Network - August 1982
Unemployment, the Equal Rights Amendment, Herpes, Gay News, PRSI and more. EDITED BY KERRY DOUGHERTY
On the Road
APPROPRIATELY enough for a veteran trade unionist, the first public function performed by the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, Dan Browne, was not attending a munnicipal banquet or opening a flower show but welcoming to Dublin the thirty-five unemployed people who marched from Waterford to Dublin last month.
(Just to set the record straight: while thirty-five did the hundred mile trek from Waterford, a conntingent of five from Dungarvan had set out a day earlier to walk the thirty miles to Waterford before joining the main group.)
The ages of the marchers rangged from mid-teens to early thirties. One young Waterford rocker turnned up on the first morning, threw his rucksack into the van and annnounced he was joining the march. Each evening he dressed in his red drapes and blue suede shoes. Initially there was some wariness between the rocker and the three skinheads on the march, but the solidarity generated on the trek bridged many a chasm.
The aim of the march, which was sponsored by several union executives, trades councils and union branches, was to generate militancy among the unemployed themselves and to make links with employed workers whose jobs are threatened. Among the marchers' demands were higher benefits, innvestment in useful public work, nationalisation of firms threatenned with closure and a 35-hour week to create jobs.
As well as initial funding from sponsors the marchers held collecctions along the way to finance the march. After harrassment from Gardai demanding to see a collecction licence, the marchers pickketed the garda station at Carlow and were later granted a-permit.
At Clondalkin Paper Mills, near the end of their journey, the marchers were treated to tea at the social club attached to Clonndalkin Paper Mills, where the worrkers have occupied the plant to save their jobs. The Clondalkin workers also made a £50 donation to the march expenses.
The next day, Clondalkin worrkers and a contingent from De Lorean, in Belfast, where another occupation against redundancy is in progress, joined the marchers for the final stage of the journey into the city.
It has been remarkable that in the past few years of unemployyment there has been little agitaation by the unemployed themmselves, unlike in the 1930s and 1950s. The marchers will still be around next year, as will even worse unemployment, and they refer to their People's March F or Decent Jobs as "only a start".
End of an ERA
AMERICAN FEMINISTS were caught in that classic good news/ bad news quandary last month as they lifted their glasses in a toast to the tenth anniversary of "Ms." Magazine in New York while miles away in Illinois, several women embarked on a hunger strike to protest the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution.
The proposed amendment which would have banned sex disscrimination from all segments of American society was shelved atttcr 10 frustrating years of attemppting to get two thirds of the 50 sta tes to ra tify the measure. In the end, the amendment fell short by just three states.
Publicly, the feminists are tryying to put on an optimistic face, saying things like they believe the defeat of the era will awaken apaathetic Americans to the need for equality under the law. But leadding activists went into hiding last weekend in Bennington, Vermont to rethink their strategy and anallyse what went wrong during the last decade.
If the womens' movement has any new hope it may be in the person of Ted Kennedy who has promised to strongly support the reintroduction of the ERA in Congress. Kennedy has been critiicised over the years for giving just whispered lip service to womens' causes.
The American feminist moveement did do one thing right durring the past ten years - it suppported "Ms." Magazine, a glossy monthly edited by Gloria Steinem. Despite rumours of impending bankruptcy and periodic drops in circulation, "Ms." now enters its second decade as a viable, financially sound enterprise.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL organiisers of the much-maligned "Hymn For Knock" Contest have been tightlipped about their cornpetiition since it was launched last December. The clergymen reporttedly failed to see the 'humour in the avalanche of airport jokes which followed the announceement of the contest and became even further incensed when RTE Television refused to broadcast the awards ceremony live from the Knock Basillica on August 7.
A spokesman for the' Knock Contest revealed last week that in spite of media spoilsports, 500 entries had been received from amateur composers hailing from as far away as California and Mombassa. And almost all of the would-be Knock theme songs are genuine: "We had only one or two songs which even mentioned the airport in the lyrics," the spokessman said.
Storm in a Molehill
JIM WHITE, THE FORMER Donnegal TO who did not stand in the last election in order to devote more time to his Lisdoonvarna hotel and spa, admits that he used pre-paid Dail envelopes to send out promotional material for his l lvdro and Imperial Hotel last
"It was a mistake, what else can I say? The Dail envelopes are off-white and so are ours. We did a mailing of about 5,000 and appparently 20 or so Dail envelopes got mixed in," Mr. White said in a telephone interview from his resort hotel.
The former Fine Gael deputy insisted that the use - or misuse - of the envelopes was being exaggerated because he was now out of office.
"I was quite entitled to use those envelopes while I was in office for any reason I saw fit ~ .. what's the difference between what I did, which might have cost a fiver, and what other deputies do when they mail out all their Christmas Cards in the franked envelopes?" asked Mr. White.
A member of the Dail Proocedures and Privileges Committee, however, said that deputies were only supposed to use the 400 envelopes they are allocated every week for "official D~ business." Any other use of the franking privilege could subject the poliiticians to disciplinary action.
"What are they going to do about it now?" asked Mr. White. "What can they do ... I think this is really turning into a bloody storm in a molehill." .
Many a Slip
EXTENSIVE TELEVISION coverrage of the World Cup and Wimbleedon last month was expected to yield a television sales boom in the Dublin metropolitan area but the increase in VAT, coupled with the introduction of a "screen size stamp duty" killed all hopes wholesalers had of recouping losses which began last year.
"We'd be happy to say sales are remaining static, but the truth is they're continuing to drop ... in spite of the World Cup," said a sales manager at Thorn Ferguuson Ltd., one of Dublin's leading wholesalers.
The' news was a bit brighter for Dublin retail 'stores which went on an advertising blitz in the weeks preceding the World Cup. Most outlets reported a brief increase in sales - enough to wipe out stockpiled television sets, but not enough to cause them to orrder replacements from the wholesalers. .
One small store in Talbot Street which generally sells "just a handful'" of televisions during the summer, reported sales Of 30 black and white portables and a dozen colour eonsoles in the week before the World Cup. A salesman there, however, said they would need an event the magnitude of the World Cup every month "to get sales back where they were three years ago."
Herpes - the love bug
IT SEEMS THAT American tourrists who' descend on Ireland by the thousands each year, are leavving behind more than dollars when they board their flights home.
Venereal disease clinics around the city report an alarming inncrease in the incidence of Herpes II - an incurable, sexually transsinitted disease which has reached epidemic proportions in the Uniited States. Several social workers, whose job it is to try to quietly contact the sex ual partners of venereal disease sufferers, reporrted last month that many of the Herpes victims had directly or inndirectly contracted the disease from Americans.
Herpes II is a viral infection and is related to the same organnism which causes shingles, chicken pox and cold sores. Although American doctors are hopeful that interferon - the widely touted "anti-cancer drug" - will prove successful in killing the virus, there is no treatment availlable now to wipe out the disease,
The most recent estimates of the number of Herpes II sufferers, in the US is somewhere around 20 million with 500,000 new cases expected this year.
The incidence of Herpes in ireeland is still relatively small, but spokespersons at several Dublin VD clinics claim that 5 years ago the disease was virtually nonnexistent here and today' they are seeing several cases a week.
Would you mind holding?
YOU WOULD HAVE to travel to Ankara, Turkey, to find anoother European capital with longer waiting lists than Dublin for 110me 'telephones.
Despite annual promises to diminish - and eventually end telephone waiting lists, P & T presently has 80,000 would-be customers waiting for phone innstallations. Although this is a drop of about 10,000 phoneless families from 1981, Dubliners are still waiting years for phones of their own.
P & T officials are optimistic, however, that their "Five Year Plan"; which pledges to eradicate the list and make telephones availlable on demand by 1984, will be successful.
But at last count, Ireland had only 210 telephones for every 1,000 people. Compare that with 415 phones per thousand in the UK and 677 in Switzerland. The Turks, however, finish dead last in the world of telecommunicaations with just 33 telephones for every 1,000 inhabitants.
Hynes means Pubs
DESSIE HYNES, the proprietor of the enormously popular O'Donnoghue's Pub in Merrion Row, exxpanded his publican's interest to the suburbs last month with the opening of Doherty's Pub at 282 Harold's Cross.
The new pub was once a Guinnness bar and is one of the first in the country with a "snake sysstern" to keep its stout fresh.
Hynes, one of four owners of the Harold's Cross watering hole, will still spend most of his time in O'Donoghue 's but regulars there will be deprived of the welllliked barman, Can Kavanagh.
Kavanagh's awesome tattoos will now be on display behind the bar in Doherty's pub.
GAY NEWS, Britain's fortnightly newspaper for the gay community, will be banned in Ireland unless the publishers can' prove that it is not "indecent and obscene".
The Censorship of Publicaations' Board wrote to the Gay News in June, informing them that the paper was under scrutiny because it "has usually or freequently been indecent or obscene and devoted an unusually large proportion of space to the pubblication of matters relating to crime" (i.e. homosexual activity). Gay News was instructed that it could make representation to the
Board before a final decision is reached.
Reached in London, a spokessman for the News, reporter Chris Kirk, said they were shocked that the Irish Government' was taking such action on the ten-year-old paper which never publishes "rude or obscene photos" and deals almost exclusively with political activities within the community. In addition, Kirk charged the Irish Govcrnment with surreptitiously impounding copies of the two June editions before they reached distributors in Ireland.
A spokeswoman for the Board admitted that the Gay News was under "examination", but refused to comment on why they were considering the ban in the first place.
Members of Dublin's gay commmunity were understandably irate about the inquisition, especially since only 150 copies of the paper come into the country and those go almost exclusively to gay centres.
"If the Gay News were banned it w~uld be a serious deprivation of news for gay people", said a spokesman for the Irish National Gay Federation. "Without Gay News we wouldn't have access to news of the gay world outside of Ireland."
A DROGHEDA BUSINESSMAN, angered at the jump in workers' PRSI contributions, and the recent increases in sick pay benefits, has prepared a report showing that 'it is now more profitable for his employees to stay out on sick leave than it is for them to come to work. . .
To illustrate his point, the emmployer (who requested anonymity) claims that a married man with two children, earning t;6,pOO' a year, would take home £29' more a week on sick leave benefit than he would ifhe worked every nay.
"When a worker is out sick he gets his flat disability rate plus his pay related benefits plus a tax reebate," says the exasperated' emmployer. "Since you don't pay tax while you're out sick you can acctually come out ahead."
Copies of the study have been circulated to' several politicians and to the Federated Union of Employers which has long made absenteeism an issue.'
"We don't offer any solutions in the report, that's for the poliiticians. But absenteeism has allways' been a- problem and I exxpect it will get worse when people realize the benefits associated with not working," he said,
RTE Jam session
CHRIS CARY, general manager of the popular pirate radio staation, Radio NOVA, says it is no coincidence that one week after a survey showed NOVA edging out RTE 2 in listenership his broaddcasts were being jammed.
According to the NOV A daily logs, the 'first disruption occurred on Monday, June 21, when NOVA was kn~cked off the air for five minutes. Seven days later, NOV A broadcasts were again
jammed, this time for 35 minutes. On Wednesday, June 30, and Thursday, July I, NOV A was blanked nearly round the clock while Cary and associates scrammbled from frequency to frequency in an attempt to lose the "jammmer".
"We dropped all our news broadcasts and advertising just trying to stay on the air those two days", Cary recalls. "I figure we lost close to £ 11 ,000 in advertising during that period."
Because the jamming went on almost continuously for 48 hours, Cary was able to load his car with equipment and track down the source of the jamming. He says it was coming from a large antennnae on the roof of the Broadcast Museum, an RTE owned facility near the Porto bello Bridge in Rathmines. '
In a carefully worded stateement last week an RTE spokessman did not deny jamming the broadcasts, pointing out that NOVA was an illegal station:
"Any channels that RTE has used have been by authority from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs." When asked if this meant that the Minister had authorised the jammming, the spokesman replied:
"You're free to draw your own conclusions, the fact is that we are legal and they are not."
The jamming stopped after Cary went to the newspapers and managed to get a small amount of coverage - although he says most editors reacted by accusing NOV A of staging a publicity stunt.
Mr. Cary says he draws some pleasure in calculating how much money RTE spent on equipment and manpower in an attempt to run him off the air: "It must have cost them the best part of £10,000, if I had been asked to jam a station I would have charrged them at least that much."
"I suppose RTE has its problems, it wants to hang on to what its got", Cary says. "But it needs competition and it will get more listeners through good ideas and innovative programming ... not by jamming the smaller channels."
DUBLIN PR MAN and County Councillor Myles Tierney, has taken his turn as advocate of an Irish "press council" - an organiisation which would allow the public to investigate the media for real or imagined "offences" not already covered by Ireland's restrictive libel laws.
Tierney, who himself has taken quite a beating in the press recently for his strong pro-rezoning stance on the County Council, beegan his campaign last month by firing off letters to all the major papers. That effort brought him "exactly three" letters of support, but Mr. Tierney remains undaunnted in his quest for fairness in journalism.
Tierney's major gripe is with the presence of "half-truths, unnbalanced reporting and the mixing of fact and opinion" in news coverage. Ironically, Mr. Tierney began his letters to the editor with a blatant half-truth - he referred to himself as a "professsional journalist", something Myles Tierney has not been for a nummber of years. (Tierney at one time worked for the Cork Examiner but has not worked as a journalist or been a member of the NUJ for some years.)
Tierney's call for a press watchhdog has received a chilly reception from members of the media who say they are already hamstrung by Ireland's archaic libel laws and the lack of freedom of information legislation - without worrying about a press council breathing down their necks.
"The NUJ withdrew from the press council in England two years ago and I would not be in favour of having one here", says Eamonn McCann, chairman of the Dublin Newspapers Branch of the NUJ. "The council would inevittably be dominated by timid and conservative people beholding to the government and the newsspaper employers who put them on the council in the first place."
But Myles Tierney says he expected as much from the press:
"My own experience is that liberralizing measures, and I consider this a liberalizing measure, do not take place. We are not a very liberal people, we Irish."
CITY VISION is a group of actors, writers, musicians and visual arrtists who have come together in Dublin to experiment with moddern art forms, using specifically urban themes.
Appropriately enough, the group's first project is a video production depicting a day in the life of a young Ballymun man. The video, One Day Time, had its premiere last month as part of the Inner City Looking On Festival.
It's an ambitious first project and the inexperience shows through, but it's also the first attempt by people who know the city to use this medium to present images and sounds of Dublin 'as a modern urban environment, with all the good and bad that comes with it.
The video is best when it conncentrates on the images, matched to the music of Dublin band Resissdance. It struggles a bit when the characters pause to articulate some message.
The video has been going the rounds of the big screens in some inner city pubs and is then scheeduled for a form of general release. It's available from City Vision Productions, 9 Clinches Court, North Strand, Dublin, at a hiring fee of £5, in both the U Matic and VHS formats.
One Day Time was produced with the assistance of an Arts Council film award.