Here's How is Ireland's political, social and current affairs phone-in podcast. You can air your views by recording a message on on our voicemail line, and presenter William Campbell will play the best calls in the show each week.
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Build Back Better
Professor Norman Fenton is a professor of Risk Information Management at Queen Mary University of London.
I want to clarify a couple of things that Norman said there. First off, Klaus Schwab is the founder of the World Economic Forum, this is basically an annual event where the captains of politics and business get together to hobnob. This organisation is the centrepiece of a whole slew of the craziest conspiracy theories, I'm not going to go into them here, but the core claim that Norman made was that Schwab and the WEF are making decisions that he doesn’t like.
This is nonsense. The WEF has no legislative function, and no executive function other than to manage its own event. It doesn’t have the power to decide anything much bigger than what’s on the menu for their shindig. Now, I'm sure that Schwab is a pretty influential person, given who he probably has saved in his phone contacts, but that means soft power, access to decision makers, the ability to persuade them. Neither he nor the WEF have any authority over them.
It’s certainly true that politicians meet at the WEF, it’s probably also true that to some degree they make plans there to coordinate their policies, but what Norman is claiming, that the WEF as a body is making legally binding decisions is just nonsense. It’s the equivalent of claiming that the manager of the Inchydoney Island Hotel is in control of Ireland, because political parties often have their think-ins there.
Earlier, Norman claimed that the ONS confirms that people being vaccinated makes them more susceptible to Covid. The Office for National Statistics, the ONS is the official government statistics office in the UK. It’s a really good service, it was made independent for the specific reason of not having politicians pressuring it to come up with convenient statistics, and is generally well-regarded.
I contacted the ONS about that claim, and although they don’t quantify it, they said that a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveytechnicalarticle/analysisofpopulationsintheukbyriskoftestingpositiveforcovid19s...
Dr Geraldine Simmie Mooney is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Limerick and director of EPI STEM, the National Centre for STEM Education.
One thing that, I thought, the Green Party had that left wing parties didn’t, was an understanding of how taxes could be used to modify behaviour. The Greens are often lambasted from both left and right for this, people saying that they want to tax everything, but that’s unfair.
They had recognised, I thought, that taxation is often a better way to modify behaviour than banning or regulating things. A good example was the plastic bag tax. This started out at 15c per bag, Its purpose wasn’t to raise money, it was to change behaviour.
And it worked. Use of plastic bags collapsed by more than 93 per cent when it was introduced. That tiny amount of money was enough to change mindsets and encourage people not to be wasteful.
I got in a brief Twitter spat with some people including the former Green Party TD and Senator Dan Boyle, about what was announced in the budget as a measure to ease the housing crisis, a three per cent tax on zoned land. This idea has been kicking around for years, not least from the Green Party, because they had recognised the bottleneck in the supply of housing.
Everything that you need to build a house can be put on the back of a truck, or the back of a Ryanair flight from the continent, so there is no real reason why prices here should be so much higher. Everything, that is, except the land.
If you have followed the Derelict Ireland campaign, or even if you haven't, you should know that there is a huge amount of vacant and crumbling housing in Ireland, and vastly more space still that is zoned for housing but has been sitting vacant for decades. This is not an accident. The vacant land is owned by a tiny number of fantastically wealthy speculators.
Your initial thought might be “why don’t they sell up and make a fortune?” The problem is what would they do with the fortune? Put it in the bank? The property price inflation is vastly more than any bank interest rate that they could hope to earn. As they see it, it is money in the bank.
Then why not build on it themselves and make a fortune selling the houses?
We Need to Talk About Rural Ireland
Dr Karen Keaveney is Head of Subject for Rural Development, and an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin.
A short update on the last podcast about the conflicts of interest and poor academic and ethical standards at the Active Consent Unit in NUI Galway - we will be doing a follow-up on that, because we have got large tranches of information, from the press office at NUIG and their Freedom of Information department, and we’re battling for more. One thing that I can say right now is that a spokesman for NUIG essentially conceded in an email to me that the study, that led to them claiming that 29 per cent of all female students and 10 per cent of all male students are raped while in college, they have conceded that those figures do not apply to the wider student body, only to a small non-representative sample of people who answered an online questionnaire.
"The statistics, as presented in the SES 2020, relate to those students who completed the survey. At no stage does it purport to be research detailing the level of sexual abuse in society, reported or unreported..."NUIG Spokesman
In fact, they said that they had never claimed that those figures applied to students as a whole, and they did a sneaky edit on their website taking down the page where they in fact claimed just that... which was a bit awkward because I had taken the precaution of making an archive copy of that exact page, and when I tweeted out a link to it, they restored that page and most of its content.
Preparing these podcasts is a huge time commitment, we’ve been working on that story for more than a year and there is still more to do on it, and for that reason I want to say a huge thank you to all the patrons on Patreon, that makes it easier for us to put time into researching podcasts and hopefully making them interesting to listen to, and if you could do the same and chip in a euro or two per month, that would really help to do this more often.
HH124 - Sex, Stats and Audio Tape
Dr David Ellis is Associate Professor of Information systems at Bath University and a member of that university's Academic Ethics and integrity committee.
The Active Consent Unit has its own section on the NUIG website, and its media page posts inaccurate media coverage of its work without comment. (Update: They appear to have now hidden their media page, but not to worry, I have it archived. Update 2: Since I posted on Twitter that I had the page archived, it seems to have been restored, with some, though not all of the links to false coverage removed.) What appears to be their YouTube account incorrectly claims that the research applies to all students, and posts on their twitter account make the same false claim.
The Active Consent Unit offers on its website 'workshops' targeted at second- and third-level students which address the problems their research purports measure. Dr Caroline West offers similar workshops on her personal website. There is no mention of this conflict of interests in the report they published.
So then this happened.
And with no notice at all, in the space of a single day, AA Roadwatch disappeared off our airwaves.
According to their own announcement, this was a decision made by the AA, which “decided to move away from this service and instead focus on growing other areas of [their] business”. That’s corporatespeak for closing down an unprofitable business.
I had quite a few people get in touch with me about this, mostly wondering whether I had something to do with this. If you're not familiar with my history on this, it’s pretty long-running, but in brief, the AA is a registered political lobbyist, it’s their job to persuade people, in particular politicians, to be more favourable towards the motor industry – in short, build more roads and less public transport.
They seem to have been pretty successfully. In the last few decades, while most of Europe developed sophisticated public transport, Ireland earmarked billions for motorways, often to places like Limerick and Westport that couldn’t remotely generate the amount of traffic that would justify the scale of the projects.
Public transport in Ireland is pathetic compared to most continental countries, the only major project in the last 30 years has been the Luas, and even this was ferociously resisted by the AA’s lobbying. They were central to the decision to punch the heart out of the system and make sure that the two lines didn’t initially connect, a decision that cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro, and commuters a decade of inconvenience.
The AA used AA Roadwatch to, day in, day out, beat the drum that the only significance of the Luas was how it caused traffic congestion.
I took several complaints that all basically said political lobbyists aren’t allowed to supply content for broadcast on RTÉ, and RTÉ used every trick in the book to defeat those complaints. Then, one Friday morning in July, they AA said that the slots were axed. It was obviously a pretty hurried decision, the staff didn’t even finish their day’s work, AA Roadwatch was broadcast normally on Friday morning, the announcement was made that day and the whole thing was shut down so fast that they didn’t even do the drivetime slots on Friday afternoon.
The south-Dublin accents, the Exposé,
John Lyons is the Independent Left councillor on Dublin City Council for Artane–Whitehall.
I want to talk about a scandal.
Actually, it’s not so much a scandal, it’s not even a scandal about a scandal, it’s a scandal about a scandal about a scandal. A third order scandal, if you like.
The first order scandal is about how gardaí handle 999 calls, or more accurately, don’t handle them. an inquiry, led by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien examined several thousand 999 emergency calls about domestic violence in the two-year period, finding that about half of these calls were cancelled when they should not have been.
Basically, what happened was that someone rang 999, the operator asked what service, fire, ambulance or gardaí, and because they witnessed a crime, or were witnessing a crime or were the victim of a crime they asked for the gardaí, and were put through, and the garda who answered the phone typed into his computer system the details of what the caller reported. They typed it into their computer, that’s important, I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Then the garda had to make a decision. They had to decide to send a hoard of officer in a fleet vehicles, backed up by the armed response unit, and the garda helicopter; or they had to decide whether to send a patrol car, or an officer on foot, or to inform the local station to check up on something when they got the time.
Given that these were all 999 calls, the bulk of these situations probably didn’t need a helicopter and the ARU, but they were certainly at the upper end of the seriousness scale.
But that decision, in half the cases, in HALF the cases that decision was to do nothing. Just to cancel the record in the garda computer system, and have no further action taken by any garda, just tick the entry off as completed.
In just two years, 22,000 calls labelled as priority one were, in the delicate terms of the policing authority cancelled for invalid reasons. 2,000 of these were domestic violence cases.
If that happened once, that would be a scandal in any normal society. But it didn’t happen once, it happened more than 2,