Perhaps it is because everybody is so mesmerised by the financial mess we find ourselves in but I am surprised there hasn’t been a hue and cry over the government’s plans to raise the old-age retirement age from 65 to 68.

There is practically war on the streets in France because of President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s intention to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age for the full pension from 65 to 67. Already there have been two national days of strikes and much more is planned as the battle plays itself out.

In Britain at present, the retirement age for women is 60 and 65 for men. The government there is also talking about raising the limit but other than announcing that men won’t have to retire at age 65 if they don’t want to, as is currently the case, it is unlikely that the government will be successful such is the force of public opposition to the move.

Meanwhile, us little lambs in Ireland rarely raise a whimper and seem to be resigned to whatever the powers that be decide to throw at us. And speaking of pensions, we are still the only country in Western Europe that hasn’t moved to protect the private pensions of workers. Perhaps, if the Waterford Crystal workers are successful with their court challenge, something might be done.

Cyber squatter bags Fleadh address

The organisers of next year’s All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, which will take place in Cavan town, were dismayed last week to discover that the web addresses they intended to use had already been taken up in an example of what is sometimes referred to as ‘cyber-squatting’.

The hard working committee used the address this year in preparation for next year’s big event and there is a huge awareness of the site around the world. But, when they went to register it for next year, they discovered that and had already been purchased by a resident of Cavan town. At the time of writing, they had been unable to reach the person who now holds the rights to the sites.

A spokesperson for Ireland’s Domain Registry said it cost €30 to €40 to register a domain name for a year. He pointed out that .ie addresses could not be sold on but they could be transferred by mutual agreement. It was possible that money could change hands privately but, if they became aware of such a transaction, they would have the right to delete the name, explained the spokesperson. Cripes! Where will it all end?

Ordered by Judge to make a pilgrimage

There has never been any shortage of ‘characters’ among the ranks of our District Judges and a new name to me, Judge Seamus Hughes, made a bit of a stir last week when he ordered a Donegal man, who hurled abuse at a Mayo-born garda, to make a pilgrimage to Mayo to purge his contempt.

Judge Hughes, who is based in Westport, made his order in Milford District Court after hearing evidence against a man charged with a breach of the Public Order Act. The court heard that, when the defendant was approached by Garda Nicholas Freyne outside a pub, the Donegal man, who is from Rathmullen, called the garda a couple of choice names and told him to ‘clear off home to Mayo’ only he didn’t say it in such a polite manner.

Well, Judge Hughes wasn’t impressed and ordered the defendant to make a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. “I want you to come back here in a month’s time with evidence that you did the four stations of Croagh Patrick and said a few prayers. You might have a different impression of County Mayo and its people when you return”, said the Judge.

In fairness to the defendant, he has embraced the Judge’s direction with enthusiasm. “I’m going to turn it into a sponsored pilgrimage and give all the money to a Mayo hospital. When I asked my friends, I got €300 in about 20 minutes and I’m already on a second sponsor card”, he said proudly. If he keeps that up, Judge Hughes will surely be impressed.

Increased marks for oral Irish

The operators of Irish summer colleges in Gaeltacht areas across the country, including An Rinn, are hoping that changes to the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations, that received little publicity announced by Mary Hanafin when she was Minister for Education and Science, will reverse the downward trend of students attending Irish courses.

Increased marks are to be awarded to students taking the Irish oral exam in the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. For the Junior Cert, marks will be doubled from 20 to 40 per cent of the total and from 25 to 40 per cent in the Leaving Cert. The new marking system will come into effect for Junior Cert students who commenced second level this September and for Leaving Cert students in 2012.

Caitlin Neachtain is development officer for Comhchoiste na gColáistí Samhraidh and she speaks for a federation of 47 Irish summer colleges which saw the number of students attending courses this summer decline by an average of 20%. Ms Neachtain blames the recession for the drop in numbers, pointing out that parents simply can’t afford the expense involved but now they may have to rethink their strategy. However, with so many marks now riding on the oral part of the examinations, parents will have to thingk again.

Sad Collie

A Jack Russell and a Collie were walking down Broad Street one day last week and the Jack Russell asked the Collie why he was so down in the dumps. “My life is in a mess”, said the Collie mournfully. “My owner is the meanest person you could imagine, my girlfriend is having an affair with a German Shepherd from the Dunmore Road and I’m as nervous and as jumpy as a cat.”

“I’m sorry to hear that”, said the Jack Russell, “why don’t you go and see a psychiatrist.” “I can’t”, replied the Collie, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”