Friday, February 28, 2014

RTE's Prime Time has little to say on the railway

RTE's Prime Time last evening featured a report on the future of the railway in Ireland.

The programme included interviews with Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny and Transport Tourism and Sport Minister Leo Varadkar.

Did it give an accurate picture to the viewer?

Not a question asked about the purchase of the current rolling stock. Nor on changes that were made on the Mark lV coaches. How many new rail cars are lying idle. Was it not possible to sell the old Mark lll coaches? Have the GM locos been the right buy?

Not a word about how necessary is the new double track into Heuston. How often does the new track necessitate the passing of trains on the section?

How much money has Irish Rail spent on bus transfers between Tralee and Mallow?

In the interview with Leo Varadkar the word environment was not once mentioned. It seemed the minister was not at all interested in carbon emissions.

How many passengers travel per day between Ballybrophy and Limerick, between Limerick Junction and Waterford?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To whom it Concerns

The article below appears in the March edition of 'Reality', a magazine published by the Irish Redemptorists.

Jack Finucane, right, with
two colleagues in New York.
Michael Commane
Fr Jack Finucane was to present President Michael D Higgins with the annual Aengus Finucane Humanitarian award on December 10 but with the death of Nelson Mandela the event had to be postponed as President and Mrs Higgins were in South Africa attending the State Memorial Service for the dead civil rights leader. The award ceremony was rescheduled for January 17. This time Jack was on cue to make the presentation.

Aengus Finucane, who died in 2009, was Jack’s brother and was from 1981 to 1997 at the helm of Concern. Both men spent most of their lives working for Concern. They played pivotal roles in developing what is today Ireland’s largest development aid agency.

Jack joined the Spiritans, then known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1963. At 26 he was sent to Nigeria.

Within four years of going to Nigeria he was engulfed in the fallout from the Biafra war and the famine that resulted from the conflict. Concern was founded in 1968 in response to the disastrous famine and Jack was at the centre of the distribution of the relief goods flown into Biafra by Concern and other relief organisations.

At 30 Jack was appointed Caritas co-ordinator in Nigeria during the Biafra war. He does admit that he got a great grounding in organisational skills from the late Fr Aidan Lehane, who was dean in Rockwell College. “Yes, I suppose they saw me as practical and well-organised.

“I can still recall the incredible generosity of the Irish. People from every county in Ireland came to our help. It really was amazing,” he recalls.

In 1973 he joined Concern and worked in Bangladesh with the organisation. Jack transferred to Ethiopia in 1974, a short time before the silent famine of that year. Jack’s knowledge of the country, his considerable diplomatic skills and his relationship with the Ethiopian authorities greatly assisted Concern being able to mount a significant and immediate response to the crisis of that time. Jack went back to Bangladesh in 1977.

Jack was called back to Ethiopia in 1984 to head up the Concern work to deal with a new famine. By the time Ethiopia received worldwide attention Concern had a team of 46 expatriates and 890 national staff in the field. As a natural team leader Jack mobilised, maximised and valued the contribution of every member of his team. Jack had direct access to the Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation, Major Dawit, who gave him permission to bring into the country anything that would help in relieving the famine conditions.

In 1985, after the famine, the Government of Ethiopia took a controversial decision to resettle 650,000 people from the north of the country to the south west. In the face of international opposition thousands of people were transferred.

Despite the controversy Jack was certain of the need to work in the resettlement areas, because it was consistent with Concern’s mission work in assisting the poorest of the poor. Ultimately, Concern played a positive role in influencing the government to improve the conditions of the settlers and, later, to end the resettlement programme.

“Deirdre Purcell visited Ethiopia during the famine in 1984. She was working for the Sunday Tribune and was one of a number of journalists who came out on a Guinness Peat Aviation plane, which was going on to Nigeria. Deirdre and Pat Langan, who was a photographer with The Irish Times, wrote a book on the famine, which made £30,000 for Concern’s work in Ethiopia. It was a lot of money at the time.

As a result of Deirdre’s links with Concern, the agency has asked her if she would be interested in writing the story of Aengus. She kindly agreed. She is now almost finished interviewing people and started writing in January. The plan is to launch the book in September,” Jack explains.

Jack returned to Dublin in 1990 where he was Concern’s Regional Director for a number of countries in Africa.

In 1994 he witnessed over one million people fleeing from Rwanda into Goma, in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and four years later he saw the same population stream across the border to return home.

Although officially retired from Concern Jack is on the board of Concern USA.

“Aengus set up the New York Concern office in 1993 and he was there for 10 years after his retirement here. And really it was a great fit for him as he would talk for Ireland.

“Today Tom Moran is Concern’s US Chairperson. Tom is CEO of Mutual America and has simply fallen in love with Concern and the work it does. “Every year Concern holds a major fundraising dinner in New York. CEOs of large corporations buy tables. If they can’t make it on the night they then allow Concern to sell on the table. Last year $1.6 million was committed for the annual Concern dinner.

“Right now Concern is breaking into the corporate sector in the US and this is a great advance for the agency. The Concern annual golf outing in Chicago raises $150,000,” Jack explains.
Jack has been on the US board for three years and attends three meetings a year, two in New York and one in the Windy City.

Before we finish our chat he talks about his family and his childhood, growing up in Limerick. There were six children in the family and two are deceased. His sister Patsy is a Mercy Sister, who has done pioneering work in caring for the aged. “She is the brightest of us,” he insists.

Over in the corner of the room is a silver statue of a horse. He sees me looking at it and explains that JP McManus invited Aengus and him to a celebration he was having in Limerick for his CBS scholarship fund and JP presented both Aengus and Jack with a horse each.

In 2005 Aengus and Jack received the Freedom of Limerick, something about which he is rightly proud.
Jack, the Spiritan priest, the Limerick man, the man who has spent his life working for Concern, embodies all that is noble and good in the idea of the worker priest. He readily admits that his religious superiors gave him the space he needed to get on with the job.

An impressive man, who has been on the ground to support the poorest of the poor.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Funeral arrangements for the late James C Harris OP

The funeral Mass of Jim Harris takes place tomorrow in the Dominican Church Newbridge, beginning at 11.00. Burial afterwards in St Conleth's cemetery.

Reposing today in the community oratory from 17.00 to 20.00 when his body will be removed to the church. The oratory is beside the church and sacristy.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Brendan Hoban criticises Iona Institute on legal action

Brendan Hoban, a founder-member of the Association of Catholic Priests has criticised the Iona Institute for its recent legal actions against RTÉ.

“If you claim a role in public discourse then you can’t complain about the unwritten rules,” Fr Hoban says. “It’s just part of the cut and thrust of debate. There’s no place for wilting violets.”

Writing on the ACP website, he added: “In the recent controversy about homophobia . . . Iona’s gadarene rush to the legal eagles for their pound of flesh from RTÉ was both surprising and unwise.”

He recalled how, some years ago, “a member of the Iona Institute agreed with an RTÉ presenter on a popular morning radio show that ‘dissident priests’ should be pushed out of the Catholic Church”, referring to ACP members.

“It didn’t seem to occur to the Iona spokesperson – though we feared that maybe it did – that this could involve for the more likely suspects a loss of earnings, accommodation, job and identity, in effect the devastation of one’s life.

“All of that didn’t seem to matter much. Iona was indulging in a form of cheer-leading, the equivalent of urging the hounds to kill the fox – not a happy place to be, especially for the fox,” Fr Hoban said.

“Indeed if the defamation had been personalised, there was a great temptation to pursue Iona for compensation. ”

Iona “should have grabbed one of the alternatives offered by RTÉ, either a right of reply or a donation to a charity”.

“They could have claimed the higher ground by standing above what presented as a form of precious grandstanding and worse, what looked like a selfish rush to financially milk RTÉ’s predicament.”

Samuel Johnson's words about those who say nothing

Writer, poet, lexicographer, Englishman Samuel Johnson once quipped that it is often misunderstood that when someone says nothing they are taken to be wise.

Johnson, who was born in Staffordshire in 1709, said and wrote many wise words. But this sentiment shouts out so loudly and especially in the Roman Catholic Church.

People, who say little, are so often advanced to jobs which are utterly beyond their competency.

It is a frightening phenomenon that happens far too regularly. Maybe it is one of the reasons why the church is in the place it is today.

It would be interesting to know what Johnson would say of that well-worn phrase 'a safe pair of hands'.

An organisation run by so many incompetent people right across its structure.

Johnson goes on to say that the person who says nothing might well have found the best means possible of protecting themselves from being discovered for knowing so little.

Heading to Maulin

Tess heading for the top of Maulin (570 metres) yesterday.

And bright until 18.00.

It's all good news from here on.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quick-witted 'Harris' was also as quick with his tongue

In the mid-1980s I was working with the chaplaincy team, which served the universities in West Berlin.

I wrote a letter to the Irish daily newspapers welcoming Irish visitors to call on the chaplaincy centre, which was off Kurfürstendamm.

Soon after the appearance of the letter I met Harris. He responded to the letter and commented that he saw it as a cry of lonliness on my part.

Back in the 1970s when teaching in Newbridge College, walking across the quad, he greeted a student, saying simply, "Skelly". Like a shot, "Skelly" quickly replied, "Harris".

And Harris would like that.

Gerard Skelly later joined the Dominicans, was ordained a priest, left the provine and tragically died at a young age.

Many fellow Dominicans, maybe those who admired him, called him simply 'Harris'.

The Irish Dominicans have lost a character, a clever man too.

His friendship was a life-long affair. He was regularly to be seen, sitting down the church, at the funerals of friends, Dominicans, past pupils.

He was born on August 8, 1938.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jim Harris OP was a kind and perspicacious man

Fr Jim Harris, an Irish Dominican, died suddenly of a heart attack this evening in the Dominican Priory in Newbridge.

Jim was a gifted man, a fine teacher and a kind kind man.

His father was the first Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare.

He saw through so much of the clerical nonsense, sat back and privately grimaced at it all.

He was a boarder at Newbridge College. At the end of term, parents would arrive in their fine cars to collect their sons. On one occasion Jim's brother arrived in an ass and cart to collect him.

He spent a number of years teaching in the school. He once set a Latin paper, on one side of the sheet there was a passage to translate from English to Latin, on the other side, the same passage, to be translated from Latin to English.

One of the students, who did not spot the 'trick', is one of those now making the headlines in the Irish media.

MacSharry recalls trojan work of gifted public servant

At the funeral Mass of Margaret Hayes in Urlingford today former EU Commissioner and Irish Government Minister Ray MacSharry spoke in glowing terms of the trojan work Margaret Hayes had done as an Irish Public Servant.

In his eulogy after the Mass he drew laughter from the crowded church when he recalled how when he was Commissioner and negotiations in agriculture were stalling because of Irish objections, Margaret Hayes turned to him and said: "We can't forget the lads at home."

Ms Hayes, who was a retired Secretary General, died in Dublin on Wednesday and was buried in Johnstown today after Requiem Mass in Urlingford.

Friday, February 21, 2014

EU Foreign Ministers with Russian rep sign a deal

It seems as if a deal has been struck in Kiev.

The Foreign Ministers of Poland, France and Germany with a representative of the Russian Federation have agreed to a eal with the President of Ukraine.

Unease still exists in the square of the capital and there are many who say there might well be more trouble this evening.

The hope is that the deal agreed will stick. If so, it is another great triumph of the European Union.

How fortunate we have been in Europe to have such a union.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

EU delegation in Ukraine

The European Union has sent a delegation to Ukraine to meet with Government officials. The three Foreign Ministers who have gone are from France, Germany and  Poland.

Is it not unfortunate and unwise of the EU to have sent Foreign Ministers from Poland and Germany considering the historical links of these two countries with Ukraine?

Catholicism more concerned with sex than faith in God?

Last week's 'Catholic Universe' carried a lead story on the results of the Catholic worldwde poll.

The headline screams that the poll reveals shocking lapses in adherence to faith. Did we need a poll to tell us that?

It then goes on to say that many Catholics claiming themselves to be Catholics actually disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception, and are split on whether women and married men should become priests.

On the topic of gay marriage, though, two thirds of Catholics polled in this instance agree with church teaching.

Every one of the issues mentioned in the 'Catholic Universe' report are linked to matters of sexuality.

Not a word about resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the Trinity. Nor indeed about one billion people without enough to eat.

What is it about the church and sex?

The German and Swiss episcopal conferences will be making public the results of their surveys. On the other hand, their Irish counterparts are keeping a lid on the results. Not a surprise.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poor signage and expensive parking at Irish hospitals

Why is signage so poor in Irish hospitals?

Is there not something perverse that parking rates at Irish hospitals are so steep? There is nothing noble on 'cashing in' on people who are visiting their sick relatives and friends in hospital.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Planning authority listens to the opinions of the citizen

In 2013, 157 Orwell Road, Dublin 14 was bought by a development company. The plan was to build four houses on the site, which is directly opposite the trade entrance to the now defunct Mount Carmel Hospital.

A number of residents in the locality submitted objections to the planned development.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council last Friday published its decision, which was to refuse planning permission.

A good example how the planning system can work for the benefit of the citizen.

Reasons for the refusal of planning permission can be viewed on the dlr website.

Monday, February 17, 2014

'Alive' cites Korea story to expose 'media gullibility'

This blog has earlier referred to the item of news on North Korea in the February issue of the free sheet 'Alive'.
Today's Guardian also has a story on North Korea's leadership. The free sheet 'Alive' has over the years regularly criticised various United Nations bodies.

Channel 4 carried a story on North Korea this evening. The UN report speaks of crimes against humanity, including rape. Another instance of a woman forced to drown her own baby.
The free sheet 'Alive' heading on its story is 'Korea story exposes media gullibility.
The UN inquiry chairman writes to Kim Jong-un warning he could face trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity
Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un at a national agriculture competition. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters
North Korea's leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis, a United Nations inquiry has concluded.
The UN's commission on human rights in North Korea, which gathered evidence for almost a year, including often harrowing testimony at public hearings worldwide, said there was compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief.
The chair of the three-strong panel set up by the UN commissioner on human rights has personally written to North Korea's leaderKim Jong-un, to warn that he could face trial at the international criminal court (ICC) for his personal culpability as head of state and leader of the military.

Smart phone stays put

There was more rain in the Dublin/Wicklow area on Saturday.

Three of us went walking. Before we set off we donned rain gear.

Three hours later when we returned to our start point one of the walkers discovered he had left his gloves and smart phone on the roof of his car.

No on will ever know whether no one saw them or whether people saw them and decided to leave them there.

One way or other a lovely story.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mirren quotes The Tempest

On receiving her Bafta Award this evening from Prince William, Helen Mirren quoted from The Tempest.

Great lines and so well read.

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself—
Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vexed.
Bear with my weakness. My old brain is troubled.
Be not disturbed with my infirmity.
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk
To still my beating mind.

A world with slaves

There are 21 million people in slavery today

Child pornography story goes public in Germany

German Agriculture Minister CSU parliamentarian Friedrich has resigned.

SPD parliamentarian Sebastian Edathy is alleged to have been in possession of child pornography linked to a Canadian ring.

In November German prosecutors informed the then Federal Justice Minister, Friedrich. He contacted the leader of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel. At the time the SPD CDU and CSU were in discussion to form a new government. For that reason Friedrich informed Gabriel.

Edathy resigned his seat in parliament last week. The story was that he had resigned on health grounds. He is acclaimed by many of his colleagues as one of the brightest SPD politicians.

In response to a media question SPD spokesperson Oppermann made the case public. The CDU/CSU coalition partners feel betrayed by the SPD.

And now it's all blown open and the question being asked is whether politicians are treated differently than ordinary citizens.

There are also questions being asked if Eadthy had been tipped off by his SPD colleagues.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The mix of religious sisters, a hospital and a developer

The lights are out at Mount Carmel Hospital, which straddles Orwell Road and Braemor Park.

The Little Company of Mary Sisters opened the hospital in 1949. In 1960 the hospital was extended and upgraded. To help fund the project the Sisters went door-to-door in the locality to raise funds.

In 1960 Jerry Conlan bought the hospital for €50 million.

Jerry Conlan is from a well-known Kildare family. He was educated at Newbridge College. Mr Conlan bought a large tract of land in Naas, which was subsequently developed. He also bought other hospitals in the State.

Conlan was one of the Maple 10.

For the last number of years Mount Carmel Hospital was operated by Nama.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Name calling

In the current issue of the free sheet Alive the leader of  North Korea, is referred to as 'North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un'. The story is on page three. The story defies logic.

On page seven of the same issue the elected President of Ireland is called 'Michael'.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recalling the horror of Dresden 69 years later

On the night of February 13, 1945, 69 years ago today, the RAF began a four-part bombing of the eastern German city of Dresden and capital of Saxony.

Between February 13 and 15 the RAF and the USAAF dropped more than 3,900 tons of explosives

It is estimated that 25,000 people were killed. But because of large numbers of people fleeing the East, Dresden was crowded and many experts say thousands more were killed in the fire bombing of the city, which began 69 years ago this evening.

Today in Dresden the bombing was recalled by the city's mayor, Helma Orosz, a CDU politician, who said that the bombs that fell on Dresden and other German cities killed perpetrators as well as the innocent. She added that it must never be forgotten that other nations had no alternative but to attack Nazi Germany.

Later in the evening former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder spoke on German television about his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. 

The former Chancellor was interviewed on ARD by Beckmann. 

Schröder, who is shortly to celebrate his 70th birthday spoke about his time as Chancellor and his new-found delight in being a father of two young children. In the hour-long interview he emphasised how his perspective has changed as a result of bringing two young children to and from school.

He referred to his personal and family links with Russia and reminded his interviewer of the 20 million Russians who had lost their lives at the hands of the Germans in WWll 

Believe it or not

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of my mother, who died on February 12, 1988. She was 78.

Standing at the grave of my parents is one of those occasions where faith in God, resurrection, life after death occupy a central place in my thinking.

What does it mean to say 'I believe in God'? What does the word 'belief mean? What does the word 'God' mean?

Are there many priests, who don't believe in God? Are there many bishops, cardinals who don't 'believe' in God?

If a priest goes along to his bishop or provincial and explains that he does not accept the church's teaching on the Trinity or that he does not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, would his bishop or provincial request him to leave mnistry?

Does a person's belief change over the years?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Standstill on the railway

There are no trains operating between Dublin and Cork and Kerry.

Is this the first time, due to weather conditions, that the these rail lines have been closed?

Worst storm in living memory in Castlegregory

Castlegregory residents say today's winds are the worst in living memory. A number of trees are down in the village and right across the parish.

The village is without electricity and mobile phone networks are down.

A section of the roof of the Brandon Hotel in Tralee has been ripped off and the hotel has closed for business.

UK to spend minimum of €2.5 billion on new aircraft

The UK Government is to spend at least €2.5 billion on procuring F-35Bs for its armed forces.

The aircraft, which are due to enter service in 2018, will be capable of vertical landing and will eventually be able to fly on and off the new UK aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The aircraft maker is Lockheed Martin.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nature is now coming to life right in front of our eyes

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

Michael Commane
I know little or nothing about gardening. I know little or nothing about astronomy. Yet I mess about in the garden, cut the grass, mow the lawn and tidy up. I look up at the sky, spot the sun and moon, the Northern Star, the Plough too. But that’s it.

Leaving a neighbour’s house yesterday, between her hall door and the gate, I spotted the first primrose.

The following morning, early before day had broken, I spotted the beginnings of a cluster of daffodils.

In spite of the awful weather we have had, the rain and wind, the terrible floods, the tiniest first inklings of spring are appearing and it is absolutely fantastic. It’s only going to get better from here on in.

I can still recall my late mother being so excited the first evening my father came home from work in the daylight at 4.45pm. It was a benchmark in my mother’s calendar.

And of course these evenings when it is bright in Dublin until close to 5.40pm, in Kerry 15 minutes later, I naturally think of my mother and how she adored the advent of longer days. And now too, the mornings are beginning to get brighter.

Nature is coming to life right in front of our eyes and we are privileged to be able to experience and indeed live it.

We might well have hail, rain and snow in the coming weeks. I remember seeing snow on Patrick’s Bridge in Cork back in the 1970s, but nothing is going to stop the days getting longer and brighter.

And nothing is going to stop the temperature rising, the trees flourishing, the grass growing. I’ll be extravagant and say we are just about to enter the best time of the year. From now until June 21 every day will be longer. It’s hope all the way for the next number of months.

I often wonder how we survive the winter, yet we do, year in year out. I’m permanently amazed how we manage to get out of the bed in cold dark wet mornings and yet we do. The agony of getting out of the bed any time before 8am surely is the topic for a great story and yet I have never seen anything written about it. Or is it just I who finds it torturous rising at 6.15am on dark wet mornings listening to the rain hit off the roof?

That’s all about to change, ever so gradually.

A cousin of mine visited me last week and insisted I watch Operation Transformation, which I duly did.

These days I can’t avoid hearing so much about unhealthy lifestyles, obesity, sugar being the new tobacco and the world of fast food eating.

On the one hand millions is spent on making a mess of our bodies and then more millions is spent trying to make them right again. And isn’t it odd most of the mess has happened in the name of advancement.

We let so much of the wonder of nature that is happening right in front of our noses pass us by that we have more or less become immune to so much.

Why would you go to a gym when you can walk or cycle? Of course there are those who are invalided or disabled and may not be able to be out and about. But most of us have everything at our disposal to enjoy the outdoors.

Only last Sunday walking in the Waterworks in Bohernabreena near Tallaght my dog disturbed a deer and off it ran. And before you say a word, the dog was on a lead.

It’s all about to unfold right in front us. Get out and about. Enjoy it. And it’s free.

Lá Fhéile Bríde has come and gone, so we are allowed hope. And guess what, winter too has its magic.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A departing train

Look at this.

Not too much changed in two or three thousand years

Maxmilian Schell, the Austrian-born Academy Award actor, who died on February 1, said in an interview with the New York Times in 2001:

"The world doesn't change. Tha balance of evil will always be the same.

"I think all the poets and artists have always written for peace and love and it hasn't changed much in the last two or three thousand years. But we hope."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

German TV commissions and screens Ahern film

German TV station ZDF is screening this evening 'Zwischen Himmel und Hier', or 'Between heaven and here'.

The 90-minute film, written by Cecilia Ahern, was specially commissioned by ZDF and was made in and around Dublin.

A blog well worth reading

A blog highly recommended is,

The author's son was involved in a road accident in the United States and is now in a coma in hospital in Germany.

The family lived in Ireland for a number of years

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Breda O'Brien's article littered in obfuscation

Whether intentional or not but Breda O'Brein's Irish Times column today is littered with obfuscation.

She talks about how people are afraid to express views which might be opposed to gay marriage.

She writes: "Already, people were terrified of going public with doubts about gay marriage, and I know two people told by their employers that to do so would threaten their employment."

There we go again, that great anonymity, that 'secrecy'. What organisation does that best?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jack Straw makes comment on homosexual debate

Jack Straw, a Labour MP at Westminster, who held many Cabinet posts, including Foreign Secretary, said today, from his experience as an MP and especially from his time in the Department of Justice, that most of the people he heard opposing a liberalising of laws against homosexuality had issues with their own sexuality.

If that were applied to the hierarchical institutional churches?

Senator Rónán Mullen and his intemperate language

Senator Rónán Mullen said on public radio: "We know the horrors the church has been through as a result of child abuse ."

Later in the same clip he criticiesd the United Nations and then referring to 'many of those agencies' said: "Many of these agencies are dodgy."

Intemperate language.

Is Senator Mullen trying to turn the church into a victim?

The Senator needs to be informed, chapter and verse about so much and so many things.

Arrogance has its genesis in ignorance.

An astonishingly clear and interesting Willie Walsh

International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh was interviewd on the Sean O'Rourke Show this morning.

He was astonishingly clear, articulate and interesting.

Whay could the Irish Catholic Church not have someone who could be as clear, articulate and interesting?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Two world powers clash

The UN firecly criticises the Catholic Church over its handling of child sex abuse.

Victims' groups welcome the UN's abuse findings.

Negative tones of UN report takes Holy See by surprise.

This is what today's Irish newspapers are saying. It's also what the German papers are saying.

Will there be conversation/discussion on all of 'this' in priories, presbyteries, monasteries, bishops' houses in the days that follow?

How many bishops and provincials will sit down with their fellow priests and talk in opness and honesty, in charity too on the subject?

Will Catholics sit down and discuss it in calm and honesty? Will anyone ask why it all happened?

What at all is truth, honesty?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The church and sex, turbines and transmission lines

The first two items on the 20.00 News on the German ARD network this evening were:

1. The United Nations' condemnation of the behaviour of the Holy See in matters of paedophelia   and homosexuality.

2. Opposition to the building of a transmission line from Hannover in the north to Grafenrheinfeld in the south. The purpose of the transmission line is to carry electricity from off-shore turbines.

Have we heard those stories somewhere else?

RTE and how they use words

David Murphy on today's Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1 told his listeners about a 'new initiative'.

Clever use of a dictionary would help. Why is this sort of thing constantly happening at present?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What life can be like for someone who is different

Below is this week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column. The headline INM uses for this story is: "Kindness and understanding go hand in hand"

Michael Commane
‘Religious Life Review’ appears once every two months. It is a periodical primarily geared for people who are interested in the varying aspects of religious life. It is published by Dominican Publications.

The January February issue includes an article written by ‘Pat Heavvy’. The editor tells the reader that the name is a pseudonym as the author wishes to remain anonymous. The title of the article is ‘A Bipolar Religious’.

The article has certainly stopped me in my tracks and every time I meet anyone who is in any way at all interested in religious life I suggest they read it. But now I’m going further. This is a brilliant article and should be read by anyone who is interested in people.

Ok, it’s main theme or purpose is an attempt at explaining how a person who suffers bipolar illness copes living as a member of a religious congregation. But the article does far more than that. It also gives some great insights into the current state of life within religious communities.

Maybe most of all it gives the reader information into bipolar illness and what life can be like for someone who suffers from the mental disability.

It offers the reader wise words on what life might be like for someone who is deemed to be ‘different’.

It is also a great manual in learning more about people who might seem to act in an offensive or hurtful way.

I remember being in the company of a group of people when without a word of warning one of them rounded on me and in most insulting tones told me I was talking far too loudly and needed to keep my voice down.

At first I was greatly annoyed and upset and was on the verge of telling him how I felt. And to add to my own personal confusion I know I have a loud voice. Fortunately I said nothing and let the matter go.

Last week I was recommending the article to a friend of mine, so we got talking about the subject and while we were talking my friend, who is a knowledgeable person, told me that people who suffer certain forms of mental illness can have a great aversion to noise and regularly are inordinately upset with the slightest of sounds.

Had I known that the day the man got annoyed with me I would have been far more understanding. I knew the man was fragile and suffered but never quite knew what the problem was.

I think kindness is always linked to understanding.

The author talks about how medications in the psychiatric area can lead to weight increase, elevated cholesterol and blood sugar levels and how sometimes GPs can link these to lifestyle issues and then suggest a bit of self-control could manage all these things.

“But you know it is like being told to walk five miles a day when you are depressed, and even walking as far as the bathroom is an issue.”

That sentence really stands out. It’s dawning on me how important it is to treat one another with great care and kindness. Always attempting to understand the other person and never ever dismissing them.

Only last week an Irish bishop said to me that above all else we priests need to be kind.

The author shows great bravery in writing the article and certainly it is a source of inspiration.

Last week first-time author and mental health nurse, Nathan Filer, was named the winner of the Costa Book Award for 2013.

His book ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is about a schizophrenic young man dealing with guilt. The prize is open to citizens of the UK and Ireland.

‘Religious Life Review’ is available in Veritas Bookshop, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, and at Dominican Publications, 42 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, telephone, 01 – 872 1611, Website is

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The present and the past

Last night members of the Pussy Riot Band were on the Brendan O'Connor Show. Two most impressive young women. They are visting world capitals to highlight the lack of freedom in Russia.

Yesterday an opposition leader in Ukraine spoke at the Munich Conference on Security.

Events laced in irony.

Today is the 71st anniversary of the ending of the battle at Stalingrad. On February 2, 1943 the commander of the Sixth Army, FriedrichPaulus surrendered on the Volga. Surely the turning point in World War ll.

Later, in just less than two years, it would be a Ukrainian division of the Soviet Army which arrived at Auschwitz.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Time to roll up our sleeves in the service of others

Below is the 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times. Page 20.

Michael Commane
Cycling to work on Wednesday I spotted a young mother wheeling her twins on the footpath.

A bus pulled up alongside her and I was puzzled as to what was going on. It turned out that one of the twins had dropped her teddy from the buggy.

The driver had spotted it and stopped his bus to tell the woman. What a lovely way to start the day. How kind of the driver.

The child’s mother subsequently told me that the child was besotted with that teddy.

​It’s the little things that mean so much. Was God’s goodness not written all over that act of kindness?

​Tomorrow is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. His parents bring him along to fulfil their legal obligations. It seems as if it’s a low-key event.

They are ordinary people and bring along two doves as an offering. Nothing special about them at all.

​But we read in the account that at that time there was also a wise and holy man, who had in some way or other been “urged” to go to the temple and see for himself the child who was being presented.

​The Gospel account tells us that he held Jesus in his arms.

The words he says have been on the lips of Christians for generations - the Nunc Dimittis: “Now, Master you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised;/ because my eyes have seen the salvation/which you have prepared for all the nations to see,/a light to enlighten the pagans/and the glory of your people Israel”. (Luke2: 29 - 32)

​It is a central tenet of Christianity to make real the presence of God in our lives.

Christmas is about a birth, the Epiphany is about announcing Jesus to the world and tomorrow's feast is again about making present, this time, in keeping with the legal tradition, the person we call Christ, who is God.

​Saying anything about God requires great care. There are those who use an unreal vocabulary to talk about anything that is ‘holy’.

Maybe there is need to have an open and charitable conversation about the vocabulary we use when we talk about God and the holy. It appears far too many people are alienated by what they hear about the ‘holy’. And it can’t be that they all are not people of good will.

​Being human means we form relationships with other people. As Christians we believe that the presence of God is stamped on all our relationships, and that includes those relationships with people we find difficult and with whom we disagree.

Do we ever think about that when we are in dispute with someone or speaking badly of them?

​Surely if God is to be real in our lives we have to use a language that makes sense. No bluffing, no spoof.

A meaningful belief in God involves us being in a non-stop relationship where God is part of who we are and that God is part of our everyday lives, including the humdrum that is always part of our living experience. Is it possible to mock, laugh and deride people and at the same time use God’s name? We do it, don’t we?

Maybe we use ‘holy words’ far too often. Instead it might make far more sense to live out the message of the Gospel right at the centre of where we live our lives.

​The wise man Simeon took the child Jesus into his arms.

​Every time we take someone ‘into our arms’ in justice and charity we have every reason to believe that our eyes have seen the salvation that has been prepared for all nations.

​No one can put words on God. All we ever have are the most delicate of hints. But when we roll up our sleeves at the service of others we surely are living in the presence of God. Something like how Simeon felt when he experienced the child Jesus at the presentation.

​And it’s made manifest in the most ordinary of acts. Like a good person driving the 14 bus.

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What's in a name?

The 'Thinking Anew' column in The Irish Times today. Michael Commane Sometimes I wonder has all the pious 'stuff' we have ...