December 14, 2011

If our future is in Europe, we have to talk the talk

Posted in Euro · 294 comments ·

On Monday at a breakfast meeting, I spoke to a group of students who were just finishing the masters in marketing from the Michael Smurfit School of Business at UCD.

The meeting was sponsored by ESB or, as it is soon to be known, Electricity Ireland. The students were optimistic about the future, confident and well educated. They were nervous about their own job prospects but were putting a brave face on things.

While chatting over a full Irish, one of the professors told me that he was just back from a conference in Lisbon where pan-European business and marketing courses were being devised in cooperation with other European universities. These courses hosted by various European universities would be invaluable to Irish graduates as they would give them a great grounding in international marketing. However, there was one drawback: language.

They could not find enough Irish graduates, even the top-tier ones, who could speak a second and third language proficiently enough to do the courses. He explained that this was one of the key stumbling blocks for Irish marketing graduates in Europe — very few had any competence in foreign languages.

Later at home, my 11-year-old daughter came into the kitchen. I asked her what she had done in school, and she replied that the whole class in her national school had just written a letter to the Education Minister to complain because their Spanish teacher had just been made redundant.

As part of the Government’s austerity drive, the excellent Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative — see — has been shut down. This was a scheme to introduce children early to foreign languages, to give them a feel for foreign languages and to lay the foundations of a familiarity with foreign languages.

In short, this scheme is crucial if the graduates of tomorrow are to get a fair chance to work in Europe, either for big European companies or for Irish companies exporting into the rest of the EU.

Here, we see the lack of any real joined-up thinking in our education system, all because of choices the Government is making. I bet the civil servant who made this decision to cut foreign language teaching does not speak a foreign language.

Everyone knows that it is much easier to teach younger children languages because they learn quicker.

One of the most famous discoveries in biology in the last 50 years is that, in common with all young animals, the brains of children go through critical periods when they are particularly receptive to learning or mapping different forms and patterns of information.

Language is one such pattern. Babies and young infants pick up new words and sounds effortlessly during the critical period of early cortex development. It is referred to as brain plasticity when the brain is subtle, growing and sponge-like. After age one it gets more difficult, but it is still much easier for children to learn new words and they can learn loads of languages simultaneously because of the way the words are stored in the same brain map.

After 12 years old, learning a language gets progressively harder until, as adults, it is exceedingly difficult. The older you get, the more you use your native language and the more it comes to dominate your linguistic map. You still have brain plasticity, but your mother tongue rules.

This is why early learning is so critical, because it is easier, more fulfilling and, even when seen through the narrow prism of budget accountancy, it is far, far, cheaper. Yet here we are abolishing modern language programmes in our primary schools because we need to save money when we know if we are to teach languages to these children as they get older it will be much more expensive.

The real problem is not money, but the inability to join up our thinking. We have one end of the education system crying out for some proficiency in modern languages and at the other end, cutting back on language learning for our primary school children, thereby reducing their chances of being fully paid-up members of the European Union’s workforce.

So the Irish state does one thing without considering the inconsistencies in the decision and what we get is a lack of clarity about anything. In order to stick to the austerity plan imposed by the EU, we are going to learn fewer European languages and make ourselves actually less European in order to become better Europeans.

Go figure — as our largest trading and investing partners, the Americans would say.

On Monday morning, following the weekend when we reaffirmed that we would be good Europeans and pay all the Anglo and Irish Nationwide promissory notes, another inconsistency presented itself. We are going to sell a good asset like ESB at a deep discount, while at the same time buy worthless assets like IOUs of Anglo Irish Bank at a premium — all in order to improve our national balance sheet. This is lunacy and shows no consistency. If we are to sell ESB and put the proceeds into the black hole of Anglo, what is the point?

Such stupidity doesn’t make the balance sheet better; it self-evidently makes it worse.

Even a child will tell you this makes no sense. A monolingual teenager would tell you to get your house in order you have to sell what you can, even if it might not be the best timing and that you can’t buy anything until you have enough money to do so.

Yet the EU is telling us we need to sell ESB and to pay for Anglo — a bank which is being closed down. Worse still, the promissory note, which we are paying, is a loan given to Anglo by our Central Bank, which in turn, owes the cash to the ECB.

So think about the logic here. The ECB, the bank that won’t lend to governments but will lend to banks in Europe because lending to governments is “wrong”, is forcing the Irish Government to go further into debt to finance a bust bank called Anglo and this is supposed to be right?

Confused? Me too.

One of the problems over the next few months is that the Government is going to have to present a case which explains — if there is a referendum — why we should go along with more European integration. This needs to be a clear and honest case. Sometimes the slogan “more Europe” seems like a flag of convenience rather than a set of clear ideas or coherent aspirations.

We want to be more European but we won’t teach our children European languages. We want to be more European but should we deploy kamikaze tactics whereby we sell good stuff and buy bad stuff with money we don’t have in order to be good members of the club?

So 2012 could well be the year to make these choices. We need to be clear about where we want to go next. The decisions we make will tell us a lot more about ourselves than about the European Union.


    To date David Mc Williams refused to write a single line of support and acknowledgement on the OCCUPY movements that are standing up against the global heist performed by banksters and politicians in cahoots. This in itself is a string statement on it’s own, and it speaks a loud and clear language, it is the language of ignorance!

    Here is what people of real character, trustworthiness and depth have to say:

    Injustice, unfairness, and the strangle hold of greed which has beset humanity in our times must be answered with a resounding, “No!” You are that answer.

  2. Seasonal Dawn

    I have often wondered what must it be like to write and not mention a word .

    Just allowing the mind to stare into a blankness .

    The stillness that fills the air …..and how slowly it embraces oneself at the same time.

    Not a word mentioned , how quiet it feels and peaceful in a new dawn.

    Still no word .No need for any .No purpose in mind .

    Only my breathing seems alive and the life inside it .

    Still there is no word yet .Just wanting these moments to remain as they are .So peaceful .

    No bird sings or dog barks .No car passes or cow moos .There is no one around me only myself within myself .

    How wonderful it can be without a word or words .

  3. Philip

    Absolutely stupid article and scientifically questionable with regard kids versus adults learning abilities – the process is vastly more complex that one of so called plasticity – whatever the hell that means. The language issue is not that much of a barrier and never was. The game of commerce is not about talking the talk (an attribute of wafflers, wasters and marketeers)…selling is easy. It’s about walking the walk. Its about delivering. Today’s deliverer is of a numerate disposition with a strong technical background.

    I am not against learning languages. It’s good for you. Just like exercise and socialising. It’s to be strongly recommended. But, it’ll not grab you not one red cent. Your average Belgian speaks 2- 3 languages – it’s situated in the middle of Europe with the best infrastructure you can imagine – and their economy is in tatters and has been for decades. I see zero evidence of more languages = more commerce. I do see more quality products = more commerce. Better management= more commerce.

    Lets recognise the Europe as it really is… A danish friend made this very sharp observation – He described heaven and earth as follows:

    In Heaven – The Brits are the police, The Germans run everything, The French cook, The Italians sing.
    In Hell – The Brits cook, the Germans are the police, the French sing and the Italians run everything.

    Says it all really…

    • bonbon

      Sounds like some Danes want the job of the Invisible Hand from the Brits!

      • Philip

        Face it….the Brits are being cast an olive branch by Von Rompuy. Merkel says we cannot ignore them. Maybe they should be the police of Europe. Lots of these jokes point to the truth behind stereotypes. The German should be let run things…but never police it…too inept. The French are cooks/ planners and collaborators – but never let them execute. No one can match them for strategies. The trick for Europe to work the team correctly – get them playing to their stengths. These stereotypes hint at it.

        As for the Danes…we could do a lot worse than emulate them. Dane are excellent business people with a very positive view of the world.

        • Pedro Nunez

          no we are the Entertainers,

          For the great Gaels of Ireland
          Are the men that God made mad,
          For all their wars are merry,
          And all their songs are sad.

          This dichotomy in the character of the Irish peoples derives from an existentialistic worldview that recognizes the futility of fame and fortune, but strives after it anyway.


          • bonbon

            Amazing the extent of G.K.Chesterton admiration all over this blog. It was quite a surprise to see the extent of Fabian reach.

          • coldblow

            Ha ha! I’m an admirer of his, and of Shaw and Wells (to the little extent that I know of them although admiration of Euro dictatorships is not included). I can remember very little of Sidney and Beatrice Webb. I’m a fan of GKC mainly as a Catholic apoligist.

            What exactly is it you have against the Fabians, if you don’t mind me asking? Were they advocating eugencis or something like that? Or some kind of scientific technocracy? I could see grounds here, but could you spell it out?

        • bonbon

          The Brits working the EU team – very revealing, and in fact true. Even with Cameron’s perfidious stubbornness, Britain has Merkozy over a barrel.
          The Euro is Britain’s project. Unfortunately for London it is impossible to distance itself now with their transatlantic finance in terminal collapse. It is the end of “working the Atlantic Team”.
          Obama is their US man and they will never accept losing their system, even if it means starting WWIII.

  4. triona

    Lads!Lads! No need to fight amongst ourselves! We all need to stick together…Has David actually refused (as you say) to speak out on behalf of The Occupy movement and if so, do you know why. The guy is clearly not afraid to speak his mind so, ask him if you haven’t already done so.
    On the subject of speaking out forcefully, I went on the Occupy Cork Against Austerity march recently and heard a lot of upbeat music but no resounding, “No!” . I’m all for peaceful protest (we MUST NOT give them rope to hang us with)but with all due respect, that march was like a Paddy’s day parade…far too cuddily.


    Are there any jobs for Irish speakers not financed by govt ? Can anybody explain the logic in giving grants to call centres that hire Norwegian, Greek, Arabic speakers etc.I spent 6 months working in an office that had 11 Irish staff out of 150 .Computer software is making translators redundant.
    Mrs Sean Quinn made a first rate fool of herself yesterday.Pathetic.

  6. Dorothy Jones

    ‘Language is a Virus’ by Laurie Anderson back in the day from ‘Home of the Brave’….still good

  7. triona


    What about it? Yourself and Fintan O’Toole (and any other big guns you can think of) starting a movement of Irish people who are against covering the gambling debts of the big European banks.

    The Occupy Movement is to be highly commended but it isn’t going to cut it on it’s own.

    It’s time for ACTION…albeit PEACEFUL, what have we got to lose?

    • bonbon

      Burn the bondholders, and that’s only the start. I think I have heard that somewhere, I wonder where?

      Ireland is the luckiest – we had a chance to vote. We have a party in the Dail perfectly ready to hit banksters hard. Germany got not one single chance. And we run around like the most wounded spoilt kids with hip music?

      Burn the bondholders, Glass-Steagall now. Put this financial system, dead since jul-2007, where it belongs!
      This is war against a system that will kill us if not stopped. It is not just the Euro. We have a country to lose, but no time to give!
      For this reason hip cuddly music will kill you – If the cold does not get you first in the OWS tents.

      For good music listen to Beethoven, Fidelio, the prisoners chorus.

    • Deco

      Occupy Anglo HQ – until the bondholders are burned.

  8. Did you know that back in 2004, in our country of round about 4mn at
    this time, the richest 100 people in Ireland counted for more than
    one fifth of Irelands total GDP with a sum of Euro 23bn? Astonishing
    isn’t it?

    Although we seem to get more used to 12 digit figures by now, I intend
    to think it is always helpful to put such figures into proportion.

    Back in 2004, from that list of 100, the 10 richest people in Ireland
    counted for an average cash net worth of Euro 800mn each.

    To achieve such fortune, the average industrial worker would have to
    bank his/her entire Euro 27,000 salary (2004 figures)…. every year….

    ….for 30,000 years!

    From a letter that I sent to Eamon Gilmore, on 20th Feb 2009.

    • His answer:

      On 20 Feb 2009, at 11:35, eamon gilmore wrote:

      Thank you for your email. ~thisis quite remarkable, when one thinks of it, in the way you have put it. I will make use of it!
      Best wishes


      …..Labour Party Leader…. MY ARSE!

      • bonbon

        He made use of it to get Labour elected!

        Obama used “Change” to get elected.

        FG used FF to get elected.

        Then they saw the off-balance-sheets and went insane!

        • This party has zero to do with what the labour movement once stood for, zero! They are nothing but a disgrace.

        • Deco

          It is the “we are not them” and “them is scary” method of election.

          It works, when there are two or three options for election.

          The more options the better.

          We need three new parties.

          One to target the FF voters, one to target the FG voters, and one to target the ILP voters.

          That way you saturate the lazy politicians with competition.

          We have competition in respect to chocolate bars, and sliced pans.

          But in politics there are three options plus a few more hidden at the back of the shelf – and you only get to pick once every five years.

          Yet IBEC are lobbying them 24 by 7. And also ICTU. And other large commercial entities. And even former PD politicians like “Honest Tom” in the CIF.

          And the media are beholden to IBEC members for advertising revenue. So the media play along. They play to convince us that they are serving us with important information and a service – while threading bias into the coverage as long as they receive advertising revenue.

          Just look at the binge era media coverage to see the bias.

          • bonbon

            Obama is “not-Bush”, FG/ILP is “not-FF”. Sure, they are even worse.

            It should be obvious that if things are going insane, and the majority elected this, then a minority is sane. This has often happened. That minority might be a party, SF, or a few FF/FG/ILP members.
            “Competition” means competing for funds usually. Rainbow Coalitions of multi-parties never worked anywhere, and it should be obvious why Soros funds rainbow revolutions bigtime (OpenSociety etc…).

            My check on the PD, is the weird Fabian G.K.Chesterton distributist economics, the same as Blair’s New Labour, and Cameron’s Progressive Conservatism. Its is not just funding, rather gullibility for fantasy, caused by a total vacumn in economics training.

  9. Deco

    The EU Commission has it’s own language – power. They don’t care about the kids – except that the have to convince people they do. They want to buy your loyalty, or at a minimum your compliance.

    The standards of English are falling. And within the teaching of English is the study of thinking before communication, and of providing clear and precise statements. This is also important.

    The we have mathematics – which is also a form of expression – with reference to notation, measurement, logic, deduction, and problem solving. That is extemely important.

    I think it is impossible to predict which language will be of use to children, as they develop professionally. Perhaps technology might be of use, in providing this flexibility.

    In the olden days the objective was to train core languages, like Latin, German, Russian, Sanskrit-for their relevance in learning related languages.

    • Definitely mathematics, I would include music as well.

      Yes, a good knowledge of Latin is like a bridge to other European languages.

      I would disagree though, the EU does not care about loyalty, they impose as much as they can, circumventing entire nations if required, they are fanatics.

      • bonbon

        Very good point, music.
        Disagree on Latin (above).
        Now mathematics – I’ll hold off on that just now!

        Correct – the EU likes to see elites fall on their swords, whole countries doing Seppuku for the Greater Glory of the Euro.

  10. 33square

    word on the street is the next Irish Elite are being schooled in gailscoileanna around the country as we speak.

  11. triona

    Looked into Glass- Steagall Act and wasn’t able to see if it has been sucessfully applied to regulate US banks (and if so how come Lehman Bros failed so spectacularly). Anyway, it certainly sounds like one way of improving the system. Let’s stick it on a banner and get marching.

    • bonbon

      FDR’s Glass-Steagall applied from 1933 to 1999, when Larry Summers and Greenspan repealed it with Clinton under impeachment pressure. Most other countries had a parallel set of laws. Finance went insane right after 2000 (dot.communism,Lehman,…). LTCM was 1998 just before, prompting the Greenspan “Atlas Shrugged”).
      The Guardian reported OWS had it as Demand #2 – I posted the link here recently. Frankfurt Occupy removed it for the Transaction Tobin Tax (which will not work – it is 20 years too late) under pressure from ATTAC and (banker funding).
      Today Glass-Steagall is called here “Burn the Bondholders”, and HR1489 in D.C. (going through the House now). Obama personally vetoed the 2009 McCain (of all people!) Bill for Glass-Steagall.

  12. coldblow

    At the end of the article David says, “We want to be more European but we won’t teach our children European languages.”

    I don’t think we want to be more European, I doubt if the Irish know (for the moment anyway) what they want to be. I doubt they think they could do anything about it even if they did know. (By ‘we’ and ‘they’ here I mean the dominant social groups or elite hereSo in the wider context language learning isn’t relevant.

    My view was always that we joined Europe at the behest of big farmers and other vested interests, including the political classes. And easily led popular sentiment: “We are all European now.” Based mainly on Crotty, but also on more general ideological grounds as Europe has always appeared to be a (willing) vanguard of ‘liberal’ progress in this country. I have been willing to partially suspend judgement while following this board and having read pro-Europeans such as Will Hutton. My understanding was that the idea of further integration was to bring in protection for the citizens seeing as the organization had seemed to develop as a trading block in favour of the big corporations, who had benefited up to now in terms of easier access to markets.

    I had the idea that the EU might at least act as a bulwark against the rapacious Anglo-American financial machine.

    Some, eg Paul Hunt on, have (or had) argued that if we sit tight and take our medicine then we would be ok in the long run. That scenario seems less likely with every passing day.

    For a while the idea of a wild ‘burn the bondholder’ mob was current among our elite, it seems. That joke is wearing very thin by now.

    The US govt in clearly beholden to Wall St and the Banking Interest. Perhaps Obama has some good intentions in the field of health care?

    It’s weird, Europe doesn’t know what to do, and the Irish govt is more clueless even than the last crowd (and as the latter included the Green Party that is some condemnation).

    David refers to a lack of logic and joined-up thinking. I don’t think that was ever there – just the issues du jour, sentiment, opportunism, follow the crowd etc.

    Now we have a mindless austerity mantra which has even less sense than what has been served up in the past. I have said here before that I am sceptical of much of the criticism of the austerity policy, and I am insofar as I don’t accept many of the principles and assumptions underlying that criticism, including simple minded analyses of the motivations of the principal players. Which doesn’t imply for that matter that I accept all or most of the assumptions of those criticizing the critics.

    So to be clear, the austerity is mad, at least as currently prescribed, and almost certainly in any other form for the immediate future. The current leadership both here and abroad is, if not mad, then bad, but not necessarily in the way that some say they are (though that’s not excluded either). Also indifferent to the common good (Malcolm said here before that having spoken to some of our elite he found them committed to this end, but I have never seen this to be the case) and in some cases clearly corrupt.

    I suspect our elite professional classes are essentially rootless mé féiners. It’s easy to criticize I admit, but what I mean is that our pol reps from all parts of the spectrum somehow don’t seem to have any strong connection with the fate of the rest of us, so that when push comes to shove they’ll bottle it.

    German: Are some making case being made that they want to stand up for real money against the financial socerer’s apprentices? Or are there sinister geopolitical ulterior motives? Or is it just that they have bought into a stupid self-defeating belief? Unless someonce can convince me I’m running with the last option.

    OWS: probably mad and bad in lots of ways but in the absence of anything else all we have for the moment. (Cf Hudson, Kerrigan, Kunstler and others.)

    And not to forget our media, who disgraced themselves beyond words during the bubble years. Either cheerleaders for our corporate sponsors or approved pc pulpiteers and enforcers.

    Welcome any correction or clarification of the above.

    • bonbon

      There is a major disconnect with reality, the elites should be committed, they are certifiably mad.

      Just google “obamacare” or “peter orzag” to find Obama’s intentions for U.S. citizens.

      He is certifiably insane to provoke Russia with whatever pretext, to “save” the transatlantic financial insanity.
      Amendment 25-4 immediately to save us all from a nuclear holocaust started by this madman, as soon as this Christmas!

      • Philip

        This all smells of a load of Larouche Pac propaganda. NWO, Conspiracy Theory Drivel. Believe me if 10% of what you are saying is half true, we are gonners anyway.

        The truth is actually a lot simpler. We have spineless leaders and cushy civil servants and a general level of ineptness all brought on by getting wealth for no real level of work. The Goldman Sachs of this world have no more control of what is going on than you or I do and indeed seem to be making a complete horses arse of it. These overrated financial wizards are people of very average intelligence who attain their office by nepotism or cronyism and are just trying to find a quick escape route. It simply is not there.

        Obama? What is frightening is the real lack of a credible alternative in the US. Is Obama responsible? He is not exactly getting an easy ride or route to do anything.

        This imposed austerity will not go on as it is. It is already running out of runway and sanity will kick in for those who want some money back. People will settle for 30% rather than 100% – the alternative is zero simply becasue there is nowhere to run. Maybe…just maybe our leaders in Ireland are aware of this and are keeping their mouths shut – actually, it really does not matter.

      • I am reminded how at the top the elite can drink whiskey as we drink tea.

    • Eireannach

      Why do people look to the elite as solely to blame?

      For a start, most members of the elite don’t think of themselves as such, they think of themselves as players in the marketplace, a marketplace which has gone very badly since 2007 because ‘they’ (the other lot) have been messing it up.

      I’m sure if you ask the Irish government what went wrong they’ll say ‘manipulation by elites’ meaning the EU.

      The Irish developers will say ‘manipulation by elites’ meaning their banker buddies couldn’t get loans on the wholesale eurozone markets from Germany and France and so on.

      Everything thinks the problem is ‘the Elites’ but nobody thinks they are the elite.

      They think someone else is controlling it in their interests.

      Maybe nobody’s in control? Maybe it’s just controlled by any conspiracy, instead innumerable actors are moving markets and money flows this way and that in a chaotic system with no centre of gravity.

      • Eireannach

        I meant NOT controlled by any conspiracy

        • bonbon

          I ignore spelling errors or grammar in a blog. But that is a very revealing slip.
          Newton is quoted “I do not make hypotheses”. The very same in a letter to Whiston or Bentley “It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact, as it must do if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body can act upon another at a distance, through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking can ever fall into it.”

          So we have the “great Newton” who needs no hypothesis not falling into that trap.

          So “chaotic system” is a contradiction, a trick.

          Amazing to see this argument repeated all over this blog to offset any interference in that “system”.

          Glass-Steagall is a direct intervention into that “system”.

          To see if this is true try it out and listen for the screaming from the supposed chaotic independent “players” !.

  13. paddythepig

    Maybe it’s the circles I frequent, but I have never met anyone with an MBA who wasn’t a spoofer. Usually, they have been of the beancounter variety, viewing the MBA as a way up the corporate greasy pole. The characters I’ve come across wouldn’t be seen dead turning a sod ; they’re be much more at home with the clipboard.

    I hope the ‘Moichael Smurfit’ folks are an exception. ‘Morkeshing’ though isn’t going to pull the economy up by it’s bootstraps ; in a real economy, it would be the poor relation in comparison to creators and inventors.

    Why didn’t you ask the professor if he’d take one for the team David ? A 25% pay cut by all and sundry in academia, and hey presto, there’s plenty of money for extra language teachers in primary schools. I bet though he’d run a mile at such a suggestion, or ‘take to the streets’ as one well-known academic economist said in the Guardian.

    As for the ESB, or ‘Electric Ireland’ as they now like to be called. Talk about a closed shop, vested interest, call it what you like. Even Mr Brendan Ogle called them ‘spoilt’, so that’s saying something. Would they take a hit for the good of the economy? Not on your life.

    Roysh, time to go.

    • Deco

      Hilarious comment re MBA.

      I reckon you are right.

      Did you know that in Germany, Sweden, Japan and South Korea, nobody hires an MBA ?

      You are right. MBA seems to confer in the candidate a qualification as a spoofer. It is basically careerism, for the CV.

      The MBA does not confer ability on the holder.

      With regard to the Irish management – there is something serious wrong with them. The Irish management culture, for the main firms in IBEC is bad. They are heavily reliant on lobbying the government and grant aid.

      IBEC are a symptom and a cause of the disease affecting the Irish culture of management and it’s failings in the last ten years.

    • Paddy,

      For the first time in a while, I agree with you:)

      All the best,


      • Colin

        Me too Paddy. And also to a lesser extent becoming a chartered professional. Look at how architects have protected the use of the title architect. The government agrees with them, and won’t allow anyone in Ireland claim to be an architect unless they are a member of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, whose membership is strictly and tightly controlled. And what’s a Royal title doing in a republic? Smacks of elitism and ignorance.

    • Dilly

      I was given a dressing down by an MBA in the pub about fours years ago, when I suggested that property in Ireland was only heading one way. He bought at the height and paid full whack for a 2 bed apt. But he knew better because he listed off the qualifications he had that I had not. I had also just sold and apt.

  14. Harper66

    The result of previous and current government policy –

    THE GOVERNMENT has quietly downgraded its campaign to persuade the European Central Bank to change the terms of the €30 billion of promissory notes it issued to bail out Anglo Irish Bank, according to an authoritative Government source.

    Fitch ratings agency says it is considering downgrading six nations that use the euro — Ireland, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus — by one or two notches.

    Read more:

    The report from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office on Friday dashed forecasts of only a minor drop in economic activity and raised doubts about the country’s capacity to meet deficit-fighting targets through painful cuts.

  15. bonbon

    Yes we should Talk the Talk indeed.

    Debtors of the World Unite, Use the Debt Bomb

    The vice president of the Portuguese Socialist Party parliament group, Dep. Pedro Nuno Santos, has called on his country and the other countries under the European Union jackboot to use the “debt bomb” against the bankers.
    Speaking at a Christmas dinner for the PSP deputies on Dec. 10 Santos declared, “We have an atomic bomb that we can use in the face of the Germans and the French: this atomic bomb is simply that we won’t pay. Debt is our only weapon, and we must use it to impose better conditions, because recession itself is what is stopping us from complying with the [EC-ECB-IMF Troika] accord. We should make the legs of the German bankers tremble.”
    According to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, the Socialist deputy said “the first duty of a prime minister is to take care of his people,” adding, “I couldn’t care less about the creditors,” because “the Portuguese people come first, before the German or French bankers.”
    Santos called on the southern states of Europe to join forces against the EU dictates: “It is incomprehensible that the peripheral countries don’t do what the French President and the German Chancellor do. They should unite.”
    The statement was made the same day that thousands of protesters marched through Lisbon denouncing the austerity policies which included increasing the work week to 42 hours, and cutting wages by 16% for the most highly paid public workers, and 8% for those paid the least.

  16. CorkPlasticPaddy

    Hey, Eireannach, so much for you lecturing us about language?? You can’t even comment properly in English. Your grammar is diabolical in that you can’t tell the difference between there and their. My advice to you is to go back to school and do a night class in English Language, before giving out to the rest of us about language, be it English, Irish or any other language!!

    • I disagree with your comments .I make mistakes too and many times again and again.Its our ideas that matters that need to be communicated and it must be done in that moment otherwise the opportunity passes .We must seize every moment because we cannot afford not to.

    • Deco

      Ah, but Eireannach commicates in French, as he says, because the French love him for it. And he likes to display panache and superiority in this, when he feels his pride is not given due precedence to all other considerations.

      Getting superficial niceties and attention is important to Eireannach, as they are all absorbed enthusiastically. But advice is always repulsed, for it takes Eireannach off that trajectory to oblivion. For oblivion is the preferred destination.

      Learning the rudimentary essentials is too mundane, and far too humbling. There are grander and more fanciful plots to follow, than the simpler rundimentary stuff.

  17. Morning from Jerusalem,

    Just a thought on langauge and the ability to teach it. I recently met a friend who is a missionary or at least spends time on missionary work in Africa. He told me that last year in Rwanda the school kids went back to school in Feb rather than Jan. Why?

    Because their teachers spent January learning how to teach in English rather than French which they had been teaching in for years. Rwanda decided to change the 2nd langauge of the State from French to English and the teachers responded.

    Imagine that happening here, where teachers are so vocational that they learn a foreign language in order to teach it to the children? It is amazing what is going on in the rest of the world.

    Just thought this might be of interest.



    • Adam Byrne

      Yeah, but the kids lost a month’s education.

      You’d have to wonder if the teachers were delighted to get away from the little blighters for an extra month on a language learning bonanza that they’d ultimately be using for their own businesses on the side.

      Don’t mean to be cynical, but two sides to every story.

    • Deco

      Ah….have to get me union on the case….see if me rights are violated….special compenastory overtime pay required.

      Sorry for being cynical, but I heard some stories about CIE in Dublin recently. Jaw-dropping stuff. Dublin transport is a nonsense factory. Don’t know about the rest of the country. Bertie’s chums are all over the shop.

      • Colin

        You know the Irish teachers have holiday homes all over Europe, the infamous caller to Liveline a few years back was concerned about paying her mortgage for her new Croatian bolt hole if Teacher’s salaries were touched. Maybe ASTI could formulate a plan where Teachers go to countries and stay in homes owned by other Irish Teachers and get a generous stipend and a living allowance and rent allowance to pay the landlord a very high rent for the month.

    • coldblow

      Hi David

      I think a lot of Africans speak several languages already (local one, regional one, national one and probably ex-colonial one) so learning another isn’t too big an ask.

  18. The Arc of Coveney

    I would like to know the real facts for the recent outcome in the fish talks and agreement reached .I just do not feel too happy reading the propaganda drivelled by his department anymore.It seems a damp squib to me .Can anyone assist me?

  19. Philip

    By the time the little critter is turning 3, demands are very well articulated to the unfortunate parents. If the parents are multilingual, by the time they reach 7, they’ll have 2 or 3 languages only discovering later in life the languages has differences in the first place. It’s like when you discover you’re black when you arrive day 1 in a white dominated school. No teachers needed.

    It’s when the schooling starts that all the problems emerge. Teaching methods and their execution needs examination. I get a very irritated when the only complaint I hear is that class sizes may jump beyond 32…when in actuial fact a good teacher among 60 -70 pupils is 10 times better than a useless one with 10 pupils. I was blessed to be in the presence of a most joyful eccentric teacher for my 3rd and 4th class – 60-70 pupils – and he came in 50% of the time because the rest of the time he was on the jar. I think he affected most of us very positively for the rest of our lives – judging by how many went on to do very well. One day he’d bring in a defused grenade used in the black and tan wars – next it was a talk on how to draw a circle freehand, another on some aspect of Greek mythology and so it went. I am convinced he oiled our brains for the rest of our lives.

    If we are to acquire real tools like language, like knowledge of social history or the tools of maths statistical analyses, rarely will a school help you. Indeed I would go so far that it represents a lot of what is wrong with this society. We are over schooled. We are the best boys and girls in the EU class – look at the imagery. Same for the US and a lot of the west…they can no longer tell a training from an education. I think this will eventually cripple China as well.

    What is gripping the world is petrification as a result of being given an exam paper about which they never swotted.

    Question 1: What happens when nobody can pay.
    Question 2: What happens when the money stops coming

    Read Ivan Illich’s Deschooling society. Maybe we need to get our kids to read these blogs and make up their own minds.

    • coldblow

      When I taught there was an older teacher, a real Eastender type, who used to drive a coach in his spare time. He could take three classes of rowdy kids on a wet afternoon and have complete control. However, his teaching consisted of telling them stories about driving coaches.

  20. [...] show sharp reversal NI seeks cut in corporation tax Economy contracted by 1.9% in third quarter If our future is in europe,we have to talk the talk Shift in focus on Anglo promissory notes Promissory Note Campaign: A Quiet Downgrading NAMA may [...]

  21. paulmcd

    David, It is ironic that you happen to be in Israel at the moment. The President, Shimon Peres, is fluent in 6 languages – Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, French and Russian. I remember being very impressed with his French when he was Foreign Minister, and I was living in France at the time.

    The above seems to be a norm for Israeli leaders. CONTRAST THAT WITH THE IRISH SITUATION:

    Only ONE of the many candidates who offered themselves for election to the post of Uachtaran na hEireann was sufficiently fluent in THE FIRST OFFICIAL LANGUAGE to be able to debate “as Gaeilge”.

    Politicians should lead by example. In fact, I believe that, if we are truly serious about the Revival, it should be obligatory for TDs to conduct all their business in Irish. TG4 would be closed down – most times I click on it programming is in English anyway – but all programming on other channels could be subtitled in Gaelic or English as the case may be.

    Politicians could have a 10-year transition period to allow them to adapt – disqualification from public office, thereafter.

    MY PROPOSALS WOULD NEVER COME INTO BEING; and it is such a waste of public money to be spending so much on “reviving” a language spoken in the home by a mere 1,000 fior-gaeligeori pupils attending schools in Gaeltacht areas.

    I find that revivalists who classify themselves as Gaeligeori are extremely insular in their approach. They could not even discuss in detail the differences between Scotch Gaelic and Irish or Manx.

    • paulmcd

      Oops! In the first sentence above I should have finished “. . . Russian, French and ENGLISH.

    • coldblow

      TG4 is poor. I rarely watch it. I think too much of their budget goes on the Ros na Rún soap. A lot of their children’s programmes are cartoons dubbed in Gaelic with screechy voices. My Gael-schooled son never watched them, even once. I won a prize on RnG once (this has also gone downhill in recent years, probably due to lack of really fluent speakers) a Gaelic cartoon called Booly or Buailí or something – I had to throw it away.

  22. Dilly

    The BBC languages website is excellent I have been using it for a few years now.

  23. manchuriancandidate

    Learning a foreign language is not an easy thing but it is certainly rewarding. English may be the language of International business but when you are working in a foreign country having a good knowledge of your host country’s language can be of benefit. It’s fun, you can really communicate with your hosts, they can help break down cultural differences, and they can contribute to sealing the deal. Learning languages should not be about just doing business though. That said it is possible to be successful, business-wise, in a country without speaking your hosts language, even in a country like China. But it is more rewarding and intellectually challenging if you do.
    There is no such thing as the most useful language. All languages are useful depending on where you are living, where you plan to live or work. Chinese is a very useful language if you plan to live in China. Spanish is useful if you live in Spain. Learning any language before the age of 12, critical years, is useful should you like to or have to learn another language later in life.
    Learning Irish may be considered useless by many, essential by some, it depends on your situation. I was very poor at the language at school. I hated learning it. I feel it was very poorly taught, we never spoke it, never used it in a practical way. We spent a considerable amount of time learning about the impoverished existence of Peig Sayers, grammar, reading etc. Though Irish is not useful to my life, its important to many in Ireland. I do wish I could speak it better than I do. But I am not going to lose any sleep over it now. It can be useful language to people who live in Ireland, who use Irish on a daily basis, whose job depends on Irish, from a cultural point of view Irish people should be able to speak Irish. I think Irish people should learn European languages and learn them well. Its not practical to say we should all learn Chinese, Japanese etc. We should, or our children should, learn European languages including Irish because they are on our doorsteps and we visit them regularly. So, it is practical that we learn these first. If we learn these languages well, we will have a good understanding of how to and why we should learn other languages. Chinese is a hard but certainly not an impossible language to learn. Learning to speak it is not so hard, though people who speak European languages do seem to have a psychological block and treat it like an impossible task. Learning to read and write is tough and long, much more difficult than a European language. But that is the key, if you live in a foreign country or you use (speak) a foreign language regularly, they are all relatively straightforward to learn. Practice and use.

    David, you have mentioned we are selling, or the government is selling, the ESB for cheap. To the best of my knowledge you have never written a piece on the giving away of our natural resources on the west coast (Shell Deal). I would like if you wrote a piece on this piece of ‘economic treason’ by Ray Burke and FF and their untouched pensions and why the current and previous governments haven’t tried to renegotiate this particular deal. Surely, it was improper and should have been declared null and void or at the very least renegotiable following Ray Burke’s subsequent imprisonment. You suggest we default or renegotiate our debt in other pieces. Why not on this issue? I would like to know if the figures by the shell-to-sea campaign are overblown or not. The benefit to the Irish state, to be later no doubt squandered, if the deal was renegotiated to international standards I mean considering the government is obsessed with politely maintaining international standards by making sure we mortgage the future of Ireland to the point that it is unpayable and we will never recover until this government follows what the people wants and starts negotiating a haircut/default and a better oil/gas deal.

    This member of the Diaspora would like a new constitution, possible voting rights, a stake in the future of Ireland

    Also David could you write a piece on the development of economics since the 1970s – Chicago School of Businss etc and their impact on the world since. Does economics and do economists have the answer to the current problems or is it flawed science that needs a radical overall. Answers on a promissory note.

    Best from Beijing

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