Thursday, September 29, 2016

Garda faces

General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association Pat Ennis surrounded by members at the announcement yesterday in Tullamore of their planned action for November.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Food waste in Ireland

Ireland wastes one million tonnes of food every year.

Smokes but no drink or sex

Overheard on a building site this morning.

A visitor on the site comments to a security man, who is smoking, that cigarettes are not a good idea.

The man replies: "No drink, no sex, the smokes are all I have."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

'Catholic Church has been in denial on environment'

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Some months back a group of people in the Three Patrons' Parish in Dublin's Rathgar came together to form an environment group. The majority of the group lives within the parish and then there is Deirdre. She is a young dynamic Waterford woman who is a doctoral student at Trinity. She's in her late 20s and nothing or no one is going to distract her in her mission to make this planet a cleaner and better place. She is irrepressible.

The group has a busy programme outlined for the months ahead. To kick off the  schedule, renowned eco theologian Sean McDonagh came to the parish last Monday and spoke on the environment. The hall was packed to capacity. It was a great mix, young and not-so-young, women and men. Another sign of how people are interested in theology/religion/environment. When they know the topic is going to make sense to them they are only too delighted to turn up.

Sean McDonagh is a Columban priest who has spent his working life concerned with issues on the environment.

He told us that it was by accident that it happened. He had been teaching in a Muslim area of the Philippines in 1978 when a young student brought him to a tribal area and there for the first time he saw with his own eyes what was happening in the hills and forests. "It was there I saw the real link between the well-being of people and the environment," he says

He came to Rathgar to talk on the environment but with special reference to Pope Francis' encyclical LAUDATO SI'. He has no hesitation in saying that it is the most important papal document of the 20th and 21st centuries.

"The Catholic Church has been in denial. The environment is not a Catholic thing. 

There are no Catholic lakes or Muslim forests," he stresses. He points out how tropical forests in the Philippines have been destroyed.

Right through his talk he dips in and out of the encyclical. His first reference is to Number 21 where the pope says:  "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

Sean points out how it was never taught that it was wrong to devastate the forests and drain the marshes.

"In my 50 years of priesthood I never once heard anyone confess that they had sinned against the environment," he says.

Fr McDonagh sees how the church overemphasised the supernatural against the natural. He cites how the Black Death was seen as a punishment from God. It was a matter of not engaging with the world - withdrawal from the world.

He quotes from a Post Communion prayer in the Missal of Pius V which goes: "Lord teach us to despise the things of the earth and to love the things of heaven."

For McDonagh this type of theology is opposed to everything to do with the God of creation. He believes the church is badly in need of new forms of worship, which will involve thanking God for the life around us.

He wants to know what Ireland is doing about its meat production. "Agriculture is responsible for 40 per cent of greenhouse gas in the country," he tells the packed hall.

McDonagh quotes Pope Francis: "Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. "

Certainly people were challenged by Sean McDonagh's talk. Isn't that what the Gospel is meant to be about? Challenging us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pope Francis nervous about bishops and rigid priests

An article by Robert Mickens on Pope Francis on the appointment of bishops and a warning about men heading for priesthood.

A great read. It's clear this man knows what's going on on the ground.

"The people 'scent' -- the People of God have God's 'scent' -- the people can 'scent' and they withdraw when they recognise narcissists, manipulators, defenders of personal causes and standard bearers of worthless crusades," the pope warned the so-called "baby bishops," who were in Rome for a training seminar.

"Don't allow yourselves to be tempted by numbers and quantity of vocations, but rather look for the quality of discipleship. … And be careful when a seminarian seeks refuge in rigidity -- because underneath this there's always something bad," Pope Francis

An initiative is always new

Why are so many writing and talking about a new initiative?

An initiative is always new. Now we seldom see the noun wihtout the adjective new beside it.

Why has this happened?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The state of Bus Éireann

Much publicity  has been given to Bus Éireann's plans for its loss-making Expressway inter-regional services.

How often in the last number of years has the company re-vamped its Expressway services?

If the Expressway services are losing money what's the financial health of the other arms of the company?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Moyross priest casts a cold eye on those who do nothing

Story in today's 'The Irish Times' about Moyross priest who says rich and powerful 'stand by and do nothing' about deprivation.

Cork-born Fr Tony O'Riordan talks about tomorrow's Gospel. "The rich man didn't do anything to Lazarus, and he wasn't the cause of Lazarus's pain, but he didn't respond to his pain.

The Irish Dominicans have closed shop in Limerick and handed the priory over to Dominican Nashville Sisters.

The Irish Dominicans first went to Limerick in 1227.

Biden on Trump

The Clinton Trump debate on Monday evening is expected to be one of the most watched events in television history.

US Vice-President Biden on the November election in the Unted States:

“Don’t compare Hillary to the Almighty. Compare her to the alternative.” And the alternative is President Trump.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pope Francis calls for peace

Once again, gathered here together, we declare that whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion's deepest and truest inspiration.

Pope Francis speaking in Assisi on Wednesday at the 30th  anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Davy Fitz's thoughtful decision to step aside

Legendary Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald has decided to step down as boss of the senior Clare team.

In the light of the .... divided opinions expressed by players, I have decided that it would be in the best interests of Clare hurling that I step down from the role of manager.

Interesting. Thoughtful and insightful too. 

Helping others

We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I've no idea.

- W H Auden

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Taxing issues

The Irish Tax Institute's report, 'Perspectives on Ireland's Personal Tax System - A Medium to Long Term Approach', offers some interesting analysis. For example, at the lower end, a worker on €25,000 earns 1.4 times the salary of a person on €18,000 but pays 5.6 times the tax.

People €55,000 pay more tax than in Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and the US and over €800 more than in the UK. Meanwhile, a worker on €75,000 earns three times the amount of a person on €25,000 but pays almost eight times the amount of tax.

The impact of high taxes can already be seen in the squeezed middle but differences really accelerate at higher income levels, with the capping of recent tax reductions at salaries of €70,044 having an impact.

A worker on €100,000 earns 5.6 times the amount of a person on €18,000 and pays almost 66 times the amount of tax. If you compare them with the person on €25,000, they earn four times the salary but pay over 11.7 times the amount of tax. And at €100,000, Ireland remains at the upper end of the global rankings, ahead of taxpayers in France, Spain and the UK, amongst others.

A worker on €120,000 earns 6.7 times the amount of a person on €18,000 and pays over 83 times the amount of tax.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

St Luke's Hospital Rathgar

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Earlier this month I started a new job, chaplain in St Luke's Hospital in Dublin.

It was with trepidation and nervousness that I arrived the first day at the hospital. I had no idea what to expect.

Three weeks into the job I cannot believe the welcome I have received. The routine has been: "Hello, I'm the new chaplain here, my name is Michael Commane and this is all new for me."

On every single occasion I have received the warmest and most gracious of welcomes, which has always included the sentiment of hoping that I will be happy in the job and how important it is to have a chaplain in the hospital. I have been genuinely impressed.

It might well be an oxymoron to talk about a hospital as a great place. Hospitals of their nature are for sick people. But St Luke's in Dublin's Rathgar is a haven for the sick. It must be the cleanest hospital I have ever set foot in in Ireland. It has fabulous grounds, which include a small pitch and putt area. I'm told there is a billiard table somewhere in a basement but haven't seen it yet. The prints on the walls greatly add to the general ambience.

I'm slowly feeling my way into the job, getting to know  people, empathising with them, showing them kindness, and above all listening to them. It is also important to lighten the situation whenever possible, to be positive and maybe even have a bit of craic or humour. It all helps. Smile with them. Ireland is a small place and already I have met people who know people I know.

There are no answers when one is confronted with pain and suffering. In the three weeks that I have been in the job I have been struck by the fortitude of people: those who are sick and their families and close friends.

Talking and listening to people who are sick and in pain and worried about their illness pushes you out beyond your everyday reality. It certainly makes you look at the the world, reality, your own stumbling and fumbling, in a different context.

To watch the staff in the hospital do their work is inspiring. Their knowledge, their skills, their kindness is impressive.

Everyone in the building playing her/his role in doing all they can to make people healthy and well again.

Visiting a patient in a day ward last week it suddenly dawned on me that my father had a growth removed from his face in St Luke's. I remember as a child going up to the hospital with him. He was probably in his mid-40s at the time.

From what I can remember, St Luke's kept in touch with him right into his old age. He was swimming in the Atlantic at 92 and was 95 when he died. 

And my mother, before having a laryngectomy in the former Sir Patrick Dun's  Hospital, also had a course of treatment in St Luke's, which proved successful.

The link with my parents gives me a special tie to the hospital.

The fortitude of people, the kindness too. And then to watch the staff doing their work is for me a lesson in what it means to be human.

Every patient and family member with whom I have spoken speaks highly of the hospital.

And guess what, the food too is good. Always a bonus.

St Luke's Radiation Oncology Network operates from three Dublin locations – St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar and St Luke’s Radiation Oncology units in St James’s and Beaumont hospitals.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Priest, who never hears from provincial, stays in Drogheda

Dominican priest Jim Donleavy featured on RTE I's 'Drivetime' today. The piece was at approximately 18.18.

Fr Donleavy was interviewed by John Murray, who as a young boy was an altar server in St Mary's Dominican Priory, Tallaght.

Jim spoke about how he intends staying in the Dominican Priory in Drogheda in spite of the decision of the Irish Dominicans to leave the town.

He quipped that he expects to be removed from the priory in a coffin and has already been in touch with the local undertaker.

The 79-year-old Dominican, when asked if there had been any communication with his 'superiors', said that the provincial of the Irish Dominicans had not replied to any of his letters during the last two years.

Fifty years since O'Malley announced free education

Fifty years ago this month Donogh O'Malley announced his free education scheme.

He introduced his plan without having brought it to Cabinet. There is controversy whether or not Sean Lemass was aware of his plan.

The September 1966 decision on free secondary education changed the face of Ireland. It's fitting to mention it today in the context of the day's Gospel reading.

Is it right and proper that the Catholic Church should run fee-paying schools?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

CDU lose in Berlin

Early results at 7pm in Berlin.

SPD (22.9 per cent) and CDU (18 per cent) lose seats in Berlin Parliament. The FDP make significant gains ((6.4 per cent) and are back in parliament.

It's the worst result the CDU have ever had in Berlin.

Die Linke (Left Party) increase their vote (16.2 per cent) and the Green Party win (16.7 per cent)

The AdF win over 12 per cent of the vote.

German law requires that a party has to win at least five per cent of the vote to enter parliament.

The SPD will continue to be the largest party and Michael Müller will be the new Mayor of Berlin.

Berlin is a city state, more or less similar to a federal state.

All figures are provisional.

Georg Bätzig is the new bishop of Limburg. He will not be living in the infamous palace. He was not secretly appointed by a papal nuncio. The Germans don't allow such a procedure.

Far-right gains in Berlin today reminder of Nazis

Elections in Berlin today. The far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) is expected to make sensational gains. 

SPD mayor of Berlin Michael Müller has said significant gains for AfD is a real threat to Germany and a worrying drift back to Nazi times.

German MEP and satirist calls for Irish EU exit

Below is a link to what satirist and German MEP Martin Sonnenborn said in the European Parliament. He calls for the expulsion of Ireland from the EU.

President Martin Schulz enjoys the fun.

It is short and part of it is in Englsih. Worth watching.         

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Serving two masters

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times.

Michael Commane
At the beginning of this month the G20 met for the first time in China. The G20 is a forum for governments and governors of the central banks of the 20 most powerful countries on earth. Holding it this year in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou was a significant moment for the host country.

The Chinese put on a spectacular display for the visiting dignitaries.

But what piqued the interest of the western media was how US President Barack Obama exited Air Force One. Instead of a special stairs and red carpet to greet the president, he left the aircraft using the built-in staircase. When White House staffers objected to what happened a Chinese official was overheard shouting: "This is our country! This is our airport!"

Obama made little of it: "I wouldn't over-crank the significance of it."

Many newspaper columns were given over to how the Chinese treated other guests at the forum. It was said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping seemed to give more time to Angela Merkel than he did to Theresa May. And so on.

When it came to reporting on the summit, newspaper headlines, TV and radio had more time for to the stairs incident than for  what some of  the most powerful men and women on earth were discussing. 

Yet item number four of the final communiqué reads: "We believe that closer partnership and joint action by G20 members will boost confidence in, foster driving forces for and intensify cooperation on global economic growth, contributing to shared prosperity and better well-being of the world."

Anyone who reads tomorrow's Gospel might well be able to link the sentiments expressed in the G20 communiqué with what Jesus is hinting at.

Tomorrow's Gospel (Lk 16: 1 - 13) tells us that "you cannot give yourself both to God and to money".

Take both together and we have a simple reminder to get our priorities right.

Could it be that our focus has always to be on God and it's important that we never allow anything else to distract us in our search for God? It's so easy to be distracted.

Luke tells us that a servant cannot serve two masters. "Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt." 

Putting our focus on God’s message surely means looking out for other people, placing people and the concerns and needs of people at the top of our agenda, making sure that people are well cared for. Christianity means looking out for the other person.

The hullaballoo at the G20 meeting in Hangzhou tells a great tale of how we all lose sight of what's important and not important. The G20 forum gives the top leaders of the world a chance to talk about how to make our planet a better place for all its citizens. And what do we end up doing? Spending time discussing how President Obama exited his plane. 

But it's the way of the world. It's the sort of thing so many of us waste our time and energy on. Instead we should be focused on making the world a better place so that everyone of its seven billion people can reach the potential to which they have been called. Each of us has been made in the image and likeness of God.

The week after the G20 summit in China, RTE Television broadcast a programme on Jesuit priest Peter McVerry and the work he does in Dublin's inner city. It was a great example on how we can give ourselves to God – always in the context of caring for people, especially those most in need. McVerry and his team are living out the words of tomorrow's Gospel.

PS What were the guiding principles that influenced the Irish Government to appeal the  EU Apple tax ruling?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dominican says: "Gardaí will have to drag me out"

Front page of this week's 'Drogheda Independent'.

Any Dominican priories opening their doors on Culture Night?

Pepper sprays for ticket checkers on German trains

German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) is planning to issue pepper sprays and alarms to rail personnel. This is because of the increase in attacks on ticket checkers and their colleagues.

In the first six months of this year more than 1,100 rail staff were attacked, up 28 per cent on the same period last year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics

The lead story in this week's 'The Irish Catholic' concerns divorced/remarried Catholics receiving Communion.

The piece says remarried/divorced people may receive Communion "under certain limited circumstances after they discuss the matter with their priest".

"Even then the couple most likely will have to receive Communion in private so as not to cause conflict or confusion among the rest of the congregation."

But isn't it so counter-cultural. What if the priest has his 'own ideas' as many indeed have? What if he is odd, as many are?

And receiving Communion 'in private'. Hints of of so much that has  caused Christians such pain. Also, patronising.

'Communion in private' - an oxymoron?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Travel Pass passenger

Overheard at Heuston Station booking office.

"Is there first class on the 9am train to Cork?" The man is told there is. He then asks if he can travel first class with his Travel Pass. When he is told he can't, he asks how much extra it is to travel first class. When he is told the fare, he decides against.

A tall well-dressed man, who skips the queue to get to the booking office.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A train journey of alcohol fumes and great Tipp fun

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane

On the Monday after the All-Ireland hurling final I travelled by rail from Dublin to Banteer.

I consider myself something of a train anorak so was expecting the 11.00 Heuston Cork service to be a quiet train. Make my way up to the front coach at 10.50. Amazed. What is normally  the 'semi-empty' coach was crowded. I was taken aback. What was this about? 

There were still two free seats together, where I parked myself. Window seat. Within a minute a young woman is sitting down beside me. Of course it's selfish to expect to have two seats to yourself but it's a nicer way to travel.

Just as she sat down beside me the smell of drink hit me. Is there anything worse than that smell of stale drink?

Sitting on the train I felt one could get drunk on the fumes and there was enough alcohol to fuel the locomotive.

The train was filled to capacity with Tipperary supporters heading home after a weekend of revellery.

I thought I was going to be on a nice quiet train. Anything but.

The young woman beside me, decked out with her phone, purse and bottled water had less than four hours sleep but would be back at work in the early afternoon. That's what young people do.

We joked about the 'evils of drink' She assured me that she would not be in Semple Stadium or anywhere near Thulres later that day for the homecoming of the victorious hurlers. "I can't wait till 6pm when I finish work and head straight home to bed," she smiled.

Her two friends, also on the train with her, are heading back to college. Tuesday was their first day back so they were planning to go to the celebrations in Thurles later that day. But there would be no drink as both of them had lectures at 09.00 on the Tuesday.

The four men sitting in front of us seemed to have been experts on hurling. I could overhear them referring to on of Sunday's players as a 'donkey' and then all praise for someone else. I wonder who the 'donkey' was?

"My young lad plays for the under-12s in XXXXX," I could hear one of them say. The same man agreed that he was in a 'terrible condition'. I'm not too sure when he was afflicted with such a 'condition'. But all four of them had nothing but praise for the Tipperary manager, Michael Ryan.

By the time the train reached Templemore my passenger companion had changed her mind. Yes, she would go to Thurles later that day but promised me she would not be drinking.

On Saturday night she and her friend  hailed a rickshaw. It was only to cost €4 but they got lost, mis-read their Google maps and ended up paying €20 each. So the rick-shaw man ended up with €40 in his pocket.

And just as the train pulled out of Thurles my friend was thinking she might call in sick.

It was a 'different' sort of train journey. But it was great fun. And what really struck me was the innate good nature of the people sitting near me. They were all good fun, nice people. Behind all the codology there was a lovely innocence about them. No big ideas about changing the world or high-faluten words about anyting.

But I was also conscious of the presence of God on that train.

Just as the train neared Limerick Junction my train companion had definitively decided she'd be back at work in the afternoon.

That's dedication. Great fun too.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The little green man

Thirty one per cent of Irish adults aged between 65 and 74 and 31 per cent of adults over 75 do not have enough time to cross the road in the time provided by the pedestrian light signal.

So says a report from the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA).

But how long does the little man stay green?

Ever time how long it takes you to cross?

One of the few aspects of life from the former GDR that survives and has indeed been exported to the western part of Germany is their little green man pedestrian light. He wears a hat. Much nicer than the one used in the west.

And did the GDR have a female version of this?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

FTSE 100 bosses paid obscene salaries

Britain’s top executives are now paid approximately 130 times their average employee, according to analysis released yesterday by the High Pay Centre think-tank.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Conor Lally in today's Irish Times writes on how the media reported on the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three children, Liam, Niall and Ryan by Alan Hawe.

The paragraph below is from the piece.

In an industry driven by images and focused on men and women who perpetrate violence rather than their victims, the coverage of this case flowed exactly – and depressingly – as it always does; perpetrator-centred rather than victim centred.