Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ireland used to produce baseball players

It's not quite as tough as missing Thanksgiving, but Opening Day in Ireland is pretty flat experience. It's not as if there's a great buzz in the neighborhood or even in the papers or on TV or anywhere really. Today is just March 31 in Ireland, but it's a special day in America.

At least those few of us who care can watch the games thanks to digital television and broadband. Still it would be great if there was even something of a buzz here about the start of a new baseball season.

I've often wondered if there were a few players from Ireland would that create an interest in baseball here. Hard to say, but it's not that likely to happen. Baseball's no longer dominated by the sons of Irish immigrants as it was in the years before World War I.

Back then some of the biggest names in baseball were sons of immigrants, including John McGraw, "Wee" Willie Keeler and the game's first superstar, Mike "King" Kelly. None of those all-time greats was actually born in Ireland, however.

There have been Major Leaguers born in Ireland, 44 in all, but none recently and none were stars.

The best of the Irish-born players were Jack Doyle from Killorglin, County Kerry and Patsy Donovan {photo} from Queenstown (Cobh), County Cork. Both Doyle and Donovan played for 17 years in the big leagues, with Doyle finishing up in 1905 and Donovan two years later.

Obviously I never saw either of them play, but statistically they were very similar players. Both of them hit just around .300 for their careers and both stole 518 bases. Donovan was an outfielder and Doyle played a few positions, but mostly first base.

The last Irish-born player in the major leagues was Joe Cleary from Cork who pitched in one game in 1945 without distinction.

Just something to wet your whistle while you're waiting for the games to begin in a few hours. For us Met fans, Opening Day is tomorrow night (that's just wrong - the first game should always be a day game) and despite all the bad press about money and Bernie Madoff, Opening Day is all about hope and we're expecting a great run and fun in September.

{Photo: from Vintage Baesball in Ireland}

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New license laws a burden on Americans moving to Ireland

Starting next week anyone wanting to get a driver's license in Ireland will have to prove that they've undergone 12 hours of tuition with an approved driving instructor. The idea is that young drivers will benefit and be less unsafe if they've had professional education and training.

Like most American teens I got my driving instruction from people with a vested interest in my safety and the safety of the car I drove - my parents. I paid for Driver's Education, but that was after I already had my license. I took Driver's Ed because doing so allowed me to drive after 9pm and provided a reduction in my insurance rate. It wasn't mandated by the state.

The new Irish law requires that the trainee take 12 one-hour lessons with a minimum of two weeks between each lesson. That means it will be a minimum of six months before someone can even take their test. Oh, and the lessons cost about €30-€35 per hour, which means the trainee driver must pay €360-€420 ($500-$590) before they can take their driving test.

This law is an insult to parents because it implies that they don't impart sufficient safety instruction to their children despite the fact they obviously want their children to take care of themselves and their cars. Back when I was a teenager I knew plenty of young drivers (all boys) who passed Driver's Ed without any problem, but still drove like lunatics. It wasn't that they didn't know how to be safe, it was they didn't want to be safe.

I'm sure this is true here too. Some boys just love danger and these added lessons will almost certainly make zero difference to road safety. However, I'm willing to keep an open mind. Maybe young Irish drivers will be safer as a result of these additional, pricey lessons.

The law may indeed have some merit as it applies to young drivers. However, it seems pretty silly that it also applies to those who take up driving after the age of 25. And it is downright ludicrous that it applies to licensed drivers who move to Ireland from outside the EU and a handful of other countries.

That means that any American or Canadian moving here after next week will have to go through this process as if they're a 17-year-old just learning how to handle a car.

What makes this requirement farcical is that an American or Canadian can actually move here and drive for 12 months without an Irish license on an International Driving Permit. That means that someone who moves here from America can drive without restriction on the IDP, but if they're staying beyond that first year they have to act as if they've never driven before and take a series of lessons aimed at the novice at a substantial cost in both time and money.

It's crazy. It's pointless. And it could even be damaging to Ireland.

When companies decide to invest abroad they often take into account the life their managers will have in the country. Obviously driving is part of life in Ireland and this new requirement is a not insignificant burden being placed on any manager (and potentially their spouse too) posted here.

Will American companies choose to locate their European businesses elsewhere because of this? Probably not, but you never know and in the cut-throat business of luring investment why even take such a risk?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Extra daylight means extra trouble for Irish parents

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time Ireland 'sprang ahead' over the weekend and reestablished the five hour lead over the east coast of America. Couldn't have you catching up, could we?

Now the sun sets an hour later, which is a good thing. Right?

It's particularly good if you're coming to Ireland during the summer. On those occasions when I've been traveling around Ireland during the summer months I've always loved how it's daylight to 10pm or later. I have clear memories of one weekend at a friend's house in Kerry when I was a student and really loving the evening sun at 10:30 at night. No better place on Earth.

But it's not all good news. The late sun is a real pain in the neck for parents.

Picture this: the air is warm, the sun is still pretty high in the sky and every kid in the neighborhood is out playing. It's a great scene. A great scene until ... a mother or father steps out of their front door and hollers out their child's name.

Within seconds a laughing face goes from curious to stunned to disbelief to wailing and gnashing of teeth. The child thinks it's around 6pm, but it's 9:15 and time for bed. And it's May 15 - there are still six weeks of school left, which means this scene will play out 30 more times before the school year ends.

The worst part, of course, is that there are always some kids whose parents leave them out until darkness falls. That means the 'incarcerated' lie in their beds stewing, listening to their liberated friends still out playing.

Of course, as May turns to June the sun sets even later making sleep even more elusive for the youngster. Parents yield more and more so that children who should be in bed by 8:30pm are still out playing at 9:45. They have to be shaken awake in the morning and head off to school only barely conscious. Teachers will tell you that they get practically nothing done in June because the children are just too tired.

It's all just part of what it is to live at 53 degrees north, I suppose. I live on the east coast and I'm sure it's even harder for those parents along the west of Ireland. They probably have trouble getting their children off to sleep much before 10:30.

I know tourists like that hour in the evening. Most local people do too. Yet I'm not alone in wishing it wasn't so. The battles ahead will be wearying. I've played this game for the last 15 years and have a few more ahead of me. I'd have been just as happy to leave that hour in the morning where it was.

{Photo: Dingle, Co. Kerry from Tourism Ireland.}

Friday, March 25, 2011

Focus, Ireland, focus – 1990s not that important

Despite living in Ireland for 20 years, despite being Irish on both sides of my family, despite being married to an Irish woman and having Irish children and Irish in-laws and Irish friends, despite all that and more there are times when I'm completely dumbfounded by the Irish people. This is one of them.

Now first I should say that it may be that I'm misinterpreting the excessive focus of the Irish media and Irish Twitter users on the report of the Moriarty Tribunal. Yes, that again.

I hope I'm wrong and that the average Irish person is not really that exercised by the report's publication. I'd actually like to believe that for most people a bad result in Ireland's soccer game with Macedonia tomorrow night will actually cause them more distress. I hope that's how it is.

It's just that the radio and the Internet are still full of people fuming over the report, which is, after all, about a government tendering process that happened 15 years ago! And I haven't seen anything that says that the government got a bad deal. They wanted competition in the cellular phone market and they got it. Despite some of the more emotive claims, it bears no relationship to what happened at Enron.

Now maybe one of the losing consortia would have done a better job than eventual winners ESAT, but maybe not. What I remember of that time was how surprised I was at the speed with which the market was transformed. We went from one stodgy, overpriced, under-performing state-owned mobile phone company to a fully competitive market in next to no time. I don't think anyone could argue that ESAT didn't do what it was supposed to do.

Of course there are aspects of the deal that stink, but there are a lot of smelly government tenders in every country. It's important that government tenders be as transparent and equitable as possible, but at least in this instance we got a decent company and a competitive marketplace.

I'm not saying that if it can be proven that a politician took money from a businessman that he shouldn't be prosecuted, but I gotta figure if that were possible it would have happened long before now. You have to bear in mind that Judge Moriarty's report represents a (2,000 page) summary of 14 years of public hearings and his conclusions.

Public hearings. As far as I can tell all the facts presented in this report were already in the public sphere, which is why I can't quite understand why people are getting so worked up about it now. (Probably because most of the irate Twitter users were only in grade school when these facts were revealed the first time.)

There are real problems facing this country right now. If corruption is one of them - and I suspect no more so than in America or other western democracies - then let's learn the lessons from the mobile phone license tender and move on. Anything more than that - such that might even cause our new government to lose focus - would be far worse than just burying the whole report. We're in a big economic-financial hole and beating ourselves and each other over something that happened in the mid 1990s is totally counterproductive.

{Photo: TD (MP) Michael Lowry, who was at the center of the Moriarty Tribunal's investigation.}

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From little corrupt acts do big corrupt acts grow?

There is a fantastic story in today's Irish Times, one that I highly recommend you read. Basically, it's a story from the 1960s about an Irish missionary priest, a bottle of poitín (Irish moonshine), an elected member of the Dáil (parliament) and the gardaí (Irish police force).

As I read the story I realized that what I really enjoyed about it was the familiarity of it. Yes because it spoke volumes to a simpler, more stereotyped, and probably more enjoyable Ireland, but also because the story could easily have originated in New York or Boston or Philadelphia or Baltimore or Albany or wherever. Spencer Tracy's character in the Last Hurrah could have acted in exactly the same manner as this Irish politician (father of Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Henry Kenny).

It's a cute story of a bit of harmless corruption. You would have to be an anti-corruption zealot to be offended by the story.

Yet as I read the story in the same paper that today has pages dedicated to yesterday's publication of a report into corrupt dealings between politicians and businessmen I wondered if the bloodthirsty jail-is-too-good-for-them crowd would find the story amusing. There seems to be zero tolerance for corruption in Ireland today.

Maybe the zealots are right? Maybe tolerating these little incidents gradually escalates into the sort of corruption detailed in yesterday's report or other tribunals into misdeeds by politicians and the gardaí?

Does it start with a politician procuring a bottle of moonshine from the police for a missionary priest which morphs into jobs for the boys from the neighborhood which morphs into mobile phone licenses for the boys with the checkbooks, with a little kickback for the politician(s) making the decision? I don't know. The first case seems harmless, the second is legally dubious and possibly immoral, and the latter is plainly 100% wrong.

Today Twitter is aflame with calls for the columnist Sarah Carey to be dismissed by the Irish Times because she admitted lying to the Moriarty Tribunal about leaking material from the Tribunal to the press. Carey says there were many leaks and thought she was acting the public good. She later admitted to the Tribunal that she had lied earlier while testifying.

She leaked; she lied; she owned up. I can probably live with that. Maybe it's just that I'm older than most of those calling for blood on Twitter, but I'm more than willing to forgive Carey this transgression. Judge Moriarty said she was one of the few to own up to leaking, although that didn't change the fact that what she did was "irresponsible, in flagrant breach of the course of dealings that had been clearly conveyed to her."

She did wrong, but I don't think she should lose her job. I see her crime as closer to getting poitín for the priest than getting a big check in your back pocket for abusing public office.

{Photo: a poitín still from}

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Irish corruption tribunal: we were wronged and will have to pay

The Moriarty Tribunal report into corruption in Irish political life was published today. The Tribunal has spent 14 years to get today's publication day, 14 years and somewhere between €100-150m (that's $140-210m). And for all that money the Irish taxpayer got ...

Nothing. There will be no prosecutions because the report "has no legal standing." We got nothing, but a lot of lawyers made a ton of money from the Tribunal. At least it went to a good cause, right?

The Moriarty Tribunal was established to investigate the financial affairs of two elected officials - former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles Haughey and TD (MP) Michael Lowry - and the links these men had to prominent businessmen and the influence these links had on government decisions.

The report is damning, but it wasn't worth it.

Today Haughey {photo} is dead. He got a big state funeral when he died. His family still lives well. Lowry is still a TD. He has been re-elected a few times since the first inkling of scandal touched him. A few businessmen may come out smelling a little less than rosy, but then again what tough-nosed businessman doesn't smell a little less than rosy?

One of those businessmen is Denis O'Brien, who the report found had help from Michael Lowry winning a mobile phone license for his company ESAT. O'Brien, through ESAT, made a fortune out of that decision and Lowry, in turn, was handsomely rewarded.

Ben Dunne of Dunnes Stores also features in the report. You might remember Dunne as the guy who was talked down off a Miami hotel ledge back in 1992, when he was high on cocaine and "in the company of a woman not his wife."

For that incident he was forced out of Dunnes Stores by his sister. He went into the property business and, the report claims, sought out the help of Lowry in an arbitration hearing on rent paid by a tenant of one of Dunne's buildings. In his defense, Dunne says he was "unbalanced and unwell" in the 1990s and using "mind altering substances" which affected his memory and behavior.

So a few smudges on reputations, but that's all.

However, there will be serious repercussions because there is at least one business that was shafted during the mobile phone licensing process and five will get you ten that they are are going to be suing the state for hundreds of millions of euros.

The Irish taxpayer is going to have to foot those bills. The voters were wronged and the taxpayers must pay. What a system!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bush was a uniter; Obama's a divider

It all started just around the inauguration in 2009. Maybe it was before that. Election Day? I can't quite remember now, but it was around that time. Before Barak Obama became President of the United States the people of this state were united, beautifully so.

There had been some straws in the wind even before the election, but once it was clear that Barack Obama was going to be President the real fight started. Neighbor turned on neighbor, brother on brother.

I had never even heard of Moneygall before Obama came along. Why would I have? I'm sure I've driven through it on my way to Limerick, but 300 people live there. It made no impression. Believe me, I wasn't the only one in Ireland who had never heard of Moneygall before.

When it transpired that Barack Obama is descended from a Falmouth Kearney, who left Moneygall for New York in 1850 suddenly the town (hamlet, more like) started making the news. The instant reaction of most people was, "Where? What did he say? Moneyball? Isn't that a book by Michael Lewis?" Okay, that last one was only me, but you get the picture. Nobody knew nor cared about Moneygall. God be with the days.

Now we have two counties practically ready to go to war over Moneygall. Although the media has repeatedly described Moneygall as being in County Offaly, it apparently could be considered to be in County Tipperary too. I only found this out today, thanks to the Irish Independent.

To my eye it seems that Offaly has the stronger claim, but let's face it the American media is going to be much happier with Tipperary - it's a known quantity - than Offaly. I can already hear it: "How do you pronounce that? Awfully?" Accuracy be damned, Tipperary has a strong hand here.

And then there's Kilkenny. The people of County Kilkenny want in on the action. "Moneygall? Offaly? Tipperary? Show me the ancestors!" they demand. You see, Falmouth's family left little by way of a permanent mark on Moneygall, but going back a bit further there is a definite relative - a grand-grand...uncle - Bishop John Kearney who is entombed in St Canice's Cathedral {photo} in the beautiful city of Kilkenny.

Now it's really getting ugly. You don't have a direct line in Kilkenny, but you have an actual tomb and it's a beautiful spot. Not just beautiful, but lively. The President's people will love Kilkenny and so will the American press.

You see how Obama has divided the people? The desire to claim him as a 'native son' could easily lead to blood, war, ruin. Offaly? Tipperary? Kilkenny? Bad-tempered hurling matches engender less bad feeling.

It was all so much simpler with President Bush. No county, no town or hamlet claimed him or wanted to be associated with him. (I think there was some distant connection, but it's been officially buried.) From Election Day in 2000 until he left office, the people of Ireland were quite content and of one mind in detesting the man.

Didn't matter what he did, they were against it. Every word out of his mouth was greeted with a sneer and every action with a protest. Those were happier times.

Now the country is choosing sides in a three-way battle to make Obama their own. It won't end well. As we all know, the Irish have long memories and this division will take generations to heal.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ireland has its own March Madness

It's March 17 and that can mean only one thing. People have been waiting for this day all over Ireland and in America too, of course. Yes, it's time for March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament.

Okay, that's a lie. There is virtually no interest in the NCAA Tournament in Ireland. Basketball is a popular game to play here and there are some NBA fans in the country, but interest in the college game is limited to Americans who live here and those Irish people who spent years living stateside, especially if some of that time was spent in college. Maybe now thanks to digital television - ESPN America in particular - more Irish people will be drawn to the great spectacle that is the NCAA Tournament.

So the Irish don't gather at water coolers to discuss the office's March Madness pool. {Fortunately for me that need is met by a pool among my college friends. I have Georgetown winning it all.} No NCAA pools, but I could if I was a gambler - and I'm decidedly not - go into my local Paddy Power betting shop and (legally) bet on each and every game in the tournament. Paddy Power doesn't miss a trick, although I doubt there's much Irish betting on the tournament.

No NCAA here, but the bookies do cash in on Ireland's own form of March Madness. Cheltenham. Those who have lived in Ireland (or Britain) are fully aware of Irish people's obsession with the 4 days of racing in the west of England.

For many Irish people - more men than women - this is what St. Patrick's Day means: Cheltenham. They seem to live for the chance to get over to England on St. Patrick's Day. To these people talk of the patron saint and national holiday and parades is blah, blah, blah. It's all about the horse-racing.

I'd never heard of Cheltenham before I moved here and it surprised me how important this English race meeting is in Ireland. I mean, there are big Irish race meetings - Leopardstown at Christmas time, the Curragh around the Irish Derby and the Galway races - but nothing compares with the interest in Cheltenham.

I'm not a fan of racing. I have never been to a racetrack in all the years I've lived here. I've never set foot in a bookie's shop to bet on a horse race (or anything for that matter). It's not my thing. But even I'm aware of Cheltenham, how the "Irish" are doing (that refers to the horses as well as the "punters" - bettors).

You can't miss it because it's live on television, a top item on the news, front pages of the newspapers and, if you're listening to the radio during the afternoon, whatever program you're listening to will be interrupted to bring each race live to those who can't be in front of a television.

During the Celtic Tiger years Irish attendance at Cheltenham was massive, but it's fallen off somewhat since our economic collapse. Maybe not as much as you might imagine, however. So those who can, still go and those who wish they could go, get themselves to the bookies to place their bets and then find a television or radio in the afternoon to follow the action.

I thought growing up near Saratoga that local interest in that annual one month of racing was very high, but it is as nothing compared with the focus on Cheltenham. It's a madness that overcomes the people of Ireland every March.

{Photo from Getty Images.}

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stand silent for Ireland on Thursday

It's always easy to be cynical and believe me I can be good at it. So when I saw on Twitter (#IrishMinuteStand) that some people were trying to organize a protest against the bank debts that we the taxpayers of Ireland are expected to bear my initial reaction was to cringe. No one's going to pay attention and what good will it do anyway? This is just a pointless, possibly embarrassing, gesture.

The organizers want to highlight the people's rejection of the imposition of the debts of "crooked and incompetent banks" on taxpayers and that Ireland is being forced to "carry the full financial responsibility for saving the Euro."

The protest will take the form of a minute's silence at noon on St. Patrick's Day. {I presume they mean noon wherever you are, not 12:00 in Ireland.} The organizers are especially keen that parade organizers support them in their bid.

The cynic in me can't see that happening. I can't see any parade of size taking on a protest organized via Twitter. Besides a protest of such scale would need a lot more time to get it right. Twitter is fine, but it's not going to get a big parade to stop for a minute's silence. Such a protest needs organization, explanation and negotiation.

Still the more I thought about it the more I realized just how great such a protest would be. Imagine if Dublin fell silent at noon on Thursday. That would be great. But imagine if 5th Avenue fell silent on noon on Thursday. That would be powerful. What a TV moment!

That would be something else, something for Ireland's hangmen - Sarkozy, Merkel, Barroso, Trichet & Rehn - to ponder. At the moment it's not hard for them to ride roughshod over us because Ireland is a small nation. It would be great to show them that while Ireland is a small nation, the Irish are not. They would probably not be happy at being called out in Dublin, but I suspect they'd experience a cold sweat if they saw such a protest in New York.

The difficulty, of course, is that we (thanks to our elected officials) are largely responsible for the country's economic collapse. People here acknowledge that and we all know that those debts incurred by our feckless government's excessive spending are ours to bear. On our own.

What we reject is that those debts incurred by Ireland's banks, owed to German and French banks and other institutions are ours? Why should we pay for the bad loans made by those banks to our stupid banks? Why should we pay if Europe's regulators failed to act to stop what they could all see (more clearly than we could) - that entire country was becoming a property bubble?

Ireland's facing a generation of economic pain if the bank debts remain ours alone. The powers of Europe don't much care about that, however. They don't want their banks troubled; they don't want to be honest with their citizens about the role played by their banks in our problems; they don't want to ask their citizens to share the burden. All they want is for us to pay back those debts regardless of cost or morality. That is far more cynical than I could ever be.

Stand silent for Ireland on Thursday.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Was cricket invented in Ireland?

I was all set to wax lyrical on Ireland's big victory yesterday and simultaneously impress you with my encyclopedic knowledge of cricket. I was ready to put it all in context comparing yesterday's win over England with the 1980 US Olympic hockey team's victory against the USSR.

Unfortunately, two things conspired to stop me. First, I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of cricket, although I was almost able to explain a 'yorker' to my daughter last night, which impressed her no end. {Cricket has an amazing language all its own. You can get a sense of that here.}

Second, Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe has done a great job of putting yesterday's win in context, including the 1980 Olympics reference. It's worth a read if you're a sports fan but know nothing about cricket.

What Cullen can't quite convey is just how much this cricket win has caught the imagination of the Irish people, most of whom are as cricket-savvy as I am. To put it mildly, cricket is a minor sport here, but everyone in the country from north to south and east to west is thrilled by the Irish part-timers' success against the English all star team.

The Irish team is a collection of electricians, carpenters and salesmen whereas England fields the stars from their professional cricket league. Beating England at anything is always special here, but particularly in cricket it's extra special because nobody here really understands anything other than "We beat England." The fact the team contains players who have experienced the same troubles as the rest of the country due to the economic downturn has only enhanced the joy people feel.

If you live in America or Canada, cricket is most likely a mystery. That wasn't always the case, however, as cricket was widely played in America before the Civil War, but was eclipsed by baseball after that. Of course some people claim baseball evolved out of cricket, but I'm skeptical of such claims, which ignore the fact that "Base Ball" was being played in Pittsfield, MA in the 1790s (sorry Abner & Alexander, although Alexander Cartwright did lay down the rules we recognize today). Besides, the two games aren't really all that similar.

The origins of cricket are pretty murky and despite some claims that the game was invented in Flanders (now Belgium), most believe it was invented in England many centuries ago. However, I had a friend who believed it was invented in Ireland.

I wish I could ask him about this now, but unfortunately he died some time ago. From what I remember of the conversation (1993) he said the game was played in and around Wexford way back when (c 1250) and that the first English army to set up camp in the area absorbed the game from the locals and over the centuries it spread wherever the English/British Army went. I can't remember why he said it died out, but if it became associated with the English that may have been all that was needed.

I can't assess his claim, but I can tell you he was not just some loon. He worked for the National Museum of Ireland and his working life was devoted to the history of Ireland and protecting and interpreting the archaeological artifacts in the Museum's care.

I really wish I could remember more, such as was this theory based on items found in Wexford, which is what I think he said. It's really annoying me today, but that conversation sort of went out of my head until yesterday when I was suddenly transformed into a die-hard cricket fan along with the 5.5 million other people living here. We cannot wait for the next 'innings' this Sunday.

{Photo from Getty Images: Yesterday's record-breaking hero Kevin O'Brien}

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ireland votes for new faces, not new policies

So the election is over. There is a great amount of self-congratulatory comment about how the election was a democratic revolution. While the result of the election was excellent for both center-right Fine Gael and center-left Labour and a renunciation of centrist, populist Fianna Fáil, I would hardly call it a "revolution."

It's more like a change of management than a revolution. Fianna Fáil failed - spectacularly so - to manage the government, the banks, the economy, etc. The people didn't revolt, however, they simply replaced the management team with Fine Gael and Labour (presumably - the coalition deal is not finalized yet).

The biggest issue here at the moment is how will we cope with the massive debts thanks to our bank guarantee and the huge hole in the public finances due to mismanagement of income and expenses by the previous government. During the campaign both parties pledged, essentially, to ask the EU and European Central Bank (ECB) to cut us a break, but nothing more than that. Unlike some of the smaller parties and independent candidates, neither Fine Gael nor Labour vowed to repudiate the debts of Irish banks. We're stuck with those.

On the fiscal deficit, the two parties had slight variations on the theme of government cutbacks and increased taxes, which has been laid down by our ECB/IMF overlords. Again nothing drastic and nothing that can't be settled in negotiations between the two main parties.

This is what the people wanted: new, hopefully better management, but no real change. This little detail was lost in most of the breathless coverage in the Irish media, which was focused on the collapse in the vote for the previously inevitable Fianna Fáil. They now have only 20 members in Ireland's parliament (Dáil), down from 71 before the election.

Fianna Fáil has been dealt a serious blow. They may not recover. Yet they may. Either way, it hardly compares with the changes and state of flux across many states in North Africa. They're having revolutions. We're not.

{Photo - Fine Gael leader and probably Ireland's next Prime Minister, Enda Kenny}