Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The genius of The Gooch

This week's Independent News &  Media regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
On Easter Tuesday I was getting ready to go out to work. Marty Morrissey was substituting on the RTE Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Show. He tells us that after the break he will be interviewing Colm The Gooch Cooper. According to Marty it is the first broadcast interview The Gooch has done since announcing his retirement from inter-county football.

My initial reaction was: "Oh no, not more sport. Davy Fitzgerald's antics in Nolan Park the previous Sunday had received so much coverage. It was almost on a par with the US North Korean spat.

But within seconds of listening to Colm I found myself totally engaged in what was going on on the radio. I was so taken with what The Gooch was saying that I phoned a friend of mine in West Kerry, telling her to turn on the radio and suggest to her 13-year-old football fanatic son to listen in.

Within 60 seconds I had been converted. One moment I'm saying not more sport and the next I'm glued to the radio, indeed, so glued to it that I end up arriving a few minutes late for work.

It was great radio but what was it that made it great? The Gooch simply spoke about how he loved playing football, something he has been doing since he was a little boy of eight. How his father was involved in the game at all different levels. He told us that he played in 10 All-Irelands and the ones he most remembers are the ones that Kerry lost.

He came across as a lovely, kind, friendly young man, who might well enjoy some good fun.

Marty asked him if Joe Brolly's negative comments upset him. The Gooch admitted that he would not be giving him any hugs or kisses the next time he sees him at a game, but after that, it was Joe's business how he analysed the sporting abilities of players. You could hear it in his voice that he had no problem with Brolly 'attacking' him.

I listened to the interview right to the end. And if I were in the PR business I'd certainly have The Gooch high up on my list of speakers to invite to give after-dinner speeches. I can well imagine his diary is full.

What made him special for me? It's something indefinable but I think it has something to do with being so personal, maybe honest and real too. Not a word of BS. A lovely Kerry man telling the likes of me how he adores playing football. He came across as the genuine article. Nothing fake, no advisers advising him what to say and that fabulous Kerry accent, all pure genius. 

Colm, thank you for that interview. The way too you spoke about how you came back from injuries was inspiring.

I'm back thinking of the young 13-year-old boy in West Kerry who lives, eats and drinks soccer and GAA. He simply loves playing football. Come to think about it, it's fantastic that he's out there in the fresh air playing games with other children his own age.

Playing sport, whatever form or shape it takes, is good for body and soul. And then telling stories about it, adds to the fun of it all. 

And guess what, I have to admit that I enjoy the antics of the Wexford manager, Davy Fitz. Okay, he says and does some outrageous things but he is certainly entertaining. In that game last Sunday week against Tipperary I found myself supporting Wexford, even if my Mum was from Tipperary.

Yep, sport makes sense

Monday, April 24, 2017

Remembering German writer Heinrich Böll in Achill

This week a group of writers and old friends are gathering at Heinrich Böll's cottage on Achill Island to discuss the German writer's works.

It is happening to honour the centenary of the birth of the novelist, who was born in Cologne on December 12, 1917. After his Abitur he served his time in the book trade before spending six years in the Wehrmacht. He was drafted into the army and fought in the French and Russian campaigns.At the end of the war he came back to Cologne and studied German literatrue. 

In 1949 his first book, The Train was on Time' was published.

It was in Achill that Böll wrote Irisches Tagebuch - Irish Diary.

He wrote of the Nazis: "The Nazis revolted me, repelled me on every level of my existence: conscious and instinctive, aesthetic and political."

Heinrich Böll described the Irish as "the only people in Europe who never set out to conquer."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Brenda from Bristol

When Brenda from Bristol heard that Theresa May had called a general election she gasped: "You're joking, not another one?" 

Last week on BBC2's Newsnight the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd shamelessly said that Theresa May "must be taken at her word".

Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May on a number of occasions loudly and clearly said: "I'm not going to be calling a snap election."

Fake news, lies are surely not the invention of Donald Trump.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Arkansas's shame

A man has been executed in Arkansas, he is the first of eight due to be killed in the state.

Maybe there has been an uproar about it but it has been all quiet

Have the perpratotors of such behaviour been refused Communion at Mass? Have bishops told politicians, who support such behaviour, that they cannot expect the votes of Catholics.

Executing people by injecting them with poison has nothing at all to do with sex.

Little or no fanatical objection anywhere in the world to this barbarous behaviour.

During the 2008 presidential election the bishop of Oklahoma City Paul Coakley declared, "To vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or genocide could require a proportionately grave moral reason for ignoring such a flaw."

He later stated that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden misrepresented Catholic teaching on abortion."

He also said that pro-choice Catholic politicians are "a scandal to others" and "contribute to the perpetuation of a grave evil,"and that denying them Communion "in many cases becomes the right decision and the only choice."

In a statement on April 13 Bishop Frank J Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged the state's governor to reconsider the scheduled executions and reduce the sentences to life imprisonment.

A standing-still heron

This close to a heron on the bank of the Dodder this morning.

Most mornings the bird is standing on a stone in the middle of the river.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MP for Croydon is not sure when his twins were born

Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, was interviewed on Channel 4 News this evening.

When talking about the crisis in the NHS  he said: "When my twins were born three or four years ago...."

Does the Member of Parliament not know exactly when his twins were born?


Anniversary of Powell's ''Rivers of Blood' speech

On this day, April 20, 1968 English Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South, Enoch Powell gave his famous/infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech in Birmingham, where he strongly opposed immigration from the Commonwealth.

Before giving his speech, Powell had said earlier in the week to a friend journalist: "I'm going to make a speech at the weekend and it's going to go up 'fizz' like a rocket; but whereas all rockets fall to the earth, this one is going to stay up."

As a result of the speech, the then leader of the Conservative Party, Edward Heath, sacked Powell from the shadow cabinet.

Two years later, in 1970, the Conservatives went on to win the general election.

Enoch Powell, born 1912, died 1998.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Heading for Scarr

Easter Monday proved the perfect Irish weather to head for the hills.

Destination Scarr in the Wicklow Hills, which stands at 641 metres. The route to the top began close to Lough Dan at Oldbridge and took the three of us over Kanturk (523 metres), which lies north west of Scarr. 

Fabulous views from the top of Scarr. Scarr is a stand-alone hill, which means you can see the terrain right across 360 degrees. Including in the vista was Kippure, Turlough Hill, Vartry Resservoir, Sugar Loaf, the Irish Sea and maybe even hints of Slieve Bloom.

That sort of a day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Take to the hills

This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On the Sunday of Holy Week I climbed Djouce in the Wicklow Hills. Djouce is 725 metres high. I have walked it a number of times but every time it’s an all-new experience. The name comes from the Irish word Dioghais, meaning ‘fortified height’.

I have said it before in this column, I will be forever grateful to the Dominicans for introducing me to the hills. Back in the day it was the cusom of the Dominican house of studies that students went walking in the hills on Thursdays. The priory in Tallaght was perfectly situated as a starting point for escapades into the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. All that was required were a pair of legs and a bicycle and good health too of course.

My friend who comes walking with me is an Englishman and he has a great knowledge of the Irish mountainscape. I leave all the technical aspects to him but I usually have a compass in my pocket in case anything should ever go wrong.

Our Sunday on Djouce was simply magic: visibility was great. One of those special days in Ireland when we could see all around us. Below was Vartry Reservoir and in the distance we could see Turlough Hill.

I’m always somewhat hesitant in heading out. I need some cajoling and persuasion but once out I just feel the wonder of it all.

Walking in the hills has a special grace and excitement about it, indeed, walking in any sort of open space offers one endless possibilities: the things we see and hear. That day on Djouce on the way down we spotted high in the sky a kestrel. It hovered for a second or two and then quickly began to flutter its wings. It was clear that it saw its prey down below and was about to swoop.

We usually stop for food close to the top of a mountain but on Sunday the wind was too strong and cold and there was no shelter. So we left our ‘dining’ until we were back down at the foot of the mountain. Honestly, the joy of sitting down with a sandwich and a flask of tea after a pleasant walk is close to perfection.

Besides all the fun, walking strengthens your heart, lowers disease risk and reduces the chances catching type two diabetes by approximately 60 per cent and regular walkers are 20 per cent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast or womb. And of course it helps you lose weight too. It also boosts your mood. It’s the perfect elixir for body and soul. And that sense of exhilaration when the job is completed is simply fantastic.

We are racing towards summer. The days are long, we have close to 16 hours daylight, growth is bursting open in front of our eyes. So, why not go out and enjoy it. There is nowhere in Ireland too far from the sea, a mountain, a lake, a canal or river.

But never walk in the hills on your own. Like everything in life, especially the great things, it’s essential we respect the countryside.

Be sensible, it's always advisable to bring waterproofs, and a packed lunch adds to the adventure element of the walk and besides that, it’s most likely you are going to be hungry and thirsty too. But never any alcohol. Plan your walk in advance and it’s always a good idea that someone walking with you knows the area. Foolhardiness is not for the mountain, for nowhere in the great outdoors. And the golden rule, never leave a trace.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ratzinger at 90

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer is among German guests who will be in the Vatican today to wish Josef Ratzinger happy birthday.

Pope Emeritus Benedict was born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927.

Yesterday was for the family and close friends, today is a more public celebration.

A lovely picture. On left is Horst Seehofer, Pope Emeritus Benedict, his brother. Apologies don't know who the other people in the picture are.

BBC resurrection poll

According to a BBC survey, a quarter of people, who describe themselves as Christian in Great Britain, do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Outstanding Dominicans

After Mass today a man approached me. After initial introductions he told me he had been to school in Newbridge College.

He mentioned a number of Dominican priests but the two at the top of the list were Paul Hynes and Jordan O'Brien.

He spoke of them in glowing terms and how outstanding an impression they left on him.

Could there be a finer way to celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection?

The Enda Alan spat

The Alan Shatter Enda Kenny story is typical of what happens across so many organisations and groupings.

We are forever told that it's never a good idea to be 'personal'. There's that great putdown line, "please, don't be personal". And it's always the advice given by the 'wise' and those in authority.

But everything in our lives, in our place of work, in the organisations to which we belong, so often centres around people and personalities.

We perform great tricks to pretend we are not 'personal'. Of course we are.

It happens right across all groupings.

People make up their minds about people never having met them but have listened to the gossip of others about them.

People often make up their minds about organisations, teams, churches, everything on maybe just one encounter with one member of that group, indeed, they may have heard something about them.

It's as daft as that. We all do it and maybe its greatest practitioners are found in the world of clericalism

It's a funny old world.

US killing fields

This in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Will the perpetrators of this butchery have to answer for their crimes?

Why does the world not speak with a stronger voice agains these cold-blooded murders?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Benedictine calls for discussion on celibacy

What at all will the management class in the Catholic Church say in reply to the comments made by Benedictine priest Mark Patrick Hederman in his latest book, The Opal and the Pearl, which is published this week?

Money for old rope

It is reported today that former UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has earned close to a million pounds giving speeches since the Brexit vote when he vacated 11 Downing Street.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Putin quote

In 1999, Vladimir Putin described communism  as "a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilisation".

This Good Friday the Irish Dominican Province is absent from Limerick city

Is it the last drink-free Good Friday in Ireland?


It's not too long ago since Good Friday in Ireland was without newspapers, public houses, shops, radio. And 98 per cent of the population claimed to be Catholic. It's all changed. Good or bad?

This year in Limerick the Redemptorist church reports good numbers attending its Holy Week services.

This Good Friday, the Irish province of the Dominican Order is not at home at its priory  in Glentworth Street.

The Dominicans arrived in Limerick in 1226.

That the Irish province has pulled out of the city is nothing less than a scandal. Limerick is the third city in the State, it is a university city and on willy nilly, almost a whim, the Irish Dominicans closed the door of their priory in the heart of the city.

It would seem a most strange and unwise management decision.

Yesterday the Labour Court gave an inkling of how poor management skills are at Bus Éireann.

What would happen if the Labour Court examined the management class in Irish Catholic dioceses and Irish religious congregations?

The results would make for fascinating reading.

Good Friday

Today, Good Friday, is the ideal day for people, but especially priests, to visit the sick and elderly, people forgotten, people living on their own, the fragile, the weak.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Russian response to US

A comment made yesterday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in response to the US effort in getting Russia to disassociate itself from the Syrian president.

“We’ve already gone through such experiments based on the need to overthrow some dictator or authoritarian leader.

"I don’t know of any positive examples of removing.

Leaving aside personalities, It is understandable why Russia is so nervous of US behaviour.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the West cannot be proud of how it has dealt with Russia.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Any meat in this story?

Subeditors play an essential role in the running of any newspaper. Unfortunately there are fewer doing the job today than there were 10, 15 years ago.

Most likely this headline would have been spotted by the careful eye of a sub.

It appears on page eight of this week's 'The Irish Catholic'.

But sure, it could happen a bishop.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A reminder of resurrection

This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
As a hospital chaplain I am confronted with illness, fragility and death.

Most young people, indeed, people in their 30s, 40s, even 50s don't give a thought to death or dying, that is unless they have seen it close up through the death or serious illness of a relative or close friend. Or they themselves have been struck down by a life-threatening illness.

When my father died a friend mentioned to me about the finality of death. Most things in life can be fixed, ameliorated, something can be done about the situation. But death is the end of the line. Or is it?

In one sense it is never the time to die. But nobody escapes it. I remember the morning my mother died, walking out of the hospital saying to myself that if there were people who avoided death then I would be annoyed and angry, but nobody can escape death.

We read and see about death everyday but somehow or other it passes over our heads. Last week there were explicit and vivid images of people, including young children being slaughtered in Syria? The world was alarmed and outraged. The Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons against innocent civilians. But it is so easy for us to change channel and simply distance ourselves from the horror of such situations.

It is only when it is close to us, when someone we know or love dies that the tragedy of it cuts through our being.

Why are some people cut down at an early age, while others breeze through life without a pain?

What do you say to a school boy who has been diagnosed with a serious illness?

And after death? There is that stock-in-trade reply that nobody has ever come back from the dead to tell us what happens. What about Jesus of Nazareth?

There are days, and nights too, when I consider any idea of an afterlife preposterous. And then when I visit the grave of my parents I find myself utterly convinced that they have not been annihilated and that they are, in some sort of mysterious communion, with one another and God. Is that crazy thinking? Is it some sort of escape route so that I can feel better about the fate of my parents? Does it help me avoid the finality of death?

In so many ways the idea of eternity is beyond my pay-grade. I was born into the Christian faith, I'm a child of my environment, I doubt, doubt every day, but also I believe, and my overriding conviction, my faith, is in resurrection from the dead. And that's what we'll be celebrating on Sunday, new life in the Risen Lord.

Yes, it's an enormous leap, a mystery but I'm inclined to go with it.

Next Sunday is Easter Sunday, the central feast of the Christian calendar. It's the day when we say that we affirm our belief in the resurrection. The entire Christian belief system centres around the idea that there is life beyond the grave. And, as St Paul says, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain.

We are born to die and we die to live.

Certainty about anything can so often leave us falling flat on our face. Personally, I'm always nervous of people who express certitude about anything. There are too many curves and bends on the road of life that makes it far too glib to know it all.

I hesitatingly, falteringly too, believe in life, life with Christ, all the time, hoping in resurrection.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Djouce on Palm Sunday

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, the perfect day to take to the hills.

Djouce, which is 725 metres high in the Wicklow Mountains, was the perfect viewing platform on a day with fabulous visibility. 

Much more pleasant ascent is to go around by the side of Djouce. It's less steep but longer.

Down below Vartry Reservoir and off in the distance Turlough Hill and even further away Lugnaquilla.

The Wicklow Hills are a relatively quiet place but yesterday it was a busier place than usual. Small groups of Dutch and Germans and a large group of Trinity students, members of the college's mountaineering club. On the way down a sole woman with her two dogs. She didn't think she'd get to the top.

Magic. But unfortunately, no longer a place for Tess. According to the vet, she is too old to make it to the top of Djouce. Sad.

And then this morning daylight at 06.00, at least in Dublin. Unseasonably cold but these have to be the best days of the year, everything is ahead.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ad with pious cliches must spell doom for Dominicans

The Irish province of the Dominican Order has published new promotional vocations' literature.

It seems the Irish Dominican province has been hijacked by a group of right-wing culture warriors.

Reading  the leaflet one could easily get the impression that Dominicans have exclusive rights on truth.

It's insulting to the bus driver, the nurse on the hospital ward, the IT worker, the gardener, the cleaner, the teacher in the classroom, the journalist, everyone, who is not a cleric.

Is this really what has become of the Irish Dominicans? It can't be as ludicrous as this? Does the material tell us anything about the work Irish Dominicans do?

It tells us that "Dominicans live in imitation of Christ". Self-centred gobbledegook. Far too universal a statement to have a shred of truth about it. 

The layout, the style, the typeface is unattractive. 

On the accompanying prayer card one reads:  "... Our Blessed Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and patrones(sic) of the Order.

"The form of life of the Dominican friar draws him to enter more perfectly into union with Christ and to be transformed along the way." In this awkward sentence it's still possible to get a sense of the pomposity of the leaflet. Indeed, an insult to the parents of every single Irish Dominican.

What sort of people would or could be attracted to this view of life, the world, God?

Does it say a meaningful word to 21st century readers?

The vocabulary throughout the leaflet is simply alienating and couched in pious cliches.

And then the pictures. Below are two of the pictures in the leaflet.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


A leaflet published by www.protectthe8th.ie begins with the following paragraphs:

"A number of vocal individuals and groups, supported by allies in the media, are campaigning for a referendum, to repeal the 8th Amendment.

"They are trying to persuade people like you that this amendemnt is an affornt to the human rights of women.

"Many of these campaigners, including the Labour Party and the extreme Left, wish to see abortion as freely available here as it is in Briatain, where one in five unborn babies is killed by abortion. The 8th Amnedment stands in their way."

Leaving aside the discussion on abortion an introduction such as this certainly can't win friends. It sounds so nasty and dismissivie.

Who actually are 'allies of the media'?

It's simply alienating. Nothing nice or pleasant about it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A dream of Pope Francis

I dream of a church which reaches out, not a church which is self-referential, a church which does not pass by at a distance the hurts of human kind, a merciful church which announces what is at the heart of the revelation of divine love, and that is mercy.

Pope Francis in his letter of convocation of the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Dublin.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Supreme Court Judge launches Bowman book

Supreme Court Judge John McMenamin will launch Conor Bowman's latest novel Horace Winter Says Goodbye this evening at The Law Library Distillery Building, Church Street, Dublin 7 at 18.30.

Conor is a past pupil of Newbridge College.