters as they make the transition from medical school to hospital life. The resulting narrative jumps around a bit and is episodic rather than linear. But, hey, a generation like you, raised on ER, Casualty, and House, can probably handle that, right? (Grey’s Anatomy is excluded as they are all too shiny and annoying.)
The Curious Case of The Mayo Librarian by Pat Walsh is published by Mercier Press on paperback at €12.99 and is available in most bookshops G
The stories are remarkably well-written and skillfully crafted to show, rather than tell, all the author wants us to know. They are truthful and sometimes raw with intensity, and there aren’t many happy endings. But they pulse with authenticity, and are utterly compelling.
We want the crisp white coat, the stethoscope and a one-way transaction of salvation, but we don’t really want to know any of that icky personal stuff. Spouse trouble? Money worries? Insomnia? Thanks Doc, but do it on your own time.
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 37
More book reviews
Sticky wicket NETHERLAND Joseph O’Neill (Harper Perennial, £7.99 in the UK). HANS VAN den Broek is a Dutch man married to an English woman and living in New York. After the events of 9/11, his wife, Rachel, announces that she no longer wants to live in fear and is returning to London with their baby son. But it’s not just the city she needs a break from. Her leaving is perhaps a method of self-protection, and Hans goes along with the pretence. Alone in New York, he is lonely, melancholy and self-absorbed. Despite his lucrative job, life without his family is directionless. There is one thing though, which still connects him to other people: Cricket, the game he loved as a boy in Holland. Through his involvement with the New York cricket scene Hans meets Chuck Ramkissoon, a larger than life character with big ideas. In particular, Chuck plans to build New York’s first real cricket club and stadium and he wants Hans to be part of the business. The story is told in the first person, putting the reader inside Hans’ head seeing life as he sees it. Much of the narrative therefore, is philosophical as Hans makes sense of his own experience. Although we know early on that Chuck has been murdered, and there is a tension as Hans becomes increasingly pulled in by him, the book is not plot-driven. With long, complex sentences and movement between past and present, this is a book which deserves a little quiet time. Kathryn Smith
Three’s a crowd GLOVER’S MISTAKE Nick Laird (Fourth Estate). THIS IS a story about jealousy, anger and hubris. In it, some very unlikeable characters are remarkably unkind, not to say downright malevolent, to someone they profess to love. It’s the old boy-loves-girlwho-loves-other-boy situation, where the boy who doesn’t get the girl still doesn’t get the message, and the girl who is got, doesn’t get it either. The main character is the sad singleton, David Pinner. A 35-year old English teacher in a private school, David is defined largely by what he is not – not a writer, not a boyfriend, not a father. He has only one friend, his flatmate, the eponymous James Glover. Young, handsome, affable and completely unselfconscious, Glover is the silver lining that never even sees the cloud. Enter Ruth, a beautiful, mature, sophisticated, successful American artist currently exhibiting in London. David manages to parlay the fact that she lectured him during his brief stint as an art student a decade or more ago into a tenuous friendship. He introduces her to the delightful Glover, whose whirlwind romance with Ruth quickly takes over the narrative, and fuels David’s free-floating resentment. David quickly abandons any pretence at loyalty to either of them, and his petty, malicious, manoeuvres display an unnerving detachment and a ruthless self-interest. Margaret Hannigan
Fergus Finlay of Bernardos and IMPACT leader Peter McLoone discuss educational disadvantage.
Photo: Conor Healy.
NEWS IN BRIEF... T&S hit
“For the most disadvantaged people education provides the only real, tangible route out of social disadvantage, poverty and exclusion. You have heard a good deal of talk about ‘sharing the load’ when it comes to devising economic solutions. Sharing the load means protecting the most vulnerable,” he said.
IMPACT HAS lodged a claim with the Civil Service to review travel and subsistence rates after the Government’s imposition of revised rates, which cut payments by 25% across the board. The cut, which is effective from 5th March 2009, was opposed by the union. Separate circulars are expected to issue for local government and health, where the HSE has been seeking to cut the amount of travel as part of its efforts to find savings this year. IMPACT has said that important front-line services will be reduced by limits on travel.
Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay told delegates that educational performance was linked to poverty. “The education system has a huge role to play, not just in dealing with the causes of poverty among children, but also in ending childhood poverty,” he said.
IMPACT education seminar VULNERABLE CHILDREN must have decent educational opportunities despite the recession, according to IMPACT general secretary Peter McLoone. Speaking at the union’s recent education seminar he said protecting the “precious resource” of education was essential to economic recovery.
AN ONLINE petition has been set up to allow people to register their opposition to recent violence in the north. The Northern Ireland Peace Rallies Petition was established, after the Irish Congress of Trade unions (ICTU) organised silent vigils across the North in protest at renewed terrorist killings, to allow others to register their protest. You can sign at www.petitiononline.com/ peaceni/petition.html.
Health cuts continue
Delegates included members from the union’s education branches, who now represent over 6,000 workers, and guests from the teaching unions and other education organisations. Dr. Paul Downes of the Centre for Educational Disadvantage told them that current educational investment should not be the high water mark of commitment to overcoming educational disadvantage. “Unions have been a driving force in developing initiatives and there needs to be a renewed commitment on behalf of unions to lobby for a holistic strategy to move beyond educational disadvantage,” he said.
DESPITE REVISING down its expected budget deficit for 2009, the HSE is still seeking at least €700 million in cuts this year. The €700 million is made up of €530 million in savings already identified, plus at least €205 million extra identified in March. But more cuts seem likely. It was reported in March that the Department of Health would find another €200 million worth of savings. But none of these figures takes into account any additional cuts in the April mini-budget or the recommendations of the ‘special group,’ which will propose public service reallocation and rationalisation measures to the Government at the end of June.
IMPACT, SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) are among the organisations supporting the recentlylaunched Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP). The support group was launched in the Republic following the Israeli attacks on Gaza at the end of last year. You can get more details and a membership form from tufp@ dublin.ie.
The HSE told journalists it would target cuts in temporary and agency staff and close some hospital beds to achieve the savings. In a circular to branches, IMPACT national secretary Kevin Callinan said the HSE was considering options like cutting “non-core” pay such as overtime, premia and allowances, and cutting services and temporary posts. It is also believed that a ‘hit list’ of hospital closures exists, and that other radical cuts in community services are being considered.
IMPACT members get news quicker
IMPACT has called on the Government to provide extra funds to cover the growing cost of services associated with growing unemployment, like medical cards and drugs. It has also called for an end to the costly and wasteful hospital ‘dual location’ programme and other State subsidies to private health providers.
IMPACT members can sign up for full access to our website – plus a monthly emailed news bulletin – via www.impact.ie.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Unions push Euro public service pledge TRADE UNIONS are making it easier for you to check your European candidates’ commitment to public services before you vote in the European elections on 5th June. The European Federation of Public Service Unions, which counts IMPACT among its members, has invited existing MEPs and election candidates to sign a ‘Public Service Pledge,’ which identifies a range of policies the next European Parliament should prioritise to defend and extend public services. The pledge asks candidates to support a set of framework laws that recognise the special role of essential services in the European Union, and specifically calls for initiatives to protect and promote quality for users of public services. As Work & Life went to press over 100 MEPs and candidates had signed the pledge, including two from Ireland – Dublin MEP Proinsias de Rossa and Labour’s Leinster candidate Nessa Childers. The second largest group in the Parliament – the Party of European Socialists (PES), which includes the Irish Labour Party – has also backed the pledge. So have the Parliament’s Greens. IMPACT is writing to all Ireland’s sitting MEPs and candidates to seek their support for the pledge, which commits future MEPs to support proposals for legal protection of high quality public services across the EU. In health, it commits signatories to work for legislation to ensure accessibility, affordability and universal provision in public health services. It also calls for well-funded and accountable local government services and respect for civil servants. And it commits signatories to vote against the commercialisation or privatisation of water. Speaking at the Brussels launch of the pledge earlier this year, Portuguese socialist MEP Joel Hasse Ferreira said the Parliaments’ recent protection of European working time rules showed how protecting ordinary citizens was essential for the legitimacy of the EU. “We in the Parliament must be able to stand up to the Council of Ministers, and the Commission, and to protect issues such as fair, safe working hours for Europe’s workers,” he said. Find out more on www.epsu.org
Ballot slightly short
We face five crises
IMPACT MEMBERS recently voted by 65%-35% in favour of industrial action – marginally short of the two-thirds majority required to sanction industrial action under IMPACT’s rules. As this issue of Work & Life went to press, the union’s elected Central Executive Committee was meeting to discuss the outcome of the ballot and the next steps in the union’s campaign in defence of the national agreement and in support of a fair approach to economic recovery, including changes to the public service levy.
THE FAILURE to address all aspects of Ireland’s economic crisis at the same time has fuelled “confusion” and a sense that some groups are “bearing the largest burden of adjustment,” according to the respected National Economic and Social Council (NESC).
The turnout in the ballot was 53%.
The ballot followed the Government’s decision to rush legislation through the Dáil to get the public service levy in place before 1st March, despite huge opposition. It called on members to agree to industrial action in opposition to the Government and employers’ decision to walk away from the national agreement, which was overwhelmingly backed by IMPACT members last autumn.
In a special report published in March, the NESC said Ireland had to deal with separate but related crises in banking, public finances and the economy, as well as social and reputational crises. It called for an integrated national response based on social solidarity, which would feature “short-term measures that have long-term logic.”
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has told the Government it is willing to negotiate a three-year deal to get us through the economic crisis, on the basis of the ICTU ten-point plan for economic recovery (see article on page 43).
In its stark analysis of the depth of the recession, the NESC says all these crises have to be tackled together. “Our analysis strongly suggests that a series of partial and sequential measures, some of which are undoubtedly necessary, will not be sufficient and effective,” it says.
Under the union’s longstanding rules, industrial action ballots must achieve the support of two-thirds of those who vote or over half of those eligible to vote. The ballot represented the third element of IMPACT’s campaign to defend the Towards 2016 agreement and its terms, which began when social partnership talks broke down and the Government announced its intention to freeze the national wage deal indefinitely and impose the public service levy. It followed the highly successful national demonstration organised by ICTU in February, which saw a huge mobilisation of IMPACT members. It has been estimated that over 20,000 IMPACT members were among the 120,000-plus who marched in Dublin. As well as a huge turnout from members based in and around the capital, IMPACT branches organised coaches from Athlone, Carrick-onShannon, Carlow, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mullingar, Offaly, Sligo and Wexford. The union also organised a massive lobbying effort around the weekend of 14th February, which generated thousands of email contacts between IMPACT members and their TDs and a big turnout in many local TD constituency clinics.
Photo: Sunday Tribune.
ICTU’s ten-point national recovery plan proposes a ‘social solidarity’ approach to economic recovery with employment as the top priority. The unions say the wealthy should contribute significantly to restoring public finances and that the public service levy is a crude and unfair measure which must be changed. The proposals also call for safeguards for private sector pension schemes, most of which are in crisis because of the collapse of share prices in recent months. And it wants Government action on the banks, which should be
The body, which includes union and business representatives as well as economists and Government officials, says the current recession was caused by the realisation of foreseeable risks. “What was not envisaged was that these risks would materialise simultaneously and in a mutually reinforcing way,” it says. NESC’s call for social solidarity echoes the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) position on economic recovery, as does the NESC view that tax changes “should not be considered solely in terms of revenue, but also in the light of principles of tax reform.” Launching its ten-point national recovery plan, ICTU told the Government it was willing to negotiate a three-year deal to get us through the economic crisis. There have been indications that both the Government and employers’ body IBEC want to get back into talks to negotiate such a deal, but all sides want to be sure of a high chance of success before re-engaging.
determined by “what is best for the public interest and how best to protect peoples’ homes.” ICTU says forcing working families to pay for the crisis will cost jobs and it strongly opposes Government and employer attempts to drive down wages “as an alternative to currency devaluation.” Read more on the ICTU proposals on www.impact.ie l
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
Competition has resulted in a reduction or elimination of current account fees and some banks even pay interest on credit balances subject to some limits – but generally only on newer accounts. You may not be enjoying these benefits if you opened your account some years ago. The best personal current account is that offered by Halifax. There are no transaction fees and you earn interest of 7.23% on credit balances up to €2,000, so long as you are lodging at least €1,500 a month. That could be your pay cheque. Call into your bank and see if they can match that. If you don’t want to change banks at least make sure that you are switched into the best available account your bank is offering. For the internet literate, there is also the option of opening an online demand account into which any spare money in your current account can easily be transferred. Northern Rock is currently paying 3.5% on its online demand account. Your next step should be to ensure that you are getting the best possible return on your savings. And you don’t have to put your money out of reach. The nationalised Anglo Irish Bank is paying 4.75% on demand deposits of up to €100,000 and 4% on accounts with more than €100,000 in them. You don’t need an internet account. Ulster Bank is paying 3.75% on sums over €15,000 with an extra bonus of 0.5% for the first six months. But the rate is only 0.1% on accounts under €15,000 and no interest is paid for any month in which a withdrawal takes place. That latter condition can prove very expensive. Halifax pays 3.5% on sums up to €10,000 while Rabo Direct is paying 2.5% on its internet account. Rabo enjoys a €100,000 guarantee from the Dutch government. Putting money away at a fixed rate for a year or more may prove a shrewd move if variable demand rates fall in coming months. But, with the banks relying more and more on deposits (rather than the inter-bank market) for their funds, the likelihood is that demand rates will remain relatively high. Anglo Irish is paying a fixed rate of 4.9% on one-year accounts and allows one withdrawal of up to 10% of the deposit. Halifax pays 2.8% on a similar account. The Anglo two-year rate is 3.5%. If you can save up to €1,000 a month, it is possible to get up to 7.3% on the money you save. These high rates are not available on larger lump sums but at €1,000 a month you can build up a fairly big lump sum enjoying far better than average rates. That 7.3% rate is available from Anglo Irish. Bank of Ireland pays 4.75% on up to €500 saved each month and AIB has a regular saving account paying over 7.75%, but the maximum lodgement is only €200 a month. It’s important to keep an eye on the rate you’re getting on these accounts. They are variable. If you opened an account some time ago you may find that the rate has been greatly reduced, well below what’s on offer to new customers.
THE QUICKER we can get back to feeling confident about the future, the quicker we’ll climb out of the recession. Economic fortunes are very much tied to the level of business and consumer confidence. So let’s try to look on the bright side. Incomes have fallen across the public sector but some of the impact has been offset by a drop in consumer prices. It’s not a big decline but it is the first in decades. Having fallen by 3.8% during the three months to January consumer prices started the year down a marginal 1.7% on February 2008. That’s an average, of course. There was a sharper drop in housing and utility costs thanks mainly to falling interest rates and energy prices. Okay, so you’re still losing out. But we are still one of the richest countries in the world. The recession hasn’t changed the pecking order too much, and a pre-recession comparison put Ireland’s income per head at about $27,000 a year while over 80% of the world’s population lived on less than $3,500 a year – most of them on a lot less. It is, of course, impossible to estimate the impact that pay cuts, eroded asset values and job losses can have. It depends on the individual. The worse affected are those who were encouraged by the prospect of continuing economic growth to enter long-term commitments, such as a house purchase, that are hard to meet out of reduced income. At the other extreme, there are those whose budgets may well be balanced by bringing in sandwiches rather than going out to lunch or by having a few less week-ends away. Either way, some cost cutting is possibly inevitable although the economy might be better served if we could be encouraged to spend a little – or even a lot – more. Cost cutting is never easy but it may not be as painful as you initially fear. Individuals, just like businesses and Government departments, tend to become wasteful in the good years. So it’s often possible, with careful money management, to reduce costs with little or no impact on actual living standards. There are two broad alternatives. You can zone in on the big items of spending and try to save on them, or you can try to penny-pinch right across the board. Your personal make-up and the type of business you are in has a lot to do with which approach you adopt. u
Getting something back from the banks For many the best option is to make the necessary economies in just one or two areas. That way, really big savings can be achieved without widespread recourse to penny-pinching. Penny-pinching can provide substantial savings, but at a cost in time and effort. By its very nature it’s only going to save you cents and it takes a lot of those to make a euro. It can be a waste of time trying to control every item of expenditure, so zone in on the important ones where the real savings can be made. Concentrate on the big items of spending first and concentrate on making a small number of big savings instead of a large number of small ones. In the end it boils down to four simple actions. itemise your spending budget and divide it into • Broadly absolute essentials and others. Photo: dreamstime.com
Work your bank!
It’s difficult to avoid feeling personally despondent in the face of pay cuts, tax increases and even redundancy. But while cost cutting is never easy, COLM RAPPLE says it may not be as painful as you initially fear. And it gives you a chance to hit back at the banks!
the absolute essentials again and transfer those • Examine which are really not absolutely essential over to the other list. a separate list of the most expensive items on the • Do non-essential list.
• Start making the painful decisions. Reduce borrowing costs A recent IFA survey found that the costs of farmers’ overdraft facilities ranged from 4.5% to 11%. Some were paying 4% on term loans while others were paying over 8%. The differences can’t be explained, it seems, simply by reference to relative credit worthiness. It has more to do with an ability to shop around or negotiate. The same is doubtless true for non-farmers. So if you have to be in debt, make sure you’re not paying over the odds. That applies as much to credit cards as to personal loans. Halifax offers one of the best deals around and, for anyone switching, it’s currently offering six-months interest free credit on the transferred balance and new purchases, or alternatively €100 spending money. The interest rate at 11.7% is one of the lowest on offer. You can pay up to 17.9% on some cards. Of course, the best way to get your own back on the banks is not to borrow on a credit card at all, except perhaps for very short periods.
Cut insurance outgoings
About 4% of the average household budget goes on insurance of one type or other so significant savings are possible in this area. The exhortation to shop around has become something of a cliché, but with car and household insurance that’s what you have to do. Don’t even assume that the renewal quote you get from your existing insurance is the best that it can do. Approach it, either on the internet or by phone, as if you were a new customer and you may well get a much reduced quote. And get other quotes as well. Significant savings can be made. Have a look at any credit card and mobile phone insurance you have. It’s all too easy to sign up to this type of insurance without fully realising how much you are paying for so little cover. A critical look at your life insurance may also suggest potential savings. Look out for policies that are more geared to saving than providing life cover and ask yourself if you want to be saving in the current climate and if you need the life cover. Obviously great care is needed not to cancel policies that may be providing potentially useful benefits. But in some cases the benefits may not justify the cost l
The figures used in this article were accurate when Work & Life went to press.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members 43
Katie’s boxing clever
In a promotion that included both pros and amateurs, Kenny Egan and Katie Taylor were to test their mettle against highlyrated opponents. For Egan, life as an Olympic hero saw him lose his focus and his plans were adjusted. But for world champion Taylor, who scored and emphatic 27 – 3 win over Caroline Barry of the US, it provided another stepping-stone towards her dream – participation in an Olympics. The course of female boxing has not been a smooth one. But its acceptance and status in recent decades has accelerated.
Tyger Women’s boxing can be traced to London in the 1720s, but it’s only in recent times that it has started to gain recognition. The next piece of the jigsaw will be its acceptance as an Olympic sport. In 1987, former world women’s lightweight Marian ‘Lady Tyger’ Trimiar went on a month-long hunger strike – during which she shed over 30 pounds – for the rights of women’s boxing and to advocate better money and conditions for professional female boxers. Three-time European and current world champion Taylor has not had to make her point so starkly. But her Olympic dream has proved equally elusive so far. Taylor might have
During his time down under, the Listowel native became the first Irishman ever to win an AFL Premiership medal, after playing in every one of the Swans 26 games that season. This was an achievement which proved elusive for Jim Stynes, Ireland’s other huge success in Australian rules.
Rumours Stynes won an All-Ireland minor football championship with Dublin in 1984 (the county’s last success) before signing a professional contract with Melbourne. Rumours that he was planning to return to the Dubs circulated in Dublin GAA circles every Christmas. But it never happened. Meanwhile, Kennelly’s final couple of seasons in Australia were blighted by knee and shoulder injuries. This must to be a worry for Kerry manager, Jack O’Connor, who returned to the hot-seat this year to try and lead the Kingdom to the Sam Maguire again. However, the initial impressions on his first appearance in a Kerry senior jersey, coming on as a sub in their League victory over Derry, were promising. His athleticism, a winning attitude cultivated at the top level of Australian sport, and a desire to follow in his late father’s shoes could make monitoring the progress Tadhg Kennelly as compelling as the Kerry-Tyrone saga l
Ready for Olympic Gold.
thought Beijing 2008 would see her realise that dream, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not give their backing to female boxing in the most recent games. But with the sport’s amateur governing body voting unanimously to propose women’s amateur boxing for inclusion at the London 2012 games, Taylor’s time could be upon us. The final word rests with the IOC.
History Taylor has already put a very promising international soccer career (40 international caps) on ice and turned down approaches from professional boxing promoters to concentrate on her Olympic passion. History beckons for the multi-talented Bray native. But making history in nothing new to Taylor, who is coached and managed by her father Peter. She contested the bout that officially marked the female entry into the ring in Irish boxing when, as a 15-year-old, she fought Elanna Audley of Belfast Sandyrow in the National Stadium in October 2001.
Gold Boxing has been Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport. Of the 23 medals the country has enjoyed, 12 have come in the boxing ring (one gold, four silver, seven bronze). Given the chance, Katie Taylor could take the second gold, joining Michael Carruth (Barcelona 1992) on the highest position on the podium l
Son of Kennelly On his return from down under, Tadhg Kennelly looks promising in a Kerry jersey. KERRY VERSUS Tyrone. The greatest Gaelic football rivalry and the cause of great debate throughout the noughties. Both counties have lifted the Sam Maguire on three occasions. Both have a strong claim for team of the decade. And this year should decide who the undisputed champion really is. Tyrone have never won back-to-back titles, while the green and gold have never beaten them on All-Ireland final day. It’s the perfect sub-plot to this summer’s GAA action. The rival camps have improved their strength in anticipation of the obstacles ahead. Returning just before last year’s AllIreland final, Tyrone’s Stephen O’Neill showed who could really steal the show in 2009.
Disbelief O’Neill was immense throughout their McKenna Cup programme and their opening League game against Dublin under lights at Croke Park. One of his points against the Dubs drew gasps of disbelief and rapturous applause in equal measure.
MARCH WAS to be the month that Irish amateur boxing’s two leading lights would headline the supporting cast for Bernard Dunne’s successful world super bantam weight challenge in the O2 arena.
For Kerry, a new face with a familiar surname has returned to the bosom – Tadhg Kennelly. Son of Tim ‘Horse’ Kennelly who won five senior All-Irelands between 1975 and 1981, Tadhg returned early in the New Year after a premature end to an 11year professional career with Aussie rules side Sydney Swans.
Boxing is Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport. KEVIN NOLAN says that record could be enhanced if women’s boxing is recognised for London’s games in 2012.
“Watching Tadhg is as compelling as the Kerry-Tyrone saga.”
Tadgh Kennelly: Compelling.
Work & Life: The Magazine for IMPACT Members
S UD OKU
Win Win Win
B 18th May C Anytime before the polling station opens 2 The Belgian city of Bruges is:
I rat cop for sweet reward (7)
Cereal killer (5)
Dynasty – heads roll! (5)
And don’t forget, we’re also giving prizes for letters published in the next issue. See page 23.
PRIZE CROSSWORD 2
WIN €50 6
11. Boreal forest (5) 10
14. I am at it in Japan (6) 17. Toss it (5)
B A UNESCO heritage site
22. When ill I cite bad practice (7)
C Both of the above
23. and 24. Capital contest on continental cover (5, 5)
3 In July 1930, Letitia Harrison was appointed as:
25. Crude M. O.? Quite the opposite! (7)
A Mayo county librarian
C A grade V in the Carlsberg complaints department
“My men like satyrs grazing on the lawn Will with their goat-feet dance the ….. hay." (Marlowe) (5)
Simply complete this short survey and send it to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life survey, IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. You can also send your views by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Native American dwelling (6)
WE HOPE you enjoyed this issue of Work & Life, the magazine for IMPACT members. We want to hear your views, and we’re offering a €100 prize to one lucky winner who completes this questionnaire.
10. Windy burg (7)
N I W 100 €
How do you like Work & Life?
We’ll send €100 to the first completed entry pulled from a hat.*
A 50 minutes from Brussels by train
4 President Obama has declared his determination to:
19. An ambush I don’t consider chivalry (7)
B IMPACT general secretary
Just answer five easy questions and you could win €50.
A 31st April
1 The last day for registration to vote in the 5th June elections is:
Fill in the grid so that every row, column and 3x3 box contains the digits 1-9. There is no maths involved. You solve it with reasoning and logic. 8
ADD €50 to your holiday savings fund by answering five easy questions and sending your entry, name and address to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life prize quiz, IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. We’ll send €50 to the first completed entry pulled from a hat.* You’ll find all the answers in this issue of Work & Life.
HOW TO PLAY:
2. What did you think of the layout, style and pictures in the summer 2009 issue of Work & Life? 24
B Bomb Iran
Mourning becomes her, says O’Neill (7)
18. God of death and the king of the Fomorians (5)
Moscow park or Russian author (5)
20. Camus knew his plants backwards (5)
Kettle drums (7)
21. Usually written in stone (5)
Quiz – Stephen McCabe, DIT
Crossword – Martina Donoghue, Wexford
Survey – Carol Downey, Forensic Science
I want less union news
16. Bad tea adjusted, terminated (6)
The small print* You must be a paid-up IMPACT member to win. Only one entry per person (multiple entries will not be considered). Entries must reach us by Friday 5th June 2009. The editor’s decision is final. That’s it!
Military mark? (6)
The winners from competitions in the Winter issue were:
I want more union news
15. Fly boy (7)
C Challenge Barack Obama in the US elections
The balance is about right
Cardinal collective (5)
B Box for Ireland in the Olympics
6. What did you think of the balance between union news and other articles?
Win €50 by completing the crossword and sending your entry, name and address to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life crossword, IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1, by Friday 6th March 2009. We’ll send €50 to the first correct entry pulled from a hat.
A Make government and public service cool again
A Run for Ireland in the Olympics
12. Native American dwelling (7)
5 In 2012, Katie Taylor hopes to:
7. Any other comments? ______________________________
Winter migrant on these prison walls, Bob? (7)
C Get re-elected in 2012
5. What subjects would you like to see in future issues of Work & Life ?
13. Extinct european cattle (7)
Crossword composed by Maureen Harkin, Sligo
1 __________________________________________________ 2 __________________________________________________
1. What did you think of the articles in the summer 2009 issue of Work & Life ?
Comments ________________________________________ 20
4. What were your least favourite articles?
3. What were your favourite three articles?
Name ________________________________________________ Address ______________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________
IMPACT branch ______________________________________
The small print* You must be a paid-up IMPACT member to win. Only one entry per person (multiple entries will not be considered). Entries must reach us by Friday 5th June 2009. The editor’s decision is final. That’s it!
Lots more competitions to enter in this issue! 46
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 47
Commercial membership services MPACT has facilitated the provision of a number of national membership services and discount schemes on behalf of its members. These include Additional Voluntary Contribution Schemes (Pensions), Life Assurance, Salary Protection in the case of illness and Car, House and Travel Insurance Schemes. A number of local discount schemes are also negotiated by local branches.
The Union uses the size and composition of its membership base and, where possible, competition between the various service providers, to seek the best possible deals for the widest possible sections of our membership. It is probable that the majority of members will get better value from these schemes than if they sought the same service individually. However, this will not be true in all cases and there will be occasions where individual members may, because of their specific circumstances, be able to get better value elsewhere. It is not possible always to ensure that all schemes will be accessible equally to all members and the scheme underwriters will not depart totally from their normal actuarial or risk assessment procedures and rules. IMPACT does not make any claims as to the quality or reliability of any of these products/services and while advising members of the availability of the National Membership Services and Discount Schemes does not endorse or recommend any particular product or service. IMPACT's role is that of facilitator to ensure that such schemes are available to its members. All contracts are directly between the product/service provider and the individual member. IMPACT is not in any way a party to these contracts and will not accept any responsibility or liability arising from any act or omission on the part of the product or service provider. Neither IMPACT nor any member of its staff receives any fees or commissions or other rewards from these product or service providers arising from such schemes. While IMPACT does occasionally provide such product/service providers with limited information regarding IMPACT branch and/or workplace representatives for the purpose of advertising such schemes, the Union does not make any personal data relating to individual Union members available to them for any purpose. The Union requires that product/service providers agree to ensure that all such schemes comply with all lawful requirements including the Equal Status Act 2000. Advertisements for agreed membership services will have an
logo on them.
Some of the companies providing agreed membership services may offer other products or services (that are not as a result of any agreement or arrangement with IMPACT) directly to IMPACT members. The Union has no role whatsoever in relation to such products or services. Likewise, other product or service providers may make offers directly to IMPACT members through advertisements in the Union newspaper or otherwise. These do not arise as a result of agreements or arrangements with IMPACT and the Union does not ask members to consider availing of such products/services and accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any such offers. The product/service providers with which IMPACT has agreed the provision of membership services and/or discount schemes are as follows: Brassington & Co. Ltd.
Cornmarket Group Financial Services Ltd.
Travel Insurance – all Divisions.
Car Insurance – all Divisions. Salary Protection and Life Assurance –
Local Government and Health Divisions only.
Group Insurance Services (GIS)
Marsh Financial Services Ltd.
Car Insurance – all Divisions.
AVC Schemes – all Divisions excluding Municipal Employees.
House Insurance – all Divisions.
Salary Protection and Life Assurance – Civil Service and Services & Enterprises Divisions only.
DISCLAIMER (Approved by CEC 10th December 2004) 48