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Monday's papers: MPs' extra earnings, alcolock demand, island tunnel crumbling

Finland's print media week begins with news of MPs padding their salaries with state-owned company money, many polled Finns calling for ignition interlock devices in cars and a look at a dangerously dilapidated tunnel stretching from Suomenlinna island to mainland Helsinki.

Suomenlinna merisumussa
Suomenlinna fortress island is one of Helsinki's top tourist destinations, and home to some 800 permanent residents who rely on their service tunnel. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat publishes information this Monday showing that a large number of Finnish MPs make thousands of euros annually sitting on the supervisory boards of state-owned companies, in addition to their political duties.

MPs are paid hundreds of euros – or even as much as 1,500 euros – each time they take part in the board meetings of companies such as postal service Posti, national broadcaster Yle and drinks monopoly Alko.

To illustrate, IS writes that Finns Party MP Kimmo Kivelä received 13,850 euros for chairing a total of 16 supervisory Yle board meetings last year. Average yearly payouts for MP board members were around 3,000 euros.

Chamber of Commerce vice-CEO Leena Linnainmaa tells the paper that she considers it "suspicious" that busy politicians would have enough time on their hands to properly handle management-level company board meetings.

"An effective role requires dedication. Political figures have a vast amount of duties to attend to, which leads to issues of time management," Linnainmaa tells Ilta-Sanomat.

Professor emeritus Jarmo Leppäniemi goes even further, saying in the article that supervisory boards themselves are a waste of time.

No drinking and driving

Meanwhile in Tampere region paper Aamulehti a new survey shows surprising correlations between the perceived need for car alcohol locks and traits such as gender, income and party affiliation.

An alcolock or ignition interlock device (IID) for cars is a breathalyser that calculates the user's blood alcohol content and literally locks down the vehicle so it will not start and cannot be driven if the breath-alcohol concentration analysed is higher than the programmed safe level. In Finland the limit set on the instruments is 0.1 mg of alcohol per litre of breath.

AL presents the Alma-tutkimus research in a graph. Looking at the number of respondents who say that each and every car in the country should come equipped with an alcolock, the statistics show that nearly a third of all women polled agree while just 9 percent of men think the locks should come equipped.

In demographics by gross annual income, 24 percent of people earning 20,000 euros per year or less said all cars should be undriveable when intoxicated, whereas only some 9 percent of people earning upwards of the top 80,000 euro bracket felt the same way.

A powerful bias against the devices is still prevalent in Finland, the article tells readers; people still think of the alcolock as a punishment for reckless drunk drivers with convictions.

"We can change prejudices by increasing the available information on IIDs and how it can be used voluntarily," says Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) expert Tuire Simonen in AL.

"Alcolocks are expensive right now [at around 1,000 euros each], but that could change if the breathalysers didn't have to be strictly Trafi-approved."

Radioactive gas in decades-old tunnel

Finally top daily Helsingin Sanomat features a worrying report on the Suomenlinna island service tunnel, which by all accounts is in disastrous condition. The tunnel runs some 1.3 kilometres from the partly inhabited fortress island to Helsinki's mainland, and was constructed in 1982.

Not only are practically all of the tunnel's metallic pipes and railings completely rusted through, the piece says, but seawater constantly leaks through the cracked roof of the tunnel – and brings with it deadly radon gas from the Earth's crust. Radon is formed as a byproduct of decaying uranium and thorium, and is toxic to humans.

Workers in the tunnel are instructed not to spend more than 100 hours per year working inside the tunnel.

The Suomenlinna service tunnel is to be shut down in the coming weeks for much-needed and months-long maintenance, HS writes, which will run costs of some 7 million euros.

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