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".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

History never repeats itself exactly

What was it about the Kennedys?

Today's London Independent carries an editorial about Ted Kennedy at the Democratic Party convention in Denver.

It concludes: "Like Obama today, candidate John F Kennedy was widely seen as inexperienced and untested. But Americans took the chance, and the gamble paid off. With his very presence on stage, Ted Kennedy was promising that the same can happen now."

Echoes from dark corners

This blog attempts at representing a liberal and open attitude towards society and church.

Asking for for the blog to be closed down or using pejorative terms to describe it causes a distraction to the issues at hand. It also lowers the tone and can easily turn it into a personal row.

This blog attempts at looking at the current situation within society and the institutional church, but always in the context of recent history.

Mistakes have been made. There have been terrible cover ups and far too often to protect the institution. All that is part of being human. But to try to say now that we should refuse to see reality as it is, is yet again a sign of fear and insecurity.

The Dominican ideal is an ideal worth living. We all fail in our aspirations. We all live it out in different ways. But to try to 'sell' something by censorship is a nonsense.

There will be no more comment on this blog relating to this issue. The author has not been censored. But in discussion with a wise and good person it has been decided to keep silent in this forum on the issue.

A balanced society

The excellent article on Irish society, which is reprinted here, appears in today's Irish Times.

Radical changes needed to create balanced society

Facing into the downturn, we need to recognise the links between the economic, the social, the environmental and the personal, writes Fr Seán Healy

RADICAL CHANGE is required if Government is to build a fair and inclusive society that promotes the wellbeing of all. The most important change required is to recognise that the basic development framework followed in recent decades is fundamentally flawed and is not capable of delivering a sustainable future for everyone.

Government must recognise the complementarity of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. Economic development is crucial if the required social development is to be put in place.

At the same time, however, it should also be recognised that the economy requires good social services and infrastructure if it is to develop to its full potential.

Ireland's economic growth since the early 1990s has been dramatic. Wealth, employment and production have grown steadily. This growth has been held up by most commentators as a key indicator of progress.

Continuing on this path is seen as the way to building a society that will see everyone having access to the good life, having all that is required to live life with dignity, being happy. Commentary on the recent slowdown in the growth rate and the global economic recession focuses for the most part on the need to ensure that Ireland positions itself effectively to take advantage of the economic growth that is expected in the medium term.

This approach is in danger of failing to recognise that a holistic world view is required that recognises the complementarity of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development and policy.

Ireland has failed to recognise this complementarity in the past. In the period 1997-2004, government followed an approach that emphasised economic growth. To summarise the approach of a prominent minister during that time, it was a matter of "giving people back their own money and allowing them to make their own choices on how to spend it. This approach would produce the best results for those individuals, for the economy and for society." Taxes were cut far in excess of what most people expected. As the economy was growing dramatically at the same time, helped greatly by a number of international developments, the Government's tax-take also grew.

People certainly had more money in their pockets, far more than they had expected. They spent much of this money on buying houses at exorbitant prices, taking foreign holidays, buying SUVs and a wide range of other activities.

However, these same people now find that the public transport is not in place where it is required. Neither are the schools, nor the broadband, nor the social houses, nor the primary healthcare teams, nor much of the rest of the social and economic infrastructure that one would expect to see in a society with Ireland's level of income and wealth. There was a failure to recognise that a thriving economy requires social development just as much as social development requires a thriving economy.

In the period since 2005, government has moved away from some aspects of this approach. Much more radical change is required, however. An alternative framework is needed to guide and underpin policy development in the period ahead.

This new framework should be built on the recognition of the complementarity of the economic, the social, the environmental and the personal. The relationships between each of these aspects need to be kept in balance, whether in the public policy arena or in people's own lives. In my recent presentation to the Humbert Summer School I was criticising policymakers and others who focus only on the economic dimension. I was not criticising economists (as claimed in The Irish Times headline on August 22nd).

If government were to follow a framework focused on developing balanced relationships, then here are some initiatives that government should take to meet the challenges it is facing at this moment:
Ensure that every person has sufficient resources to live life with dignity. This would involve tackling the two main groups at risk of poverty at present - the working poor (30 per cent of all households at risk of poverty), and those outside the labour force and totally depending on social welfare (50 per cent of all the households at risk of poverty);
Give priority to developing Ireland's economic and social infrastructure to bring these at least to the average level of the EU 15. In doing this it would be good to follow the principle of giving priority to initiatives that are both good for the economy and good for the vulnerable (eg meeting commitments on social housing);
Integrate the tax and welfare systems;
Recognise and support all work, not just paid employment;
Honour the social policy commitments in Towards 2016; and
Put sustainability (economic, social and environmental) at the core of policymaking.
A public debate is needed urgently around the issues of progress, paradigms and policy, around the future that is to be built and the choices to be made now if Ireland is to move towards that future.

Fr Seán Healy is director of Cori Justice, a branch of the Conference of Religious of Ireland. Cori Justice aims to play a leading role in the major public policy arenas on issues related to social justice, especially poverty, inequality, social exclusion, sustainability, migration and the environment.

Sky is the limit

If you book today to travel with Ryanair from Kerry to Dublin to the All Ireland semi-final on Sunday next you pay €265.74 plus a credit card fee.

Ryanair receives a State subsidy on this sector. When the State subsidises a service has the State no control over the fare charged?

The no name club

“We all need to be conscious of the negative effects our public communications have on people’s perceptions of the province. Several serious enquirers have been strongly discouraged by the blog of an individual brother speaking negatively of the province. The content of this blog goes unchallenged and is doing irreparable damage to the work of vocations promotion. The continuance of this type of communication and web presence must, in my opinion, cease immediately.”

The above paragraph is a direct quote from the report of the vocations director, Fr Gerard Dunne, to the upcoming chapter of the Irish Dominican province.

This blog referred to the comment last week.

Between 1976 and 1979 the then vocations director ‘warned’ this blogger in an abusive and threatening manner that if he continued to talk to the novices in the way he did, he would see to it that he be removed from the novitiate house.

At the time this blogger was attending UCC and living at St Mary’s Pope’s Quay.

In the context of history the comments of the then vocations director are ironic.

The comments of the current vocations director tell their own story.

The pomposity right through the report of the vocations director, Gerard Dunne, is breathtaking.

When someone refuses to call someone by his/her name he/she takes greatly from the dignity of that person.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday Independent off the rails

Amazing how inaccurate newspapers can be. The Sunday Independent of last Sunday carried a short story telling its readers that on September 1 Irish Rail will be operating a new service between Nenagh and Limerick. It goes on to say it is the first time in over 40 years trains have operated on this track.

All that's happening is a change in frequency and a new commuter service. Trains travel on this section every day.

The Sunday Independent story was plain gobbledegook

The sky to Croker

If you wish to fly from Kerry to Dublin for next Sunday's semi-final in Croke Park, Ryanair is charging €245.74 plus credit card fees.

Ryanair is subsidised by the State on its Kerry Dublin sector.

If you wish to travel by rail to the game you can get there with Irish Rail for €65.00, for free if you have a travel pass and there are cheaper rates for students with valid ID cards.

Irish Rail is also State subsidised.

The highs and lows of supply and demand

Criticism of Cardinal Brady's EU comments

The article below appears in today's Irish Times. It is interesting and well worth a read.


Cardinal's EU critique points to a reluctance to play by rules
RONAN McCREA

Comments display an alarming ignorance and suggest the church still does not accept pluralist democracy

CARDINAL BRADY'S criticisms of the European Union's approach to religion are based on very serious misconceptions in relation to EU law. More importantly, they appear to suggest he finds it disturbing and offensive for the church to accept the criticism and duty to justify one's beliefs that is the lot of all other participants in public debate.

This raises serious questions about the degree to which the church has reconciled itself to pluralist democracy.

The cardinal complains that: "It has not been unknown . . . for individuals to have to defend their right to hold political, public or legislative office within EU institutions while professing a public commitment to their Christian faith, sometimes against very public and hostile challenge."

This is presumably a reference to Rocco Buttiglione, whose sexist and homophobic views, which Buttiglione ascribed to his Catholicism, made him unfit in the eyes of the European Parliament to be justice commissioner (a portfolio that includes anti-discrimination).

Assessing the opinions of appointees to powerful political offices is, however, really a rather unremarkable thing for a parliament to do. Those who held racist, sexist or other discriminatory views on bases other than religion would have been equally opposed by parliamentarians.
The cardinal has not made clear why religion should get a free pass in this regard and how political choice and accountability could be maintained if such a pass were given.

Cardinal Brady further suggested that to question the views and opinions of nominees for public office ended up with Christians "being denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least having their contribution dismissed as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges".

There is a very big difference between being asked to justify one's views and being opposed by those who hold opposite beliefs on the one hand, and being denied the right to participate on the other. It is particularly strange for this accusation to be made in the context of the EU, which has set up a programme of structured dialogue specifically for religious organisations, in which the Catholic Church has taken a leading part. Other kinds of organisations have not had such special facilitation and have had to take their place amongst civil society in general.

Indeed the Lisbon Treaty has been criticised as granting too much privilege to religious bodies in this regard.

The cardinal also referred implicitly to a series of EU decisions that he felt contradicted the institutional, social and political aims of the church saying: "Successive decisions which have undermined the family based on marriage, the right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, the sacredness of the Sabbath, the right of Christian institutions to maintain and promote their ethos, including schools . . . have made it more difficult for committed Christians to maintain their instinctive commitment to the European project."

Here, the cardinal is simply wrong. The European Court of Justice has repeatedly upheld restrictions on Sunday trading as a cultural choice that member states are entitled to make. The EU has refused to require the introduction of abortion and the Citizenship Directive of 2004 did not require any member state to introduce gay marriage or civil unions.

Most strikingly, in directive 2000/78 the union actually granted exemptions to religious organisations in respect of anti-discrimination legislation, which it did not grant to any other organisations. The exemptions allow religious employers to require employees to adhere to their ethos even when it is discriminatory to do so.

More disturbing than his lack of information in relation to the union's approach to these matters is Cardinal Brady's instinctive opposition to the notion that religious bodies should have to account and argue for their beliefs and legal privileges in the same way as everybody else.

The EU has, in fact, granted religion a privileged position in public debate and EU law has in the area of employment given religious bodies exemptions and privileges that it has withheld from other organisations.

However, as a political organisation committed to democracy, the EU cannot exempt candidates for public office from being criticised or rejected on the basis of beliefs and opinions that may be religious in nature, but that may also affect the decisions they would make in office.

A democracy has a duty to make laws in the interests of all. As an entity whose population is religiously diverse, the EU cannot legislate purely on the basis of the theological convictions of a single faith without violating this duty. Furthermore, in democratic public life, individuals must account for their beliefs and will inevitably be criticised for them.

The cardinal has effectively characterised the imposition on religious bodies of the duties to accept criticism and provide justifications for their political demands as tantamount to excluding religion from public life. Such a resistance to playing by the rules that govern the behaviour of all other organisations in political life would seem to indicate that the Catholic Church still has some way to go in reconciling itself with pluralist democracy.

• Ronan McCrea is a barrister currently completing a PhD on religion and EU law at the London School of Economics

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cardinal Brady and the Lisbon Treaty

The comments made by Cardinal Brady at the Humbert Summer School received wide coverage in the Irish media.

RTE news showed a short clip of the archbishop preaching in the church. At least from the clip, it seemed that there were very few in the church and the age profile of those present certainly made a statement.

The cardinal made some interesting comments. His remarks seem to paraphrase many of the sentiments that made people vote No in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Junior Minister, Dick Roche, would do well to listen to the cardinal and take on board what he had to say.

Before the referendum the minster gave the impression he was no help to the Yes campaign and on RTE radio news this morning he was again showing his abrasive or petulant attitude. One has to ask is Minister Roche the right man for the job when it comes to selling the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

The poem and the archbishop

Had Paul Durcan's poem been a criticism of the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin or Ireland's Chief Rabbi would the response or lack of response been on a similar scale?

But that may not at all be the question. A truly prophetic organisation should hardly be afraid or worried about criticism. Poor taste deserves the opprobrium it receives. Or does it?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Paul Durcan versus Breda O'Brien

This week The Irish Times published a poem by Paul Durcan. This blog referred to it on Tuesday, the day of publication. The poem was critical of the Archbishop of Dublin. Today in that same newspaper Breda O'Brien criticises the Durcan poem.

Breda supports the archbishop and refers to Durcan's work as being lazy. She talks about the 'weary sophisticates who left the church sometime circa 1974...'. Pejorative language.

What is striking about the two pieces is that both authors have taken sides and are convinced their side is the right and proper one. They both use nasty and pejorative words to express their point of view.

No doubt pro church people were annoyed with the Durcan poem and pleased to see the O'Brien opinion piece. And anti church people were pleased with the Durcan poem and dismissive of the O'Brien article. Maybe 'church' is not the accurate word in this instance!

But nothing is as simple as that. And it seems almost impossible to change the minds and hearts of people to think 'differently'.

If the Durcan poem is an attack on clericalism then it is striking a blow for openness. And may well be an informative and prophetic comment.

Breda O'Brien's comments about the 'Fr Iggy O'Donovan' Mass seem accurate and make sense. It is only in dialogue and scholarship can the problems of Eucharistic celebration between the Anglican and Catholic Churches be 'solved'.

Maybe it is that everywhere people are involved that politics and conniving take place. Leaders, of their nature, have to be political and probably cunning too.

Are institutions more important than the individual? And the Church, like any other organisation protects its name, its image, its role. There must at times be a dilemma there.

Is the public place the proper forum for disagreement? Should bishops criticise their fellow bishops in public? If not, why not?

Just as all politics is local, maybe all politics is personal and especially so in the Church!

That's why the role of the gad fly - now an endangered species - is more important than ever.

It's a pity Breda O'Brien speaks about the 'weary sophisticates'.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Incident on the railway

Top marks must go to the driver of last Saturday's 11.00 ex Heuston Cork train. The loco hit debris south of Portarlington. At the time the train was travelling at 135 km/h, a speed within the speed limit for that section of track.

The driver was thrown around the cab but managed to bring the train to a stop. It is reported the train travelled for one kilometre before stopping.

No one was hurt in the incident and not one person on the train had a single negative comment to make about the incident.

Congratulations to the driver and train crew for a job well done. Again, it is a reminder of the great skill of loco drivers and of the daily dangers which face them.

Had the debris been on the up track would the cab, which would have been the leading vehicle, been able to sustain such an impact as did the locomotive? On an up train the loco would have been at the back of the train, pushing it.

People interested in the railway may have seen the programme on RTE 1 on Tuesday evening. The programme concerned the rail crash at Cherryville Junction in summer 1983.

Is that the best RTE can do? The programme never even tried to explain the reason for the crash. It discussed why the carriages shattered.

Cherryville happened as the result of a culmination of issues. The programme failed to explain the signalling and the typography of the landscape.

It briefly mentioned the failure of a track side telephone. But it never referred to the fault on the telephone close to the ex Kerry train.

It also spoke about in cab telephones. Did Irish Rail have in cab telephones in 1983? They certainly did not have CAWS operating at the time.

It was a good example of how not to make a programme.

The meaning of words

It is probably this blog that has been criticised by Fr Gerard Dunne in his report to the up-coming chapter. His report criticises the unnamed blog for its 'negativity'.

Below is a direct quote from the website of the Irish Dominicans. It is in italics.

Is it negative to criticise the quoted paragraph by saying that it is not accurate? Not one member of the Dominican community, living at our priory in Newbridge is on the pay roll of the Department of Education. One Dominican acts as chaplain and may do some teaching. But there is not one Dominican teaching an examination subject in the school, who is a recognised secondary school teacher, or doing a full recognised Department of Education week-long teaching schedule.

There is one Dominican in the province of the Irish Dominicans who is on the pay roll of the Department of Education but he teaches in West Kerry.

So can someone please explain what the paragraph below means. It simply does not tally with the reality on the ground.

It is this facility of changing the meaning of words that this blog finds so peculiar. How can the motto of the Irish Dominicans be veritas if this is the material that appears on the official website of the province.

This is just one random example.

This is not at all a criticism of the community at Newbridge. It is a criticism of the website of the province. It is also an open and honest comment about a terrible mentality that exists within the weird world of clericalism.

Below is the paragraph as it appears on the website.

The Dominican community of St Eustace has as its primary ministry the welfare of the students in its secondary school, Newbridge College. This commitment involves the friars acting as teachers, as chaplain, and in various administrative roles for the school.

Fr Joseph O'Leary writes

The letter below appears in today's Irish Times.

Christians and homosexuality
Madam, - Susan Philips (Rite and Reason, August 19th) agrees that St Paul's view of women "reflected cultural norms". Yet she thinks it "intellectually dishonest" to speak in the same way of biblical rhetoric on same-sex relations, which she sees as "deep foundational commands on how to live a life pleasing to our Creator." But a consistent scriptural hermeneutics cannot adopt liberal attitudes on women and illiberal ones on gays.

The open discussion among Anglicans on this issue is a practice run for what the Roman Catholic Church will soon have to face. The palette of discord was entirely predictable. Disappointing, however, is the failure of Anglican bishops to speak up for the victims of homophobic violence. Last year in Tanzania they obsessed for a week about American gay couples while ignoring the brutal mistreatment of gay Africans. This year's Lambeth Conference was a love-in among bishops, but without any convincing message of love to gay people.

The poisoned ideology of biblical fundamentalism leads African bishops to deny the existence of gay men and women or collude in their suppression. In contrast, far from representing a thoughtless faddism, as Ms Philips seems to think, the attitude of the Episcopal Church is one of deep moral responsibility, rooted in the real biblical values of faithful and creative love. - Yours, etc,
Rev JOSEPH S. O'LEARY, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paul Durcan's poem

Anyone who reads Paul Durcan's poem in today's Irish Times will be reminded of the importance of a free press.

No doubt some people might be offended by the poem but it would only be a silly and dictatorial type person who would call for its omission. It would indeed be laughable to call for the resignation of the editor of the newspaper.

If the Irish Domincians pay heed to what Fr Dunne writes in his report re the blog, then the province has an obligation to surrender any use of the word veritas.

This might now give the province the platform to discuss openly and honestly so many issues that need discussing. There are many issues about which the province needs to talk.

Bernard Casserly OP

Fr Bernard Casserly died in a nursing home near The Curragh on Sunday. He was assigned to the Dominican community at Newbridge.

He was born in Boyle, Co Roscommon in 1917.

He spent many years teaching at Newbridge College. His favourite subject was Latin. Those whom he taught speak of how methodical and diligent he was as a teacher.

I taught German to a nephew of his at the school and like his uncle he had a great flair for languages and was a good student of German.

Fr Bernard was a small man and had a slight disability, which he seemed to bear with great grace and fortitude.

Back in 1980 when I was teaching in the school, Fr Bernard came on a visit to Newbridge. At the time I did not know the man and asked him had he ever taught in the school. He smiled and left it at that. The late Fr Henry Flanagan was present when I asked the question and he too gave that knowing smile of his! Fr Bernard had spent many years teaching there at that stage. He had indeed been part of the place.

In his old age he was assigned back to Newbridge where I got to know him and became quasi friendly with him. He was always gentle and kind. He was a most charitable man.

In recent years while at the nursing home, Fr Jordan O'Brien attended to him - something he greatly appreciated.

May he rest in peace.

MC.

An attempt at censorship which must fail

Yesterday in this blog, mention was given to the upcoming provincial chapter of the Irish Dominicans.

Before a chapter 'officials' have to present a report or account of their office, which is then discussed at the chapter.

The vocations director, Fr Gerard Dunne, has presented his report. In it, he refers to a blog of a private individual and he is of the opinion the blog should be closed down.

There is no mention of the blogger's name or the name of the blog. It can only be presumed it is this blog.

Why could Fr Dunne not mention the blogger by name? This is a great example of all that is horrible and nasty in the worst form of clericalism.

This criticism coming from such a source is indeed a great compliment.

This blog attempts to paint reality as it is, certainly as it is seen and experienced by the author.

The line from Khaled Hosseini, the author of the Kite Runner, might well be applicable here. He writes; "Better to get hurt by truth than comforted with a lie."

There is one positive aspect in the report. At least this time Fr Dunne writes his comment in the public forum and that is a step in the right direction. It represents a positive change of heart.

Fr Dunne manages the website of the Irish Dominican Province. The site lay dormant for a long period of time. Once this blog began to analyse and criticise the site did it begin to come to life. But it is still an appalling website, with little or no interesting material posted on it. It is a poor version of an FDJ news sheet, which would have been produced in the former GDR.

This comment by Fr Dunne in his report represents all that is terrible within the institutional church. It is an example of clericalism par excellence. It is also a paradigm of how people can run with the hare and chase with the hound.

This blogger still has great trust and belief in the Dominican ideal, the ideal of truth - veritas - the motto of the order.

No doubt the provincial of the Irish province will not call for the closure of this blog. How can or could he? Then again, there has been a nasty side to the order. There was the Inquisition.

This blog is out in the public forum to be read. It is also fully archived. There is nothing hidden. The only 'hidden' material is the names of the authors, who remain anonymous. It has a different style from that practised by Fr Dunne and his team.

Indeed, part of the reason for the setting up of this blog was to criticise an ethic of anonymity, which unfortunately is far too evident within the clerical church.

Can one censor the truth?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Provincial chapter

Starting on September 1 the province of the Irish Dominicans will hold their chapter - something that happens every four years. One of the first events to take place at the chapter is the election of a provincial.

The chapter will begin with a Mass of the Holy Spirit.

In Saturday's Irish Times ex IT journalist Mark Brennock writes about the different attitudes people have towards politicians and he concludes by pointing out that politicians can make a difference.

It's easy to complain and be cynical. But as Brennock points out people are always looking for enthusiasm and new ways in the political forum. He cites Barack Obama and explains why he is such a phenomenon.

What's the chance of the Irish Dominicans at their upcoming chapter breaking the mould and making exciting and real decisions that will inspire its members and indeed, the people with whom it ministers? So far the signs are not looking too good.

The provincial has written his report. Along with that but nothing to do with the chapter, the Master of the Order has written a letter pertaining to sexual matters. Hopefully both of these documents will be properly discussed, even torn apart, honestly debated and analysed.

Reading the provincial's report one could believe all is well in the Irish province of the Dominican Order but the reality tells a different story. And if there is not a full discussion on the master's letter, the province will be party to another fudge.

The institutional church seems to have a never ending ability of 'going on' when things all about are in turmoil. That may well have quality status but it also can have a deadening result.

Of course there is always need for confidentiality and secrecy, but far too often these are tools used by people in authority to patronise and 'keep secret' issues that should be in the public forum.

Twenty years ago I called for a debate on issues pertaining to sexuality. My request was refused. Much has happened in the interim. Again, I call for an open and honest debate on sexuality in the context of religious life. Of course it must be conducted in charity and justice. But I keep thinking the fudge continues. Why is that so?

Good wishes to those who will be attending the chapter and may the Holy Spirit be in your midst.



Publish Post

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Results day

Results day and all those who sat their Leaving Cert examination have by now received their grades.

The newspapers will be reeling off 'advice' and telling their own stories. No doubt if someone pulled out last year's newspapers they would be able to read exactly similar tales.

The results don't vary anyway significantly from year to year. The newspaper hype needs to be 'hyped' for what it is.

The discussion as to whether university fees should be reintroduced is the hot topic in educational circles at present.

The universities are strapped for cash so they have to start getting money somewhere. Maybe the best place to start would be to tighten up on waste - something that is allowed to grow in every organisation, especially state run bodies and bodies that receive their money from the public purse.

But why not introduce a system where students are asked to pay back their fees on a no interest basis. Families with an income in excess of €200,000 surely can afford to pay fees.

And then there is all the confusion and inequality that exists at second level, whereby the State subsidises fee paying schools. Many schools have to fund raise to survive.

Best of luck to all who received their results today. An especial word of good luck to my own German class in West Kerry. Well done. And as the only Irish Dominican on the pay roll of the Department of Education, it's great to be back teaching.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The fun of flying Ryanair

Travelling with Ryanair creates its own exciting challenge.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has to be complimented for his charging for baggage in the hold. It certainly makes the street-wise passenger travel light.

Buying a ticket on the Ryanair webpage really is great fun. It pits the wisdom of the passenger against the cunning of Ryanair. And the passenger can win.


Compare the Ryanair site with Aer Lingus or Irish Rail. Irish Rail issues expensive looking tickets in the most nonsensical fashion. They either deliver them to your home address or you pick them up at a dispenser at a rail head. And not all rail heads have dispensers. The plot thickens. Okay Irish Rail will tell you it is different with the railway. Point taken. It is.

Last week I travelled from Dublin to Hahn to Berlin and back from Hahn to Dublin for €20.08 and of course that includes all taxes and charges.

Don't send baggage to the hold, don't take out insurance and ignore all the silly offers.

And then there is the fun of what not to put into your your carry-on bag. Though despite all the warnings, this passenger got away with a razor.

Has it never dawned on the security people the damage that could be done with a bottle that you can buy in the shopping area air side of security? and what about mobile charges and the damage that the chords could do?

It's advisable to take early flights as there is less chance of delays and it's important not to fly out of an airport in the middle of nowhere late at night as if the flight is cancelled there may be no where to stay.

Make sure to avail of the online boarding pass - easily 30 minutes saved. And if you get priority boarding make a dash for one of the emergency seats for that extra leg room.

Well done Michael. Just one thing, that redundant apostrophe on your menu card surprises me - not that anyone should ever buy anything on a Ryanair flight.

Flying Ryanair gives the passenger that sense of beating the system. It's great fun even if you happen to find yourself the oldest person on the flight, don't speak Polish and are not cuddled up to some beautiful young woman wearing hipsters.

Russian 58th Army

Readers of this blog may be interested to know that it is the Russian 58th Army that has entered South Ossetia and parts of Georgia.

History tells us strange things.

It was first formed in the
Siberian Military District in November 1941, including the 362nd, 364th, 368th, 370th, 380th, and 384th Rifle Divisions and the 77th Cavalry Division and moved to the Archangelsk Military District, but then the Army was redesignated the 3rd Tank Army in May 1942. It was reestablished within the Kalinin Front in June 1942, and in July included the 16th and 27th Guards Rifle Divisions, the 215th and 375th Rifle Divisions, the 35th and 81st Tank Brigades, and other support units. In August it was redesignated the 39th Army.

It was reformed in the
Transcaucasian Front from the 24th Army on August 28 1942, under General Khomenko of the NKVD. Much of its senior officers also came from the NKVD, and among its missions was to keep order in the Caucasus, particularly in the Groznyi and Makhachkala regions. This was because of a Chechen rising that had gone on since 1941.

58th Army later joined the
North Caucasus Front. On 1 November 1942 it consisted of the 271st and 416th Rifle Divisions, and the Makhachkala Division of the NKVD.

Prior to the North Caucasus Front putting its main effort into the
Kerch-Eltigen Operation (November 1943) the Army HQ was reorganised as Headquarters Volga Military District in October 1943.

Second Chechen War
The headquarters was reformed in 1995 in the
North Caucasus Military District from the 42nd Army Corps at Vladikavkaz.During the Second Chechen War, the Army was commanded by General Vladimir Shamanov.

2008 Ossetia war
On
4 August 2008, five battalions of the Russian 58th Army were moved to the vicinity of Roki Tunnel that links South Ossetia with North Ossetia. On 8 August 2008 the Army moved to South Ossetia and engaged in combat with Georgian forces.

Bus stops

Anyone who stands at a bus stop in Dublin must be intrigued with the timetables that are posted on the stops.

The timetable tells the passenger what time the bus departs from its destination. So if you are in Camden Street waiting for a number 16, the stop will tell you what time the bus departed from Dublin Airport.

In Berlin the timetable posted on the stop tells the passenger what time the bus arrives at that specific stop. And it works.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mail

The Master of the Dominican Order has written a letter to the order worlwide on matters concerning sexuality.

This letter needs serious discussion, proper analysis and criticism.

Are we being told the truth?

Over the last few months in Ireland there has been much talk about the economic downturn and how it is a worlwide phenomenon.

Analysts, government officials, newspapers are continually talking about the worldwide slowdown in the economy.

True, stockmarkets around the world have slumped. But right now in Germany there is little or no sign of economic difficulty.

If anything, the economy seems to be on an upward trend. Mercedes is showing positive figures. But far more interesting, small industries are doing exceptionally well.

The Berlin skyline is packed with cranes. And in northern Bavaria, where I am at present, the economy is showing positive figures and there are no signs of trouble.

Yesterday I was talking to the owner of a small company, which sells and fits tiles and he tells me that his order books are full to capacity and he is working harder than ever.

Unemployment is at 2.5 per cent.

Is it that the Irish spin doctors are doing such a good job that we simply accept what they are telling us? Is it the old story about the Irish - our ability of accepting every nonsense we hear?

How many Irish newspapers have people on the ground in Germany telling the story as it is?

The Germans laugh when they hear that in Ireland depositors are only guaranteed €20.000 of their savings should the financial institution collapse. Why do we accept that? Why do we allow ourelves so often to be treated as morons? And then when people do stand up they are the subject of laughter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Berlin

Greetings from Hackeshcher Markt, Berlin Mitte.
Sitting in an apartment block built in 1987 by the GDR government. It was in celebration of 750 years of the founding of Berlin.
The apartment block is six stories and has no lift.
Katherina Thalbach is in the news these dazs in Berlin. She has a new film out. But she admits she enjoyed life in the old GDR. When her husband was awarded a prize by Strauss back in the late 1970s he thanked the GDR for all he learned in the country.
Berlin has to be one of the great cities of the world

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bread on the table and not just for the few

Is it summer or autumn?

Yesterday's rain in Dublin and Cork would suggest it is winter. What's that about not being able to distinguish the seasons?

Sunday's Gospel must be one of those amazingly clear signs that religion has all to do with politics and social justice. How can we read it and listen to it and stay complacent, knowing that 800 million people have not enough food to eat?