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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Watch it and weep

That didn't last long, did it?

Don't worry, I'm not actually returning to this blog. I'm just temporarily decloaking to spread the word about this documentary on the state of Ireland's economy.

I think it explains, in a way that the Irish media crucially refuses to do, what the problem is, what's really going on, and how Ireland is being carefully fucked over by international financiers.

This is essential viewing for every Irish taxpayer, every person in negative equity, every person recently made unemployed, every person who is seeing their income collapse as the cost of living soars, every person who still believes the lie that Ireland is being bailed out by Europe, rather than the other way around.

Please send this around, let the word get out. Things will only keep getting worse until we reach a tipping point where enough people in Ireland know what's really going on to successfully reject it and properly enforce real change.

Goodbye (again.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon

Irish blogging is a bit of a perilous thing, and I'm not referring to that poor lad who got hit for a 100K libel bill either.

It's basically unpaid writing, and many of the country's best bloggers have at some point walked away from it because whatever they were getting out of it wasn't worth the effort they were putting in.

Twenty Major is the most recent and highest profile casualty of this trend. Like all the others, I wish him all the best with his real life and other endeavours.

Unlike 20, or many of those other blogs, none of the 500 plus posts I made here ever won an award, though one or two did get seen by a lot of people and a few remain perennially popular. But this blog never garnered a massive readership, and to be brutally honest, that was fine by me. It was never meant to be populist, so much as thought provoking.

I took a contrarian and iconoclastic approach to current affairs, pointing out hypocrisy and corruption, casting a close eye on the media and identifying subjects and issues that deserved more attention. I'm happy with the body of work contained herein. I think it achieved the objectives I had for it, and the posts will remain here for the foreseeable, for anyone who comes by them.

What I'm saying in a long-winded fashion is that, like the others, the time has come for me to walk away from this. It began as a ranting board, somewhere to air my thoughts and opinions and vent a bit of spleen on occasion. Unfortunately, the things that predominantly make me upset these days are personal rather than public, and while I greatly admire the bravery of confessional bloggers, I really don't think I'd be comfortable going down that road.

Rather than be tempted into doing so, I'm instead calling it a day. I won't say that I will definitively never return. You never say never, after all. But it won't be for quite a while if ever. I have personal issues that require attention, wounds to lick, and that can only be done with dignity if done in private. Or at least, that's what applies in my case.

It's been fun, and I will pop back from time to time to do the housework and greenlight any comments that come in on the existing posts. The strength of this medium is the interaction between writer and reader, the debate that ensues, and I always really enjoyed that aspect, even the abusive posts. Everything that sparks a debate, or made me think, was a welcome interchange of thought, and that's what sets us apart from the beasts.

I'm off to get drunk and listen to some rock music now. The sun is shining. I hope I can shine too. Be good wherever you are.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Gotcha - Kelvin McKenzie calls out the Media Studies machine

The British Independent is running a fascinating perspective from old Red Top warrior Kelvin McKenzie on the explosion of media studies courses and journalism schools.

The article, which is an amended version of a speech he provocatively made at a London University recently, suggests that the media studies industry is little more than a racket, aimed at providing funds to universities and keeping hasbeen hacks in employment, rather than training the next generation of journalists.

On some of his points, he's clearly correct. Journalism isn't a profession requiring years of study. It's best learnt on the job, in a newsroom, under the guidance of older, wiser journalists. And with the print journalism industry currently in crisis and laying off workers left, right and centre, there are no job opportunities for the veritable hordes of graduates emerging from colleges every year.

McKenzie is probably right to advise would-be journalists to avoid such courses and seek employment directly from local newspapers and train up that way. However, in such a job shortage, there are few opportunities for starting journalists even there.

They are, in effect, competing with the many recently unemployed journalists who have experience. There has been a growing trend in the media as in other industries to utilise graduates as work experience fodder, paying them nothing as interns in order to avoid hiring staff. So a would-be young reporter is really up against it, seeking work where there is no work, against more experienced journalists and also against those who are prepared to work for no pay.

Many will struggle even to find unpaid placements. Others will struggle along for years as freelance workers, living on pittances. Most will simply give up and migrate into other industries, or else retrain in something else. For this latter cohort, they will effectively have wasted money and time on three years of study that was of little or no use to them.

The explosion of media studies courses has been identified in some quarters as an example of the dumbing down of education at both secondary and tertiary levels. It seems, on surface analysis, like an easy ride for kids to 'study' TV shows and newspaper articles for three years, play with sound editing software and video cameras a bit, then emerge with a degree.

McKenzie's point - that a shrinking industry does not require the 25,400 media studies graduates emerging from British universities each year - is only one aspect of the debate, however. Not all of those graduates wish to work in the media, any more than all history graduates wish to be professional historians or all literature graduates wish to be professional poets.

There is a sense in which a liberal arts degree functions to equip a student with critical apparatus that can be used generally in their lives. Educating young people about the intricacies of an ever more proliferating, ever more agendized media is not the most useless thing a university can do.

However, it does seem odd that we are now in an age where people are becoming professionally trained consumers of media even as the media itself is debasing (by way of job losses, lower reporting standards and increased dependence upon PR materials.)

There is an argument in favour of applying the same academic rigour of analysis to the sort of media people consume today as was traditionally reserved for the analysis of classical literature. Why should The Wire or the lyrics of The Beatles not warrant such attention? But the question arises as to where the line is crossed into risibility. What value, for example, might a doctoral study of Britney Spears' music possess? Ironic kitsch value only, I'd suggest, which itself serves to debase the concept of academic rigour.

On the one hand, if people want to go to university to study media, then that is in itself a legitimate consumer decision and universities are merely responding to the education market. Increasingly, they are encouraged to take this service provider perspective by governments.

But on the other hand, what is achieved for society by churning out tens of thousands of people with degrees in how to read newspapers closely? Is this not a form of dumbing down from the days when they learnt to apply that level of criticism to Ulysses or the Peloponnesian War? It clearly doesn't serve the media industry, as McKenzie acutely and somewhat cruelly points out. The only industry well served by this trend is the media studies industry itself.

In the meantime, McKenzie must be commended for making the point that such graduates ought not to expect an entrance into the industry with their qualification. Perhaps the universities might be more up front and honest with their 'customers' on this point. Then tens of thousands of students might not enter such degrees harbouring ill-fated ambitions to form part of the industry they spend three years studying.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is it coz I is black and a footballing millionaire?

A couple of incidents in the stratospheric heights of football recently serve to illustrate the new paradigm of racism today.

Firstly was bananagate, an incident of shocking racism that wasn't, which took place in London at an international friendly between Scotland and Brazil. Brazil won, thanks to two goals from wunderkind Neymar, who, like many Brazilians, is a tanned lad of multiple ethnic backgrounds.

In short, a banana was thrown onto the pitch near him at one point. Obviously, this was a despicable act of racism on the part of dour, sore-losing, pasty-white Scots. We had Neymar, who while still only a teen is already a millionaire and set to become exceptionally rich this summer when he moves to a top European club, pontificate about how offended he was by this appalling act. We had his teammate, the indisputably white Lucas Leiva, rant even more about how such actions were neanderthal and unacceptable in this modern age 'where we are all equal.'

Never mind the small fact that the banana had come from the end holding the Brazilian fans. The Scots, while protesting their innocence, made all the usual statements about stamping out racism. How could they do otherwise, with the ongoing sectarian problems of Celtic and Rangers?

Now it transpires that, in fact, it was thrown by a German tourist who was sat in the Brazilian end. This teen has been interviewed by the Metropolitan police for, effectively, just littering. The police are happy he had no racist intent and was just being stupid.

Will Neymar and Leiva now apologise for maligning the entire nation of Scotland? Don't hold your breath. Racism doesn't flow in that direction, as we well know.

The second issue was the publication of a report detailing the apparent lack of black managers in football. There were only 2 out of 92 in the whole English league. This, apparently, amounts to racism among the clubs, and the report noted that since fans had no problem with black managers, it was institutionalised within the industry of football at the top level.

Until you look at a couple of statistics, that is. The black population of England is around 2%. So basically, that's spot on the ratio of black managers in soccer. Another interesting statistic is that around a quarter of players are black, some ten or twelve times their prevalence in the general population.

So when the demographically proportionate number of managers are black, it's apparently insufficient and evidence of racism, but when ten times the proportion of players are black, that's not. It's just evidence of superior skills.

No one thought to look at the superior skills argument as it relates to the black managers. Two of the most high profile ones - John Barnes and Paul Ince - have been largely rubbish, in Barnes's case, spectacularly so. Gullit and Hughton have performed much better. The evidence points to black managers being just as likely to be rubbish as white managers.

Incidentally, the report didn't even refer to the astounding dearth of players or managers of Asian sub-continental origin. Perhaps sense prevailed at this point and they realised that those kids all gravitate to cricket instead.

Here is the modern race paradigm. It's still racism even when the proportion of black people in a given environment reflects exactly the population as a whole. Fair isn't fair. More than fair is the new fair. But it isn't racism when the proportion of black people in that environment exceeds tenfold the proportion in the population at large. That's not unfair. That's just greater ability.

And this paradigm cannot ever be queried, because anything and everything will be twisted into an allegation of racism, even when the complainants are multi-millionaires proclaimed globally, and even when the incident is something as daft and innocuous as a German teenager throwing away a banana he didn't want to eat while enjoying a soccer game on a trip abroad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Somewhere it's sunny

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. The recession has hit Skinner towers in earnest.

Income has plummetted, and bills are soaring. Scumbags have broken into and stolen from both the house and the car. There is a general air of gloom - such experiences are not mine alone, after all, but increasingly common across Ireland.

What pisses me off in particular is the theft of Mrs Skinner, who is emigrating to take up a job abroad. This is underpinned by the common assumptions that there are no jobs in Ireland and there won't be for the foreseeable future.

While I generally concur with this gloomy assessment (especially in the context of Ireland accruing additional debt by way of the 'bailout' which will not be diverted towards investment or job creation, but will actually suck money out of an already flattened economy in terms of repayments), I'm always aware of Mark Twain's statement that "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

Consensus has its own dangers beyond that of propelling prophecies towards self-fulfilment. As a lifelong contrarian, I am for once loathe to rail against the current thinking that Ireland is royally fucked. But I am prepared to state quite clearly that we have not become Zimbabwe overnight, our cities have not been levelled like Christchurch, nor has a significant proportion of our population and country recently been drowned and irradiated, as in Japan.

It's also worth remembering that lies beget lies (Oh, what a bitter web, etc). In fact, one of the ways to identify a fundamental untruth is to establish that it is spawning little untruths all over the place. Such is the case with the lie that Ireland is bankrupt and beholden to the EU.

This lie (in fact, it is the European banks which are bankrupt, not Ireland) is inspiring the many little lies we see today, the lies that cause the doom and gloom. Lies like there are no jobs, or our people must emigrate, or we must be taxed more and receive fewer benefits.

On a personal level, I've experienced these lies inspiring yet more tiny white fibs, as the web of untruth is woven to support the more significant lie that Irish people must emigrate or be financially punished. I object to those lies. I find them personally offensive. They are, in no small manner, ruining much of my life at present.

It's time we all examined our preconceived notions of where we are, collectively. Biffo, in his gnomic culchie reasoning, asserted that 'we are where we are.' This is demonstrably hard to argue with. What's debatable is where exactly that is.

Is it the PIIG basketcase economy Europe tells us must be punished and endebted? Is it a land bereft of jobs, opportunity and compassion for the unfortunate, a land riven with crime and fatally burdened with debt, heading to hell in a handbasket for generations, which smart people must abandon? Is it the European Zimbabwe?

I'm not convinced it is. The sun still shines on us. Perhaps we need to see through the clouds of lies and remember that it's always sunny somewhere, and sometimes it's sunny here too, even now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Desert Island Skinner

No, I'm not on holiday. (I'm Irish - I can't afford holidays any more.)

I've been compiling my 'Desert Island Discs' list. It was interesting fun actually, so I'm pleased to share the fruits of my labour. I'm also profoundly curious to know what would be on your list.

I've been listening to a lot of BBC radio recently. (Infinitely superior to Pravda.)

There is great current affairs and sport to be had from Radio Five Live. Six, which nearly got axed recently, is epic for quirky shows of interesting music presented by individualists. Three is the model upon which all classical music channels are based, but the original is still the best. One and Two are avoided like the plague.

Four is a personal favourite. I listen to it while driving for two reasons - firstly, its unashamed intellectualism makes me feel smarter than I actually am and distracts me from venting endless rage upon the blind and retarded people with whom I find myself sharing Irish roads, and secondly, because when Gardai stop you for whatever reason and hear you listening to a documentary about the King James Bible, or The Archers or even the Just a Minute quiz, their gruff bucolic heads become baffled, and they forget why they flagged you down, apologise, tug their forelock and wave you on with a jovial good day.

See? Even thinking about Radio Four makes your sentences longer and full of words like 'jovial' and 'bucolic'. What's not to love? Yet, like Six, it nearly got axed recently in the BBC cuts. Or rather, PC harridans wanted it dumbed down so that de yoof could like, get wot it woz all about, innit? Thankfully, the wiser heads seem to have prevailed.

I appear to have gone off track. What I really wanted to post about was my delight that Auntie Beeb has gone and archived the last 500 episodes of my personal favourite BBC radio programme in a searchable format online. Pay attention, Pravda - THIS is the sort of thing a licence fee is supposed to be for, not paying ridiculously inflated wages to stuttery eejits like Joe Duffy.

Anyhow, you just can't listen to Desert Island Discs without wondering what your own selections would be. This thought has strangely gripped me over the past little while, and as a result, I've finally closed in on my list of castaway music and items.

I would of course be happy to accept the gratis Collected Shakespeare and King James Bible that programme originator Roy Plomley kindly provided to castaways on the grounds that if he hadn't, the vast majority of guest would choose them as their book picks. Both, after all, are fine works of creative fiction, elegantly written.

So, after much aforethought, were I ever to come to Auntie Beeb's attention and be invited into the studio to imagine my stranding on a desert island, here are my eight pieces of music (in no particular order), book and luxury:

1. Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers

Probably the best band out of Britain in the past two or three decades. It was difficult to choose a single track from these lads. Tsunami, Everything Must Go, La Tristessa Durera - they're responsible for so many wonderful songs. I ended up edging for Motorcycle Emptiness because lyrically it expresses so much about what plagues the underclass and, amazingly, it was one of their first songs, from their stupendously good Generation Terrorists debut album. Anyone who loves rock music can't help but be impressed by the riffs dripping off this song.

2. Everyday is like Sunday - Morrissey

The high watermark of Morrissey - just coming out of the storm of the Smiths, before he got a bit lost in his own strange universe. You'd need to be inhuman not to relate to this a little, sometimes. We've all been there. A little, sometimes.

3. Here Comes The Night - Them

Yes, he may be a grumpy old cunt, but he always could and still can sing with the best of them. Throw in his undoubted talent for composition, and Van the Man remains a national treasure. You could frankly pick almost anything from his entire career, but I have a soft spot for this particular early performance when he was with Them, which comes complete with cringeworthy Jimmy Saville introduction. He's so young he's skinny here, looking disturbingly like Rory McIlroy the golfer, with it all ahead of him. Epic.

4. Hey - Pixies

The best song off the best album by a band who hundreds of other bands owe their careers to. Choppy, discordant, melodic, soft, loud, gentle, harrowing. And all in just over three minutes.

5. Then She Did - Jane's Addiction

Another groundbreaking band who never got the credit they ought to have. The album this comes from - Ritual de lo Habitual - is one of those rare beasts; a record with not one second of filler. Every song is a stone cold classic. No wonder they broke up afterwards. It couldn't be topped. This song is theirs and my favourite off the album, a paean to a dead mother written in Farrell's usual tangential manner with the band's trademark ocean-sized sound transiting through more movements than most operas.

6. Watching the Wheels - John Lennon

Lennon's comeback tirade against his many critics who had bemoaned everything from his marriage to his long weekend out of the game. Manages to shut them up with this simple, effective and moving testimony to the importance of what's important. Life, as someone once said, is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

7. Ya Na Ho - Jim Pepper

Pepper's career reads like that of a lot of jazzmen - he was innovative (one of the first people to mix jazz and rock into fusion) and a journeyman, playing sax in other people's bands for many years.
What sets him apart is his background - he was an American Indian, or what they call 'Native American' these days, of Kaw and Creek heritage. When he had the opportunity to do his own thing, often what he did was very different to the sax jazz he did for others or even his own fusion jazz releases.
Among his discography are a series of remarkable records from the Seventies, where he singlehandedly created a second new musical genre - part US folk, part Amerindian traditional chant, the songs are hypnotic, touching, simple and profound. In the end it was literally a coin-toss whether to pick this or Going to Muskogee. I like his classic Witchi Tai To as well, but I like this better.

8. Cloudbusting - Kate Bush

I didn't mean for this list to be so short on women. I like a lot of female artists, probably more than male. Something about the tone of the voice, maybe. There were a lot of women just outside my top eight in the end. But this was always in there, as was a good few more of Kate Bush's unique songs.
This has everything, frankly - a song about experimental science from a child's point of view, complete with subversive critique of big government, heartaching expression of family life torn, and an epic video starring her as a little boy and Donald Sutherland as Dad.
She's got a new album coming out this year apparently. I'll be first in line as ever. She's an international treasure.

Oh, yeah. I get a book and a luxury item too.

I'd love to be pretentious and say something like Finnegans Wake, which would certainly keep you going for as many years as you might be stranded on a desert island, if not for many lifetimes. But the first time was a struggle, and it frankly isn't that much fun picking apart multilingual puns. I'm going to plump for an old favourite, a real blockbusting literary masterpiece - Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.
Burgess wasn't just the author of nasty little shockers about violent kids who drink drugged milk and speak Russian. He could write - properly write - too, and this was his bona fide masterpiece.
Effectively it's like a tragic Zelig. It's the whole of the 20th century in a novel, told with gusto and brio. Everytime I read it, there's something new in it I didn't properly notice before, because it is absolutely brimming with ideas, set pieces and literary genius. It should have won the Booker Prize in 1981, but the best books never do win the Booker.

My luxury? Well, on a desert island you already have solitude, which is what I find luxurious these days - time to myself. Since that's a given, I'm rather torn as my choice would be dependent on the flora of the island I landed on. Is there any barley growing there? What other plants exist? One assumes food is available, but the words desert island imply sand not crops.
If there was barley, I'd go for a pot still as my luxury item. Assuming there are trees, I'd be able to make my own whiskey. A still would remain useful even if one was only distilling fruit though. Yummy fruit brandies are still better than no alcohol. But without barley and wood to mature my spirit in, it just wouldn't be the same. There's a reason why whiskey, an Irish invention, is adored worldwide and pineapple brandy is not.
So, if there was no barley, I'll take some feminised cannabis seeds and grow some weed instead.
Either way, on my desert island, it would be my rules, so no prohibition on either distilling your own or growing your own, and I frankly don't mind which, though I'd edge for the still if barley was available.

That's my list anyway. What's on yours?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More 'pin the tail on the donkey' appointments

The list of Junior Ministers has been announced, and just like the seniors, it appears as if the names were pulled out of a hat in a raffle.

Among the lowlights -

Gaeltacht Affairs – Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley
Confirmation, if it were needed, that Fine Gael intend to shovel money at the language mafia.

Primary Care – Department of Health Roisin Shortall
One wonders why Liam Twomey didn't get this role, what with him being, y'know, an actual GP and former FG health spokesman and all. WTF does Shortall know about the intricacies of primary care?

Small Business – Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation John Perry
His previous briefs were science and the marine. Why isn't he in one of those roles now?

Tourism & Sport – Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport Michael Ring
A waste of Ring, as I said before. He could and probably should have been the senior here. Why not Shane McEntee?

Trade & Development – Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Jan O’Sullivan
Facepalm time. There are literally dozens in the two governing parties better suited to this role than Jan.

Disability, Equality & Mental Health – Department of Health & Department of Justice, Equality & Defence Kathleen Lynch
God Almighty. She frankly should never have been promoted again after writing references for rapists. Yet another stereotypical appointment of a woman to a 'caring' portfolio.

Public Service Reform & OPW – Department of Public Expenditure & Reform & Department of Finance Brian Hayes
Hayes gets the key-holding job of the OPW. Well, I suppose it might keep him out of trouble, at least.

European Affairs - Department of the Taoiseach & Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Lucinda Creighton
You must be kidding. Lucy-Loo dealing with the EU? Does someone have a deathwish? This post had Alan Kelly written all over it. He's done a belting job as MEP and knows how the place works.

Training & Skills – Department of Education & Skills Ciaran Cannon
Why is the man who ran the PDs into extinction being rewarded with a job? And what does John Deasy have to do to catch a break here?

Public & Commuter Transport – Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport Alan Kelly
Kelly's able, but this really had to go to a Dub who knows what needs done, not a lad who was Munster's MEP until a wet weekend ago.

The others depress me nearly as much. The front bench appointments really don't fill me with any confidence about Enda Kenny's ability as a 'chairman Taoiseach'.

Plenty of pratfalls ahead, I fear.

Musical cabinet chairs

Well, that's not exactly reassuring, is it?

Inda ended up delaying the cabinet announcement for ages because Labour were having a storming row over who got to plant their arse in ministerial mercs, and when he did announce the line up, it was a total dog's dinner.

To borrow a sporting analogy, it would be like playing Robbie Keane as goalkeeper, Shay Given up front, and dropping some of the best players.

In fact, it looks as if Enda got them to play a game of musical chairs, and then, when the music stopped, told whoever had their arse on a seat to reach underneath and open the envelope to find out what their brief was.

Let's go through it post by post, shall we? G'wan then.

Taoiseach - Enda Kenny. Not much can be done about that. In an ideal world, it would be Gilmore or Bruton, but there you go. Kenny it is. Ah, well. Keep calm and carry on.

Foreign Affairs - Gilmore.
Was always going to claim a plum job for himself and Iveagh House is notoriously an easy ride. But he's not the most diplomatic of people, nor the most outward looking. (In fairness, not the worst either.)
Who should be doing the job? Ruairi Quinn or Richard Bruton. Both are well known internationally and usually smooth operators. Plus, we badly need someone with financial know-how to deal with the pressing issues coming at us from Brussels.

Finance - Noonan.
Well, he may have performed well during the election, but he's still a poor third option (if not fourth) behind Quinn, Bruton and probably Joan Burton too.
This is his reward for the election work and the negotiating work. Let's hope he doesn't fuck it all up like he fucked Fine Gael's electoral chances up for a decade.

Public Service Reform - Howlin.
WTF? I mean seriously, what the fuck? This is so wrong on so many levels. After doing the heavy lifting of ensuring that there WAS a public sector reform minister, Fine Gael seriously dropped the ball here. Looks like they gave the post to Labour after claiming Noonan for Finance, expecting Joan Burton or Quinn to take it.
Instead, for some reason fathomable only to internal mandarins within Labour, they've put a beard in charge of the beards. This will not work, frankly. There won't be any successful reform.
If FG had been smarter, they'd have ceded Finance to Quinn or Burton, and then put Noonan in this role and watched him do the business.

Justice, Equality and Defence - Alan Shatter.
Great call, albeit somewhat expected. The only downside of this that I can see is that he's not an obvious bedfellow of the military. Perhaps this means cuts there, I don't know.
What he will hopefully do is bring in a raft of legislation that will address some of the areas that Fianna Failure dismally forgot to deal with, from the long-awaited children referendum, to fathers' rights to increased prison tarriffs for burglary, theft, personal assault and petty crime.

Social Protection - Joan Burton.
About the only good thing you can say about this decision is that she couldn't do worse than Coughlan. No one could. Joan didn't want this job, won't like it and is probably seething she's been given it. It's so crass and obvious giving the 'caring' ministry to a woman also.
I'd have liked to see something bold done with this ministry. Leo Varadkar, perhaps, or Pat Rabbitte. Someone who could bring new ideas to how welfare should work without mindlessly cutting.

Health - Reilly.
Was never going to be anyone else. He's nailed this portfolio down for a long time. Now let's see can he kill the HSE dragon and if he'll refrain from sparing his doctor pals the hard lessons of recession and reform.

Children - Frances Fitzgerald.
Why is this a ministry? Why not a ministry for women, or men, or old people, or ... You get my point. What's so effing special about kids they need a full cabinet minister? Sure, Frances has all the right touchy-feely credentials, but I really fail to see what is going to be achieved with this.

Education - Ruairi Quinn. Not the worst decision, but a waste of Quinn's talent in my opinion. I'm glad a schoolteacher didn't get the job, but this might have been a good role for someone like Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar.
I expect Jan O'Sullivan wanted this one. We might have ducked a bullet there. O'Dowd was the FG spokesman recently. Another bullet ducked, I suspect.

Enterprise - Richard Bruton. Well, at least he made cabinet. It frankly makes no sense that he's not in Finance. I expect he'll do a decent job here, but Quinn, Burton or even Noonan or Varadkar could have been given this one.
Personally, I'd like to have seen Burton in it, as she might have put some manners on the likes of IBEC.

Transport, Tourism and Sport - Leo Varadkar. No, that's not a list of three things Leo knows very little about, apparently he's now the minister. And Jesus wept, is the next verse, I believe.
If Howlin had to have a cabinet job, this is one he could have held down nicely. He has that leprechaun look that Bord Failte love, decent GAA and sporting connections, understands the need to develop transport OUTSIDE the Pale and would have been unlikely to fuck any of it up.
Though to be honest, Jimmy Deenihan, Michael Ring or Willie Penrose might have been decent picks too.

Environment, Community and Local Government - Phil Hogan. Again, this smacks of having to accommodate him in there somewhere. This actually IS an area that Howlin knows about and this is where he should have been sat.

Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - Jimmy Deenihan.
Give the culchie brief to the culchie, is it? Deenihan would have been better in sport. Though to be honest, I don't see why he's in the cabinet really. I tend to find that the more rural the minister, the less arts and heritage gets dealt with and the more money is diverted into the Gaeltacht.
Since FG intend to end mandatory Irish in schools, presumably Deenihan is here to keep the language mafia quiet with endless grants, at the expense of arts funding and heritage protection. This should have gone to a Dub, ideally Frances Fitzgerald or Roisin Shortall.

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources - Pat Rabbitte.
Well, since none of the available candidates are going to take an axe to ESB wages, fibre the country overnight or nationalise our oil and gas fields, in the most important matters, it frankly doesn't make a difference who took this brief. Rabbitte's well able for it, but it's not the best use of him. Another talent playing out of position. This might have been a good role for Fergus O'Dowd, who at least understands communications. Coveney would have been an excellent pick, though.

Agriculture, Marine and Food - Simon Coveney.
Obviously Farmer Gael were always going to claim this one for themselves. Would have been immensely entertaining to see an urban Labour minister though, just to put manners on the endless begging bowl tactics of the IFA.
Rabbitte would be my ideal pick here. Sure, we'd see the odd tractor convoy on the M50, but it would be a small price to pay for dealing with the farmers, the fishermen and the cute hoorism of Tesco with alike disdain.
For a less abrasive and more blueshirt friendly option, Michael Ring would be perfect. Michael Ring, ffs. Perhaps Inda prefers having him doing the constituency chores. Waste of talent again.

Super Junior at Environment in charge of Housing and Planning - Willie Penrose.
If the rumours that he spat the dummy over not having a merc are true, he should have been kicked to the kerb, even if he is that rarity, a long-standing rural Labour TD. And if the government are serious about this role, and didn't just bump it up to accommodate Willie, then it probably should have gone to a Dub or at least someone from the commuter belt, where most of the shit in this brief is located.
What does Willie know about pyrite, or planning corruption? More importantly, what does he think he will do about it, once he stops sulking? This would have been a great role for Leo Varadkar. He knows the issues inside-out, and would have hit the ground running. It would be a decent role for him to learn his trade in too. Another missed opportunity.

I'd have axed the Ministry for Kiddies and introduced a Ministry for Employment too, since that is by a mile the most pressing issue in the country. That's where I'd have liked to see Phil Hogan. The man has wide experience in covering a number of different sectors, could negotiate hard with both bosses and unions, could keep an eye on Burton if she was in Enterprise, and could put the case for Irish jobs on an EU level.