A Foreigner in Ireland - A view on Politics and Life.

Suicidal Cyclists? – Helmet: Check! Lights: Who cares?

Let me start with the promise that this won’t be one of these many blanket rants about cyclists that we find in plenty of media outlets, but it is an odd observation that I made in the last two week.

I don’t know if this is a new trend or a test of courage or stupidity or suicidal tendency among cyclists?! But in the last two weeks I encountered four (!) cyclists that were perfectly equipped with helmets and a pretty bike and even with lycras, but they completely left out the lights when they cycled at around 19:00/20:00 in pitch dark.

How can this happen? If they think they can be seen without lights or if they think nobody has to see them, then they are idiots. If they were just badly equipped or not serious cyclists or caught out by sudden darkness, I could understand it. But this time of the year, it is more dark then bright and these four were serious cyclists (judging by their good and serious bikes) and they were people that seemingly were aware of the general risk, otherwise they wouldn’t wear a helmet. ALL four wore a helmet!!!

How can you leave the house and check if you have your helmet and your bike and your bike lock and if you have put your lycras on, but then leave the lights behind? How can you think that it is in any way safe to cycle anywhere if you don’t have strong front and back lights?

Sure it can happen that you forget something (even lights) or that you run out of batteries/charge, despite otherwise really good planning. But FOUR forgetful cyclists in two weeks? Do they maybe really not realise that they are virtually invisible in the night?


Car Insurance Madness in Ireland! Are they all incompetent?

I needed to renew my car insurance and this is always a good bit of work. Since I made some significant savings a few years ago, I always compare as many as possible insurances every year to see if there is a better offer somewhere.

Last year I didn’t change the insurer, but this year it went a little different. My car is a Mazda with 1.8l and it is 9 years old. I have a full no claims bonus and have my drivers license since I was 18 so for quite a long time. I also am driving in Ireland for many many years, BUT I still have a German drivers license and annoyingly I was caught in last May speeding! Yes, I did drive 6km (!!) faster than allowed and got 3 very very annoying penalty points.

This is the framework and the points and the German license do make things a little less smooth.

The saga started with AIG (last year’s insurer sending me a renewal offer for EUR 780. Not too bad I thought. A few days later they rang me and asked me if I was interested in renewing, so I said I was but hadn’t decided yet. The guy suggested that he will check if there is anything better than EUR 780 he can do and off he went with all his questions. But suddenly we hit a hurdle: He asked me if I had an Irish drivers license and I said that I still (as for the last four years I was insured with them) had my German license. He claims that that was never on their system (which is rubbish) and he would have to recalculate the price. After a few moments he told me that instead of EUR 780, now the best offer was EUR 1040! Wow! Not having had any accident for many years but having a German insurance suddenly increased my risk by nearly EUR 300? How can that happen? He claimed it is because I got my license driving on the other side of the road. But the fact that I am driving nearly longer on the (wrong ;-) ) Irish side of the road than on the German side didn’t impress at all. Well, there was no going back! AIG was not to be my trusted partner in the future, so I started comparing in earnest and I found VERY interesting things.

I found, for example, that Liberty Insurance is TOTALLY incompetent (or alternatively very greedy OR all the other insurances are the incompetent ones). Why? Well, the insurance cost is meant to be calculated based on the risk that you pose to the insurance and you would expect more or less the same price from EVERY insurance, because it can’t be that you are VERY risky for one and not at all risky for the other insurance. But Liberty seems to live on a different planet then the others. They calculated the cost as EUR 1667 !! Wow! That is even more than AIG wanted after the “change”.

Well, since most others quoted around EUR 780-950, I new that AIG and certainly Liberty were completely mad. (HOW can Liberty get any customers with prices like that???)

I also found out that the insurance quote comparison sites are NOT much use. Chill and Sheridan and Compare Insurance all quoted higher prices than I could get elsewhere. So don’t rely on the quality of the comparisons.

AXA was also madly expensive at EUR 1263. Another outlier.

The lowest quotes I got at first from 123.ie and Aviva and I nearly had decided for 123.ie, but then I remembered that I had forgotten to check with Allianz directly. In the past Allianz was always too expensive and I had already received Allianz quotes this time through the price comparison sites. (Compare Insurance quote EUR 993 and Sheridan quoted 853 – How can there be such a difference for the same insurance for the same conditions??? 140 Euro!?)

But then I rang Allianz and I got SOME surprise! They only quoted EUR 604!! That was by FAR the lowest price (but how can it be so much lower than the Allianz price that Sheridan and Compare Insurance quoted???). And compare this to the mad Liberty Insurance once more?!

So, you can guess who I signed the contract with!?

Now, my parameters are different than yours and therefore you could have a completely different result. So I am not saying that you will get the lowest or the highest quote from the same insurances I mention here. But what I am saying is that the work that you have to put into comparing can easily be worth your time! EUR 400 less than the AIG quote? I am happy to compare prices for 2 or 3 hours for that.

So, COMPARE COMPARE COMPARE and do NOT trust ANYBODY in this business. I think they ALL have no clue!

Snobbery in Dublin stops people from getting lower priced groceries!

Once upon a time I was forced to buy my groceries in Superquinn. That was even before Tesco was in Ireland and before Aldi and Lidl arrived. Then I remember the week the first Aldi in Parnell Street opened. There were queues outside the shop and inside you couldn’t use a trolley because we had to walk through the shops like ducks in a row because there were soooo many people inside.

Nearly every Aldi and Lidl in Dublin (and there are MANY now) is busy and the market share of the two shop chains keeps growing, but there are some people who still think that they are too good to shop in Aldi and Lidl. But this snobbery is crumbling when you experience the high quality goods for SIGNIFICANTLY lower prices than others charge.

Oddly, though, when it comes to setting up new shops, some parts of Dublin are still totally against an Aldi or Lidl in their neighbourhood and I don’t believe for a minute that this is because of the dying village centres (they are already dead since Centra, Spar and Starbucks took over) or because of the REAL traffic increase. Maybe the PERCEIVED increase and this always reminds me of the stupid idea that Fingal County had when they limited the opening hours if Ikea near Ballymun and tried to force the shop to charge for parking during peak hours to avoid that looming traffic chaos that would bring the M50 to a stand still. Nothing like that ever happened and Ikea luckily was able to change the Fingal County rules.

So it is either a total misjudgement regarding traffic OR it is snobbery and I think ultimately it is the snobbery that is the reason for the NOs in Castleknock and Clonsilla that is described in this article www.thejournal.ie/lidl-2-3201010-Jan2017/

By the way, both Aldi and Lidl have managed to create pretty and very well integrated shops in some areas, so the look of the shops is not a good enough reason anymore to reject them.


ALL American Ambassadors are gone!

ALL American Ambassadors have been removed from their posts and consequently the USA is right now without ANY representatives outside of the USA. In a very strange and definitely unusual move, Donald Trump informed all US Ambassadors around the world tha they will have to have left their post before he became president.

US Ambassadors are usually political appointments and it is not unusual that they change when a new president takes office, but normally there is a grace period to get things organised, to give the existing ambassadors some time to get back home and to appoint the successors. Not this time! And to make things even more harsh, the order was sent to all ambassadors around the world just two days before Christmas on 23 December.

Kevin O’Malley, the most recent US Ambassador to Ireland, who is an Irish American attorney from St. Louis was in a plane on Inauguration Day to get back to the US as ordered. He was nominated by Barack Obama on 05 June 2014.

Ireland being at the lower end of the priority list for Ambassador appointments (The position was left vacant for nearly 2 years from December 2012 until September 2014!) might have to wait a while to get the next ambassador.


Irish Life – How to screw your customers!

Have you seen the big Irish Life posters everywhere in town that promise free Multi-Trip Travel Insurance? Sounds interesting, right? Well, I was an Aviva health insurance customer and when Irish Life took over the Aviva health insurance business I became an Irish Life health insurance customer. I wasn’t asked, that just happened, but I could have changed it afterwards if I had wanted to.

My renewal was in October and the price that they quoted me for the renewal was EUR 5 more per month than before, but I think I am on a good plan, so I stayed with them.

When I saw that Irish Life health insurance customers will get Free Travel Insurance, that sounded really good and I was impressed by the company’s care for me. ;-) But then I checked it out and found a different picture.

Yes, there is free Travel insurance, but ONLY for people that renew or move to Irish Life in January or February. If you are already a customer and if your renewal date is by coincidence outside of the time frame of January+February, then suddenly Irish Life is not in the slightest interested in giving you a free Travel Insurance. Not even for half the time or for a quarter of the time. No, you are told to f*** off with your wish to be rewarded in the same way for being with the company as the people that renews in Jan or Feb.

I find it shocking that companies do stuff like that! Why? Well, what do you think I (and probably many others) feel now? I had a good feeling about Irish Life when I heard about and saw the MANY posters of the free travel insurance. The company really went up a few notches in my judgement. But imagine how I feel now after finding out that I am not worthy of getting this bonus because my renewal date is 80 days outside the bracket? My opinion about Irish Life didn’t just drop to where it was before, but it went FAR below my previous opinion and consequently I am now determined to look for another insurer as soon as my renewal date comes up. If a company has customers, they always should reward loyalty at least as highly as new business and in this case, they should find SOME sort of an arrangement for all customers independent from your renewal date.

Stupid move, Irish Life!