CRISIS IN EUROZONE NEARING END-GAME?
The seemingly never-ending political and financial problem that is the Eurozone seems to be reaching its conclusion. At least that is the hope of commentators as well as the public who remain in a sort of economic limbo, unsure if the cash in their pockets is going to scrapped (France and Germany) or if they are going to be ejected from the single currency gang (Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy) or even if their ATM machines will stop dispensing cash while their economy disintegrates (Greece).
The latest spike in tensions occurred when the economy of Italy came under the microscope and the verdict was not good. The Italian economy is in tatters and even with huge austerity measures and a change of governance their borrowing costs have surged to unsustainable levels. A bailout seems inevitable. But can the Eurozone afford a bailout of an economy the size of Italy? Are the French and Germans even willing to consider such a measure? What next for the grand project that is monetary union?
There seem to be a number of options, likely all to be tried in succession until equilibrium is achieved:
* Pump more money into the system, convince the ECB and IMF to make such a huge amount of finance available to EU economies in trouble that their failure would just not be possible.
* Divide the Eurozone - ask/force those non-compliant members of the single currency club to leave while the stronger economies (France, Germany, The Netherlands and few select others) stick with the Euro.
* Break up the Eurozone completely with all countries reverting to their own national currency.
The effects of this uncertainty is becoming more and more apparent. Terrified banks are refusing to lend. Terrified businesses are refusing to hire more staff, while those contemplating starting a business are standing on the sidelines while the pantomime is played out. The growth of European economies is being strangled by this indecision which now threatens the very existence of the Euro currency itself.
CSO FIGURES REVEAL THE STATE OF IRISH LIFE
The Central Statistics Office of Ireland has released its annual report detailing the state of the Irish nation. Among the headline numbers were the following.
* The rate of divorce in Ireland is the lowest in Europe.
* Ireland has the second most crowded junior schools in Europe.
* Of 24 to 35 year-olds 39% of men and 52% of women have a University Degree.
* Irish women live for 81 years on average, five years longer than Irish men.
* Irish prices are the fifth highest in Europe and 18% above the EU average.
* Actual poverty (people unable to afford basic requirements for life) is at 5.5%, up from 4.2% in 2008.
IRISH PUB CLOSURES CONTINUE UNABATED
The ongoing downturn in the Irish economy has badly hit the Irish pub trade with as many as 1 in 8 pubs closing within the last 6 years. Emigration, the smoking ban, the tougher drink-drive laws as well as an economy in decline have all combined to devastate the pub trade. The scrapping of the 'grocery order' which prevented 'at-cost' or 'below-cost' selling has also hit the pubs.
Supermarkets can now offer discounted beers and spirits with more and more Irish people choosing to stay at home rather than venture to a pub. The expense involved in having a 'night out' has also hit the nightclub trade badly in recent years.
TRIBUTES FOR BROADCASTER CATHAL O'SHANNON
The broadcaster and journalist Cathal O'Shannon has died at the age of 83. He was a renowned documentary maker with his works on the Irish experience in the Spanish Civil War in 1976 and his account of Irish Nazis in 2007 among his career highlights. His interview with Muhammad Ali in 1972 has taken on legendary status as one of the boxers best ever interviews.
IRISH FOOTBALL TEAM QUALIFY FOR EUROPEAN FINALS
The Irish football team, managed by Giovanni Trapatonni, has qualified for the 2012 European Championships to be held in Poland and the Ukraine. A 4-0 away victory in Estonia paved the way with the second leg in Dublin a formality, ending 1-1. It is the first time since 1988 that the Irish football team has qualified for these championships with many football fans already making their travel plans.
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My father was an Irish American who didn't have an easy life, growing up with an alcoholic father and weary mother. He met my mother, also Irish American, in Chicago. Don McGinnis and Helen O'Brien. What a pair! He wasn't very tall, with dark wavy hair, a high sloping forehead, beautiful smile, and a very quiet, reserved manner. She was slim, with reddish brown hair, dancing blue eyes, square face, and a great ability to laugh.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic family of eight children, I was the fifth oldest one; the oldest of the 'little kids.' And, because I was quiet, like my father, I got lost in the shuffle. And, my, what a shuffle it was, sometimes! There was always something happening at our house. My father had quite a surprise when my vivacious, petite oldest sister, who was in the high school play 'Oklahoma!' who sang 'I'm jest a girl who cain't say no!', went off to college and came home pregnant with twins. He had to deal with the tensions of the Vietnam draft and the agonizing wait to see if my two eligible brothers were chosen. Thankfully, they weren't. Then there were the shenanigans of my other brother who set fire to the Little League dugout, and the youngest one who had school troubles. And the trauma of having an infant who died unexpectedly at one month of age. Yet, in all of the pressures and calamities of normal family life, almost never did I hear him raise his voice.
I can remember them both sitting at the kitchen table, after payday, the notebook bulging with bills, and discussing which child could get new shoes. They could only buy one pair for the neediest child. Even with Don being a naval architect, back then in the '50's and '60's, the money just wasn't there for necessities. Especially for a family of ten.
My father made balsa wood models of houseboat plans he drew up; plans that never seemed to sell, except, miraculously, at tax time. The reason for that is, inevitably, come February he and my mother would usher us all in the living room after supper for a rosary and Novena to St. Jude. We (including Grandpa O'Brien, who was living with us) would fight to find favorite places to kneel down; at the old red velour couch, the two chairs and the wooden rocker made by my Grandpa. Giggling would set in when it was the younger kids' turn to pray. They wouldn't be paying too much attention; probably would be trying to pry open the small silver crucifix on the rosaries. The beads looked like watermelon seeds, and the cross had a swinging hinge to it in which was a tiny piece of a real, holy relic. They'd stumble over the Hail Marys and Glory Bes and we would all end up laughing. Despite this seeming irreverence, St. Jude heard us, and the money would come in.
One fine summer day the 'Bee Brigade' came to town. Apparently, there was a nest of bumblebees making a home under a rock in my mother's beloved rose garden. She wanted them out of there. My father disappeared for quite a while, then suddenly reappeared. The man of few words was making his Statement. He was going to war. On his head was a Gilligan-type fisherman's hat, pulled down over his ears and eyes. He had grabbed a sheer curtain from some window and draped it over his head, stuffing it into his zipped windbreaker. Protecting his hands were mismatching fuzzy mittens scrounged from the buffet drawer, and black knee-high socks pulled up over his pants legs. And, he had a can of RAID in his hands. The neighbor kids and I gathered around him, staring in awe at this soldier. The war was about to start.
And who best to lead the Bee Brigade on to stunning victory? My mother of course, dressed in a sky blue short sleeved cotton house dress, bending down in front of Don, her fair Irish face and arms inches away from the dreaded enemy artillery, muttering, pulling weeds out of the way, and uncovering the hive. He apparently took so long to get into his 'uniform', that she got her Irish temper up and decided to charge the enemy herself.
It wasn't until I was a grown young woman that I realized that because of my relationship with my father I was indeed blessed. That dawning realization was likened to how I felt when I first learned how to paint; how to see colors. One day I was driving across that bridge in my hometown for the millionth time, when I looked at the boats in dry dock that I had taken for granted all my life. I finally saw those gallant old lake freighters again, seemingly for the first time. The way the orange-reds of the hulls glowed in the late afternoon winter sunlight, against the turquoise swished in the sky behind the boats, the long blue-purple shadows reaching across the snow-covered bay.
In the same way, when I looked back at my young life, I saw how by his always being there, by being a steady, calm influence, with no fanfare when he was born, none throughout his life, and none when he passed on, yet my father left riches behind him: a lot of faith, humor and love.
Mary McGinnis Bosman.
Long before Padric laid eyes on the blessed shores of Eire lived men called Firbolg. Little is known, their tools made of stone and the race that gave birth to blarney. One day from the mist was a race in their midst, Tuatha De Danann. De Danann had come from a place still unsung - yet, their history in Eire's been written. They came to Ogygia, another name the isle be given, and lived for many a year.
They tilled the land, mastered the sea - shared with the Fibolgs their bounty. All the while the Firbolgs looked on and their hearts filled with envy. A peaceful race, the De Dananns most part - but, the Fibolgs were blighted with covetous heart. The Firbolgs called for battle. Their crude tools they did rattle. De Dananns, you see, had all the cattle. On the lea of Connaught, where Eire's first war was to be fought, the blarney of Firbolg's De Dananns were taught.
The Firbolgs for five score and two precious days bought from their enemy time and delays, but, most of all their warring ways. Firbolgs, they called for war to be fair, 'Teach us to use each one of your wares'. The De Dananns they taught of buckler and falchion. The Firbolgs they learned to fight in a fashion. 'Enough,' roared De Dananns, 'of all of this dancin'.' On the greens of Connaught the armies stood posed.
For two days Firbolgs shook buckler and sword. Only one day more to end the original war. De Dananns stood strong. The Firbolgs were wrong for covetous were they of cattle. 'Enough,' cried Garb Mac Duach. 'It's time, if you please, for us to enter battle.' Their broadswords they unsheathed and, that's when you see, the Firbolgs fell down like Babel.
Five score and five days for Eire's first war and what did we learn in the end?
The sword over cattle is not worth the battle or envy is where the blarney beginned.
I have my faults but changing my tune is not one of them - Samuel Beckett
I was sitting at the kitchen table staring moodily at the coffee pot and fidgeting with my pen. The roses in the centerpiece drooped, the candles and dirty wine glasses were still on the table. All through my childhood, my mother's Irish friend Bridie's character and words had influenced my subconscious. Now, in 1994, it was ready and I, at 40 was ready. I'd been writing for 24 years, since I was 16 and had enough notebooks to build a small hut. The usual things were in these notebooks: quotes, deep feelings, little incidents. But as I started to write today about what happened yesterday, something new was about to happen...
I began to write: This might be harder than I thought. I looked at the blank sheet of paper with the heading MY FAULTS and sighed.
Suddenly, the air was filled with an Irish presence: 'The divil a bit looks like he was keen on starting a fire in your chimney!'
This presence didn't seem strange to me, coming from ancestors who believed in pookas, fairies, leprechauns and sprites. So I continued....
'Last night was awful,' I wrote. 'Being a waitress, it was the first Friday night I had off in a year, the kids were sleeping over at friend's houses, and we had a real romantic dinner which included a couple of thick steaks on the grill. There was candlelight, our favorite music.....'
'Conversation an' poteen flowing freely?'
'Holy hooliganism here?'
'Promise me you won't laugh.' I stared into the air and realized this request to my Irish presence might be like asking St. Patrick not to pray, but I had to try.
'On me honor, sure as a nanny goat goes after a kerchief.'
'Well, everything was going fine until I asked my hubby to tell me what my faults were.'
'Murther alive!! Why in the name of St. Brigid would you do something like that??'
'Well, it all started in church one Sunday when the priest was talking about judging others, and he said not to be concerned with the speck in others' eyes until you removed the beam in your own. So, then he said, 'And we all know what our own sins and faults are.' And so...I bowed my head in shame like everyone else, but all the time, I was thinking, My God! I don't have the faintest idea of what my faults ARE!! And then, I figured that it would not only be good for me to improve myself, but it might help our marriage too, if I knew what they were.'
'So, you decide to bring it up on a night like that?? Lass, the wearer knows best where the shoe pinches. So what did the lad say?'
'He said, 'I wouldn't touch that one with a ten foot pole.' But, I nagged at him until it all blew up, then he tramped down to the basement to smoke his cigarette - I lost my appetite completely and so put my steak and salad away in the refrigerator. Then I got ready for bed and cried myself to sleep. So, when he came upstairs again, the house was quiet and he found me in bed snoring. Then, after a little more wine, he decided to eat. But, he couldn't find his steak, and so tracked it down to the living room, where the cat...... had decided to have a candlelight dinner of his own...... on the carpet.'
'So, now, this is your list of faults?'
I nodded my head and kept writing. 'This morning I finally got something out of him. After he cooks eggs for me and the kids, he always forgets to put the carton back in the refrigerator. So, I end up putting them away, but I TELL HIM he forgot. Just between you and me, I think the forgetting is a psychological problem...you know, a POWER thing.'
'...'E cooks breakfast?'
'Every morning! Anyway, I have to work on getting the kitchen organized, because when he is cooking supper, it really bugs him when he can't find things like the spatula, or the vegetable dish.'
'Up the chimney with yourself! 'E cooks the evenin' meal, too?'
'Of course! He told me he taught himself to cook when he was at college. He said he and his roommates would have starved if he hadn't taken the initiative and learned how.'
'The next thing I have to work on, is the clutter on my night table. When he brings me my coffee in the morning, and I am still sleeping, he has to move the clutter out of the way in the dark before he sets the mug down. I know that irritates him a bit.'
'The lad brings y' coffee in the mornin'?'
I blinked. 'Helloooo! THAT'S WHAT I JUST SAID! Oh yes, and there is another thing I have to work on. My tongue, especially when he brings up my laundry. It is all jammed down in the basket, crammed full, and then while he is putting it away, I sometimes let it slip out. It just irritates me. I tell him, 'Honey, the clothes just won't have the wrinkles in them if they're folded as you take them out of the dryer.'
'Are you there? You haven't said anything! You know, this fault thing is not hard after all!! I think working on this list will really help our marriage. But,' I said sheepishly, 'there is ONE more thing. I guess it is because of my expanded consciousness - I meditate a lot. Well,' I felt myself blushing, 'Because of that, I am so aware of myself. It is kind of embarrassing. It's a cursed blessedness. I'd like to be a little more........' I broke off, deep in thought.
'Dumb as a four-legged ass?' The presence was back.
'Dumb....dumb...' I tapped my chin, staring at the ceiling. 'No, that's not quite the word I was looking for.'
'Blind.......blind......yes!! That's it!! I wish I were a little more blind to myself.' I nodded happily.
'Well, then, colleen, if indeed the angels in the clouds above would be nodding and winking sweetly about your lack of seein', yourself would come full circle. Because then you'd be back to not knowin' your faults again,' the presence said seriously.
I sighed. 'You know, you just can't win, can you?'
Mary McGinnis Bosman
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