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Category Archives: economy

I was delighted to follow the developments today in Limerick, culminating in the resignation of the CEO from Limerick City of Culture 2014. One down, a few more to go, before there may be a possibility to build a board and a structure that can actually see a successful year of City of Culture through. A proper board only needs one bean counter. I doesn’t need any Gombeen-men (or women). It needs people who are experienced culture workers, with roots in Limerick and with a global outlook.

A good working board should be able to multiply the State contribution of €6 million, raising funds from other sources, if the successful delivery so requires. A real board should be transparent, making a year-long experience of high impact possible.

It was a public meeting, following the resignations of the artistic director of Limerick City of Culture 2014, Karl Wallace and two of his co-workers.

Many of us at the meeting requested that the board of Limerick City of Culture 2014 take their responsibility and step down, or at least, that the CEO steps down. Over the past few days, all the bad headlines in media have been caused by the Board – not the culture workers or people of Limerick.

The honest questions from culture workers and members of the public were met with political platitudes, such as Pat Cox’s statement that Karl Wallace’s resignation “was only a bump in the road”. Cox also claimed that the board, altruistically, “works for free”. I think we need to see the full accounts and ledgers of Limerick National City of Culture 2014 Ltd if we were to believe that statement. From where are the €120,000 coming, to pay the CEO?

Limerick National City Of Culture 2014 Ltd (Company Registration Number: 533149) was set up on Tuesday the 24th of September 2013 in Limerick. The company’s current directors Conn Murray and Tom Gilligan have been the directors of 16 other Irish companies between them, 2 of which are now closed.

With the year 2013 now a closed chapter, here’s a short reflection….


The highlight of the year, without any doubt, was the performance of Amhrán na mBeach (Song of the Bees) at Glenstal Abbey. It was the happiest moment. All events leading up to that moment were also very enjoyable, and sometimes scary. It wasn’t until the day before the performance I felt confident that the eminent monks would actually perform the choral part of the score (many thanks to Wolodymyr Smishkewych for making it happen). The rehearsal with the ICO in their studio was pure magic. Something happens when a score is moved from my imagination, through the computers, to the paper, to the musicians, and they play it. The Softday Apiary Ensemble also turned out to be a real buzz, and I hope the friendships that developed over all our workshops will remain and continue to develop in some future project. Jenny Kravis readings filled the space between the sonic elements, like beeswax between cells in a honeycomb – it made all the parts stick together in its final structure. It was also amazing to work with our friends Dave Carugo, Lette and Keith Moloney and Bob Corrigan who formed a professional audio, video and photograph team documenting the performance.


The feeling that washed over me at the end of the performance made me think that THIS I have to remember and THIS is the way I would like to feel more often.


When it eventually got started, the Irish summer was beautiful. I reworked my herbal garden and we had several pleasant evenings with BBQ and watching the sun set in the west.


Then, we went for a holiday break in Sweden to visit friends and relatives, which turned into a medical and emotional frenzy with elderly parents in different hospitals.


Moving the Interaction Design Centre, from Engineering Research Building back to the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. This was not an easy move, as we didn’t want to move.

Engineering Research Building

Engineering Research Building

CSIS building

CSIS building

We lost some high-quality space and we gained some. We’re building a new design lab in the CSIS building. In the CSIS building, the heating is insufficient during winter months. My office gets to a maximum of 15 degrees C with its only radiator turned on. I know, from having spent years in the building before, that in summer it will be too hot. Apart from the lack of climate control, corridors are very narrow and we are more isolated from our research students, not by distance but by the structure of the space.


The recession continues. From my perspective the cost of living in Ireland is increasingly expensive while net salaries continue to fall. The politicians and their mates are getting top-up payments, while the rest of us are getting cuts. The only way to survive the political Fine Gael + Labour propaganda is through positive disengagement.

protest(from Softday‘s Silent Protest)

The Irish government got the outcome they wanted, a yes vote. While many of us are of the opinion that it was insane to sign up to a law that allows the Irish government to commit the country to some extremely strict and negative fiscal policies that are not yet clear, or, if actual policies will be in the shape or form outlined in the referendum propaganda.
So, what’s the good news about this? It is that now, the Irish government cannot blame the No-side for the continued sliding into debt and unemployment.
one Irish Euro
Some people wish for a Punt Nua, a reincarnated version of the Irish Punt, while others argue strongly against this and prefer to keep the Euro. With the current state of the Irish economy, switching to a national currency would send Ireland into a financial free-fall. It would work fine for buying and selling Irish stuff within the country. Exports would probably increase. You would also find that with 100 Punt Nua, you’ll get 15 Pounds Sterling when you visit Britain, 10 Euro if you go to France or Germany. With your 100 Punt Nua, you may get US$20 if you go to the USA. Your almost-for-free-while-we-rip-you-off Ryanair ticket would probably cost 500 Punt Nua, and that’s just to get you to Stanstead.

If we can stay in the Euro-zone, Germany needs to face up to reality and support closing down the defunct banks, without hitting the ordinary Irish tax payer, and bringing corrupt and greedy developers, bankers and politicians to justice. Real justice. All of this while injecting fresh investment in companies that make things, not only retail or perhaps the worst of all: import/export (which, to me, means money laundering). It is only by making things that we can work our way forward.

Last week, I had to buy some heavy-duty extension leads and some other electrical bits and pieces to get our exhibition Design@UL working in the former Franciscan church in Limerick City. The prices were high in the local shop and when I inspected the gear, it was Made in China.

Last year, when I was in Germany on an artistic expedition, having to do similar purchases, it was half the price and the gear was Made in Germany. That’s both interesting and alarming, and probably explains a lot if you think about it.

Ballpoint pen Made in Germany

We need to change this!

Will there be a day in a not so distant future when I can walk into a shop in Ireland and most of the basic stuff is actually made here, Made in Ireland, by real people in a real economy?
In the meantime, we would all be better off if the stuff we buy is made in Europe.

Vogon deodorant

A couple of weeks ago, our local community in Lisnagry and Annacotty in county Limerick discovered that our neighbour, county Clare, are planning to build a dual carriageway (what some would call a highway or cheapish motorway) straight through our local community. Their plans would require several houses to be demolished, farms to become unviable and the community segregated by a sacrifice on the altar of unlimited growth in road traffic.
Clare County Council claimed that they had made the plans publicly available already last year and that they had conducted at least one round of public consultation, which is really strange as none of us in the target area had any notion of this. Not even the farmers and landowners that the road would have a direct impact on (obliteration) had received any notice – no letter, no email, no carrier-pigeon, no nothing.
This, of course, reminds me of Douglas Adams‘ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where Arthur Dent‘s house is about to be demolished due to the construction of a motorway and while Arthur is trying to protect is house, the Vogon Constructor Fleet arrives in the sky and shortly thereafter demolishes planet Earth. The plans for the new intergalactic route, for which Earth was an obstacle, had been exhibited for several years at Alpha Centauri 4.1 light-years away, on public display in a filing cabinet in the basement of the Galactic planning authority.
The pure arrogance of post-Celtic Tiger politicians is stunning. Having read all available documents (they are still holding back the Constraints Study!), it is very clear that they have extrapolated growth in traffic volume exponentially based on a few years historical data when cars were whizzing around paid for by pretend-money from some of the now defunct banks and trucks were rolling in every second with globalised goods to be consumed in an ever-increasing death spiral by the happy Irish consumers. It is just tragic that Clare County Council and the consultants they hired have completely missed the fact the Planet Earth have just passed Peak Oil and it would be time to consider alternative economies and different ways of living, for example, growing your own food, use a bicycle and stop buying cheap and unnecessary garbage products from far away factories filled with child labourers.

One of the main problems behind the boom-to-gloom economy is the illusion that buildings create value, or at least some kind of buildings. As I’ve written before, making things is crucial for our survival, but to keep making the wrong things for the wrong reasons is counterproductive, or put it more direct – stupid. Making things is good if these things are needed. If they are not needed, don’t make them. This applies to buildings as well. There’s no point building a garden shed if you don’t need it.
But more seriously, do we need more shopping centres in Limerick? I read in the Limerick Post today that the current Mayor of Limerick, Jim Long, wants more of the UK chains further dilute the viability of the few existing shops in the city.

“…my own preference here is for the Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer and the Asda chain, so successful in the North of Ireland.”

Now, that is the most stupid thing I’ve read, when said by a Limerick politician while the Limerick City Centre is decaying due to that the City and County have built an almost endless number of retail parks (what an oxymoron!) around the city. For each big chain store that opened along Childers Road, Ballysimon Road, etc., the local and often family run shops in town were forced to either close or relocate. You get what you plan for.

Parkway Valley chaos

Looking at the Parkway Valley area, there was a plan approved to build one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, which is totally insane when you consider that the population of the Limerick area is only about 140,000. The originally almost useless land on the east side of the Singland plane was envisaged to be worth multimillions if commercial rents and rates could be extracted for every square meter of soggy old flood plain. With the current state of the site, with massive unfinished concrete structures in place, the land is even worth less, and in my opinion it now has a negative value as the land cannot be used for anything sensible.

With the so called Opera Centre (which is a silly name), we still have time to do something more sensible. I think we should apply the term un-building to the site, which basically means to remove the derelict buildings and restore the land to a state where grass, trees and plants can grow, people can walk, play and breath and perhaps even have a few allotments for growing vegetables. Just imagine how inviting the city may look if the entrance to the city centre was green. By un-building, we open up all kinds of possibilities for the future while being able to enjoy the place now.

In the current world economic crisis, it seems quite obvious that countries that make original things, from idea to final product, are the countries with the least problems.

In making, we also need to include food.

a morph between an image of Planet Earth and a typical pizza.

Consider what you have eaten today. From where in the world did the food come from? It would be interesting to consider if every packet with a “frozen dinner” in supermarkets had a map of where all it’s components originated and how it travelled to get to you. Perhaps there should also be a number, how many kilometres it travelled to get to you.

Have you ever considered how much land it takes to produce the food to sustain you for one year? Some say that in Ireland in the 19th century, 0.5 acres (0.2 hectares) would be sufficient to grow potatoes for 8 people, assuming that they also had some chickens, perhaps a pig, and a cow grazing on common land. With a modern, more balanced, diet, you probably need about 1 acre per person, or, 8 acres (3.2 hectares) for 8 people.

And, if you grow and make your own food, you have to do all the work. No need for any gym.

Our provider of organic vegetables and fruit, Stephen, had invited us to visit his farm/garden. It was a really sweet summer afternoon (after weeks of cold rain) and East Clare looked its very best and greenest as we drove up along Lough Derg to Whitegate.

Several of Stephen’s customers showed up during the afternoon and various organic foods tasted and appreciated while conversing about life, the universe and everything.
It’s amazing to see how much can be done with a piece of land. If more people engaged in this practice, Ireland’s dependence on imports would be substantially reduced, it would be better for the environment and better for all people living here.
It is time to drop the idea of ornamental lawns, work the land and make food.

>I found the other day and it’s a really fun tool for creating your own animated movies, based only on your typed script. In addition to your script, you can easily add camera movements, gestures, sound effects, etc., in a simple drag-and-drop interface.

I made this little movie, inspired by the current crazy state of the Irish economy and the Irish government’s mismanagement. No politicians were harmed in the making of this movie.