Saturday, May 31, 2014

Words of praise for Fr Michael Kelly SJ

What is it about the Jesuits and the work they do?

Once a month at the Irish embassy in Lusaka there is a coffee morning for all the staff. Yesterday was a special occasion to support a charity that helps homeless children. To highlight the special day people were invited to walk about in the embassy garden barefoot. It was great fun under the African sun.

A member of the staff, who is from Lusaka, told me that the well-known Fr Michael Kelly taught her history at the University of Lusaka.

Fr Kelly, now an elderly man, is renowned for the work he has done in Zambia and for his fight in the battle against HIV & Aids.

The young staff member spoke in glowing terms of Fr Kelly and his knowledge of Zambia.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Concern cooperating to empower women in Zambia

Yes, I have seen elephants and zebras in Kafue National Park. The road from Lusaka to Mongu cuts through the National Park. It was built by a Dutch firm in 2005 and is as straight as a dye for 600 kilometres.

But there is really nothing special in seeing elephants and zebras but there is something extraordinarily special about seeing people whose lives have been changed as a result of the cooperation between them, and Concern and Irish Aid.

Everywhere Concern is working it is helping to improve agricultural methods to improve yield and to produce nutrient rich food. It is also empowering women in such a way that women and men are working together in a way they never did before.

At breakfast this morning a man from Finland said to me that 'Africa is  the future'. It has that feeling about it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Concern's work in Zambia

The work that Concern Worldwide is doing in Zambia is nothing short of amazing.

To come here and see first hand the fruits of the work is breathtaking.

Most of the Concern work done in Zambia is suported by Irish Aid. The Kerry Group and Accenture also are major donors.

It would be impossible to see this work and not be proud of the Irish people for supporting such an enterprise.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A long way from Dublin

I arrived in Lusaka at midday. My first time to set foot on African soil.

Many things have changed the face of the earth in the 20th century but surely the invention of the airplane has squeezed the world into a tiny ball, at least in some ways.

On Sunday afternoon one can be in a bus travelling along the Liffey and then 24 hours later in Lusaka. And that's going the long way round.

Concern Worlwide works in Zambia and in the next days I will be visiting the agency's programmes. One of the programmes, which I will be visiting, is part-funded by the Kerry Group.

Concern employs 45 people in Zambia.

Zambai is 752.614 square kilometres with a population of just over 13 million people.

It is a landlocked country. There are seven major languages representing the 10 provinces and English is the official language. The country's capital is Lusaka.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Excitement of WiFi

A young boy gets on 747 to Dublin Airport. He shouts to his mother: "Ma I have WiFi".

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Every gesture of love and kindness points towards God

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

Michael Commane
It’s the end of May, university exams are coming to an end, Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations are about to begin followed by the  long school summer holidays.

Young people are  heading off to work all over the world. It’s that time of year when many parents  say goodbye to their children as they set of off into  the great unknown. Airports, rail and bus stations everyday have their quota of people parting company and other people returning into the arms of those they know and love.

It’s probably one of the defining  aspects of arrival and departure venues seeing people express their emotions in such a public way when they are greeting family and friends. Departures can be less euphoric.

The next few months will see much coming and going. Along with young people heading for jobs in every direction, people will also be going on holidays, courses, exchanges and all sorts of adventures. The world is always on the move but never  more so  than over the next few months.

And then in late August, early September the little four and five year-olds will head off to school for the first time. It’s much easier these days but still, there will be the occasional tear as children  set off for ‘grown-up’ school for the first time. And the tears will not just be the prerogative of the children. Parents too will be emotionally ‘upset’ to see their tiny children depart from them in such a serious way. It heralds the beginning of the severing of that most intimate of relationships.

We all want to be part of someone or something. We all want to be part of a family. Indeed, in so many ways our families are part of the stuff that make  up our identity. In a lesser sense the organisations, the groups, the clubs we belong to also play a part in who we are. But like everything in our lives that too can have negative aspects to it. There might be times when we are far too slow to greet the new person, the ‘stranger’ into our midst. There is that most horrible of expressions  - ‘he/she is not one of us’.

Poet John Donne’s reminder that ‘No man is an island’ may have become an overworked cliché, but the meaning still stands true. One way or another, we yearn to be “connected”.  We  Irish pride ourselves on our ‘networking’ skills.

But there is a nasty underside to this,  the person who is unwanted, unloved, abandoned. We are all too aware of those shocking scenes of rows of beds filled with tiny children in orphanages where they were inhumanely treated. It happened, in happened it Ireland and still happens around the world.

In tomorrow's Gospel (John 14: 15 - 21) Jesus tells us he will not leave us orphans. He goes on to say that God is with us and that God loves us. Of course that’s not always easy to see and get a handle on but it is our faith. Every single one of us is loved by God. We are loveable.

The Beatles told us, that all we need is love. They got it in one. Yes, all the different expressions of love we see and experience are moments to be treasured but is it possible that they are just tiny images of the love that God showers on us? As Christians we believe that is exactly the case. And the challenge to believe in that is surely a life-long journey, with all its ups and downs.

Every gesture of love points towards God and making us part of the communion of saints. That includes the loved ones we greet and say farewell to in the noisy bus station,  and the beggar outside “hustling”  for  the price of a hostel bed for the night.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Remembering Irish Dominican Romuald Dodd

Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish Dominican Romuald Dodd.

He died in 1992.

Grandson of Auschwitz commandant warns voters

Rainer Höß, the grandson of the notorious commandant at Auschwitz, Rudolf Höß, is campaigning against far right parties in the elections taking place for the European Parliament.

The United Kingdom voted yesterday, Ireland votes today and the other EU countries vote on Sunday.

It is predicted that the far right could win up to 80 of the 751 seats in the new parliament.

Höß calls on everyone to get out and cast their vote: 'The fewer citizens who vote the better the chance of the far right. I know only too well what happened in Germany."

Thursday, May 22, 2014


In my role as a press officer with Concern Worldwide, this week I spent two days at a seminar on aspects of communications.

What's happening in the world of communication right now is stunning. It is intersting to see how companies and corporations are using all the tools of social media, some well, others less well.

With a hint to the future, keep an out out for Twitgift.

The Irish episcopacy

Michael Drumm is a priest of the Diocese of Elphin.

He is a highly regarded theologian. He is a competent and intelligent man with a wide experience in his areas of competency. Michael is also well versed with the current Irish situation. Fr Drumm is also a man of integrity and most likely a person of holiness.

Would he not have been an ideal candidate to have succeeded Cristopher Jones in Elphin?

What would it have been that disqualified him from the job?

Most likely we will never know.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tyranny of uniform thinking

"The phenomenon of uniform thought has caused misfortune throughout human history

“Over the course of the last century we all saw how the dictatorship of uniform thought ended up killing many, many people.

"Those who were responsible for such atrocities were of the mind: “it is impossible to think otherwise, one has to think like this!”

Words spoken by Pope Francis in April

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How we react when taken out of our usual routines

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

Michael Commane
Are you someone who thinks outside the box? Would you consider it a compliment if someone told you that you were such a person?

Or put it another way: do you think that you are adaptable, do you think that you are someone who can easily make changes, in other words, using 'cool' parlance, are you able to go with the flow?
I imagine most people are fairly confident that they are not stick in the muds and are well able to cope with changes in their lives.

Yes, certainly on one hand, there is something in the human psyche that makes us remarkably adaptable. Indeed, it is in many ways the signature tune of being human. When the most horrendous things happen we seem to be able to stand up and get going again. But in another sense, there is something about us that makes us such people of habit. And the older we get the more slow we are to change our ways. Somehow or someway or other we develop a lifestyle, a way or surviving that suits us and on we march. Maybe if that were not the case we would have universal bedlam and live in an anarchic world.

Just stop for a second and ask yourself how your daily routine works out. I bet you will realise that you do most things the same way every day, from how you eat your breakfast to how you get into bed at night time.

I remember on one occasion in a hotel watching people have their breakfast and it crossed my mind that's the way they eat their breakfast every morning. At the time it sort of struck me as all so weird.
I'm off to Zambia next Sunday. Flying to the capital Lusaka and then going on to Mongu, which is a good distance west of Lusaka

As you may know I work in the press office of Concern Worldwide. Concern works in Zambia so I am going out on a field trip. The plan is that I will see first-hand the work that we are doing and then write up stories for various print outlets.

Okay, I have lived in Italy and Germany, been to Australia, visited a Dominican friend in Taiwan but this is my first time to go on a Concern assignment and my first time to set foot on the African continent.

Two weeks ago I got all my jabs for the journey and have taken anti-malaria medication for a number of days. I have been to the pharmacy and armed myself with prescriptions the likes of which I have never seen before or even dreamt of. But it's all par for the course for anyone who visits certain parts of the world. The doctor also gave me expert advice as how to keep myself well when I am in Zambia.

I can begin to hear you say, 'who cares'. And that's exactly what I am thinking too. Here I am doing something that thousands of people do every day and I am making such a fuss about it. See, I am being taken out of my ordinary day-to-day living and to tell you the truth I am quite nervous.

I'm wondering and of course hoping that I'll do a good job. What happens if it all goes pear shape?

I'm asking the daftest of questions and worrying about such silly things. Better not lose my passport.

One day last week I checked the date of the flight, wondering if I had mixed up the dates and missed my flight. All really silly stuff. That's I.

But I have a sneaky suspicion that anytime any of us are taken out of our customary way of doing things we get some sort of jolt and it has all sorts of knock-on effects.
I'm even wondering days in advance how long it will take the bus to get to Dublin Airport.

And I thought I was Mr Adaptable.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Farage and his allies

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said: "People would know what the difference is between living next door to Romanians or a group of German children."

Mr Farage, complete with picture, features in the May issue of the free sheet 'Alive'.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is it at all possible to be strident about one's faith?

"Do not be troubled", "trust in me". Then later Jesus upbraids Philip for not recognising him.

Imagine, those closest to Jesus were afraid. They had a problem with trust and faith too.

I am always aghast by people who claim to know exactly the mind of God, indeed, they scare me.

I am always reminded that from the beginning of the German Empire until the end of the Third Reich, written on the belt of enlisted soldiers was 'God is with us'.

Of course I often wonder about my own faith. But when I see the early apostles doubting, being afraid, having issues of faith, I am consoled.

Growing in faith is a life-long process.

Surely it means being gentle and sensitive to the views, opinion and beliefs of other people.

Is it at all possible to be strident about one's faith? Just a question.

Words spoken at Mass after the Gospel in Rathgar's Three Patrons Church today.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Inaccurate Wikipedia material needs to be removed

Is it possible that someone in a position of 'authority' within the Irish province of the Dominican Order would remove or edit the Wikipedia entry for Newbridge College as the material is inaccurate and offensive.

The material has been in place for a considerable period of time and in spite of continued attempts to have the text edited or removed nothing has been done.

The Irish and drink

According to a World Health Organisation report 11.9 litres was the average amount of alcohol drunk by every Irish person in 2010.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"I drink coffee, eat cereals, things I did not do for years"

The piece below appears in today's Irish Times. Michelle Knight is on a book tour for her autobiography.
Michelle Knight sits in a room with glass walls, wearing a woollen cardigan that is several sizes too big for her, so big that the cuffs are rolled up. She borrowed it earlier at a television studio. Knight hates the cold.
In 2002, she was kidnapped by Ariel Castro, the father of a friend, near his home in Tremont, Cleveland, Ohio. “The day I disappeared, not many people even seemed to notice,” she writes in her book recounting 11 years “locked away in hell”.
Along with Amanda Berry and Georgina DeJesus, Knight was tied up, raped, beaten and forced to have abortions. They were badly fed and subject to the whims of their Cuban-American captor, who often tearfully convinced himself he and his victims were “a family”.
Knight remained there until May 8th, 2013 – losing contact with her son, Joey, who was eventually adopted – until police arrived following Berry’s escape with her six-year-old daughter, who Castro had fathered.
Quickly arrested, Castro pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole. One month later, he died in jail, hanging himself with a sheet.
Knight cried when she heard. “I wanted him to sit in his cell and rot away a little bit at a time for the rest of his life, just like he forced me to do,” she writes in Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness.
Knight is in the middle of a book tour for her autobiography, which recounts a troubled family background, abuse, homelessness, drug peddling – and all of this before she was kidnapped by Castro clutch at a Family Dollar discount store.
The diminutive 33-year-old says she has moved on. “I used to think about all the things he did, I used to have bad dreams, but after a while, I started to slow down.”
She has put the years of abuse behind her, she says, and thinks about them only when she is asked. “When people bring it up, yes, but otherwise I don’t think about it at all.
“If you never forgave the person who hurt you it eats you away inside, you don’t want to feel that pain. You want to be able to overcome it without the pain of suffering, of holding it in.”
Most of all, she does not want to be pigeon-holed, she says, leaning forward to pull up a leg of her trousers to show a tattoo.
“I see myself as a victor – I never see myself as a victim, just like my tattoo says: ‘Know me as a victor, not a victim’.”
But the past has left unresolved tensions and grief. Knight will never know her son.
She is no longer in contact with Berry or DeJesus, who are working together on their own book.
Knight’s family ties are nonexistent. Her father disappeared years ago; her relationship with her mother is difficult.
“My family were always the type of people who were never there and they never will be,” she says.
Writing the book helped, she says. “During the time I was held captive I kind of lost myself along the way, so it helped me slowly, day by day, to find myself. It helped me to find out that I am a strong woman. And I realise that I could help others.”
She brims with plans, including the possible release of a song that she cowrote with a 16-year-old friend, Mitchell.
“I see quite a few things in my life: opening up my own restaurant, winning my first fight.” (She has taken up boxing.)
For now, she relishes the ordinary. “I wake up early, I go to basketball games, baseball games with the children of my friends. I drink coffee, eat cereals, normal things that I never got to do for years. I look out at the sky.”
She pulls the cardigan tightly once more. Soon she will leave Cleveland, “not because of what happened to me but because Cleveland is too cold for me. I hate the cold, I’m anaemic. Cold to me is like a bitter, numb feeling,” she says.
Besides the warmth, the future will come under a new name, Lily, she says.
“It is a desire to break with the past. Every brand new beginning needs a brand new start. I came up with Lily because I love the flower and I didn’t like my name, ever since I was seven.”

Michelle Knight on her captivity and Ariel Castro

Michelle Knight, one of three women who were held captive for 11 years by Ariel Castro, has spoken to the BBC about her brutal experience.

The programme was on BBC Radio 4 this morning at 10.00.

If you have the possibility to listen to the programme then make sure to tune in to this extraordinary woman talk about her ordeal, listen to how she explains how she forgives the man.

It is rivetting radio.

A startling comment from a newly ordained deacon

In an interview with newly ordained deacon, Conor O'Brien, the following paragraph appears.

"The only person that Conor is really serious about is Jesus Christ."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

An alternative view to what's going on in Ukraine today

Below is an article by John Pilger, which appeared in yesterday's Guardian.
Why do we tolerate the threat of another world war in our name? Why do we allow lies that justify this risk? The scale of our indoctrination, wrote Harold Pinter, is a "brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis", as if the truth "never happened even while it was happening".
Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his "updated summary of the record of US foreign policy" which shows that, since 1945, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons; and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders.
In many cases Britain has been a collaborator. The degree of human suffering, let alone criminality, is little acknowledged in the west, despite the presence of the world's most advanced communications and nominally most free journalism. That the most numerous victims of terrorism – "our" terrorism – are Muslims, is unsayable. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of Anglo-American policy (Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan) is suppressed. In April the US state department noted that, following Nato's campaign in 2011, "Libya has become a terrorist safe haven".
The name of "our" enemy has changed over the years, from communism to Islamism, but generally it is any society independent of western power and occupying strategically useful or resource-rich territory, or merely offering an alternative to US domination. The leaders of these obstructive nations are usually violently shoved aside, such as the democratsMuhammad Mossedeq in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala and Salvador Allende in Chile, or they are murdered like Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All are subjected to a western media campaign of vilification – think Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, now Vladimir Putin.
Washington's role in Ukraine is different only in its implications for the rest of us. For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is threatening to take the world to war. With eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of Nato, the last "buffer state" bordering Russia – Ukraine – is being torn apart by fascist forces unleashed by the US and the EU. We in the west are now backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler.
Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington's planned seizure of Russia's historic, legitimate warm-water naval base in Crimea failed. The Russians defended themselves, as they have done against every threat and invasion from the west for almost a century.
But Nato's military encirclement has accelerated, along with US-orchestrated attacks on ethnic Russians in Ukraine. If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained "pariah" role will justify a Nato-run guerrilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.
Instead, Putin has confounded the war party by seeking an accommodation with Washington and the EU, by withdrawing Russian troops from the Ukrainian border and urging ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon the weekend's provocative referendum. These Russian-speaking and bilingual people – a third of Ukraine's population – have long sought a democratic federation that reflects the country's ethnic diversity and is both autonomous of Kiev and independent of Moscow. Most are neither "separatists" nor "rebels", as the western media calls them, but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland.
Like the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ukraine has been turned into a CIA theme park – run personally by CIA director John Brennan in Kiev, with dozens of "special units" from the CIA and FBI setting up a "security structure" that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup. Watch the videos, read the eye-witness reports from the massacre in Odessa this month. Bussed fascist thugs burned the trade union headquarters, killing 41 people trapped inside. Watch the police standing by.
A doctor described trying to rescue people, "but I was stopped by pro-Ukrainian Nazi radicals. One of them pushed me away rudely, promising that soon me and other Jews of Odessa are going to meet the same fate. What occurred yesterday didn't even take place during the fascist occupation in my town in world war two. I wonder, why the whole world is keeping silent."
Russian-speaking Ukrainians are fighting for survival. When Putin announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border, the Kiev junta's defence secretary, Andriy Parubiy – a founding member of the fascist Svoboda party – boasted that attacks on "insurgents" would continue. In Orwellian style, propaganda in the west has inverted this to Moscow "trying to orchestrate conflict and provocation", according to William Hague. His cynicism is matched by Obama's grotesque congratulations to the coup junta on its "remarkable restraint" after the Odessa massacre. The junta, says Obama, is "duly elected". As Henry Kissinger once said: "It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but what is perceived to be true."
In the US media the Odessa atrocity has been played down as "murky" and a "tragedy" in which "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) attacked "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal damned the victims – "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says". Propaganda in Germany has been pure cold war, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warning its readers of Russia's "undeclared war". For the Germans, it is a poignant irony that Putin is the only leader to condemn the rise of fascism in 21st-century Europe.
A popular truism is that "the world changed" following 9/11. But what has changed? According to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a silent coup has taken place in Washington and rampant militarism now rules. The Pentagon currently runs "special operations" – secret wars – in 124 countries. At home, rising poverty and a loss of liberty are the historic corollary of a perpetual war state. Add the risk of nuclear war, and the question is: why do we tolerate this?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pious spoof and humbug

Is there any chance that some wise and holy person could devise a prayer to protect the world from all the pious spoof and humbug that seems to be in the ascendency at present.

Our identity is influenced by our relationships with others

In today's Gospel the word 'friend' turns up.

What is our identity about? Who are we and why are we who we are?

No doubt our family, our friends, those we brush against in our daily lives, play a role in making us who we are.

Surely our identity is highly influenced by our relationships with other people. Friendship.

Jesus tells us he is our friend. So we have a great chance of being influenced by God's friendship. ordinary, down-to-earth friendship.

Words said after the Gospel at 07.30 Mass in the Three Patrons Church, Rathgar today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dioceses and congregations respond to NBSCCCI audit

Yesterday the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland published its audit on a number of dioceses and regligious congregations in the country.

It is now recognised that the Catholic Church is in the vanguard in putting in place safe practice when it comes to dealing with children

Dioceses and religious congregations have published their response to the audit.

It would seem that many of the responses have been taken from a general template. At least that's the impression given when one reads through them.

One bishop tells his readers that "The report is complementary yet it still is a work in progress".

Another bishop insists on upper casing his title 'Bishop' every time he writes it, indeed, the same man talks about his 'Ordination Day'.

Elsewhere readers are told that it is the job of priests to be the 'protectors' of children.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nigel Farage's ability to talk and his inability to listen

Rolf-Dieter Krause, head of the German television station ARD's Brussels studio, said this evening on the ARD programme 'Hart aber Fair' that Nigel Farage has displayed in the European Parliament a great ability to give lengthy speeches but that he never listens.

Pope Francis and mercy

The word 'mercy' appears in the report below. It's striking, reading so many religious blogs, news sheets, bulletins, one seldom sees the word 'mercy'. Instead they all seem so turned in on themselves, presenting their own 'importance'. Spectacularly sad. Boring too. And so far from the reality on the ground.

The piece below appeared on media outlets yesterday.

POPE FRANCIS TODAY ordained 13 new priests in the Vatican, telling them they were not “masters of doctrine” and should be more forgiving of their parishioners.
“It really pains me when I come across people who no longer go to confession because they get harangued, badly treated, told off,” Francis said in his homily at the ordination Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
“They feel the doors of the church are being shut in their faces. Please don’t do this. Have mercy,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “It is not you who are the masters of doctrine, it’s the Lord’s doctrine”.
The 13 priests, who lay face down in front of the altar as part of the ordination ritual, included six from Italy and one each from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Pakistan, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It is significant to call someone by her/his name

To call someone by her or his name is significant. It is something we can easily take for granted.

The Nazis gave numbers to their prisoners, indeed, they tattooed the numbers on to their arms. Giving a person a number can be dehumanising.

When people call us by our name we sit up, we listen to them. We feel we are being taken seriously.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who calls us by our name.

Words spoken after the Gospel at midday Mass in the Church of the Three Patrons Rathgar today.

A heron in seach of food

A heron on the Dodder near Firhouse this afternoon.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bearded Irish Dominican priest and diocesan bishop

Garda whistleblower John Wilson on the Marian Finucane Show this morning before getting down to serious business spoke about how he was forbidden to grow a beard in his early career as a garda.

In the late 1970s a young Irish Dominican priest went to live in Argentina. He was clever, articulate and funny.

Before leaving Ireland he grew a beard, which he retained when in South America.

His prior did not approve of the facial hair but did not have the courage or the decency to tell him so.

The prior, instead in conversation with the local bishop, expressed his disapproval of the young man's beard. Some weeks later when the bishop was visiting the priory he suggested to the young man he should shave off his beard and explained to him that priests in his diocese were not permitted to grow beards.

The young man, who was taller and bigger than the bishop, turned to him and in perfect Spanish with a Cork accent, said: "You might be my bishop but you are not my barber."

Game, set and match and of course he kept his beard.

'Cause for Concern' - editorial in Irish Times

Anyone who has been following the story of An Garda Síochána must be forced to see the similarities between the organisation that is the Garda and the different institutions within the Catholic Church. And yet there is little, if any possibility, that the church will be subject to any sort of rigorous investigation.
Below is the lead editorial in today's Irish Times.
Seán Guerin’s confined remit was explicitly not to examine the substance of Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s claims about Garda investigations. He was asked to establish whether they had been handled properly and concludes, with what many will see as remarkable understatement, that there is “cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigations”.
Cause for concern too about the treatment of Sgt McCabe, whose credibility and honour, Mr Guerin goes out of his way to commend. Organisations which find themselves unable to heed the warnings of one of their own held in such high regard are, he argues, doomed to fail.
The overall impression given by the internal Garda investigative process “was that complaints ... were put through a process of filtration or distillation so that, by the end of the process, any matter of concern had been removed as a form of impurity, and only what was good was found to remain.” To restore public confidence in the Garda, there is now an unarguable case for a full commission of inquiry.
It will be no small task – Mr Guerin sets out an agenda of no fewer than 14 issues to be dealt with – Sgt McCabe’s agenda endorsed – ranging from specific criminal investigations to management of Bailieboro Garda District, sexual harassment of trainees, corruption in relation to Pulse records ... He also makes multiple recommendations about reforms in Garda procedures that should be implemented now.
The best construction that can be put on the conduct of the former minister for justice and his department is that their diffidence in investigating such claims arose because they saw themselves being drawn into operational matters and command decisions that normally, and rightly, would be the commissioner’s reserve. And, it appears, encouraged by Garda management, they saw Sgt McCabe as a jobsworth nuisance who should not be indulged.
Yet, as Mr Guerin points out, in these areas the minister has an “important and independent investigative function”, an exceptional statutory obligation to pursue the matter properly unless satisfied that the allegation is “not made in good faith or is false frivolous or vexatious”.
Instead the department and minister were “invariably” content simply to refer complaints on to the commissioner, and then rely on his response, even if he was one of those accused of misconduct. As Mr Guerin points out, giving him the right to respond to the claims was appropriate, but “it is a different matter to be entirely satisfied by that response”.
And then there’s the dog that didn’t bark – Mr Guerin’s paper trail search strangely found no written advice from officials to the minister about his statutory function or how he should exercise it. A measure perhaps of an unhealthy climate of denial and dysfunctionality within the department – the buck rightly stopped with Alan Shatter, but what are officials for?

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Guerin Report

Why not ask Guerin to do a similar examination of the Irish Catholic Church?

Red Square celebrations

Red Square is the venue for today's celebration to honour the Red Army that stopped Hitler's advance in Russia and then went on to hoist the Red Flag on top of the Reichstag.

Sixty nine years ago the Soviet Union with its allies accepted the unconditional capitulation of Germany.

Russia lost over 20 million people as a result of German aggression.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A strange kind of blessing

A disabled man with his head severely bent down boarded a bus on Dublin's Camden Street at lunchtime today. The man was unkempt, elderly and dirty.

As he stood in the aisle, a couple in a seat spotted him, realised he was dirty and disabled, held their noses, grimaced, made a comment and got up from their seat. Neither of them was 'Vogue' standard.

As the bus passed White Friar Street Carmelite church, the couple, now standing closer to the driver, blessed themselves.

Certainly a metaphor.

Surely it's 's' not 'z'

In Ireland and England the convention in the written word is that 's' is used in preference to 'z'. Newspapers, journals and most books write 'organisation' and not 'organization'.

Yet it seems most 'church' 'clerical' written material goes for the 'z'.

What at all is it about 'religious' material that seems to have that amazing tendency to alienate the reader?

Dublin writers decide to leave out the apostrophe

One might wonder why no apostrophe. But there seems to be a tendency these days to leave it out in titles.

Looks better too without it?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 'that' and 'there' in today's Irish Examiner

From today's Irish Examiner.

"Environment Minister Phil Hogan has warned: 'People that don't pay, there water pressure will be turned down to a trickle....' ."

Are the errors those of Phil Hogan or the Irish Examiner?

A church free from risk of being concerned about itself

"Francis feels free to construct" a church that is, among other things, "at the service of this world by being faithful to Christ and his Gospel; free from all mundane spirituality; free from the risk of being concerned about itself, of becoming middle class, of closing in on itself, of being a clerical church; able to offer itself as an open space in which all can meet and recognise each other because there is space for dialogue, diversity and welcome in it."

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga talking in St Petersburg, Florida, US.

It sounds wonderful but what's to do when young men are being trained to a priesthood that represents qualities totally opposed to these aspirations?

Russia to celebrate victory of the Great Patriotic War

If Russia is to take any action in Eastern Ukraine surely it will be on Thursday/Friday.

On May 8/9 1945 in Karlshorst Marshal General Georgii Zhukov accepted the unconditional surrender of the German High Command. Keitel signed the 'Instrumment of Surrender' on behalf of Nazi Germany.

Anyone who has ever visited the museum at Karlshorst must feel for all the suffering that was inflicted on Russian citizens in the 20th century.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why do the poor pay so much more than the rich?

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

Michael Commane
I received notification from my television/broadband/telephone provider that they were increasing their monthly rates.

A few days passed and I decided to call them. You need plenty of free time and a good disposition before you phone any of these companies as calls can go on and on. Eventually I get through to a human voice and after the best part of 25 minutes of haggling a deal is struck. Guess what? I end up with a new contract lasting for a year that works out cheaper than what I was paying for the previous 12 months. It’s a great feeling of victory.

I was telling my story to a colleague, and he told me he had done something similar with his electricity provider.

I was back on the phone, again, that interminable wait and all those prompts that eventually might lead you to a human voice. Great, I’m through again and after five or six minutes I manage to get a two per cent and six per cent cut on my bills. The deal will last a year.

Did you know that when you do these sorts of deals they usually run out at the end of a year and you then go back to paying top dollar. The facilities don’t inform you that the deal is over and that you are back paying full rates. It’s up to you to get on to them.

Okay we might be talking small sums of money: two percent on a €70 two-monthly electricity bill works out at a saving of €8.40 in the year.

Every cent matters and people with large electricity and gas bills can save a significant sum of money. But if a phone call from an insignificant customer can save a few cent what at all must it be like for the big consumers?

This sort of haggling and the possibility of one person haggling better than another does lead one into a very strange world indeed. Take for instance what Oliver Tatton is doing with his 'Big Switch' operation. He goes along to a utility tells them he has 40,000 customers, so he buys power from the utility cheaper, the customer pays less and Oliver Tatton takes a cut.

You might well ask is there need for a middle man, why can't the utility companies sell their product at a universal price. And then there is the pre-pay scheme whereby a company installs a meter, which allows the customer to pay as they go. They pay a small fee for the meter but pay top dollar for their electricity or gas usage. And here too the middle man charges the customer one price for gas or electricity but buys it from the utility at a cheaper rate. Of course the people who avail of this system are those with the least disposable income.

Is there not something terribly wrong with a system that always and ever treats those with money and power in a preferential way to those who are struggling and on the margins? There are deeper issues as well about the use of fossil fuels and our environment and the morality/ethics of how we relate to the goods of the world.

I for one, don't hear too many people from the churches talk out loudly and vociferously on these issues. They seem to hold their fire for other matters. When have you last seen large groups of church followers criticising or condemning how we are damaging our environment and in so doing making sure the poorest of the poor pay far more than the rich and powerful?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Different aspects of the universal Catholic Church

Franz Lackner, the new Archbishop of Salzburg in an interview with the  'Salzburger Nachrichten' said he 'totally agreed' with Cardinal Walter Kasper that a way must be found for remarried divorcess to make a new start in the church.

It's of course good news. But one is forced to think of the tyranny that was and is enforced on people who had remarried.

More good news. The president of the bishops' conference in France, George Pontier has said that French Catholics should remain open to dialogue and political engagement in a society that is no longer based on Christian values, rather than retreat into narrowly focused factions.

"It's become difficult to have Chrisitans step back and enter into a dialogue with others, to have them accept that we don't have the whole truth, to have them understand that, by oneself, one cannot reach the full understanding of all things.

"We also have to look into the question of social networks to see what we are doing with them and they are doing with us, in which way they serve us and in which way they alienate or confiscate our freedom.

"What's new is the emergence of these lobbies, their effectiveness, their immediacy, the irrationality of their reactions, the dramatisation of debates," Archbishop Potier said.

It's unfortunate that 'The Tablet' has parted company with Robert Mickens.

The piece below appears in the May issue of 'Connect' an Irish Dominican newsletter.

A shrine to St Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary from Lourdes, has been opened at our church in Drogheda with a full size replica of the incorrupt body of the saint. Large numbers of the faithful have already been attracted to pray at the shrine, over 3,500 at the last count.
Dominican Connect was told that it looks like the interest is set to continue to be substantial over the coming summer months. Opening hours will be Monday to Saturday 10:30 am to 5:00pm. The shrine is closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Schools or groups are invited and should contact Rita on 087- 3371938 for more details. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fleas winners of wars

"The only winners of a war are the fleas. We fatten them with our flesh"

A German Lieutenant the day before the beginning of the battle at Kursk. Probably the most decisive tank battle of World War ll, which proved a stunning victory for the Soviet Army.

Sixty nine years ago this week the 'Instrument of Surrender' was signed in Reims and in Karlshorst.

In Reims on May 8, 1945 Generals Smith and Jodl signed.  At Soviet HQ on May 9 (Russian time) in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst, Field Marshal General Georgii Zhukov accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.

Anyone who travels from Berlin Schönefled Airport to Berlin City Centre on the regional train will pass Karlshorst Station.

From 1945 until the unification of Germany a ceremonial guard of Soviet soldiers stood at the main entrance to the museum at Karlshorst  After the unification they were replaced by troops of the Bundeswehr. Today there are no soldiers at the historic site.

The room where the signing took place has been preserved as it was on May 8/9 1945, down to the seating arrangement.

Jodl and Keitel were executed after Nürnberg. In 1953 a German Court overturned the main charges against Jodl and his confiscated property was returned to hie wife.

Archbishop of Liverpool admits marriage has changed

On BBC Radio 4 this morning the Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon said: "Marriage has changed".

He went on to say that people will be disappointed if they don't see change as a result of the upcoming synod, indeed if there is not a general sense of change in the months ahead.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lead bound in Rathgar

No walk for Tess in the Wicklow Mountains today.

Not good.

Der Spiegel's latest translation for hassle

Prämienpanne: Shell entfacht Shitstorm mit verpatzter Treuepunkte-Aktion

A Spiegel headline and you don't need to know any German to spot the new English German word

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Khrushchev has words for an American president

Sixty nine years ago today the Russian Army took Berlin.

General Weidling surrendered to Soviet General Chuikov.

And this evening the Russian Army hovers   on the Ukrainian border. There have been riots in the western city of Odessa and in the east Donetsk is no longer under the control of Kiev.

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at the New School University in New York and granddaughter of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, wrote in the Irish Examiner on Tuesday, April 29: "Obama may insist that Russia is nothing more than a regional power. But wishfully limiting Moscow's influence doesn't make Moscow less capable of wreaking havoc around the word."

A swan and her eggs

A swan and her eggs at Rathfarnham Bridge today.

Last year the fox got them.

Here's hoping

Archbishop Martin speaks on pluralism and 'elitism'

Speaking to Catholic school managers, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said:

"Plualism is something we should welcome but there is a tendency in some circles to use the name pluralism  to opt out of pluralism and keep away from schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children.

"Pluralism should not produce negative rivalry or antagonism."

But what about all those fee-paying schools run by religious congregations, Belvedere, Gonzaga, Newbridge, Clongowes, Blackrock?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Phibsborough Festival launch this evening

phizzfest kicks off today.

The Phibsborough Festival opens this evening with poet Paula Meehan launching the five-day art blitz in St Peter's Church Phibsborough at

This will be followed by a performance of the  Offbeat Ensemble, which is a late-starters string orchestra.

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