The Fiona MacCarthy

The Fiona MacCarthy

What pleases and annoys

Instinctive, impulsive, and logical but always passionate and reflective of what I feel here and now.

Individual blogs are in most recent, first sequence and are also grouped in various "categories" which are just to the right & down a bit should you prefer to search that way. Please feel free to add a comment.

Blog restarted June 2018

Press Freedom

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, September 18, 2011 08:58:24
We use the institution of our "free press" here in the UK as a distinction from nasty dictatorships. Sadly it is now under threat from the Police who wish to use the Official Secrets Act of 1989 which was itself designed to protect the State, to track down the source of leaks from their own service.

Its all linked in to the phone hacking scandals which has gone quiet in recent weeks as the Police supposedly continue to investigate and to contact the several thousand people who have had their phones hacked by Murdoch's minions. The scale of which was denied by the police only a couple of years ago after an "investigation".

From day 1 that this scandal was oozed into the public domain, the worst perpetrators of hacking in the form of News International have been involved in damage limitation. The Police have been guilty as anything in hushing up the situation and despite sitting on evidence, have played puppets to N.I. A few scalps have fallen but the depth of corruption and sleaze between the Police and NI has yet to be revealed in full. The silence of most of the politicians suggests that they feel incriminated and I cannot but suspect that they are inclined to silence less their wrongs of the past are revealed. I mean that no one knows officially how high or far the hacking went.

The police should concentrate on NI, its email deletion policy, its financial authorisation and reporting of payments to Private Investigators and the conflict in what has been reported so far as to who knows what. Its own senior management seem to have a different perspective to Murdoch and son. The threat of prosecution on a few secure facts should encourage a few more loose tongues. We need and deserve the truth.

In the meantime: Leave the Press alone.

More from the Guardian

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Street Riots

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, August 21, 2011 13:34:54
First we had the outburst aided by hours of media coverage. Then outrage. Then we had the analysis assisted by lots of experts. This was followed by the sentencing which according to one analysis is resulting in sentences some 25% longer than normal. All this delivered through a legal system creaking and a prisons services at maximum capacity. A storm in a teacup or a warning of more to come? A couple of months ago the government and Ken Clarke in particular was heading towards softer sentences until there was a public backlash.There is much evidence that prison does not work an that many inmates go back to their evil ways. A criminal conviction does not help a job applicant particularly with youth unemployment at over 20%. Therefore we have gone towards using prison as a last resort. The public however see community sentencing as a soft option.We still await the report from the IPCC into why and how a guy in a car was shot prompting a peaceful protest initially. But that part was badly handled by the police. Regardless of the outcome it is obvious that a segment of society does not see itself as part of what we call society. It is a small but dangerous part. I believe that 1st offenders should be given a hefty community sentence with tagging and a curfew. Repeat offenders should get a serious custodial sentence. Those who attacked the police should do a very long time in jail. We expect a high standard from our police and miscreants in the service should be punished. However we owe it to the police service to ensure that those who attack them will get a very serious sentence. There has been much talk about respect and lack of respect but most important is ensuring that our police are respected in carrying out the job we pay them to do.

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Irish ways

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Thu, July 28, 2011 20:20:27
For the past few years the reports have been well researched and carefully prepared to a not insignificant cost of 130 million euro and some change.

The conclusion of the most recently published Cloyne report is that the Vatican was less than a reluctant participant in the inquiries both at the local and international level.

From this report in the Irish Times today my conclusion is that the Vatican used every opportunity to frustrate the inquiry into not only the physical and sexual abuse of children over several decades, but also tried to cover up its attempts to cover up for and protect the guilty parties.

Last week the Irish Taoiseach (equivalent Prime Minister) Enda Kenny launched a verbal attack on the performance of the Vatican and the papal representative has been withdrawn. It was a bold and brave move by an Irish politician because the political classes were guilty of turning a blind eye to the criminal activity of individual members and senior leaders of the Church.

Ever since Nixon and Watergate the cardinal (no pun) rule in such situations as the Vatican found itself is NOT to try and cover up the wrongs of the past, but to take the opportunity to present a new face.

Ireland and its people are far better and less subservient than they were 3 decades ago when I was looking for my wings to fly away. That is a good thing. The Vatican is still in denial and ignoring the concept of damage limitation. That is an insult to the victims and to Ireland.

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4 P's of democracy

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, July 17, 2011 21:37:16
Here in the UK we have a big problems with the 4P's and not of marketing. For me they are





It is essential for a properly functioning democracy that the 4 interact with each according to laid down rules which are respected with the People being the ultimate arbiter.

We now have evidence that the press are intimately close with the politicians in a way we had not imagined but should fear. They meet formally too often and the informal meeting are additionally worrying.

Also that the police are corrupt and in receipt of money from the press although the extent is yet to be defined. R-Wade said so a few years ago at a chat session with a parliamentary committee. But nothing happened. Sad but true

We need a clean up and allowing senior police to resign rather than be fired with loss of pension is silly.

Control of 15% or more of the press / radio / telly audience is too much for any one organisation. News Intl has 40% of the UK print media. Bye bye Murdoch empire

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Wicked News

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, July 10, 2011 11:15:54
Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Here in the UK we expect our Press to operate in very predatorial ways as long as its aimed at celebrities and politicians. The libel laws are strong and perhaps even too strong but publishing papers is not a genteel trade.

The police have investigated and found no wrong but then several police individuals received payments from News of the World (NotW) and so their investigations are tainted and now shown to be flawed.

The Press Complaints Commission asked questions, were lied to by NotW and have shown themselves to be toothless. We need a more powerful but self regulating body. State control is wrong.

Representatives of NotW have tried several times to draw a line under the story but the newshounds of other papers scent blood, and so each denial prompts further more sordid revelations. One commentator has pointed out how few "stories" resulted from all this hacking but we do not know what else the stories were used for eg political blackmail?. Regardless they were a hurtful intrusion into the lives of ordinary people often at their weakest and most vulnerable.

Closing the NotW is painted as a dramatic act but with advertisers withdrawing their ads, there was little choice. Papers without adverts are lossmakers.

News International is not a fit and proper organisation to run any business and must work hard to prove its innocence rather than simply issuing denials. Brooks and James Murdoch should in my opinion be fired and a proper independent audit of its expenditure should be carried out. Only then can we allow it to carry on.

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A caring Society?

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sat, June 04, 2011 05:40:49
This week we have had two stories where those in a weak position in society have lost out to the system.

The cruelty at Winterburne was awful. Something will be no doubt be done but I worry that it will only be for this specific example rather than raising what are clearly poor standards on care in the business.

Elderly care has also featured as the loser to financial engineering. A private company buys a care home including the freehold land from the council. Its a simple business of providing a service in return for fees largely from the council. But the company recognises that there are really 2 businesses here: the land and the provision of a care service. So it separates the 2, sells the property making a big profit because land prices and yes rents too have escalated more than the rest of the economy. The care home provider is now saddled with the rent over which it now has no control. In effect the family silver has been sold. Such is the story behind Southern Cross which is forcing a rent cut on the new landlords but there are over 30,000 elderly people at risk of losing a roof over their heads by the current squabbling. A similar practise happened with the pubs in this country.

The linked article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian is swift to condemn the current government but is soft on the prior one that allowed the cancer of careless care to spread.

To answer my initial question I think we are failing our most vulnerable because we as fit and healthy think we will never be weak. That is selfish. But we also fail to regulate businesses who see the weak as a way to make a quick profit. That is careless.

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Tea for 1

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Fri, June 03, 2011 17:51:04
Some time back a very local company Twinings (tea company) announced the closing of their North Shields (where I live) plant with the loss of nearly 300 jobs and the relocation of same to Poland.

Sad, yes but not unusual as businesses try to be more cost efficient although in the medium term I would expect payroll costs to get closer across Europe. Still I dont know enough of why they were moving.

But a local paper picked up that the EU was giving Twinings a grant of £10million for the new business in Poland.

Ludicrous that the taxpayer as in you and I are helping to fund the loss of UK jobs for sake of relocating to another country. After local led campaigning the grant has been withdrawn but the jobs are gone. At least Twinings is not benefiting.

The response of the Twining representative that the £10million did not on impact the decision suggest sour milk.

More in todays Evening Chronicle

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Twittering classes

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sat, May 21, 2011 09:24:54
If someone in your street who is married has an affair outside the marriage, there may well be some gossip at first and then the truth will in most cases be revealed leading to lots more gossip. Can the neighbours chatter about this among themselves? or by phone or letter with those who may have known the couple? . Of course so. This is gossip and totally intertwined with the fabric of society.

But it seems that if you are a footballer or banker and neither career gets the most sympathy in life these days, that you can use your wealth to silence the gossipers. The only difference is whether the gossip is at street level or nationally. I don't see the distinction as the damage to children and the other reasons as offered to judges will have already been done. Anyway the talk of children is emotional highjacking as the real hurt and harm is to the self serving bloated egos of a few.

Judges here have been making case law on this issue at a faster pace than pondering politicians who would love this cloak if they could, dilly-dally away displaying no leadership.

The comment about trying to control the social media which is far more viral than a dozen national newspapers in todays Independent is just plain silly. The truth will out and controlling gossip is like controlling the common cold.

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Queen and Ireland

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sat, May 21, 2011 09:11:34
She has reigned here for 59 years but had till now never visited one of her closest neighbours. That was wrong and the fault was not hers alone.

Back in the late 70's and following the marriage of a cousin born in Britain, to a serving member of the RAF, I remember still the story that they were advised not to visit our family in the Irish Republic. Graffiti signs of "Brits out" were common. Times have changed and for the better too.

There was a sentence in the Queen's speech at Dublin Castle this week when she talked about being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it. It was in line with a comment from a reporter here who said that the Irish never forget their history but the English never remember theirs. Too much history in Ireland has blinkered and tainted the view of the British. Ireland struggled for independence for many years against England but many Irish fought in the First World war alongside and part of British forces. This week the Queen recognised those who had died in both wars as well as the civilian victims of the first Bloody Sunday. Her family too has suffered in Ireland with the death of Mountbatten and therefore her words and deeds this week had a particular resonance.

The ice has been firmly broken and relationships between these two very intertwined countries will continue to improve. A few fools will hanker for the bitterness of the past but we have far more in common that binds us than that what divides us.

Here is a link to a good editorial in today's Irish Times

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Killer ... journalism

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Fri, May 13, 2011 17:20:27
"Six foot killer" does get the attention, well it certainly caught mine in the local paper particularly when these words were followed by "python".

I used to live next to the Snake Park in the city of Johannesburg many years ago and we never had any problems with escapees but I did enjoy occasional visits (me to them!!). But this headline in the local Evening Chronicle did upset me as no evidence has been presented of dead children or adults and if the odd hamster or rabbit has disappeared then that is surely the law of the city.

Furthermore the response of the snake when brought to the pet shop was not at all surprising (It struck the glass on the inside of the tank) as it had been teased and poked at by a group of boys in the wild, then dumped into a pillowcase (sleep easy tonight smiley on yours) and then taken to a dealer.

Most annoying is the behavior of the careless owner who has not cared for this pet. And the sensationalist journalist too.

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Is 3 a crowd?

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, April 17, 2011 08:45:59

Here in the UK a political party that gets approx 25% of the electorate in votes can form the government. Okay okay I played with the numbers, but just to get your attention because I am getting annoyed about the current debate on voting systems.

Its the debate over Alternative Voting or AV on which we will get the opportunity to vote in early May in case you missed it so far.

The voting sytem here in this country (this paragraph for overseas readers) is based on winner takes all or "First past the post". Its very simple to explain and to administer. Its origin dates back to when there was only 2 parties in this country. The 2 major parties get approx 40% (sometimes more sometimes less) of the votes each and the remaining 20% for the LibDems and others on a national level. Allowing for approximately 60% of the electorate voting I have arrived at my figure of 25% approximately of the electorate deciding the winner (60% x 40%) The swings between the 2 main parties revolve around a middle group who switch between Labour and Conservative, who retain a traditional hard core vote but need the swing vote to win. Its all very simple but not very democratic where a party with approx 40% of those who vote decides the future of the country.

Enter the possibility of using a 2nd choice where we can initally vote for what we like best of any of the 4/5/6 options that are normally available on our ballot paper, knowing that we have a 2nd chance to influence the outcome should our 1st choice not win. The debate is warming up and the mud slinging starting as reported in todays Observer

As a voter I want to tell my political leaders what I think of them and I find the current system of been coralled into one of 2 parties annoying and frustrating. I am instinctively liberal on social issues and conservative on economic ones and so sit unhappy with the current system. I therefore want the option to vote for a party that may be unlikely to win under the current system this time around knowing that my vote signals dissatisfaction with the lead runners and that my vote is not wasted should my 1st choice not get enough votes. It may do but why wait till the next election to know. Life and politics is more complicated than black and white and our voting system should reflect that. We are bright enough to handle a little discretion in our voting intentions and our politicians need to listen to all of us.

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MP's expenses saga goes on

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Tue, April 12, 2011 18:52:28

I had noticed that several of our more corrupt MP's were going on cell based sabbaticals where they will no doubt find a publishing contract or a new god.

But a couple of low key articles in several papers yesterday including the Independent caught my eye.

They (quite a few) have pulled another stunt by restricting what was to be investigated in terms of type of expenses and periods of time. Some of the high profile "repayments" of expenses by MP's are now being repaid to them because they related to a different period of time to what was investigated.

But its why this is so far down the list of stories that perturbs me most. Is it too complicated to convey on telly? Its morally disgusting.

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Was your phone hacked

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, April 10, 2011 10:36:54

It was not just the rich and famous that were likely to have their phones hacked but also their employees some of whom were then accused of leaking secrets.

Journalism is a very competitive business made more difficult by our popular obsession with celebrities and their thoughts and deeds particularly the naughty ones. Sad reflection on society. Newspapers need to be there first with that breaking news and a newspaper is out of date as soon as the ink dries.

The News of the World was caught out there a couple of years ago and 2 were sentenced to jail but by and large it was all said to be most exceptional and hacking was not routine. Few, other than the police believed this and murmurings continued with some high profile cases settled in that lovely sneaky way.

Today the paper apologised on page 2 in a low key article (saw review on telly and did not buy lol). They are trying to put the lid on it but the genie is out of the bottle and anyway what was the real extent of the hacking; No one says. The reason for this coming out this week is that one of the leading judges was getting concerned about the number of cases appearing in the courts and not through some whiter than white decision to confess and then only half way to saying nowt.

My concern is how far up the organisation structure this went. Did Murdoch authorise it himself and who else was hacked. Why stop with some celebrity and not go for the juicy stories at the top at the top of the political heap. Hacking is a disgraceful and criminal intrusion into our private lives and we restrict the rights of even the police to do so. There is a need for a proper investiagtion and no more of the inept police too shy to trawl the pile of evidence as in the past. Its as if the paper had a hold on them too.

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Irish elections

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, February 27, 2011 12:49:50

A serious mauling of the government was expected and a 70% turnout delivered a probable coalition to inherit the flames of a financial bubble second to none.

Ireland (The Republic) is a small country and everyone can get to know everybody else should they so desire. But there was a clique of greedy bankers and politicians combined with lazy regulators and lunatic property speculators (like the UK but just more extreme) who rode the wave of a property bubble.

The Irish have made severe fiscal adjustments, many young people will sadly leave and many East Europeans have returned home. But the young can return when times improve wiser and more liberal. The rest of the economy is sound and it remains an attactive country to invest in (more so than here). The low rate of corporation tax may attract criticism but it is an essential part of the recovery. In the long run the EU will harmonise tax rates and stll have developmental regional exceptions.

The new government ofFine Gael and probably Labour which together got 55% of the vote needs to sit with the creditors and tell them that the interest rates on outstanding debt are too high at approx 6%. It will be a haircut on debt levels or a shaving of rates but the lenders too must pay a price for the excesses of the past. Otherwise the recovery will take ages and the patient will go bald.

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Hidden cost of our wars

UK & IrishPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Tue, February 01, 2011 07:45:18

Some 220,000 UK service personnel have been involved in our Iraqi and Afghani conflicts so far. Some 28,000 of these now suffer from alcohol and mental health problems. But the illnesses of more will only be revealed in the years to come. Bullet holes and physical scars are not the only injuries as the invisible injuries can wreak as much havoc but visible only to family and close friends.

The attached article in todays Telegraph refering to a Radio Times article by Col Tim Collins paints a muddled picture (its badly written) of responsibility for aftercare of these veterans. It ignores the current and future monetary costs and simply says the Ministry of Defence should not bear all the costs. It does not do so now.

As a country we have a moral obligation to support those who have suffered and who will suffer as combat stress takes its toll over time. The fact that they volunteered should not cause a closure of responsibility.

Charities are already taking up a large burden of care and support already. The MoD should be underwriting in full, the full medical costs (physical and mental) at least. Charities can help with the softer issues of reintegration to society and support.

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