More animal antics from Bored Panda …
There appears to be a recurring theme in organisations that have contractual defined benefit pension schemes.
Before Christmas, ESB staff went to the brink of strike action over an attempt by the company to redefine their defined benefit pension entitlements as defined contribution. The company argued the change was purely semantic, the workers disagreed. Stalemate ensued.
Now staff at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority are threatening to paralyse our national airports during St Patrick’s Weekend over a €780 million deficit in their defined benefit pension scheme. Aer Lingus management claims this is not their responsibility and has offered to contribute €140 million as a gesture of goodwill. Staff aren’t prepared to accept this deal.
Let’s get real here. Defined benefit schemes are anachronistic in the extreme, devised at a time when public sector workers were relatively low paid, when interest rates were higher and life expectancy significantly lower. It was a time before the country became bankrupt, before the markets suffered a cataclysmic collapse and many investment funds were wiped out.
They are utterly untenable in this day and age. But unfortunately there is a complete sense of denial in this respect.
The country just doesn’t have the money to fund these schemes any longer. And putting ourselves deeper into a debt that is already unsustainable is just not an option. Something is going to have to give.
Each principal officer in the public sector retiring on a DB pension of €50,000 will cost taxpayers €1.5 million.
It is going to come to the point that the guaranteed and generous pensions of today’s public sector workers will be funded by a future generation of young Irish workers who may not get a cent on retirement.
The government has already done the unthinkable and raided private pensions with their supposed temporary levy. How this theft has remained unchallenged astounds me. And yet they have no appetite to tackle the ticking time-bomb of public sector pensions. Most likely because they all hope to retire on generous packages (like the majority of the previous Fianna Fail government) before it all blows up in their faces.
On Friday the entire extended family embarked on an adventure to celebrate our patriarch’s 70th birthday.
We stayed in the idyllic and pastoral Tullymurry House, just outside Newry. It’s part of the wonderful Irish Landmark Trust, whose eclectic collection of historic properties include gate lodges, lighthouses and castles all over Ireland.
The house dates from the 17th century and only three families have lived in it over the years.
Everyone pitched in to help with the cooking and meals were rowdy, raucous affairs with wine and conversation flowing abundantly.
Waking in the morning to see sunlight illuminating carpets of snowdrops went some way to alleviating the sore heads!
Saturday was spent exploring the convoluted Medieval streets of Carlingford in search of oysters.
And the excitement was all too much for one little girl.
These wonderful pics of pets from then and now on Bored Panda got us thinking about how much our girls have grown in the two years we’ve been lucky to have them…
So here’s Delaney and Bonnie, then and now…
Last Friday was a black day in the history of Irish broadcast radio. It was announced that Phantom FM, Ireland’s only alternative music station was to close with the loss of 20 jobs.
Phantom had its genesis as a pirate station back in the nineties and played a highly credible brand of alternative and indie music. Its presenters had a palpable passion for music and a laid-back, earnestness that endeared them to their listeners.
When the station won a commercial licence in 2004 it was inevitable that compromises would be made. The music became more mainstream, the presenters more upbeat, the ad breaks more prevalent.
But it was still a country mile better than the mindless sheep fodder peddled by the likes of FM104, Spin and 2FM.
I’ve always struggled to comprehend the Irish broadcast landscape.
Licences are difficult to procure, expensive, awarded based on the strictest criteria and yet almost every bloody station on this island manages to sound the same.
There was infinitely more variety and quality back in the good old days of pirate radio with niche stations like the incredible Jazz FM catering to eclectic tastes.
All the Broadcast Authority has succeeded in achieving is a frightening homogeneity in the medium. Its risible insistence that a proportion of a station’s programming be devoted to news and current affairs just doesn’t make sense.
Let stations decide what they want to broadcast and the market will dictate the rest.
Leave the taxpayer funded national stations to deliver on their public service remit and let everyone else get on with the business of giving listeners what they want.
But even if they were to see sense, it’s all too late. Listeners are deserting radio stations in their droves for free or premium digital services like Pandora and Spotify that meet their needs, leaving dying stations like the hapless 2FM to fight over the scraps of what’s left.
In honour of our favourite Hallmark Holiday, here’s a selection of anti-Valentine’s Day cards from the wonderful but now sadly defunct meish.org.
Bill Cullen and his partner Jackie Lavin appeared on the Marion Finucane show over the weekend.
They spoke frankly about the collapse of the business empire that Bill had built from nothing over a period of 50 years.
Their predicament mirrors that of many individuals or small business owners in this country whose problem is they aren’t too big to fail.
The saying goes if you owe the bank €10,000, the bank owns you but if you owe the bank €10 billion, you own the bank.
Bill’s problem was he “only” owed €10 million. A relatively small sum when compared to the monstrous amounts owed by most of the developers now gainfully employed by NAMA.
Unlike many who chose to flee the country and undergo bankruptcy proceedings abroad, or those who transferred all their assets to their spouses, or who co-operated with NAMA in return for generous salaries and bonuses, Bill chose to stay and try to weather the storm.
He had never missed a repayment and he had a plan to get the business back on track, but as he says the bank pulled the plug opportunistically and moved to seize all his assets while they were depressed.
It’s just another instance of the banks’ bullying tactics. They were recapitalised with the intention that they would continue to support Irish businesses, the lifeblood of the economy; however they seem to be putting small indigenous companies out of business while welcoming foreign investors with open arms.
Rather than languish in bitterness, true to form, at the ripe old age of 72, Bill Cullen is going to start all over again and rebuild from the rubble of his business empire. With the assistance of friends and family he has leased a small dealership and will be out on the forecourt selling cars. His positive attitude is truly an inspiration.
And we thought our dogs had issues…