Careful What You Ask For

Leinster Leader

In the eight weeks since Martin McAleese appeared on the Late Late Show to launch ‘Your Country, Your Call‘, the website — designed to attract ideas to lift Ireland out of recession — has attracted over 4000 suggestions.

By the Curragh Stand: What the European Retirement City might look like (image created by and © Gerard Cunningham)
By the Curragh Stand: What the European Retirement City might look like (image created by and © Gerard Cunningham)

However, the First Gentleman may not be so pleased once many of those brain waves are analysed.

The site has attracted its share of bizarre and unorthodox plans to cure the nation’s ills, including proposals to privatise the army and turn it into an international mercenary force (“selling their skills to the highest bidder”) and proposals to “build a leprechaun theme park” to attract foreign visitors.

Other proposals made with seeming sincerity include turning over all unoccupied and second homes to the government to be used as free accommodation for tourists (sure to please hoteliers already struggling to attract custom) and issuing special credit cards to social welfare recipients which can only be used to buy Irish goods. The companies providing these goods would be given subsidies to prevent ripoffs of this captive market.

One imaginative contributor proposes an All-Ireland 25 Card Drive to increase business for publicans around Ireland. Winners would advance to county and provincial finals, before competing for the national title.

Another post, clearly tongue-in-cheek, outlines a plan to have all dole recipients wear brightly coloured clown suits until they found jobs as “a quick-win solution to alleviating the general gloom benighting the country.”

“We could call upon our captains of industry like Michael O’Leary and Bill Cullen and the fellow from to lend their support, taking clowns on placement to work alongside normal people,” the proposer adds mischievously.

Bugbears frequently aired by callers to RTE’s Liveline feature heavily in the website, with several calls to make jobseekers work before they receive the dole, either offering their skills free to employers one day a week, finishing off the uncompleted houses in Ireland’s ghost estates, or cleaning litter. Bootcamps for criminals are also popular.

More imaginative schemes to shorten dole queues include a landbridge from Ireland to Britain, a tunnel from Sligo to Dundalk, and a “Euro tunnel” connecting Wexford and Wales. No doubt Noel Dempsey will give careful consideration to the proposals.

Less ambitious is the plan to cut dole queues “by putting the unemployed to work reconstructing the country’s Railway System, so they are employed for their dole payment.”

“This would give the unemployed a sense of purpose and help restore their self-esteem,” the writer predicts with confidence, while taxpayers “would be happier knowing that something constructive was being achieved which would be beneficial for all, rather than dole payments for recipients to be idle.”

Transport and green issues feature heavily. One writer suggests the H20, an environmentally-friendly car which would run on water (including seawater). Another outlines plans for an electric-powered hover car, using “mini jets” instead of tyres to save the environment.

A grand plan to create “a massive Retirement City on the train line between Newbridge and Kildare”, designed with the elderly in mind, could attract high-spending pensioners from the rest of Europe and revive the economy, according to one submission. Another writer said the retiring pensioners could be housed in ghost estates. A third nominates Europe’s refugees to occupy ghost estates. The government would then bill each EU state for rental.

Capping the size of lottery payouts (and creating more lottery millionaires) features more than once, as do plans to create an Irish Las Vegas. Suggested venues included Dun Laoighaire (to cater for weekend trippers from Holyhead), Cavan and the Midlands. Perhaps Brian Cowen might consider it a fitting legacy to mark his time as Taoiseach.

One writer despairs at our lack of world class tourist attractions. “The USA has the Empire State Building, France has the Eiffel Tower, Egypt has the Pyramids, Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, what does Ireland have? The bloody SIPTU building!” The solution? A mile high skyscraper built in the geographic centre of Ireland, generating jobs, tourism revenue and giving every citizen something to be proud of.

“It will make the Empire State Building look like something a five year old made out of lego bricks,” the writer concludes.

Another tourist attraction is “an overhead cart transport system… similar to the ones you would see on skiing resorts” to pick off a drop off cars at rush hour, eliminating traffic jams. Other ideas Bord Failte may have to investigate include the use of prison labour to manufacture souvenirs sold in tourist offices, free Aer Lingus flights to Ireland (but not on the return leg) and developing “our own Las Vegas/Amsterdam” where young people (both Irish and foreign visitors) “can go to let their hair down without infringing upon the people who habitat the area.”

There are also proposals to convert Spike Island into an international heritage centre and rock venue, and moving to Central European time so that pubs can stay open longer in the Summertime.

However, the prize for most imaginative idea must go to the suggestion that Ireland harness “cow flatulence as sustainable energy”.

“An abundant supply of methane will allow a myriad of uses, save the economy and produce a healthier, wealthier Ireland,” the contributor notes.

“A simple, safe and painless implant into the lower back of every cow channels the methane into storage balloons,” he explained. “The farmer then extracts the gas during milking – some farmers are already successfully extracting methane from cow manure and from the recycled air in cow sheds. The units to compress and store the methane are relatively simple and economical to manufacture.”