Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is Lisburn the new New York?

Until the dollar strengthened, Irish shoppers used to travel in droves to New York for Christmas shopping. New York City would advertise on train station walls in Dublin. Now, foreign shoppers in New York are more scarce. So, where does it make sense for Irish shoppers to shop now? The answer is to stay in Ireland, and shop up north to take advantage of the weak Pound and (relatively) strong Euro, in places like Lisburn.

It is interesting to see Brian Lenihan from the Dublin government complain that “When you shop in Northern Ireland, you’re paying Her Majesty’s taxes, you’re not paying taxes to the state that you live in”, because I don't remember any complaints about Irish people saying US taxes when they would leave Ireland to shop in droves in New York (in fact, most were paying no taxes at all, since many goods could be bought tax free by foreigners if brought home immediately).

This is one of the contradictions of Irish partition. Fianna Fail is a party committed to Ireland being a single country, not partitioned into two, but by encouraging people to shop in just one part of Ireland (the expensive part), you are enforcing partition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bay State Model Railroad Open House - Dec 7th

This excellent railroad museum is located above Dandelion's Flower Shop on South Street in Roslindale. It's open on Dec 7th from 12pm to 3pm. Entry is $5 for adults, free for children under 12 years old.

This is one of the hidden jewels of Boston. And I do mean "hidden": First you have to find Roslindale, then you have to find South Street in Roslindale, then you have to find the nondescript door which leads up to the model railroad museum. But once you find it, it's well worth visiting.



Friday, November 14, 2008

Bypassing US Customs at Boston Logan Airport

No, this is not a post about some crafty way to sneak goods past the authorities at Logan Airport. But rather, it's about the new agreement between Ireland and the US which will allow transatlantic travelers to clear US immigration and customs in Ireland, prior to actually crossing the Atlantic. Right now, you clear US immigration in Ireland, but not customs.

At present, the situations for Dublin-to-Boston is:

- Go through US Immigration in Ireland, get your passport stamped.
- Fly to Boston
- Sometimes wait on the plane because "another plane arrived the same time as us"
- A brisk walk to the baggage hall, bypassing US Immigration (as we already went through that in Ireland)
- A long wait at the baggage carousel
- Then a long queue, along with planeloads of people from Frankfurt and Paris and the Caribbean pushing overloaded baggage carts, to then be processed by US Customs staff.

This change means that flights from Ireland could land at a domestic terminal, e.g. the underused Terminal A, which is preferable to dealing with Terminal E with its delayed baggage carousels and long customs lines.

Full details in the Irish Times.

[Crossposted to my travel blog]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ireland and the EU: buntáistí agus míbhuntáistí

Anthony Faiola has a good article in the Washington Post today about Ireland's economy. It focuses on the pros and cons of Ireland's EU membership, including its usage of the Euro. Although Ireland's membership of the Euro means that has been spared wild Iceland-style currency movements, it also means that Ireland does not have power over its own economy. That power is now centralized by the EU in Brussels. Ireland cannot set its own interest rate, for example.

In October, when Ireland took the unilateral step of guaranteeing all Irish bank deposits, this drew complaints from the EU, and from our neighbour the UK which worried that UK bank deposits would migrate to "safer" Irish banks. The comments on this thread sum up the Irish response to these complaints (sample: "The whinging Brits already nationalised 2 of their banks without any regard for the Irish").

It can be argued, as Anthony Faiola does in the Washington Post article, that membership of the EU is both good (more stable currency, free access to market) and bad (loss of economic decision-making) for Ireland. When I would write essays at school in Ireland, an all-purpose phrase I used in practically every essay was "Tá buntáistí agus míbhuntáistí ag baint leis" - meaning "there are advantages and disadvantages to it". So it is with Ireland's EU membership at the moment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Irish Republicans: Where did Obama *not* win in Boston?

I'm focusing on the negative here, I realize. But, via Universal Hub, here is a link to Matt O'Malley's analysis of the Boston presidential election numbers. He points out some "interesting voter anomalies".

In particular, Obama won everywhere in Boston, usually resoundingly, except for three wards:
  • Ward 6 Precinct 9 (South Boston’s St. Matthew’s) where McCain beat Obama by a vote of 530-467 (52.37% - 46.15%)
  • W7-P2 (South Boston’s L Street Bath House) where McCain beat Obama by a vote of 560-544 (49.69% - 48.27%).
  • W16-P9 (Dorchester's Adams Corner/Neponset) where McCain beat Obama by a vote of 508-476 (50.35% - 47.18%)
Neither South Boston (historically a working class Irish-American area, of course, now more yuppified) nor Adams Corner / Neponset (the area near the Eire pub I believe) would strike me as natural Republican territory. Well, it is natural Irish Republican territory (in the IRA sense) but that is another story.

An "interesting voter anomaly" alright.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Roslindale Open Studios

The Roslindale Open Studios are a fun way to stroll around Roslindale, in and out of artists houses, and view (and purchase) artwork. This article interviews artists from "the heart of downtown Roslindale", a phrase which would lead you to think Roslindale is a lot bigger than it is. It is the smallness of Roslindale which makes the "Open Studios" event work, because there is never too much walking between the various artist homes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Connacht airport? Massachusetts stretching to the Canadian border?

I realize that pilots do not use the in-flight magazine for navigation, but in the case of this month's US Airways magazine it is just as well. Looking at Ireland, I see a mysterious airport called "Connacht" (presumably they mean Knock Airport?), and I notice that they put Newquay Airport in Wales, rather than Cornwall where it actually is. So if I hear "we are going to make an unscheduled landing in Newquay", I'd be a bit worried.

But just to show that it goes the other way too, here is a photograph from the Aer Lingus inflight magazine which I took a while back, note the position of Massachusetts (and indeed Vermont):

Monday, November 3, 2008

New coffee and grocery place in Jamaica Plain

City Feed and Supply is a good new (well, new for me anyway) coffee and organic grocery place in Jamaica Plain. It's close to JP Licks and the Post Office.