Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fr Michael O'Leary RIP

Fr Michael O'Leary, a priest of the Kerry diocese, died last evening.

Fr Michael, a native of Castlegregory in West Kerry, was in his 90th year. Some years ago he retired as parish priest in Moyvane and went to live in Tralee.

He was a kindly man, who had the great ability of listening to people and being with them in times of joy and tribulation.

Some years ago Fr Michael was extremely kind and helpful to me and as a result of our encounter on that occasion we kept in touch.

Last Sunday week I visited him in Kerry General Hospital where we prayed a Psalm together.
Just as we finished the prayer a woman from Moyvane came to visit him. In our brief few words she expressed how kind Fr O'Leary had been to her family while he was pp in Moyvane.

He was a priest, who genuinely cared for people and what finer tribute can be paid to a priest than to acknowledge that he was a kind man.

Fr O'Leary's requiem Mass will take place in Moyvane parish church on Thursday at midday

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Murdoch's influence in Ireland

From time to time there is an opinion expressed within church circles that the media do not give a fair hearing to church issues.

Print, TV and radio attempt to tell the story as it is. Columnists express opinions.

There is no doubt that Irish newspapers give wide coverage to church issues. A day hardly goes by without some church story receiving coverage in the media.

Fortunately the media is not obeisant to the church in a way that it was three, four decades ago.
In today's Irish Times Sarah Carey writes how she was forbidden to write in favour of the Lisbon Treaty when she was working with the Irish edition of The Sunday Times.
She argues that is is always important to ask 'Who is behind this and what is there agenda?'.
It is a most forthright article, worrying too.
It is interesting to note how right-wing church groups now seem to be in bed with Rupert Murdoch publications. And frightening too.
Sarah Carey asks in whose interests did the Sunday Times campaign against the Lisbon Treaty to the exclusion of all favourable comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The God question

The article below appears in today's Irish Times. It makes for an interesting read.

RITE AND REASON: TP O'MAHONY is a fine journalist. He learned his trade at the Irish Press and began covering religious affairs in 1967, in the aftermath of Vatican II.

Over the years he did the lot - papal visits, conclaves, synods and religious conferences not to mention the niggling scandals that were beginning to emerge.

But while immersed in both the minutiae and the grand scheme of ecclesiastical politics O'Mahony was finding his own conventional faith coming under increasing strain. It wasn't, however, a question of Christianity, or which brand of Christianity but something more fundamental - the very existence of God. Mid-life crises of belief are nothing new, and those so visited usually find their own way of "muddling through".

O'Mahony, however, is different. He has a burning curiosity and capacity to worry at a problem. When he left journalism, having moved from the Irish Press to the then Cork Examiner , he began to study law at UCC, all the while trying to figure out where he personally stood on the "God Question".

What's new? Not much except that the "God" debate has sharpened and maybe even soured in recent times with books by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Has God Logged Off? is the result of O'Mahony's own personal quest.

He revisits the famous five proofs of St Thomas Aquinas, produced in the 13th century, and examines the major philosophical arguments pro and con theism since then. Drawing not only on what creative artists such as Beckett, Buñuel and Morris West have to say about the presence or absence of God, but also on the experiences of modern-day well-known Irish people including actor Mick Lally, writer Mary Kenny and Cork character Bernie Murphy, he manages to bring fascinating and sometimes novel insights to this age-old debate.

The strength of O'Mahony's book is its simplicity. He makes his case clearly; his aim is not to show how clever he is but to bring his reader with him on his journey.

O'Mahony starts from obvious points that religious faith, of its nature, tends to be personal, just like its opposite. Beyond the person, however, there is a wider cultural dimension. For centuries, especially in the West, religious belief and the concept of God have been fundamental to our system of meaning.

O'Mahony quotes Patrick Masterson's 1974 book Atheism and Alienation on the proposition that the affirmation of God is one of the most noteworthy of human achievements. Theism, he sees as a defining characteristic of the western tradition. But Masterson also insists that while the affirmation of God is a major achievement, scarcely less remarkable is man's repudiation of this affirmation of God.

So while theism is a defining characteristic of the western tradition, atheism in its various forms is also a significant expression of man's quest for meaning.

O'Mahony seeks to remind us that struggling with the seductive appeal of both is an inescapable element of the human condition.

And where does that leave the author? Not surprisingly, perhaps, with Pascal: "If there is a God he is infinitely beyond our comprehension." He finds comfort and relief (escape?) in Pascal's wager: "exercising a particularly blind form of faith" that God actually does exist.
"I've done just that and called heads like my friend Bernie Murphy. I'll find out one of these days whether I wagered wisely."

Eloquent but not necessarily the most persuasive or weighty of conclusions. I'm not sure that the author himself is fully convinced. Be that as it may, this is a charming and thought-provoking book, written with clarity and honesty.

• Maurice Manning is president of the Irish Human Rights Commission Has God Logged Off? - the quest for meaning in the 21st century , Columba Press, €12.99

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The art of compromising

Below is a report in today's Irish Times.

How come people who are at the vanguard of speaking out against abortion say so little when it comes to capital punishment?

Many right wing religious groups campaigned forcefully against the Obama campaign on grounds of his stand on abortion and there was not a whimper from them on capital punishment.

Has the Catholic Church praised the president-elect for his intention of closing down Guantanamo Bay?

The comment of Bishop W Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware makes for interesting reading.

The article as it appears in today's Irish Times
US CATHOLIC bishops have pledged forcefully to confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church would not compromise on its firm stand on the issue.

At their biannual meeting in Baltimore, several bishops criticised Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to support Barack Obama because he said he would reduce abortion rates. The gathering of 220 clergymen took place a week after the election of a Democratic ticket that supports abortion rights and includes vice-president-elect Joe Biden, who is Catholic.
The head of the bishops group said Obama's election should be celebrated but he made it clear the church would not compromise on Catholic teachings.

Obama's election "is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to elect an African-American to the presidency," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

"In this, I truly believe, we must all rejoice," the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops told the meeting on Tuesday.

Cardinal George said the country may have reached a point where "all races are safely within the American consensus", but he voiced concern that Catholics faced political pressure when seeking office to compromise on "fundamental Catholic teachings".

The bishops issued a general statement before the election, urging voters to consider all life issues in casting ballots, including war and capital punishment.

Some bishops still came out against Obama during the campaign over his stance on abortion rights. Abortion opponents are concerned that possible Supreme Court appointments by Obama could undo efforts to reverse the court's Roe v Wade decision, which legalised abortion in 1973.
Many bishops urged Catholics to make opposition to abortion a priority when they voted, but exit polls showed Obama won 54 per cent of the Catholic vote.

Although the church leadership remains committed to outlawing it, a poll carried out in August by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that almost half of American Catholics think abortion should be legal in all or nearly all cases.

While the bishops agree on the goal of ending abortion, they differ on how they should persuade lawmakers - of Catholic and other faiths - to agree.

A few bishops have said Biden should not receive Holy Communion, but Bishop W Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden's home diocese, said he and the Democrat had agreed to meet when scheduling allows to discuss Catholic teaching. The bishop said he did not advise Biden to refrain from Communion.

"I won't politicise the Eucharist," the bishop said. "I don't want to alienate people. I want to change their hearts and minds."

John Podesta, the head of Obama's transition team, has said the president-elect is considering reversing President George Bush's limit on federal spending for embryonic stem cell research.
Catholic leaders are staunchly opposed. Cardinal George said expanding embryonic stem cell research would "alienate tens of millions of people, not just Catholics, and militates against the type of unity the administration hopes to achieve."

Obama and Pope Benedict had their first telephone call on Tuesday, but a Vatican spokesman said the stem cell issue was not raised during the conversation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Staggering sums of money and great pain

According to a report in today's Irish Times the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin has paid out to date more than €12.4 million in claims of child sex abuse and another €3.3 million in legal fees.

That is just one diocese in Ireland. It needs to be said again, €12.4 million plus €3.3 million. And this in a church which has claimed to be the owner of sexual morality. It really is staggering.

What is more astonishing is that so many of its spokespeople claim they were not aware of the damage that was being done. This from an organisation which for centuries claims to know God's last word on sexual matters.

It is extraordinary and mind boggling.

What of the damage done to so many.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Austin Flannery OP

There is an appreci-ation of Austin Flannery in today's Irish Times. But it seems it is not on their digital version, so this blog is unable to upload it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Weimar and Lisbon

Anyone who visits the German Historical Museum on Berlin's Unter den Linden has to be struck with some of the similarities between the present situation in Europe and the time between the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise to power of Hitler.

In the run-up to the referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty the No campaigners spoke about Ireland losing its 'identity', fears that Ireland would be 'over-controlled' by powers away from Dublin. And the far right Christian groups' attempt to instill fear in the minds of people that Ireland could lose its Christian identity

All the time there was an evident 'sneer' that 'we' know best and should protect our 'nationalism' at all costs.

A visit to the Berlin museum should be a must for anyone who is interested in seeing our world in the context of history.

Where would our economy be today if we were not in the euro zone? In a much worse situation than Iceland.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

West Kerry to Dublin on two wheels

A break from the serious world for a few moments.

This blog makes great effort to write all its material in the third person. An interlude today.

On Monday afternoon I left West Kerry at 13.50 on my Honda 680. Destination was Dublin, a distance of circa 380 kilometres.

It was one of the few clear Mondays since early June so the possibility of getting to Dublin without rain made the adventure tempting.

And off I set.

Still at novice stage every moment on the bike requires 120 per cent attention and concentration. The Kerry scenery is spectacular but there is little time to admire it from the seat of my Honda.

The relatively new Tralee Castleisland road offers the first signs of the big road. It brings an element of relaxation but also one of fear and terror. The level of concentration tires me.

Out of the Kingdom and into Limerick. First signs of cramp so a two-minute stop in Newcastle West to stretch and relax and off again. With the clocks gone back it seems a terrible waste of daylight time to spend any time off the bike before dark descends.

The semi-permanent road works on the Nenagh bypass make for scary driving but you just have to keep going. It's getting dark now and a strange sense of isolation and 'worry' sets in.
Nobody out there knows I am a novice.

Mountrath offers the hope of the motorway ahead but the punishment of the roads leading to the town certainly put a great damper on any hope of freedom ahead. Bollards and cones, gravel and muck are hell on a motorbike.

And then the motorway. Instead of it being a terrifying experience it offers openness and freedom. But it has its moments. A convoy of trucks ahead and need to pass them. But they are travelling at speed and suddenly as I am passing them I check the speed I am doing. The clock is at 140 km/h. What happens if I lose my grip on the handlebars or I hit a heap of gravel. I keep going and then move in to the slower lane and stay there. Relaxation.

The three-lane approach to Newlands Cross can cause confusion as most of the traffic, slow and fast, seems to stay in the middle lane. Where to stay? Keep going. And straight.

Arrival at Tallaght and the gear hides my identity. Job done. First time to drive to the capital. To work on it the next day. More fear but the second day it seems a little easier.

All a practice-run for the planned trip to Berlin and then on to Volgograd.

Maybe longer away than I had imagined!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vatican suggests psychological evaluations

The article below appears in yesterday's issue of The Irish Times.

The heading, Church defends Vatican, is amazingly odd. Something akin to telling readers Tuesday follows Monday.

As reported in the article below, the Vatican document seems most confusing.

The Irish Catholic Church's national co-ordinator for diocesan vocations, Fr Patrick Rushe says, 'clericalism is not as prominent now'. The veracitiy and accuracy of this comment needs serious questioning. Fr Rushe also says that, 'Many of the seminarians were also of 'better quality' than in the past. What does that mean? Is there scientific evidence to show this or is it another clever statement of obfuscation, hoping that the serious problems will go away?

He also says that 'such matters are being taken seriously by the church'. Is this so?

The document, according to the IT article says that if men have 'difficulty with the celibate life the path of formation will have to be interupted'.

What a nonsense is this?

And then the document, again according to the IT, says that men with 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' should also have their formation interrupted.

Any chance the Vatican could come clean on all this and be prophetic and visionary. Even tell the truth.

A question for those in the Vatican who are responsible for formation of men studying for the priesthood: what happens if those in charge of student formation are homosexual and misogynistic?

Hopefully the Vatican document is not as silly as what is reported in yesterday's Irish Times. Then again, maybe it just is.

And then the final comment in the art of gobbledygook, this sentence appears:

At a news conference in the Vatican, prefect for Catholic education Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said the use of psychological tests should become neither "obligatory" nor "ordinary practice".

The recent death and subsequent media coverage of Jorg Haider is a most interesting metaphor.

And now the article in yesterday's Irish Times.

Church defends Vatican document

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A VATICAN document issued last week, which recommended that seminary candidates undergo "psychological evaluations", was as much about reassuring the laity that such matters are being taken seriously by the church, Fr Patrick Rushe has said.

The Irish Catholic Church's national co-ordinator for diocesan vocations said the document from the Congregation for Catholic Education was more broadly focused than just on sexual issues.
"It encourages psychological profiling in the broader sense, as a help" in assisting candidates for the priesthood, he said.

"We find that most guys coming to us need development of some kind, though not as it was say 20 years ago."

More often, these days, seminarians were men who had come through ''their own journey of faith. They may have been non-practising for a period. They may have gone from fervour to non-practise, only to find fervour again.They may be older, with a wider experience. They are all the better for that in many cases," he said.

Most seminaries "now encourage a period of reflection", where such men are concerned. It is part of a process, and issues dealt with were "much broader than sex or orientation", he said.
He felt that today's seminarians were more realistic. "They may have had other professions and been in relationships. They know what life is like."

But, he also felt, you could not replace the idealism of youth. Many of today's seminarians were also of "better quality" than in the past, and had "a deeper sense of service. Clericalism is not as prominent now [among seminarians]".

Currently there are 87 men training to become priests in Ireland at seminaries in Rome, Spain, Britain and Maynooth.

This year 14 men were ordained to serve as Catholic priests in Ireland, compared to nine in 2007.

Fr Rushe was commenting in the context of a document issued by the Vatican's congregation last Thursday.

It recommended that seminarians undergo "psychological evaluations" with regard to potential personality disturbances as well as to their ability to live a celibate life. It followed on from another document issued by the congregation in 2005 which said the Catholic Church cannot ordain men who are active homosexuals or who have "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies.
The new document argued that if seminary students demonstrated areas of grave immaturity, then "the path of formation will have to be interrupted". Such areas of "immaturity" it indicated included deep-seated homosexual tendencies, unclear sexual identity, difficulty with the celibate life, excessive rigidity of character and lack of freedom in relations.

It said special attention should be given to ensuring that celibacy was not "a burden so heavy" that it compromised a candidate's affective and relational equilibrium.
As for assessing a candidate's ability to live a celibate life, it suggested that "it is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity" but that it is also necessary "to evaluate his sexual orientation".

The document said that psychological tests could be useful with a view not only to identifying troubled candidates but also in helping seminarians through their vocational journey, especially if the candidate needs to overcome psychological wounds.

At a news conference in the Vatican, prefect for Catholic education Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said the use of psychological tests should become neither "obligatory" nor "ordinary practice".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Direct copy of what appeared on this blog

Imitation is said to be the best form of flattery. Then again copying is simply plagiarism.

The website 'Clerical Whispers' has an obit of the late Fr Austin Flannery. Here it is.

See it anywhere before? It is of course lifted verbatim from what appeared here on Tuesday.

It is worth noting that under the web title, 'Clerical Whispers' are the words, Fides, Libertas, Fides.

It is the perfect example of how words can mean nothing even when it comes to church issues. Maybe, specifically when they are 'church words'.

Fr Austin Flannery OP died of a heart attack Tuesday 21st October 2008, at Kiltipper Woods Care Centre, Dublin 24.Austin was born in Tipperary on January 10, 1925.

He joined the Dominican Order in 1943 and ordained a priest in June 1950.Immediately after the War he studied in Oxford with Dominicans from other European countries, including Dominicans from Germany.

This was an attempt at reconciliation by the Order and the English Dominican Province. Also with Austin in Oxford was Fr Finbar Matthew Kelly, who is now in the Dominican Priory in Kilkenny.Austin was one of the most well-known Irish Dominicans of his time.During and after the Vatican Council he made available in English all the documents from the event.

At the helm of Dominican Publications, he was in a position to make available a wide range of religious publications to the general public.He broke away from the clerical mind set of his time and spoke in a language that was appealing and made sense in a changing Ireland.

Austin had the great ability of making life-long friends with people across a wide spectrum of beliefs and ideas.He had a great love for the Order and felt at home at St Saviour's in Dublin where he spent most of his Dominican life.Some years ago German Railways named one of their InterCity trains after St Albert The Great.

It was something Austin took great pride in and any time he met anyone with German connections he would make it his business to tell them about it.Austin was well respected by his Dominican colleagues and those who lived with him speak fondly of a man, who was gracious and kind.

May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fr Austin Flannery OP

Fr Austin Flannery OP died of a heart attack today at Kiltipper Woods Care Centre, Dublin 24.

Austin was born in Tipperary on January 1, 1925. He joined the Dominican Order in 1943 and ordained a priest in June 1950.

Immediately after the War he studied in Oxford with Dominicans from other European countries, including Dominicans from Germany. This was an attempt at reconciliation by the Order and the English Dominican Province. Also with Austin in Oxford was Fr Finbar Matthew Kelly, who is now in the Dominican Priory in Kilkenny.

Austin was one of the most well-known Irish Dominicans of his time.

During and after the Vatican Council he made available in English all the documents from the event.

At the helm of Dominican Publications, he was in a position to make available a wide range of religious publications to the general public.

He broke away from the clerical mind set of his time and spoke in a language that was appealing and made sense in a changing Ireland.

Austin had the great ability of making life-long friends with people across a wide spectrum of beliefs and ideas.

He had a great love for the Order and felt at home at St Saviour's in Dublin where he spent most of his Dominican life.

Some years ago German Railways named one of their InterCity trains after St Albert The Great. It was something Austin took great pride in and any time he met anyone with German connections he would make it his business to tell them about it.

Austin was well respected by his Dominican colleagues and those who lived with him speak fondly of a man, who was gracious and kind.

May he rest in peace.

Apologies that there is not a picture of Austin posted with this blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the margins of a conference

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan addressed a conference at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on world hunger organised by Concern Worldwide today.

Also speaking at the conference were former Irish President, Mary Robinson and world famous economist Jeff Sachs. Concern's CEO Tom Arnold introduced the speakers and Taoiseach Brian Cowen addressed the conference via a video link. He was unable to attend because of EU commitments in Brussels. The Minister for Overseas Development, Peter Power also spoke.

He told the conference that the bonuses paid to Wall Street bankers last year was more than the sum of all money spent in the same year to help alleviate poverty in the developing world.

This is Concern's 40th year in operation and the conference was part of the year-long activities organised to mark the special year.

Among the attendants at the conference were two young school-going students. Kate Nevin and Ryan Woolley were winners of an essay-writing competition and part of their prize was meeting Kofi Annan at the Royal Hospital earlier in the morning.

They were at the fringes of the conference, but were two amazingly bright young people, full of enthusiasm and with such a zest for life. Their intelligence and goodness was radiant and inspiring.

Their contributions will not make the national headlines. They had no advisers or speech writers with them. Their accompaniers were their proud parents.

Also present was businessman Deni O'Brien and he was able to take time out to say some nice words in private about an Irish Dominican, Stephen Doyle, who died some months ago. Mr O'Brien stepped in and was of great help to Stephen at one stage during his illness.

The stories that add value to all our lives. They are on the margins with no fanfares attached.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comments of an African bishop

A leading Catholic bishop in Africa says he'd obviously vote for the Democrat. The National Catholic Reporter describes Bishop Onaiyekan thus:

A past president of the African bishops’ conference, Onaiyekan is widely seen as a spokesperson for Catholicism in Africa. During the synod, he was tapped to deliver a continental report on behalf of the African bishops.

Via Rocco, here's his statement on pro-lifers and Obama:

“Of course I believe that abortion is wrong, that it’s killing innocent life,” he said. “I also believe, however, that those who are against abortion should be consistent.

“If my choice is between a person who makes room for abortion, but who is really pro-life in terms of justice in the world, peace in the world, I will prefer him to somebody who doesn’t support abortion but who is driving millions of people in the world to death,” Onaiyekan said.
“It’s a whole package, and you never get a politician who will please you in everything,” he said.

“You always have to pick and choose.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Some questions make no sense

On Tuesday in 'The Rite and Reason' column of The Irish Times, Fr David Keating, chaplain at Waterford IT argues that there is no need for concern over a shortfall of priests in Ireland.

The Letters to the Editor page of The Irish Times today carries a number of letters on the topic.

Is there a shortage of accountants, solicitors, engineers in Ireland at present? The engineering industry has been saying that there is a worry re the number of young people studying honours maths and physics in our schools.

Is there a shortage of poets, novelists, writers in Ireland today?

Even the question makes little sense. Maybe if we compare Ireland to the 1950s and 1960s when priests had to be exported, there is a shortage. But to that comparison we should be most grateful.

Back in the 1960s it was impossible to walk down Dublin's O'Connell Street without bumping into a bevvy of roman collars. It was a madness.

Sacramental priesthood can never be a numbers game. But anything that helps dismantle clericalism has to be a gift from God.

I have spent many years teaching at post-primary level. Last year and this year is my first occasion teaching in a post-primary school that is not managed by the Irish ecclesiastical church and where the principal is not a priest or a sister. I don't miss the absence of priest or sister.

My school principal is a good man and a good principal. Indeed, I would put him in the list of best principals, with whom I have worked. And what is most striking is that there is none of the terms such as 'Christian ethos' or 'Catholic school', which I heard so much about in other schools but never really understood and maybe seldom saw.

He and a Jesuit school-principal are top of my list.

What is always needed is a presence of good and moral people.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Happy Days at the Abbey

Beckett's Happy Days, at present running in the Abbey Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre festival, is superb.

Fiona Shaw leaves you with no opportunity but to listen and wonder at every word Beckett writes.

The stage scenery is perfect.

The emptiness, the bleak waiting, the nothingness of reality, the making fun of anything that might seem important has to jolt anyone who ever attempts to talk about reality or God.

Sitting through the play I was forced to laugh at all the certitudes I have ever heard from a pulpit. Beckett paints a frightening but great picture of reality. And in that context how can anyone ever say a word about God?

Can one dare say a word about God through the eyes of faith, but is that a cop-out?

On or off track

Mix of rail and politics. Third pic down.

Worshipping false gods

OPINION: The events of recent times require us all to reconsider the economic choices facing us, writes DAVID BEGG

FOR THE last 25 years we have been told that the twin phenomena of globalisation and the financial system underpinning it are unalterable. Free markets, we were told, are possessed of an inherent and irresistible logic and the state must not interfere. Economists, politicians, academics, commentators and business people of the neoliberal persuasion foreclosed all debate about the subject.

But that liberal dogma has now been turned on its head by the need for massive state intervention in the banking system, not least in the United States, the very citadel of capitalism.
Let us be absolutely clear. This crisis was caused by greed and recklessness in our own country, on Wall Street, in London and in other major financial centres. Senior executives permitted speculation on a huge scale on investments they ill understood. Speculators have exacerbated the serious rises in fuel, food and raw materials.

The losers are many and include workers in the industry and, more generally, pensioners, families, firms seeking investment capital, and all of us as taxpayers now bailing out banks. It will take years to recover the money - if we manage to do so - and our future ability to fund high-quality public services is now jeopardised.

Friedrich Hayek, widely recognised as the progenitor of neoliberalism, published his most famous book, The Road to Serfdom , in 1944. By coincidence a Hungarian socialist, Karl Polanyi, published The Great Transformation in the same year. While Polanyi's work celebrated the New Deal in the US precisely because it placed limits on the influence of market forces, Hayek's book insisted that the New Deal was the road to perdition.

Although he identified himself as a socialist, Polanyi had profound differences with economic determinism of all varieties, including Marxism. In the cold war era there was little room for Polanyi's nuanced and complex arguments.

Hayek, on the other hand, went on to be a tireless advocate of market liberalism in Britain and the US. He inspired such influential followers as Milton Friedman and was responsible for the policies of deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation pursued by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Over time, they deconstructed the last vestiges of the New Deal, leaving us with the catastrophe we have today.

Polanyi's central thesis is that self-regulating markets never work. To his mind their deficiencies are so great that government intervention becomes necessary, and that the pace of change is of central importance in determining these consequences.

Polanyi's great attraction lies in his concern to advance both freedom and social justice. He believes that allowing the market to control the economic system was a fundamental error because it meant no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are then embedded in the economic system.

The most obvious manifestation of this in practice is the treatment of labour, which is really human beings, as a commodity. Polanyi points out that human beings are not a product made for sale. Nevertheless, upon the fiction that labour is a commodity is the whole market system organised. It is therefore based on a lie.

Unfortunately, under the pressure of globalisation, Europe has been moving in the direction of the US model and, in truth, Ireland and Britain are part of that Anglo-Saxon construct. But the events of recent times require us all to reconsider.

The problem we have to transcend is that many intelligent people have put their faith in the idea of self-regulating markets as piously as others put their trust in God.

Now that this god has failed, perhaps people will have the freedom to see things more clearly again, reclaim responsibility and organise the future in more promising terms.

• David Begg is deneral secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and is a governor of The Irish Times Trust
© 2008 The Irish Times

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Beckett at the Abbey

This article is in today's Irish Times.

The author of this blog was at university in Cork with Fiona Shaw and has the distinction of giving her a cross bar on one occasion to an English lecture at the college!

Living with Beckett and his words for 18 months, in performances from London to Greece to New York to London, forces one to go beyond language to the silence we all must face, writes Fiona Shaw

A WOMAN, "about 50, well-preserved", is how Samuel Beckett suggests Winnie, the heroine of his play Happy Days , should appear. So when the part was proposed to me 18 months ago, I was appalled, thinking at 48 that I was a woman "about 40". It is in these vanities, the gap between our self-preservatory illusions and reality that Beckett's genius captures actor and audience alike.

I struggled to meet Winnie, feeling that I was not allied to Beckett's sensibility. The writing reared up and resisted what normally happens when I make friends with a text. Usually I can find a line, a phrase or an image that reminds me of the poetry of my own life. I often find my childhood in plays and, no matter how far away the story or period, I hear my early self in the words, like a noise from a cave, but this was hard to learn - Beckett has taken phrases that sound like real speech, yet they disintegrate just as the images form. The effect on the hearer is genius: instead of frustrating the audience, he keeps them on tenterhooks hoping that the launch of the next phrase will make sense of what has gone before. The play's form and content are the same - pointless hope - so the audience rides the play in the very rhythm of its telling.
Every morning before rehearsals I met our stage manager, who drilled me inch by inch before the painstaking rehearsal period began. We played badminton in the coffee breaks so that my circulation would not prematurely seize up, and I spent Christmas Day in Cork drilling lines.
By the time we opened at Britain's National Theatre I was a thing of worry.

There began Beckett's first gracious revenge - to my surprise, the audience responded with so much humour, full of recognition of Winnie's plight, and she began to graft on to me.
The play has since travelled the world, a privileged way to develop the work and test its qualities against different cultures. We began in Epidaurus, Greece, by which time I had acquired a puppy who was taking over my life. He attended rehearsals and entertained us with his tilting head and earnest attempts to cope with me buried up to my waist in the mound. There was fierce debate in the Greek press as to whether a modern play should be performed on that ancient monument. At the time, I was more concerned with the difficulties of playing to a huge audience.

We anticipated 5,000 people, the population of a small town. But the ancients thought of everything. The acoustic of this remarkable amphitheatre is famous - an actor can stand on the stage and be heard whispering some hundred rows back, due, they think, to giant jars that sit under the orchestra.

My enthusiasm for the architecture was only tempered by the alignment between the burning images in Happy Days and the fires raging through Greece that week. During the press conference a helicopter flew over carrying a giant sack of water to quell yet another forest fire, and I thought of Winnie's lines: "Is it not possible, with the sun beating down, and so much fiercer down, things to go on fire never known to do so in this way, I mean spontaneous like."
That night, the ancient theatre had the quality of an etching of the human brain, a tiered slice that fills the eye. I felt the slide rule of time did not apply. I was entirely in the past and in the present at the same time - all the people who had sat there, in togas two millennia ago, now in T-shirts and jeans - but I felt the frisson as I hit the lines: "Might I myself not melt in the end, or burn, I do not mean burst into flames, but little by little be charred to a black cinder, all this visible flesh."

The following morning, in the hotel, local tourists were weeping. The hills outside Athens were burning, and within an hour our second performance was cancelled, as were all performances in Greece. Official mourning was declared. Theatrical tragedy had given way to the real thing. We promised to return.

On to Paris, where the French vie for the ownership of Beckett, then Madrid in the giant old slaughterhouses lit with the neon blue the new Spain has made its own - and despite the surtitles, the Spanish laughed. I stood under the statue of Lorca and thought there is nothing we can teach these folk about the incremental catastrophe.

Then to Washington and on to New York after Christmas, where the play came into its own. I had wanted from the start to go there. Americans have always been attuned to rhythm, having absorbed so many languages, and I felt that the ease with which they had taken the dark humour of Medea might again be there. Sure enough, they were so quick it allowed me to widen the gaping abyss in the play without having to underline it.

Then Amsterdam, where the first night was a sombre evening when Queen Beatrix came (a woman I had known only from stamp collecting!), but the following day the commoners seemed to enjoy it.

THIS SUMMER, we returned to Epidaurus. We drove past the healing scalps of mountains, past verdant forest saved by man-made scars cut into the land. I thought, if only we could do the same and limit damage in ourselves: the burned mind of Winnie making less and less sense ("This . . . Charlie . . . kisses . . .this . . . all that"). Where before I had embraced the play's universal significance, this year I was more personally chastened by it. Near the end of the play, Winnie has a revelation: "I used to say Winnie you are changeless because there is never any difference between one fraction of a second and the next."

For many years I might have said the same thing: most of the dramas in my life have been of my own making. But something of the play has caught up with me. I have suffered losses this year, among them a young Greek member of our team. Last June I went to the funeral of our director Deborah Warner's father, and in the same week my own father suffered a stroke, and after New York my little dog was killed. Winnie refers to these "little . . . sunderings, little falls . . . apart", and now I am chilled by the lines: "To have been always what I am - and so changed from what I was."

I learned this year that the theatre at Epidaurus was a later addition to a site that had been a healing place. The sick climbed the mountain, slept the night in tents, and in the morning could diagnose their own illness, the god Asclepius having visited them in the night to inspire them. The climb was part of the healing process, the acknowledgment that something was wrong. Perhaps this is what drives us to a theatre, to hear the sounds of our own mortality - and yet laugh.

We performed to 6,000 people. Beckett takes us beyond language to silence, the silence we all will and must face. We may find it holds desolation, but one feels that, against all odds, it holds promise. A week later I turned 50. Winnie and I have met.
• Fiona Shaw appears at the Abbey in the British National Theatre production of Happy Days , directed by Deborah Warner, from tomorrow until Oct 25 as part of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. Booking: 01-8787222

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

And still not a word

On Tuesday, September 23 this blog contacted the Holy Faith Sisters asking them if they had made any comment on the late Eileen Flynn-Roche case.

The blog was told that there would be no-one available until the following Friday. The congregation so far has made no contact.

The banker and the priest

Eighteen years ago this Friday the two German states were united. October 3 is a public holiday in Germany to celebrate the date of unification. Some refer to it as 're-unification'.

It happened as a result of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. 20 years ago the world saw the fall of communism. Is the world now experiencing the collapse of capitalism?

In the East German city of Görlitz in summer 1985 a Protestant priest commented to me that the GDR was in collapse and that it was just a matter of time before it was all over. At the time I did not believe him

That same year in discussion with a senior banker in Ireland I raised the question what if the bank - his bank - collapsed. I was told it was impossible. At the time I did not believe him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof

Baader Meinhof film to be released this week in Germany.

Scientists need to challenge

Interesting article below appears in today's Irish Times.

Anti-GM and anti-nuclear advocates need to be challenged

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Scientists should be as passionate and determined in debate as anti-GM or anti-nuclear activists

I RECENTLY attended a press conference called by anti-GM (genetically modified) protesters at an agricultural biotechnology scientific conference.

Three people, none of whom are scientists, ran the press conference and each made detailed statements. The audience was a mixture of anti-GM activists, none of whom (to my knowledge) were scientists, and a selection of scientists experienced in the GM field.

I myself have little experience in the GM area. The arguments presented by the amateurs at this press conference were completely at odds with the positions outlined by the experienced scientists. Both sides liberally cited "scientific research" to support their positions. What is the general public to make out of this?

This scene is typical of what happens nowadays, particularly in environmental areas.
As I said, I am no GM expert, but I do have some professional expertise in another environmental area - the effects of low-level ionising radiation. The press conference described above perfectly mirrors many meetings I attended over the years organised by anti-nuclear groups. A main plank of the anti-nuclear argument is that the low-level radiation emitted by nuclear power plants, and ancillary processes, is very dangerous.

Mainline science holds that risk from exposure to radiation is proportional to the dose received and because the leakage of radiation from nuclear power plants under normal circumstances is tiny, the risk to the health of those exposed is correspondingly tiny. Of course, the situation is very different in the event of major accident.

Both sides quote scientific evidence to back their claims. The difference between the sides is that the mainline science position is based on a lot of high quality research published in the best peer-reviewed journals, whereas the anti-nuclear position on low-level radiation is supported by very little research, much of which is not published in high quality peer-reviewed journals.

When pressed on the paucity of their underpinning scientific support, the anti-nuclear people say that all "independent" scientists back their position. But, when you look at the credentials of these few scientists who support the anti-nuclear position it is completely unclear in most cases how they merit the title "independent" any more than most of the scientists who come to opposite conclusions.

Some of the "science" put forward by the anti-nuclear side is farcical. For example, they went through a phase of claiming that risk of ill-health from exposure to low-level radiation is negatively correlated to dose - that is, the less you received, the more dangerous it is. In fact, there is now good evidence to show that exposure to the lowest level of radiation is not dangerous at all but, on the contrary, it is good for you. This is the phenomenon of hormesis, which I described here on September 11th.

So, why was the anti-nuclear argument about low-level radiation not dismissed out of hand in the face of massive contrary evidence from mainline science? Probably the main reason was the timid approach adopted by mainline scientific spokespersons. The anti-nuclear people speak with absolute confidence. They assure the public that every nuclear power plant spreads a deadly cloud of cancers in its vicinity and that they have scientific proof of this. Mainline scientists deny this and say that studies consistently show that risks are small, although not zero.

The anti-nuclear people would challenge them with the question, "Can you guarantee the public that nuclear emissions are absolutely safe?"

The mainline scientists reply, "There is no such thing as zero level of risk". This is where the argument is lost with the public. The anti-nuclear people have no problem giving guarantees of danger and cancer, the mainline scientists will not guarantee safety, preferring to talk of low levels of probability.

Of course, in cases like this mainline science should declare a process to be safe. Safe here means safe in the sense understood in everyday life. For example, is it safe to walk down the stairs? The commonsense answer is yes, provided the stairs is sound and you look where you are going. The strict scientific answer will quote you the probability of having a fall.

Another problem is that the media tends to give every voice, amateur and professional, equal weight. This is not fair to the general public. The media has a responsibility to ask tough probing questions of all who seek a platform for their views. When questions can only be answered by science, scientists have an even greater responsibility to stand firm on issues where the scientific evidence is persuasive. Environmental activists who take a position on issues contrary to the evidence of mainline science always speak with confidence and passion and often try to shout down opposing voices. They should be opposed with matching vigour. Only then can science win out.

• William Reville is associate professor of biochemistry and public awareness of science officer at UCC - www.understandingscience.ucc.ie
© 2008 The Irish Times

No-one available for comment

Since her untimely death of Eileen Flynn-Roche this blog has made two comments on the events that led up to the sacking.

It has made reference to the fact that no apology has been appeared in any daily national newspaper since her death.

This blog contacted the Holy Faith Sisters enquiring as to whether or not the congregation had made any sort of public apology for their action, or indeed whether they had made any comment whatsoever.

On Tuesday this blog was told that there would be no-one available from the provincial team before Friday to make a comment on the matter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shenanigans at Ryanair

Over the last few days Ryanair has made changes to its schedules.

It is notifying passengers that flight times have been changed.

Ryanair does not explain on their web notice that passengers can cancel just one leg of the journey if they so wish.

If a passenger wishes to cancel one leg of the journey they should telephone 0818 30 30 30 (within Ireland) even if it does take a long time, so as to cancel one leg of the booking.

The perceived custom and practice at Ryanair is that if it goes wrong it goes badly wrong.

In this case it is not so and indeed, Ryanair is actually being more passenger friendly than it purports on its own web page.

Still not a word of apology to be heard

Saturday's Irish Times carried an obituary of Eileen Flynn-Roche. The obit is reprinted below.

Eileen Flynn-Roche was crucificed by both church and state.

As a member of the Catholic Church I am deeply ashamed of the action of my co-religionists but I am also angry that the church has not now issued a statement of apology.

Has the HolyFaith congregation issued any sort of apology?

"I explained," Eileen Flynn told the tribunal, "that I could not stand back from the situation. I was living in the town. My responsibilities and my life were there."

The honesty and herosim of those words compared to what Sister Anna Power said to the Employment Appeals Tribunal: "I put it to her that it would be in her best interest if she could find alternative employment."

"She just flaunted it and did not try to hide it or redeem herself", Sister Anna said.

Sister Anna offered to arrange for a parish priest in England to look after her during her pregnancy.

EILEEN FLYNN-ROCHE, who died suddenly on the evening of September 9th, was one of a small group of women who became, in the early 1980s, symbols of the deep tensions in Irish society around issues of religion, morality and sexuality.

Like Joanne Hayes in the Kerry Babies case and Ann Lovett, the 15-year-old schoolgirl who died while giving birth in secret, she was an accidental lightning rod for the emotions sparked by profound social change.

Her case became infamous, not because she set out to cause a scandal, but because she refused to be ashamed of herself.

As Eileen Flynn, she arrived in the Co Wexford town of New Ross from her native Co Laois in 1978, to work as a substitute teacher of English and history in Good Counsel college. When a permanent post became vacant in the town's Holy Faith convent school, she received a strong recommendation from her employers at the college and was given the job.

Her life changed when she came across a distressed child in the town and brought her home to her father's pub. There she met Richie Roche, a publican whose wife had left him, and who was vice-chairman of the town's Sinn Féin cumann. The mildly bohemian reputation of the pub and Roche's political affiliations were believed to be contributory factors to the subsequent events.

Divorce was still unconstitutional, so Flynn and Roche could not marry, but when they began to live together she regarded herself as being, as she later told the Employment Appeals Tribunal, in "a family unit in everything but name".

At the start of the school year in September 1981, the principal of the Holy Faith school heard that Flynn was living with Roche. Two months later, the young teacher was pregnant.

In April 1982, the manager of the Holy Faith schools in Ireland, Sr Anna Power, arrived in New Ross and, as she put it to the Employment Appeals Tribunal: "I put it to her that it would be in her best interest if she could find alternative employment."

She offered to arrange for a parish priest in England to look after her during her pregnancy.

Such a situation was not especially unusual in an Ireland which had developed mechanisms for keeping unorthodox pregnancies out of sight.

What was unusual was that Flynn declined the offer.

"I explained," she told the tribunal, "that I could not stand back from the situation. I was living in the town. My responsibilities and my life were there."

It was not her pregnancy, or even her relationship with Roche, that led to her subsequent dismissal, but her honesty.

As Sr Anna put it: "She just flaunted it and did not try to hide it or redeem herself."

The immediate context of Flynn's sacking in August 1982, after she had given birth to her first son Richard was the anger of the order and complaints from parents in the town. The broader context, however, was an attempt to halt the drift away from Catholic control over moral and sexual behaviour.

The campaign that led to the 1983 anti-abortion referendum was already well under way. Flynn's dismissal represented a parallel attempt to re-establish the boundaries of change.

This was reflected in the judgment by Judge Noel Ryan in the Circuit Court after she appealed the refusal of the tribunal to overturn her dismissal: "Times are changing and we must change with them, but they have not changed that much . . . with regard to some things.

"In other places women are being condemned to death for this sort of offence."

Though in more moderate tones, Mr Justice Declan Costello, in the High Court in 1985, upheld the view of the nuns that her "conduct was capable of damaging" their efforts to uphold Catholic "norms of behaviour".

Legal costs prevented her from appealing the case to the European Court and her failure to join a union left her with little institutional support.

In this atmosphere, it was remarkable that Flynn's relationship with Roche survived and that she continued to live in the town and care for their five children.

They married after divorce became legal and she worked in the two bars they ran together. She was a popular figure among customers, who came to respect her as "a great character". She missed teaching though and did voluntary work on a community literacy scheme before finally returning to her profession in the town's CBS primary school.

Though her death came tragically early, Eileen Flynn- Roche lived long enough to be a respected mother and teacher.

This was, perhaps, the best answer to those who regarded her as a danger to the morals of Irish society.

• Eileen Flynn-Roche: born 1953; died: September 9th, 2008

© 2008 The Irish Times

New church website

According to a report in today's Irish Times, a new website was launched in St Patrick's College Maynooth yesterday by the Catholic bishops.

According to the report it is a new website for 'the faithful'. That word 'faithful' has worrying undertones to it.

The address is http://www.catholicbishops.ie/ and not http://www.catholic-bishops.ie/ as The Irish Times reports. Why would a website that is inviting Catholics to read it and feel easy with it use the word 'bishops' in its title? Strange and worrying but not new.

Because 'everyone is doing it' doesn't make it correct and even the Catholic Church would go along with that idea. So please, web editor try to avoid split infinitives!

The introductory page with 'Catholicireland' emblazoned on it is not terribly appealing and the content page is boring.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The slow polite language of democracy

The general assembly of the chapter of the Irish Dominicans is now completed. Papers have been drawn up and discussed.

The diffinitory - a word not to be found in an English dictionary - is now in session.

The diffinitory is made up of a a number of elected members of the province. They were elected at the chapter.

It is their job to study the papers of the commissions and then draw up a document which expresses the mood or tone of the chapter.

The diffinitory will also make provincial appointments for the next four years. Here politics plays an important role.

What happened so far at the chapter? The provincial and the new provincial council were elected. It seems that was the end of any exciting news!

When any group of people come together they create a positive atmosphere. It's easy to give the impression that 'we are a great bunch of people doing a good job of work'. It is always good to be impressed by and with the company of like-minded people.

So what happened at the chapter? Were any important 'nettles' grasped or bullets bitten? Why should anyone in their sane senses want to 'grasp' a nettle or bite a bullet. Odd idioms?

But in any official communiques that will or are issued on behalf of the province, the impression will be given that all went according to plan and the official documents were sent to Rome and signed off by the Master of the Order, And that will happen too.

And that probably is what happens with many organisations. Although it is not how the banks are behaving right now. The banking world is in melt-down and the fine language and polite talk is out the door as the emergency teams try to hold the line. People have lost confidence in the banking world and the sluice gates have opened. People are scared.

But have people not lost confidence in organised religion, in the ways and mannerisms of the priestly class? And if they have how come the polite talk, the respectable words remain the current dispensation?

But the problem there could well be that the emergency team, the firefighters might prove far too fundamentalist for any ordinary person to stomach.

Maybe the democracy practised within the Dominican Order makes good sense after all.

Fighting it out on the internet

The below link came the way of this blog. It is a comment on Sarah Palin.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A most painful episode

The link below with the quote from Tolstoy make for sad reading.

How intolerably painful can it get?

From my long years of association with the Dominican Order I can honestly say it is only men who are unstable who have refused Communion to people.

Priests are not police officers. If they know someone has not paid their taxes would they refuse them Communion? Doubtful.

Why is it always and ever in relation to matters dealing with sexuality that some priests become so strident in their views?

Has it something to do with personality disorder?


Words of thank you from daughter

Yesterday a report on the late Eileen Roche appeared in this blog and today a comment in gratitude is made by the late Mrs Roche's daughter.

Firstly a profound thank you to Ms Roche for her comment. But it is much more than that.

In recent days and weeks there have been anonymous people looking for the closure of this blog. Naturally, no matter how zany comments and people may be, they always leave their mark. The anonymous ones can leave marks of isolation and fragility. And then a comment such as Ms Roche's appears and the light shines again.

Her comments also put into perspective the actions and remarks of the 'closure people' - the same attitude the same behaviour that caused the late Eileen Roche nee Flynn to lose her job.

And still not a word, at least in any prominent or public place, apologising for the terrible wrong that was done to the late Eileen Roche nee Flynn.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Eileen Roche nee Eileen Flynn RIP

On Saturday last Eileen Roche was buried. Her funeral Mass was in Rosbercon Church, New Ross, Co Wexford.

Eileen Roche was 53 when she died and the mother of five children and wife of Richie Roche.

But Eileen Roche back in 1983 was Eileen Flynn and because she was an unmarried mother and living with the baby's father she was dismissed from her job as an English and history teacher at the Holy Faith Convent in New Ross, Co Wexford.

My shame to that event is that I did not raise my single unnoticed voice back then. At the time I was a teacher at Newbridge College Co Kildare. I said nothing.

It's easy to criticise the shocking behaviour of the Church at the time and indeed the decision taken by the courts but I did nothing to support a young woman teacher.

I wonder did any of those who cried out for her head at the time turn up at her funeral and pray with her family? Has anyone from the Irish ecclesiastical hierarchy been with her in her years of illness? Maybe they have. I hope they have.

And what gain was made by the Church authorities in the stand they took?

A public apology printed in the daily national newspapers could be a glimmer of hope, recognition of of a wrong done to a young woman teacher. But it is highly unlikely it will happen. A pity.

It is worth noting that Donal Herlihy was bishop in Ferns between 1964 and 1983 when he was succeeded by Brendan Comiskey.

Did the bishop at the time offer any support to the young teacher? Both these men were highly criticised in the Ferns Report.

The Ferns report published in 2005 found that children throughout County Wexford were abused over a 40-year period while the Catholic church, the police and the Irish state failed in their duty to protect them.

At least 21 priests were accused of more than 100 cases of rape and sexual assault against children in the diocese of Ferns from 1962 to 2002. The rural area of south-east Ireland is believed to have the highest proportion of accused clergy in a Catholic diocese anywhere in the world.

The report, headed by the retired supreme court judge Frank Murphy, is Ireland's first state investigation into the Catholic church's handling of abuse allegations against priests. It found that the church's negligence in dealing with allegations went as far as the Vatican.

And Eileen Roche nee Flynn was sacked from her teaching job because she was an unmarried mother living with the father of her child.

Those responsible for that action and those who coalesced through their silence should bow their heads in shame.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

It is appropriate we remember those who have taken their own lives. It is an opportunity for us to think of all those who have been terrorised into suicide.

It is also a day for us to remember priests, nuns and sisters who have commit suicide and this blog recalls especially Dominicans who have taken their own lives.

We owe it to them and their memory that the truth be told.

Mirror image of Hitler's newspaper

The current issue of the Alive monthly newspaper carries a story on Europe with reference to Germany.

The article is inaccurate, nasty and indeed hateful. Unfortunatley it could mislead vulnerable people.

The article in its vitriol is a mirror image of what once appeared in Völkischer Beobachter

The Good Friday drink and the judge

There is a story circulating in the Irish media today about gardaí who prosecuted Galway restaurants for serving drink last Good Friday.

Judge Mary Fahy decided not to record convictions against the nine restaurants. She said the prosecutions were 'ludicrous' and 'ridiculous'.

The restaurants were breaking the law.

Earlier today an Irish radio station contacted this blogger and asked what his views were on the issue.

When I pointed out that it was a question of law and nothing to do with anything else I was asked what I thought priests would think. I explained that under no circumstances could I dare to speak for 'priests'. I stressed that this was a legal matter

I was then asked did I know of any priest who might object. When it was suggested to the radio station that they might simply be looking for 'some clown' who would do a rant on the issue, all interest evaporated. End of telephone call.

It is an interesting story of news management and the type of material some print and radio media disseminate. But it also gives a view or snapshot of what some media think of 'priests'.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pedal power through Dublin

Concern Worldwide together with Dublin City Council is organising a fun cycle day on Sunday September 14.

It’s only 10 km, or just six miles if you want to be old-fashioned.

The cycle goes from one square to another, beginning at Merrion Square and finishing at Parnell Square.

Roads will be closed to traffic from 09.30 to midday.

It is the first annual Concern cycle and it is hoped that over 5,000 will join in the ride.

Naturally everyone is welcome. All shapes and makes, human and mechanical are most welcome.
It promises to be a great day out. Calling on anyone, who has ever been on a bike and even those who have never been up on a saddle.
It is the perfect way for a family to spend a Sunday morning, even if it means getting a saddle fitted for two-year-old Fergus.

For more details contact Concern at http://www.concern.net/ or telephone Sarah Maddock at 01 – 417 7758.

And if your cousins are up from the country bring them too.

Folly of the progressive fairytale

The article below, written by John Gray, appears in today's Guardian.

The current panic about Russia is a curious phenomenon. By any objective standard Russians are freer in the authoritarian state established by Putin than at any time in the Soviet Union. Many are also materially better off. Russia has abandoned global expansionism, and is now a diminished version of what it has been throughout most of its history - a Eurasian empire whose chief concern is protection from external threats. Yet western attitudes are more hostile than they were during much of the cold war, when many on the left viewed the Soviet Union, which was responsible for tens of millions of deaths, as an essentially benign regime.

To see how this state of affairs has come about one must understand the progressive narrative - embraced nowadays as much on the right as the left - that shapes western perceptions. The Soviet collapse was a defeat for communism, a prototypical progressive ideology. There was never any prospect of post-communist Russia embracing neoliberalism, another western model. Something like Putin's Russia was always on the cards, but the return of history isn't part of the progressive script. Most of our leaders are disciples of Woodrow Wilson, with a religious faith in what Francis Fukuyama only the other day described as "the march of history towards global democracy". Prosperity brings bourgeoisification and liberal values, or so they believe. Russia - rich, nationalist and authoritarian - doesn't fit this progressive fairytale, and the west's reaction is a mix of threatening bluster and mounting panic.

Nothing is more misguided than talk of a new cold war. What we are seeing is the end of the post cold war era, and a renewal of geopolitical conflicts of the sort that occurred during the late 19th century. Their minds befogged by fashionable nonsense about globalisation, western leaders believe liberal democracy is spreading unstoppably. The reality is continuing political diversity. Republics, empires, liberal and illiberal democracies, and a wide variety of authoritarian regimes will be with us for the foreseeable future. Globalisation is nothing more than the industrialisation of the planet, and increasing resource nationalism is an integral part of the process. (So is accelerating climate change, but that's another story.) As industrialisation spreads, countries that control natural resources use these resources to advance their strategic objectives. In deploying energy as a weapon Russia is not resisting globalisation but exploiting its contradictions.

We are back to great-power politics, shifting alliances and spheres of influence. The difference is that the west is no longer in charge. With their different histories and sometimes sharply conflicting interests, Russia, China, India and the Gulf states are not going to form any kind of bloc. But it is these countries that are shaping world development at the start of the 21st century. The US - its bankrupt mortgage institutions nationalised and its gigantic war machine effectively funded by foreign borrowing - is in steep decline. With its financial system in the worst mess since the 1930s, the west's ability to shape events is dwindling by the day. Sermonising about "law-based international relations" is laughable after Iraq, and at bottom not much more than nostalgia for a vanished hegemony.

Deluded about its true place in the world, the west underestimates the risks of intervening in Russia's near abroad. Russia's weaknesses - demographic decline, cronyism in the economy and a seething sense of national humiliation - are well known, but western vulnerabilities are no less real. Our leaders bore on about Russia needing us as much as we need Russia. In fact, despite a recent blip, investment in Russia is a byproduct of the global market that will continue for as long as it continues to be profitable, whereas Russian energy supplies can be curtailed at will by the Russian government. Economists will tell you the country is too reliant on oil. But the world's oil reserves are peaking while globalisation continues to advance, and Russia stands to gain from any international conflict in which supplies are disrupted. Again, the west needs Russia if the Iranian nuclear crisis is ever to be defused peacefully, and without Russian logistical cooperation Nato forces will find it even harder to bring the aimless, unwinnable war in Afghanistan to any kind of conclusion.

Right-thinking bien-pensants in all parties believe Russia would be more amenable to western interests if only it were more truly democratic. But Putin is wildly popular precisely because he is asserting Russian power against the west; if he were more accountable to public opinion he might be harder to deal with. Democracy has numerous advantages, but it is no guarantee of a reasonable foreign policy. The current Georgian imbroglio is itself a spin-off from democratic politics. Mikheil Saakashvili's reckless incursion into South Ossetia, where Russian forces had been stationed under international agreements for 16 years, was most likely encouraged by elements in the Bush administration in the hope of damaging Obama in the run-up to the presidential election. The gambit may have worked, but the result has been a conflict that increases Russia's leverage over the flow of oil in the region and strengthens Iran in central Asia. If Dick Cheney's pledge of support for Georgia during his travels last week was a move in the Great Game it was spectacularly ill judged.

Clearly, with the exception of some in "old Europe", our leaders do not know what they are doing. The grandstanding of David Miliband and David Cameron in Ukraine illustrates the point. Blathering about national self-determination and territorial integrity, they seem not to have noticed that the two principles are normally incompatible. Self-determination means secession and the break-up of states. In the Caucasus, a region of multi-sided national enmities, it means a wider war and worsening ethnic cleansing. The stakes are even higher in Ukraine. Deeply divided and with a major Russian naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, the new state will surely be torn apart if an attempt is made to wrench it from Russia's sphere of influence. The country would become a battlefield, with the great powers irresistibly drawn in. Playing with Wilsonian notions of self-determination in these conditions is courting disaster.

Let there be no mistake: Russia is, in some respects, a dangerous state. With their background in the security services, its leaders are ruthless pragmatists who will use any means to achieve their objectives. Their goal may be to roll back western influence in Russia's near abroad, but their strategy is to take whatever they can. Perceiving the west to be in decline, they are testing whether it has any coherent strategy to protect its interests. From what we have heard from our leaders, it does not.

A start would be to shelve plans for further Nato expansion, while making it unequivocally clear that existing commitments in eastern Europe and the Baltic states will be honoured. At the same time every effort must be made to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian energy. Western leaders need to acquire a capacity for realistic thinking, or else they will be woken from their dream of progress by the force of events.

John Gray is emeritus professor of European thought at the LSE.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Election of provincial

On Friday September 5, Fr Pat Lucey was elected provincial of the Irish province of the Dominican Order.

Best wishes to Fr Lucey during his term as provincial. The term is for four years.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

20 examples of grammar misuse

BBC website gives 20 examples of grammar misuse. It is excellent and must be highly recommended.

Nut not a word about upper casing the first letter of word when it should be lower case!

If it's plumber or doctor why should it be Priest or Cardinal?

While it does laugh at 12pm no mention of the silliness of 12 noon.

Nor a word about the misuse of the word 'presently'

And you don't have to be a pedant to open the link below.


Shopping early for Christmas

Department store Brown Thomas opens its Christmas section in its Cork shop today and in its Dublin shop tomorrow.

Major rail alterations this weekend

Major timetable alterations on Dublin Cork/Kerry and return services this weekend due to renewal of Multeen bridge near Limerick Junction.

Intending passengers should check at http://www.irishrail.ie/.

Some services between Dublin Cork, Cork Dublin have been cancelled. Other services will involve bus transfers at Thurles.

The notice in the newspapers and the website is not explicit in explaining how trains to Tralee will be delayed. For example the 20.00 ex Heuston Cork with Tralee connections will be almost one hour late arriving in Tralee.

Dictionary definition of anonymity

Four dictionary definitions of the meaning of the word anonymity.

1. freedom from identification: the state of not being known or identified by name, e.g. as the author or donor of something preserve the anonymity of your informant

2. lack of distinctiveness: a lack of distinctive features that makes things seem bland or interchangeable detested the anonymity of the downtown hotels

3. state of being unnoticed: the state of blending into a crowd and going unnoticed I always preferred the anonymity of the big city.

4. unnamed person: an unnamed or unacknowledged person.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What's in a name?

The Republican presumptive candidate for the office of vice-president of the US, Sarah Louise Heath Palin, has five children and their names are Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow and Piper.


The information relating to the last comment on this blog re 'closing down private blogs' needs a clarification.

The report as it appears on this blog was received indirectly and happens to be incorrect.

The request was that 'private blogs' be 'controlled' and not closed down.

Apologies for the inaccuracy. This blog takes great care to be accurate and transparent at all times.

Michael Commane.

Open session

The chapter of the Irish Dominicans was in session yesterday and it was open to all members of the province.

Last evening the meeting was open to all branches of the Dominican Order. Representatives of the sisters, nuns and, that horrible word, 'lay' Dominicans spoke. They spoke in response to the provincial paper on manpower. After their papers there was a short discussion open to the floor.

Earlier in the day there was a request that 'private blogs' be closed down. Again, what's the problem in naming the blog and being specific? But it is good that at least the topic is aired in public and in the context of democratic discussion.

It seems the 'request' received little or no response.

Whatever about the 'private blogs' out there. It is highly unlikely that this particular blog will be closing down in the immediate future or that it will stop commenting on issues of the day.

Again, there are comments posted on this blog today. They appear under the relevant texts.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Michael is flying that kite far too high

If you wish to fly from Kerry to Dublin on Sunday September 21 to attend the All Ireland football final between Kerry and Tyrone Ryanair will charge you €295.74 before credit card fees.

This sector is subsidised by the Irish State.

Posting comments on this blog

A number of contributors have made comments on this blog in the last few days. They have posted them under the relevant topic. This means that the comments can easily get lost under older entries.

Should you wish to read the comments then it is necessary you scroll down the pages.

A licence to ride

It often strikes me how certain items of news become fashionable. They are the sexy news stories of the day. If someone such as Joe Duffy gets a hold of the story it is likely it will run and run. There will be a few days of fantastic indignation. It might even make it to the floor of the Dáil. Irate – that’s a great word for this sort of thing – people will telephone the chat shows and so the story keeps running.

Do you remember sometime last year there was all the hullabaloo about changing the laws relating to provisional driving licences. Minister Dempsey made some sort of a ruling that in order for a person with a provisional licence to drive a car they would have to have a person with a full licence sitting beside them.

Great uproar and indignation – another of those words – ensued. Indeed, the uproar was so great that the poor minister had to back pedal and the implementation of the new regulations was delayed.

They are now in force. This means that if you have a provisional licence you must have a person with a full licence sitting beside you in the car.

I wonder how the gardaí are enforcing the new regulation?

And in the midst of all the furore and indignation nobody seemed to give two hoots about the law concerning the driving of motorbikes.

There is no doubt about it. We are a funny little nation.

When it comes to the danger game, I imagine everyone would agree that a motorbike is a far more dangerous animal that the meek little car!

And guess what the current regulations for driving a motorbike are?
Let me explain.

You go along and do the theory test. This test applies to anyone who wishes to obtain a provisional licence. You sit in front of a computer screen and the screen throws up 40 random questions from a set of prescribed questions. The examinee has to answer correctly at least 35 out of 40 questions. On passing this test it’s off to the oculist for an eye test. So with the two certificates plus two pictures you head to the Motor Tax office and procure your provisional driving licence.

With the magic provisional licence and someone sitting beside you with a ‘full driving licence’ you are permitted to drive on the road even if you never in your life sat behind a wheel.

So after an initial period of ‘driving’ you apply to sit the driving test.

Having passed my driving test first time for both a car and a bus I don’t have to be ashamed to say I failed my motorbike test first time. Of course I was disappointed, even mad.

I walk out of the test centre feeling depressed and dejected having been given the deadly news.
This is where an Irish solution to an Irish problem kicks in. There I am standing in Spa Road with a failed piece of paper in my hand. And what does the State allow me do? Yes, right first time. I am allowed throw my leg over my Honda 680 and head off into the sunset on it.
Of course it suited me fine. But it must be daft.

A motorbike can be a dangerous vehicle. So how come the State went to all sorts of trouble to try to improve safety among drivers of cars who have provisional licences and never a word about motorbike drivers who have provisional licences?

And what’s even stranger is that not a single journalist or newspaper highlighted the anomaly.
It sure is a funny old country. Funny old newspapers too that they have never picked up on the story.

I’m back doing my test later this month. Gosh I better pass it.

Just hope they don’t change the rules before I pass the test.

Day two of chapter

The chapter of the Irish Dominicans is now in session. Today and tomorrow the meetings are open to all members of the province. This evening the meeting is open to all branches of the province - nuns, sisters, that horrible word - lay Dominicans.

The provincial election takes place on Friday.

Two interesting comments are posted on this blog today. One is immediately under this entry and the other comment is a reply to the 'The No name club' entry.

Hopefully people will speak their minds and engage in stimulating conversation during the chapter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Provincial chapter of Irish Dominicans

Irish Dominicans will come together next week to elect a provincial and decide policy for the province for the next four years.

Not for a moment could or should one compare the Irish Dominican province to the United States Democratic Department. But just imagine if someone with the charism and style of a Barack Obama stood up on the chapter floor and spoke charismatically and intelligently.

If someone were prepared to be brave and honest and enunciate where the province is and what could be achievable in the next four years.

Away from all those clerical cliches that say nothing and steer towards an honest realism that would inspire people and push people to work hard together and with purpose.

The chapter begins with a Mass of the Holy Spirit. For that to have any meaning we all have to be capable of listening to one another and helping one another but always in truth.

No whispering.

Tralee is kept on hold

Irish Rail has now introduced its new InterCity Korean built rail cars on many of its services.

Unfortunately the company has not yet introduced these trains on its Tralee Mallow route, which is still being serviced with old cast off Dublin commuter rail cars. These trains are completely inadequates for the Tralee Mallow line.

It is believed the Korean trains will be introduced on the Kerry line in mid to late November.

Irish Rail has built a new all purpose depot outside Portlaoise to service the new rail cars

Pedal power

Interesting article on cycling and helmets in today's Irish Times. It's worth noting that in Germany few cyclists wear helmets. The reason being that their cycle ways are safe and are taken for granted in every town and city in Germany.

Bicycle safety campaigners here advocate helmets and high-visibility equipment but could a more Continental approach make cycling safer and get more people on their bikes? Cian Ginty reports

AS CLUNKY HELMETS, yellow reflective gear, and Lycra could be used as a stereotype for Irish cyclists, it might come as a surprise that women wearing high heels are a common sight on bicycles in Copenhagen.

The general image of cycling here is vastly different to so-called bicycle cultures where cycling is normalised and there is talk of a "slow bicycle movement".

"Among thousands and thousands of cyclists on my daily routes, I think I see one or two reflective vests a week, if that," says Mikael Colville-Andersen, a cycling advocate living in Copenhagen.
With Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany - where bicycle usage is high - the helmets and reflective clothing we think of as "a must" for cyclists are far from standard.

Colville-Andersen runs two bike advocacy blogs - the more serious http://www.copenhagenize.com/ , and the style-centred Copenhagen Cycle Chic ( http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/ ). Not only is he a bicycle advocate, but he is a campaigner for what he calls "the slow bicycle movement".
"The main point with my blogs is that if cycling is to be an everyday activity then it can easily be done in everyday clothes, like millions of Europeans do every day. Actually, according to the European Cyclists' Federation, there are 100 million Europeans who ride each day," he says.
On Copenhagen Cycle Chic - largely a photographic documentation of the bicycle culture in Copenhagen - thousands of images show how normalised cycling is in the Danish capital. The photographs of cyclists in everyday clothing - and without helmets - reflect what has become standard behaviour for bike cultures: "This is the norm, yes. This is the norm for all cities and countries with established bike culture.

"If you can show people that cycling is effortless, doesn't require 'gear' and is healthy - and you build them infrastructure to encourage them, then they will ride. Just look at Paris . . . Massive growth in cycling thanks to Velib. And now bike sales are rising because the Velibistas are graduating to their own bikes," says Colville-Andersen.

"If [people] see normal people on normal bikes in normal clothes, they will be much closer to making the jump to cycling than if they see fancy bikes, gear and all that."

IN PARIS, CYCLING has boomed just a year after the introduction of Velib, an on-street bike rental scheme with 20,000 bicycles. Automated stations are on many Parisian street corners. Set-up and maintenance costs are paid for in a billboards-for-bikes deal with ad company JC Decaux. A similar system being introduced by Dublin City Council and the same company has been criticised for its low number, just 450 bikes.

It is hoped those 450 bikes will help add a critical mass to the number of cyclists in Dublin. The most recent annual traffic survey by Dublin City Council showed a 17 per cent increase in cycling in the past year - a trend largely put down to the removal of heavy goods vehicles from the city's roads since the opening of the Port Tunnel. But, because of a decline in the past decade, cycling is up only one per cent in 10 years.

"Cycling does not have a good image in Ireland, but maybe that is changing as more people come here from other European countries where cycling is more common," says Muireann O'Dea, membership secretary at the Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC).

"We definitely need to focus on the positive aspects of cycling - it has enormous health benefits, it gives you freedom, it's the fastest and cheapest way to get around, and it's better for the environment. Cycling is not as dangerous as people think - the number of cycling fatalities is far less than it was 20 years ago."

There are many positives to focus on - from tackling obesity to helping the environment. In addition, providing cycling infrastructure costs less than other transport provisions, and bike parking takes up less space than car parking.
The DCC also wants a poster and TV campaign, with posters placed prominently on commuter routes highlighting that "It's better by bike".

BICYCLES HAVE A different image in different countries. Colville-Andersen says cycling was hijacked by the sports industry and he highlights how manufacturers sell bicycles worlds apart in the different European markets, pointing to raleighbikes.dk and raleigh.co.uk as a visual example of this.

"They sell 'gear'", he says of manufacturers here. "They have even brainwashed the population into worrying about the weight of their bikes. It's just silly. They've stripped away chain guards, skirt guards, kickstands, fenders, you name it. All standard features on new and old bikes in Denmark and the Netherlands . . . I have a regular reader from Dublin who laments the fact that she can't find any decent 'granny bikes' there, let alone baskets or chain guards."

Image, of course, is not the only problem. Infrastructure is advanced in European countries with high bike usage - in Copenhagen, the first kerb-separated bike lanes were installed 25 years ago this year, while bicycles are allowed on the metro and regional trains, and taxis must be able to carry two bikes.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, cyclists have to contend with lanes simply painted on to roads or footpaths, or being bunched into bus lanes - hardly inspiring to would-be cyclists who are wary of buses. Bike parking at train stations, if available, amounts to the only integration with city or regional public transport.

Here, bike-safety promotion seems to overshadow bike promotion. The Government promotes helmets for cyclists, but those on the opposite side say the use of protective head gear, outside racing and mountain biking, is disproportionate safety obsession pushed on cyclists. They argue that the safety campaign damages the image of cycling by making it appear more dangerous than it is.

"Bike helmets are a personal issue and generally government bodies shouldn't advocate helmet usage as it risks labelling cycling as a dangerous activity. The statistics do not reflect this. If you advocate bike helmets then you should, by following the logic, advocate pedestrian helmets since more pedestrians suffer head injuries than cyclists," says Colville-Andersen.

The view of the DCC - which is in the process of being merged into a national campaign group - is broadly the same. A DCC position paper on helmets highlights studies in Sheffield and Australia that show mandatory helmets for motorists would save more lives: "Hence any attempt to pigeonhole cyclists into compulsory protective headgear is unbalanced as a safety initiative."
MANDATORY HELMET-WEARING laws have been introduced in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and parts of the US. It has been proven, at least in Australia and New Zealand, that this led to a drop in the numbers of people cycling ; none of those countries is known for its high levels of cycling. The Government here continues to focus on safety.
"In the context of Ireland and the situation here, [helmets, and reflective vests] should be worn in the interests of road safety," says Christine Hegarty, a spokeswoman for the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

The agency rejects any claim that helmets and reflective vests damage the image of cycling by making it look more dangerous than it actually is: "Cyclists are vulnerable road-users. The task of the RSA is to promote cycle safety in order to prevent injury."

The British Medical Association agrees with the RSA's stance. However, Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist at the University of Bath, found "wearing a helmet puts cyclists at risk" as motorists drive closer to those wearing helmets. He used an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data that showed drivers passed an average of 3.33 inches closer when the cyclist wore a helmet than without. "Some people loathe my findings, usually because they are starting with the 'common sense' position that bicycle helmets must be a good thing," Walker says on his blog.

Meanwhile, research published by the British Medical Journal , in its Injury Prevention Journal , supports the idea of safety in numbers. It shows that successfully promoting cycling can itself increase safety because, when more people start cycling, other road-users get used to them and fewer accidents occur. "This result is unexpected," according to the research. "It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of people walking and bicycling."

However, there are conflicting views in the medical field, as among the cycling fraternity. But, if there is an honest interest in promoting cycling as a green and healthy mode of transport, instead of following car-dominated countries, should we not look to the example set by countries where cycling is normalised?

Peddling cycling how it works
With half of children being driven to school, promoting cycling, walking and public transport use is the aim of the Green Schools environmental initiative. Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey recently said the pilot scheme resulted in a 10 per cent drop in car use, with an eight per cent increase in walking or cycling.
But is there political will for real improvement?
The Dublin Cycle Campaign (DCC), in a submission to the Department of Transport's national cycle policy last December, said: "Girls-only schools all have a uniform policy that requires the wearing of skirts and this is the main reason why girls do not cycle. So, policy change required straight away there. The Department of Education will have to deal with a change in uniform-wearing policy."

Muireann O'Dea, membership secretary at the DCC, echoes this: "Wearing helmets and hi-vis jackets is definitely a disincentive for children, particularly girls, who are image-conscious."
But others, including the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) - who have run the travel section of the pilot Green Schools scheme - aren't so certain how image conscious girls are.
"The DTO would agree that a significant challenge in cycling promotion exists regarding post-primary children, but would not discriminate based on gender, and would not venture to suggest what the reasons for this might be without undertaking research," said spokeswoman Sara Morris. The agency points out how the initiative "is helping achieve growth in cycling numbers in participating schools".

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.