Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Seating plan for Dáil Éireann

with 7 comments

Update, January 25, 2011: This post has now been superseded by a similar site I’ve built elsewhere, called Who Sits Where?, and which can be found at

The post below links to the seating as of December 2, 2010, to account for the new seating arrangements on the opposition benches following the election of Pearse Doherty. This arrangement was superseded on January 25, 2011, when the Green Party moved to the opposition benches.


After watching a few electronic votes in the Dáil last week and being a little stumped as to why certain dots in the middle of the opposition half of the chamber were consistently showing up in green and not red, I went looking around for a copy of the Dáil’s seating plan.

I wasn’t able to find one anywhere online so emailed the clerk of the Dáil’s office looking to see if they could help; I got an email back this morning from Gina Long in the Clerk’s office (thanks, Gina) with a copy of the seating plan, and a list of who sits in which seat.

Given the amount of people who were keen to get a hold of  a copy of this when I went looking around on Twitter last week I’m throwing up the copy here for public reference. The chart and accompanying lists can be referenced when looking at the electronic voting display on Dáil broadcasts.

The seating plan was supplied in .dwg format so I’m uploading a .jpg copy here for the sake of easy access; the list of seats comes in two formats, one sorted by seat number and the other sorted by each TD’s surname in alphabetical order.

Written by Gav

July 5th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Bloody Sunday, in numbers

without comments

They say that numbers give a more distant perspective on things.

13 – the number of people who died on January 30, 1972 when they were shot British Army forces attempting to contain a Republican civil rights march in Derry.

14 – the number of people who ultimately died as a result of the Army shootings: John Johnston (59), an innocent passer-by, died in mid-June from injuries sustained after he was shot in the leg and left shoulder.

10 - the number of printed volumes of the findings of Saville's inquiry.

10 - the number of printed volumes of the findings of Saville's inquiry.

79 – the number of days between the shootings and the publication of the Widgery Tribunal findings.

90 – the number of witnesses whose testimony was heard by Widgery.

21,053 – the number of words in Widgery’s publication, including appendices.

9,417 – the number of days between the publication of the Widgery findings and Tony Blair’s announcement of a new enquiry, to be headed by Lord Mark Saville.

4,519 – the number of days between Blair’s announcement and the publication of Lord Saville’s report.

435 – the number of days of ‘Main Hearings’ held by the Saville Inquiry, which also held two days of preliminary hearings, two days of anonymous hearings, and five days of interlocutory hearings.

2,500 – the approximate number of statements received by Saville’s inquiry.

922 – the number of witnesses whose testimony was heard by Saville – over ten times the number called by Widgery.

30 million – the approximate number of words of testimony given to the Saville inquiry.

1,965 – the time, in days, taken by Saville and his team to prepare their full written report after the last day of hearings.

5,000+ – the number of pages in the printed edition of Lord Saville’s findings, split across ten volumes.

£190.3m – the costs incurred by the Saville Inquiry up to February 2010, including £15m in temporarily relocating to London to hear evidence from former soldiers who couldn’t travel to Derry over security concerns.

14,016 – the number of days between Bloody Sunday and the publication of the Saville Inquiry’s findings.

3,507 – the number of other people killed during The Troubles between 1969 and 2001.

Written by Gav

June 16th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

So that’s blogging dead, then

with 10 comments

Like a lot of Irish bloggy types I’ve been keeping an eye on the discussion over at Twenty Major‘s blog where a guest post by Una Mullally (formerly UnaRocks) has triggered a massive, and predictably sometimes overtly personal, discussion about whether the “Irish blogosphere” is over the hill.

As with most discussions, there’s good points to be made on both sides – even if both sides can get a bit grouchy and see a personal insult where there isn’t one to be seen – but feeling that I made a pig’s ear of my comment on the piece and wanting to address another point that isn’t being addressed in the comments, I thought I’d have my tuppence here. I’ll start by rewording my original comment and maybe going from there – the probably length of this post has led me to post it here rather than leave another thesis in the comments on the original.

Overall I think Una’s is a interesting piece and includes a few desperately-needed home truths – the fact that it’s provoked more than a few endorsements from commenters who are happy that Una has called the bluff of some circlejerky types where bloggers produce bad content but are encouraged to do more because of the backslappingthey get is a testament to this.

However, I think the comment left by Joe hits the nail quite squarely on the head: the notion of a ‘blogosphere’ is in itself a very cliquey phenomenon. Nobody refers to newspapers or broadcasters as existing in their own semi-autonomous platform and blogging shouldn’t be thought of in that way either. The problem with perpetuating this concept – that the ‘blogosphere’ is an independent platform where the values of what’s worth reading are somehow skewed from the rest of the world – only ends up endorsing this chasm of quality.

Personally I’d be uncomfortable with declaring Irish blogging being ‘over’ – as I wrote my comment on the piece, I noticed Suzy’s post revealing that Bertie Ahern’s book earnings have been declared tax-free, a piece that deserves to be picked up by the mainstream media because of its sheer newsworthyness. Blogs are only relevant as news sources if bloggers notice this kind of thing before a paid professional journalist can do it, and Suzy in one swoop has managed to proof that there’s life in the young dog yet. Likewise what the lads over at TheStory are doing in pointing out the abuse of public spending by certain people, and the attention they’re getting from other people for doing so.

There’s a world of difference between blogging being ‘over’ and the staple figures of early Irish blogging – Twenty, Rick, Una herself, Blogorrah – all moving on or finding their lifestyles changing as lifestyles inevitably do. For someone like myself who’s dabbled in it for about three-and-a-half years, the demise of Blogorrah or Twenty’s retirement were akin to a longrunning TV show being cancelled or the death of an elder statesman. Of course it changes the landscape a bit when a respected senior contributor disappears, but TV wasn’t dead when Gay Byrne quit the Late Late Show, nor was soap opera declared defunct when Brookside was cancelled.

Ireland exists in an unusual and somewhat perverse circumstance, where because of the everyone-knows-everyone-sure-isn’t-it-a-small-world culture we have in real life on this island, some people have an instinct to only read content that’s written by Irish people. This would be akin to people making a principled point in ignoring British TV or newspapers – it’s just too small a pool for many people of real impact to make any significant following.

Una comments that Ireland’s blogosphere has never been as vibrant as those of other countries to begin with, because

There’s no Gawker, no Perez, no Huffington.

I think if Ireland was bigger, there most certainly would be all of those sites – we’re a very gossipy race in Ireland. The problem is that for there to be  an Irish Gawker or a Perez, we would need there to be an enormous talent pool of Irish celebrities to ensure a reasonable turnover of content, where there simply isn’t. An Irish Gawker would be an electronic form of the Sindo Life magazine – God saves us all. There’s no HuffPo or Guido-type character because Irish politics is nepotistic, petty and severely underresourced. Too little happens and when it happens it happens on a scale that’s of very little use to anyone. What’s more, if Ireland had a HuffPo or a Politico – and maybe that’s what Mark Little’s new venture might ultimately produce – there’d be very few people to read it, because with a population as small as Ireland’s, not only would current affairs coverage have limited appeal to begin with, but the nature of Ireland’s tech infrastructure means that there’s still only a limited proportion of people who actually have the means to read it. We often forget in Ireland how few people outside of the Pale and the other major cities have a decent internet connection; your average active citizen in Donegal, Roscommon or Clare might be very interested in the content of a Politico but simply doesn’t have a decent connection to read it. (They might have dial-up but they’re not going to use dial-up to check a site or an RSS reader every couple of hours without paying through the nose for it.)

Ireland is simply too small for this kind of stuff: it’s why we don’t have a Guardian or a real political spectrum of print media; why we don’t have any major domestic professional sports; and it’s why we have a constant chip on our shoulders about people telling us what we do is insignificant.

Blogging won’t ever be ‘over’. Bloggers just eventually do other things, just as journalists and broadcasters and people with any kind of hobby. There is no small irony that Una’s post was published on the blog of someone who has quit blogging before, by a former blogger themselves.

Una’s remark that 98% of blog content is rubbish is probably true, but that’s the same with most media. I used to read the Irish Independent but got bored of its constant editorialising. I now read The Irish Times but not on a daily basis, because I wish it would be more honest about its blatant pro-Labour agenda. The only paper I read regularly now is the Guardian because I admire its design and the resources it affords its writers, but even still I still largely read online so as to filter out a lot of what I consider crap (I had no interest in its Copenhagen coverage, and on the iPhone app I’d selected only content relating to football, other sport, media and technology to appear on the home screen because the rest doesn’t concern me). Perhaps it’s ironic that this isn’t an Irish medium but such is the world that all media, including blogs, now live in. Ireland’s Sunday papers are all quite poor too; the Sunday Times is too full of irrelevant Britspeak, the Sindo is only ever one nude Amanda Brunker picture away from exploding in a ball of its own semen, and Una’s own Tribune appears to be unable to decide what it wants to be, other than a permanent Government-basher (aside from the unfortunate fact that with dropping circulation, it has to keep cutting its pagination to stay alive). But again, TV isn’t dead; radio isn’t dead; journalism isn’t dead (it’s newspapers that are dying, not journalism itself).

One other point that Una made in her post that hasn’t been dissected in some way – and one that relates most personally to me, as someone with airs of trying to get a foot in the door of a paying job in some kind of media – was this:

Many seem to use blogging as their first stepping stone for getting on in other forms of media. Because of this, blogging will always be seen as rung number one on the media ladder, unless you work for the Irish Times or something and you’re dragged by the scruff of your neck into blogville. I think it’s only unfair in exceptions to describe blogging as anything else. The Irish blogsphere is populated by wannabes using a blog to broadcast themselves in the hope of latching on to other gigs, branding themselves as if their opinions or writing or indeed their ‘selves’ as a product is worth branding, and publicising various projects/work/whatever they’re undertaking outside of their blog. Why would anyone want to read that?

Student journalists and people like me are constantly being told that in order to set ourselves apart from the crowd in the quest to get recognised as a worthy contributor and picked up by ‘the mainstream’, we need to be jacks of all trades – we need to be able to produce copy, to edit it, to cut video, to record and treat audio, and to understand the platforms that all of this content uses. Essentially, we’re told we need to master all media, and the way to do this without being part of the bigger entities is to be users of the ‘new media’, of which blogging is the archetype. It might seem cheap, but for people in my shoes we’re expected to blog, and certainly don’t seem to be entertained for very long if we don’t.

I suspect that Una might be overstating it a little, but there certainly are a lot of Irish bloggers who want to latch onto other gigs and who brand themselves as being an entity. UnaRocks herself was one (albeit one that Una herself admits she got tired of, and one that she has abandoned by changing her Twitter username) and admitted in her final post that her online presence got her some gigs that her journalistic one wouldn’t have; Twenty is another, and was given a book deal for his work. Mulley is one too; he’s now able to make a full-time living out of it, and all credit to him. But again, that’s no different to other media.

What’s the difference between the ‘brand’ of Twenty Major and of Fintan O’Toole, or Vincent Browne, or Charlie Brooker or Richard Littlejohn or Terry Wogan or Pat Kenny or Ryan Tubridy or Gerry Ryan or Jeremy Clarkson or Perez Hilton – or, indeed, Una Mullally? There isn’t one – these are all people who make their living out of being a name, a brand themselves that people want to read. This is the nature of all columnists; they’re given the platform to write pretty much whatever they like, and the mere placement of their byline or headshot beside it is what gives it its prestige. There are people who read their output who wouldn’t read anything else in the platform in which it’s presented – Brooker readers who aren’t Guardian readers; Littlejohn readers who might never buy a copy of The Sun; and people (like me) who read O’Toole and Browne on and Una’s column on without buying the paper it’s printed in.

Blogging, therefore, shouldn’t be bastardised or stigmatised because there are people who trade and present themselves as being an entity of esteem, or a brand that people should be attentive to. It’s the basis of all media to have names that people will be attracted to, and that’s what keeps the world going around. Not only is it the prescribed mode for someone like me if I want to be taken on board, but seeing names like O’Toole and Browne is some of the reason people keep picking up the Irish Times, and seeing names like Mullally is one of the reasons people keep buying the Tribune, and keep Una employed and living in a swanky city-centre apartment with a turret.

That’s damn close to the lifestyle I’d like – so what’s an aspiring wordsmith to do?

Written by Gav

January 6th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Downtown in the… city?

without comments

A piece published in today’s Kilkenny People on the perpetual debate about whether Kilkenny is a city or not. It’s lucky that this place is such a hurling stronghold; I’ll be needing a few helmets today with the stoning I’m bound to get.

It’s a debate that has plagued Kilkenny for decades, and a bone of contention that follows city natives wherever they go. It’s the classic clash of history versus the modern era; of sentiment versus realism; of past versus present.

And still the question burns: is Kilkenny really a city?

Those with a firm convinction will point to a few historical truths: Kilkenny was given a formal Royal charter declaring its city status in 1609, having notably celebrated the 400th anniversary of this date in the year just passing.

Others will, with justification, refer to the Confederate era – when for eight years, between 1641 and Cromwell’s arrival in 1649, Kilkenny was the nation’s capital. After all, who has ever heard of a ‘capital town’?

Looking beyond this, some would suggest that the charter conferred in 1207 by William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke – issued as constuction got underway on both St Canice’s Cathedral, the ancestral fulcrum on the town, and Kilkenny Castle – gave the town its city status. Though Marshal’s charter used the word ‘town’, it’s a matter of some debate whether the term ‘city’ was in wide usage in Ireland at the time. Proponents argue that, were the term ‘city’ applied at the time, Kilkenny would have easily merited it.

History, though is one matter; one could argue with the same veracity that Tara, in Meath, should merit city status having been the royal seat of Ireland in past millennia. The modern truth is a seperate matter.

So: where to start? A quick browse on every youngster’s favourite source for wholesale academic plagiarism – Wikipedia – leaves a confusing impact. “Kilkenny is described as a city”, it opens, before later continuing that the 2006 Census showed “the ‘Aggregate Town Area’ to have a population of 30,942”, but saying in the very next breath that this year “the ‘City of Kilkenny’ or ‘Kilkenny City’ celebrated its 400th since the granting of city status in 1609.”

It transpires, though, that even Wikipedia has been the site of some hostile debates on the subject. A quick glance at the ‘Discussion’ page – where users are asked to discuss significant amendments to articles before they are put in place – shows a long and sustained argument about whether the undeniable truth of Kilkenny’s one-time cityhood should be considered applicable in the modern age. So: very little help there.

How about elsewhere on the internet? A quick browse leads to a thread on a tourism website where the administrator has asked the simple question: ‘Is Kilkenny a city’?

Input, as one might expect, is once again divided. “Would you all just stop this ridiculous nonsense?” appeals Drina. “It’s not called the Medieval City and the Marble City for nothing, you know! Kilkenny is a city.”

“Hell no, it’s not a city,” counters Orla. “It’s the towniest town I’ve ever seen, and I should know because I live in the TOWN centre!”

Even with the natives, alas, no resolution. One contributor, Michael, sums it up best: “I grew up on High Street and was always aware that I lived in Ye Faire City… but we always met our friends ‘on the town’ or ‘down the town’ and we spent a lot of our free time walking up and down the town, in our …city?”

Seemingly, the internet will offer no consensus, and we must visit more formal legislation to resolve this conundrum.

Enter the Local Government Act 2001, which lists Ireland’s towns and cities, but declines to offer any clarification of how they are identified. The cities are: Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford – and absolutely no mention of Kilkenny, which is listed formally as a ‘Borough’ – some sort of offspring limbo, dangling between the statuses of ‘city’ and ‘town’, along with its illegitimate siblings Clonmel, Drogheda, Sligo and Wexford.

It seems the strictest definition of Kilkenny’s status is interrelated to the status of counties. Cultural identity and GAA teams might lead us to forget, but there aren’t 32 counties in Ireland any more, there are significantly more. Dublin is considered a city because its territory does not fall within the remit of a County Council – the areas outside Dublin City are administered by the County Councils of Fingal, South Dublin, or the ineloquently-titled Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Similarly, the area of Cork City is outside of the jurisdiction of Cork County Council. Not so with the local authorities of towns and boroughs, whose jurisdiction is complementary to that of the County Councils.

All of this, however, is coloured by a declaration early in the Act. The section that outlines the areas governed, and terms of reference, of the country’s City Councils, “is without prejudice to the continued use of the description city in relation to Kilkenny, to the extent that that description was used before the establishment day and is not otherwise inconsistent with this Act.”

Aha! So Kilkenny can be referred to as a city, but not in a way that portrays it as actually being one.

Glad we cleared that one up, then…

Written by Gav

January 6th, 2010 at 10:05 am

Seanad reform: Fixed terms?

without comments

Chatting to a friend this morning about the general laying of the political land – including that story about the Donegal County Council annual budget* – we ended up on the thorny issue of parliamentary reform and stumbled across the idea that while a fixed-term parliament (à la the United States) might not be a perfect system, the possibility of having one of two houses sit in fixed terms while the other sit to a maximum length was floated briefly.

In Ireland this would mean that while the Dáil would still sit to its maximum five-year term and be dissolved whenever necessary, while the Seanad would have a fixed term – it was suggested four years, so as to avoid the chance that it might end up running almost perfectly parallel to the Dáil and to stop it becoming as anonymous as the European Parliament (not of course that the Seanad is more relevant than EuroParl currently is).

It struck me as being a pretty good idea – instead of having the American system where either house could be swung by a single election, when polling for either house came around we’d have a fair bit of jostling to win public support. While the Seanad’s current inability to stop most Bills from passing outright would likely not be moved, surely we’d be a step farther away from the us-versus-you attitude that destroys so many parliaments?

What do you think – as part of a greater Seanad reform, wouldn’t a fixed term independent of all other bodies (the Dáil, local councils, the European Parliament) be a good idea?

* As an aside, if FF are part of an alliance in Donegal County Council that can elect a Mayor, why did they need to rush through a Budget vote when presumably their alliance was going to win it?

Written by Gav

January 4th, 2010 at 3:55 pm