Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Public transport in Ireland

Bus Éireann and Irish Rail are said to be in financial difficulties.

Anecdotal evidence has it that there are approximately 1.2 million Travel Passes in the State.

One hundred years ago

On this day 100 years ago David Lloyd George became prime minister of Great Britain.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Any sort of dogmatism can lead one to strange places

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
What does it mean to say I believe in God?

There are a myriad religions. Billions of people profess allegiance to some form of religion. There are over one billion Catholics on the planet. Religion is a big business but of course it's a lot more than that.

My experience of religion is within the Catholic Church and within the Catholic Church it has been as a member of the Dominican Order.

And I have been observing things now for quite some time.

The catalyst for this week's column is a conversation I had with a number of people in the last few days.

It was an eclectic group. With the exception of two people in the group, all had been baptised within the Catholic Church. Today some of them are strident atheists, some 'sort-of' believers and maybe one or two might admit to practising their religion.

And what does it mean when someone says they practise their religion?

Is there a cut-off point for being a member of the Catholic Church? I know a number of priests in active ministry, who would be slow to say that Jesus Christ was/is God. I can hear you say they surely must be frauds or hypocrites. But I could retort and ask at what stage did Jesus know he was God? Did the infant know, did Jesus as a five-year-old boy know he was God?

One would imagine that belief in divinity, death and resurrection are essential tenets for a believer. What about the doctrines of the Trinity, virgin birth, immaculate conception, original sin?

It would appear that there is a spectacular disconnect between religious purists and the general body of people who subscribe to the Catholic Church or simply call themselves Catholics.

At what stage does someone have to say that in all honesty they can no longer call themselves Catholic?

In all my years observing things I can't help but be inclined to feel sympathetic for people who feel unsure about so many aspects of their faith.

If I were to go into an office, a factory or a classroom and ask the people in those places what it means to say there are three persons in the one God or what it means to say that Christ is present in the Eucharist I can imagine the confusion and difference of opinion that would be aired.

We seldom if ever hear debate or discussion about what it means to say Christ is present in the Eucharist. Some months ago I heard a priest preach a fine sermon at Mass where he spoke about Christ being sacramentally present in the Eucharist. Surely Christ is not present in the Eucharist the way I am sitting in this seat.

Again, the disconnect between what the purists say and what people think and believe is enormous.

Once we mention God's name we are in unusual territory. Everything to do with religion is nuanced, delicate.

Yet, when it comes to issues concerning sexuality there seems to be all sorts of red lines drawn.

I'm inclined to think that there is some great game being played out.

Last week I was in a darkened room with a dying man. I read a Psalm and blessed the man. The words of the Psalm had great meaning. They gave solace, ease. I felt privileged to be there and to read that Psalm.

A la carte Christianity? Maybe the bottom line is that dogmatism leads to strange places.

God? Always a matter of being kind and sympathetic. After all, don't we say we believe in a loving God.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gum on Bus Éireann

A sign spotted on a Bus Éireann service.

Whatever about policing hot drinks and alcohol how do they check chewing gum consumption? Oral checks before people get on the bus?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Good news from Austria

Great news from Austria.

Norbert Hofer admits defeat.

Just a lull in the tide of events or suddenly people have realised what is happening?

Might China give Trump a bloody nose?

Why Bertie would be skilled negotiator with Trump

Journalist Vincent Browne writes a piece in the weekend edition of 'The Irish Times' on the current controversy over whether Bertie Ahern should or not be allowed rejoin Fianna Fáil.

There's a great line in the piece:

He [Bertie Ahern] would be skilled in dealing with Donald Trump, partly because neither would understand what the other was on about.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trump Taiwan Telephone

A Chinese expert, who advises the Chinese government, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

He was asked about the Taiwan Trump phone call. The government adviser said Taiwan was a bottom line and that China will accept nothing other than the 'One China' approach.

The man scaringly said yes, any infringement would mean economic, trade issues, but also he did not rule out military intervention.

Trump is worse than people thought. He is a war monger.  He has said he wants to 'make America strong again'. Exactly what the little Austrian with the moustache said over and over again. And the people believed him too.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bobby censured for rant over colleague's breast surgery

A story in 'The Guardian' today tells of how an assistant chief constable was censured for a rant over a colleague's breat surgery.

Rebekah Sutcliffe told Supt Sarah Jackson that her 'credibility was zero' after her breast-enhancing surgery, and berated her as a laughing stock, who would be judged professionally 'on the size of her tits'.

The assistant chief constable pulled down the front of her own dress to expose her left breast and told Jackson: "Look at these, look at these, these are the breasts of someone who has had three children. They are ugly but I don't feel the need to pump myself full of silicone to get self-esteem.

The incident took place in the early hours at Manchester's Hilton hotel. Sutcliffe launched her drunken tirade at Jackson after a gala dinner at the national Senior Women in Policing Conference on May 6.

Keeping abreast with the life of the bobby.

US financier says Greek debt is the 'lie of the century'

Online 'Der Spiegel' today quotes US investor Paul Kazarian as saying that the belief that the Greek financial debt is too high is simply just a myth.

He refers to it as the 'life of the century'.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Defending truth in era of lies

Frank Wiebe in 'Handelsblatt':

Donald Trump claims that millions voted illegally in the election, to his detriment. But he has offered no proof for his allegation, continuing his use of a method that proved effective in the campaign: broadcasting unproven and most likely false claims. Right-wing populists in other countries use the same approach.

Trump's 'alligators'

In a report on BBC Television last evening covering the latest Trump appointments a commentator remarked that the President-elect was filling 'the swamp' with alligators.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Accolades for Donald Trump in 'The Irish Catholic'

Letter of the week in last week's issue of 'The Irish Catholic' is in praise of US President-elect Donald Trump.

In the same issue Mary Kenny writes a bizarre piece on the same Mr Trump.

Michael Harding in 'The Irish Times' today tells readers: "I am fed up to my back teeth with Donald Trump on television".

Surely the Harding version by that proverbial mile.

A waiting ambulance

In the UK ambulances waste half a million hours every year waiting outside A&E hospital departments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lessons in fragility for masters of the universe

This week's INM's Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Our fragile bodies.

Watching footballers play or athletes take to the track we presume they are healthy and fit.

Across the road from where I am writing this a team of builders is constructing an apartment block. 

A crane is on site, workers swarming all over the construction. They have to be healthy and fit. 

They couldn't do that hard physical work otherwise.

I'm sitting in a hospital bed across the road. Came in here in a hurry five days ago. Not an easy few days before being admitted but all will be fixed.

It has made me think about our bodies, those things we shuffle about in, and something, most of us take for granted.

And at the flip of a coin it can all go so wrong.

My own little hiccup mixed with my job as a hospital chaplain certainly has made me stop and think about the mechanism that is the human body.

How do people who spend their lives in pain and suffering keep going?

People who are left paralysed after accidents? And yet people carry on.

Had I been in the Syrian city of Aleppo last week when I needed hospital attention what at all would have happened? Every day we see young and old, men and women being pulled out of bombed Syrian buildings.

The pain and suffering with which some people are afflicted is indescribable. And it is only when we experience it first hand that we can really get any idea of what it is about.

How we take our health, our properly working bodies, for granted is mesmerising.

One day we are masters/mistresses of the human race, the next day we can be on the flat of our backs, depending on others to help us in every move we make.

So is it a matter of making the best of it when we can and are able? But that too is never the full story. Surely it's always good when we look out for the other person.

It's never just a world of individuals looking after themselves.

It's in community we thrive.

It seems we soar when we help the other person, especially the weak and less fortunate.

A visit to a hospital is a good lesson in realising how fragile we are.

There can be something remarkably noble in fragility.

Looking at the builders across the road it's probably true to say they are healthy and well. The same too with the people below in their cars and travelling in buses. But maybe some of them are about to discover they have a nasty illness.

We never have a clue what people might be suffering.

What must it have been like in former times before modern medicine supplied us with drugs to kill the pain?

It seems people have an ability to get on with it no matter how bad things are.

I have just finished reading Leo Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich'.  It's a great read on what life is about or better said, what it's not about. But it also gives an insight into pain and suffering in a time before modern medicine helped make it 'easier' to endure. Ilyich's pain is so severe that "one could not hear it through closed doors two rooms away without horror".

We can never completely rid ourselves of physical or mental pain and suffering. But we can always make it our business to help ameliorate the pain and suffering of others.

And when fit and well do we ever appreciate our good fortune?

What at all is life about? Love?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Schröder goes to Cuba

Former chancellor Gerhard Schröder will represent Germany at the funeral of Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Enda Kenny at the Vatican

It is reported in the Irish media that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will discuss the issue of a number of Irish 'dissident priests' with Pope Francis when he meets him today in the Vatican.

At least one of the so-called 'dissident priests' has suffered extraordinary turmoil since the Vatican's decision to discipline the man.

Is a prime minister of a democratic republic in a better position to speak balming words to Pope Francis than the Vatican's ambassador accredited to that country?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Collins on Ross

An interesting piece in this weekend's 'Irish Times' on Shane Ross by Stephen Collins.

Minister Ross' behaviour as a TD would seem to have a similar profile. More bluster than helpful or sound action.

Ireland's cigarette smokers

According to OECD figures 19 per cent of people in the Republic of Ireland smoke cigarettes.

That works out at approximately 855,000 people. But if one excludes young children, obviously the number of smokers is higher.

In 2000, 33 per cent of the population were smokers.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Garda vetting

The Garda Vetting Application Form can now be completed electronically. It would help if it said on the form that it must be completed within 60 minutes.

Last evening I began filling out the form. While completing it someone called to see me. Two hours later I went back to continue the procedure, giving details of all 15 addresses, pressed the send button to be told that the form must be completed within 60 minutes.

It is my third Garda vetting form to complete.

The perfect example of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

In the mid-1980s I brought up issues of sexual matters with a management class within the Catholic Church. At the time I was laughed at and my observations were considered 'nonsenseical'. Was told by a priest, who lectured in Maynooth at the time, that nothing untoward was happening at the national seminary.

And now the hoops the management classes have set up. It is laughable.

Why can't one Garda vetting be sufficient, which would cover for a number of years? The present system is laughable as lauaghable as the management class.

Kennan's talk to priests

A talk given by Marie Keenan to the ACP - Association of Catholic Priests.

What at all is priesthood about? The disconnect between the lives and loves of people and then the life of the priest.

Making solemn life-long vows/promises in one's early 20s, even at any stage in one's life. Being so certain about the minutia of God?

The talk below has some interesting points but does it at all tell the 'real' story?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich looks at life through eye of suffering

Below is a quote from Leo Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich'.

The words are spoken by Ilyich as he lies ill in bed.

Life is a series of increasing sufferings, speeds swifter and swifter to the end, and the end - the most terrible suffering.....yet if only I could understand what it is all for. Even that's impossible.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gay Byrne interviews papal nuncio Charles Brown

Sunday's 'The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne' on RTE ONE Television was surely an excercise in superficiality.

Gay Byrne interviewed the papal nuncio Charles Brown.

Mr Byrne gave a classic act in superficiality and Archbishop Brown's lesson was in bladness and smarminess.

One came away from watching the programme having learned nothing, just annoyed how people can manage to say nothing.

Another opportunity missed.

It is avalable on the RTE Player.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Confirming connections

A former work colleague and friend contacted me this morning telling me that my column on 'connections', which appears this week in 'The Fingal Independent', is placed beside a photograph of his two sons.

Considering the topic of the column, it really is quite amazing that that particular photograph should be placed beside the column.

The column appears below this post.

There is always someone who knows your family

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Are you ever surprised or amazed how you go somewhere and more than likely you will meet someone you know or you will meet someone who will know someone you know. There is always some sort of connection back to you.

Since taking up my job as chaplain in St Luke's Hospital in Dublin I am constantly meeting people with whom I have some sort of link.

Some weeks ago I got chatting with a man, who told me he was living in Thurles. My mother is from that part of the world. It transpires that his family were next door farmers to my granduncle, a place where I spent all my childhood summer holidays. Those summer days were idyllic.

This man knew a lot about my mother's people.
He recalled a story he heard about my grandfather, Paddy Hickey, who had a liking for alcohol. 

The parish priest in Galmoy once asked my grandfather if he had paid his Easter dues. Paddy replied by enquiring if the pp had asked his brother (my granduncle), who had a 200-acre farm, the same question. The pp admitted he had not asked him and Paddy quickly retorted that obviously the sins of big men don't count.

It was a brilliant reply and maybe gives an insight into my own behaviour towards clerics.

Hearing a story like that in Dublin, which probably happened in the 1940s, is another example of how small the country is.

On Saturday, November 12, I was at a conferring ceremony at the Priory Institute in Tallaght.

The Priory Institute, in conjunction with the Institute of Technology Tallaght offers degree, certificate and diploma courses in theology by means of distance learning. At the beginning of this academic year I did some PR work for them and as a thank you they invited me to the graduation ceremony. 

And a free meal to boot, which is always an added attraction.
During the ceremony I spotted a woman receiving her parchment for obtaining an honours BA in theology. It turns out I worked with her for over 10 years in Concern Worldwide.

In August when I was doing the PR work for the Priory Institute I was introduced to one of the staff. One thing led to another and then we discovered that her father served his time under my father and not only that but as a child I had heard my father so often mention her father's name. Later in life my father worked with her brother.

And then last week in hospital I met a man who works with her brother.

It's like a web that never stops unfolding. There's always someone who knows someone who knows someone you know. 

It really is intriguing.

At the conferring ceremony the President of the Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dr Thomas Stone, spoke of the great link there is between the Priory Institute and the ITT.

He stressed  the importance of studying the humanities and theology. He quoted Aristotle: "It is the mark of the educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it".
Dr Stone pointed out that 46 per cent of ITT students are studying the humanities and social sciences.

There are 5,106 registered students at the Tallaght IT, 92 per cent of them coming from South Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

I was wondering, as Dr Stone spoke, how many students at the ITT know someone I know?

Ireland is a small place and one of its charms is that you'll always find someone who knows someone who knows someone.

Ireland has been 'networking' long before it became 'cool'.

Friday, November 18, 2016

'Post-factual' society

An article by Declan Lawn in 'The Irish Times' that appeared earlier in the week.

Well worth a read.

John Banville's wisdom

John Banville on RTE 1's Sean O'Rourke programme today said that Ireland had a curious relationship towards gay people because so many of the clergy were/are gay.

But of course.

There is always a silver lining.

A Berlin Auf Wiedersehen to US President Barack Obama

German television gave strong converage yesterday to Barack Obama's visit in Berlin.

The first clip showed Obama walk in front of the Brandenburg Gate with coffee in hand.

The president, in an interview with Chancellor Angela Merkel, admitted that if he were living in Germany and entitled to vote he would vote for Frau Merkel. But he did say it with a smile. 

They both spoke in glowing terms of their eight-year friendship.

It was a lovely German goodbye to an American president.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trump's received wisdom

President-elect Donald Trump on Twitter:

“I have recieved [sic] and taken calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and more. I am always available to them. @nytimes is just upset that they looked like fools in their coverage of me.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Irish Rail's new south north link opens on Monday

From next Monday, November 21 Irish Rail will be running passenger trains through the Phoenix Park tunnel, allowing trains from Portlaoise, Newbridge and intermediate stations travel on to Parkwest, Drumcondra, Tara Street, Pearse, Connolly and Grand Canal Dock.

Journey time for a commuter/stopping train from Newbridge to Connolly will be 52 minutes.

Word of the year

The International Word of the Year is post-truth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

€50 wager on Trump

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Sometime in August I placed a bet with my cousin: if Trump would win the US election she would give me €50 and if Trump lost I would give €50, divided between her three children.

My cousin is a smart lady, has her pulse on things, so since the August bet I was beginning to row in with her. At least that was until the Friday before the US election. That day I was chatting to a City Council worker. We often meet and chat. He is constantly criticising the establishment and the 'elites' who run the country. As regularly happens, we have moments of great fun interspersed with strong disagreements.

He feels institutions such as government and the banks have got away with murder and they must be punished for what has happened.

Three days later I was chatting with a homeless man. Again, we meet regularly and chat about everything and anything. He is constantly arguing that if we can't look after our own in Ireland what are we doing taking in foreigners. When he talks about this particular subject he gets extremely agitated and shouts and roars. Passers by often get quite nervous when he behaves in such a manner. I know him fairly well and deep down he is a gentle soul.

On that particular day he was convinced Trump was going to win the election and it was his fervent prayer that he would win. It was impossible for me to say anything  in disagreement.

Both men are avid Trump fans. I saw the homeless man the morning after the election so naturally he was thrilled with the result. No doubt my council worker friend is also over the moon about the result.

Had I been a gambler I would have gone straight into a betting shop having spoken to both men and put a wager on Trump. They both got it right on Brexit and now they have got it right again on Trump.

If a polling company had approached either or both of these men before the election, asking them their views and explaining what they were doing, I have no doubt both men would well have the capacity to lead the interviewer astray.

Millions of people around the world feel disenfranchised, they feel no one is listening to them and they feel 'left outside'. They are angry and they have the tools at their disposal to disseminate their stories.

So anytime anyone comes along and promises them to 'dethrone' the elite they have every reason to feel a glimmer of hope.

What is painfully sad about it is that the dethroners are themselves part of an 'elite' if not a different type or shape of elitism.

Having spent many years teaching German I'm a little familiar with Germany after World War l and the Weimar Republic. In one of the most sophisticated and cultured countries on earth they fell for the stories of the little man from Austria with the moustache.

Once elected he quickly made it his business to carry out all those crazy things he ranted and shouted about.

Then again, maybe Trump is just a chancer and realised so many people are misogynists , homophobes, racists, nationalists, fascists, 'whatever you're having' and told them what they wanted to hear.

It seems to be some sort of unstoppable force. Where and what next? France with Le Pen, AfD in Germany, Wilders in the Netherlands, and anything could happen here.

Sad times.

It's seldom if ever I gamble but that €50 wager has to be the worst bet I ever won.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Neither at RTE

More difficult-to-listen-to material on RTE.

Ray D'Arcy on his show today said: .....neither are...

Another memo needs to go out from management, explaining that neither takes the singular.

And again, it sounds awful.

Congrats Toyota

Congratulations to Toyota.

Toyota Corolla, year of manufacture, 2000, passes NCT. Indeed, has never failed the test.

Every Kerry farmer says it's the best car on the road and always guaranteed NCT pass.