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Is Ireland facing a transportation crisis?

It seems that not a week goes by these days without another news story about our transportation network.

A few weeks ago we had a three-week strike by Bus Eireann drivers. Over the last few days there was a call for increased road capacity on the N11 as it is so severely congested, and at the same time four people die every day in Ireland as a result of air pollution, about half of which is attributed to traffic emissions.

Certainly there’s a problem with transportation in this country, particularly in our cities. Our over-reliance on cars to get about is only going to get worse over time. Particularly when 44% have a perception that public transport is difficult to use.

The answer is definitely not to build more roads. That’s not going to ease congestion or reduce pollution – it will just encourage more people to drive, and make the situation worse. The only answer is to get people out of their cars, and get them using more sustainable transport options – public transport, cycling and walking.

But how do you convince people to leave the car at home?

We need a mind-shift in Ireland. We need a change in attitude amongst the people that this needs to be tackled. And we need to decide, once and for all, whether we want a properly-funded and sustainable transport network.

That means putting proper investment into trains, busses (including Bus Eireann), trams, cycle lanes, and footpaths – to make our cities into places where its safe and easy to get about without a car. It’s only then, once we’ve made the investment, that people will finally (and willingly) leave their cars behind and we will see lasting reductions in congestion and pollution.

Unfortunately the political will at the moment seems to be leaning in a different direction. Instead of the carrot approach of making sustainable travel appealing, they are making noises about the stick approach of increasing taxation on diesel cars – through increasing fuel duties and tolls. These are the same diesel cars that the government of 10-15 years ago were trying to persuade people to buy, in order to reduce CO2 emissions.

Our grand anniversary adventure

It was our wedding anniversary at the weekend, and with nothing organised it seemed like a good idea to go away for the night to celebrate.

We had left it to the last minute to book, and so most of Ireland’s best hotels were fully booked. But here was this one particular hotel in Mullingar, Westmeath, that had availability – and more to the point, it bore the same name as us – the Bloomfield House Hotel.

The decision to go seemed obvious, if a little contrived. Our grand adventure would be for the Bloomfields to stay at Bloomfield House, and it would would be glamorous and hilarious – well that was the plan.

Sadly the Bloomfield House Hotel didn’t quite live up to its advertised 4-star billing, and our visit wasn’t nearly as glamorous and hilarious as we first imagined.

The hotel itself is the product of various expansions and extensions over time, and as such the layout is somewhat haphazard. To get to our room from reception, we needed to head along a corridor, through the entire length of the bar (dragging our suitcases behind us), passed the queue for the carvery, through a couple of doors, down a ramp, and then up the slowest lift on the planet.

The room itself was… OK… but quite dated. The food was… OK… but the chef clearly didn’t know how to cook a steak properly. The bed was uncomfortable. The hotel was over-run with noisy children who never seemed to go to bed (which admittedly is not the fault of the hotel). The adjoining door to the next room was paper-thin – so much so that we could hear what they were watching on TV. And the wifi? Oh My God – I’ve never used something so unreliable and slow.

All of which meant that our grand adventure wasn’t that grand, or glamorous, or hilarious after all.

But still, we managed to have a nice anniversary.

I’m just glad we didn’t book for the second night!

3000 Days in Ireland

As of today I’ve been living in Ireland for 3,000 days.  That’s a little over 8 years.  And when you put it together with the 12 years I lived in Scotland, then I’ve been living outside of my home country of England for over 20 years.

In another few years, I’ll have been living outside of England for longer than I ever lived there.

And although England will always be my nation of birth, and my accent will always identify me as English, the length of time away has shifted my allegiances somewhat. For international sporting events, for example, I feel much more allegiance to the Irish team than I do for the English.

I guess England no longer feels like home to me.  Sure, it’s where I grew up, and it’s where I have family. But in my case, my feeling of connection to England has faded over time. And as such, I don’t really harbour any desire to return.

Some thoughts on Irish Citizenship for a British person

As a British person living in Ireland, I am afforded all the “freedom of movement” rights of EU citizens to work and live wherever I want in Europe.

I am free to reside and work in Ireland, and can travel without restriction in and out of the country. I don’t need to apply for visas or work permits, unlike non-EU migrants. And as such, I’m treated pretty-much as if I was an Irish citizen.

The freedoms are so universal that it’s hard to come up with many tangible differences between being an Irish or EU citizen. Here’s the only restrictions I can find:

  • I’m not allowed to vote in Presidential elections
  • I’m not allowed to vote in any referendum votes
  • I can’t stand as Irish President, or become a member of the Dáil or Seanad

I place quite a lot of value on the voting rights – as I’ve missed out on numerous referendums since moving here – and I feel a bit disenfranchised by not being able to vote on constitutional changes that will have a direct effect upon my life.

But are the voting rights on their own worth the €1,125 naturalisation fees, and the 6 months of bureaucracy and paperwork?

Personal Experience

For the last couple of years I’ve been pondering the idea becoming an Irish citizen. I’ve been living here over 8 years, my wife is Irish, and Ireland looks like it’ll be my home for the foreseeable future. I have deepening roots in this country, and yet sometimes I still feel like a foreigner.

I don’t know if citizenship will help me feel more Irish. I guess my British accent will always set me apart from those who grew up in Ireland. But maybe an Irish passport will help me feel less of an outsider.

Any maybe how I “feel” is what it all comes down to. With few tangible benefits, the major driving force to go for naturalisation would be to feel more at home.

The Numbers

I was hunting around the web for some statistics about the number of British people that apply to Irish naturalisation, but couldn’t find any breakdown of naturalisation by country. The naturalisation numbers just don’t appear to be published anywhere, which seems strange.

There are loads of figures about immigration , and the census breaks down the population by country of origin. Indeed, the last census recorded 390,000 EU nationals resident in Ireland, which amounts to about 8% of the population.  But I suspect that the number of those people applying for Irish citizenship is tiny.

Eircode Postcodes in Ireland

Up until now, Ireland has not had a postcode system for postal addresses. This sometime made the ordering of goods from abroad quite tricky, as even our neighbours in the UK were confused that we didn’t use postcodes.

At the end of June 2015 an organisation called Eircode will be rolling out postcodes to 2.2 million homes and businesses across the republic.

The format of the new Eircode will be a 3-digit alphanumeric ‘routing key’, followed by a 4-digit alphanumeric ‘unique identifier’. The routing key will identify the area you live in, and in Dublin it will mirror the current postal district codes (D2, D6W, D15, etc.) The unique identifier will be a random selection of numbers and letters that identify your house or apartment. The unique identifiers of neighbours will bear no relation to each other, and cannot be used to infer a neighbourhood or street.

Source: Eircode
Source: Eircode
  • The Routing Key will always start with a letter A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X or Y, and will be followed by two numeric digits (0-9) – except for the area of the D6W where the letter W is valid on the 3rd digit.
  • The Unique Identifier will comprise a mixture of letters and/or numbers – letters A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X or Y, and numbers 0-9. No two houses in the same street will have a similar codes, and no two houses of the same name will have a similar code.

Hopefully the new postcode system will allow the more accurate routing of the emergency services and postal/courier services – and hopefully it’ll be adopted into satnav systems, to help the rest of us navigate more successfully.


 

Update 13th July 2015: The Eircode postal code system officially launched today, and you can look yours up using the Eircode Finder.