Monday, June 30, 2014

Leipzig pastor dies

Christian Führer has died. He was the pastor at the St Nikolai church in Leipzig.

It was in that church that large numbers met and prayed on Monday evenings 1989 in protest against the SED government and in particular to the generally held belief that fraud had taken place in a state-wide election.

After Monday church services the congregation regularly  processed peacefully in the city.

The local government in Leipzig had pleaded with Berlin to send in troops. Berlin vacillated.

The rest is history.

Algeria addles Germany

Half time in the German Algeria game in Porto Alegre and the Germans are being addled.

German commentator  talks about necessity of radical changes in second half and how chaotic the German defence has been.

Algerians deserve to be in the lead. Score stands nil all.

Remembering Malachy Jeremiah O'Dwyer OP

The letter below appears in today's Irish Times.
Sir, – Last Monday’s Irish Times carried an appreciation of Dominican priest Malachy O’Dwyer.
On the day of its appearance it was brought to my attention that Malachy, who had written his doctoral thesis in Latin in canon law, never completed secondary school. On the early death of his father he left school at a young age to support the family.
He worked in a builders’ providers and did his Leaving Cert at night in a one-classroom school, all grades together with one teacher. Malachy often recalled to friends how excellent the teacher was.
A man in Paraná in Argentina, talking about Malachy, 30 years after first encountering him, remembers how well he preached: “Short, full of content and obviously well prepared”.
My late father always sat up in the seat when he saw Malachy come out to celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Priory, Tallaght, in the 1970s. He knew he was in for some wise words, well crafted.
When Malachy was asked to go to India he was somewhat reluctant as he would much prefer to have gone back to Argentina. He went to India, helped reestablish the Dominicans in the country and made it his new home. – Yours, etc,
Orwell Gardens,
Dublin 14.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Magnificent views on the Wicklow mountains

Tess close to the top of Seahan today. She walked a fabulous loop, Up from the road to Seahan, to Corrig Mountain, Seefingen and then to Seefin. And on such a glorious summer Sunday.

Hardly a soul on the mountain.

Many walkers say that west Wicklow is far less walked than east Wicklow because the motorway and the N11 make east Wicklow far more accessible, yet west Wicklow is so close to large areas of south and west Dublin.

It was possible today to see the Blessington Lakes and the sea in the one view.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The flying footballing baker from Baden-Württemberg

He was born in Gingen an der Fils in Baden Württemberg, in southern Germany. As a nine-year-old toddler he scored 16 goals in a 20 - 0 game against a neighbouring town.

By trade he is a baker, has a helicopter permit.

When playing home games for Spurs he drove to and from the grounds in his VW Beetle.

He played for Germany and managed the national team. His assistant was Joachim Löw.

These days Jürgen Klinsmann manages the US national soccer team, which have made it to the last 16 in Brazil.

A view in the hills

What's to be seen between Killakee and Glencree on the Dublin Wicklow border.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Arthur Miller's 'The Price' runs at Dublin's Gate Theatre

Athur Miller's 'The Price' is running at Dublin's Gate.

Miller was born in Manhattan in 1915. His father was a manufacturer of ladies' coats. When Miller was 14 the stock market crashed. His father's business did not go under but close to it.

The young boy had to leave school early but later went back to college and studied journalism.

'The Price' opened on Broadway in 1968. It is about the tangled memories of two brothers. One goes to college and becomes a doctor, the other, who is also gifted, stays home to care for his father and becomes a New York cop.

There are hints of the Vietnam war and the avant garde plays of the day in the work.

The play recalls events that happened 40 years earlier and yet the hurt and sadness is still alive and real in the minds and hearts of the two brothers.

The catalyst for the reopening of old dormant wounds is the selling of the family furniture - 16 years after their father had died.

In 1953 Miller was cited for contempt of Congress. This followed his controversial play 'The Crucible'.

He died in February 2005, aged 89.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guardian journalists write about Rebekah Brooks

Yesterday's Guardian newspaper carried a profile of Rebekah Brooks. It is written by Lisa O'Carroll and Nick Davies. Ms O'Carroll is an Irish journalist - from the west of Ireland.

The two-page spread makes for sensational reading. Below is a paragraph from the article.

"Brooks is almost indefinable – a contemporary shapeshifter, light and dark, adored and loathed. One moment, she is charming her way through life, the perfect party girl with her cheek and charm, taking Sun reporters to the annual love-in with their readers at an old Butlins holiday camp, chatting to the lady who serves the coffee in the Old Bailey canteen. Feminist journalists from the Guardian forgave her Page 3 and took her in as a friend when she joined the leadership of the Women in Journalism group. The next moment, she was Lady Macbeth with a BlackBerry, a model of cold ambition, a hate figure with her face portrayed as a witch in the window of a supermarket near the News International building in east London."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Irish Jesuit website is a beacon in a fog of awfulness

Religious congregations and dioceses in Ireland would be strongly advised to check out Irish Jesuit Communications website.

It's so far removed from the  substandard of so many 'church' websites. Most of them so poorly done and vehicles of crass propaganda, mixed with pious nonsense.

And so many of them are so out of date. They are online statements of the laziness and sloppiness of so much that goes on in the institutional church.

Irish spend a staggering €50 million a week on alcohol

The population of Ireland is 4.59 million. 2.48 million drink alcohol. 1.34 million or 54 per cent drink harmfully and 177,000 are dependent drinkers.

It is estimated that €50 million is spent on alcohol every week in Ireland, though this figure is probably lower than the actual amount.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stealing and robbing comes in many shapes and forms

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

Michael Commane
On Wednesday of last week I noticed there was a kerfuffle at a colleague’s desk. The young woman is relatively new in the office. It turned out that her computer had been stolen from her apartment in Dublin.

Naturally she was upset. She uses her computer for her work so there was years of work on the machine. Fortunately she had all the material backed up. When she was leaving the office later in the day she told me that she was nervous staying in the apartment that night and then she explained to me how she usually is very careful with her computer but that particular day she had left the house in a hurry and the computer was on her desk. She had not got it insured.

And by coincidence the man who sits in front of her, the previous day walked into the office with the lock of his bicycle broken. Someone had stolen his bicycle. But he was not too upset as he explained it was not expensive.

Some weeks ago I wrote in this column about catching a chap walking away with the wheel of my bicycle.

Over the last few weeks there have been stories in the newspapers about gangs of professional thieves flying into Ireland to ply their trade. It’s high season for pickpockets and of course we have a fair share of our own home-grown indigenous thieves and burglars.

How often do you do a ‘security check’ when you are out and about to make sure that your wallet, phone and whatever other valuables you have are still in the pocket or bag in which you placed them? If you think about it, isn’t it shocking that we now consider petty thieving and burglaries as inevitable, run-of-the-mill sort of thing.

You should make sure that you have all your property adequately insured and that includes phones, computers and bicycles. You should be able to insure these items on your house insurance and if the insurance company gives you hassle, then haggle with them or move to another company.

A neighbour left a top window open, an opportunist burglar saw it, climbed up the drainpipe and in he popped. The moral of the story is never make it easy for them.

On Thursday Gardaí put 70 pieces of artwork on display, which they believe were stolen over the past 40 years. Forty-three of the artworks are paintings valued at over €100,000. Beside the monetary value of those works imagine the heirlooms they were, the stories associated with them.

The day after my work colleague had her computer stolen a man told me that some weeks ago he had lost his wallet, someone found it and returned it to him with everything in it.

Is everything dependent on our situation? Are some people simply good and others bad?
The world is made up of all sorts. What is it that makes someone so callous as to cause another person such pain and upset?

Is it just the way of the world or is there more to it than that?

The person who stole my colleague’s computer most likely has it sold on by now.
How come that the majority of people in our prisons have poor education and come from dysfunctional backgrounds?

Are they just the ones stupid enough to be caught?

If you think about it, stealing and robbing comes in so many shapes and forms. Some highly sophisticated and then the run of the mill stuff.

But hurt is always caused and the community is damaged.

How clean are any of us?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Malachy O'Dwyer OP

The piece below appers in today's Irish Times. It is an appreciation of Malachy O'Dwyer OP, who died on Friday, June 13 in Dublin.

Michael Commane
Malachy O’Dwyer, baptised Jeremiah, was born in Dublin in 1932 and attended CBS O’Connell Secondary School. He joined the Dominicans in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1960 after which he moved to Rome where he studied canon law.

He taught canon law in Argentina, and at the Dominican house of studies in Tallaght. He taught theology in Nagpur in India.

A former student remarked that Malachy made it his business to know the name of every person he taught.

When Malachy made a decision he was firm. His yes meant a real yes and no meant a real no. If it was no, it was difficult for him to change his stance.

On hearing the news of Malachy’s death the community at Santa Sabina in Rome prayed for him the next day at Mass. The Gospel ended with the line: “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more is from the evil one. (Matthew: 5:37)

Malachy was always punctual. He would stop a meeting in mid-sentence if the time was up, to the relief of many.

He played a major role in re-establishing the Dominican Order in India in the 1980s.

He learnt to assimilate himself in the country and greatly enjoyed Indian food. He learnt the local language Hindi in a short time. He wrote his doctoral thesis in canon law in Latin.

Malachy was appointed procurator general of the Order in 1989. The procurator’s job is to liaise between the Order and the Vatican. Malachy was the perfect link man.

Many Dominicans, who left the Order, speak highly of how Malachy dealt so deftly with their laicisation process.

English Dominican and a former Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe says of Malachy: “He taught me the importance of trusting in the brothers, even when they made mistakes. He showed me that the constitutions were vital for the life of the Order and even, to my surprise, that canon law is filled with wisdom and beautiful theology. He was a great Dominican, and a wonderful Christian.”

A Dominican who later left the Order said about Malachy on hearing of his death: “I see him as being kind of eternal, always centred and radiating all that’s good in life, so I’m struggling to come to terms with his death. I pray to him that he may share some of his peace with me.

He had eclectic tastes and hobbies. He was well versed in English literature, made a large proportion of the furniture for the extension to the Dominican Priory in Tallaght, which was completed in 1957.

He was also a great walker. While living in Santa Sabina in Rome he regularly walked the perimeter of the old walls of the city, which is approximately 40 kilometres.

Malachy had a wonderful ability and great sense to use his knowledge, his faith, his understanding of theology and canon law to help people on their journey in life. He genuinely believed in the quality and aspirations of other people and he made no exceptions.

He died on Friday, June 13 in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin after a long illness, having returned from India just six weeks earlier.

He is survived by his sisters, Rita Kelly, Kitty Kelly and Betty McCorry, and predeceased by Nancy Brooks.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Muslims, Christians and Jews build together in Berlin

Muslims, Christians and Jews have come together in Berlin to construct a building, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue.

The building will be built on the site of the oldest church in Berlin, which was demolished by the government of the former German Democratic Republic.

And this in the city where the Holocaust was planned.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Real lessons learned on the 'Bread of Life' in Zambia

The piece below is today's Thinking Anew column in 'The Irish Times'

Michael Commane
On Friday May 30 sometime around 10 o'clock in the morning I met Mushimbei Mwendabai selling eggs and a few vegetables at her makeshift stall at Malengna on the outskirts of Mongu.

Mongu is a town in western Zambia approximately 600 kilometres west of the Zambian capital Lusaka.

I work as a press officer for Concern Worldwide and this was my first time to see first hand some of the work the agency is doing.

Western Zambia is the poorest part of the country and that's why Concern is there.

Zambia is approximately 10 times the size of Ireland though with a population of just 13 million. The average life expectancy is 48.

Mushimbei is a young woman probably in her early 30s. She has two children, aged 11 and four. She lives near her stall.

Before she became part of the Concern programme she was living in a fallen-down shack and her older child was not at school.

"I was chosen by Concern because I did not have enough money to send my child to school. Today my older child is at school, I can afford this now with the profit I make here.

"Yesterday I sold 20 eggs and I'm learning to do business," she tells me through an interpreter.

Mushimbei, with her 13-month-old daughter in her arms, goes on to explain that before she joined the Concern programme she just had one meal a day. She now manages to eat twice daily.

"Concern really has helped us change our lives. I hope soon to start selling fish. I am now actually able to save and am doing things for myself," Mushimbei explains.

Mushimbei is one of a number of people who is part of a Concern programme that is specifically designed to bring people out of poverty so that they can fend for themselves. It means she and others receive a small monthly supplement to support them. Mushimbei receives through a bank transfer 30 Kwachas a month, which is just a little over €3.

In tomorrow's Gospel Jesus tells us: "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I shall give is my flesh and I will give it for the life of the world." (John 6: 51)

Every Sunday around the world Christians break bread in commemoration of the life and death of Jesus. Jesus right through his ministry stressed the importance of solidarity with the poor and marginalised.

In order that our breaking of bread makes any sort of sense surely our eyes have to be focused on those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Indeed, poverty is often seen as something relative. We all have a different understanding of the meaning of the word. People in Ireland who are unemployed and are experiencing negative equity on their homes are certainly poor, people who are forced to depend on agencies such as the St Vincent de Paul are in a place not worthy of human dignity. And as a nation, we have a responsibility to see to it that there is a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth and assets.

But that morning I was in Mongu it brought home to me in as real a way as it gets that there is something terribly wrong in our world.

Mushimbei is beginning to manage, she is coming out of extreme poverty. But what about the billion people on our planet who have not enough food to eat?

Is it really possible to talk in nice theological terms about the 'Bread of Life' while turning a blind eye to the suffering of so many people in the world?

While in Mongu I met a young man from Dublin. He is doing a remarkable job. We never discussed 'faith issues'. There was no need.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Westerwelle has cancer

The former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has been diagnosed with a severe form of leukaemia.

He is a former leader of the FDP party. In the last Federal election the liberal party fell below five per cent and so lost their parliamentary mandate.

UN supremo says society is numb to human suffering

John Ging Director of the Coordination and Response Division at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York, Kevin Kelly, Director, Emergency and Recovery at Irish Aid and Judith Randel, Executive Director at Development Initiatives were speakers this afternoon at Concern Worldwide conference at University College Dublin. Today is World Refugee Day.

"If I go home and talk to my mother about 'Gender Based Violence' she continues to eat her Corn Flakes but if I tell her about the rapes that are perpetrated in areas of conflict she immediately stops eating her flakes, " Mr Ging was stressing the importance of NGOs using a language that is easily understandable.

In a wide-ranging talk, he pointed out how the rights of people are not being upheld and that UN member states are not sufficiently committed  to supporting the developing world.

Mr Ging asked how best to get the world's leading states to help. He said that if there is not political priority there is not a funding priority.

He also asked why society is right now so numb to human suffering.

Assange two years holed up in Ecuadorian embassy

Two years ago yesterday Julain Assange walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been permanently confined to an apartment at the embassy.

As a result of WikiLeaks millions of ordinary people have become aware of the society in which we live.

That's why Assange has been accused of causing so much harm.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vincent Twomey tries to make victims of the clergy

Vincent Twomey in an article in today's Irish Times concludes:

"In the meantime, we need to recover one of the most important values we inherited from the UK: the importance of the presumption of innocence before possibly being found guilty by due process. As far as Irish Catholic clergy and religious are concerned, that presumption no longer holds today and will not change tomorrow."

If any  member of the 'Irish Catholic clergy and religious' believe they have been libelled or slandered they have recourse to the Irish Courts.

It's another attempt at turning the 'Irish Catholic clergy and religious' into the victim.

NSA HQ based near Darmstadt in Germany

On March 10, 2004, two US generals -- Richard J. Quirk III of the NSA and John Kimmons, who was the US Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence -- finalised an agreement to establish an operations centre in Germany, the European Security Centre (ESC), to be located on US Army property in Griesheim near Darmstadt. That centre is now the NSA's most important listening station in Europe.

The NSA had already dispatched an initial team to southern Germany in early 2003. The agency stationed a half-dozen analysts at its European headquarters in Stuttgart's Vaihingen neighbourhood, where their work focused largely on North Africa. 

The analysts' aims, according to internal documents, included providing support to African governments in securing borders and ensuring that they didn't offer safe havens to terrorist organizations or their accomplices.

The work quickly bore fruit. It became increasingly easy to track the movements of suspicious persons in Mali, Mauritania and Algeria through the surveillance of satellite telephones. 

NSA workers passed information on to the US military's European Command, with some also being shared with individual governments in Africa. A US government document states that the intelligence insights have "been responsible for the capture or kill of over 40 terrorists and has helped achieve GWOT (Global War on Terror) and regional policy successes in Africa."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

US executions

Executions have taken place in the last 24 hours in the United States of America. A barbaric method of 'justice'. Fortunately the death penalty is prohibited within the European Union.

Has there been a word from any pro-life group on the killings?

Pope Francis has spoken publically against the use of the death penalty. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops launched the Catholic Campaign to End the Death Penalty in 2005.

Dunphy on and off TV

Eamon Dunphy on RTE last evening.

And then the follow up.

What is it at all about 'bad language'?

I never heard my father use a foul or vulgar word and he was the gentlest of men.

Is there something about Eamon Dunphy's apology that gives us an insight into the 'sham' of our society?

Does anything ever change?

Weather warnings for Ireland

RTE Radio this morning issued a weather warning for all of Ireland. Temperatures are to rise to 28 degrees Celsius. The weather warning is in place until 19.00.

But it is a  glorious morning in Dublin and right across the land. One of those days that come this way maybe six or seven times and not every year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Major TV stations using smart phones to tell the story

Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend a seminar on communications at the UCD Campus.

Among those who contributed to the day were journalist Charlie Bird, Shona Murray from Newstalk and Glen Mulcahy from RTE.

Glen Mulcahy gave a 45-minute talk on the use of modern technology. He explained how smart phones are now being used by CNN, BBC, UTV, ARD and RTE to make clips for news programmes.

He had some interesting snippets of information: one hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Glen showed a short video clip of last year's flooding in England, which was made, edited and sent from a smart phone. The journalist's camera was damaged in the flooding and he had to improvise using his smart phone.

Charlie Bird stressed the importance of quality and truth. And he pointed out that any time a person is being interviewed a guiding principle should be, "what would your mammy tell you to do".

Monday, June 16, 2014

A personal reaction to the death of Malachy O'Dwyer

Below is the response from someone on hearing of the death of Malachy O'Dwyer.

It says so much about Malachy.

Thanks for letting me know about Malachy O' Dwyer. I have a concept of Malachy as being kind of eternal, always centred and radiating all that's good in life, so I'm struggling to come to terms with his death.

The last time I saw him, I think was in Rome. I called into San Clemente and he gave me a warm welcome.

I am sad to hear the news. I pray that he may rest in peace and indeed pray to him that he may share some of his peace with me.

Good bye Malachy

May you rest in peace and have your eternal reward

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Der Spiegel reports 200 US spies working in Germany

According to the current issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel there are 200 so-called US diplomats in Germany working as spies.

The magazine goes on to point out that the NSA works in far greater cooperation with the German secret service, BND, than has previously been acknowledged.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dominican priest Malachy O'Dwyer dies in Dublin

Malachy O'Dwyer, a former member of the Irish province of the Dominican Order, died in Beaumont Hospital on Friday afternoon.

Malachy was one of the shining lights of the Irish Dominican Province.

He was born in Dublin in May 1932. He joined the Irish Dominicans in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1960 after which he studied canon law in Rome.

Malachy taught canon law in Tallaght in the early 1970s. His classes were never about the dos and don'ts of law but rather an attempt at linking church rules with the spirit of the Gospel. He was a kind teacher without a shred of any airs or graces.

An interesting and intelligent preacher of the Gospel too, whose words were greatly appreciated by those who came to Mass in Tallaght in the early 1970s.

Malachy was prior in Newbridge but it probably didn't suit him. Before that he had worked in Argentina. Before moving to Parana he attended a language school in Lima with Peter Collins.

He served as socius to Flannan Hynes when Flannan was provincial and was also responsible for ongoing formation in the province.

The Irish Dominicans ran a seminary in India and in 1979 Malachy moved to Asia where he was to spend the greater part of the rest of his life. There was an interval of six years when he was the Order's procurator general in Rome. In that job he liaised between the Vatican and the Order.

Many Dominicans, who left the Order, speak highly of how Malachy dealt so deftly with their laicisation process. Indeed, only earlier this year he was advising a former Irish Dominican how best to apply for laicisation.

Late last year, at which time he was a sick man, he was more than willing to help a young Irish student who was cycling from Dublin to India.

After some years in India Malachy transferred to the Indian province.

I visited Malachy in Beaumont Hospital on Monday. It was clear he was in the last days of his life. It seemed most odd, at least to me, that Malachy was sitting out on a chair, though he was asleep with his head hanging forward.

Malachy O'Dwyer was an especially kind man, a gentle man, who was genuinely interested in people.

His funeral Mass is in the Dominican Priory, Tallaght at 14.00 on Tuesday.

Fr Prakash Lohale of the Province of India and socius to the Master of the Order for the apostolic life will preach at the funeral Mass.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Peter McVerry talks about the spirit of Dickens

Peter McVerry writes a column in today's Irish Times. Below is a paragraph from the piece.

"And how do you drain all compassion from the public services? By removing the decision-making as far as possible from the client so the hardship and tears that result will not influence the decision-making process. Compassion cannot be allowed to interfere with the budgetary arithmetic. Nobody (I hope) could look a parent in the eye and tell them that their medical card has been withdrawn. So you get people to fill out forms and send them to an anonymous person who informs them of the bad news by letter. To add to the pain, the Department of Health then announces that the same budgetary arithmetic is able to give medical cards to healthy children in wealthy families."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monica Malundu walks 12 kilometres a day for water

Below is a talk given to the Concern staff in Dublin on Wednesday, June 11 on my visit at the end of May to Zambia.

Hello and you are welcome here this afternoon. This day two weeks ago I was in Western Zambia. It has been a life-changing experience. Every morning since I have returned from Zambia I have watched the water run from the tap into the hand basin and down the drain as I washed my teeth.

Concern is in Zambia since 2001 when we went there in response to a food crisis. This year we are spending €2.2 million in the country

In Mumbwa District we visited a village where Concern is working. Before we got up to leave we had a short question and answer session. I asked Monica Malundu what she would most like to have in life. “Water,” she said spontaneously.

Monica can do two round trips of six kilometres a day to get water for her family.

I got into the car and while driving on to Kaoma, passing people carrying water I was thinking of Monica’s answer to me.

But these days I’m watching the water we so much take for granted. How much water did you waste yesterday? How much food did we waste yesterday? How much food is thrown from fridge to bin.

I have no problem at all saying I have no answers to anything. But after my week in Zambia I keep thinking of the fortune of being born somewhere and the misfortune of being born somewhere else. Bono once said “Where you live should not determine whether you live.”

I stared into the eyes of beautiful children and wondered why. But every time I did that I also realised the amazing work that Concern is doing in Zambia.

Zambia is a large country. 753,000 Sq KM. Ireland is circa 84,000 Sq Km yet the population is only 13.5 million. Life expectancy is 49

English woman Danny Harvey runs the Concern operation from Lusaka. She remembered me from working here. Seemingly we often greeted each other at the bicycle rack. Typical of me I have no recollection of our close encounters.

Approximately 60 people work for us in Zambia.

We were sort of a VIP team, Frances O’Keeffe, Evanna Barry, who has just retired after 20 years on Council. She worked in Bangladesh in the early 1970s, Dominic MacSorley and representing the hoi polloi, myself. People often think the hoi polloi are the upper class, no, the plebs.

I was promised before leaving Dublin that I was going with the dream team, well almost. It was a great insight and also perfect advice.

I was told I would not be slumming it. True too. But I was greatly impressed with the accommodation we used. It was adequate, fine and no Radisons or Intercontinentals.

The work ethic of the chairperson and CEO is really spectacular. I have a fair good energy level but in Zambia I often found myself running fast to keep up with Frances and Dominic. And those of you who know me would never call me a sycophant.

We drove from Lusaka to Mongu with an overnight stop in Kaoma. The road from Lusaka to Mongu is a straight line for 600 kms built by the Dutch in 2005.

We visited Concern programmes in Kaoma. It was here I met village elder James Nsuuma.

He welcomed us in his native language Sala, and Annie Nyiremda translated. Annie works for a Concern partner. She is married and has two children. Her husband works with the Zambian forestry and part of his job is to protect trees being felled for charcoal purposes. All along the road from Lusaka to Mongu I saw felled timber for charcoal use.

James is the headman for 25 families and he in turn reports to a chieftain. His job entails implementing government policy in the village. “I have to make sure that there are no rapes or instances of child abuse. That is the most recent instruction I have received from the Government in Lusaka,” he said.

Innovative and exciting are the two words I’d use about the Concern programme in this village.

It is centred around helping pregnant and lactating women and children up to two years of age. The focus is on the nutrition of the mother from conception until the child reaches its second birthday. You all know that’s the 1000 Days concept.

On one occasion I caught Frances O’Keeffe asking the age of a child. She was told he was 10. He looked more like five. A clear example of stunting and of course but for Frances’ sharp eye I would never have spotted it.

It really is a brilliant programme to help in the fight against malnutrition and such a clever idea. It means the local people are cultivating all sorts of new crops with high nutritional value. At first many of the men were sceptical about the programme but now that they are seeing the results they are being won over.

Families are growing these seeds on small areas of land. I saw mbereshi, which is an iron enriched bean, soya beans and pumpkin seeds. I also saw orange fleshed sweet potatoes which have more vitamin A. Most of these are new to the area.

The programme, which is called RAIN - Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition - a long handle but is saying exactly what’s on the tin, is funded by Irish AID and the Kerry Group and of course the Irish public. I wish Concern would try to use fewer acronyms. They really are off putting. But that’s I looking at things as a journalist.

The next time you see a Kerry truck, fry their sausages, eat their butter or drink their milk remember they are giving Concern €1.25 million over four years for this programme.
Indeed, today’s Kerryman carries a story on what Concern is doing in Zambia and how the work is being supported by the Kerry Group.

The villagers had a special programme prepared for us, which included dancing and a drama which explained how the initiative is improving life, and especially for women.

Accompanying us for the whole of our visit was Patrick McManus from the Irish Embassy. Patrick is head of development at the Embassy. He came to Mongu with us. It was his first time to see the Concern programmes supported by Irish Aid.

I sat in the back seat with Patrick for 600 kilometres from Mongu to Lusaka. I had never been so long in the back seat of a car. Actually I was dreading it but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable journeys I have ever undertaken.

Patrick worked for Concern in Belfast and Bangladesh and was country director in Haiti before moving to the Department of Foreign Affairs. In fact he set up the Haiti Concern operation in 1994. Kevin Byrne and Richard Dixon saw him off at the airport.

In Mongu we saw what the Concern Graduation programme is doing.

It targets people Concern believes can graduate out of poverty.

Some weeks ago Chris Pain gave an erudite talk on the workings of this programme.

I spoke to Mushimbei Mwendabai. Concern gives her 30 Kwachas a month - €3. It allows her build up a little head of steam, buy and sell her produce and send her older child to school. The money is transferred through a local bank.

Liam Kavanagh from Coolock works in Mongu. He is 28, did Development Studies in UCC and is a gem of a person. I asked him what he plans to do in the future. His reply – “Can’t see myself doing anything else”.

What a committed young man. Local people call him affectionately Mukavesa, meaning white man.

Liam is working on the graduation programme and keeps a close eye on those who are taking part in it.

The Herald in its national and city editions carried a story on him on Monday.

On our last day in Lusaka we were invited to the Irish Embassy and Ambassador Finbar O’Brien, no not from Cork, as you might think, with a name like that, but Athlone, received us with open arms and we were lucky to arrive the morning we did as they were having a special coffee morning for homeless children. We had to walk round the garden bare foot. It actually suited me because I was on my last pair of socks.

The ambassador filled us in on the current political situation in the country and it was most informative.

When I landed back in Dublin I made a promise that I would challenge anyone who would talk about Concern wasting money.

It was an incredible journey into the unknown.

I came home knowing so much more about what Concern is doing in far off Zambia.

I also came home a new man. Terribly proud to work here and to be Irish too.

Life changing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More church apology

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference last evening apologised "for hurt caused by the church" in terms of its role in society's "culture of isolation and social ostracising'" of unmarried mothers.

The Catholic Church has done a lot of apologising in recent years. And most of the apologising has been around issues that stem from the church's ideas, views and opinions on matters dealing with sexuality.

Surely there is a lesson to be learned.

Kerry Group gives €1.25 million to Zambian project

The story below appears in today's Kerryman newspaper.

Michael Commane
The next time I see a Kerry Co-op truck on the roads of Kerry, Cork or Limerick, my mind will race back to one of the most extraordinary weeks of my life.

Beginning in 2011 the Kerry Group is giving Concern Worldwide €1.25 million over five years for an agricultural project in Zambia.

The programme is called RAIN, Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition. And that’s exactly what the Kerry Group are supporting Concern to do.

Although I happen to be working in the press office of Concern in Dublin since 2005 this was my first time to see firsthand what the aid agency is doing on the ground. And I can assure you it is really amazing work.

Since returning from Zambia, every time I wash my teeth and watch the water coming out of the tap, into the hand basin and on into the drain I keep thinking of Monica Malundu.

I met Monica in Mumbwa, which is between the Zambian capital, Lusaka and Mongu in the west. When I worked at The Kerryman I did a series on villages in Kerry and would regularly ask people what their hopes and wishes were. The answers were always interesting. But when I ask Monica what she would like most of all she immediately said ‘water’. Monica walks 12 kilometres every day to get water for her family.

The Concern project is helping villagers grow crops that are nutrient rich and they are trying to teach the people the importance of a varied diet.

Many people told me that before the RAIN project was introduced in their village far more people were hungry. One woman told me that before RAIN she had to walk 20 kilometres to buy vegetables and now “we have them all here”, she smiles.

Concern has a staff of 50 in Zambia, including Liam Kavanagh from Dublin, who works in Mongu and English woman Danny Harvey, who is the country director and is based in Lusaka.

Along with the support that the Kerry Group gives Concern in Zambia, Accenture and Irish Aid also support the work.

Ireland has an embassy in Lusaka and on my short visit to the country I was invited to the embassy where the ambassador Finbar O’Brien welcomed me with open arms. The Irish Aid programme in Zambia is overseen by Patrick McManus from Derry, who is head of development at the embassy. Patrick travelled to Mongu with me and proved invaluable in introducing me to the work that Concern is doing.

It really has been a life-changing experience and I have been flabbergasted by the work Concern is doing in the country.

The villages where Concern is working are often 30 kilometres from a main road and getting to them was done in fear and trepidation. How the driver managed the dirt tracks was beyond me. How could I ever again complain about a Kerry pothole?

For me it was one of those occasions when I was so proud of being Irish, so proud of my links with Kerry. Since my return it has really dawned on me of the amazing work that Ireland is doing around the world.

A work colleague quipped that she hopes my visit will put a stop to all that "cynical stuff you write".

I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Irish.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Michael Harding gets it ever so wrong in today's column

Michael Harding's column in today's Irish Times is about priests and his memories of them.

His recollections are sparked off by meeting a man whom he thought was carrying a prayer book.

Michael Harding goes on to explain that the man is actually carrying a ledger and is reading ESB Network meters and then entering them into the ledger.

Is the body of Michael Harding's column as inaccurate as his 'ledger story'?

ESB Networks meter readers these days enter readings on a handheld digital device. It is a long time since ESB meter readers used paper and pencil to log readings.

The story of a fabulist.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Snowden has interesting news for Stern magazine

Whistleblower Edward Snowden warned in Moscow last week that unchecked collection and cross-referencing of digital data, from email messages to mobile phone mast signals, had made it easier to analyse, predict and influence human behaviour.

He told German weekly magazine Stern: "By linking data and analysing it, I don't just know when you went to bed, I also know with whom."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tess on top of Seefin

Tess on Seefin this afternoon.

Seefin lies on the Dublin Wicklow border, looking down on the Blessington Lakes and close to Kippure, probably a two-hour walk from top to top.

It's 621 metres above sea level.

This afternoon's hike involved experiencing all four seasons, heavy rain, cold, then cloud and eventually brilliant sunshine.

BBC Radio 4 replays news on Normandy landings

BBC Radio 4 on its Sunday morning programme read the news exactly as it was read on the Sunday after D-Day.

It made for great radio.

The bulletin constantly mentioned what the British Army, Navy and Airforce were doing but never mentioned a word about the other armies involved in the landings.

And they never used the word 'Germany' or 'Germans'. Instead, they kept referring to the 'enemy'.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Concern Zambian pictures

Below is a link to pictures taken in Zambia last week.

Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley, chairperson Frances O'Keeffe, retired board member Evanna Barry, and I, as press officer, visited Concern programmes in Zambia.

It was a life-changing experience. Concern, in co-operation with Irish Aid, is carrying out extraordinary work in Zambia.

Patrick McManus, Head of Development Aid at the Irish embassy in Lusaka, accompanied the Concern visitors to the agency's programmes in western Zambia.

"The Catholic Church has had another bad week"

Irish Times columnist Donald Clarke writes strong negative words today about the behaviour of the Catholic Church.

Elsewhere another journalist has criticised the Bon Secours Sisters for employing an upmarket PR firm to speak on their behalf.

Has anyone heard a word from any member of the Bon Secours congregation?

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was reported earlier during the week as saying that there are only two priests in the archdiocese under 40.

Not a word of editorial analysis on the style, thinking, theology and work ethic about priests in Ireland who are under 40.

The media, of its nature, always concentrates on the story after the horse has bolted.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Victor and vanquished join hands in Normandy today

The celebrations at Normandy today were a poignant reminder and  strong warning that Europe can never afford to go to war.

The Normandy campaign lasted 77 days.

President Barack Obama's grandfather arrived on these beaches six weeks after June 6, President Vladimir Putin was remembering the 27 million Red Army soldiers who lost their lives in World War ll.

Angela Merkel was present at the celebrations. It was the first time a German Chancellor took part in the D Day remembrance ceremony.

This is the last year the event will be celebrated.

The common theme and warning given by every veteran who spoke at the event was that young men and women must never have to go to war.

Allied Irish Bank ATMs give poor welcome to customers

AIB's ATMs greet customers in a number of languages including German.

Unfortunately, the bank misspells the German word for 'welcome'. Not terribly professional.

What else does AIB get wrong?

US Jesuit talks on RTE about his work with gangs in LA

Probably some of the best radio on RTE in a long time was aired this morning.

Gregory Boyle spoke about his work with gangs in LA.

He is in Ireland on a speaking tour. His own book is 'Tatoos on the Heart'.

Boyle is a Jesuit priest. In his early years as a Jesuit he was sent to Peru but got ill and had to return to the US.

"The poor in Peru had a privileged revelation for me," he said and he is now running a major operation in LA in the fight against gangs.

Gregory Boyle was on the Sean O'Rourke Show this morning circa 10.53 - if anyone wants to listen to him on the RTE Player.

He was a great example of what priests can do and another sign of the charism of the Jesuits.

No cliches, no pious nonsense. all about people and how people can be helped to realise their dignity, especially those who are weak and fragile.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

If Tuam is true then is it really time to close down?

In today's Irish Independent there is a story on the front page. The open two paragraphs run:

"The Archbishop of Tuam has told an order of nuns to engage with an examination of how 796 children died and were buried in a mass grave.

The remains of the youngsters were interred in a concrete septic tank in the grounds of a home in Tuam, run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours, between 1925 and 1961......."

It's becoming extremely difficult to stomach anymore of this.

Did some church 'official' say that everything must be seen in the context of the time?

Remarkable nonsense.

There is a cross on the gate leading into the field where the septic tank is.

The day the boats and planes began to start their engines

Seventy years ago today the first boats and planes began to inch out of their hidings to head for Normandy. Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the landings. From then on it was a race for Berlin. Eventually on April 25, 1945 the US and Soviet armies met on the Elbe at the German town of Torgau.

Today is the 15teh anniversary of the death of Dominican Bertrand Naughton, a giant in the Irish Dominican Province.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vincent Browne on the Labour Party and priests

In today's Irish Times columnist Vincent Browne writes a piece on the Labour Party and argues that the party really stands for nothing.


In the piece he alludes a number of times to the actions of 'Catholic priests'. He paints the picture of a right wing church. It sounds horrible. But 'on reflection', it's probably true, the Catholic Church has large numbers of ring wing elements to it.

What does one do when one finds oneself part of a right wing organisation and simply does not want to be associated with such a grouping?

And isn't it strange, as the Catholic Church goes on and on about it being on the side of those on the margins.

The life and times of its founder, Jesus?

It sure is a funny old world

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Witnessing first hand the generosity of Irish in Zambia

Earlier today a blog was posted on this site. It was posted in error. It was not the piece that appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers. The article below is what appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers. Apologies for the error.

Michael Commane
I'm writing this from Kaoma in Zambia. With the Concern team we left the capital Lusaka on Tuesday of last week and drove to Shamusunya village in Mumbwa District, which is approximately a two hour drive.

I have seen the pictures on the television but this was my first time to see for myself what Concern does.

It's been a long day. Hours of driving sitting in the back seat of a car. The main road from Lusaka to Mumbwa is as straight as a dye but once we left that road we were on dirt tracks. I was told they can be much worse. It would be difficult to imagine.

Village headman James Nsuuma welcomed us in his native language Sala, and Annie Nyiremda translated. Annie works for Concern. She is married and has two children. Her husband works with the Zambian forestry and part of his job is to protect trees being felled for charcoal purposes.

Innovative and exciting are the two words I'd use about the Concern programme in this village.
It is centred around helping pregnant and lactating women and children up to two years of age. The focus is on the nutrition of the mother from conception until the child reaches its second birthday.

It really is a brilliant programme and such a clever idea. It means the local people are cultivating all sorts of new crops with high nutritional value. At first many of the men were sceptical about the programme but now that they are seeing the results they are being won over.

Families are growing these seeds on small areas of land. I saw mbereshi, which is an iron enriched bean, soya beans and pumpkin seeds. I also saw orange fleshed sweet potatoes which have more vitamin A. Most of these are new to the area.

The programme, which is called RAIN - Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition - a long handle but is saying exactly what's on the tin, is funded by Irish AID and the Kerry Group and of course the Irish public.

The villagers had a special programme prepared for us, which included dancing and a drama which explained how the initiative is improving life, and especially for women.

I got chatting to James the village leader. He is 75. He is the headman for 25 families and he in turn reports to a chieftain. His job entails implementing government policy in the village. "I have to make sure that there are no rapes or instances of child abuse. That is the most recent instruction I have received from the Government in Lusaka," he said.

At every corner I have turned on this trip and seen the work that Concern is doing I keep saying to myself if only people back in Ireland could experience this and see the people who are benefitting.

Before we got up to leave we had a short question and answer session. I asked Monica Malundu what she would most like to have in life. "Water," she said spontaneously.

Monica can do two round trips of six kilometres a day to get water for her family.

I got into the car and while driving on to Kaoma, passing people carrying water I was thinking of Monica's answer to me.

But I was also thinking of the amazing generosity of the Irish people in the incredible work they are supporting in Zambia.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tess gets to the top of Scarr in the Wicklow mountains

Tess on the top of Scarr Mountain today. Scarr is in Wicklow and stands at 641 metres.

It was a perfect June day for the easy walk of 10.51 kilometres.

It must be one of the most beuatiful places on earth. But there are many of them and all over the world, on all continents.

Paul Anselm Hynes OP

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Irish Dominican Paul Hynes. Paul died in Dublin on June 1, 1985. He was 51.

There is a saying in the Order that all good Dominicans die in their 40s, at least so said the novice master, who was in the job in the mid 1960s. He is still alive.

Paul Hynes was one of the shining lights of the Dominicans in Ireland.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How our relationships help develop our own identity

German writer Daniel Kehlmann, who is now a popular read in Germany, writes in his novel 'Ruhm', or 'Fame' in English,  about different aspects of identity and how we are formed and influenced by those with whom we interact.

After evening Mass today in the Three Patrons in Rathgar two men came up to me and told me they had been to school in Nerwbridge, another man greeted me - we had been together in Synge Street and yet another man introduced himself by saying he was a classmate of Jim Roche,

Jim Roche joined the Dominicans circa 1962, probably the same year as John O'Gorman. John attended the North Monastery in Cork and Jim Roche probably Sullivan's Quay. John died in Limerick in November 2002.

Some weeks back this blog told the story of an Irish Dominican,who reminded the local bishop that he was not his barber. Well, the Dominican was Jim Roche.

Jim left priesthood and lived in the US and may now be living in Germany.

A fine fellow, one of those people the Dominicans could well do with today. Indeed, too, John O'Gorman is a terrible loss to the Irish Dominicans.

Kehlmann is saying something interesting.

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