Archive for the ‘Irish Politics’ Category

Ireland, Visitors and Closing the Schools

October 21, 2020

Schools - lockdown

Another severe lockdown in the depths of winter, full of confusion, anger, worry and concern for all cohorts of society that are being severely damaged by a cruel disease that doesn’t really care how we feel about it – it’s just quite happy to have new homes to visit, while we can’t !

This leaves us facing into six weeks of varying degrees of misery, depending on your circumstances, so it better be damn worth it and deliver a result that will allow people to recover both their lives and livelihoods when it is over.

I feel metaphorically speaking we have all had the Covid virus (In saying that I am not belittling anyone who has suffered directly as a result of having the disease). 

To make sure these six weeks are as effective as they can possibly be (does anyone want 12 weeks??) it’s vital that everything that can be done, is done right now and for me besides Irish people adhering to the rules and the spirit of the rules, there are three stand out measures that are an absolute must:

  1. The island of Ireland must work together
  2. People coming into Ireland cannot add to the spread that is already here
  3. The right decision needs to be made about schools

Getting these things wrong will totally diminish the benefits from the six weeks of hardship.  

But that’s not possible” is what I hear people say when we talk about the island of Ireland. This is bullshit and we need to call it out – we have a common problem that deserves a common solution, and the cooperation that happened with foot and mouth disease needs to happen again.

People coming into the country should be tested before they get on any plane or boat and shouldn’t be allowed to wander freely in Ireland until we know they are not carrying a virus. Quick tests that are in other jurisdictions would make a big difference.

The final measure is possibly the very contentious one, as it really effects us because we have a lot of young and old students and their families, all with a vested interest in their education and their health.

Hey teacher leave those kids at home!

I would love to believe that our precious children, young and old, are largely immune from this horrible disease and play no part in it’s spread to others in the general community.

On that basis they could safely go to school, continue with their development and in truth allow their parents to get on uninterrupted with their work and lives – That would be a fantastic scenario, one that is great for society but is it the case?       

I for one, don’t believe it..

I know from my own Twitter account and from texts and messages that I have received from people including a national journalist, I am getting lots of vitriol for daring to suggest that the reopening of schools followed by colleges could be a contributing factor to the sudden spike in cases that happened in Ireland in August and has continued and has been replicated across Europe.

My hunch was based purely on the story of the pandemic timeline (very few cases, schools open and then cases spiked – this was before wet pubs opened) in Ireland. I’m sure people returning from overseas holidays (Green or non-Green list countries – flights continued to and from both) was also a contributing factor but that would have been a gradual thing on the timeline.

With the schools you can pinpoint the actual date they reopened and the timeline of the cases at that time.

I hear the arguments against my position:

But…young kids are not likely to get Covid and spread it?

But..older kids are more likely to get Covid and spread it but they are most unlikely to be sick from it?

But …colleges. They are adults who will hang out and party like we all did back in the day, so that’s a fairly straightforward argument.

But…the data from our test, track and trace system and the resulting published stats hasn’t been identifying schools as being a problem?

Maybe my hunch is totally wrong and the decision or choice by the government to keep schools open unlike in Northern Ireland is a justified one – lets think about it and see what the experts are saying and figure out what we know and don’t know?

So…

Do we know that young kids cannot get Covid? – we don’t

Do we know that young kids if they do contract Covid are most likely to be asymptomatic (just like many adults are)? –  likely

Do we know that asymptomatic kids cannot pass Covid onto others? – definitely not 

Older kids, teenagers will be more likely to contract Covid than younger kids, but will be more likely to be asymptomatic? – likely

At this point we need to ask ourselves a simple question..

Will asymptomatic kids (of all ages) who contract Covid pass it to others who then get sick, test positive and we NEVER know who the source was

In my simple mind, that’s quite plausible and it stacks up my hunch about schools opening and the spike, but lets see what the professionals are saying about schools, children and young adults

In the U.S. this is what is being said:

Yes, children can get COVID-19..

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics and public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, said that yes, children can get COVID-19.

However, according to Brian Labus, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the infection rates in children are low.

When children do get infected,” explained Labus, “they tend to have a very mild disease compared to adults.

Gwynn said that children can transmit COVID-19 to adults.

She noted that children ages 10 and older are especially able to transmit the illness to the adults around them.

While there’s limited information regarding children younger than 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Trusted Source on September 18 indicating that younger children can transmit the virus to adults as well.

The report cited one case in which an 8-month-old child transmitted the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, to both parents. Another child at the same day care facility who contracted the virus was 8 years old.

Both children had mild signs and symptoms, including runny nose, fatigue, and fever. The report included information about 12 children who had developed COVID-19 at three different child care facilities.

Transmission, either confirmed or probable, was shown to have occurred to 46 people outside of the facilities, including one parent who had to be hospitalized. Also, two children who had confirmed COVID-19 but were asymptomatic were shown to have transmitted the disease to adults.

There was even a more concerning article that says

Asymptomatic children can spread coronavirus for weeks, study finds

New US studies show viral loads of the coronavirus are especially high among children and youths, who can unknowingly spread it for weeks.

The article went on to say:

A new, unsettling study on children and the coronavirus pandemic has just been published as countries around the world reopen kindergartens and school classrooms. The study’s findings are sure to further fuel already heated debates over the risk of infection in institutions of learning.

Doctors at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC have found that infected children can spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus for weeks even though they themselves show no COVID-19 symptoms. That means that children with only mild symptoms, or none at all, can unknowingly infect people around them.

In an earlier study, researchers in Boston showed that children and youths they observed had surprisingly high viral loads.

This led to an inevitable question:

Are asymptomatic children spreading the virus?

It went on:

The new study, which was published on August 28 on the website of the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, was conducted by Roberta L. DeBiasi and Meghan Delaney, who analyzed data from 91 children in 22 hospitals across South Korea. “Unlike in the US health system, those who test positive for COVID-19 in South Korea remain in the hospital until they have completely recovered from their infection,” says DeBiasi.

According to the study, roughly 22% of the children developed no symptoms throughout their infection, 20% began asymptomatic but later developed symptoms, and 58% tested symptomatic. The study also showed great differences in the length of time children remained symptomatic, ranging from three days to three weeks. One-fifth of the asymptomatic patients and roughly half of the symptomatic patients were still passing on the SARS-CoV-2 virus three weeks after initial infection — though this did not directly reflect their contagiousness.

The authors readily admit that there is still much to be learned about the role of children and youths in the spread of the coronavirus, and that their findings will further fuel that debate.

With our testing and tracing system would we even discover that an asymptomatic child (no temperature, cough etc) was the possible source for the spread of Covid in an outbreak – it’s impossible unless there was mass testing.

Moving away from the Korean data:

Researchers in Boston, meanwhile, found surprisingly high viral loads among the youngest patients they observed. For their study, they took nose and throat swabs from 49 children and youths under the age of 21. The study found far more SARS-CoV-2 virus presence among them than among adults being treated in intensive care units for COVID-19.

According to the Boston study, which was published on August 1 in the periodical The Journal of Pediatrics , scientists found far fewer ACE-2 receptors among smaller children than in youths and adults. Those receptors are thought to be SARS-CoV-2’s gateway into the body’s cells.

Read on:

They talk about tiny “superspreaders”:

The role of children and youths in the spread of the coronavirus has been hotly debated since the first infections were registered. One thing is clear, children and youths can infect others. It is also clear that infected children and youths often show few or no signs of being ill. And it is also just as clear — though most people prefer not to talk about this — that children and youths can also die or suffer lasting damage as the result of a COVID-19 infection.

That doesn’t automatically mean that all children and youths are potential “superspreaders,” driving infection rates around them. Still, children and youths — through kindergarten, school, friends and sports — often have far more social interaction than adults. The past few months have also shown that young people are just as likely as adults to ignore social distancing and hygiene rules if they are not compelled to do otherwise.

Amid a flood of returning vacationers, along with parties and crowded events, German infection rates are now the highest they have been since April. A great number of those testing positive for COVID-19 now are young, driving down the average age of infection to the lowest figure registered since the pandemic began.

Still, despite high viral loads and the ability to pass on the virus for weeks — even if a child is asymptomatic — young people can still act decisively to stop the spread of infection.

Centre of Disease Control

In a report by the CDC in Sept based on research, they arrived at the following conclusion:

To be sure, the best available evidence from countries that have reopened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children – at least in areas with low community transmission. That said, the body of evidence is growing that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection (3-7) and, contrary to early reports (1112), might play a role in transmission (71314).

World Health Organisation

In a report by the WHO in September they also addressed the role of schools:

The role of children in transmission is not yet fully understood. To date, few outbreaks involving children or schools have been reported. However, the small number of outbreaks reported among teaching or associated staff to date suggests that spread of COVID-19 within educational settings may be limited.

As children generally have milder illness and fewer symptoms, cases may sometimes go unnoticed. Importantly, early data from studies suggest that infection rates among teenagers may be higher than in younger children.

Closer to home

Closer to home Dr. Tomás Ryan, Assistant Professor at the School of Biochemistry & Immunology, Trinity College Dublin chats with Eamon Dunphy on his podcast – he welcomes the six week lock down as he believes it is necessary to correct the course of the disease, but he does feel that schools should be part of this as we should be doing everything to make this period work.   

He also speaks about the need for cooperation with the North and controls with those visiting Ireland from abroad.

He is also a big advocate for a ZeroCovid approach just like in New Zealand, who are now enjoying international rugby matches in packed stadiums – that sounds nice!  

Click here to listen.

Conclusion?

While all of this information is confusing and inconclusive, none of it has eased my concern about schools and while we are  taking brutal action against other areas of society then we should be absolutely sure that schools are not part of the problem.

  • Coordinate with the North
  • Carefully control visitors to Ireland
  • Close the schools 

Lets’ get to zero and start living again,

What do you think?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Covid and the “Future Green List”

October 5, 2020

New Zealand lockdown

This is not working, this is not living and we shouldn’t accept any plan that doesn’t have us working towards a return to our normal lives – shopping without masks, having people to dinner from more than one household, having parties, going to gigs and the theatre… looking at others without judgement 24/7.

We need to go for Zero Covid just like they have managed it in New Zealand, but this can only happen if we do everything to starve the virus and ONLY do this if we have international cooperation with other countries that wish to be part of a “Future Green List“.

But it’s easy for them in New Zealand….they are different.” (Really?)

I hate when I hear people saying this is not possible “because of politics“.

When we think it’s not possible this is the first problem, because it is absolutely possible.

Which country in the world is sailing through this pandemic without people living in fear, getting sick, dying and their economies in free-fall?

We all have something in common, don’t we? – The prize for getting this right is big, it is GIGANTIC.

Background:

Please listen to some excellent podcasts hosted by Eamon Dunphy, The Stand with various guests who give some valuable perspectives to support this argument/approach: 

Dr. Niall Conroy, Consultant in Public Medicine in Queensland, talks to Eamon about how the combination of strong leadership and listening to the doctors suppressed Covid-19 across Australia.

Prof. Gerry Killeen, Chair of Applied Pathogen Ecology in UCC – Unless We Abandon Our Defeatist Strategy We’re Looking at 35,000 Deaths

Tomás Ryan, Associate Professor in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience – Get Real or Get Ready for a Terrible Winter

So…how do we do this?

  • We find out which countries want to be Covid free and want to restore normal life and their economies again – anyone interested?

Some strong common sense leadership is required for this part!

  • Then we agree a ‘Future Green List’ and put a target date for this to happen.
  • Let’s say 25th December, Christmas Day is the goal and at that point the objective is that countries in this ‘Future Green List’ are 100% back to normal: YEP – 100% BACK TO NORMAL!

Imagine living normally and being able to travel freely between these countries and doing all the things that we are dangerously close to forgetting?

For some stupid reason that idea seems preposterous right now, the most ridiculous, rubbish thinking by a mad man….right? It isn’t, listen to podcast with Dr. Niall Conroy, about a place with a population larger than Ireland. 

  • Once we agree who is in that ‘Future Green List’ each country closes their borders except for essential travel and a proper 14 day quarantine programme is put in place for other travellers.
  • Then each country goes about doing the hard yards to bring us to Zero Covid and try desperately to get everyone back to a “We are in this together” place, which has long since disappeared.

The 25th December, Christmas day, seeing friends and family normally might be a great motivator?

If we believe in the goal and witness the progress, people will hopefully stay the course.

I’ll gladly take that, if it is leading us towards a tangible worthwhile goal that we can all believe in, which certainly is nothing like where we are now, society is choking as we drift rudderless towards nowhere.

  • When Ireland hits Zero Covid we maintain our borders and start living again, fully living (not this current version)
  • When Spain hits Zero Covid we can open our borders to Spain and vice versa.
  • When the UK hits their Zero Covid we open to them and so on and so on

The countries outside the Green List will work hard to be on the list and will know how to get there from those who have got there – New Zealand have shown us what is possible.

If there are (inevitable) bumps along the way, just like in New Zealand you hunt them down and stamp them out just like they have done.

Are we in?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Why there should be Election Posters!

January 28, 2020

Election Posters - General Election Ireland 2020

Where I live we are really lucky to have a talented, determined and really successful Tidy Towns organisation which means we get to enjoy a beautiful, well maintained place that people take huge pride in.

As part of the keep our town tidy the Tidy Towns folk seem to have made an agreement with the political hierarchy that it would be a  poster free zone for the General Elections.

You can totally buy into this arrangement in particular when you see other locations that are totally destroyed with a proliferation of posters, inevitably dominated by those candidates and political parties with the biggest budgets!

While many agree with the arrangement in our town, which without a doubt does help to keep the place tidy, I think it’s wrong.

I believe the election candidates should be entitled to allow the electorate to familiarise themselves with them and more importantly it hands a huge advantage to established, well known candidates who people are already familiar with and the very opposite to any less well known new faces.

Maybe a sensible quota of posters that each candidate is allowed in each location, relative to the size of that area is a better way to go with a strict regime about removing them post election.

Clearly posters aren’t the only way a candidate has to communicate to us, and they do have the options of literature through the letter box, social media, and the very best way of all to connect is by knocking on the door and chatting face to face.

While there is a tight election window, do we really want to hand anyone an unfair advantage, in particular to those who have been around the block already?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Orange Pride?

August 11, 2019

Orange Parade

When I received an invitation from Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland and President of Dublin Chamber to attend a very small gathering in Belfast to observe the Orange Parade on the 12th July, I must admit I was quiet surprised.

This initiative is something that Niall has been working on for a number of years to build bridges and trust across communities.

After some consideration and diary juggling, I decided to make the trip, mainly out of curiosity and to get a deeper understanding of the political climate in the North.

I was warned by many to be extremely careful where I drove, where I parked the car and not to wander out of the hotel alone for any reason. 

I must admit to feeling some trepidation as I drove into Belfast on the afternoon of the 11th watching the many Northern reg cars going in the opposite direction.

My Google Maps took me safely to the door of the newest hotel in Belfast, the superb Grand Central and I chose the valet parking to avoid any risk of going down a wrong street!

On the evening of the 11th there was a mini gathering in the breathtaking Observatory Bar at the top of the hotel, which was a spectacular location to look over the city and the various bonfires that could be seen in different parts.

The gathering included our small group, representatives from Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, some tourism officials as well as Rev. Meryn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order and some business people from the city.

As we enjoyed the wine and tasty treats we watched as the crowds started to gather close by, at a site where they were getting ready to set their bonfire alight at midnight.

It was a very strange and uneasy feeling watching the huge structure, higher than a house, with our Irish flag on top and an election poster for a female Sinn Fein candidate tied onto it… I understood why people left the North for these few days.

One of the group who lived in Belfast left the function briefly with her niece to observe the bonfire from the street and I asked if could I tag along … I did ask if it was safe first !!

The scene around the bonfire was strange with couples, families, friends and a random but large assortment of people of all ages all with their smartphones ready to capture the moment when the fire was lit. 

For some it was a mini party and they had their bottles of beer and cider on the go.

I felt more than a little strange witnessing what was going on and I was careful not to engage with anyone as the Cork accent might just be difficult to disguise!

Eventually the bonfire was lit and in no time at all the fire was raging, smoke bellowing into the sky and a strong blast of heat made it to us , even though we were across the street.

There was some cheering when the bonfire was lit and a small group started to chant something that I couldn’t make out – while everyone was busy capturing the “moment” on their smartphones. I really didn’t get a sense of huge celebration from the onlookers and I wondered was there a degree of discomfort with them as well, watching a flag burning that represented their neighbours and the poster of a female politician?

We returned to the hotel with our thoughts, had a nightcap and headed to bed.

The following morning there was a breakfast reception at the hotel with some of the leaders from the different Orange Lodges.

Before we sat down for breakfast there was lots of chit chat as the various people arrived in our private room at the hotel. It was clear already that this was a very special day for the ‘Orange Order’ community as they started to give us insights into their day of marching. Some were from Belfast and others had travelled from places as far away as Scotland and they spoke with pride about what this day meant to them.

Needless to say they were all turned out immaculately for this special day.

Finally the group sat down for breakfast and we had a chance to chat in more depth with those sitting either side of us.

I was sitting next to a very nice gentleman called William Hughes, The Deputy County Grand Master of the Belfast Grand Orange Lodge.

I shared with him my lack of knowledge about the day and the warnings that people had given me about a visit to Belfast.

He used some of the promotional material on the table for the “Twelfth” to describe the day to me, what it meant to the Orange Order and what collectively they were trying to achieve with the day.

There was a square beer mat with the campaign key message “Its about the Battle, not the Bottle”.

Basically, it’s about the significance of the Battle of the Boyne and the celebration of this and not a day for getting drunk! 

On the other side of the beer mat there was an image of people standing at a bonfire with the words “Heritage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture”.

The overriding idea is that this is an ‘OrangeFest’ for everyone to enjoy and instead of it being an occasion that would make people avoid the North, it should be the opposite, an attraction that people would want to experience and enjoy.

He explained to me how the Orange Order and the Orange Lodges worked, how they are rooted in religion and good living and how they are an important part of people’s identities and lives.

He did explain that from time to time they clash with the church, as the view is that if they really are upholding the values of their religion then they should be attending church regularly, which is not the case.

It did strike me that they were a very close knit community and that there was a huge tradition around the Lodges that passed from generation to generation and the Orange Parades were the ultimate expression and celebration of this.

I asked about the significance of the bonfires and I was given lots of rational explanations about a guiding light, about warmth and a sign of life. I shared my extreme discomfort about the Irish flag and the election posters as part of the fire and expressed the view that this seriously clashed with how the Orange celebrations had been explained to me by him and that it felt quite disturbing to witness.

His response to me was that this was very unfortunate, definitely not in the spirit of the occasion and it was effectively the work of some hooligans.

While I was glad to hear this explanation, I rationalised it by comparing it to hooligans at soccer matches who can chant and do stupid things and give all fans a bad reputation.

However, it did niggle at me that if the bonfires were so significant and a key symbol to mark this time of the year, then there should have been a huge effort to remove these emotive symbols from the bonfires. Where there is a strong will, there is a way?

Of course the TV crews picked up on these symbols as part of their coverage of the occasion, which sends a poor message to everyone, possibly confirming what many people have in their heads about this society and the unease in the North.

As part of the format of the breakfast everyone present introduced themselves and said a few words. Everyone was made feel very welcome and without doubt the hands of friendship were offered openly.

When it came to my turn I explained how much my opinion had shifted as a result of the experience and I thanked them for their hospitality.

Orange parade

Outside our window along the route we could see people gathering, getting in position for the few hours of marches. These people were organised, with their fold up chairs, their British flags and their refreshments.

As time passed by, the Orange Lodge members were starting to get anxious as they were checking their watches as they all had to be ready to take their position and march with their Lodge.

Our new Orange friends put on their sashes, there was a presentation, photographs and very brief speeches and they headed off to join their respective Lodges.

I took my beer mat and the souvenir programme as momentos of the occasion and to study them in detail later.

We left the wonderful Central Hotel and we were led down the road to a spot which was deemed good for observing the marches.

The walk towards our “spot” was a little embarrassing as the street was lined on each side by eager people all waiting for the marches to begin.

I suspected that many thought that our smartly dressed group were VIPs of some sort as we walked in between them – there was a lot of attention on us and many had their cameras and smartphones ready, just in case there was someone worth snapping!

You could get a huge sense of community as we walked and many of those watching seemed to know the guys who were leading our little group and there was plenty of friendly banter between them.

We finally settled at a spot to watch the marches and waited.

I was observing the people around me waiting – there were old and young, families, couples, bunches of friends and just the very odd person walking by with a drink in their hand – It’s about the Battle, not the Bottle I thought!

Orange parade

In particular, I was observing two young girls in front of me, 20 years of age at most. They were well prepared with their refreshments, their seats and the British flags in hand and they were enjoying their day. One of them had a baby and she held it in her arms getting ready for what was probably the child’s “first” parade – another tradition begins.

After a while we could see the first Orange Lodge appearing with flags, band and other members all marching proudly.

Our wait was a short one, but for many of the people who were waiting it must have been quite a while – it surprised me that when the marching bands did eventually reach our area there was no one cheering or even clapping, just watching.

Orange parade

Band after band marched by, some large and some small, predominantly male and a big mix of ages. The one thing they all had in common was the sense of pride and honour that they carried with them with each step.

Eventually all of the bands had passed by, possibly after an hour and a half and that was that.

As part of our itinerary there was an option to visit the new James Connolly Visitor Centre on the Falls Road and in a way get a sense of how the “other part” of the community in Belfast treated these few days.

I was really impressed by the little Visitor Centre and cafe and we had the opportunity to chat to the manager there, Séanna Walsh and one of the local political representatives for the area.

They explained to us all of the hard work that is being put in year after year, to keep people away from trouble and to give them positive things to do. We heard about the free music festival ‘Feile’ that has been going on for decades and we also heard about the activities on the ground to ensure trouble does not break out.

The Falls Road in the ‘Gaeltacht Quarter’ was not at all what I was expecting!

Before I knew it my Orange visit was over and I had lots to mull over about the very positive experience on the long drive home.

The following morning with a cup of coffee in hand I took out the programme for the “Twelfth” which I had from the breakfast the day before,

I turned the pages and started to read the foreword, which was written by a senior member of the Orange Order.

Two paragraphs in I found myself reading about the “disgusting Sinn Fein politicians” and further on I read about fascists and it got worse.

As much as I had heard about an OrangeFest, celebrating “Hertitage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture“, the deep wounds and raw hatred are still very close to the surface witnessed by this rhetoric being used by the leadership in the “souvenir” programme.

I reflected on the bonfire, the Irish flag and the posters of the female Sinn Fein candidate and it made sense to me that many would be quite truthfully more than happy to see these go up in flames.

Maybe it wasn’t a few hooligans after all?

It is hard for us to properly understand what it is like in the North, the deep divisions and the deeper scars.

I do fully understand why people leave the North, and their plans next year and the year after will be no different.

I can’t see how this time will be a festival that attracts visitors anytime soon, which is very unfortunate for the fine place.

Orange parade

I do admire the great work that many are doing to keep the peace and to reach out, but more leaders will need to show more leadership and change their rhetoric for the sake of future generations.

I do sincerely thank the people I met for their hospitality and for sharing their special occasion with us.

Finally, I do admire the huge sense of pride and identity that they have for their history, culture and way of life and wish that maybe we should have more of that about Ireland and our Patrick’s day.

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Local Elections, old codgers and phone zapping…

May 21, 2019

Old codgers - Inniscarra Bar, Cork

We were in our local, the Inniscarra Bar, one of the most authentic old style pubs you will find in the country, part of that dying breed where the walls will talk warmly to you about everyone who has sat there before you and before them.

It was early on a Saturday evening and we were having a sneaky pint before heading home to cook some grub.

The two old codgers sitting at the bar sipped quietly on their  pints and every now and then there was some chit chat between them. One of the guys had a battle weary black dog with him who was busy going from one patron to the next, sniffing and being friendly.

For some strange reason there was a large election poster leaning up against the wall for one of the local candidates, Shane Fallon. I’m not really sure if this was a practical joke or if it was a serious election tactic by the candidate?!

Out of nowhere the two men got very animated and their conversation got louder and louder..

Those f##king posters are a f##king disgrace and they should be banned as they are ruining the environment

Wow….it went on..

Sure, don’t they have email and don’t they have the internet and..and don’t they have, you know yourself, can’t they just zap phones the way they do?

You are so right, a f##king disgrace!“, followed by lots of huffing and puffing and then back to their pints.

Were they right??  

It’s funny …just a few days beforehand I was standing in front of my Dublin Chamber Council colleagues presenting them an overview of our business sector.

To do this I reached out to many of the member companies, both large and small and looked for their feedback about trends in the sector.

A BIG MESSAGE was that there was a huge shift from traditional media to digital but this was loaded with a gentle warning that clients need to be very careful not to put all of their eggs into this one channel as you just won’t reach your audience in a way that your message will land.

As I walked back from the pub I noticed all of the election posters – who do I like the look of?

When I pushed opened the front door open I looked at the flyers that had been pushed through the letter box – who are you and what are you promising?

And if I believe you really care about the location I do expect you to knock on my door and chat to me.

I tweeted three of the candidates who had dropped in their literature and two responded. One just took herself out of the running!

It’s great that the old codgers got so animated about the environment (there probably should be a limit to how many they put up), but unfortunately a candidate who relies only on email (GDPR has that one squeezed to death!!) and zapping phones (I’m taking this to mean social media) will not be successful.

The candidates need to integrate their social media with their traditional media and however they manage it, they need to be recognised, liked and if possible connect in some real way with the voters.

Get out and vote this Friday!!

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

BAM BAM …. Leo versus Theo

February 18, 2019

National Children's Hospital

The lyrics of the Lloyd Cole song “The sickest joke was the price of the medicine” is ringing in my head for some reason today.

It’s pretty much accepted now that the Children’s Hospital project is our latest and proudest Irish debacle; before it’s even begun it’s running at pretty much three times the originally projected cost … money that could easily be lent to Donald Trump who desperately needs it for his wall or maybe even some affordable housing here in Ireland?

The media and the opposition benches scream for answers and an expensive enquiry and while we are at it I think we would like to know how this is possible in an era of “transparency and accountability”.

Simon says (that was a kids game we all played, maybe it’s still a game?) very little except sorry – really puzzling why he seems to be protecting people he should be exposing and why he is so slow out of the communication blocks.

Leo is bold and brave and points accusing fingers at certain contractors he won’t name (he knows they have great solicitors) and accuses them of gaming the system “These low balling tricks are too much for our idiots to handle” (my interpretation of what he said!)

Bam

Pascal the man with the cheque book suggests that in future tender rules will be tightened up !!! (Doh …. as Homer Simpson would say!!)

Theo the contractor fights back at Leo with a big “you talking about me??” and bravely looks for clarity and offers to step away from the contract as he knows this whole insinuation is extremely smelly for his company.

All of this talk is really damaging to their reputation and he should fight to protect it.

It’s very likely that he knows full well that any cancellation of contracts will earn the company penalties that us mere mortals could live lavish lifestyles on.

So… what should happen next ??

The most likely scenario is that the contract will plough ahead and Leo will be nice to Theo and insist he didn’t mean them when he spoke about “low-balling contractors that should be banned from tendering” and no one will believe him.

However if Leo believes what he said he should show some balls, fire the team who wrote the tenders (this is a big part of the problem), pull the plug on the existing tender and start again with a water tight tender and a rigid process that is fair to contractors in the event of any legitimate changes to the work.

As for penalties for dismantling the current tender contracts they should most definitely be paid, but these amounts should be fair compensation for any losses incurred to date and nothing else – the PwC fee note might be better used officiating over this figure rather than on a report, which in all likelihood will go nowhere and will lead to nothing.

These penalties, valuable taxpayers money, will be the fault of those who were paid to oversee the tender process, not the contractors who were awarded them and they should be held accountable.

If Theo and his crew are still interested in doing some great work on a badly needed hospital then go for it and make your fair profit, you deserve that.

We need that hospital built as soon as possible but at a price that we can all believe was fair.

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Protection for (or from) Whistleblowers!

November 29, 2017

Protecting the Whistleblower

Frances Fitzgerald, the Tanaiste has resigned “for the sake of the country“..

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach has thanked her, for her service and has declared that it is a shame that a good woman who has done nothing wrong has resigned..

Fianna Faíl have got their way and they will quietly sit in the wings waiting, waiting, waiting until the perfect moment to pull that trigger.  They exercised their power in a big, public gesture and won this power battle..

Noel Waters, Secretary-General of the Department of Justice has decided to take early retirement and he is angry about the witch hunt against the organisation that he has been in charge of..

Noírín O’Sullivan, the Garda Commissioner, who was publicly supported by the Government retired in September (after her holidays!)..

A devious, nasty campaign against Maurice McCabe, the Garda Whistleblower, Parking Fines, Breath Tests – the whole thing is a shambles, a debacle of monumental proportions and yet at this moment in time no one is saying sorry and no one seems to be doing anything to sort anything out.

One of the critical instruments of the State, our police force, is totally out of control and no one is taking any responsibility – “I did nothing wrong“…The problem is that you did nothing!!!

But, phew..the crisis has been averted for now and there will be no General Election this side of Christmas – we can all get on with our shopping.

But..what about the Whistleblower??

Somewhere in the mix, the whole point of all of this seems to have gone over everyone’s heads.

What about Maurice McCabe??

Have we heard anyone in authority saying (in a manner that we believe them) that we will not put up with any corruption in our State organisations as it will not be tolerated and any whistleblower will get all of our protection?

Have we heard anyone apologising publicly to Maurice McCabe?

Instead we have listened to horrendous stories of legal strategies against him and “it wasn’t in my jurisdiction to interfere“.

In this country we have legislation that was enacted in 2014 to protect Whistleblowers.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 aims to protect people who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. The Act, which came into effect on 15 July 2014. It provides for redress for employees who are dismissed or otherwise penalised for having reported possible wrongdoing in the workplace. 

Some of the detail:

(from the Citizens Information Board website)

Under the Act, you make a protected disclosure if you are a worker and you disclose relevant information in a particular way.

Information is relevant if it came to your attention in connection with your work and you reasonably believe that it tends to show wrongdoing.

This wrongdoing may be occurring or suspected to be occurring either inside or outside of the country. Even if the information is proved to be incorrect, you are still protected by the Act provided you had a reasonable belief in the information.

Wrongdoing is widely defined in the Act and includes the commission of criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, endangering the health and safety of individuals, damaging the environment, miscarriage of justice, misuse of public funds, and oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or grossly mismanaged acts or omissions by a public body.

The definition also includes the concealment or destruction of information about any of the above wrongdoing.

The Act gives people anonymity, it describes how people should go about making a Protected Disclosure and it outlines how the Employer must act when presented with a disclosure.

All of this sounds great in practice, and there will be a poor sod who actually believes it and goes about reporting something they feel morally bound to do!! (Ssssh..if he/she was a friend or work colleague of yours what would you whisper in their ear?).

The Big Question?

So, taking the whole recent circus into account, lets be really honest here for a moment.

If you were in the scenario, working for a State body and who felt strongly about some bad crap or “wrongdoing” that was going on where you worked what would you do?

I’m guessing you would either shut up and say nothing (and perpetuate the problem) or just leave.

We have all learnt a big lesson – don’t complain!!

This is a wonderful country..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Incite or Insight?

April 19, 2017

Ena Kenny and Donald Trump, Patrick's Day

Enda Kenny’s St.Patrick Days trip to the U.S. costs the taxpayer €35,000” read the headline in this newspaper article I read at the weekend.

The article documented blow by blow how and where these costs were accumulated as well as the costs of the other Ministers who travelled overseas for our national festival, that day when the whole world acknowledges and celebrates our little country.

St.Patrick would be a great Marketing/PR trick for Ireland if we had planned it!!

The article was designed to incite the reader in a way that we are seeing all too frequently – It is supposed to get us thinking…

This is a total disgrace

What a waste of money

Typical politicians, on a jolly while the rest of us are paying for it

Why does it cost so much, you can fly to the States and back for €500?

Rage, rage and more rage – thanks for exposing this abomination!!

In my humble view, Enda Kenny’s U.S. trip was well worth every cent and much more as he flew a flag for illegal Irish immigrants and our continued trade in the very delicate Trump era. This simple visit will help to preserve our special relationship with an economy that is more than vital to us.

In terms of the cost of the trip do we really expect the leader of our country to travel Economy, take public transport and book into 3-star hotels?!!

Come on guys, less of the headlines that are designed to incite the typical anger and let’s focus on the insights.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Trust and restoring broken reputations

February 11, 2017

Maurice McCabe

If things weren’t bad before, they became even worse this week for An Garda Síochána when it was revealed that an “incorrect” sexual abuse file was held against Maurice McCabe by Tusla, the family and child protection agency.

Everyone in the media is being extra careful to avoid stating the obvious conclusions as they risk getting into trouble legally. However, they have published the various statements by those parties involved and reported the facts as they came to light and they keep probing and probing for the truth in this sinister mess to reveal itself fully.

Incidents like this demonstrate once again why we need professional, intelligent journalism to bring us the truth as we can’t rely solely on social media to deliver this. Social media is fantastic as it gives us a powerful voice to demonstrate our dissatisfaction as loudly as we feel is appropriate.

We heard the statement by the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, the leader of the organisation who has claimed that she know nothing of the sexual abuse shenanigans with the whistleblower, Maurice McCabe.

Tusla in the meantime have issued their own statement claiming that their file against Maurice McCabe with the atrocious false claims against him were a ‘clerical error‘.

The comical little addition to the Tusla story was that their official apology to Maurice McCabe was sent to the wrong address!

The public are no fools and the generally held, unsurprising conclusion about this story is that senior members of the Gardaí who were unhappy with their whistle blowing colleague tried to smear his reputation in the worst possible way to punish him and protect themselves.

Even worse in this sorry saga, Tusla were obviously happy to play ball with their Garda acquaintances.

This stinks to high heaven and leaves all of us with two awful conclusions:

We cannot trust An Garda Síochána and we cannot trust Tusla.

When you consider the crucial role that both of these state bodies are paid to provide, ‘trust‘ is not a negotiable, nice to have attribute. Trust is everything.

What next?

To begin the long road of rebuilding trust in both organisations there can be no more fluffing about and decisive action and clear communication is required.

Our strong advice to those in charge would be to get ahead of the story, remove all doubts and demonstrate in no uncertain way how important regaining trust is.

This is the time for An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny or Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald to take decisive action and remove Nóirín O’Sullivan from her role and get the investigation started immediately.

This is the time for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone to demand a 100% honest statement from the CEO of Tusla, Fred McBride as to what actually happened. If this is as farcical as the ‘clerical error’ statement, he should also be removed from his role.

The reputation of these two state organisations is not negotiable – start demonstrating it.

Greg Canty 

Fuzion provide Crisis PR services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple taxation and 1st World Problems

September 4, 2016

Apple - Irish Tax

What a bizarre scenario!

The EU want to charge Apple for back taxes to the tune of €13 billion – Ireland are supposed to get this money and we are all in a flap because this is an unlawful challenge to our tax system so we are appealing!!

Of course the giant have made colossal money and their tax gurus have used every possible loophole and structure to avoid paying the taxes that we get clobbered with.

Is this right and moral? – this is a great question but Ireland has had this fantastic “anchor tenant” in our country, which has no doubt helped us to attract other high profile foreign tenants.

Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs, has said the commission is “certain” its decision to charge Apple €13 billion in back taxes is legally valid and he went on to say  “There will be no particular targets, and no particular indulgence. No one will escape. Nothing will stop this revolution of transparency.”

Pierre wants to start his own revolution!!

It’s all very strange timing from the EU coming on the heels of the Brexit vote – are they now walloping us for being so adamant and vocal about the importance of our relationship with the U.K.?

In the meantime our government aren’t taking this “attack” lying down as Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have launched their own blistering attack on Europe over its ruling, accusing Brussels of using the scandal to create a “bridgehead” to target Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax.

Our language got even stronger as they claimed the European Commission was “bullying” Ireland in the same way it did during the bailout.

The boxing gloves are well and truly on with the EU.

The Cabinet made a “unanimous” decision to appeal against the ruling but then the politicians started playing their usual games and two ministers undermined this stance when they said they still believe multinationals are not paying enough to the State. Doh!

It’s all very odd and confusing and it makes you wonder about the world we live in where the story of a genius company led by the true revolutionary, Steve Jobs comes crashing into the story of world politics and taxes or should we just say money.

These are very strange first world problems that other parts of the world would love to have right now..

Boy in ambulance in Syria

This is the recent photograph of five-year-old Omran Daqneesha who was sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo, highlighting the desperation of the Syrian civil war.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communicatons who offer Marketing, PR, GraphicDesign services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland