Abtran’s Employee Conflict Drags On

Ireland’s massive outsourcing group Abtran continues to be the target of a growing online campaign organised by disgruntled employees.

The campaign initially organised by a few current and former employees gained momentum overnight when it took the form of a Facebook page called “Scabtran.”

Scabtran Abtran Controversy Workers Rights
Scabtran Logo Made by Abtran’s Dissatisfied Employees

Launched about a week ago the page has now gained over a thousand followers. Page’s organisers encourage former and current Abtran employees to share their experience of working at one of the largest customer service providers in the country.

A large number of Abtran’s employees claimed that the company is not allowing them sufficient toilet breaks.

“The company doesn’t treat us like human beings, human beings have a right to use the bathroom,” one current employee said.

“If your desk is at the very end of the floor, one employee said, it may take you a minute or a minute half to actually get to the toilet, given that you must make this journey twice that could take up all your seven minutes other times you have to hold it in. Because if you go over this time, your manager documents it and you can be written up for a disciplinary hearing.”

Abtran Workers Exploitation Cork City Employees
Banner put by Abtran’s disgruntled employees on Lapps Quay

“ The  only time team leaders make an effort to talk to us, one Abtran employee said, is when we do something wrong, they do not care about the instances when you do a good job, only when you failed.”

Several other employees accused Abtran of “providing a poor working environment and ignoring complaints.”

Responding to the allegations Tim Kinsella of MKC Communication whose firm represents Abtran said that his client is “an entirely reputable company and a caring and responsible employer in every respect.”

In an Email sent to all employees, Pat Ryan Chief Executive Officer of Abtran asked workers to “not let the campaign affect their morale.”

“I also personally am intent on ensuring that Abtran listens and reacts appropriately to employees,” vowed Mr Ryan in the now leaked Email.

According to Mr Ryan, the campaign is “entirely malicious” and is “trying to damage Abtran’s reputation.”

“As this campaign has also now made threatening remarks,” Mr Ryan added, “I am working closely with our legal team who are liaising with the relevant authorities to ensure this is dealt with appropriately.”

“There haven’t been any threatening remarks besides constant union pushing,” said Alex Homits, a spokesperson for the campaign.

“Ryan’s Email to employees,” Homits said, “has gained us hundreds of followers overnight.”

The so-called Scabtran posters are visible in bus stops around Cork city centre as well.

Abtran remains one of Ireland’s largest and most successful outsourcing groups. In 2016, Sky awarded a contract to Abtran which created 130 new jobs at Abtran Cork. In 2010, Abtran reported more than 75% surge in profits. Abtran has branches in Dublin and Cork.



A Town that is Still Red: Reviewing Lorelei Harris’s Letters to Ann

Words are powerful, they evoke all kinds of emotions in us, and we can shed them on paper instead of tears. In fact, Lorelei Harris might have never thought of making Letters to Ann if words weren’t so powerful.

Harris who is South African by blood and Irish by soul, has produced several award-winning radio documentaries for RTÉ’s Radio 1. She served as the station’s editor of Arts, Factual and Drama from 2013 to 2017, and just recently retired. Letters to Ann will always remain an excellent work in her decades-long career.

Harris was working as a producer on Radio 1’s The Gay Byrne Show when she came across “the words.” Those were letters sent by Irish women who were sharing their experience of adolescent pregnancies and murdered innocence. They were responding to the death of Ann Lovett, a 15-year-old schoolgirl from Granard, Co. Longford. Ann who had managed to hide her pregnancy from town’s people gave birth in a grotto on top of the town, as a statue of the Virgin Mary watched on. But her frail body gave in under the arduous task. So, Ann’s soul flew away and took her baby boy with her.

Gay Byrne, the pioneer of Irish confessional radio shows, read Irish women’s letters to Ann on his show, word by word. But they managed to haunt Harris long after that. Twelve years later, she decides to revisit Granard; the result is a cold-heartedly beautiful radio doc called Letters to Ann.

Letters to Ann begins with a haunting music accompanied by the sounds of footsteps on leaves: portraying a gloomy autumn.  There is a certain coldness in that intro that almost makes the listener shiver.

The narrator jumps in shortly after, giving us a historical world tour of 1984 while the footsteps keep stepping on the leaves and move forward – that is Harris’s way of letting us know that someone is walking into the past.

That someone is Harris herself, the footsteps suddenly stop. “Here it is,” she says. She has reached her destination.

From there, the narrator’s voice takes on a Vincent Price tone, painting a picture of Harris at a cemetery in the twilight of Granard.

Harris reads from Ann’s gravestone. Then we hear church bells, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The next character is journalist Emily O’Reilly who was working as a reporter for The Sunday Tribune at the time of Ann’s death. She recalls how they – at the paper-  found out about the incident. O’Reilly’s pain from remembering the events show in her long sighs.

Then the words bombard us. Actress Ann-Marie Horan reads to us the tears of Irish women, shed on paper for “the poor little lamb Ann Lovette and her baby.”

From there, Harris’s journey in town begins. We listen to her as she stubbornly tries to reignite the memory of Ann in the minds of Granard’s people. “I want to forget all about it,” one man says to her. We – along with Harris- find the Granard of 1996, a town whose people want to wash Ann’s name from like a dark stain.

A local man who speaks silently says that no one knew about Ann’s pregnancy even her lover. As the man goes to see if he can find another interviewee for Harris, the narrator tells us about “the words,” the kinds we want to run from.

Journalist Kevin O’Connor is the man who delivers those words. The ones of Ann Lovette’s pain when she tried to cut her umbilical cord with a pair of rusty scissors and how she bled to death, just to be born again as some sort of a saint for all the Gaelic teenage pregnant girls, of whom nobody wants to speak.

Kevin O’Connor remembers a drunken man who told them to leave Granard to leave them alone so that they could carry on with their normal life as Michael Collins’s portrait watched on.

O’Connor tells us how Collins had courted Kitty Kiernan in the hotel where the drunken man was speaking. And how Kitty Kiernan was supposed to be a role model for all Gaelic women. O’Connor, calls Ann Lovette, or rather the dread that made her run to the top of the town to cut her umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, Collins’s legacy.

Harris wants us to think about Kitty Kiernan and Ann Lovette: which one represents the real Gaelic woman? Would Michael Collins take up for her if he was alive or he would wash his hands off her like the rest of the town?

As we’re thinking about Collins, Kiernan and Ann Lovette, the words rain on us again. Another letter, from someone from another small town to Ann. The narration is accompanied by the sounds of children of Granard laughing and playing.

Anton Timoney, the sound supervisor of Letters to Ann who has worked on other award-winning Radio 1 productions such as Yola-Lost for words and Shame on the Titanic, does a great job of capturing the perfect audio.

Harris talks to a local man who complains about the “bad publicity” their town has gotten since Ann Lovette. He doesn’t want to talk about Ann.

Right after that interview we hear Emily O’Reilly flashbacking to 1984 and how she used to stop the people of Granard on the streets and how they didn’t want to talk to her. The choice of putting O’Reilly and the local man’s audio next together is apt as it highlights the fact that Harris is getting the same treatment as O’Reilly’s –  twelve years after Ann Lovette’s death.

The theme of religion is ever-present in Harris’s piece as it is easy to understand that religion is what makes Ann Lovette a taboo subject for Granard’s people. Religion and the shame it evokes in people.

At times, Letters to Ann appears as the real version of Robin Hardy’s 1973 cult/horror film The Wicker Man. We see Harris – and O’Reilly before her – as The Wicker Man’s police sergeant who keeps asking everyone in town about a missing girl whom nobody wants to talk about.

The story that O’Reilly tells from the minute 19 to 22:18 of the piece is shocking. Ann Lovette’s school principal agrees to make a statement about her on television. The filming crew gets to the school and finds her standing surrounded by teachers and the school’s staff. Speaking over the principal’s monotone voice, O’Reilly remembers how their cameraman could not zoom in on her face so what they ended up with was the whole school in one frame while the principal was making her statement. Perhaps, it is true what they say: if a young mother dies while giving birth she will become a saint. Maybe, St. Ann put a spell on the camera so everyone in Ireland could see the faces of the people who watched in cold-blood as the nine-months-pregnant Ann made her way to class.

The resemblance of Ann’s school with the one in The Wicker Man is unnerving.

We hear an unclear murmur of a priest which fades into an ominous music. The music fades into another letter, this time of hope and regret. Ann Lovette becomes young Gaelic women’s saint. She is Granard’s Joan of Arc perhaps.

Harris knocks on doors; a woman interrupts her request right after the “I’m a radio producer from RTÉ.” “No Sorry, we don’t want to talk,” she says.

Then Kevin O’Connor’s tells us about a town in which the friends of the town’s dead little girl have vanished. Their parents had warned them not to talk to anybody about Ann Lovette.

We hear a young mother ‘s voice talking to Harris. We hear her children too. She feels terrible about what had happened to Ann, she calls her an innocent girl but like everyone else, she wants to forget about her too.

Harris knocks on another door; a man tells her to fuck off and shuts the door. Does she try to show us that women especially mothers are more willing to talk about Ann? Most of Granard’s men are reluctant to talk, are they ashamed? Is the whole male population of Granard feels guilty of another man’s crime?

We hear O’Reilly talking about having teenage kids at home while working on Ann Lovette’s story. O’Reilly says that she felt helpless thinking about the possibility of something like that happening to one of her children. The very idea of a whole town’s cruel denial of a young life lost scares us as it terrifies O’Reilly. “Ireland at its worst,” she calls it.

Ann Lovette remains faceless to O’Reilly, to us and to everyone in Ireland except for the people of Granard. We learn from O’Reilly that she was an artistic girl. What does that mean? Does it mean that she wore unique outfits? Did she paint? Was she a good singer? She must have been a dancer. These are different thoughts going on the listeners’ minds as O’Reilly says that somebody told her that Ann was very artistic. O’Reilly herself thinks that Ann must have been “a lot of fun, spiky and probably difficult.”

Toward the end of the piece, Harris interviews a local man who knew Ann Lovette. He is the first person from Granard to admit that the town’s response to Ann’s death was sickening – the hush-up as he describes it.

He thinks Ann should’ve gone to the area where the baby’s father lived to deliver her baby as “over there people would’ve helped her.”

He says Ann was a quiet, nice girl.

We listen to the narrator: “I grew up in a town like yours, I grew up and saw it all.”

Once at the beginning of the piece and once towards the end, we hear one woman’s letter to Ann read by Ann-Marie Horan in which she compares Ann’s story to Mary. A 28-year-old Irish woman who gets pregnant by a man with nine children. She gives birth, chokes her baby, buries her in a suitcase and gets back to her work two days later. Then she gets sick, spends a few days at the hospital and gets back to work again. As the letter says, she keeps her pain to herself as there was no care, “it didn’t exist then,” –  it doesn’t exist now.

Kevin O’Connor tells us how he couldn’t revisit the story two years after Ann’s death as he felt that he had done enough harm to her family.

That is where Harris balances her piece by providing an opportunity for a member of the media to apologize to Ann’s family for invading their privacy.  O’Connor calls Ann a modern saint, and a modern martyr.

Letters to Ann ends with a narration that compares Ann Lovette to the Virgin Mary. And wasn’t that what we were thinking the whole time?

Letters to Ann is a superb radio documentary about a town that is still red with the blood of a 15-year-old schoolgirl called Ann Lovette. And it is about a storm of words that rained on that town.


Gerry Adams’s Final Goodbye to Cork as the Leader of Sinn Féin

Gerry Adams stopped at Cork city tonight as part of his tour around the country as the outgoing leader of Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams Goodbye Cork
Gerry Adams says goodbye to Cork

Speaking to the crowd of his supporters in Cork, he emphasized the importance of keeping the movement alive after his departure.

Gerry Adams Cork Sinn Fein girl
Gerry Adams says goodbye to his Cork supporters

” Let’s go forward together united, with courage and hope and the very very highest expectations,” Mr. Adams said.

Gerry Adams expressed his confidence in the party members and commended the party’s Cork councilors – Henry Cremin in particular.

Adams touched on the abortion topic as well and said that the referendum would be the best solution for the ongoing debate.

” I’m not for abortion, but I am a man, women have to protected and trusted,” the 69-year-old politician said.

Gerry Adams’ career as the Sinn Fein leader expands to more than three decades.

Gerry Adams Cork Commons Inn Hotel Farewell Liadh Ní Riada
Gerry Adams kissing Liadh Ní Riada Sinn Fein Gaelic Officer

The Belfast-native remains the most enigmatic Irish politicians of all time. Mr. Adams never disassociated himself from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) although he insists that he was never an IRA member.

While his supporters hail him as a hero, he is hated by some as an avid supporter of the IRA.

The group is known to be responsible for more than 1,700 deaths.

Adams was accused of helping the IRA carrying out attacks during what became known as the Bloody Friday.

He was later acquitted of all charges.

Adams is the survivor of several assassination attempts.

Gerry Adams Commons Inn Hotel
Gerry Adams at the commons inn hotel

His brother’s conviction of rape in 2013 brought more unwanted controversy to the life of the seasoned politician.

He was arrested and acquitted of a 70s murder charge the very same year.

Adams has been married to his wife of 47 years Collette who does not make public appearances with her husband. Their son Gearoid is a well-known figure in the Gaelic football world.

Gerry Adams Cork Commons Inn Hotel
Gerry Adams Speaking at the Commons Inn Hotel Cork city

Asked by the Logical Radical if McGuinness’s death has influenced his decision to step down as the Sinn  Fein leader, the 69-year-old politician said: ” Yes, we had a bond together.”

Adams shook hands and took selfies with his Cork supporters at tonight’s event.

Cork Housing Activists Demand Immediate Public Housing

Cork’s housing activists gathered outside the City Hall, demanded an immediate solution to the housing problem from their local politicians.

Protestors marched from St.Patricks’s hill to Cork City Hall where the budget meeting took place.

The activists called out Eoghan Murphy, Minister for housing with slogans such as Eoghan Murphy can you sleep? People are dying on the streets.

Housing Activist Treasa DeBarra demand public housing in Cork
Housing Activist Treasa DeBarra

“It’s a political choice that does not recognize housing or shelter as a human right,” said Cork housing activist Treasa DeBarra.

“We are here to urge councilors to reject the budget as it is. The budget does not allocate funding that is adequate or needed to solve the housing emergency, but it could. It could have the adequate funding, and it must have it,” said Ms. DeBarra.

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Housing Protestors in Cork City

The young activist expressed little hope that their efforts would block the housing budget.

“Sadly my friends, the chances are slim that the budget would be blocked.,”  said Ms. DeBarra.

“It will be passed by the same forces that are watching our people get evicted and die on the streets,” said Ms. DeBarra.

T.J Hogan from the Traveller community also spoke at the event and described the housing situation direr for his community.

“Some of us like to live in houses just like settled people. Travellers looking for houses face the same problem as the settlers do,” said Mr.Hogan.

“Travellers face additional problems if they look for rental accommodation, “said Mr.Hogan.

Rent prices have increased dramatically in the past few years. According to the latest reports, the average rent in Cork city is 1,100 Euros.

The situation has led to evictions, homelessness or groups living in unsafe conditions in small homes.

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Housing Protestors outside Cork City Hall

Ireland came third in the list of countries which have experienced a hike in housing prices this year.

Housing Crisis Ireland Treasa DeBarra Cork City Cork City Hall
Cork People Deman Immediate Public Housing

Yesterday, the housing minister Eoghan Murphy vowed to change the law to force stronger penalties on homeowners found guilty of putting people’s lives in jeopardy with unsafe accommodation.

The government has promised to the tackle the housing crisis many times.

The activists vowed to gather outside the City Council again on Monday morning at 10 A.M.

A Taste of French Realism: Reviewing “The Dreamlife of Angels” 18 Years After Film’s Release

Why is it that young people in French movies are so different from their American counterparts? They are more mature and sad. Perhaps, French cinema does a better job at depicting real people.

The young characters of “The Dreamlife of Angels” (La vie rêvée des anges) are just as described above: sad and seasoned. The movie is about a friendship between two 20-year-olds who are both struggling to survive. Unlike young people in American films, they have to work hard to survive.

The movie begins with the introduction of Isa (Elodie Bouchez), a short-haired tough cookie with a scar over one eye. She is a backpacker who tries to make a living off of cutting photos out of magazines, pasting them on cardboards and selling them as “ tourist views.”  The job doesn’t earn her much but helps her to meet a man who offers her a job in his sweatshop.

It is there that she meets Marie (Natacha Regnier). They become friends, and soon Isa moves in with her. They spend their days hanging out in the malls and streets, kidding around, jokingly trying to pick up guys. They are not prostitutes – on the contrary, both are still hopeless romantics. Isa tells Marie about a man she met once she was working with a home remodeling group. She tells her friend about how they slept with each other and how when the job was over she left, and he’d let her go. Isa wonders if she lost a good chance, Marie doesn’t think so.

Marie meets Chris, a wealthy club owner one day when she’s caught stealing a jacket, he pays for it and invites her to his club. Marie and Isa go, they know the club’s bouncers already – Marie is sleeping with one of them. Soon, Marie is obsessed with Chris and his money. She is willing to drop even the most meaningful relationship in her life – her friendship with Isa- to be with this man.  The amount of maturity that Isa is showing in this situation is unbelievable. She has the shrewdness to see how Chris will end up hurting Marie and tells her so. But she refuses to listen.

The movie reveals what American films are so reluctant to demonstrate: not everyone reaches what their hearts long and love does not surmount it all. Marie is still idealistic enough that cannot choose the club’s bouncer – a genuinely honest man with less money- over its owner. The film’s story takes place in Lille, this choice of location suits the theme of the movie as Lille seems to be the least romantic city in France. In this film, we see Lille as a city of dispirited streets whose people seem to be too tired to care.

Eric Zonca made the “Dreamlife of Angels” when he was 43. The Parisian director moved to New York at the age of 20 and worked at various jobs for ten years till he made it as a commercial director. Zonca returned to France eventually to make serious films, and this was his third feature. He does a great job at creating characters that the audience can’t help to feel a strange familiarity with them. You cannot imagine Isa and Marie in Los Angeles or New York. It is almost impossible for an American director to make such film without adding an ugly amount of violence, scenes of drug dealing and nudity to it.  Bouchez and Regnier shared the best actress award at the Cannes film festival in 1999 for their roles in the movie – which they indeed deserved.

“The Dreamlife of Angels” might not be a feel good movie, but it is as real as the life itself.


Farewell to Childhood Innocence, a Look Back at Louis Malle’s Goodbye, Children

Perhaps one of the reasons why Louise Malle’s 1987 movie “Au revoir les enfants” (Goodbye Children), is so moving is its believable portrayal of schoolboys.

The story pivots around a friendship between Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse), and Jean Bonnet (Raphael Feito), both staying at a French Catholic boarding school in the Nazi occupied France in 1944.  Manesse and Feito the actors behind the main characters had no prior experience in acting.

We never get to see Julien’s wealthy father, his mother a charming Parisian sends him to the boarding school to be away from the Nazi-stricken Paris. One day a new student arrives at the school, his name is Jean Bonnet. At first, Julien joins in the childish custom of picking on the new kid but soon they form a friendship. Both boys love to read.

After a while, Julien discovers that his friend avoids questions about his family. He skips choir practice and doesn’t recite the morning prayers, and the priest avoids giving him the communion wafer when he kneels at the altar.

His suspicions drive him to search Jean’s locker, in there he finds a book with the name Kippelstein on it. For Julien that doesn’t mean much. He doesn’t know anything about Jews. He questions his brother about why everyone hates Jews. “ They’re smarter than us, and they killed Jesus,” replies the older brother. ‘ But it was the Romans who killed Jesus,” says Julien curiously.

Even though Julien doesn’t feel any resentment towards Jews, he is envious of Jean as he is an excellent piano player and his essays get higher scores than his. Nevertheless, Julien keeps his friend’s secret. We see a close-up of him sitting in a bathtub with the sounds of Jean playing the piano as if the boy is making a final decision of keeping Jean’s secret.

The story takes place towards the end of the war, France’s collaborationist government is very disliked, and an American invasion seems to occur at any moment. In one of the film’s most touching scenes, Julien and Jean get lost in the woods while included in a treasure hunt with the rest of the boys. “Are there wolves in the forest?” asks Jean. It is way beyond the curfew time, so two German soldiers stop them. By instinct, Jean begins to run. The Germans go after him give the boy a blanket and offer both of them a ride back to the boarding school. “ You see, us Bavarians are Catholics also,” they tell them.

Director Louise Malle himself had lived through a story similar to the story of his movie at the same boarding school (le Petit-College D’avon). The school like many other schools at that time took a few Jewish students in to save them from impending death. According to historian Francis J. Murphy, these schools’ endeavor to save Jewish children from death played a factor in the survival of 75 percent of Jews during the World War II.

Malle had said that he never forgot the day that the Nazis invaded their school and arrested the three Jewish students and their headmaster. According to him, the students lined up, and all said goodbye to their master as he took a final look back and said: “ Au Revoir les enfants” (goodbye, children). Malle’s school headmaster died at Auschwitz three weeks later.

Louis Malle had an undeniable influence on the French New Wave cinema. He made “Elevator to the Gallows” (1958), following his main character of the movie with a camera while riding a bicycle. Malle switched to making conventional movies like “Atlantic City” (1980), “Pretty Baby” (1978) and “Au revoir les enfants” (1980) later in life. Something that lost him the approval of some movie critics who thought he has given in to the pressure of making commercial films. However, he never stopped experimenting in filmmaking, and his later films“ Vanya On 42nd Street” (1994) and “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) testify to that.

We never find out if Julien did play a part in his friend’s capture. Nazis enter their class and demand to know the identity of the Jewish student. Julien involuntarily looks at Jean. We might all make the mistake of looking the wrong way without even realizing it from time to time. Jean doesn’t blame him as he is packing his things to go. “They would have caught me, anyway,” he tells his friends as the duo say their final goodbyes.

The movie ends with a close up of Julien’s face – as was the style of French New Wave Cinema filmmakers. The shot lasts for 25 seconds during which we hear Jean playing the piano in the background.


Cork City Residents Complain of Recent Changes in Tap Water Quality

The Logical Radical has received reports about a sudden drop in Cork City’s tap water quality.

According to some Cork City residents, the change in the water quality has occurred since the temporary nighttime shutdown of City Center’s water supply in late June. However, people living far from the City Center are also experiencing changes in the taste and the smell of their drinking water.

“I don’t know about the water in the city center, but the water in Douglas has had a weird taste for the last two weeks or so,” says a Douglas resident.

“I thought it was just me. Water in Douglas for last 3 weeks tastes earthy. I usually drink loads of tap water but really struggling with it lately. I can still taste it in coffee. Tea not so much,” said another Douglas resident.

While some residents are complaining about changes in the taste of Cork City’s tap water, others have noticed some changes in its smell as well.

“It’s not just the taste; there’s even an ‘earthy” smell off mine. Haven’t noticed any problems while drinking it in coffee, but it tastes fairly awful otherwise,” says another Cork resident.

Most residents described the taste of water as “sand-like” and “earthy.”

The City Hall has always confirmed the presence of lead in the water. Water quality sometimes changes due to heavy rainfalls that wash the extra organic material into the rivers and streams. However, it is unlikely that this would apply to the recent changes in water quality of Cork City since there have not been reports of heavy rain falls in a few weeks.

The EPA is the supervisory authority for public water supplies. Irish Water is responsible for monitoring such supplies and for informing the EPA of non-compliant water monitoring results. The relevant local authority prepares short-term and long-term plans to address the problem, for approval by the EPA. The EPA has legal enforcement powers if appropriate action is not taken” according to the citizen information website.

Residents can make an official complaint about the quality of water on the EPA internet site as well.