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VOLUME xViI ISSUE 6

Ne quid false dicere audeat ne quid veri non audeat

30th November 2010

IRELAND’S AWARD-WINNING STUDENT NEWSPAPER

FEATURES

COMMENT

SCIENCE

Have the government lost students’ trust forever?

We debate the place of the arts in a recession.

What relevance does intelligent design have in modern science?

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Library set to open on Sundays

UCD prohibits further recruitment until January

Amy Bracken News Editor

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he library is to open on Sundays from 9am to 9pm throughout the second semester, as it is receiving supplementary funds, believed to be coming from the President’s Fund. This is aimed not solely at postgraduate students, but also in light of the increase in continuous assessment for undergraduate students. “We wrote up a proposal, and met the Registrar and the library senior management team around August and put it to them,” said Students’ Union Education VicePresident James Williamson. “We basically outlined that because UCD aim to have an even spread of continuous assessment across the whole semester, it’s very unfair to have the library open longer towards exam time and encourage cramming. A lot of students might have continuous assessment that’s worth more than their final exam.” The University Observer understands that supplementary funds, believed to be from the President’s Fund, will fund the additional opening hours. Williamson said: “We originally thought that it would come from the library budget, which means that it wouldn’t be cut from somewhere, but that money wouldn’t be available if something else came up. But that’s not the case; it’s actually not coming from the library budget. It’s coming from the President’s Fund, at the request of the Registrar.” University librarian Dr John Howard told The University Observer: “Offering the extended Sunday hours has been made possible by the allocation of additional funds from UCD Administration to cover the cost of additional staffing needed to support the service. “We are extremely pleased to be able to offer this service enhancement and appreciate the support of the UCD President and Registrar, as well as the UCD Students’ Union.”

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Winter wonderland: UCD’s lake freezes over during recent snowfalls.

Amy Bracken News Editor

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he University Observer has learned that UCD management has decided to pause any recruitment to UCD until the end of January 2011. An email circulated by UCD Deputy President and Registrar Dr Philip Nolan to many administrative branches of the university last week stated the pause in recruitment is to facilitate the preparation of “a revised budget for 2010/11 and a multi-annual plan.” Dr Nolan’s email stated that: “You will be

aware that the University anticipates significant cuts in state funding in the current year and over the next several years, cuts that are greater than those predicted when this year’s budget was originally framed. The University Management Team, in the advice of BRC and as an emergency measure, has decided to pause all recruitment (other than in a small number of exceptional cases) until the end of January 2011.” It is the understanding of The University Observer that a recruitment moratorium handed down by the Higher Education Authority has been operating but recruitment was taking place in certain cases.

The email issued guidelines for positions advertised that had not yet scheduled interviews, stating that those interviews were not to be held until the end of the recruitment pause in January 2011. For positions in which interviews had already been scheduled, the email stated: “For posts where interviews have scheduled or have occurred, recruitment will proceed unless the Head of Unit, in anticipation of likely budget cuts, indicates to UCD HR that the recruitment process should stop.” The email stated that recruitment has been paused “other than in a small number of exceptional cases.” It also stated: “The Universi-

ty will continue to advertise and recruit posts in the following categories: Contract clinical leadership posts in areas such as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Nursing; Contract teaching posts in the School  of  Business; Externally funded posts, such as research posts;  Contract posts to cover maternity leave.” The email also referred to contract renewals as part of recruitment policies: “We will update you on the status of this recruitment pause, and the process to deal with renewal of contract positions, in the near future.” A spokesperson for UCD was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Confusion remains over site of UCD Ball Amy Bracken News Editor

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onfusion continues to exist over where the annual endof-year UCD Ball is to be located, due to the construction of the new Student Centre, along with the building of the Sutherland School of Law, eliminating the possibility of using the previous sites in which the event took place. There is also speculation that the date of the event might be moved from the previously set Holy Thursday to Wednes-

day, as a result of the closure of all nightclubs and pubs at midnight on Holy Thursday. The University Observer understands that fears are mounting over the security of the event if students remain on campus after the ball, but UCD Students’ Union Ents Officer Jonny Cosgrove is confident that it will not be an issue: “To be honest, I wouldn’t be planning on where I’m going after the UCD Ball, I’m planning on going to the UCD Ball. That’s it. It’s a day-long event. In my view, they won’t need anywhere to go after.” Vice President for Students, Dr Mar-

tin Butler, told The University Observer: “It is an issue and we’re currently planning around that issue.” Dr Butler added: “UCD supports the concept that at the end of an academic year, students should celebrate the success of the previous year. “We considered looking at hosting the Ball on the Wednesday, as opposed to the Thursday, but given that the academic year ends on the Thursday, and the [academic] calendar is published, it is not really an option to bring it forward to the Wednesday.” In terms of the location of the event,

Cosgrove said: “Obviously on campus this year, we’re unlucky now – well, lucky I suppose – that the new Sutherland building is going up on the old spot and the building is also underway on the last spot as well for the new Student Centre, so I’m just trying to find a new spot at the moment.” Dr Butler also spoke of the location issue: “We’ve identified one or two possible locations. Those possible locations then have to go through the rigour of the planning process and the Garda vetting, just to ensure that the health and safety of all are

provided for.” Cosgrove said of the security fears: “We’re working very closely with [UCD] Services and making sure that there is not issue with it.” There has as yet been little organisation for the event, yet Cosgrove is confident that all is under control in terms of planning: “I’ll have that hopefully finished up by the end of December.” While the acts have not yet been finalised for the ball, Cosgrove is planning on securing a high number of high profile performers: “It will be huge. It will be lots of fun, honestly.”


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

News News in Brief • ELS launch annual magazine UCD’s English Literary Society has published its annual magazine of stories, poems, plays and “much more”. Students write The Bell magazine in its entirety and all students are encouraged to make submissions each year. Society committee member Sebastian Jahne told The University Observer: “We are mainly publishing poetry and short prose by students, who are members of the ELS. This year, students studying Arts, Science, Engineering and Commerce submitted [work]. Thus, there is a great variety in the submitted pieces.” Jahne added that there is no submission requirement apart from the length of each submission and that the author must be a member of the ELS. Jahne said of the title: “The name The Bell is firstly connected to the bell that is standing in front of Tierney Building. Secondly, it was thought to be a good link to UCD, as a reference to Belfield. Past ELS magazines already carried that name, so it is also sort of a tradition.” The magazine is currently on sale in the Newman building at a cost of €4.50.

Mater and St Vincent’s hospitals set to merge Amy Bracken News Editor

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t has been announced that the Mater and St Vincent’s University Hospitals are to merge into one integrated hospital on two sites. The merge will be part of a plan to establish a new Dublin Academic Medical Centre to cover the two hospitals and the medical school at UCD. Head of the School of Medicine and Medical Science Professor William Powderly, told The University Observer that the idea for the merging was not a new proposal: “This is something that has been in gestation for a number of years,” he said. “We actually announced the initial part of the plans back in 2007, so it was before the current issues around hospital resources.” The plan will not affect the distribution of medical students, who currently operate between both hospitals: “We’ve

been evolving the medical programme over the last number of years, so although a student may be primarily operating in one of the two hospitals, in fact they do rotations in both hospitals.” Professor Powderly explained that the merger proposal is being modeled on what is already happening around the world in an attempt to improve medicine research and education: “Basically, the model for best patient care elsewhere in the world are called academic medical centres, which is where you bring together a medical school and one or more hospitals to create an environment where you have very high quality patient care. “But it’s also driven in part by a commitment to research in education, so that active involvement of the medical centre in research and education actually leads to improvements in clinical practice and improvements in patient care because you have a culture in which people are constantly learning and constantly examining what they do.” Professor Powderly further emphasised

The Mater, pictured, and St Vincent’s Hospitals are UCD’s primary teaching hospitals.

this by saying that there are currently certain services provided for in one hospital that are not provided for in another and that this was a major consideration in terms of medical training when the idea to merge to two hospitals originated: “We wanted to give the students as much opportunity as possible, he said.

“We want to allow the students to have exposure to as much as possible.” The proposal will create one of the largest hospitals in the country. A report published in The Irish Times stated that Health Minister Mary Harney welcomes the proposal and expects that it will be coming into fruition in the near future.

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DISCOUNTS

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SU President Paul Lynam said: “When this team took office in July, we outlined our 14 key priorities and achieving a seven-day library was arguably the most important but potentially most difficult one to achieve. “Securing the library extension is a credit to the hard work of this sabbatical team, but in particular our Education [Vice-President], James Williamson. “The SU would like to thank the UCD Library team and the Registrar’s office for their cooperation.” Williamson said: “I am absolutely delighted. It is a result of a series of in-depth discussions with the Registrar and the library senior management team.” This is an extension of opening hours and that it will not detract from weekday hours: “It was previously thought that the funds for extra opening hours would come at the expense of other library services such as cutting back on opening hours on weekdays or Saturdays, but following negotiations this has been avoided,” said Williamson.

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• Mural painted for Welfare Fortnight Welfare Week 2 took place on campus last week, bringing UCDSU’s Welfare Fortnight 2010 to a close. Students’ Union Welfare Vice-President Scott Ahern stated that he was particularly proud of the interactive mural wall, the brainchild of a secondyear class rep. He believed that the breakfast mornings in different buildings were key to the campaign’s success. Welfare Week is usually held for the duration of one week of term: this year it was extended to encompass a fortnight. Ahern explained that “sometimes the five-day weeks don’t work and people have always said that campaign weeks don’t start on Mondays and end on Fridays, you have to expand it. I wanted to test that theory.” Numerous events took place across campus including breakfast mornings in various buildings, a petting zoo at the Student Centre and a Note-to-Self campaign that encouraged students to write positive letters to themselves that will be delivered to them in three months time. Ahern said that by scheduling the events over two weeks, he was able to focus on increasing turnout. He believed that having a previous year in office was beneficial with regard to organising this year’s campaign: “The second year has definitely benefitted me in terms of being more aware of other events and other contacts and different things.” • Arts Week raises €2,000 for charity The first-ever Arts Week was held in week ten and raised €2,000 for St. John’s Ward in Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Vice- Auditor of Arts Society Edel Ní Churraoin was pleased with the outcome of the week, saying “it has given people a chance to get more involved in Arts and promoted a sense of community spirit within the Newman Building.” Various events were held throughout the week including a table quiz held in association with the Inclusion Participation Awareness Society (IPA), Tuesday was labelled ‘Languages Day’, with a Treasure Hunt being held in the afternoon followed by and appearance by Howard Marks in the Astra Hall that evening. The debate scheduled for Thursday, “The Awkward Silence when an Arts Student Talks About their Future Prospects” was postponed, as a guest was unable to attend Ní Churraoin did not feel that the week was held too close to end-of-semester exams, stating that other weeks were unsuitable as midterms for Arts students begin in week four and end in week nine, making week ten the quietest of the semester. -Sarah Doran

news@universityobserver.ie

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STUDENT SUPPORT FUND: If you think you might have trouble buying books for college, worried you can afford travel cost to and from placement Applicant forms available in Semester Two for the Student Support Fund, please consider your application and if you have an question email me.

I wish you the very best of luck during your Exams and don’t forget if you encounter any problem at all you can contact me HAVE A LOVELY CHRISTMAS Pop into Scott, our Welfare Officer in the Student Centre or contact him at welfare@ucdsu.ie & phone 017163112


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

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News

news@universityobserver.ie

USI highlight Student Support Bill ahead of Dáil dissolution

FEE relaunch in UCD

FEE have held protests at a variety of locations since they were founded in 2008.

Claire Hickey

USI Deputy President Cónán Ó Broin has emphasised the importance of the Student Support Bill.

Katie Hughes Deputy News Editor

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he Union of Students of Ireland (USI) has pushed for the Student Support Bill to be passed before the upcoming dissolution of the Dáil. The bill aims to streamline the grant system that is currently in place by centralising the 66 different bodies that currently award third-level grants into one main entity. The Student Support Bill was originally introduced in 2008, but was delayed as a result of a Griffith College student taking a legal case against the state regarding his eligability for a grant. USI Deputy President Cónán Ó Broin described the current third-level grant system as “a very unwieldy way of doing

things in such a small country” which results in “students’ grants, depending on which county they’re coming from or which VEC they fall under, being delayed by up to six or even nine months.” This is why Ó Broin feels that “a centralised grant awarding authority has been an objective of USI and the student movement in this country for a very long time”. The former TCD Students’ Union President stated that “students on the grant will get their grants far quicker and more efficiently” as a result of the bill and “the process will hopefully be made a lot more simple.” USI is hopeful that the bill will “be signed by the president before she dissolves the Dáil sometime in the new year.” Ó Broin expressed concern that the bill might be held up at the committee stage but explains that USI has been working

Student registration fee to rise to €2,000 Aoife Brophy

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he government announced last week that the Student Registration Fee is to be increased to €2,000. The increase in the newly named Student Contribution Fee is part of the government’s four year austerity plan to decrease the national debt. The national budget, which is to be announced this week is expected to contain further cost increases with regards to third level education. Students’ Union President Paul Lynam said: “Obviously we’re incredibly disappointed. It’s a short sighted decision by the government. It will cause incredible hardship on students across the country.” The University Observer contacted the Fianna Fáil press office, who declined to make any further comments about the plan or to speculate on further cuts to be announced with the budget. A Fianna Fáil representative explained that the charge was a levy to subsidise the cost of medical services, exams, counselling and other services. Students in receipt of local authority grants are currently exempt from paying the charge, but it is unknown at present whether

this will continue to be the norm. Students attending Post Leaving Certificate courses will now have to pay a fee of €200. The minimum wage is also to be decreased by €1 to €7.65, a move which will affect students operating part-time jobs for minimum wage. A Fianna Fáil press release stated “[the education] sector must embrace radical reform, dust off the status-quo, and ensure continually better outcomes for such a large commitment from the taxpayer”. Lynam was keen to emphasise his belief that the USI march against fees that took place on the 3rd of November was not waste of time. “We were told before the march that €3,000 was the likely outcome in terms of the registration fee, then we were told after the march €2,500 and now its €2,000. I can only speculate what grant cuts would have been made if we didn’t do the march.” Lynam promised that UCDSU would continue to work for the fight against fees and has called for more action from the USI given the success of the November 3rd protest: “I need to look at UCD’s budget itself after December 7th. I’ve called for an emergency [USI] national council to be held on December 9th and 10th and we’ll just take it from there.”

“very hard” over the past couple of days to prevent this happening, insisting that “we’re keeping a very close eye on it and making sure that it does go through; if it does get enacted we want to see the grant system streamlined because at the end of the day, students depend on it.” According to Ó Broin, the bill is currently on its sixtieth amendment and is moving “pretty fast.” USI President Gary Redmond echoed Ó Broin, saying: “In the current economic climate, ensuring that students get their grants in a timely manner is vital given that many students are unable to find part time work to supplement their income.” USI hopes to get the bill implemented in time for the beginning of the next academic year, but this is “a tall order” according to Ó Broin. He went on to state that USI will “see what we can do”.

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he anti-fees campaign group Free Education for Everyone (FEE) held a relaunch meeting in the Student Centre last Wednesday. The group was previously active in UCD, organising a blockade in 2008 following the arrival of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who was chairing a function at the Clinton Institute. FEE began as a small grassroots campaign group who, since 2008, have gained support on a wider scale by forming bases in NUI Maynooth and gaining contacts and activists in various third-level institutions throughout Ireland. The group’s ultimate aim is to eradicate third-level fees in all third-level institutions. FEE member Rita Harrold explained to The University Observer why they continue to protest against the current educational system: “We believe that education is a public service and should be easily accessible to every member of the public to be paid for through progressive taxation system.” Harrold said that FEE were strongly opposed to a means-tested fee system which would “disproportionately affect ordinary

lower-class students who wouldn’t be able to afford the fees but would be told by the government that their parents earn too much”. FEE intend to hold a mass protest outside the Dáil on Budget day, December 7th, and are encouraging students and staff to attend. “We feel it is really important that students get out and show their support and show that they’re opposed to what the government is doing. We’re not willing to pay for the crisis that they created,” said Harrold. She continued: “People need to get out on the streets in opposition to the Budget and in opposition to the four-year plan and to show a real new way forward that ordinary people will not pay for a crisis they didn’t create and we do have the power to stop it.” In relation to the development of FEE and the organisation’s intentions for the future, Harrold added: “Two years ago we were a very small group and we were noticed because we were properly opposing fees and I’m sure that we can make an impact now. The only way we can stop what the government and the IMF and EU, UCB in particular are going to be trying to do over the next period is by mass action, opposing what they’re doing on all levels.”

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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

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UCDSVP Homeless SIPTU hold meeting in Week raises in the UCD ahead of march region of €5,000 Caitríona Farrell

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he march against the governmental decision to seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was the topic of a staffstudent meeting held on November 23rd in the Newman building, arranged by the trade union SIPTU

Students take part in UCDSVP’s sleepout.

Marianne Madden

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CDSVP Homeless Week took place over the course of the week beginning November 15th, with a number of society members setting up camp outside the library for the duration of the campaign. The total amount raised is yet to be confirmed, although UCDSVP Public Relations Officer Eoin Lyons explained: “It’s looking like it’s going to be about €5,000.” Last year, Homeless Week raised €5,500, but Lyons insisted: “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t a success. There were more events on, so more awareness was raised because it’s not just about money.” In addition to the sleep out in front of the James Joyce library, a soccer tournament and a Battle of the Buskers competition were also organised. The Battle of the Buskers competition was held in the Student Bar and was open to everyone who had busked during the week. Six acts competed in the final and Lyons said, “there was a really fantastic standard. A winner was picked from that

and they got tickets to the UCD Christmas Ball and some recording time. It was a really good prize.” The soccer tournament was open to everyone and participation exceeded expectations, with 20 teams turning up. Lyons commented on the number involved in the sleep out: “The max number we got was 80 the last day. The average would have been about 30 for the other three days, but that was our aim in the first place to get as many people as we could for the last day.” Students from other third-level institutions, including Trinity, Maynooth and DIT, joined UCD students on the last night of the sleep out. “There was loads of singing going on. There was card games some of the nights. There was chat and whatnot. We had a quote wall as well, which was fun.” Funds collected during Homeless Week will go towards UCDSVP’s activities for the homeless. Lyons said that funds would go into “a back lane charity which is like a club where people go to play darts or pool and it’s just something to keep them busy. It’s like a youth club but for every age. The money will also go into the soup runs that we do four nights a week to buy bread and soup.”

Over 40,000 students send letters to TDs Laura Scanlan

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he Tell Your TD campaign, organised by the USI, has had a sizeable student response, with an estimated 40,000 students sending queries to their local TDs.

The campaign, which involved the USI sending letters to local TDs on behalf of students, was initiated in mid November. Students log on to tellyourtd.com, and leave their name and address. The website states that “the Union of Students in Ireland will look after the rest”. The USI then sends out a letter, at no cost to the student, to each of the TDs in the students’ constituency and to Minister for Education, Mary Coughlan TD, containing the four main aims of the campaign: immediate placement of a cap on the registration fee, the continuation of the existing grant and income levels in Budget 2011, the continuation of current funding levels to the Student Assistance Fund and the development of a National Graduate Internship Programme to be established in the public, private and voluntary sectors. UCDSU President Paul Lynam said that campaign is to “tell TDs not to take students for granted”. UCDSU is encourag-

ing students to take part in what it refers to as “another form of lobbying TDs”. He continued: “The letter itself focuses on our three key issues which are the registration fee, grants and graduate unemployment. So it focuses on these three issues and puts pressure on TDs.” Lynam remarked on the campaign’s success, noting that between 40,000 letters had been sent out since the campaign began. The number of letters sent on behalf of UCD students specifically cannot be measured, but Lynam believes that UCD has made a valuable contribution to the campaign: “I think we’re getting our message across. 40,000 letters so far.” The campaign has caused the question of TD responsiveness to come to the fore: “By law, TDs are required to respond to letters,” explained Lynam. It is not known if TDs have responded to letters sent by students via the tellyourtd.com website. The Tell Your TD campaign is an offshoot of the Education Not Emigration campaign. When asked what he believed that outcome of it would be, Lynam referred to the upcoming Budget and said: “Well, it’s a pressure campaign, so we’ll see on December 7th.”

SIPTU’s Education Sector Secretary, Tommy Murtagh, opened the meeting in Theatre Q, as an open discussion for people to vent and discuss the course of action to take and to encourage both students and staff to participate in the march that was being organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). SIPTU’s Education Sector President and UCD Sociology lecturer Dr Kieran Allen expressed disappointment at turnout at the staff-student meeting and was optimistic for a higher UCD turnout at the march itself, in spite of a haziness surrounding the purpose of it: “Now we’re in a situation where the march on Saturday will hopefully be well attended, but I have found it very, very difficult to explain to people why we are marching, what is the point?” Dr Allen addressed the open forum by citing a recent poll on the Joe Duffy’s show “where people were asked were you happier this week than you were last week and twice as many people said they were happier

UCD lecturer Dr Kieran Allen is SIPTU’s Education Secretary.

now that the IMF had came in” and made a stance. Having outside experts in peoples’ opinions is going to rectify the situation stemming from “the profound dislike for the government.” With the name ‘A better, fairer way’, Garda estimates claimed that 50,000 people assembled at Wood Quay for what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration, but estimates ranged from 50,000 to 100,000. A SIPTU press release issued prior to the march said, “the publication of the Government’s bud-

getary plan meant it was now ‘imperative for working people and their families to join the national demonstration on Saturday, November 27’”. Irish Times columnist Fintan O’ Toole addressed the marchers, saying that “the country was paying billions to bail out the banks and that the Government had declared war on the poor”. He said Irish people were “not subjects, but citizens, and wanted their republic back”.

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30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

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Arts student diagnosed with mumps Amy Bracken

S

News Editor

tudents are being urged to ensure they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine after a student in Arts was recently diagnosed with mumps. Fears of an outbreak are mounting that would be similar to the infection of a significant number of third-level students with the disease in 2007. Director of the UCD Student Health Service, Dr Sandra Tighe, explained that following the 2007 outbreak, sixth-year students were encouraged to ensure they had two doses of the vaccine in order to limit the affect should the strain spread through third-level colleges once again: “There was a big outbreak, and that arose because a lot of young people had only had one vaccine. They went on a catch-up programme and they went into the sixth years, so we expect that most people now have the two.” Dr Tighe explained that she had been

Nineties favourites 5ive are set to perform with a reduced lineup at the Christmas Ball.

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he annual Christmas ball is being held on December 1st in the UCD Student Bar, with popular nineties pop bands S Club and 5ive

to headline. UCD Students’ Union Ents Officer Jonny Cosgrove says that he is “uber excited” about the event and that “it’s going to be awesome”. Ticket sales opened on November 25th and are proving extremely popular according to Cosgrove: “They’re flying out – they went on sale and they’re absolutely flying, I’d say they’ll be gone by Tuesday at the latest.” The Christmas Ball is going to have a nineties theme, with S Club and 5ive headlining. Cosgrove said that this was decided upon as the Fresher’s Ball featured acts that were big over the summer such as headliner Tinie Tempah, the Halloween Ball had an electro theme, but for Christmas “you want to go a bit cheesy,” says Cosgrove. He said: “Nineties has just

Gardaí have been criticised for using excessive force at the recent student protest.

Alyson Gray

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hirty six complaints have been made to the Garda Ombudsman over incidents that occurred at the student protest held in Dublin on November 3rd. Students’ Union President Paul Lynam said that students who have experienced “excessive force” are entitled to complain to the Garda Ombudsman. Lynam emphasised the importance of making complaints in any situation where it is felt that the Garda are responsible for misconduct, “not just the student protest, but in any protest, if someone feels that the guards were out of order, or crossed the line, or used excessive force, then they have every right to complain”. Lynam once again emphasised that the invasion of the Department of Finance

Daniel O’ Toole

News Editor

Garda Ombudsman processing 36 complaints after protest

informed of a recent case of a UCD student having mumps and describes it as the “protocol” of the Student Health Service to ensure that all UCD students are aware of the necessity of having two doses of the MMR vaccine: “If you’ve ever had two, and you know you’ve had two, then you don’t need anymore. If you’re doubtful, and you know you’ve had one but you’re not sure, another one won’t do you any harm, but there’s no advantage to having three.” Additionally, Dr Tighe emphasised that mumps is not the only disease that thirdlevel students are at risk of catching, and advises students to “ensure they’ve had their meningitis vaccine, Meningitis C, to protect against the meningitis, and also that all students would consider having the flu vaccine done to ensure their risk of flu over the winter months.” Students can make an appointment with a nurse in the Student Health Service to obtain the vaccine if they are doubtful with regards to how many doses they have had. A clinic for specifically administering the vaccine will be established if there is a high demand for it.

S Club and 5ive set to play Christmas Ball

Amy Bracken

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gotten retro and cool enough to listen to”. As well as featuring the Christmas Ball on Wednesday, the last week of semester one sees Vodafone having a stand with hot chocolate and cinnamon waffles in the Student Centre on Monday and Tuesday, as well as a discounted shopping trip for students to Kildare Village on Thursday and Friday. Thursday will also see a charity gig to highlight the end of Movember. Three of the remaining six members of S Club are set to perform on Wednesday evening, while Scott and Abs from 5ive will also be making a brief comeback at what Cosgrove says is their first gig in Dublin. The winners of the Battle of the Buskers competition are set to perform at the ball, as are Funzo, winners of a Christmas FM competition last year, with the charity song they released for Barnardos. Cosgrove is hoping for a sell-out event, despite the ball being held so close to exams: “We’re treating this as a stress-buster,” he says. “It’s going to be whopper.” At the time of print, tickets were available for the event in Students’ Union shops and ucdents.com.

was the “actions of a minority”, and was not supported by USI or UCD Students’ Union. Despite students being encouraged to make complaints if they experienced or witnessed any of the alleged “Garda brutality”, a spokesperson for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) said earlier this week that the complaints varied in the nature of allegations being made: “It would be unfair to say that they would be solely about the excessive use of force – they include 18 allegation types, these can cover neglect of duty, discourtesy, abuse of authority and non-fatal offence”. There has been great dispute surrounding the incidents of the protest in the national media, where both the actions of the students and Gardaí have come under fire. Lynam commended the decision to use CCTV footage in the investigation as

evidence to support the complaints, “I can say, certainly from the videos I’ve seen, excessive force was used.” The final number of complaints made to the GSOC stands at 36 as of November 12th. 15 of these have been deemed inadmissible, according to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform Dermot Ahern. The Minister alluded to the source of the alleged misconduct, “due to a number of incidents, the Garda Síochána had to engage with those causing trouble”; however, he went on to say that “it did a great disservice to those who were there legitimately and peacefully to protest”. The spokesperson for the GSOC did not give a final estimation of when the investigation will be finished. Each of the 36 complaints shall be issued with their own report. Lynam has stated that UCDSU are awaiting the results of the reports.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

News

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Decision time The upcoming general election will be crucial in deciding our future, so it is imperative that students make their voices heard, writes Katie Hughes

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h e role that t h e Union of Students in Ireland (USI) decides Deputy News Editor to play in the upcoming elections is of utmost importance to the future of students, as well as the rest of the population. One would hope that USI help ensure that students vote for a new political future for our country, as well as for each of us as individuals. USI Deputy President Cónán Ó Broin insists that they will be “urging students out on election day” to send a message to politicians that they are dissatisfied with the current situation, that they’re not happy with their future being mortgaged as a result of “the mistakes of the older generation” and to ultimately let the people in power know that they are the group who will have to suffer the consequences for the government’s mistakes. A huge campaign is set to be launched in the lead up to the elections in which USI will examine the policies of all contending parties and make known to students their respective stands on education, hopefully getting a commitment from the politicians for their future actions in relation to third-level education.

In recent months, USI have been highly successful in raising awareness of students’ staunch opposition to fees.

USI will not be asking students to vote for any particular party, instead giving them the right to make an informed decision, though “we’ll be very clear which parties are supportive of education and which are not,” insists Ó Broin. November 24th saw thousands of British students protesting the increase in tuition fees in a manner similar to the November 3rd march organised by USI. This can be seen as one of USI’s greatest achievements, given that the union points to this march as the reason for the government’s decision to increase the registra-

tion fee, now known as the student contribution fee, to €2,000 and not €3,000 as previously anticipated. However, the mere fact that an increase was incurred caused disgust in the USI camp, according to Ó Broin: “This is just another nail in the Irish economy. All the 33 per cent increase will do is simply drive more students out of education into unemployment. “With 14 per cent unemployment, we need to be taking down the barrier to education so people may have a chance of landing a job in this country and being able to hold down a meaningful career;

the government and state need to protect and support as many young people as possible [and] give them a fighting chance of a life in Ireland,” says Ó Broin. This statement from the USI indicates that they know what the main issues facing students are and are aware of the measures that must be taken to improve our situation. USI will undoubtedly follow through on their plans to make the student vote heard in the elections; however, if they only play a mediocre role in doing so, we must question the purpose of USI as an organisation and consider whether the

€108,000 affiliation fee is worth paying or whether there is a better purpose for it closer to home. What we don’t want USI to become is a platform for new politicians, a stepping stone to the next county council elections. What we need is a strong body that is ready to be the voice of students and who will stand up for our rights, without being hindered by the thought of potentially damaging their future political aspirations. In a recent referendum, DCU’s Students’ Union decided not to re-affiliate with USI. DCUSU President Megan O’Riordán put this down to DCU being “strong enough to excel alone”. With UCD being one of the biggest and most prominent universities in the country, is it not ready to excel alone now too? Does this unifying force do enough to bring us together and provide a clear voice, especially given that DCU are not a part of it? Can USI do their job properly without the input of a major third-level institution such as DCU? With the huge turnout for its November march, USI seems to have gathered ample support among Ireland’s students. Their relative popularity suggests that with a tactically-run voting campaign in the lead up to the elections, this student voice may indeed be heard loud and clear this time around – though how powerful that voice really is remains to be seen.

Charitable giving Students must consider alternative means of organising charitable events in light of the current financial climate, writes Amy Bracken

I

t goes without saying that students are undoubtedly feeling the pinch of the recession News Editor and the financial woes that accompany it. Yet through various charity events and campaigns, be it charitythemed weeks in UCD or enterprises that target students with the aim of raising money for charity, the pressure is being piled on to students to part with even more of those scarce funds. Last week saw the commencement of the SVP Homeless Week sleepout in UCD, an annual event that aims to raise funds for those who must brave the cold winter nights and sleep on the streets each year. There have been fundraisers for various causes across the semester, with the aim of getting students to contribute to good causes. It seems like a generous, selfless offer, but are donations really appropriate given the already-difficult financial situation of students? Students are among those with the most disproportionate financial situations in the country. Firstly, there is the registration fee, which is set to rise to €2,000 for the next academic year, the cost of books, laptops and other college materials, the cost of transport and/or accommodation, along with food, clothes, entertainment and other living expenses. Financial difficulties have been known to hamper students’ college experi-

ences, so is it really necessary to encourage them to contribute to such causes if they obviously need to hang on to every penny possible? Let me firstly clarify that I am just generalising here. Not all students are faced with mass financial difficulties. There are many who have grants and part-time jobs to support them throughout third-level education. But there are some who can barely afford their bus fare to college each day. Are the charity-themed weeks guilt tripping students into donating? A more student-friendly means of making a difference comes in the form of the Galway cycle that is being organised within the Science faculty. By seeking sponsorship, students are not depriving themselves of funding they don’t have. The cycle is due to take place in February and students who wish to participate must raise €450 through bag packing and other means outside of the university. Unlike the charity-themed weeks that occur in the university, this will involve encouraging the general public to contribute and will consequently spare the pockets of students themselves. Of course, the counter argument to this is the fact that students are not the only people who are suffering as a result of the economic crisis. Yet if you take a student who obtains a local authority grant, for example, who must live off approximately €3,000 for the entire academic year, are we putting too much pressure on them with practically every week encouraging them to raise funds for charity?

A former UCD Engineering student recently set up his enterprise AquAid, which involved raising money for charity by selling bottles of water that are colour coded to correspond to a certain charity or cause. Students are the current target audience and this instance is another example of providing an incentive for students to spend money they don’t have. Additionally, as it is a business, then naturally the entrepreneur has to be making some profit from it. Not all the profits will go to charity, but the good nature behind the business cannot be ignored. It is difficult for students to balance helping those who need it with the mounting cost of attending college. While no one can deny the stellar work that these charities and companies do, how can students decide what causes are the best to donate to? It would be highly foolish to suggest that the charity-themed weeks in UCD should be scrapped altogether, but surely it cannot be argued that there appears to be an overload of them. Events such as the sleepout must be commended, as they raise money as well as visibly raising awareness of the charity in question. Similarly, society events, such as the cycle to Galway, involve a fun way for students to raise money themselves and encourage friends and family members to sponsor them, thus spreading the charitable donations and not placing undue pressure on people to give money. Surely it would be better to condense charity events in UCD to each individual

Society events such as Med Day, pictured, show a more colourful side to student fundraising.

faculty, as is the case with the Galway cycle. By having a campus-wide themed weeks on a number of occasions throughout the semester, there is undue pressure on students to contribute in a climate whereby the majority of them desperately need whatever little funds they manage to acquire. Encouraging social events with a chari-

table twist is the way forward. This worked for UCDSVP, who raised €5,000 during Homeless Week and will work for the faculty days who invariably raise huge sums of money for charity. This is the key to successful charity on campus, that doesn’t feel like undue strain on already overstretched students.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

7

Features

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Cheating the system With exams set to commence, Paul Fennessy looks at the issue of cheating and what UCD is doing to prevent its occurrence

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hy do s t u dents cheat? Every year, despite all the extensive antiplagiarism documents, despite all the warnings Deputy Editor from lecturers and despite the meticulous procedures put in place in the RDS and other examinations halls, people still cannot help but resort to the lowest common denominator in the form of cheating. There have been numerous incidents, both proven and unproven, of cheating in recent years. An example of this was a multiple choice exam last year in which UCD Commerce students who were sitting an exam prior to other students sitting the same exam on a different day photocopied their exam paper and gave it to other students before they had sat the paper. In addition, there have been recent reports in the Irish media alleging that a number of students illegally obtained first-class honours degrees by purchasing cheating devices online, in addition to using their iPhones to cheat during exams. What is often most disturbing about all these occurrences is the fact that oftentimes there are a considerable number of people who are aware that cheating has taken place and yet neglect to act on such blatantly dishonest and fraudulent behaviour. With this in mind, The University Observer asked a number of students around the campus for their thoughts on cheating and whether or not they would intervene if they were aware of its occurrence. On the subject of cheating, second-year General Nursing student Grace McGarry says she “wouldn’t risk it”. McGarry then adds that she would be willing to come forward and inform exam authorities if she ever witnessed cheating only “if I knew that I’d remain anonymous when reporting it”. McGarry’s view was synonymous with many of the students that The University Observer spoke to for this piece. While everyone interviewed agreed that cheating was highly unethical and that those who engage in it deserve to suffer the severe consequences which it generally leads to, there was still often an air of reluctance when it came to student’s actually taking steps to stop such behaviour occurring. This can be attributed to a groupthink mentality whereby students indicated a feeling of relative guilt in reporting the misdemeanours of their peers. For example, David McNamara, a firstyear Commerce and Chinese student, readily agrees that cheating is “unfair on the other students and it takes away from the work you’ve done, especially if they beat you”. However, when quizzed on whether he would ever take action if he spotted a student cheating, he gives a similar response to McGarry, saying: “I wouldn’t want to risk it on the chance that I was wrong and I’d feel guilty, especially if it was one of my own friends.” Moreover, another student who wishes to remain anonymous gives a similar response to the question. “I wouldn’t want to be re-

Stress over exams can often provoke students to cheat.

sponsible if they get thrown out of the course or if they don’t have enough money to pay for repeats.” McNamara and others make pertinent points and elicit feelings that, one suspects, are representative of a significant number of students’ views. Namely, most students presumably do not want to deal with the hassle which reporting someone for cheating would inevitably entail. They undoubtedly figure that given that the majority of students are honest, hard-working people who would never dream of such deception, then it hardly matters if a few bad eggs break the rules. Yet ultimately, one person cheating discredits the entire degree and particularly in this period of financial instability, a tarnished reputation is something which UCD and their students can ill afford to just accept with a shrug of the shoulder. A spokesperson for UCD outlined their thoughts on cheating and the extent of its prominence within this university. “We’re not prepared to give out specific figures mainly because it’s a university wide issue as opposed to a UCD-specific issue,” she says. “But there hasn’t been any change in the pattern over the last few years, so they’re not seeing any sudden spikes because of the proliferation of iPhones or mobile phones or things like that.” However, UCD authorities acknowledge that cheating is a problem that still exists and that they need to do everything in their power to minimise its occurrence. One of the measures about to be initiated, which UCD figureheads hope will help allay cheating, is the introduction of a €50 fine imposed on students who forget their student card. The spokesperson explains these new

I think there’s too much pressure on students to remember the kind of stuff we need to know, I think it’s too drastic. guidelines in detail: “The regulations, and particularly their enforcement and related exam hall procedures, are regularly reviewed and updated as deemed necessary and appropriate. The most recent review of enforcement of the regulations pointed to the need for improvements in dealing with students who turn up at the exam hall without their student ID card or breach the mobile device regulations.” While it is unfortunate that students who genuinely make the mistake of forgetting their cards will be duly punished, the University feels that this measure is necessary. One of the reasons for such a stance is that hypothetically speaking, a student could sit a paper for another student providing they use this excuse. Although the spokesperson notes, “where a student ID has not been presented, a range of alternative identification checks are conducted and recorded,” a simple memorisation of such details would allow the student

to continue their dishonest endeavours. And if a student was so desperate that they were willing to cheat in their exam in the first place, it is doubtful whether they refrain from doing so in light of this newly-introduced fine. Moreover, the move to punish students for their forgetfulness, deliberate or otherwise, was strongly criticised by most of the students which The University Observer spoke to. “A €50 fine is ridiculous because not a lot of people would be able to splash that cash, especially with heightened fees, the recession and things like that,” says McNamara. Fiona Walsh, a third-year Arts student, agrees that the measure is unduly severe: “I think it’s stupid. You should be able to just fill out the form, or maybe if you forget it three times be punished, but I think it’s too much. I think there’s too much pressure on students to remember the kind of stuff we need to know, I think it’s too drastic.” Furthermore, a student who wishes to remain anonymous feels UCD were being overly cautious in implementing such strict procedures. “I don’t see what difference the student card makes,” she says. “You’re hardly going to go in and sit someone else’s exam.” Therefore, if students are unhappy with the student card system and if the effect it will have on preventing students cheating remains doubtful, then what can actually be done as a means towards effectively stamping out cheating? According to the UCD spokesperson, curbing this problem “is a mutual responsibility between staff and students who do not condone cheating of any kind to work together on this front”. Furthermore, the spokesperson added

that “there is a responsibility on the examiners side to monitor patterns”. In other words, as awkward as it may be if they turn out to be wrong, a lecturer is perfectly within their rights to further investigate students who had been failing exams and who are suddenly attaining straight As. McGarry adds that it would be nigh on impossible to increase the efficiency of the current UCD system and seems simply resigned to the fact that cheating will always exist in some form. “I suppose they’re doing all they can do really. You can’t strip search people. You’re told to leave your phones out. You’d want to have some metal protector as well.” MacNamara gives a similarly sober assessment in relation to cheating and its prominence both in UCD and in Irish society writ large. “To be honest I wouldn’t know much really, because I haven’t done any exams in UCD yet, but I believe they wouldn’t be that effective, because it happened in the Leaving Cert. There were guys and girls I know who were using flash cards, iPods [and] phones.” Ultimately, the UCD spokesperson believes the current system is satisfactory, but at the same time does not rule out making the system more rigorous in the future. “In terms of ID security checks, what would happen in relation to us is it would slow down the getting into the exam hall. While at the moment, if somebody doesn’t have an ID card they still get in, we reserve the right to change that if the problem ever got extreme.” She continues: “If they feel something is happening around them, they should report it. Because if you just pretend something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The invigilator is there for a reason.”


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

It’s a wonderful life? With Christmas around the corner and little sign of seasonal cheer, Sean Finnan examines the effect economic uncertainty on consumer spending habits

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s much as we are reassured by our government that their application to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will have no effect on their decision making in the Budget, there is an undeniable uncertainty holding the spirit of Christmas at ransom. With everything on the agenda for the upcoming budget, from a reduction in the minimum wage to a decrease in the social welfare, it’s no surprise that consumer spending over the festive season is expected to fall by ten per cent compared to previous years. In a survey conducted at the end of September, Deloitte took into consideration a number of Irish households and predicted that said Irish households – on average – would spend an estimated €1,020 over Christmas. This is a ten per cent reduction on last year and came before the recent revelations that Ireland has applied for a loan from the IMF, which could certainly be seen to increase uncertainty. One of the reasons Deloitte gave for the falling Christmas spending was “pervading pessimism” that encourages Irish consumers to be thriftier with their money. But this outlook can hardly be surprising as Ireland sinks deeper and deeper into debt with little sight of the improvements promised at that memorable budget of 2008. The University Observer asked a number of students to find if they would be spending the same amount on Christmas this year as previous years. Alec Moloney, a first-year Veterinary Medicine student

comments: “I’ll probably spend the same amount as other years,” while third-year Liberal Arts student Elizabeth O’Neill says: “it’s impossible this year anyway,” and cited the recession as the main reason for her reduction in spending. Hugh McMahon, a first-year Business and Commerce student was not so sure. “Probably not the same amount. I’d say I’d just go out less or buy less but probably the same quality of things that I’ll be getting. But then again I could easily end up spending the same.” From student opinions, it is clear that despite the recession, Christmas still holds enormous sway in helping consumers part with their hard-earned money. Compared to our European compatriots, we spend nearly twice as much during the holidays than the European average. Is there a pressure in Ireland to spend a large amount on unnecessary gifts and food to live up to the ideal of a perfect Christmas? Arts student Rory McGillycuddy believes that the pressure lies for families with young children. “I think for [families with] young kids, they don’t want to miss out on the experience of a happy Christmas, but as you get older, it’s not really a concern anymore.” PRO of the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) branch in UCD, Eoin Lyons spoke of what he perceives to be the pressures that Christmas has on people and what SVP does to help families in trouble. “There is more pressure this Christmas because of an increase in redundancies, heating bills, et cetera and there’s an expectation that’s there from previous years. There’s an expectation to have presents and keep it the same.”

Despite the recession, it seems as if Christmas still encourages the Irish to spend too much money.

Lyon also adds: “Kids don’t know that there is less money. They don’t relate that to the size of the present they’re getting, they expect to get the same as they have got in previous years.” Such unrealistic expectations seem to cause the most trouble for families at Christmas. Currently, SVP is running a scheme called the generosity tree to help families struggling to cope with this sce-

nario and to have presents to give to their children on Christmas morning. Although the recession is causing an undeniable fall in living standards, it is clear that Christmas is still a time that people are willing to spend money on. Christmas is built on traditions and no matter the money problems people face, there seems to be a reluctance to break with these traditions. However, this year, online shopping is again

expected to be the dominant market in which people conduct their shopping. Another interesting aspect of Deloitte’s survey was that people are also spending more on gifts that are deemed to be more functional such as books, and value is now sought over expense; a feature that was lost during the Celtic Tiger years. It seems that the ghosts of Christmas past are keeping the tradition of spending ticking over for the present.

Sleeping rough When UCD SVP hosted its annual sleep out on Homeless Week, Caitriona Farrell braved the elements to investigate the yearly campus event

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he area outside t h e James Joyce Library proved the perfect set up for Homeless Week. With a larger amount of people traipsing towards the building than usual due to final exams looming, the display really did highlight the social problem at hand. As UCD’s SVP auditor, Conor Tonry, put it: “I think it’s always a big problem that seems to be overlooked by a lot of people. On a night like tonight, there will be over 100 people sleeping rough in Dublin city centre.” The sleep out kicked off on November 15th and lasted until the Friday of that week, when the cardboard tiling that the concourse had become accustomed to was removed. It may not have been one’s ideal dose of beauty sleep, but the beauty of the sleepout was that the ordeal was all in the name of charity. This experience of putting my feet in someone else’s shoes was like nothing I’ve ever done before. However, my shoes were well insulated, and when I did manage to squeeze them on, it

was hardly as if I was living the severe conditions which homeless people are forced to endure every night. Seven layers later, I was as warmed up as a sunburnt, hefty penguin. I peeled off two layers for later like a Christmas passthe-parcel game. You’d think I’d be jealous of the students leaving the library at midnight, their brains having reached saturation point ready for a bed with a mattress but no, I was having an enjoyable time and there was a feel-good factor that went hand in hand with doing the sleep out. Ross Hannon, a third-year Arts student, explained there were everyday things he didn’t miss for a second: “I haven’t had the urge to watch TV at all this week,” he says, before adding: “You’d learn more in a group of 15 people than you would in a lecture for two hours.” I had two hours sleep that Thursday night, because I was soaking up the whole social aspect. The sleep out was banter central and the music was ample. At one point, different musicians had moved to various points outside the library to play. It somewhat resembled Oxegen in microcosm, given that different musicians had their own mini stages, while a site to rest your head down wasn’t too far afield.

As well as the social aspect of the sleep out, the other reason for it was as clear as our breath in the cold air. UCDSU Ents Vice-President, Jonny Cosgrove, spoke of how: “There’s a fun side and really why you’re here. We’re all on the same page” Deciding to go to sleep at 5:15am when the amount of people wide awake had dwindled down from approximately 80 to four meant the region of maximum body heat in the centre of the herd was fully taken. Being on the outside meant being more exposed to the real homeless situation and it was quite cold. We definitely take our beauty sleep for granted. It is fair to say that there are so may virtues related to sleep; you are more vigilant, and have the feeling of being as bright as a button in the morning. So those early risers that made it in for the early college starts were an inspiration. They bring to mind those who are subject to these conditions on a daily basis. Moreover, on Thursday night, students from TCD, NUIM and DIT journeyed to outside our library to make a statement in unison. Kevin Conlon, a previous auditor, describes the effectiveness of the event, as “we weren’t just another poster on a wall or another talk in a lecture theatre, we were a

UCDSVP’s Homeless Week raised roughly €5,000 this year.

very visible, very untidy presence outside the library”. Hopefully everyone’s sleepouts were teamed up with a lie-on at the weekend. The week was ultimately a success, creating awareness of homelessness and raising

the figure of €5,000 for the St Vincent de Paul Society. All in all, the experience was amazing and feeling fresh from catching up on some sleep, I’ve already begun contemplating on completing the full week of the sleepout next year.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

9

Features

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International insecurity

Now that emigration is looking to be the chosen path for many here at home, Features Editor Leanne Waters looks at the dangers beyond our Irish shores.

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espite p o litical chaos, societal turmoil and economic ruin in recent years, Ireland Features Editor – for the most part – can often be seen as a docile, perhaps even provincial, nation. As I’m sure many would agree, the Emerald Isle was once a relatively comfortable place to grow up and flourish in. Now, however, with so much talk of bills, budgets, taxes and cuts, the concept of mass emigration is being resurrected again and again. As in the eighties we start to experience mass facets of Irish society fleeing our shores, it calls one issue into question: how safe are we abroad? In answer to this question, we have two extreme examples; both of which have been made subject to our own technologicallydeveloped entertainment. The first example can be found in the adventures of one Karl Pilkington. For those unaware, Karl Pilkington was the somewhat victimised guinea pig in the recent hit show An Idiot Abroad, which was produced by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. The travel show followed Pilkington, the aforementioned ‘idiot’, as he visited the seven wonders of the world. Full to the brim of humour and laugh-out-loud moments, the programme was light hearted and of a cheery nature. And yet, one does wonder just how different this depiction is from reality. What must be borne in mind is that though visiting supposedly dangerous areas in the world, Pilkington was accompanied and protected by the might of Sky and the show production team. This, unfortunately, is not quite so readily available for your everyday globe tripper. Perhaps slightly more true to life as we know it, is our second example. Ever relishing in the things that shock us the most, the long-standing Banged Up Abroad series seems to carry much weight with students and older generations alike. With harsh and often shocking stories of conflict, threats and imprisonment, the show gives no allusions as to the dangers that can potentially threaten any and all travellers. In spite of this, there often seems to be a sense of invincibility among travellers.and the student body are of no exception. When asked if dangers and risks were a big consideration while travelling, first-year History and Sociology student Fiach Kunz comments: “Yeah I suppose I do take most risks into consideration. I was in Spain last year on a sixth year holiday and nothing bad happened to any of us. “I think it’s just important to stick with your friends. Don’t get so drunk that you leave yourself vulnerable and have your wits about you in all situations. Of course there are risks when you’re travelling abroad but if you’re smart enough, you’ll avoid them.” Furthermore, it is arguable to say that often our own behaviour determines what could be treacherous fate. A lack of consideration of our own safety was greatly highlighted in speaking to second-year Science

Karl Pilkington’s adventures around the globe don’t always mirror experiences of others travelling abroad.

student, David Archer, who says: “Well I often go away with intentions of being cautious, but usually I just get too hammered. Then things get dangerous, although it’s usually self inflicted.” Despite a clear sense of safety among many students, perhaps it is too naïve to believe in our own security. Far beyond the repercussions of alcoholic indulgence and excessive socialising, there lies in many far-away destinations unthinkable hazards, which not even we would-be immortal students could tackle. One major threat posed to anybody wading in unknown waters is that of hostage taking. We have all heard the tales of kidnaps and ransoms across headlines from destinations all around the globe. In July of 2009, for example, the Belfast Telegraph reported the following: “Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig, Sudan’s Ambassador to Ireland, said his government was hopeful Sharon Commins (32), from Dublin, and Ugandan Hilda Kuwuki, would be released within days. The pair, who work for Irish aid agency Goal, were captured from their compound in the town of Kutum, northern Darfur, last Friday, by men wielding AK-47 assault rifles. According to Mr Siddig, Sudan’s state minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani says a criminal gang who were demanding a ransom for the two women, had been located.” Sharon Commins and Hilda Kuwuki, as mentioned above, were two of the lucky minority who have managed to return home from such horrendous situations. Unfortunately, most are not so lucky. With modern

targets ranging from journalists and tourists to aid workers, it appears that everyone who dares to brave the waters of the unknown is at risk. According to Prime Defence International, the highest risk areas on our globe are South America, in particular, Columbia. In taking Columbia for example, the South American country holds the record for the most kidnappings per annum and the highest ransom demands. More often than not, the taking of hostages is somewhat of a business in Columbia, and kidnappings are often professional, very well organised and can last for considerable periods of time. Prime Defence International records that in the last eight years, the number of kidnappings around the world has increased by 70 per cent. According to recent reports “the most realistic estimate is between 20,000 and 30,000 kidnappings every year”. The experts note that Latin America accounts for a higher proportion of this figure than any other region of the world. Hiscox and International Risk Solutions list Colombia, Brazil and Mexico among the countries where the risk of being abducted is greatest. In Colombia alone, 1,500 people are currently victims. (This is the official figure – the actual number is probably much higher, since many cases go unreported). These numbers become even more terrifying if one takes into account figures supplied by Fundación País Libre, a Colombian organisation that works to combat kidnapping, indicating that 141 of those abducted are children. About 200 adult expatriates have been kid-

napped in the Niger Delta since the start of 2006, and 15 are still being held by various armed groups. Most of the abductions are for ransom, although a few have been politically motivated. However, it has become clear in recent years that one need not travel quite so far from our now seemingly safe coastline to encounter perilous jeopardy. Though still and unsolved matter, we need only look at the heart-wrenching case of young Madeleine McCann. The British girl went missing on the evening of Thursday, May 3rd 2007, during the course of a holiday with her parents in the Algarve region of Portugal. It was only a few days before Madeleine’s fourth birthday when she disappeared from an apartment, in the central area of the resort of  Praia da Luz. Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have said that they left the children unsupervised in a ground floor bedroom while they ate at a restaurant. Though the truth of Madeleine’s disappearance is still unconfirmed, the story – which gripped and deeply moved all around the world – gave clear signs that security and safety are but transient entities that are not guaranteed. Moreover, the headline-breaking news from sunny Portugal confirmed that one does not need to travel very far to trip upon endangerment in its most shocking of forms. Madeleine McCann is still missing today. With undeniable evidence to support the hazards and risks that can occur abroad, could we rely on our government to protect their flyaway birds? On the matter of hostage-

taking situations and the procedures that come into practise in these cases, the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) were unable to give The University Observer any comment. However, DFA policies can be found on their website. On this matter in particular, the policy provided was as follows: “Political Division provides policy advice on international cooperation against terrorism. The Division is responsible for co-operation with international bodies, including the United Nations, on this issue and, together with relevant government departments, it is responsible for monitoring the implementation of United Nations sanctions against persons and entities associated with international terrorism.   “It also co-ordinates Ireland’s responses to requests for information submitted by UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism and AlQaida and Taliban Sanctions Committees. At EU level, the Division, working with the Permanent Representation, Brussels, is responsible for the Irish input into the development of the Union’s external policies on combating international terrorism.” In what is becoming a more and more dangerous world, one would think that emigration would be the furthest thing from our minds. Yet with the recent budget, it appears still that Irish people would rather venture into the unknown than remain in what has been described as a now volatile environment here at home. With 2011 and there onwards set to see thousands say slán to the Irish coast, will emigration be stinted by fears of foreign foreboding? It would seems not.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

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Ceamaraí luais: slánaitheoir nua na Nollag? Cé nach mór dúinn a bheith níos cúramaí ag tiomáint i rith na Nollag, b’fhéidir go bhfuil cabhair breise ar fáil i mbliana, dar le Meabh Ní Choileain

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eidh aonach ar siúl san ionad pobail áitúil agus beidh carúil le cloisteáil á chanadh i halla na scoile. Beidh crainn maisithe le feiceáil sa fuinneog i ngach teach agus, má tá an t-ádh orainn, clúdófar an talamh le brat sneachta bán geal. Cinnte, ní fada anois go mbeidh an Nollaig buailte linn agus go mbeidh áthas san aer arís. Ach cé go dtagann dea-mhéin leis an gceiliúradh seo, fós féin, is ag an am seo den bhliain a thárlaíonn go leor de na tragóidí is uafásaí sa tír. Tagann méadú suntasach ar líon na dtimpistí bóthair i rith na Nollag agus cloistear go leor droch-scéalta faoi dhaoine a ghortaíodh go dona agus a mharaíodh mar thoradh. Le daoine ag filleadh ar an mbaile, daoine eile ag tabhairt cuairt ar ghaolta agus na fir poist ag dáileadh níos mó litreacha agus beartanna ná de ghnáth, bíonn na bóithre dubh le feithiclí. Ar bharr seo, bíonn an aimsir níos measa i rith na Nollag agus bíonn sioc, flichshneachta agus báisteach ann go rialta. Sula gcuirimid fáilte roimh Nollaig 2010, ní mór dúinn an cheist a chur: An bhfuil réiteach ann chun timpistí bhóthair na Nollag a laghdú nó an bhfuil siad dosheachanta? Le coicís anuas, tá tús curtha le scéim

nua na nGardaí. Tá ceamaraí luais curtha thar timpeall na tíre acu, chun laghdú luais a chur chun cinn i measc tiománaithe. Cé go bhfuil go leor tiománaithe glan i gcoinne an scéim seo, ní féidir a shéanadh ach go dtiocfaidh go leor maitheas uaidh, ach go háirithe ag an am seo den bhliain. Dár leis an tAire Ceartais, Dermot Ahern, cuireadh na ceamaraí luais i bpríomháiteanna timpistí bóthair, chun go dtosnóidh daoine ag tiomáint níos moille agus a bheith níos cúramaí. Roimh dheireadh na míosa seo, beidh na ceamaraí luais tar éis taifead a dhéanamh ar breis is 750 uair a chloig tiomáint agus roimh mí Feabhra 2011, tá súil ag an tAire Iompair, Noel Dempsey, go mbeidh, ar a laghad, 45 ceamaraí luais ar fud na tíre. Is figúirí iad seo a léiríonn cé chomh tromchúiseach is atá na Gardaí agus an rialtas faoin scéim seo agus mothaíonn siad gur fiú airgead a fhineistiú ann toisc go gcabhróidh sé le bheatha dhaoine a shábháil. Toisc go mbíonn daoine ag ól níos mó i rith na Nollag, tá géar ghá le rabhadh sa bhreis ar na bóithre. Tá an aimsir dona go leor ach le alcól i gcóras an tiománaí, d’fhéadadh timpistí seachantúil a thárlúint go héasca. Táimid níos carthanúl agus níos tuiscuiní ar dhaoine eile i rith na Nollag agus mar sin nuair a dúirt an Gharda Comisúinéir, Fachtna Murphy, go bhféadfadh leis na ceamaraí luais ball dár gclann nó comharsan linn a choimeád slán ar na bóithre, tá an seans ann anois go smaoinfaimid ar na ndaoine seo sula dtéimid taobh thiar den bhonn rotha tar éis dúinn a bheith ag ól. Tá lán-mhuinín ag na Gardaí sa scéim nua seo agus is dóigh leo go ndéanfaidh sé go leor difríocht le mheon an tiománaí a

athrú. Leis an aimsir ag éirí níos fuaire, cóisir ranga na Nollag ag druidim agus trácht níos troime le feiceáil ar na bóithre, tá súil againn go bhfuil an ceart acu. Agus muid ag ceiliúradh lenár muintir an Nollaig seo, ba chóir dúinn machnamh a dhéanamh orthu agus an t-ádh atá orainn go bhfuil siad in ár saol. Muna dtosnaimid ag tabhairt aire níos fearr ar na bóithre an Nollaig seo, tá an baol ann nach mbeidh siad linn an Nollaig seo chugainn. Is ar mhaithe beatha na ndaoine atá na ceamaraí luais nua seo agus is féidir a chinntiú go mbeidh Nollaig níos ciúine againn i mbliana lena theacht.

Gluais

Tá súil ag an tAire Iompair, Noel Dempsey, go mbeidh, ar a laghad, 45 ceamaraí luais ar fud na tíre

Ceamaraí luais speed cameras Timpistí bóthair road accidents Sioc frost Flithshneachta sleet Dosheachanta inevitable Tiománaithe drivers Carthanúil charitable

Postcards from Abroad: Shanghai In the last of this semester’s series, Daryl Bolger talks privileges and heroes from the heart of China

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ife in Sh a n g hai has carried on in much the same vein since the last report. That is to say, it’s been completely hectic and the surprises that have come our way have been nothing short of unbelievable. In fact, were pictures not taken, I would have believed one particular weekend was a dream; a ridiculous one at that. The weekend in question was when the HSBC Champions Golf tournament, one of the sport’s more prestigious events, rolled into town. With it came the world’s best players and its most famous adulterer. It was an opportunity not to be missed. When you fluke getting small plastic tickets labelled ‘Player’s Guests’, it represents an opportunity that happens only once in a lifetime. Never has such a small piece of plastic, worn around our necks, wielded such benefits. The player’s clubhouse, the media centre, the driving range and many more areas were ours to explore. The only other people allowed in these areas were people employed by the tour; golfers, caddies, etc. This, of course, meant that we had free access to many of the world’s best players. While Woods and Mickleson left quickly and discreetly after their rounds, many players didn’t. It was these golfers that we had the privilege of meeting. Three of the four current

major winners – McDowell, Kaymer and Oosthuizen – all stopped for pictures and to sign our memorabilia. The two men from up north, McDowell and McIlroy, were especially sound, bringing us outside to get better pictures, giving us hats and chatting to us about home. After most players had left on the Saturday, we tried our luck lining up for the official tournament BMW’s to bring us back to the players’ hotel – where we were not staying. Our efforts paid off. After seeing the girls jump into one car, myself and my housemate, Colin, jumped into another – only, we got into a car with one of the player’s riding shotgun. No one big: Danny Willett was his name. However, it’s a situation I doubt I’ll ever find myself in again in my lifetime; in a chauffeur-driven car, with a player, going to the players’ hotel. The Sunday was much the same: we met Rickie Fowler and several other players. However, once the day’s play ended, it became a different ball game altogether. Through a loose connection, we had met Padraig Harrington the day before and had a good chat with him for several minutes after his media interviews. After his round on the Sunday, he managed a bit more time for us, manoeuvring seemingly dozens of Chinese fans out of the way so that we could all get pictures with him. Strangely, the dozens of Chinese then took pictures of us with Padraig. Not long after leaving Padraig, the clubhouse began to clear out. While outside talking to some of the tour officials, Francesco Molinari (the tournament champion) was whisked into a car behind

our backs. Seeing an opportunity most wouldn’t have, myself and a friend walked straight into the players’ locker rooms. Divided between six changing rooms, a pool, a physiotherapist, a washing area and an area for sinks and vanity, the facilities were something to behold. It wasn’t long before we had found the now-empty lockers of Els and Mickleson. Moving on, we took in the sheer opulence of the bathing areas. Talking to people who have seen the best in Ireland, I was told it’s immeasurably superior. On our way back out, said friend spotted one bag left in the locker area; that of the winner: Francesco Molinari. Seizing our chance, we grabbed a golf ball each and headed off to the players’ hotel, again in a tournament car. There, after using Molinari’s golf ball for a game of foosball, we went back to the bar to buy ourselves a drink when Padraig came across to buy them for us. From there, we talked away for an hour about everything, from Premiership football, to the magic of sling boxes. We also recounted his magnificent albatross the day before, for which I had the fortune of being the closest spectator. The whole situation is beginning to seem a bit ridiculous that we’ve had the fortune of meeting such Irish sporting greats, in China especially. Padraig and the other golfers seemed completely unaffected by their fame. And the efforts they went to for us, who they had never met before, was astonishing. They say you should never meet your heroes. Whoever ‘they’ are, they’ve clearly never met mine.

Padraig Harrington – an exception to the rule: never meet your heroes.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

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From despair to where? Facing an uncertain future, budgets and a bailout, Roberta Cappieri and Sarah Doran investigate whether students truly trust the government

Students have continually voiced their opposition towards governmental policies.

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rom Wall Street to West Cork, Dublin to Dubai, the figureheads of Irish government have become well-known faces courtesy of the boom, the bust and ultimately the bailout. Indeed, as 2010 draws to a close, it would seem that bailout is the buzzword. The country has arguably descended into what could only be described as collective puzzlement. Amidst the confusion, there seems to be one certain truth: the legitimacy of the government’s mandate. Naturally, the wisdom of their governance is being questioned by the Irish people. Over the past few years, it has become a well-publicised fact that students and the government have enjoyed a far from harmonious relationship; the issue of fees has proven a pivotally antagonistic point of contention between them. Though it could be argued that in the current climate, the answer to the question is a no-brainer, it is still prudent to ask the generation who will inherit the Ireland of tomorrow: do you trust the government? “The only adequate response to that question at this point in time must be derisory laughter,” says final-year History and Politics student Julianne Pigott. “If there is a single student on this campus or a citizen in this country who expresses faith in Cowen and Lenihan at this point, I suspect they may have been living under a rock for the last number of months.” Third-year Physiology student Barry O’Donoghue also has little trust in the current government. “There are just too many scandals coming out,” he says. “I think they were in power for too long and they just got comfortable.” Fearing a rise in registration fees and cuts to a grant, students took to the streets in their thousands to vent their collective anger at the government’s pro-

spective policy decisions. Now that it has been confirmed that the registration fee will rise and that grants will be cut, student faith in the government will likely plummet. However, at this stage it would seem that for some students, the issues of trust and faith in the government seem to extend far beyond fees. The feeling that the government are simply failing to communicate and connect with the people is proving central to the decline of trust in their governance. “They’re talking down to the electorate,” says Pigott. “They’re telling people that this is too complex for you to understand; so don’t worry your pretty little heads about it and we’ll sort it out, the reality being they haven’t sorted out this [and it] is now going on in excess of two years.” She continues: “It isn’t that complex, it can be explained to people and if you were getting honest information and you could have a sense, any sense that they were sharing with you what they knew when they knew it, the suspicion that we’re in some way being misled might be alleviated. People think that it’s an intentional ploy on the part of the government to mislead them, therefore they must be hiding something.” O’Donoghue also believes that this lack of information was contributing to public mistrust, though he does not feel that the government were being condescending. “I think it’s just such a complicated situation that they don’t know themselves,” he says. “I think they don’t want to give out too much information or they’ll freak everyone out, which I think by not giving out information, they’ve done anyway. I think they were damned if they didn’t and they were damned if they did.” The feeling that the government have

failed to pay sufficient attention to the electorate has raised issues surrounding trust in their governance not only on the national stage, but also in the international arena. As representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union come to Irish shores for negotiations, can the government be trusted to adequately argue on the international stage and represent the national interest? “No,” says Pigott. “I think that Lenihan will be going cap in hand at this juncture. I think that it’s simply too late, that the European leaders must be looking at our Taoiseach and our Minister for Finance at this point and wondering: 1. How they were elected? 2. How we haven’t taken to the streets like the French and evicted them from government offices? “It seems ludicrous that when every media outlet in the country is questioning the legitimacy of their government, their moral authority, their capacity to change or to improve our living standards, they have no credibility when they go to Europe at this point.” O’Donoghue seems to have some degree of trust in the government’s capacity to negotiate at European level. “I think that Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan are quite smart and that they can argue and I think they do know what might be needed, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to do it. I think what they think needs to be done might not be the best thing.” But of course, the mere fact that the EU and IMF are gracing our shores has lead to a growing sentiment that the government have simply lost control of the country. The issue of accountability is consistently debated in cafés and conference rooms around the country and students are not excluded from this debate. Given that it is certain that a general

election will happen in January, do students believe that we are long overdue a chance to head to the polls? O’Donoghue believes that “it is time, but whether before or after the Budget is another thing, because basically whoever is in power is going to have to bring in the same or similar measures that are going to make everyone annoyed. Whichever government we have is going to bring in similar measures, you can argue around that but basically it’s going to be very similar measures. Whoever is in power, I think maybe the Budget should come in and then they should go.” Similarly, Pigott feels that the time for change has come. “I don’t understand how anybody could consider that this government retains any shred of credibility in dealing with this crisis. Leaving aside issues of political blame and who brought this about or why this came about in the first place, that’s incidental at this stage. “There’s a vacuum of political leadership at the heart of government. I’m not saying that Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore will have any more immediate credibility with the European leaders or indeed with the electorate, but something has to give at this point. At least, there is a sense that with a new government, we might get honest answers.” Postgraduate student Evin Joyce also feels the current government’s position has become untenable. “Trust means confidence. I don’t think you could put much confidence in the government,” he says. According to Joyce, it is the continued deceit from our public representatives that worries him: “For example, over the weekend three times [in] three days, one after the other, the government tries to reassure people there’s going to be no need for a European bailout and

then front page of the Independent, Brian Lenihan is pictured after meeting with the IMF,” he says, before adding: “When they can’t give an answer on something so important yet so simple, you can’t trust them. They’re like a bunch of monkeys.” When asked what issues matter to students, masters student Aine Lynch says: “At the moment, because I’m a student, I suppose I’d be looking to the student fees. I think it’s on a lot of people’s minds, because education should be a priority at the moment in getting the country back up and running, and if you’re going to deny that to people, it’s just going to make problems worse.” Speaking in relation to the IMF/EU bailouts that have been given the green light by the government, Joyce says: “I think that if it happens, it will be necessary.” Lynch agrees with him, saying: “I don’t think they can afford not to take the bailout, but it is worrying the fact that they will have the power to control our next budget.” All of this indicates a very mistrusting and aggravated student population. To some, by not holding byelections needed throughout the country, the government lost their democratic legitimacy to govern. Lynch for one believes the current government no longer have the right to be sitting in Leinster house. “It’s ridiculous what they’re doing, it’s like a dictatorship. They can’t cope with the strain and yet they’re unwilling to put the seats up for election, because they know they’d be out of government.” Students seem to feel that the country now faces an uncertain future. With the IMF and EU now to decide the fate of the nation, anxiety is widespread. Amidst the fear and confusion, there is arguably only one thing that students are certain about: they do not trust the government.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

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The price of art As an increasingly ominous Budget approaches, Aoife Brophy and Kate Rothwell debate whether or not the arts are worth investing in

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ever in the recession to distract and entertain ourselves. It is also said that the arts bind people together and promote the culture of the country. What we need to remember is that there are homes that are being repossessed today. There are people sleeping on our streets in the freezing cold. There are patients in hospitals waiting for surgery and for medicine that the HSE cannot afford to provide. Surely these people should come before a pretty picture or a nice new museum? It could be argued that the arts create jobs. However, jobs in the arts today are in theatres, art galleries and concert halls – the government funds all these places. Local authorities must pay the wages so economically; it’s just a vicious circle. While children should be encouraged to develop their creativity from a young age, they should also be encouraged academically. The much-talked-about culture of celebrity is encouraging children to focus solely on the arts as the best chance for them to become famous. More and more young people shy away from difficult careers, as they are too distracted by the idea of celebrity. Arts festivals can contribute millions of euro to local economies, which of course can only be a good thing. However, funding from local authorities isn’t necessarily the only way to finance these festivals. Perhaps a more sensible solution is for the county councils to give arts festival committees loans that they must pay back when they make a profit. Or perhaps they could ask local artists to contribute money to the festival, since they don’t have to pay taxes. There are many students in Ireland doing courses in

he arts’ is a lofty title, but what it consists of is not just for the privileged few who regularly attend the country’s grandest opera and ballet performances, or purchase paintings for six-figure sums. ‘The arts’ are culture in all of its varied and glorious forms; from short films to street theatre, ceramics to comedy, grungy gigs to fantasy fiction. There’s something for everyone and without it we have very little to show for ourselves. Ireland has always prided itself on being a small country with a vast cultural spectrum, and our relatively tiny population has spawned numerous authors and artists who have gone on to enjoy international fame. However, we have not only exported our talent; the arts have thrived on our own doorstep in the form of countless festivals, arts centres, age-old crafts, performances, exhibitions and innovative cultural companies. If the support that has helped to develop this artistic diversity is withdrawn, then we will damage more than the livelihoods of those who work in the arts and culture sector; we will also be disregarding an integral part of our heritage. An abandonment of the arts would mean losing much of the entertainment that is so badly needed during the depressing times of economic failure. Imagine how mundane our society would be if we had no local festivals to bring colour to our streets during the year, if the only films we could see were American blockbusters, if the

An abandonment of the arts would mean losing much of the entertainment that is so badly needed during the bleak times of economic failure only concerts we could go to were overpriced big-name acts in the O2. This may be painting an overly bleak picture, but when funding is cut, it is the small-scale events that really suffer and the lesser-known talent that is denied the chance to shine. Yet it is not just local communities who would bemoan the loss of cultural happenings in their area; our visitors would be sure to notice it too. The last couple of years may have seen a decline in the number of tourists travelling to Ireland, but the nigh-on 7,000 overseas visitors who came to our shores last year still made a hugely positive contribution to the ill beast that is our economy. Tourism is one of the few sectors that still shows a glimmer of potential even during the current financial climate, so it would be foolish to discourage tourists by offering them a reduced cultural programme, or indeed by replacing our renowned hospitality and friendly attitude with a pessimistic and plaintive reception. Céad míle fáilte might be easier said than done, but it is still worth the effort. The National Campaign for the Arts has worked hard to highlight the benefits of maintaining and even increasing the current funding available to the arts, with members of the campaign meeting a total of 80 TDs to discuss the issue of supporting the arts on September’s ‘National Day of Action’. The effort was valiant, but even if the ears on which their words fell were not all deaf, that message is far from topping any TDs’ agenda today.

Authors such as James Joyce worked in economically unsound times.

We are in a recession beyond compare. Politically turbulent, socially difficult times are always the eras that inspire the richest catalogue of literature, art, music and more. Yeats and Joyce, to name just two of our best-known artists, both produced huge volumes of nowrevered material in the midst of the country’s political upheaval 100 years ago. Today’s situation is hardly comparable, but it is still a seismic change in our times. The recession may not lead to another Ulysses, but Ireland’s artists have been witness to enough corruption and crisis during the past couple of years to fuel their creative fire for decades to come. Yet they have not been the only ones to observe this fall from grace, their prospective audience, the general public, have also watched in disbelief as society felt the effects of a bubble that had to burst. This is exactly the reason why the arts will resonate more with their public in the times to come than they ever could have during the Celtic Tiger years. Our artists will express what we can’t find words for and, should we support them, their work will remain as a living example to future generations of what it meant to live in the formative years of 21st century Ireland. Not convinced? Read a couple of Irish dramas written in 2010 in 50 years time and see if you’re not starkly reminded of how things were. Living in a country that needs €90 billion from its neighbours in order to stay afloat is embarrassing enough, but should our Government decide to turn its back on the vital source of pride and hope that is the arts, then we will no longer need reasons to emigrate, as there will simply be no reason left to stay. - Kate Rothwell

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ndeniably, drama, painting, sculpting, music and writing are all inherent parts of our culture. However, it is difficult to understand why the government gives financial aid to the arts when the best forms of art tend to be money-spinners themselves. In 2009, the Budget for the arts in Ireland was €185 million. Of the €185 million, the Arts Council of Ireland received €68 million. This money goes towards various artistic endeavours, which are of no real benefit to the country as a whole. If a play is good enough, then people will pay to see it. If a painting is good enough, then someone will buy it. If a band is good enough, people will buy their music and go to their concerts. Any artist should be able to stand on their own two feet without relying on aid and grants from an already-drained economy. Artists are also given very special treatment when it comes to the Irish tax system. For many years, artists didn’t have to pay taxes. Thankfully, a cap has been introduced in recent times, so that the artists who are making money now contribute to the Irish economy. In October, the abolition of the artist tax exemption was debated in the Dáil. Minister Mary Hanafin defended it fiercely, saying that artists make a huge contribution to society. It is disgraceful to suggest that artists make more of a contribution to society than doctors, nurses and firemen, for example. As we keep hearing in the news, everyone needs to feel the pinch if we are to recover from this recession, so there is no reason why artists should be exempt from this. Some may say that we need the arts now more than

In reality, the arts are hobbies, and entertainment shouldn’t be a top priority on any government’s agenda Art and Design. Not many students will manage to secure a job after going to college in Ireland, but at least we might have some chance in other countries, or indeed here, when the job market eventually improves. What use will a degree in design be? Maybe it will be useful to a handful of people who get into teaching, tattooing or interior design, however the running joke in school for an artist friend of mine was that standing in a queue in the canteen was “good practice for when you’re on the dole”. Fundraisers could be held if the arts needed more money. In reality, the arts are hobbies, and entertainment shouldn’t be a top priority on any government’s agenda. The arts are not alone in wasting governmental money, considering that the government has wasted huge amounts of money in other areas such as electronic voting, government jets, Anglo Irish Bank and so on. The artist’s funding is miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still something. €185 million would be a lot to all of the families who are struggling to pay off mortgages. It would provide accommodation for those on the streets. This government has misappropriated most of its funds and supporting floundering artists is just another example of money being wasted. - Aoife Brophy


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

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Fall of the euro The most likely outcome of Ireland’s debt crisis is the collapse of the single currency, writes Eoin Brady

D

e c k chairs a r e being rearranged on the Titanic. €1 off the dole. €500 extra for college. A few thousand voluntary redundancies. It doesn’t add up to much. In the context of the banks’ losses, all of the swinging cuts and punishing tax increases aren’t going to make much of a dent. €6bn in a year, against borrowing from the ECB of €130bn? The banks’ losses dwarf any effort the Irish government can make to get our accounts in order. The main reason we are being subjected to these measures is to keep the ECB and the IMF onside. As they are the only entities willing to fund us at reasonable rates of interest, we need them. We have to keep doing exactly what we’re told because when the IMF gives someone a loan, they don’t just give someone a loan. A borrower from the IMF gets three months’ worth of cash, and if after three months they aren’t making the progress the IMF feels they should be, the next payment gets cut. This nearly happened to Greece, when Austria complained that they weren’t making enough progress. So we’d better keep arranging those deckchairs.

The pertinent question here, however, is whether there are bigger deckchairs being rearranged on a bigger Titanic. With the turmoil we’re going through at the moment, it’s hard to keep an eye on the big picture. The big picture is the future of the single currency. With 20 per cent of what the ECB had set aside as a fund for keeping the entire eurozone stable hoovered up by Ireland’s banks, people are starting to get rather uncomfortable in Brussels. This fund was supposed to be so vast it would restore confidence to the markets, and never even need to be touched. But it hasn’t worked out like that. Events are taking a very different, and markedly worse, turn. Not only is the fund being used, it’s being drawn upon so heavily that the people paying for it in Europe are beginning to feel the pinch and would really prefer to stop paying for it. This is what motivated German Chancellor Angela Merkel to suggest that some of the losses are taken by the investors who loaned the money to banks, rather than by instructing the Irish public (and by extension, the ECB) to pay for it. She had to backtrack from that position when bond yields in the peripheral eurozone countries shot up, indicating market nervousness. A few short weeks later – in a U-turn so evocative of the ones our Brians have been making that it would funny, were it not so serious – the ECB and the IMF are drawing up plans to make the investors take a hit. From the point of view of the Irish public, the benefits of not having to pay back vast sums of someone else’s money are obvious. However, the effect it will have on the ability of Portugal and Spain – and even more disturbingly, Belgium – to fund themselves remains to be seen. Portugal and Spain have seen increases

Bank of Ireland is one of the main organisations being blamed for Ireland’s current predicament.

in the spread of their yields over German in the last few weeks. The cost of insuring Belgian sovereign debt is at a record high. This means investors are demanding more compensation for taking on what they perceive to be riskier bets. This is happening despite Spain and Portugal’s protestations that they are “not Ireland” – a claim reminiscent of Ireland’s leaders a few months ago – that we were “not Greece”. Of course, that turned out to be partially true – we were actually in much worse shape than Greece.

Ireland is a deckchair, and the eurozone is the Titanic. As the ECB and IMF hammer out little discounts here and there on Anglo’s subordinated debt, Portugal – a country with an economy similar in size to Ireland – and Spain – whose economy is six times larger – are shaping up to do just what we are doing right now. Spain’s economy is a tenth of the eurozone total. While the Irish banks might have been too big to fail, Spain is unquestionably too big to rescue. If the markets get sufficiently spooked – and the por-

tents are that they will – the ECB will have to cut Spain loose. A disorderly default within the eurozone would do such reputational damage to the single currency that the surviving members will want to distance them from it. At that point, the costs of holding the eurozone together would outweigh any remaining benefits. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. However, based on this evidence, it looks like Europe will be a drastically different place in a year and all the ECB is doing is rearranging deckchairs.

Budget or bust

With Budget 2011 looming, Sarah Doran investigates the uncertainty that the nation faces

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he boom, the bust, the banks and the bailout: these four words have recently been immortalised in Irish discourse. On December 7th, the word ‘budget’ will inevitably be the buzzword. An abundance of economic terminology has sailed above Irish heads amidst talk of European Union and International Monetary Fund intervention, bailouts and the recently published four-year plan. Whilst the plan details the Government’s plan of action with regard to reducing state outgoings by €15 billion over the next four years, Budget 2011 will detail the state’s financial policy for the coming year. Fine Gael had called for the Budget to be brought forward two weeks, a call which was rejected by Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Laying all political issues aside, difficult as that may be, what can the Irish people and indeed students expect from the upcoming budget? The government intends to make €6 billion in spending cuts in 2011, this much is clear. Until it is published on December 7th, the precise stipulations with regard to the spending cuts in the Budget will remain a mystery. However, a plethora of predictions have materialised in the media in recent weeks and the newly published fouryear plan arguably gives an indication of

what can be expected for the coming year. What will the Budget offer those in thirdlevel education? It would seem at this point that an increase in the registration fee is inevitable. However, the increase won’t be as severe as first estimated. The registration fee is expected to rise from €1,500 to around €2,000, not €3,000 as was feared. This will prove a source of relief for those students and parents who can afford the extra €500, but offer little comfort to those who cannot. Student grants and scholarships were cut by five per cent in 2010 and the USI had raised concern that they would face further cuts in 2011; the four-year plan indicates that the grant will indeed be cut by 5 per cent. A rising registration fee and falling grant will inevitably force some students out of third-level education. Whether this reduction in the grant will come as part of Budget 2011 is uncertain, leaving students in fearful anticipation of the December budget. Those students hoping to secure employment in the public sector will inevitably face difficulties as the Government aims to further reduce the public sector workforce. A reduction of ten per cent in wages for entrylevel public servants will arguably offer little incentive to graduates; Budget 2011 may not cater to the class of 2011. Reductions in social welfare payments are also inevitable. The four-year plan aims to cut spending in the sector by €2.8 billion over the next four years; it is likely that this

will be evident in the upcoming budget, though the precise details cannot be predicted. A drop of €1 in the minimum wage will doubtlessly prove cause for concern amongst students who work in order to cover costs. However, at €7.65, this wage will remain one of the highest in Europe. Considering the low minimum wage levels across Europe and the absence of a minimum wage rate in countries such as Sweden, it is arguably not as draconian a blow as was expected. The Budget will prove a bitter pill to swallow for the Irish people; the nation feels as though it is being punished for the irresponsible actions of a select few. It as of yet unclear whether the Budget will even be approved in the Dáil, as independent candidates are threatening to withdraw their support and backbenchers are threatening revolt. Are these acts of publicity-grabbing political opportunism or actions taken in the national interest? In the current climate, it is difficult to differentiate. Should the Budget go ahead or should it be suspended in favour of a general election as many politicians have argued? Would an election followed by a budget not be more prudent considering that we know the government will be dissolved in a few months? EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn says that it is “essential” that Ireland passes the Budget sooner rather than later. If the country does desire EU and IMF

Brian Cowen recently announced that a general election would be held in January.

assistance, it is necessary to pass a budget that indicates Ireland’s commitment toward reform. With fear and speculation rife across Europe, it is argued that Ireland must act quickly in order to avoid falling into a queue behind Spain and Portugal should they too require economic assistance. Nobody can be sure if this will happen; uncertainty seems to

be the only constant. With fear of draconian cuts and rising tax rates, perhaps it is no wonder that The Late Late Toy Show appeared on our screens in November this year. As the nation faces an uncertain financial future, the weight of Santa Claus’ sack will be inevitably be determined by Budget 2011.


14

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

COMMENT

comment@universityobserver.ie

Burmese democracy As the release of Aung San Suu Kyi garners considerable media attention, Bríd Doherty examines why this is a milestone in the fight for democracy in Burma

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nspired by Gandhi and Nelson Mandela before her, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a figurehead for peaceful resistance in the face of injustice and oppression. For the past 20 years, she has campaigned for democracy in her homeland of Burma. She is at the helm of the NLD (National League for Democracy), who are the leading opposition to the military-backed government. Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, is viewed as Burma’s greatest independence hero. He was assassinated when Suu Kyi was just two years of age as a result of his actions against the state. Suu Kyi recalled: “I could not, as my father’s daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on.” Her involvement in the struggle for democracy began in 1988, when Burma was in the throes of a political upheaval. Citizens from all walks of life took to the streets demanding reform. Suu Kyi rose to the challenge and stepped in to lead the struggle against subjugation. The army, prior to staging a coup in 1988, quelled the demonstrations. Two years later, they called national elections. The NLD were victorious, but the military refused to relinquish control and have ruled Burma with an iron fist ever since. At this point, Suu Kyi was held under house arrest and was not allowed to put herself before the polls. Since then, Suu Kyi has been repeatedly

placed under house arrest. It is evident that the government have used the slightest excuses to curtail her freedom and place her behind locked doors. She has spent the majority of the past 20 years in some form of detention. The military government saw her as a threat to their regime and feared her popularity amongst the Burmese people. Furthermore, it has been alleged that senior generals refuse to allow Suu Kyi’s name to be mentioned in their presence. She was released from house arrest in 1995 after being held for six years. In 2000, she was put under house arrest again when she broke government travel restrictions. In 2002, she was released unconditionally but was once again denied her freedom after her supporters engaged in a clash with a government-allied mob. Suu Kyi spent her time in confinement studying and exercising. When asked about confinement, she said that it never had a scarring effect on her, as she felt free because her mind was still free. The November 2010 elections were boycotted by the NLD. The party declined to contest because of the unfairness of the election laws. Under new Burmese election laws, the NLD then had to disband. However, certain party members formed a new party in order to contest the elections, preferring to offer some kind of representation rather than none. The

undoubtedly rigged elections have left the military government in a position of strength. The government evidently feel that they were in a position where they could release Suu Kyi without her posing a serious threat to their control. They clearly believe themselves to be in a strong enough position to curtail her supporters. Whether or not they are right will remain to be seen. In 1991, Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize but could not travel to accept it. The committee chairman, Francis Sejested, called her “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”. Suu Kyi’s chosen path in life is one that has been tainted by great sacrifice. She has spent the past 20 years far from the company of her husband and two sons who lived in the UK, and has grandchildren that she has never met. Perhaps the most tragic sacrifice that she had to make was that of not being by her husband’s side during the last days before his death. The Burmese authorities gave her permission to travel to the UK to be with him, but she felt compelled to refuse, as she feared she would not be allowed to re-enter the country. Recommencing her life as a free woman, Suu Kyi’s aims have withstood the hardship of house arrest. She has often said that detention has made her even surer that she should dedicate her life to the average Bur-

Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest has been celebrated as a step towards Burmese democracy

mese citizen. She has also recently been reunited with her youngest son after a long separation. It is clear that Suu Kyi will strive to bring freedom, democracy and a sense of hope to the people of Burma. She is aiming to start a peaceful revolution. She is hoping to engage in talks with the ruling generals and compel them to embrace democracy.

Her very name and image light a small flicker of hope in the heart of the people of Burma. Here, before them, is a woman who has given every aspect of her life to lead the struggle against dictatorship and brutality in Burma. One can only hope that her release will inspire the people of Burma to fight to quash the cruelty and oppression of the military that has ruled their lives for so many years.

Border attack As North Korea’s attack on South Korea has sparked fears of war, Eoghan Dockrell looks at the possible implications of this conflict

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n Tuesday November 23rd 2010, North Korea launched an artillery attack on a small island belonging to South Korea. That sentence could, in years to come, be the first line of a story told by historians when recalling the incident that precipitated a disastrous conflict. On Tuesday November 23rd, North Korea did in fact launch an artillery attack on South Korea. This attack, which has largely been condemned by the international community, and which seemed to have gone unnoticed by most non-Korean citizens, killed four people at the time of writing. Yes, the loss of life was relatively small, but there are far greater implications. Last Tuesday’s attack was not the first domino to fall, as North Korea has engaged in similar provocative actions in the past. Many diplomats and foreign policy experts believe it could be the domino that knocks the rest. The consequence of this would be, at best, the continued deterioration of a fraught relationship, and at worst, a messy nuclear confrontation where the ordinary citizens of North and South Korea would suffer the most. It is also clear that the citizens of North Korea have already suffered significantly. To call them citizens at all is to use the term loosely. They are more comparable to subjects in the sense that they have been subjected to a brutal regime where millions live below the poverty line. The most vulnerable of these are children, a significant portion of whom receive little or no education, and the elderly, who rely entirely on support from their families. In

short, because of gross economic mismanagement, the people of North Korea are facing a bleak future. Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s 68-year-old ‘supreme leader’ would vehemently disagree with this. The propaganda arm of his regime ensures that all external news is strictly censored. As for internal news, if you were to parachute in from another planet and listen to the state broadcaster, you’d think you had landed in a Marxist paradise. The reality is, while North Koreans continue to suffer in extreme hardship, their Southern neighbours enjoy unprecedented economic growth. South Korea was one of the few developed countries to avoid a recession during the global financial crisis. The two countries may share a border and the second barrel of their name, but the similarities stop there. The two states could not be more different, economically, politically and socially. North Koreans live in an economy where many are forced to barter to survive. In recent years, international aid has been reduced even further. This is partly attributable to the difficult economic climate, but it is also because people are understandably reluctant to donate to an unstable, tyrannical regime that is aggressively pursuing nuclear capabilities. Furthermore, economic sanctions by the international community, as punishment for defying warnings to desist from conducting nuclear tests, have resulted in the ordinary people of North Korea bearing the brunt of the pain. This is an intolerable state of affairs, but one that looks likely to persist for the foreseeable future,

until the North decides to roll back their belligerent policy of developing nuclear armaments and re-open dialogue with South Korea. This will be easier said than done. Many American commentators believe that North Korea’s recent provocative actions – the failed launching of satellites over Japan in 2009, the alleged sinking of a South Korean ship in 2006 and last Tuesday’s attacks – have been part of a tactic by the aging Kim Jong-il to promote his son as the heir-apparent. But this theory advanced by western experts is speculative and because access to North Korea is so restricted, it is difficult to know the true motivations behind the incidents for certain. However, what we do know is that Kim Jong-il is not completely against opening up diplomatic lines, having recently received a visit from former US President Bill Clinton. If the US decides to enter into talks with North Korea, then China must be an active player in these discussions. As North Korea’s largest importer of energy and aid, China is in a powerful position to persuade the North to enter into an agreement with the South. They have so far been reluctant to speak out against their North Korean allies, but this recent attack may shift their stance somewhat. This would be a significant development, as China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has consistently vetoed resolutions against the North. In this ongoing conflict, the lion’s share of the blame lies at the feet of Kim Jongil, but the South is not completely inno-

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been blamed for much of the tension between North and South Korea

cent of any wrongdoing. Their firing drills near the border have been provocative in their own right. Both parties, along with the US, China, and possibly others, must be prepared to enter into a comprehensive

peace agreement. The alternative is passivity, which will almost certainly result in an escalation of tension, creating a real threat of war and further suffering for the North Korean people.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

15

SCIENCE & HEALTH

science@universityobserver.ie

Dr Strangelove Have you ever wondered how your doctor decides which drug to prescribe you? Sean Naughton enters the world of pharmaceutical marketing.

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ike most people, you probably just assume that there is one drug out there that will sort out your blood pressure, restless legs or expanding bald patch and that’s the one you will be prescribed. I assure you, your doctor wishes it were that simple. With a host of new medicines coming out all the time, most are neither silver bullets nor travelling medicine show tonics, but lie somewhere in between. This grey area is a messy and complex world of drug trials, statistics, and complex scientific journal publications. Fortunately, pharmaceutical companies have decided to come to the rescue of doctors who are in danger of being injured by falling piles of trial data, drug licensing information and patient follow-up reports and have decided to send out sales representatives, or drug reps, equipped with all the pertinent data on their latest developments, to inform and educate. This is where things start to get interesting. Drug companies, like most organisations in competitive industries, realised that there were a few things they could do to give themselves and their products an edge. The United States leads the way in aggressive pharmaceutical marketing. Companies spend more than $15 billion each year promoting prescription drugs in the US. One third of that amount is spent on detailing an industry term for drug company representatives’ one-on-one promotion to doctors. It used to be commonplace for doctors to be offered dinners, golf outings and speaking fees in exchange for some of their time, but now government crackdowns and the industry’s self policing have

curtailed those gifts. In the absence of these financial inducements, face-to-face rapport has taken on a more central role. Dr. Thomas Carli of the University of Michigan says: “There’s a saying that you’ll never meet an ugly drug rep.” In Ireland, drug reps still often have scientific backgrounds so they are in a position to talk to doctors about their product. However, in the US, the trend is well established towards hiring attractive presenters, with ex-cheerleaders being a particular favourite. The demand has even resulted in the creation of an employment firm called Spirited Sales Leaders in Memphis, which maintains a database of thousands of potential candidates. Some industry critics view the influx of sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive financial incentives of old. Jamie Reidy is a former drug representative who was fired by Eli Lilly this year after publishing his book ‘Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman’. In his book, he recalls a sales call with an attractive female colleague. At first, he said, the doctor gave ten reasons not to use one of their drugs. However, after “she gave a little hair toss and a tug on his sleeve and said, ‘come on, doctor, I need the scrips,’ he said, ‘okay, how do I dose that thing?’” Certainly there is nothing new about companies using attractive people to sell products and on its own; it could be considered relatively innocuous. More troubling however is when it is the actual data that gets dressed up. Gwen Olsen, an ex-sales rep that wrote Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher about her experience of the industry, details how reps

Various motives are behind which drugs are prescribed to patients by doctors.

were often trained to minimise negative results in consultations with physicians. For example, if reps were reporting that certain information in the promotional materials were causing concern to doctors such as a bar chart which showed a particularly high number of central nervous system side effects, the materials would be reprinted, with the central nervous system effects separated out into components, like dizziness, headaches et cetera so they would be visually less likely to draw attention. How to Read a Paper is a book by Professor Patricia Greenhalgh in which she humorously points out her top ten tips

for the pharmaceutical industry on how to show their product in the best light. Some of the points include blurring the distinction between absolute and relative risk and the use of surrogate end points in studies – for example, abstract indices like the pH of the stomach rather than clinical end points that have real meaning for patients. Dr Garrett Igoe, a GP, writes in the Irish Medical Times that when he gently pointed out to a drug rep who had called in on his surgery that she was using nearly all the tricks of the trade as described in Professor Greenhalgh’s book, she smiled amicably, leaned forward and simply said “you’re

gas”! Where the line is drawn between simply putting your best foot forward and being wilfully misleading is by no means a clear cut one and it is ultimately up to doctors themselves to make the final decision as to which drug they prescribe. As in many areas, it seems likely that Ireland might follow America’s lead and with money only getting scarcer in the health system, drug reps will be under even more pressure to justify their latest wonder drugs. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before Ireland’s drugs reps are turning up to doctor’s offices with drug samples in one hand and a pom-pom in the other.

Gone but not forgotten The imminent eradication of rinderpest represents a significant scientific achievement, writes Alison Lee

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he list of diseases successfully eradicated by mankind is by no means an extensive one. Until recently, the list consisted of just one item – smallpox, which was eradicated in 1979. However, smallpox may soon be joined by another disease: rinderpest. Also known as ‘cattle plague’, rinderpest is a disease of domestic cattle and some wildlife. There are records of its existence from as far back as 3000BC and its devastating effects on livestock in Europe motivated the foundation of the first college of veterinary medicine in the world in Lyons in 1761. More recently, in 1924, the World Organisation for Animal Health was established in order to combat the disease. You may wonder why such effort was put into eradicating an infection of livestock when there are so many human diseases out there to be combated. However, it must be remembered the huge impact livestock diseases can have on a country’s economic and food production capabilities. Even though many of us were in primary school back in 2001, most people can remember horrific scenes of Britain’s foot and mouth outbreak of enormous pyres of dead cattle, JCBs digging mass graves and devastated farmers robbed of their livelihood. International sporting events were cancelled and travel to and from England was strictly controlled, as the nation was plunged into a state of emergency. So imagine what the situation would be like if an even more deadly disease like

rinderpest was still rampant. In severe outbreaks, rinderpest has an almost 100 per cent mortality rate. Vets nickname its symptoms the three Ds, discharge, diarrhoea and death. Even though rinderpest can’t infect humans, one third of the human population of Ethiopia died in the famine that resulted after the disease ravaged the cattle population there in the 19th century. Yet rinderpest was not infallible, due mostly to the development t of an effective vaccine. Walter Plowright, an English veterinarian, pioneered viral vaccine research in the 1950s and developed the TCRV (Tissue Culture Rinderpest Vaccine). He grew, or ‘passaged’ the virus in cell culture, until he obtained a harmless strain of the disease that could safely be administered to animals, promoting an immune response. Henceforth, animals that are naturally infected can effectively overcome the virus and don’t experience clinical disease. This vaccine was cheap, effective and easily administered. In fact, the cost of the eradication of rinderpest is estimated to be a mere $3 million. This has been money well spent, with over 70 million tonnes of meat and one billion tonnes of milk produced in the developing world since the introduction of the vaccine. Sadly, Plowright passed away on February 19th 2010, before the official announcement of rinderpest’s eradication. That official announcement hasn’t been made just yet, but delegates at the Global Rinderpest Eradication Symposium held in Rome this October, were confident that

eradication would be officially announced in May 2011. Until then, disease status reports from various countries involved will be reviewed to confirm that the disease is really gone. But can we ever be certain that a disease has been completely eradicated? In the 1970s, the Inter-African Bureau for Epizootic Diseases commenced a plan (entitled JP15) to completely eradicate rinderpest from Africa. Between 1967 and 1972, cattle were regularly vaccinated and it seemed that rinderpest had indeed been pushed to extinction on the African continent. However as former colonies gained independence, new governments refused to implement follow up vaccinations and the disease broke out all over again thanks to war and disorganisation. There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again. In addition, rinderpest doesn’t just infect cattle: it can be maintained in reservoir wildlife populations such as gazelle, wildbeest, buffalo and even giraffes and hippos which can then spread it back to farm animals. So although the disease may be declared officially eradicated, follow-up monitoring will continue for years to confirm that rinderpest, which hasn’t broken out since an episode in Kenya in 2001, is really gone for good. Eradication of a disease with such a vast global distribution was no mean feat, especially considering most of the affected nations don’t possess much in the way of veterinary, agricultural or scientific infrastructure. These include notoriously dangerous, war-

Rinderpest has been the cause of countless cattle deaths since 3000BC.

torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet vets, NGOs and agricultural scientists managed to co-ordinate and implement disease testing, surveillance and vaccination, co-operating with local farmers and governments. Let us not omit praise where it is due: the Irish government’s financial management hasn’t received much praise in the press recently, but not all the money spent over the last decade went to waste. Our government created a trust fund, which supported the rinderpest eradication campaigns in Brunei,

Belarus, Serbia and Armenia. In fact, Ireland donated a huge amount of aid to the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme; hence a little Irish flag is displayed on official GREP documentation. It is rare to hear a success story these days (much less one that involves money and Ireland), but readers should take heart at the news of rinderpest eradication. It is a huge step forward for the developing world, for global food production and for medicine. It is also a great achievement for science – one that all involved should be proud of.


16

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

SCIENCE & HEALTH

Old Wives Tales Debunked: Curing hiccups

science@universityobserver.ie

Elevating energy What exactly are the limits to the power of renewable energy sources, asks Ekaterina Tikhoniouk

Man-made tornadoes can be harnessed for natural forms of energy.

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Drinking fizzy drinks too quickly can result in hiccups.

Is drinking copious amounts of water really enough? Alison Lee explores common cures for hiccups

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ype ‘cures for hiccups’ into Google and you’re presented with over half a million results, at least some of which aren’t pornography. But if there’s so much information out there, then why does no one seem to know what the hell hiccups are, why we get them and most importantly, how to make them go away? Hiccups are known to doctors as Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutters (SDFs): sporadic contractions of the diaphragm occurring several times a minute, causing air to rush into the lungs through the epiglottis, hence the embarrassing ‘hic’ noise. Some researchers postulate that the hiccup reflex is an evolutionary leftover from when our ancestors were amphibians splashing around in primordial ooze. Amphibians breathe in a very similar gulping manner to humans with the hiccups, and scientists have discovered that the motor pathways controlling human hiccupping are identical to the pathways controlling respiration in amphibians. This pathway forms very early in human foetal development – even earlier than the respiratory reflex we need to breathe. Indeed, premature infants spend two and a half per cent of their time hiccupping.

What sparks off an episode of hiccups? We’ve all had them for a few embarrassing minutes, usually in inappropriate places like lecture theatres or the cinema, after drinking fizzy drinks too fast or eating dry bread. But some unfortunate people find themselves with long-term hiccups after experiencing damage to nerves that control the diaphragm. Luckily, intractable hiccups can be treated with drugs such as haloperidol or metaclopramide. Only problem is, these drugs work because they’re sedatives. Thus, short-term treatment is the only viable option, as being permanently sedated tends to get in the way of leading a normal life. Another cure involves surgically implanting an electrical nerve stimulator into the chest of patients with intractable hiccups, which sends electrical impulses along the relevant nerves to the brain, suppressing the hiccups. There are of course more informal cures: some examples include screaming as loud as you can for as long as you can, drinking a pint of water through a paper towel, or having someone punch you in the stomach. These ideas sound a bit far fetched to me, but if you ended up like Charles Osbourne, who hiccupped for 68 years in a row, you’d probably try anything.

nergy comes just a little too easily these days. We switch on the ignitions of our cars without thinking about how much oil there is left in the world. We often turn on the light switch or plug our phone charger into the wall without even wondering where all this electricity is coming from. Is it coming from renewable sources? Or are we thoughtlessly destroying the last reserves of fossil fuels that will certainly not replenish themselves anytime soon? Most of us seem to take it for granted that these fossil fuels of oil, gas and coal will last forever, while in reality at the rate that we’re burning up fuel, it’s estimated that we would have fully depleted our planet’s oil reserves within the next 15 years and its turf and coal reserves by 2020. Humans have been deriving energy from the things around them for millennia. Prehistoric man built fires from tree branches for warmth. Around the year 8,000 BC, man discovered coal. Farmers began cutting turf on their bogs, to burn during the winter months. A great leap forward was made with the discovery of the steam engine at the start of the 18th century. Steam-powered trains, their furnaces fed with enormous amounts of coal allowed for great transportation networks to spring up all over the globe, which marked the beginning of the industrial revolution. Thales of Miletus had known about electricity in 600 BC, but Otto von Guericke did not build the first static generator until 1675 AD. Electricity had very little use until the invention of the telegraph around 1840. It was quickly followed by the telephone, radio and television. Edison added lighting in 1880. Successful batteries had begun appearing in the 1840s and onwards. But there is evidence that batteries have actually been around for much longer than previously thought. In 1936, controversy was sparked by the discovery of the so-called ‘Baghdad Battery’ that was discovered during the excavation of the ruins of a 2,000-year-old village near Baghdad. Believed to date back to Parthian times, this particular find has been baffling

archaeologists and scientists for years. The ‘battery’ consists of a bright yellow clay urn sealed with an asphalt plug. The urn contains a sheet-copper cylinder with a narrow iron rod struck through the asphalt stopper and hanging down the centre of the copper tube. The inside of the asphalt stopper bears the undeniable marks of acid corrosion. The whole mechanism bears undeniable similarity to a modern-day battery. Experiments with the Baghdad Battery have determined that, if filled with acid, it can generate between 1.5 and 2 volts. Although this is quite a small amount of power, there’s a possibility that many of these primitive ‘batteries’ could have been linked together to achieve higher voltages. But what was its purpose? Was this small clay urn used for electroplating (gilding a material in gold), or possibly for the treatment of pain? No one knows even now in the 21st century the ‘Baghdad Battery’ remains a mystery. In the 2,000 years since then, our society has become completely and utterly dependent on energy and now, dwindling fossil fuel resources have forced us to come up with alternative solutions for powering our cars, buildings and factories. The most common mainstream forms of alternative energy are wind, hydro and solar power. But traditional wind and solar sources are usually low intensity sources, with large areas of land needed to collect enough energy to power a densely populated area. But what other options do we have? Surely, there must be more inventive and efficient ways to generate energy. In fact, more and more bizarre but plausible energy solutions have been arising in recent years, from things such as viruses, alcohol or even man-made tornadoes. There is even the possibility of deriving energy from fruit. Creating a battery from a lemon is a common science project for kids. A metal nail galvanised in zinc and copper penny are stuck into a large fresh lemon, creating a weak single cell battery. The nail and coin work as electrodes, while the lemon juice is the conducting electrolyte and four lemons linked together can actually create enough current to light an LED bulb for a surprising amount of time. Potatoes, tomatoes and other fruits or vegetables that contain acids can also be used to light LED bulbs. It would take over

9,000 lemons to power a single flashlight bulb, but it’s a start. Another bizarre source of energy are onions. Californian onion farmers Bill and Steve Gill have discovered a way to turn onion juice into fuel. An anaerobic digester converts treated onions into biogas, which is then turned into methane. This methane is pumped into a 600-kilowatt fuel cell to make electricity. Common viruses that are harmless to humans can be harnessed to create batteries that have the same capacity and performance as typical rechargeable batteries. Researchers at MIT are currently genetically engineering viruses that build cathodes and anodes, creating prototypes the size of a coin. Scientists in California have genetically engineered bacteria that excrete renewable petroleum when fed agricultural waste. The company LS9 claims that this new oil will be carbon negative. Natural tornadoes contain vast amounts of energy. The average tornado contains as much energy as a typical power plant. This prompted Canadian engineer Louis Michaud to create a way of harvesting all this potential energy by creating man-made tornadoes in a controlled environment using a prototype he calls the Atmospheric Vortex Engine. He claims that with a proper facility, he could extract as much as 200 megawatts of electricity that is enough to power a small city. Alcohol may play an important part in future energy production. In Sweden, hundreds of thousands of litres of confiscated alcohol are shipped to waste-fuel plants in Linkoping, where they are added to other waste and turned into methane. Several Scottish whiskey distilleries run their own plants on by-products of the distilling process. Meanwhile, in countries such as Brazil and America, alcohol is being used more and more as fuel. Bioalcohols are alcohols obtained from biological sources. Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plants. It is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. Ethanol can be used to fuel vehicles in its pure form, as in Brazil that has an ethanol fuel programme, which means that many of its vehicles run efficiently on this biofuel, or added to gasoline in order to improve emissions.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

17

SCIENCE & HEALTH

science@universityobserver.ie

Designing our future The history of how humans came to view evolution is steeped in intrigue and the theory of intelligent design constitutes its latest chapter, writes Alan Coughlan

Intelligent design’s theories are largely based upon flagella.

W

hen Charles Darwin embarked on his five-year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, he left as a religious man. He quoted from the Bible as an authority on morality and did not doubt its literal truth. The world now knows the conclusions he drew on biological science at the end of this journey but perhaps do not know that he personally struggled with some of his findings. In public he did not discuss his religious views. He tried to maintain a purely scientific approach to his work and never to write about religion. One can only wonder what he would have thought about some of the debate that his theories continue to stir up over 200 years later. While the Biblical explanation for the origin of life is no longer seen as plausible by any rational thinker, one would then assume that creationism as a concept no longer has a place within scientific debate. However, the essence of creationism is still maintained in a relatively new theory known as intelligent design. The theory of intelligent design has been described by David Attenborough as “fundamentally against every scientific principle I can think of ”. What intelligent design puts forward as an explanation for the origin of life implies the existence of a supernatural creator. The idea at its base level is that life is too complex to have come into being simply by chance. In 1859 Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published with a run of 1,250 copies that immediately sold out. The book went back to print several times and sold rapidly and in its wake left a maelstrom of disgruntled religious

and scientific figures. The book was written in simple language with few technical terms that allowed it to be understood by all. Perhaps this is why the ideas spread so rapidly around the world and the debate and anger that they brought up still rage to this day. In 1925 in Tennessee, a school teacher named John Skopes was arrested for the teaching the basic principles of evolution in the classroom. He was tried as a criminal, found guilty and was fined $100. While different schools in different states may have curricula that varied slightly, there was a constant in biology in that the biblical explanation for both the origin and the existence of life is what was taught. However, newer generations of scientists, having already rejected such ideas during their studies, began to question just what they should be teaching to the next generation. In 1987, the American Supreme Court ruled that the teaching of creationism in schools was unconstitutional, as it violated the separation of church and state. It was decided that creationism was to be banned from the classroom. This should have been the end of a pseudoscientific explanation for the origins of life in schools, but in time, a new guise for creationism was formulated. Professor Philip Johnson is a lawyer and not a biologist. He is also a bornagain Christian who sought to take on Darwinism from a scientific standpoint. He decided to investigate exactly what elements of Darwinian evolution could be verified through experiment and observation. Through the course of his work, he teamed up Dr Stephen Meyer, philosopher of science, Michael Behe, a biochemist and William Dembski, a

mathematician. Behe formulated the theory of irreducible complexity; an idea that states that any complex organ composed of several interdependent parts cannot have evolved from simpler forms. His reasoning being that if any one of these ‘parts of the machine’ are removed, the entire system is rendered useless. Behe used flagellum (fin-like structures that bacteria use to propel themselves through fluid) as an example. He said, at a microscopic level, there were 50 interdependent parts that made the mechanism of this flagellum work and that removing even one would make it all redundant. He deduced that the flagellum must have at some time in the past appeared in a fully-formed state. This could only point towards the existence of a designer. Darwin himself did say that, in his own theory, there was an intrinsic weakness. He said that if a complex organ such as the human eye could be shown to have not been be put together by successive improvements, his theory would break down. However, we now know that the eye can of course have formed over a long period of time due to periodic changes and improvements. From the light sensitive spots of microscopic single-celled organisms to light and shadow sensitive pits of snails, all the way up to a fully functioning human eye, it makes rational sense that the eye developed over a long period of time with each improvement bringing advantages. Dembski, as a mathematician, took on Darwinism in the realms of probability. He stated that the mechanisms for the formation of life were beyond the realms of chance. He went about unravelling

that most complex of molecules DNA, by retroactively calculating the probability if its formation by chance. He concluded that DNA, with its millions of connected sections each in their own precise locations, could not have come about by chance alone. Nevertheless, DNA exists and life is here today and therefore, he concluded that the maths implies the existence of a designer. Professor Kenneth Miller has become a champion for rational scientific thinking by taking on intelligent design. Indeed, he sees a threat in the implications of teaching such theories. As he and many have noted, George W Bush stated that both sides of the debate on evolution should be taught in schools. Miller’s work has centred on debunking the core theories of intelligent design. He was able to reveal through his own study of bacterial flagella that within the system of 50 parts was a bacterial syringe, a smaller system within with almost 80 per cent (40 of the 50 parts) missing. These ten parts were perfectly functional by themselves, proving that the flagellum could be broken down into simpler parts and thus, could have evolved from a simpler form. Perhaps Miller’s most damning piece of evidence against intelligent design comes through an intuitive story that he relates about the maths that Dembski used. He likened it to a game of cards and how, once everyone has been dealt a hand, they could look back and say: “My God, isn’t it amazing that we got these exact cards in this exact order, we could play for the rest of our lives and they would never be dealt in this fashion again.” Miller says that this is a legitimate

conclusion to draw, but nevertheless the cards were dealt and that’s how the game went. The emergence of life is much the same. One cannot work out the probability of life evolving by calculating backwards. If such attempts are made, the odds are unfairly stacked and everything from a game of cards to the emergence of life will always seem impossible. Care has been taken by the proponents of intelligent design not to identify a particular designer, but instead to say that a God is one of the many candidates. This concept reads almost like a scientific conclusion, as they are saying they still do not have all the answers. Thus, the existence in their theory of a designer implies a supernatural being. Scientists in the modern world no longer resort to washing their hands of a mystery by claiming they don’t and cannot know the answer and say that God is responsible. This would achieve nothing, as it only says they don’t yet have the knowledge. To the majority of scientists, intelligent design is not legitimate science and they try not to engage in debate with its adherents. Richard Dawkins continuously ignores them, as he says they do nothing but waste scientists’ time. The general consensus is that there should be no place for them at the table of debate, as intelligent design has no legitimate scientific theories to bring with it. In a world where evolutionary theory can explain the vast majority of biological development, there is no longer a need for a creator. It would seem that, in essence, intelligent design is a thin veil that covers a modern theory of creationism, thus creating a situation that can only be counter-productive.


18

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

EDITORIAL

editor@universityobserver.ie

Academic merit

Talleyrand

Welcome whingebags,

The wages of UCD academics and staff, such as President Dr Hugh Brady, have been criticised in some quarters.

After the recent negative coverage they have received in the press, Professor Gerard Casey defends academics and their salaries

“U

CD staff top survey for Ireland’s highest paid educators” is the headline over Keira Gilleece’s front-page piece in the last issue of The University Observer, dated 16th November 2010. Writing inside the paper, Amy Bracken, in a companion piece, titled ‘The Wages of Fear’ tells us that a recent Irish Times report reveal that “UCD’s academic staff are among the highest paid in the country”. This would be interesting if true. Is it true? That depends on what one means by the terms educator and academic. If you’ve ever watched a film’s credits roll you were probably astonished by the staggering number of people employed in the making of the film—producers, associate producers, wardrobe mistresses, make-up artists, lighting people, sound engineers and people with mysterious job titles (what exactly is a ‘best boy’?). None of these people appear on screen and they are not actors. Just as actors are those who appear in front of the camera and not behind it, so too an academic or educator is someone who teaches and researches in a university, not just anyone who happens to work there. Lots of people who work in UCD are not academics: grounds-keepers, restaurant staff, technicians, school administrators, human resources staff, Vice-Presidents for this, that and the other, a Registrar and a President. However important the work they do, it’s not education and it’s not academic and they are neither educators nor academics. Some of these workers may have been academics in the past and may again be academics in the future but they are not now academics. The top 10 of The Irish Times list [“The top 100 best-paid in education” (n.b. not ‘educators’)] contains five people from UCD: the Vice-President for Research, the Dean of the School of Business, the Principal of the College of Engineering, the President, and the Vice-President for Staff. When you continue through this list, on which Ms Gilleece’s article is un-

critically based, you discover that virtually everybody on that list is a non-academic. You will have no difficulty finding University Presidents and Provosts, IT Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Vice-Provosts; Deans, Directors, Bursars, Principals, Registrars, the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills, the Minister for Education, the Director Generals of FAS, of the Institute of Public Administration, of Science Foundation Ireland, the Director of the ESRI, the Chief Executive of the State Examination Commission, the Chief Executive of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, and so on, ad nauseam, on the list but you’ll need a Hubble telescope to detect any genuine full-time academics there. In the end, what is truly remarkable about the Irish Times list is the glaring absence of academic staff and educators from the ranks of the most highly paid people who work in the education sector. Given that the staff of The University Observer appear to be unable to distinguish between academics and others who work in the education sector, it is not surprising that Ms Bracken in her article demonstrates a sublime ignorance of just what it is that academics do. She reports that “in September, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee announced that some academics are working less than 15 hours per week.” The 15 hours per week claim might make some sense if you were to limit the work of an academic exclusively to teaching but, alas, we have to do other things as well. The teaching element of an academic’s work is visible and obvious even to students. But just as TDs (including members of the Public Accounts Committee) cannot be judged to be at work only when they are speaking in the Dáil chamber, so too, academics can and do work when they’re not either teaching, preparing to teach or assessing the results of their teaching. Under the terms of their contracts, academics undertake academic administration as part of which they engage in pastoral work with

their students, advising them on their academic choices both here in UCD and on life after UCD and supporting their efforts to find work or go on to further education. Included in academic administration is the committee work we undertake in our Schools and in the University at large. There are committees on Research and Innovation, Teaching and Learning, Library, Postgraduate Admissions, School Finances, Examinations, etc. Not everyone is on all these committees but few academics escape the gravitational pull of some committee or other. By the terms of our contracts, any time not devoted to teaching and administration, we spend on reading, experimenting, researching, writing and publishing. We publish monographs and textbooks, journal articles, book reviews, evaluate other academics’ publications as part of the peer review process, attend conferences and give conference presentations and serve on the boards of scholarly or scientific journals. Given that there is a finite amount of time that anyone, even academics, can work, the amount of how much of any one of the trio (teaching, academic administration, research & publication) one does limits how much of the other two one can do. It’s a zero-sum game. You can increase the time you spend on any one of these sorts of activities only if you decrease the time you spend on others; more teaching and administration, less research and publication. Something that should be borne in mind if you are a student is that the degree you get from your university is only as good as the reputation of the institution granting it and that reputation depends on the reputation of its academics; their reputation, in turn, depends primarily on the quality of their published research. When the academic staff members of a university have a poor research reputation, the institution’s reputation suffers and so does the quality of the degree that students obtain. Professor Gerard Casey is a lecturer in the UCD School of Philosophy.

For the briefest of moments, Talleyrand believed that the recent snowfall was a divine act intended to ward off unsuspecting spectators heading to the Awful Astra Hall for, erm, a ‘production’ from the Musi-cull Society. Alas, it was not to be. Those half dozen people still made it in one piece and managed to stay awake through the entire first act. Not that the self-confident and loquacious cast members noticed the audience’s glazedover eyes, they were looking beyond the bleachers, to the fame and fortune that lay ahead. For the lucky ones, they’ll get a spot in a dole queue; for the not-so-lucky, they’ll get a spot on Fade Street. The snow around the Union Horrordor remained untouched and untrodden, mainly because the Sap-bats haven’t bothered to turn up to work for quite some time. Citing annual leave, sick leave, or in Paul’s case, a night at Coppers, Slynam’s Ship seems to be drifting towards some troubled waters. With the Sap-bats loosening their grip on the reins, dissension is rising amongst the Horrordor’s staff. Talleyrand’s been privy to their office conversations (the wall in the Union Jacks is very thin after all) and the Sap-bats would be horrified to hear what they’ve been saying. There’ll be tears before the end, guaranteed. One staff member has left already and Talleyrand’s got dibs on his shiny iMac. Mind you, all this squabbling will be kept under wraps when Laddish Lynam delivers his State of the Union address later this week. There won’t be any time to discuss such rifts anyway, as his report will be filled with, erm… Well it will be filled with… Hmmm… What will it be filled with? What has the Goonion actually done this semester? Talleyrand is stumped. They’ll probably include that Loyalty Card nonsense. A cent a point? What a way to reward loyalty! They’ll probably include some incredibly inflated website viewing figures. 25,000 hits? Talleyrand thinks de Brún is telling porkies. Maybe they’ll also include a collage of their Library banners? Well, at least (at a push) Talleyrand can scrape together a list of (a few pitiful) things the Stupids’ Goonion has done, which is far more than can be said for suckscieties. They’ve had the worst semester one Talleyrand has ever seen. Not

one big-name guest. Not one drama-filled debate. Not one controversial poster. It’s gotten so bad that Talleyrand can’t even recall the names of the Big 5 auditors to insult them. Don’t worry though, for all their hard work this year, they’ll be rewarded with a shiny new building in a few months time, in true UCD fashion. If you thought this semester was bad, the next one is going to be excruciating. Sap-battical elections are a mere few weeks away, and Talleyrand is already jaded with all the rumour and mindfucking. Which Excrement Exec Officer is going for what? Will Ahearn run? Will he not? Has de Brún backed down? Is he going back to Law? What about Cantankerous Cosgrove? Is he going to run for President? And Quagmire? Is he tempted to do a second term to mirror his USIdle counterpart? These are the questions that weigh heavily on hacks’ hearts this weather. Talleyrand couldn’t care less, however. Some of the sitting Sap-bats can’t afford to think that far in advance though. Poor Scott “Am I linking to Aware, or to A|Wear?” Ahearn can’t even remember to get up for postering of a Thursday. How can he be expected to think ahead to the elections? If he does decide to run – or maybe not, whatever – he’s got a campaign team on call in the form of his Welfare Penguins. Keeping them sweet with t-shirts, hoodies, free drink and free food, these poor happy-go-lucky plebs don’t even know what ulterior motive they’ve been created to act upon. In reality, Scrott should have his (un) cool Penguins out looking for his fellow officer Wearisome Williamson. Talleyrand fears for his safety after no signs of life have been spotted in his office. The only tangible indication of his existence has been the publishing of some sort of ‘What If?’ pamphlet, featuring himself and Soulmate Scottie. Talleyrand figures it’s some sort of propaganda for gay marriage, asking ‘what if’ these two unfortunate individuals were married to one another. If they were married, perhaps they’d be more inclined to have their spats behind closed doors and be less insufferable as a result. Jolly Jonny’s out to spread the Christmas cheer this week with his all-time favourite band 5ive making an appearance on campus. If Jubilant Jonny can stop fawning over J for a few minutes, he might like to send a few drinks tokens this way, seeing as Talleyrand’s off-campus token supply has been halted recently.Talleyrand will need the alcohol to cope with all the hacks full of mirth and merriment – it’s simply unbearable. Oh well, when they get their results in a few weeks and realise they should have spent more nights in the Library instead of d|two, Talleyrand will smile ever so slightly. May you all have a crappy Christmas and horrid New Year. Talleyho-ho-ho! Talleyrand

Quotes of the Fortnight: More awareness was raised because it’s not just about money UCDSVP PRO Eoin O’Leary explains the importance of having a sleepout for Homeless Week. It’s very unfair to have the library open longer towards exam time and encourage cramming UCDSU Education Vice-President James Williamson explains the reasoning behind the seven-day library that will be reinstated in semester two. J – because he was the bad boy, he was yummy…yeah Ahead of the Christmas Ball, UCDSU Ents Vice-President Jonny Cosgrove picks his favourite member of 5ive.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

editor@universityobserver.ie

Editorial

T

his Christmas will be a subdued one for Ireland. While we can already see the lights on Grafton Street, the trees in shops and offices and seasonal coffees in various cafés, the recent financial and political troubles we have experienced have meant that it can, at times, be hard to feel excited about the festive season. With the bailout, visits from the IMF and bond prices constantly rising, we are all wondering where we can feasibly go from here. Ireland’s spectacular fall from grace was inevitable, but no one could have imagined that it would be this bad. However, in light of what has happened, the biggest mistake would be to wallow in our unfortunate situation. The announcement of a general election should come as a fresh start for Ireland. Politics in Ireland does not need another party taking over the reins from Fianna Fáil, only to make the same mistakes. We need dynamic and new leadership and a break from the tired political system that we have had since the Civil War. Why do we allow petty squabbling parties dictate the way in which our country is run in one of our darkest economic periods? The time for a new political ideal is here. We can no longer afford to rest on our laurels and blithely complain, as we have been content to do in the past. Apathy is no longer an option. Consider the power of your vote. When representatives call to your door, do not be afraid to question them. Ask them what they will

do for you, how they plan to save your future. Students and graduates are the ones who are leaving this country in their droves and any public representative should be doing all they can to keep us here. We have been ignored for too long. The power is there, as represented in the recent USI protests, so why aren’t politicians begging us for votes? We know that the minimum wage and grants will be cut and that the thirdlevel registration fee will rise. We cannot forget that we have power to sway decisions and affect change. Do not let politicians go unchallenged. They should be at the mercy of students. As well as challenging, do not let your voice go unheard. Students are notorious for staying away from the polls. If you don’t want to go home to vote, move your vote to Dublin. These elections are too important to allow ourselves to be complacent. Do not become a statistic. If you don’t vote, you have lost your right to speak about Irish politics.

S

emester One is coming to a close and as the library begins to get more and more crowded, the fact that exams are just around the corner cannot be ignored. This also marks the period at which the final graduations of the year take place. While campus is quiet as classes end, numerous graduands will line up

in O’Reilly Hall to receive their degrees. This is a time for reflection and thought. As you enter into the assessment period, take advantage of the services available to you. Don’t struggle. Be calm and measured and don’t put yourself under undue pressure. Both the university and Students’ Union have help and support available to students who feel they are unable to cope under the pressure of the assessment period. Similarly, for those of us receiving degrees, myself included, it is an uncertain time. We are unsure of our future and what options are available to us. It is hard to not be pessimistic or to simply decide upon emigration. We cannot be sure of what the future holds, but while we have come to an uncertain juncture in our lives, the excitement of new opportunities and paths cannot be forgotten. The University Observer would like to wish all of our staff, contributors and writers the best of luck in their assignments and exams. We would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to the newspaper this semester and everyone who has picked up a copy to read, contributed comments to our website, written us letters or dropped into the office to give us feedback. It’s quite unbelievable how quickly this semester has passed. We would also like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

As Christmas exams loom and a new semester for me beckons outside the realms of UCD, venturing into full-time clinical education in UCD’s teaching hospitals, I feel this is my opportunity, on behalf of many medical students, to voice our frustration at the Horizon’s elective programme. In short, the entire Horizon’s elective programme is a farce, especially in career-orientated degrees such as medicine and veterinary medicine. In medicine for example, we must do an elective every semester up to stage 3. In stage 4, we are granted some respite as we must only enroll in one for the first semester. The elective module counts as five credits but our five other medicinal core modules which actually form our degree programme are also only worth five credits. Now naturally, anyone with an iota of intelligience will deliberately choose to subscribe to an easy elective module because when faced with five other complex and studyintensive subjects, the last thing any-

one wants is to be weighed down with work from a completely unrelated subject to their degree programme. There is absolutely no way that a stage 1 elective module such as French Stage 1 , Massage or Health across the Lifespan can be equated with a Stage 4 Haematology and Immunosuppression core module, however, judging from the repertoire of modules undertaken by my classmates, (by no means, a critique of their intelligent choice), this is a common occurence. There are complete disparities between module credit-weighting in different courses. While the argument may be that the aims of Horizons is to broaden our horizons, I would rather channel my studying into my core modules than study some futile module just to notch up those five credits. In the case of degree programmes which lead directly to a career path, most students are aware from the day they fill out their CAO, they are embarking on a more refined learning experience. Why pester them with this nuisance Horizons programme? In consideration of the current eco-

Contributors: Volume XVII, Issue 6 Editor Bridget Fitzsimons Deputy Editor Paul Fennessy Art and Design Director Jenn Compeau o-two Editors Emer Sugrue Killian Woods News Editor Amy Bracken Deputy News Editor Katie Hughes Features Editor Leanne Waters Chief Features Writer Natalie Voorheis Comment Editor Kate Rothwell

nomic climate, this is definitely somewhere where UCD authorities could tighten up financially. Cutbacks should be made regarding teachers employed for additional hours to lecture modules which are specifically designated elective modules. Prior to the introduction of UCD Horizon’s Elective Programme in 2005, students from every faculty managed perfectly fine without any broadening of horizons. The entire Horizons elective programme needs to be reviewedeither rehauled to stop the creditweighting disparities or dropped altogether in the case of direct career-path degrees like medicine. We have enough work to do without the added stresses of Japanese homework, politics essays and juvenile poster-making, which only serve to overwhelm the already-exasperated-medical student. Yours sincerely, Brona Moloney 4th Medicine

Letters should be sent by email to letters@universityobserver.ie or by mail to: The Editor, The University Observer, UCD Student Centre, Belfield, Dublin 4 All letters are subject to editorial approval. The Editor reserves the right to edit any letters.

Clarification and Corrections It is the policy of The University Observer to rectify any errors as soon as they arise. Queries and clarifications can be addressed to info@universityobserver.ie.

Farrell, David Farrell, Fight Like Apes, Sean Finnan, Sam Geoghegan, Alyson Gray, Seamus Hanley, Imelda Hehir, Claire Hickey, Laura Hyson, Daniel Keenan, Elaine Lavery, Alison Lee, Emily Longworth, Marianne Madden, Fadora McSexypants, George Morahan, Sean Naughton, Meabh Ni Choileain, Conor O’Nolan, Laura Scanlan, Alison Sneyd, Ekaterina Tikhoniouk, Aoife Tierney, Aoife Valentine, Maria Whelan Illustrator: Olwen Hogan Photographers: Conor Fox

Fashion Editor Kieran Murphy

Special Thanks: Peter, Ian, Tim, Malcolm, Ade, Jonathan, Dave, Emma, Jed, Bob, Steve (and the robots) at Trafford Park Printing; Paul at Higgs; Eilis O’Brien and Dominic Martella; Colm, Sabrina and Rory at MCD Promotions; Bernie Divilly at PIAS; Giselle Jiang; Dave Carmody; Dominic, Grace, Charlie, Jason, Gary, Stephen, Mark, Sandra, Paul and all the Student Centre staff.

Online Editor Killian Woods

Very Special Thanks: Rob Lowney

Contributors: Steven Balbirnie, Kevin Beirne, Daryl Bolger, Eoin Brady, Aoife Brophy, Anna Burzlaff, Roberta Cappieri, Professor Gerard Casey, Eoghan Dockrell, Bríd Doherty, Sarah Doran, Donna Doyle, Cormac Duffy, Luke Duggan, Caitriona

Tel: (01) 716 3119/3120 Email:

Science, Health and Technology Editor Alan Coughlan

Letters to the Editor Madam,

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30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

Sport

sport@universityobserver.ie

Fantastic four European Cup tallies and spending power have always been the framework for defining which European football league stands above the rest. Our sports writers individually debate their case for the top European League and specify their respective merits.

Premier League

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ompetition for a Champions League spot in the Premiership is more intense than any other league in Europe. Every year, La Liga is just another dog fight between Barcelona and Real Madrid while Serie A has been more like a runaway freight train than a league, with Inter Milan winning the past five titles. The Premiership has had different clubs competing every year. Chelsea and Manchester United consistently challenge for the top spot, while Arsenal and Liverpool have made exciting title races in recent seasons. However, this season is demonstrating that the Premiership’s ‘Big Four’ are not what they once were. United’s 2010/11 squad is less than impressive, while an ever aging Chelsea side look vulnerable after a strong start to the season. Arsenal are as inconsistent as the offside rule, and the less written about Liverpool’s start to the season the better. The wealth of talent has finally spread. Manchester City now bolster a side bursting with quality, Tottenham are finally fulfilling their potential after years of mediocrity – their place in the last 16 of the Champions League is well deserved. There can be no doubt that the Premiership has a hierarchy, but competition is growing. Four Champions League places are there, but it’s anyone’s guess who will occupy them, maybe even this year’s surprise package Bolton. The leagues physicality gives it a biting edge that other leagues can’t match. Diego Forlan is one of La Liga’s best goal-scorers, but couldn’t take the hits the Premiership had to offer. The aggressive nature of English clubs has hindered them in European competitions though, as European referees often harshly penalize them. Despite this, there have been eleven English European Cup winners, just one short of Italy and Spain, which demonstrates the quality of the Premiership. Tight competition, rising stars and physicality, not to mention the diversity of the league (with 66 nations represented at present) – combine to make the Premiership the best league in the world. - Daniel Keenan

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Bundesliga

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he German Bundesliga is never discussed in the same way as the Premier League of England or Spain’s La Liga. The Bundesliga doesn’t have the same allure as the other leagues on the continent. What the Bundesliga can be proud of is that their clubs can still compete at the highest level without incurring massive debts. Throughout Europe, clubs are riddled with debt. Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have been saddled with huge debts since being bought in the past decade. Manchester City are spending colossal amounts of money that they simply don’t have and the same can be said about Real Madrid to fund their second Galactico experiment. There were fears earlier this year that Barcelona, one of the best clubs in the world, might be unable to sustain their current financial state. It’s worrying that the clubs that dominate the Champions League year after year can only do so by operating in the red. It was refreshing to see Bayern Munich make the final of Europe’s premier club competition last season. Bayern, along with most clubs in Germany, are part owned by their supporters and have minimal, if any, debt. The Bundesliga had the highest average attendance last season in Europe. If any club has debt, it is usually stadium debt that will be paid off within the next decade. Along with this, their youth structure is second to none, and was clear for everyone to see at last summer’s World Cup where Germany advanced to the semi-finals with the help of a host of bright young prospects. Franz Beckenbauer, Bayern President, stated that Manchester United – pre-Glazer family takeover - were the club Bayern tried to emulate. With world-class players such as Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger at their disposal, Bayern look set to lead a German domination of European football for years to come. - Sam Geoghegan

Serie A

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nce the elite league in European football, the Italian Serie A is experiencing somewhat of a fall from grace in recent times. Despite Inter Milan’s success in last season’s Champions League, the top flight of Italian football has been struck by crippling football hooliganism and simply fallen behind the big-spending super-clubs of Spain and England. Last season saw Jose Mourinho lead Internazionale to an unprecedented treble – winning the League title, Coppa Italia and the Champions League. However, this wonderful achievement was far from a demonstration of Italy’s return to its past glory. This dominance served as an example of the weaknesses in the Italian domestic scene. Inter Milan have now won the last five league titles with relative ease. Their main opposition comes in the form of traditional big-hitters Juventus and Roma, and of course local rivals AC Milan, but this opposition is far from competitive when it comes to title ambition. These former giants of the game are reliant on players who are becoming noticeably too old to compete. Milan has a particularly old squad. With veterans such as Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta still forming the core of their first team, the Rossoneri are hardly planning for the future. In a way Milan encapsulate the problems of Italian football, as they simply continue deteriorate. The source of this degeneration of Serie A is rooted in its fans. The last decade has seen a rapid increase of football hooliganism in Italian football. This culture of rioting and petty attacks has even led to the deaths of innocent fans and football officials. The 2006/07 season was particularly grim. Constant fighting caused the Italian Football Federation to threaten the halt of league football, before eventually suspending all league fixtures after a policeman was killed while on duty at a Serie A match. This wave of ruthless violence has caused attendances at league matches to plummet and severely damaged the income and progress of Italy’s clubs. Internazionale’s poor form this season under new manager Rafael Benitez is a clear representation that without Portugal’s Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan are simply another struggling Italian club. - Ryan Mackenzie

La Liga

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hen you think of La Liga, you no doubt think of the glamour of both the play on the pitch and the off-field antics of the clubs. You picture the perfectly fluid football of Barcelona or the ‘Galácticos’ of Real Madrid. Even outside of the big two, La Liga boasts a wealth of talent in the form of teams such as Sevilla and Atlético Madrid. Los Culés are arguably the greatest team on earth right now. With players like Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández it is no wonder why they are so feared. Barcelona’s slogan ‘Més que un club’, meaning: ‘more than a club’, exemplifies the passion within this exceptional club. Madrid’s reputation has taken a bit of a knock in recent years with Barcelona’s superior style of play and the collapse of the first Galácticos, yet they are still the most successful club in the history of Europe. With 31 La Liga titles and nine European Cup/Champions League victories, Los Blancos remain the most successful and illustrious club in the world. Their current crop of players would make any manger envious. Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká are just some of the weapons available to José Mourinho. With some of the best players in the world and possibly the best manager in the game, it would appear only a matter of time before Madrid becomes the first club to enter double digits in European Cup titles. Maybe domination is concentrated too greatly on the top two, but there is still some exceptional talent to be found in the other 18 challengers. Diego Forlán, Fernando Llorente and Sergio Aguero are tremendously exciting players to watch and proven match winners. For the most part, however, Spanish football is all about El Classico and undoubtedly boasts the most flair in European football. - Kevin Beirne

SPORTS DIGEST CRICKET The University’s InterStudent Cricket League continued last week with an impressive performance by the undefeated Belgrove Eagles to see off the threat of the lowly Glenomena Giants. Even without run-scoring wicketkeeper Adrian Huang and leg-spinner Jonny Knox, the Eagles soared to 162 runs in twelve overs, with only three wickets taken. Fast bowler Nagesh Yadav led the Eagles’ scoring with 36 not out. With a mountain to climb and regular at the crease Andrew Downey not available, the Giants executed an admirable attempt at an unlikely victory. Led by the in-form Chris Sloan, who totalled 53 runs not out, the Giants came thirty runs short of their opponents. This loss leaves them with an unenviable winless record so far in the season, while keeping Eagles dreams of an undefeated campaign very much alive. FOOTBALL Republic of Ireland Under-21 manger Noel King has named an 18man squad of domesticbased players to face the Irish Amateur side. King has chosen four UCD players on his shortlist. Paul Corry, Andy Boyle, Ciaran Nagle and Keith Ward will be given a chance to represent their country. Boyle, Nagle and Ward are all members of the FÁS FAI training programme. The programme is designed to offer unemployed players invaluable training to help them progress to the next level, while also providing educational opportunities to the participants. TAEKWONDO The UCD Taekwondo Club recently travelled to Co Cork for the annual Irish International Championships – the largest competition on the Irish Taekwondo calendar. With great performances in last year’s competition, the club were hoping to keep up their good reputation and they did not disappoint. They returned to UCD with a tremendous haul of 15 medals in numerous weight classes, disciplines and levels for both male and female competitors. - Ryan Mackenzie


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 30 November 2010

Sport

sport@universityobserver.ie

The Bagmaster A player favourite and a crucial part of the Irish rugby set up, Killian Woods talks to Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly and Jamie Heaslip about the role he plays in the squad

Most Memorable Moments in Irish Sport #1 – Ireland vs England in Croke Park. Dublin, 2007.

Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly has been involved in the Irish senior team since 1994.

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pening the interview with a disparaging reference to his status as “baggage maso-two Editor ter”, Rala is forever reluctant to be called a “master”. However, the role of Rala in the Irish squad cannot be underestimated. A man to himself and defining the word modest, it is difficult to tempt the Irish rugby squad bagman, Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly, into highlighting the key roles he plays in the Irish set up. His nickname has stuck with him for the majority of his life and originates from a school lesson in spelling his name in Irish. “Many years ago the teacher asked me to spell my name on the blackboard. So I was up there and wrote R,A,L,A and so it was just left sitting on the board, ‘Rala’.” Much like his nickname, the job has followed him around and stuck with him for most of his life. A bagman since starting off in the club of which he is a lifelong member, Terenure College RFC, Rala got involved when he was chosen by the likes of Paul Joyce, Barry Coleman and Mick Smith who were all coming into the first team at Terenure College. Through a friend on the Leinster under20s selection committee, he took over duties of the underage side and then onto the senior Leinster team. Following three years with Leinster, the opportunity to take the position for the Irish senior team came along and he “jumped at the chance of course”. Rala’s career began in December 1994 when Ireland took on the USA at Lansdowne Road. Now into his eighteenth season, Rala is the most experienced member of the setup and one of the most valued assets. His natural progression through the ranks has been well earned and seen him gain recognition with the British and Irish Lions which was a “dream come true”. Over the years of tending to the position,

Rala has seen the high and the low points that the Irish rugby team endured. His tenure has seen him attend the Rugby World Cup four times and visit every rugby nation bar Fiji. There are several virtues to his job, he recalls: “There are so many. I’m very lucky to be kept on by the IRFU coach and captain. You meet so many people travelling. Last week I met the President of the New Zealand Rugby Union, John Sturgeon, who has been a friend to us for many years of going down to New Zealand.” It would be wrong to say that the bad aspects of the job are more prominent in his mind, but they are easier for Rala to list off. “When you are away from home and loved ones. And then equally [difficult] is when the lads retire from the international scene. Then you don’t see them as much as you would have normally. You build up a relationship and then they’re are not there anymore.” It would be wrong to say that Rala focuses on the negatives, he is very certain of what he says and unlike a lot of people, thinks before he speaks. He is very certain the highlight of his career was experiencing the Grand Slam in the Millennium stadium in 2009. The longevity of his career has allowed him to experience these highlights and work amongst the golden generation of Irish rugby. He evades singling out any specific team or player that has been the best to come through the set up during his time. “If you reach that height of playing in the green jersey, they are all brilliant. I don’t have a favourite. To me, they are all the same.” Rala may not single out specific players as his favourite or the best, but the players clearly regard him as a unique and respected personality. You can only feel that he sells himself somewhat short when explaining his role as bagman. “It entails helping the coach and his management team as much as I can and then equally important is helping the captain and his squad. That could take up various guises helping gather the footballs or doing this doing that.”

The help that he provides must have an added specialty if he has been retained since 1994 by every Irish coach. Rala’s experience is probably his greatest contribution to the team and keeps a familiar vibe between different managements. It is great to see that after all these years, Rala still gets the same kick out of being involved and loves the position: “Rugby to me means friendships and the craic. The people you meet on the road home and abroad and the fun one has as well. There are serious points as well. Rugby to me is everything really, I love rugby people more than I love rugby.” One of Rala’s biggest fans, Jamie Heaslip only had positive things to say. His “my door is always open” policy seems to stand out to Heaslip as a key aspect of his character. “Somebody once said, ‘If you want the mood of the camp, go to Rala’. He has a crazy amount of games and seen it all with Ireland and been everywhere. Rala is just so nice. Nothing phases him with regards to games and he is always ready.” It’s all about his attention to detail, Heaslip describes. “Little things Rala does are so funny. He always leaves a red apple for John Hayes and has started leaving out a little comb for me because I’m doing Movember.” Continuing to speak about Rala’s value to the team, Heaslip proclaims: “No matter what it is, Rala will always get it done. If you ever want anything, Rala is the man who always knows how to get it by crook or by whatever. “Everyday after lunch, I’d have a cup of tea with him and John Hayes. You’d sit down and have the chats with Rala, couple of biscuits. He’s just the guy that can pick you up when times are down.” For now, Rala is happy with his bagman title and job within the squad. He shows no signs of ending his career anytime soon and may even fit in that trip to Fiji before the end. The baggage master title doesn’t rest well with him, but he claims: “Someday, I will be the master, and that’s when I’ll give up”.

Number one in Ryan Mackenzie’s countdown of the five most memorable moments in Irish sport is really more than just one moment; it is an event. Shane Horgan’s try proved the icing on the cake in this memorable victory for the Irish team.

A

fter the demolition of the very old Lansdowne Road stadium, Ireland’s international sides were left without a home. With the rugby Six Nations tournament next on the agenda and the possibility of Ireland’s home fixtures being staged in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the use of the GAA’s magnificent Croke Park stadium was audaciously requested by the IRFU. The prospect of a foreign game, not to mention a typically English one, being played in the headquarters of Ireland’s most traditional and stubborn organisation provoked widespread debate. Under Rule 42, foreign sports are strictly prohibited from GAA grounds and therefore, a vote was needed to reform this rule. In 2005 the GAA voted in favour of foreign sports being played in Croke Park until the completion of the new Aviva stadium – when the rule would revert back to its former wording – with a clear two-thirds majority. Thus, the stage was officially set for Ireland to play its old enemy England in the GAA headquarters, 87 years after British forces opened fire on a Croke Park crowd and killed fourteen civilians. The match was heavily anticipated with both excitement and anxiety, as no one knew quite how the Irish crowd would react to the presence of the English in Croke Park. At this time the English were still the world champions – and would reach the final of the 2007 World Cup in France a few months later. In this way, the match was shaping up to be the stuff of Hollywood movies and for Irish fans it did not disappoint. Packed with over 81,000 fans, of which over 75,000 were Irish, Croke Park was

buzzing with a surprisingly positive atmosphere. Unlike when Ireland’s football team played England in Lansdowne Road back in 1995, the fans were mixing in harmony. First up was England’s anthem and Irish fans in the stadium remained respectfully silent. Scenes of English players and fans belting out their national song with pride failed to spur any negative reaction from the Irish. Instead our sentiments were demonstrated through tears and a proud rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann. The dreaded moment was over and it had gone inspiringly well. With the level of emotion reaching fever pitch, most would be forgiven for briefly forgetting that a rugby match was yet to be played. The match kicked off to a procession of flashing cameras and deafening cheers, and it wasn’t long before Ireland opened the floodgates. Early penalties from Munster’s Ronan O’Gara gave us a slim lead before Girvan Dempsey crossed the line on the end of a nice move to give Ireland the first of four tries on the evening. It was, however, a unique try from winger Shane Horgan which reserves a special place in the memories of most. The big Leinster man and former Gaelic football player received a cross-field kick from O’Gara inside the English 22 by leaping over his marker in quintessential GAA style to grab the ball out of the air. The try was hugely symbolic and all but put the English away. Ireland won the match by a record scoreline over the English, running out 43-13 victors. It was without a doubt the most memorable moment in this country’s sporting past.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

23

Sport

sport@universityobserver.ie

Ashes to ashes Fenno Despite having not won the Ashes in Australia since 1987, England are now in with a realistic chance of triumphing in the Ashes, writes Sam Geoghegan

on Sport Although his side recorded a clinical Champions League win over Ajax last Wednesday, José Mourinho’s genius was once again overshadowed by his dishonesty, writes Paul Fennessy

“P

Andrew Strauss has been one of England’s most impressive performers recently.

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he most o p e n Ashes in recent memory got underway in Australia last Thursday in Brisbane. The Ashes is a five test cricket series between Australia and England. Australia have 31 wins compared to England’s 29 victories with five series emerging as draws. It is played every two years, hosting series alternatively in the two countries. This time, it is the turn of the Aussies to play host and force England to travel Down Under for the next six weeks. While England are the on-form team at present, defending the Ashes on foreign soil will prove to be a difficult task. England have not won the Ashes in Australia since the 1986/87 series and have not won a meaningful test against the Aussies in Australia since that series. Although Australia are struggling to find their form, the Ashes may provide the impetus to ignite passion back into cricket in Australia. Australia do not want to experience the embarrassment and humiliation of being the first Aussie side to lose an Ashes series on home soil in a generation and no home side has lost an Ashes since England were thrashed in 2001. After all, to both countries, the Ashes is bigger than the World Cup.

This year, England and Australia met each other in the Twenty20 final in May with England emerging comfortable victors. The two countries also played five one-day internationals in England during the summer, with England winning the first three ODIs and therefore claim the series with two ODIs remaining. The fact that Australia won the last two games this summer shouldn’t be of any significance. Australia then lost to Pakistan in two ODIs and tied a test series 1-1 while England enjoyed a very successful summer following their defeat of their fiercest rivals. England enjoyed a 2-1 defeat of Bangladesh in an ODI series and emerged victorious against Pakistan in three different series’ – 3-1 in the test series, 2-0 in the Twenty20 series and 3-2 in the ODI series. Prior to the Ashes, Australia played cricket in a more familiar setting at home against Sri Lanka and India and despite enjoying home-field advantage, they lost both series against the visitors. On the English squad is Eric Morgan. Morgan is an Irish cricketer who switched allegiance and declared to play for England. He went to school in Dublin at CUS on Leeson Street and played for Ireland at under-15, under-17 and under-19 level. He played in two under-19 World Cups for his native country and captained his nation at his second World Cup. He enjoyed his greatest success with his adopted nation when he

scored an unbeaten century in a test match against Pakistan at Trent Bridge that helped England win by a grand total of 354 runs. In addition, Morgan currently plays cricket for Middlesex and has been selected for his first Ashes series. His first English cap was against Bangladesh earlier this year. When Morgan will be called upon, he will be batting for England in the middle order and can be a dangerous weapon that Australia have never faced before. While cricket may be alien to many Irish people and following England at any sport even more so, Morgan will surely have the support of every Irish cricket fan. England are captained by Andrew Strauss, while Ricky Ponting is Austalia’s skipper. The series could come down to these two men. Both are excellent batsmen but many agree that Strauss is the better captain and his cool head and consistent batting will be needed if England are to successfully defend the Ashes. Strauss has thrived since being appointed captain and the added pressure has had a galvanising effect, which cannot be said for previous England captains with Michael Vaughn a prime example. This is the most open Ashes in living memory. If England can win the five-game series or even tie it and thus successfully defend it, it could be the biggest news over the Christmas break. Look for the series to go down to the wire with the fifth test scheduled to take place from January 3rd to 7th in Sydney.

lease don’t call me arrogant, but I’m the European champion and I think I’m a special one.” As José Mourinho spoke these words, the English media licked its lips and a new rent-a-quote footballing personality was born. Having arrived in English football with success only in the relatively low-key surrounds of Porto FC, Mourinho was under huge pressure to deliver success to the-then most expensively assembled team of footballers ever, Chelsea, who were stark underachievers up until that point. Mourinho immediately made himself the footballing equivalent of Kanye West: a man known for his relentless exhibitions of egotism, in addition to proffering behaviour which seemed questionable at the best of times and downright despicable on occasion. Yet like West, his bravura was legitimised to a certain extent, owing to his obvious talent – talent which would arguably be impossible to possess in the first place, without these blatant insecurities which presumably drove him to succeed. Yet to suggest Mourinho has merely ‘succeeded’ would do a disservice to the extent of his achievements. Although he left Chelsea in acrimonious circumstances following a dispute with owner Roman Abramovich, he did so with his reputation firmly intact and perhaps enhanced from his Porto days. In Mourinho’s brief three years at the club, he had swiftly become their most successful manager ever. He achieved more in that space of time than most managers could hope to do over the course of an entire career. Mourinho’s excellence and Chelsea’s ill-advised decision to consent to his departure were highlight by near-miraculous record at the London club, notwithstanding the endless millions he had at his disposal. The Portuguese manager’s record while at Chelsea comfortably outstripped those of his competitors. Consider the percentage of games he won at Chelsea (70 per cent), in comparison with his rivals’ records: Alex Ferguson (59 per cent), Arsene Wenger (58 per cent) and Rafa Benitez (56 per cent). Based on such evidence alone, it is easy to see why many journalists already seem exceptionally keen to induct Mourinho into the pantheon of great football managers, though his charming and articulate nature undoubtedly add to his appeal. Moreover, at 47, he is quite young in managerial terms. Just imagine what he could achieve were he to prolong his career into his seventies, in a manner akin to Giovanni Trapat-

toni or Alex Ferguson. In addition to essentially revolutionising English football with his 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation most memorably spearheaded by Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba, Mourinho also did not lose one home game during his entire tenure at Chelsea. In fact, as I type this sentence, Mourinho as a manager has not lost a home league match for the sides he has managed in his last 143 games – as potent an indicator as any as to his seemingly superhuman aptitude for management. His last defeat, incidentally, occurred when Porto lost 3-2 to Bier Mar on February 23 2002. Yet despite these incredible achievements, all but Mourinho’s most ardent admirers would admit that he is a flawed character. His proclivity for exhibitionism in form of a flurry controversial and yes, arrogant statements, mean he is criticised as regularly as he is praised. Supporters of Mourinho claim that he is drawing attention onto himself purposefully, in order to take the pressure off his team. And while this theory may indeed be correct, there are nonetheless occasions when his words and actions are inexcusable. In the 2003 UEFA Cup Final, his Porto side gave one of the most ignominious footballing displays of recent memory, diving, as they seemingly did, at every conceivable opportunity. After the match, Celtic manager Martin O’Neill criticised Mourinho’s team’s unethical approach to the game, singling out Vitor Baia for “lying out on the turf for three or four days”. In addition, following a Champions League encounter in 2005 between Chelsea and Barcelona, Mourinho accused Swiss referee Anders Frisk of bias. Frisk promptly received a barrage of death threats and felt obliged to take early retirement as a result of such intense abuse, owing to Mourinho’s highly irresponsible, inflammatory remarks. Moreover, in a 2006 game between Reading and Chelsea, Reading winger Stephen Hunt was involved in a seemingly innocuous collision with the opposition goalkeeper Petr Cech. This incident again prompted Mourinho to speak out against Hunt, as he did with Frisk, without legitimate merit for doing so, inferring that the Reading player deliberately sought to fracture Cech’s skull. And again, the incident resulted in the recipient of Mourinho’s abuse receiving death threats and generally being vilified, though in this instance, the thick-skinned Hunt did not go into retirement or even publicly respond to Mourinho’s insulting comments. The events of last Wednesday, when Mourinho more than likely advised two of his players to get sent off so they would miss a meaningless group game instead of risking suspension for a key knockout match, represented another unsavoury episode in the José Mourinho drama series. For all his accolades, he will not be considered truly great until he refrains from persistently cheating and begins acting like a reasonable human being.


30 November 2010 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

24

sport@universityobserver.ie

SPORT

VOLUME xViI ISSUE 6

30th November 2010

PAGE 21

PAGE 22

PAGE 23

We analyse European football’s big four leagues and ask which provides the best football

Killian Woods speaks to the bag man of the Irish rugby team, Patrick “Rala” O’Reilly

The Ashes: Do England have what it takes to claim victory over australia?

UCD Marian fight for comeback victory Despite a slow start, UCD Marian overcame Dublin rivals DCU Saints with a consummate performance. Ryan Mackenzie reports Sports Editor

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he DCU Saints entered the Sports Centre in third place of the Superleague North Conference, directly behind secondplaced UCD Marian and no doubt saw the contest as an opportunity to eclipse their Dublin rivals. However, a hard-fought battle saw the home side claim the spoils in an exciting game. As the old cliché goes, this truly was a game of two halves, with the visitors bossing the opening two quarters, but UCD consolidating their victory in the all-important closing periods. The opening quarter was a close affair, with both offences executing fluid attacks. The visitors opened the scoring and led the way to end the first ten minutes with a scoreline of 20-23. However, the score would have been all square at the break but for a miraculous Hail Mary shot by guard Michael Chubb from his own half on the buzzer. It was clear from the start that UCD’s tactics revolved around a greater degree of teamwork than previously seen – with much of the Students’ offence this season coming from James Crowder and Conor Meany. Every member of the team played his part on offence and the end result was some of the finest basketball the team has played in this campaign. The high-scoring tempo of the opening period abated somewhat in the

second quarter, as both sides tightened up on their defensive games. However, the visitors proved more clinical on offence and extended their lead slightly to enter the halfway interval with a narrow lead. Not only were the Saints confident on offence, they also seemed capable of handling anything the home side could throw at them. They repeatedly secured scores on the counter-attack and held UCD out on defence. They thus looked on course for a convincing away victory. However, the second half proved to be UCD’s, as the home side set about overhauling the deficit. With the help of talisman James Crowder, the Students soon obtained a three-point lead only minutes into the third quarter. Crowder had a deceptively good game. The American was uncharacteristically quiet for much of the contest, as his teammates stepped up to the plate. However, the shooting guard ended the night with an impressive 24 points – including a spectacular dunk on the end of a perfect pass from point guard Conor Meany. The game descended into a fouling competition for a brief period of the penultimate quarter. Both teams began trading free throws and the pace of the game slowed considerably. Luckily for Marian, they were on form from the line and ended the quarter

UCD Marian currently lie second in the Superleague North Conference.

with a four-point lead, as the scoreline stood at 58-54. Meany opened the last quarter with a terrific three-pointer and followed it up with a quick assist. UCD were flying and the Saints struggled to keep pace with them. The visitors attempted to put the home side under pressure by implementing a full-court man-toman defence. However, their efforts proved fruitless and within minutes the UCD lead had entered double digits. Soon DCU began to threaten Marian

once again. With an eight-point deficit to overcome in the closing two minutes, the Saints began to pressurise the UCD defence. Fortunately for the home side, this last-ditch attempt at a comeback left the visitors vulnerable at the back and Marian were able to extend their lead to end the game with an impressive 81-69 victory. This win keeps the Students in second place of the Northern Conference, behind the undefeated 11890 Killester. The Students will be hoping they can become the first team

this year to beat the league leaders, as they travel to face Killester in Clontarf for their next league match in two weeks time. However, before then, UCD will once again welcome DCU to the Sports Centre this Saturday, where the two will face off in the Superleague National Cup quarter-final. A semi-final appearance in the National Cup would be a tremendous achievement for this young team and last week’s victory will no doubt fill the Students with the belief that they are capable of continuing their cup run.

The dog days are over Convicted criminal Michael Vick has miraculously gone on to become the best player in the NFL in recent months, writes Kevin Beirne

S

ince Michael Vick was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons as the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, he has been feared by every defence in the league. His time in Atlanta, however, saw him struggle in the passing game. He was inconsistent, often missing open receivers or simply not going through his progressions before putting his head down to run. In six years with the Falcons, Vick completed only 53 per cent of his passes and had

a quarterback rating of 75.7. Of course, he could always hurt teams with his running ability, but that was something which should have been used as an extra weapon, not his first option – Vick can run 40 yards in 4.32 seconds, an amazing statistic for a quarterback given that Usain Bolt’s 40-yard time is 4.22 seconds. Following his arrest for his involvement in an underground dog-fighting club in 2007 and subsequent release from prison, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. He spent his first season as the third-string quarterback behind Donavan McNabb and the young Kevin Kolb. But when McNabb

was traded to the Washington Redskins before the current 2010 and Kolb went down in the season opener, Vick got his chance. Since then, Vick has shown tremendous maturity and is now being talked about as the front-runner for the league’s MVP award. In seven games as a starter, he has a record of 5-2 and most importantly, he is passing the ball like an elite quarterback. He has eleven touchdowns and no interceptions. He is completing 63 per cent of his passes and has seen his passer rating shoot up to a league high 108.7. The question on everybody’s lips is: Why couldn’t he do this in Atlanta all those years

ago? There are a number of reasons. First of all, Vick has one of the best coaches in the league mentoring him in the form of Andy Reid. Also, the group of receivers he is working with are far superior to those available to him at the Falcons. But really, a lot of credit has to be given to Vick himself. Maybe the time he spent in prison really made him appreciate the game more and made him realise how much it meant to him. Another reason Vick is running less is perhaps because he appreciates that he won’t survive much longer in this league if he relies on his legs like he once did. At 30 years of age, the typical point where a running back’s

abilities start to fade, Vick knows that he can’t take the hits like his younger self. He knows he won’t have his speed forever, so he has adapted his game to prolong his career. But that is not to say that the threat of a scrambling Michael Vick is gone, as he still has five touchdowns and 375 yards rushing this season. With Vick under centre, the opposing defence can’t commit too much to stopping the pass because they know he can still hurt them with his feet. Despite the inevitable scrutiny he will receive from the press over his controversial past, this could be the year Vick earns his first Super Bowl ring.

The University Observer Volume XVII Issue 6  

The University Observer Volume XVII Issue 6