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One-time community worker and former agony uncle Horace McDermott now lives on Inishbofin...


A reliable candidate has been recruited to man the new ‘One-Stop Shop’ for all community needs in the Republic of Ireland.
This will end for once and for all the awful duplication going on in publicly-funded community projects across the country. Quangos I call them.
The appointed person – actually myself Horace McDermott, I was surprised too – will handle applications from individuals and communities nationwide.
As part of my induction, I’ve just completed a six-month Advanced Diploma in Pobalese and have moved out to Inishbofin where the office will be based.
Since the One Stop Shop is piloting a scheme whereby it operates without an internet connection, applicants must present in person.
The office will have an open-door policy: Doors open between the hours of 10am-12noon on the first Tuesday of the month. First come, first served. Put the kettle on if I’m running late.
Our dedicated ferry service for applicants runs from Cleggan on Wednesdays only – it was part of the terms and conditions insisted on by the islanders, each of whom has now opened a hotel.
This means community representatives from around the country will get six days to enjoy the island’s many leisure activities which for 2014 now also include beach-rebuilding, pothole-counting and pier-lamenting. Some applicants may prefer to ‘sing for their supper’ rather than address me in Pobalese and Andrew Murray is available for singing lessons. Early booking advised.
The move to a single One Stop Shop for the country is in line with best practice internationally (eg the Japanese Empire in the 1500s) and it has the backing of the Troika and the Department of Infinite Wisdom.*
Community grants are of course available, with first preference going to groups who can provide company records that show they’ve been in existence since the time of the last famine. Funding will be immediately doubled for any group that presents documents from the years when they were burnt to a cinder during the Civil War. That is, provided that the original person who set up the group is part of the delegation making the application.
As is sure to one day become standard practice, applications must be written out in each of the official EU languages and in Cant, Braille and triplicate (to avoid duplication). No favouritism will be shown to anyone who makes their application on the back of the receipt presented on payment of your bill after a stay in my best mate’s hotel.
In regard to community grants, only applications from groups faced with an 80% cut to current funding levels can be considered. New applications for funding are welcome: I’ve a corner kept for them and will go through them after 2024.
I’m told the One Stop Shop will stand (depending on the weather and how quick Galway County Council are in doing repairs) as a beacon for equality, inclusiveness and openness. On the openness bit, I will need a break, so the office will be open all year round except for the winter months (ie from September to June).
The answer is and always has been a One Stop Shop and now you know where it is. If you don’t, hey no worries, see ya on the mainland in September.
* Experts estimate the One-Stop Shop will directly create one (part-time) job and indirectly create 539 jobs in construction and tourism on the island.


Can you say WHAT in print?!

Can you say “langer” in print, I ask the editor.
- Can you say what?!, he chokes.
‘Cos you’re a complete langer. I thought I had a job for life writing for
‘Changing Ireland’, then the recession came and you made me redundant.
- Sure Horace, he says, reality is stranger than fiction now, there’s no work for you no more.
Ah f***, give me a chance, says I to him, how about I cheer up readers by pointing out that, bad as things are they could be worse?
He gives me the nod.
I write a crazy fictional piece about the cold Spring and the fodder crisis being followed by a series of ferocious heatwaves.
- It’s called climate change, says he. Already been predicted by the Kiwi, Ken Ring.
Ok, instead imagine the banks bring in rules that if you’re behind in mortgage repayments you can only have one car and €30 a week for leisure activities.
- It’s happening, he says. And, I know plenty of people who’d queue to have that standard of living. Where can they pick up the car, they’re asking.
I think really hard.
Imagine we were so daft we paid out subsidies to millionaire Saudi princes who kept horses in Ireland, but everytime we saw a poor, young fella riding a horse around town bareback (quite a skill that) we went nuts, called the cops, took the horse and told him go buy a goldfish.
- Tesco is all for rounding up stray horses.
At least ordinary folk don’t have to go to soup-kitchens yet.
- They do.
Yeah, but we don’t live in the third world, children aren’t going hungry.
- Ask Barnardos!
The recession gets so bad that people actually have to give up drugs.
- If the country can give up its independence, folks giving up smokes
isn’t striking.
I’ll write about tax havens and the rich getting richer.
- Not news.
Ireland finds gas and oil, but f**ks up and gives it all away.
He yawns.
Ok, imagine if the unemployed had to work for the dole.
The langer extends his yawn.
They close down social welfare offices so you’d have to travel 25 miles when you have an emergency but you can’t ‘cos you haven’t any money.
- Tell me something new, he says, give me something truly horrible that hasn’t happened yet.
Community sector budgets get cut by 40% over four years, then the services are privatised and community workers end up on the dole.
- Yawn…
Retirement age increases every year by two years so by the time you’re ready to retire you’re at least 110.
- Sure, we’re heading that way if the Americans or the North Koreans don’t nuke us.
Ok – the worst thing imaginable – Fianna Fail come back from the dead and get into power.
- Tell me more, says he, and I get all excited.
Imagine Labour get wiped, Fianna Fail go into coalition with Fine Gael and Dr James O’Reilly and Phil Hogan get another five years to go round charging us for things that used to be free.
- Now you’re talking.
With Brian Cowen as Taoiseach once again.
- Now you’re really hurling. Can’t print it though; imagine Cowen reads it, gets notions and launches his comeback fight all thanks to us.
No thanks. What else have you to say?
You’re some langer!

Same Sex Rights

Dear Horace,
Why do same sex couples want their situation recognised and regularised? I’ve been having same sex with my wife for the past 30 years - same face, same place, same time, every time. Anything different wouldn't feel right at this stage though it would be nice if it was more often.

Con Tented,
Innarutt CDP,
Co. Tipperary

Dear Con,
I think you’ve misunderstood, same sex couples doesn’t refer to the monotony of monogamy, it’s about making Ireland more homogenous, that’s where you have sex with someone who’s the same as yourself, you know white and Catholic.


Development Theory in Practice


The world is turned upside down!

Dear Horace,
The world is all confused and upside down! All the great capitalist countries are doing everything opposite. They are privatising health services and water supplies while nationalising the banks. Please explain what’s happening.
Sosha Lizt, Left Bank Arts Project

Horace helps!
Well if you put the state and it's bureaucracy in charge of a banking crisis the whole thing slows down into an orderly queue or waiting list thus preventing any volatile run on the bank. Hard to run when your standing in a long line.
- Horace


Renditions have always been popular

In a Riddle
Help Me Horace!
What is the difference between rendition and extraordinary rendition?
- U. Femism

Horace Helps:
Rendition refers to how someone sings a song as in 'that was a fine rendition of that song.' Extraordinary rendition is a better or unusual version of that song. And generally extraordinary rendition leaves people screaming out for more, or sometimes just screaming. It's big in the West of Ireland for the past few years, particularly Clare.
Don't bother with the Willie Clancy Music Festival, head straight for Shannon Airport, where the most extraordinary renditions of all have taken place.


Is Housing Estate Enhancement worth it?

Help me Horace!
What is 'Housing Estate Enhancement'? Is it expensive?
We’re trying to write the job spec for new members? The ideal candidates must have no previous experience, and have shown no prior interest in community initiatives. Is this right?
- Auntie Jargon
Bewildered Terrace

Dear Auntie,
You've heard of plastic surgery and bust enhancement. Well, estate enhancement is a bit like that - at the end of it, your estate should come out looking better, though not necessarily bigger.


Changing Ireland’: Can you change it a bit faster?

Dear Horace,
‘Changing Ireland’, is that right? Well, I’m here to complain that you are not changing it fast enough.
For starters, I would like you to change my house, my car and my job. And I’m thinking about a new husband too. I would also like to win the lottery (the Euro Millions, forget that local lark) and to buy a James Bond-style speedboat.
If there’s more you could do for me, I would like another development worker for our project and a new administrator (I will be resigning after the lottery win).
Let me know when I’ve to pack up my belongings,
Yours sincerely,
Demanding Dorothy,

My darling Dorothy,
I will write to the Minister. In the meanwhile, you may have saved me a lot of hassle because I’ve been looking to get married for decades, and I see you like boats.
The woman I’m looking for has to be a keen boat enthusiast, preferably with her own boat, ideally 16 foot long, with an outboard engine. Marriage duties would include digging worms and cooking fish. Dorothy, could you please send me a photograph (of the boat) and we’ll see if we can get hooked.
- Horace x x x


Appalling Vista

Dear Horace,
My administrator keeps nagging me about updating our computers. Fair enough, they’re a bit old – one runs on coal – but I find it hard to keep up with developments.
The latest thing is called Vista. I don’t know my Windows from my door panels and the only Mac I trust is my raincoat.
I looked up Vista in the dictionary – it didn’t inspire me with confidence, more likely it’s something I’ll stare at for hours.
I spent ages last year on courses trying to figure out the current system and I fear I’ll spend most of 2007 grappling with the new one. Should I go back to ‘Post-It’ notes and the abacus?
Terry Fayed,
Luddite CDP

Horace helps!
You really don’t know much. Even I know Windows has nothing to do with doors, it’s got more to do with Gates.
I recommend you do a car maintenance course, so you’ll have some idea what to do when your computer crashes. And, if you get lost poking around under the bonnet, the search engine will always find you.
- Horace


Horses in my garden

Dear Horace,
There are four horses in my garden, I rang the Gardai about it but they said it was a matter for the local authority. But the council said it was nothing to do with them. What can I do?
Sad El

Horace replies,
Don't be sad El, it's the same here. The only horses I like to see are horses from Templemore with Gardai on them. Once the local newspapers have taken their photo, they are gone.


No doubt about Suir CDP

Help Me Horace!
I’ve heard word there’s a bit of a split in Le Cheile CDP? Could this be true?
Rume R. Monger,
Ceart Go Leor CDP

Dear Rume,
Of course not! Other rumours I want to quash now are that:
Harmony CDP are having ‘The Clash’ for their Christmas party.
There is some doubt about Suir CDP.
That due to vandalism Open Door CDP is changing to Closed Steel Shutter CDP.
None of these are true.


In a Riddle

In a Riddle
Help Me Horace!
In this era of equality how come we have a STAG CDP but no HEN CDP?
While I’m at it - which came first, Acorn CDP or OAK Partnership?
Con Undrum,
Humdrum Support Agency,

Well Con,
In answering your HEN CDP question, Con, I don’t know why, but it seems totally unreasonable.
The second question drove me nutty, but without a HEN CDP it’s interesting there is no Edenderry Growing Greater (EGG) CDP either. Sorry I can’t solve these mysteries.


Status Quo Quandry

My Dear Horace,
My favourite band of all time is ‘Status Quo’, but I am also a big fan of ‘Changing Ireland’ and feel something isn’t right.
Yours truly,
Con Tradiction,
Fighting for Peace CDP

Dear Con,
Yes, I think you’ll have to change your musical tastes. My favourite band is ‘Something Happens’ because in this work I’m not always sure what’s going on, but I know something’s happening.
Keep fighting!


Will I bring a JCB?

Help Me Horace!
I see there is a Joyriding Conference being held in the Hilton Hotel in Dublin soon. This is great. It’s about time we all came together. I find those new BMWs a right bugger to get into. Is there anything special I need to do to gain admission, or are my hospital reports and Garda score-sheet good enough?
By the way, my best mate makes out it’s actually a conference to stop joyriding. He hasn’t a clue, huh! I’m thinking of arriving in a JCB just for kicks. I’d normally burn it out but I guess there will be serious competition afterwards for transport home, yeah?
An bhfuil dhaoine eile bheith caint as Gaeilge?
Eamon ‘Go Tapaidh’ Carr,
Le Cheile Joyriding Club,
All over the Capitol,

Hi Eamon,
Joyriding Conference. You sure it aint one of those partner-swopping events? Don’t bother with the JCB. Hop on Dublin Bus – for €1.10 they guarantee you’ll be high if you go up on the top deck. Sin é!


I feel unread

Dear Horace,
There’s a man on my road and he reads the telephone directory (he says you can’t beat it for the number of characters in the story, though the plot sucks) but he still won’t read our CDP annual report.
Well, in desperation, this year I stapled our annual report to my head in the hope that the doctor would read it while removing it. He was rather busy however.
Do you think the newcomers in the Department might read it?
Annie Reading,
‘We Never Fail’ CDP,
Mid-South-East Region West

Dear Annie,
Thank you for your recent correspondence. I have passed it onto the appropriate person who will take note of its contents. If I can be of any further assistance in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me. Yawn!
Yours sincerely


Bored Games

Help me Horace!
My name is Minister O’Peeved. I am bored. I have nearly put all my toys into one box, so things are nice and tidy and easy to find. My problem is I may have damaged some of them trying to squeeze everything into the one box. My "See The Pea" puzzle game has nearly 200 pieces could I join up some or get rid of a few to make it easier even if the bigger picture would be lost?
M. N. O’Peeved

Horace Helps
Dear M. N.,
As they say "Toys will be toys" but maybe you should watch the film ‘Toy Story' because you would learn to be kind to your toys - they may bite back.


Should I stay or should I go?

Help me Horace!
I am chairperson of my CDP and I am very confused by the new directives from the Department of CRAGGY. It seems we have to get rid of everyone on the management committee and replace them. Basically if we have any volunteer there for six years or more they have to go.
We’re trying to write the job spec for new members? The ideal candidates must have no previous experience, and have shown no prior interest in community initiatives. Is this right?

Dear Chairio,
No previous experience - why not get Ray D’Arcy down to do auditions? Your recruitment drive could become a hit tv series and give the Community Development Programme a major boost.
You could have a parallel series following the statutory personnel who are put on the committees called "I’m a Civil Servant Get Me Out of Here!".
Horace and Dec


Silver lining

Dear Horace,
I’m a youth worker in a local authority estate and despite my best efforts there are so many young lads hanging around in gangs and engaged in anti-social behaviour. It feels like all my community development work has achieved nothing.
- Disillusioned Dave

Dear Dave,
Just apply the principles and analyse what’s going on.
These young men come together with a unity of purpose, engage in collective action and as a group display great loyalty and camaraderie. These boys sound very social and very outgoing (they’re rarely in, I believe). They are extremely active (sometimes hyper, yeah) and very good at getting their activities highlighted in the media.
And how hard it normally is to get men to meet and express their feelings? Again this group are very well able to verbalise and act out their emotions (such as anger and hate) very creatively. Be proud Dave, you’re doing great.
- Horace


Could be the bird flew

Dear Horace,
One of our staff has become a bit overwhelmed by recent health scares. Last week, he announced that he was giving up meat, tap water, and wants regular updates on the local air quality. All the staff here are encouraged to study the Health and Safety policy, but he’s using a laminated copy of it to waft away ‘negative energy’.
Most recently he became alarmed that there are fewer birds around the place.
He now insists that he won’t come into the office until I wash the whole place down with dettol and wire brushes and find out why the pigeons aren’t on the roof anymore.
What can I do?.
- Fran Tickman, Witsend CDP

Dear Fran,
There is many the hypochondriac buried in the graveyard so don’t dismiss his fears lightly. A foot and mouth type foot-bath at the door may ease his concerns about coming into the office. As for the last pigeon gone from the roof, it sounds like a case of the bird flew!



Dear Horace
A VIP plans to visit the CDP but we’re told we can’t go OTT because they want it kept on the QT. It could be the VP of the USA or the UK’s PM which would mean the CIA, FBI or the SAS and MI5 in our HQ.
I know it’s not PC but I can’t put up with these SOBs so I’m going to RSVP to the DCRGA that they can F.O. Can I do that? I need advice ASAP.
Yours truly,
PJ O’Dea

Dear PJ
Sounds OK!


I can't handle it

Dear Horace,
My Administrator keeps parking her bicycle in my space. If we put both bikes together then visitors get poked in the ribs by handlebars. Should I puncture her tyres?
Yours, Bike Blues

Dear BB,
Have you spoke to her about it as obviously you feel you’ve been saddled with a big problem. Tyre puncturing will not solve it. Sawn off handle bars would seem more appropriate and could start a new craze. You could get cross and bar her bike or you could apply for a refurbishment grant to make space but that could start a whole chain of events you might regret.


Held for questioning

Help me Horace!
Working in the Community Development Programme is tough enough but over the last number of months I’ve been inundated with questionnaires from the Support Agency, the SIM Group and CDB, Government Departments, consultative bodies, college researchers and every organisation compiling a data base of services. Who do they think they are, Larry Gogan?
I feel like someone detained for questioning.
What can I do?
Sincerely Con Sulted of Swing CDP

You have three options:
1. Ignore the questionnaires and don’t return them.
2. If a prepaid envelope is provided send it back empty and tell them later you did send it back and don’t have time to do it out again.
3. Get a student on placement to devise a questionnaire asking them why they want this information and promising to fill out theirs if they fill out yours first.
Now please circle the option that most suits you and return to Horace McDermot, c/o ‘Changing Ireland’:
Please give reasons for your choice.
How did you find this advice?
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- Horace


I’m worried about poverty

Dear Horace,
When will poverty in Ireland be a thing of the past? I thought we were getting there, but apparently not. I’m nervous we might make a sudden breakthrough, because once the poverty is done away with, I’m out of a job. What’s the story?
Bothered Bob

Dear Bob,
Some things are very hard to get rid of like Twink or Gay Byrne. They keep popping back up just when you think you’ve seen the last of them. Poverty is a bit the same. It’s always there and when you try to have a real go to eradicate it and consign it to history all you get is an upsurge in wrinkly rocker record sales like Pink Floyd. Anyway look at it this way. If you did away with poverty and you lost your job then you’d be poor. Then somebody would be given the job of fighting poverty and soon you’d be out of poverty and then they’d lose their job and … well you can see you have nothing to worry about either way.

My staff have eloped

Help me Horace!
I am the CDP Chairperson here in Ballydontsaywhere. My problem is that our Administrator has run away with our Co-ordinator. That wasn’t so bad but the cheque-book is also missing. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone. What can I do?
Worried Wilma

Dear Wilma,
There is no need to be embarrassed about telling anyone? Now that it’s published in ‘Changing Ireland’ everyone will know. As for the cheque-book, don’t worry. Neither of your staff are signatories – the real trouble starts when your secretary runs off with your treasurer so nip any simmering romances within the management committee in the bud. A training day on gender discrimination should be enough to create division and enmity between the males and females in the project.

Should we stop speaking Irish?

Help me Horace!
I am involved in a Gaeltacht-based CDP and the Minister wants to move us out of the Community Development Programme. He’s thinking of throwing us in with the Udaras crowd. We are thinking of stopping speaking Irish as a way to mess up his plans. (We could still speak it on the Q.T.) Have you any better ideas?
Sean O’Suilleabhain, Bothar Gangaeilge, Dingle, Co. Offaly

Dear Sean or should I say John,
You’re dead right. After all "Nil aon programme mar do programme fein."

My Co-ordinator stinks

Dear Horace,
My Co-ordinator insists on wearing eco-friendly alternative moisturiser to work. He stinks and no-one calls to our office anymore. The management don’t know what to do. There is nothing in the contract to cover this, is there?
He also refuses to shower more than once a month blaming the Government for putting chlorine in the water. As each month wears on, he tries to compensate by lobbing on extra helpings of moisturiser. It’s horrendous in here as I type. What can I do?
Fuming Fiona

Dear Fiona,
A smelly co-ordinator will never address the need for water and soap but an itchy co-ordinator will resort to anything that brings relief. Why not try spiking his moisturiser with pepper or chilli powder. If that fails then burning incense sticks is an option. Be careful where you stick the incense of course

I’m a Burned-Out Smoking Social Outcast

Help me Horace!
I’m a burned out community development worker and for the last year have begun to feel like a social outcast, unloved and unwelcome. The problem is you see that I’m a smoker and now in the office, at meetings, pubs, cinemas and even in Croke Park I’m banned. It’s taken the enjoyment out of everything especially a drink or two after work. Worse, some of my friends say that I shouldn’t be allowed treatment in our hospitals. They say I’m blocking up badly needed beds by my selfishness and anti-social behaviour. It’s really getting me down. Please help Horace. Am I that bad? What should I do?
Nick O’Teahan,
Durtee, Ash Tree

Dear Nick,
You’ve got it completely wrong. Your friends should be thanking you for all you have done for this country. If the truth was told the Celtic tiger was built on the lungs and livers of the hard pressed heavy smokers and drinkers of Ireland. When there was no work and no investment, the most consistent form of government income was raised on the excessive duty and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol increased each year in the budget.
The government knew they could count on patriots like you willing to die for Ireland and it was your daily pack of 20 and slew of pints at the weekend that paid for the transport, education and health systems in this country. Your friends have a cheek. Smokers anti-social? Where did all the lovely side walk cafes and pleasant beer gardens come from? If you had given up the fags then the publicans would never have developed these facilities.
Now that the government have stopped lashing the duty on to the "old reliables" you have other ways that you can do your civic duty and keep the coffers full. One very practical thing you can do is buy at least a half-dozen plastic bag every time you shop so we can be sure the government levy raises as much as possible for the good of the many.