Up in the air: ongoing airline strikes  cause uncertainty for holidaymakers

Our columnist Frank Brandon on the effects of the recent Aer Lingus strikes, the US presidential election, a busy weekend in entertainment between concerts and matches, and a reminder to readers of Creggs GAA’s upcoming Rockford’s takeover…

During my short banking career, which lasted about eleven years, I found myself on two different bank strikes. Even though we knew that there was a huge effect on the nation’s economy and that our strike might put lots of small businesses under extreme financial pressure, our union, the IBOA, felt with the support of the majority of the workers, that there was no alternative, and – popular or not – we simply had to withdraw our labour and close down all financial services.

As it happens, the effect on the overall economic situation was relatively small, as Irish people traded cheques between themselves, more or less substituting cheques for cash. What was amazing was that when the banks finally reopened, nearly all the cheques were honoured, and there were very few bouncers.

That was more than 50 years ago, and despite all the massive changes in that half century, some things stay the same, and strikes (no matter who is on them) still cause all sorts of problems. While all strikes are eventually settled, there is always a price to pay. And so today we have the Aer Lingus pilots taking industrial action, and even though it’s not a full-scale strike, there is no doubt that it is causing huge disruption and inconvenience to so many would-be travellers. Already, more than 400 flights have been cancelled, so taking an average of 200 passengers per flight, by my calculations (only did pass maths in the Leaving) that means a minimum of 80,000 people have had their holiday/business plans either changed or ruined altogether.

One of the big differences between our action in the 1970s and that of the pilots, is that we were being paid pittance for our services, while by all accounts Aer Lingus pilots are already very handsomely rewarded for theirs. And yet, despite the hassle their customers are having to endure, the pilots’ union tells us that they are getting huge support from the public, and that they are greatly encouraged by that. Never let it be said that I doubt what IALPA (Irish airline pilots association) say, but when I see salaries of more than a quarter of a million euro already being earned, I find it hard to believe that the average Joe Soap is really on their side.

I know there are two sides to every dispute, and strikers themselves have to suffer financially as well as in other ways, but surely in the interests of families and other people who have scrimped and saved to have an annual holiday, everyone should get around the table and sort this mess out. As someone said the other day, eventually all strikes get settled – so why not sort it out now?

Back in 1979, we were out for more than six months before the issues were resolved, after which my salary rose by nearly a pound a week to £8. As I spent the six months in London working in the Jack Grady-owned Golden Lion pub in East London, and discovered the joys of city socialising, my weight rose by a lot more pounds, and I gained more than four stones in those six months.

Anyway, as I write this on Monday morning, and as today is the first day of July – the start of the big holiday season, with schools all now closed for the summer – I have to admit that my sympathies are with all of those who have to change their holiday plans, and I really hope all sides see the futility of carrying this impasse on indefinitely.

Debate debacle

Talking of Aer Lingus, we all know that they are the principal airline servicing the United States from Ireland, and while I have never made it to that great land of opportunity, I am well aware that America is among the most powerful countries in the world.

And so there can be no doubt that the prospect of having the convicted felon, Donald Trump, or the aged, forgetful, at times almost incoherent Joe Biden, being in charge of the United States is a terrifying thought.  Over in the east, Putin, and his new best friend, Kim Jong Un, along with China’s Xi Jinping, must be rubbing their hands with glee and relishing the thought of having to deal with either of these ageing ‘head the balls’.

That the pair of them, in their televised debate, spent time arguing about their respective golf handicaps and Donald Trump’s swing, pretty much sums them up. One political commentator, when asked for his opinion on who had won the debate, said it didn’t matter, America lost. They have until November to sort things out, but as of now, with Biden refusing to drop out, it’s looking more and more likely that Trump will be back. Maybe Boris Johnson will make a comeback across the water?

Swift, Shania and Shane excel on a busy weekend!

The weekend just gone by must have been one of the busiest of all time in Dublin, with the Pride festival, the All-Ireland football quarter-finals, Shania Twain in Malahide Castle on Friday night, and Taylor Swift doing three sold-out nights in the Aviva Stadium.

Now I have told you before that I am not a ‘swiftie’ and I don’t know any of Taylor’s songs, but when it comes to Shania, that’s a different matter. I know loads of her songs and watched a video of her singing ‘Man! I feel like a Woman!’ at Glastonbury festival only yesterday – and it was just magic. Apparently she has been quite ill recently, and is lucky to be still alive, and social media attracted horrible comments about her voice. I thought she sounded as well as ever, and the thousands of fans at Glastonbury really rocked to her, and at 58 years of age she still looks amazing!

However, much as I would have liked to have been to see her in Malahide Castle, for all of us that have Galway blood flowing through our veins there was only one show in town, and that was in Croke Park, where the Shane Walsh-inspired Tribesmen produced a second-half performance for the ages to stun All-Ireland champions Dublin in the quarter-final of this year’s championship.

Now I have never said anything about GAAGO, but for all of us who couldn’t go to the two games on Saturday, it was simply outrageous that those matches were not on RTE. Funny enough, it wasn’t the cost that upset me, but rather the fact that even though my telly is only a couple of years old (and is a Smart TV), I couldn’t pick up the signal at all. It seems that there are very many supporters like me whose TVs are incompatible with the GAAGO technology, and very many of those will have missed out on the Rossies versus Armagh game, and the Galway-Dubs’ one.

I thought Roscommon would have beaten Kieran McGeeney’s men, but the harsh sending off and the three games in fourteen days told against them, and they never really looked like going through to the last four.

I visited my son, Mark, to watch the Galway game and have to admit that for the last 10 or 15 minutes, as we started to reel in the Dubs, my stents and my pacemaker were tested to the full. When the final whistle went, the roof was nearly lifted off the Roscommon house that he is living in.

It’s been a while since we have had such an unexpected victory and the fact that it was against the champions made it all the sweeter, but Jim McGuinness’s men (Donegal) are lying in wait in the semi-final and they will be very formidable opponents. However, if all our men are fit and well, we have every chance of making it back to the final. Now wouldn’t that be great?

Sticking with the GAA… with the passing of the great Michael O’Muircheartaigh, my claim to fame is that, in my very short inter-county career he said, during his commentary on our game against Cork in the league in 1974, that I was “slightly overweight” (he got that wrong – I was vastly overweight) but could “move fairly well”. I think he got that wrong as well.

However, he truly was a giant of broadcasting, and, along with the passing of former RTE reporter Tommie Gorman, we lost two titans in the last week.

And finally…

Don’t forget the Rockford’s Takeover this Saturday night, 6th of July, when thanks to the hard work of Ciaran Browne, Creggs GAA are literally taking over Rockford’s in Roscommon.

For €10 you get entry to the nightclub and also into a draw for two bar tabs worth €50. We look forward to seeing you all there on the night, and if you win the bar tabs, don’t forget me!