Back in 1988 when life was miserable and Ireland languished in recession the government was looking for any reason for a celebration. A historian uncovered a document indicating that the Norse King of Dublin, Glúniairn, recognized Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill as High King of Ireland and agreed to pay tribute/taxes to him in the year 988.
He was not the first Viking King of Dublin. Dublin was probably established by the Vikings in 839. Using 988 as a “foundation” date is somewhat strange. It is more properly the date on which the Irish Gaels established nominal control over the city. But such niceties were lost on the downtrodden miserable debt ridden Dubliners of 1988. When the government of the day offered to stump up for a party the population were happy to pretend that it was a millennial celebration. 1,000 years of taxes, hurray!
In 1988 I worked for the Irish national telephone company, Telecom Eireann. It was previously the Government Department of Posts and Telegraphs. This was split in 1984 into An Post and Telecom Eireann. The latter no longer exists. It was broken up and sold in the interests of competition, better services for consumers, lower prices etc. This is why I don’t have decent broadband in my home. So much for the better services.
The Mobile phone arm of the company, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone in the 1990’s. In 1996 Denis O’Brien won a second Mobile phone operating licence for ESAT Telecom. The Minister for Telecommunications at the time was a Tipperary politician called Michael Lowry. There were rumours of dodgy dealings which were eventually investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal. The Moriarty Tribunal found in 2008 that the awarding of the licence was influenced by payments made by O’Brien to Michael Lowry.
In the last general election in Ireland Michael Lowry topped the poll yet again in the Tipperary constituency, which says everything you need to know about Irish voter attitudes to probity in public office. Denis O’Brien lives as a tax exile, but still has unrivalled access to business opportunities under government control, such as the recent award to provide water meters. Given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal one would seriously question why any politician would have dealings with such a businessman, unless they aim to profit as Lowry did.
One of the hot new services we pioneered in the 1980s was the Call Card. Instead of using pesky money to make your phone call in the public payphone you could buy an all new singing and dancing call card. The photo above shows the millennium celebration limited edition Telecom Eireann call card from 1988.
Today you would be lucky to find a public payphone, let alone find one that works.
If my career in Telecomms taught me anything it taught me this; there are some things that should not be privatized. Never privatize a network, that applies to road, rail, power, water, communications, information. Keep them public, let them serve the common good.
That’s my rant over for today. Happy Birthday Dublin, 1029 years old today…… or 1178 years old, depending on the government of the day.