Monday, February 23, 2009

Willie O'Dea and the Irish Submarine, Asgard 2

In 1896, at the age of 53, having himself emigrated on a 'Coffin Ship' from Liscannor in county Clare, the Irish inventor, John P. Holland presented the US navy with a working submarine capable of spending hours underwater and of making 7 knots when travelling on the surface. It was called, ironically enough, 'The Plunger'.

Mind you, 'The Plunger' was following on the duck-steps of two other submersible vessels, 'The Intelligent Whale' and 'The Alligator', both of which 'boats' sank during trials, with the loss of all aboard. Holland was a visionary, effectively seeing off the challenges of another submarine inventor, the aptly named, Simon Lake, and also being the first to conceive of employing electric motors and the internal combustion engine to power a submarine. Holland also invented several torpedoes, employing the use of gyroscopes and pendulums for guidance.

However, the inventors lot proved not to be a happy one, and John was to see his own company sink into oblivion owing to the reticience of the US Navy to invest in such 'dastardly and ungentlemanly' technology, before he died, penniless, in 1914, a year that saw Germany, using a modified version one of Hollands rejected designs, launch a fleet of powerful U-Boats on the helpless Lusitania and the British merchant marine in general.

Today the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, announced that he would not spend €2 million of the insurers money in salvaging the Irish sail-training yacht, 'The Asgard', which having sank in September 2008, off the NW coast of France, now lies in wait on the ocean floor, 83 metres below the surface, yet another Irish submarine, denied a future by an uncaring government and navy. John Holland would not be proud of this decision to leave a perfectly good, Tyrell/Arklow-built wooden-traditional yacht on the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.

The Asgard 1, named for the Norse god of the sea, was ownedby Erskine Childers, who after years of research published in 1913, but only on a spying mission on the Germans celebrated in the book, 'The Riddle of the Sands'. Later on, in a gun smuggkling opoeration, The Asgard landed weapons destined for the war againset colonial Britain.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Top Ten Tips to Improve the Economy - My part in our downfall

I thought I would share some ideas for a better Ireland with you, ideas that I have distilled from the deafening twitter that is universal across all media. These ideas are not comprehensive, nor do they offer any instant panacea for our economic malaise, but they are in my opinion, sound, sensible and workable measures that would ease some of the current pain. Perhaps the Dail might debate and evaluate these and several other of the many sensible economic issues that I have heard voiced, so we will know that the Government is really serious about trying to improve our economy. Why not encourage the public to submit ideas to a cross-party committee. Then have each of say the top 100 ideas roughly costed and then published and debated in the Dail. Prevent the 'vested interests' (Unions, Departments, Industry experts etc ) from nay-saying any idea unless in a transparent and public forum. You might be surprised how supportive the public would be:Here goes my ideas;
My Top Ten
1. Immediately reduce VAT on food and clothes to 15%, until Jan 2010. That would slow the cross border shopping and maintain jobs in Retail in the Republic.
2. Charge all OAP's with Free Travel Passes €2 for any trip on bus or train over 10 miles in duration. The extra €'s generated would save over 200 drivers jobs.
3. Introduce a €4-per-week child bus pass in all urban areas. This would encourage school-goers bus use and reduce car use, while savin g the average parent €5 - €6 per week to boot. (95cents per trip on city buses)
4. Pay Bus, Train, Dart and Luas Drivers 38 hours pay for only 30 hours work. Pay no overtime. Take on additional drivers to do the additional hours. Increase employment without costing the tax-payer.
5. Force ESB to lower electricity prices for manufacturing industries and reflect the true lower cost of Oil and Gas while making Ireland more competitive. (did you see the adverts where ESB are giving us a 1%(?) reduction 'cause they sold off some old plant mention of the cost of an oil barrell plummeting from $150 to $45 in the last 6 months though).
6. Force ESB to take in electricity onto it's grid from all Eco producers, even from small ones and thus reduce our reliance on Oil and Gas. Pay a small premium to such small suppliers.
7. Have Green Party encourage Government immediately to make all Insulation, Eco-heat and Solar and Electric generator products rated at Zero VAT. Encourage us to invest in our cold but expensive homes and offices, and in the meantime help keep more building industry workers employed.
8. Have ESB take on additional staff to work the overtime hours that the ESB workers consider their entitlement. Most ESB power station workers make double or triple the average industrial wage with this overtime. Increase employment and reduce electricity cost.
9. If the Green party are so keen to have us use CFC Bulbs, then why are the y not being manufactured here. Set up a PPP company to make the new 'better bulb' here in Ireland, not in China. then the Government could appeal to our sense of patriotism to have us buy them.
10. Re-open the Greencore plant in Carlow to process beet again, this time for bio-fuel. Tell Greencore it is in the national interest to do so, and keep the farmers busy and employ our workers in producing bio-fuel from a natural Irish product. Tell Greencore it is not in the national interest for them to re-develop Carlow into another useless housing estste full of the unemployed. Have CIE convert all busses and trains from imported Diesel to use home-grown Bio-Fuel thus creating an immediate market for this renewable and lower carbon-footprint fuel.
....and Finally...on a lighter note;
Having listened to Brian Cowen's address to the Dail this evening, I am convinced something about him has to change. I don't believe he even believed his rhetoric. Perhaps he could attend a make-over class, kit himself out in bright new clothes and deliver one 'happy' speech each week, on any topic....on each Sunday morning, so that the Monday morning papers news wouldn't all be so darned blue. If he lightens up a bit, maybe we might follow.