Thursday, March 31, 2016

The City That Doesn't Touch Feb 26, 2015844 views87 Likes8 CommentsShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Twitter I work in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a city that doesn’t touch. Try it yourself today – try not touch anyone, all day all evening. Try to resist shaking hands at work, or avoiding the warm hug from a friend, the casual arm to guide a companion in the correct direction. Experience the awkward feeling of suddenly not holding hands with your loved one. Early evening on Sunday I sat on the seafront at Freetown, watching the sun sink into an Atlantic horizon. The shops, restaurants and bars, by presidential decree under the State of Emergency, had closed an hour earlier. Dozens of young couples were out walking along the shore, but such is the pervasive caution that none were arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand or kissing. No presidential decree has said as much, but touch is on hold in Freetown. The police, army or militia don’t need to enforce this no touching policy. In Freetown, to walk hand-in-hand with your lover along the beach marks one out as reckless and selfish, perhaps even a vector. The way to fight this Ebola plague, by reducing human contact to a cold, logical minimum, has meant that social interaction has become anti-social. Social interaction has been driven into the private sphere. Tactile affection is expressed behind doors, away from the prying eyes of those ready to judge, tut and gossip. The response to the Ebola threat The sheer organisational skills and high-tech resources that have been deployed to deal with Ebola are phenomenal. In 2013, pre-Ebola, the country had six beat-up ambulances for the entire country. At last count, the number of ambulances was in the hundreds. Before Ebola, the health infrastructure in Sierra Leone was either non-existent or collapsing, now the country has some of the most sophisticated medical clinics in the world. Helicopters criss-cross Freetown day and night, ferrying first-responder teams and transferring patients. Army and police roadblocks are around every corner, checking your temperature for early signs of the disease. This is a city under siege and at war. Yet the Sierra Leoneans, under a very able joint civilian/military leadership, retain hope. Privately held fears remain just that, private. The citizens of Freetown mix an effective combination of stoicism and fatalism to ensure that extraordinary discipline, behavioral change and tedious commitment is adhered to. This is a war with millions of people on the front line. This citizens’ army is equipped only with thermometers, water, chlorine, self-restraint and repetitive focus. Co-operation and focus in time of crisis Albert Camus in his allegoric novel the ‘Plague’, said: “once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of plague was ended” and it’s that very hope that ensures defeat for Ebola is the most likely outcome of this war. And what an extraordinary coalition has been assembled. On any given day my own colleagues will find themselves working alongside Sierra Leonean nurses, Cuban doctors, British soldiers, Chinese army medical squads, district hereditary chiefs, Kenyan tropical health epidemiologists, virologists from the Centre for Disease Control in the USA and the alphabet soup of letters that is the UN. Ebola will be defeated and what will be left is a country that is badly wounded because of its sacrifice. Children have been uneducated for a year, their schools closed in an effort to contain the spread. The previously impressive economic recovery of the country is in reverse. Roads, energy and communications infrastructure projects across the country stopped months ago, laying off thousands of workers. All retailers and markets are on significantly reduced hours; farmer access to markets is curtailed; entire districts quarantined; travel restricted; cinemas and theatres closed; borders sealed; exports halted; beaches out of bounds; public parks locked; competitive sports postponed; youth clubs shut; taxis off the street by dark. In short, the country has cooperatively ground itself to a halt. The unknown scale of what was emerging We might well forget that worst-case scenario forecasts have partially come true. Some predictions suggested that Ebola would, for the first time in its 37- year history, arrive into a city. It happened. It was suggested that from a capital city the fight against Ebola would likely become worldwide. It didn’t. There were some isolated exceptions - Spain, the US and UK - but Sierra Leoneans, with technical and financial support from the international community have contained the horrifying spread of this disease not just in Freetown, but prevented its existentialist export to the world. Strategists could learn a lot from this experience; a study of the impact of the omnipresent relentless marketing campaign to get people to change their behavior to stop contracting and spreading the disease, the singular adherence to an approach that looked doomed from the start but all available information said would work, the leadership and confidence publically expressed by political, civic and medical leaders to ensure calm and social structures held up and the constant reallocation of resources to target outbreaks that popped up unpredictably around the country. Impressive public health campaigns have been done before; clearing Havana of Malaria in the 1890s and Panama of Yellow fever in early 20th Century. Both of those tasks were considered impossible and done with a much more pliant population. What this campaign against Ebola has shown is what clear strategic leadership in a modern context can achieve on a massive scale, ensuring that more than 6 million people are pulling on the same team.
Killian Forde Killian Forde Test Test Test I think I will start blogging again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Junk Mail

Knocking around the doors in this election I've noticed an increasing number of signs in peoples porches or on the letter box stating "No Junk Mail".

Now this sign causes a bit of a dilemma for us canvassers. Junk Mail is subjective. Obviously I don't consider my local manifesto to be junk, but accept that others might do.

So the dilemma is this. If I post in the leaflet will the potential voter be annoyed that I didn't respect their wishes but if I don't put it in the letterbox how will the potential voter ever know that I respected their little sign about Junk Mail.

I would suggest that a bit more detail is needed and after careful consideration I recommend that the sign is changed to "No unsolicited mail or flyer's".

That would sort out the confusion :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Plot Thickens

Last weeks Sunday Tribune led with a story on the country's property developers seeking to limit the reach of the recently established National Assests Management Agency (NAMA). Today's Sunday Business Post suggest that may not be necessary as NAMA has agreed "not to force up to 20 of the country’s top developers into receivership or liquidation".

NAMA was set up by Finance Minister Lenihan "so that bad loans can be taken off the bank balance sheets, freeing them up to lend to business and individuals in support of economic recovery".

The Agency also intends to take some of the good assets from developers and sell them on as well as the bad loans which are likely never to be repaid.

The problem with this approach is that announcing that gives the developers a lot of time to transfer their good assests out of the reach of NAMA.

Last week I was at a meeting in attendance was a official from one of the ancillary service providers to major developers. He told me later that he knew that some of his clients were frantically looking at legal ways to transfer their good assets into legal trusts that NAMA couldn't touch!

This nugget plus the revelation during the week that the designated boss of NAMA knows nothing more about the operation of the agency that "what he read in the papers" make it look increasingly likely that the NAMA plan to deal with the mess of the bursting property bubble will be a total failure and leave the taxpayers with a monstrous bill that will takes decade to pay.

I think at this stage the most logical thing to do it review the bank guarantee. I feel that the Government should only guarantee the deposits up to say €250,000. Then start looking at establishing a good bank using the money designated for the existing banks into this new bank. The already existing infrastructure of both the Credit Unions and An Post could as well as an efficient web presence could act as a interim solution.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2nd best

The worlds second greatest band, after the Petrols obviously, have just been confirmed to play The Electric Picnic.

A Flock of Seagulls writers of the classic "I Ran" and "Wishing I had a Photograph of You" play down in Stradbally first week in September along with a load of other people of much lesser importance.

Now whats the chance of getting a t-shirt.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm not much of a gambler but always have a flutter on the elections. On the last General Election I won over €700 on betting on local constituencies. Ultimately betting is about knowing more about a 'race' than those setting the odds. If your into politics, know electoral histories and are canvassing it fairly easy to spot good odds.

Paddy Power have opened a bunch of books on the forthcoming European, Local and By-election.

I spotted Fianna Fail at 16/1 for getting no seats in the Euros and popped down to the shop in Baldoyle and stuck on €50. Another decent long odds punt is my colleague Christy Burke to win the Dublin Central seat at 10/1.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Hands in pockets, disinterested facial expression, disdainful slouch.