Monday, July 28, 2014

Irish parliament discusses Middle East conflict

Recalling the Seanad to discuss the crisis in Gaza?

Looking at such an event from outside Ireland it sounds odd. Certainly it makes sense that the Irish parliament discuss world issues. But recalling the Seanad to talk about issues over which it has no control, seems, to say the least, a little odd.

Why not also discuss the problems in Ukraine, Syria, China, Iraq? Indeed, it would even make more sense to talk about the problem with ebola in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, where a number of Irish people are working.

Gospel is story of good news not an excuse for broadsides

Yesterday's Gospel was about finding a treasure. Why not preach on the treasure that every human being actually is?

Surely all words after the Gospel should be said in an attempt to explain the Gospel and to inspire  and vivify those present.

If members of other faiths are nervous about being criticised does that mean Christians too have to behave in a similar fashion?

At present it seems popular among some priests, bishops, archbishops and others in the Catholic Church to claim victimhood status.

Such behaviour is not worthy of the Christian woman or man.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Laws respecting Judaism, Islam and Christianity

Archbishop Michael Neary is reported to have said the following on Croagh Patrick today:

“Anyone who dishonours the faith of Israel, its image of God or its great figures must pay a fine. The same is true for anyone who insults the Koran and the convictions of Islam. But when it comes to Jesus Christ and that which is sacred to Christians there seems to be a different standard; freedom of expression knows no limits."
Can one be fined in Ireland for dishonouring the faith of Israel and can one also be fined in Ireland for insulting the Koran?

Are there different laws in Ireland protecting the three great faiths?

Easy to see why Fallada decided to live in Carwitz

Anyone who has read any of Hans Fallada's books should, if ever in Germany, visit the house where he was happiest.

Rudolf Ditzen, his real name, lived from 1933 until 1945 in Carwitz, which is approximately 150 kilometres north of Berlin in east Mecklenburg.

It is a tiny village surrounded by Lake Lucien. His family home is now a museum.

Fallada managed to stay out of serious trouble with the nazis, Russians and then the East German Communists. They all were nervous and sceptical about him but he survived, more or less.

But in the end it was the morphine that got him. He smoked 100 cigarettes a day, abused alcohol and was a drug addict. He had one or two other issues too.

The key to success?

An extraordinary writer. In all his works one gets the impression that Fallada is talking directly to the reader.

A quote from 'Iron Gustav": “When you get old, you begin to ask yourself: why have you actually lived? What have you achieved?”

And the drive between Berlin and Carwitz brings one close to Templin, where another famous German was born. The town where Angela Merkel grew up and where her father was the pastor. Indeed, where she has a 'hideaway' today.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The size of a cobblestone to remember a brave man

Outside the hall door of the Dominican Priory in Oldenburger Strasse in Berlin is a small brass plate, embedded in the pavement. It reads:

"Here lived Fr. G. Norbert M. Kubiak OP, J6 1892, Dominican. Deported to Sachenhausen, murdered 20.4.1942."

Some years back, probably within the last ten, an artist came up with the idea of placing these small brass plates to remember those who were murdered by the Nazis.

The plates are dotted all over Germany but especially so in Berlin. They are placed outside the homes and shops where the Nazis came and removed people, they deemed undesireable.

It's just the size of a small cobblestone but tells a horrific story. It brings the story of evil so close.

Who was Fr. G. Norbert M. Kubiak OP?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Opposing factions make it a tense day on Berlin's streets

On the last Friday of Ramadan there is a demonstration every year in Berlin.

Last week in the city demonstrators carried banners, which were deemed offensive to the Jewish community. As a result police authorities have come under criticism for allowing the banners.

Extra precaution is being taken today. It is forbidden to burn flags or effigies and the police will be accompanied by linguists to inform them of any texts or chants in Arabic, which are inflammatory.

The Berlin police have requested reinforcements from police forces in other federal states.

This year's parade is expected to attract large numbers because of the current Israel Palestine conflict.

The Jewish community in Berlin is also planning to demonstrate against 'the biggest antisemitic demonstration in Germany'. at the same time and also on Ku'damm.

And then there are various factions, the Sunni community, the Shiites.And then the 'middle ground' that is opposed to Israel's 'aggression' in Gaza.

The demo is due to begin at 14.30 and finish at 18.30. The Jewish demonstration begins at 13.00

It's complicated but also terribly nasty.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Repair work on new Berlin rail station to cost €25m

On Tuesday this blog reported on how German Rail is rebuilding carriages so as to save money and went on to suggest Irish Rail might follow suit.

But not everything is perfect at the German rail company.

The world famous main rail station, that was opened in Berlin in 2006 - to be ready for the World Cup, which was hosted in Germany that year with the final in Berlin - is not at all going to plan.

Wednesday's Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper shows a picture of the glass-domed station. Alas a number of the glass panes have broken  and been replaced with temporary sheets of timber.

The repair work that is to be undertaken at the main station is due to cost €25 million. And there will be no new glass panes manufactured before October.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Front page editorial in today's French Le Figaro

LE FIGARO - Editorial
by Étienne de Montety

Silence, We are Persecuting !

The Islamic State has declared war on the Christians of Mosul. Summoned to leave the "Caliphate" or to subject themselves to the "Infidel" tax, destined to popular revenge by this"N" - as in "Nazarene" - inscribed on their homes, the disciples of Jesus Christ, transformed in second-class citizens, will have no other choice soon than to "convert" or to perish by the sword...

The intolerance is not hidden anymore. It is claimed by the chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who makes himself called Ibrahim. A sinister irony: Ibrahim is the Arabic name of Abraham, the father of believers, who came from Iraq, under whose name the Muslims and Christians of the region should meet together and live in peace.

The Christians of Iraq were 1 million before the American intervention. They are no more than 400,000 now. With each wave of harassment, violence, persecutions, they take the path of exodus. One of these exiles, Joseph Fadelle, told in a book, "The Price to Pay" (Le Prix à payer), the dreadful fate reserved to his co-religionists for many years. With the installation of the "Caliphate", the threat is now clear: behold the enemy, Christianity!

Certainly, major voices rise up in indignation: for months Pope Francis has sounded the alarm and assured his brethren of his compassion. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has just condemned a "crime against humanity." Foreign offices are worried, and raise their tone. Then what? European public opinion, so eager for mobilizations, petitions, demonstrations of every kind... And in this case, nothing! Silence, we are persecuting...

Will we remain deaf for much longer?

In order to move us, a massacre must take place outside of the summer break? After the Tour de France? Before the great vacation crowds? Faced with the terrifying procession of horrors ,expulsions, murders in Mosul, will we only display our indifference? Christians or non-Christians, will we remain deaf for how long still before this terrible words of the Gospel resounding throughout the world: "If they remain silent, the stones will cry out!"

Forty years later recalling the wise words of Fr Paul Hynes

Over 40 years ago an Irish Dominican regularly spoke about the importance of Dominicans, especially young Dominicans, making sure to be gainfully employed.

At the time the Irish Dominicans had a number of men teaching in the Dominican-run school in Newbridge in Co Kildare. The late Fr Paul Hynes thought it a great place for a young Dominican to begin his pastoral life.

"It will give you the discipline of a nine-to-five job, five days a week. What else would you be doing but hanging about doing nothing," he would say with a sense of fun and anger in his voice.

Much has changed in 40 years but is it possible or fair to say that today priests seem unwillling or 'afraid' to work and mingle in the workforce of humanity?

So often one gets the impression that priests are simply not there where they really are needed, wanted and required. Instead they find refuge in their own groupings, all the time far away from the daily life of people.

So often one gets the impression that priests are simply afraid to go out and work and consider themselves equals in the workforce.

It's easy to develop lofty ideas about God when one is not part of the madding crowd.

Right across Europe and maybe in other places too, good and noble people are walking away from the institutional church. Why? Is it that priests have stayed in their presbyteries/monasteries/priories, looked out their windows and sometimes, just someimes, waved at the people passing by.

And always thinking they know best what God is thinking.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Berlin rebuilds what Irish Rail sends to scrap yard

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

Michael Commane
Letter from Berlin.
Hermsdorf lies in the north west of Berlin, five kilometres from the former border between East and West Germany.

I'm working as a chaplain in a hospital which was formerly run by Dominican Sisters, who founded the hospital over 100 years ago.

These days it is run by Caritas, which is a Catholic organisation, that manages hospitals, kindergartens, development agencies and other charitable works.

It took longer to get from the airport in Schönefeld, in the south east of the city, to here than it did to fly from Dublin to Berlin. The city railway, the S-Bahn, is getting a serious make-over, so many lines are closed, especially at night.

Anyone who takes the 747 bus to Dublin airport and sits on the upper deck will notice a number of older rail coaches lying dormant on Irish Rail property on the north side of the Liffey. They are destined for the scrap yard. Already Irish Rail has disembowelled a number of this fleet. The company decided to scrap them rather than rebuild them.

The S-Bahn needs new rolling stock. But because of money shortage in Berlin, the rail company decided, instead of buying new rolling stock, they would recycle carriages built in the 1970s.

Maybe Irish Rail knows a lot more about trains and carriages than German Rail, or maybe Ireland has loads more money than the Germans?

Before you begin to get carried away with things German. The new airport in Berlin-Brandenburg lies closed and empty. It was to have opened some years back but because of all sorts of difficulties, inefficiencies and blunders, Berlin is still without its badly needed new airport.

The major airlines fly into Tegel, which is bursting at the seams and the low cost carriers, including Aer Lingus and Ryanair use Schönefeld, which was the showcase airport of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It was then and is now a bit of a dump, though it does have a rail link to the city.

Visiting people in hospital is an aspect of priesthood that I have cherished over the years. I hope I can say that I try to make it my business to call on people if I know they are in hospital. But I have never worked full-time as a hospital chaplain. And here I am doing just that in the German capital.

It's not easy to find yourself landed in a job like this, I am doing supply work for the Dominican, who normally does the job. My Protestant colleague is a young gentle vibrant married woman with three children and these first days I would have been completely lost without her guidance and help. Though she headed off with her family on holiday on Monday. There is also an elderly Dominican Sister here, who visits the sick. She worked as a nurse in the hospital for 40 years so she is well known and appreciated by the staff.

I have been flabbergasted with the kindness with which I have been greeted by both patients and staff.

Berlin never was nor is it today a 'Catholic' city and yet when I call to patients, tell them who I am they are only too delighted to chat with me.

It really is the experience of a lifetime simply to listen to the stories of people. To stand at the end of a bed and hear  an 80-year old woman recall how she was force marched from East Prussia towards the west at the end of World War II is extraordinary.

Another reason to say yes, yes and yes again to the European Union.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bodies lying in a field near Brabovo in 30C and in rain

The news coming out of Grabowo in east Ukraine is shocking.

And now the locomotive supplying power to the refrigerated carriages has run out of fuel. And where is the train's destination?

Yesterday as bodies lay on the ground near Grabovo temperatures rose to 30 degrees and it rained.

Leaders of the pro-Russian separatist group are blaming the media for giving out false information.

That's the usual behaviour from groups who are trying to hide something.

Would the West be reacting more strenuously had it been a British Airways, Delta Airlines or Lufthansa plane that had been downed?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Brendan Smyth, Sean Brady and Brendan Boland

The piece below appears in today's Sunday Independent, web version. It is nothing less than mind-boggling that priests carried out this interview. But is it surprising? No.

Why the change from John to Sean Brady?

'Another priest' in this horrendous story was a Dominican. The man behaved in a correct and honourable manner at all times. He subsequently left the Dominican Order and priesthood. One might well ask was that too an honourable thing to do.

The institutional Catholic Church continues to enslave itself to a form of secrecy that is most worrying.

With the passing of every day the church seems to alienate itself more and more from good and kind people.

The explicit transcripts of the inquiry, in which Cardinal Sean Brady (then Fr. John Brady) took part, are contained in the new book by Brendan Boland, who was an 11-year-old altar boy when he was abused by Brendan Smyth in the 1970s.
The memoir, Sworn to Silence, is published tomorrow on Monday and gives details of the intense abuse carried out by Smyth.
Two years after the abuse began, Brendan Boland plucked up the courage to tell another priest what was happening.
A secret church inquiry was arranged, and he was questioned in isolation by a group of priests including Fr Brady.
Brendan was sworn to silence about these proceedings and the gardaí were never informed.
On the day of the inquiry, on March 29, 1975, 14-year old Brendan was alone with his interrogators while his father was left sitting outside the room.
Before Brendan left he signed a sheet of paper agreeing to secrecy, also signed by Fr Brady, and for that reason did not tell his father what he had been asked.
Now that secret interrogation has been revealed for the first time in one of a number of original documents that have come into Brendan's possession after legal discovery procedures.
The questions he was asked and his answers were taken down in handwritten notes by Fr Brady who later transcribed them into typewritten sheets. Facsimiles of both are contained in the book.
The highly inappropriate and intrusive personal nature of the questioning make shocking reading today, not least because Fr John Brady went on to become Cardinal Sean Brady.
Mr Boland writes: "I knew that the quizzing about Confession was all about me and my fault. Then I was just terrified and scared. Today I am angry, furious. Even as I am recounting this, I want to smash my fist against the bloody wall beside me. It got worse. The very last questions come back to this theme."
Although Brendan Boland and his father were assured in 1975 that Fr Brendan Smyth would be dealt with, his abuse continued.
He went on to prey on many more children for two decades afterwards.
In all he targeted children in Belfast, Dundalk and the US over a 40-year period.
In 1994 he was convicted of 17 counts of child sexual abuse.
Three years later he pleaded guilty to another 74 counts of abuse.
He died in prison in 1997, one month into a 12-year sentence.

A disturbed and confused world on July 20 anniversary

It seems, at least to anyone who lives in the West, that the behaviour of the authorities in the Donetsk region is bizarre and really not at all acceptable.

The downing of MH 17  and now this awful treatment of the dead and the total disrespect for the families of the dead, is cruel. At a church service in Sydney today the word evil was used to describe the downing of the plane.

Is is possible to believe Mr Putin any longer?

Today Germany recalls the 70th anniversary of von Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life. It would not be fair to history to say that the reason for the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944 was to save what they could. As early as 1938 factions within the Wehrmacht had attempted to overthrow Hitler.

While the Germans talk about 'downloaden', 'apps', 'computers', 'E-Mail' (but look at how they spell it), internet, they don't use the word 'WiFi, insteasd they say 'Wlan'. Or is it 'WLAN'?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

7.5 million Germans have difficulties reading writing

In Germany 7.5 million adults, excluding migrants, have difficulty reading and writing.

Every fourth cook, painter/decorator and truck driver can hardly read or write.

The population of Germany is approximately 80 million.

Approximately 300,000 Berliners cannot read or write. The population of the city is 3.5 million.

German Catholics say bye bye to institutional church

The German Catholic Church posted some interesting figures yesterday.

Last year 178,805 people left the church in Germany. That is 80,000 more than in the previous year.

In the Diocese of Limburg, where Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was bishop, 7,980 left the church compared to 1,400 the previous year.

Is it that so many people have lost their faith, their belief in God?

Will the management of the universal church not wonder what's happening? Might it be more a question of appalling leadership structures and poor and incompetent managers?

If companies such as Microsoft, Siemens, The Kerry Group experienced such 'poor figures' what would they do? Would they blame the customers? Most unlikely.

And what's happening in Germany is not unique to Germany.

Before the church talks about  a priestly vocations crisis it needs urgently to look at what is going on inside its own doors.

There is not a vocations crisis in the Catholic Church. There is a serious management crisis.

It's most likely that people are losing their 'faith' in the nonsense that goes on in the church. And sadly the nonsense seems to be in the ascendancy.

The numbers leaving is also due to new State regulations, whereby banks are obliged to tell their customers the details of church tax.

Mercy and kindness always before power and stridency

The Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times

Michael Commane
Milo is five and Lucien is two. In early July the two little boys were with their parents at a performance of the main events of the trial of St Oliver Plunkett. The open air enactment took place in front of St Peter’s Church in Drogheda. For the first few minutes of the 30-minute play Milo showed a fleeting interest. The costumes of the actors caught his attention but very quickly he was playing with his younger brother.

Their mother handled  them perfectly and without a single hint of any fuss. She chatted with them, cuddled them and smiled away,  but all the time kept her eye on the actors and attention fixed between the play and her children. She needed no sharp words  to keep her children in control. And it all looked so natural. It certainly worked and obviously her reaction to her children was the perfect response.

Two days later BBC One television screened a Panorama programme on the state of affairs in prisons in the United States. The picture painted was horrific. The programme claimed that one million prisoners in the US suffer from some form of mental illness. There was severe criticism of how prisoners are treated and the harsh and violent treatment that is meted out to them.

And it so happened the next day a right-wing US radio station was extolling the value of reacting to violence with violence. It cited the case of a child being left in a car and subsequently dying from heat. The presenter argued that the person who left the child in the car should experience a similar fate.

Of course when we are confronted head on with force or violence there is that innate reaction or response that tempts us to answer force with force. But is it ever a long-term strategy? Does it work? There may well be occasions when there is no alternative but to answer force with force, but surely that is only in the most extreme situations and conditions.

And do violence or stridency have any place in the Christian vocabulary? In tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 13: 24 – 43) we read about the parables of the good and bad seed, the story of the mustard seed and of the woman who buries the yeast, where Jesus compares the yeast to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus admits to his disciples that he speaks in parables, warning them that the stories he tells are not always what they seem.  The audience needs to listen carefully to understand what He is driving at.

Maybe the key to tomorrow’s Gospel is to be found in the first reading  which is from the Book of Wisdom. “Your strength is the source of your justice and because you are the Lord of all, you can be merciful to everyone.” (Wisdom 12: 16)

It’s interesting that Jesus uses the imagery of the mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds. So it’s fragile, needs nurturing, requires great care and support to survive and flourish. So too with the parable where the weed is intermeshed with the good seed, Jesus frowns on the idea of taking early drastic action in separating the good from the bad. Again, there is an emphasis on being gentle and kind, certainly never a case of being overpowering and seeking to dominate.  And so too with the buried yeast, it too is weak and in need of tender care.

Is it possible to conclude from tomorrow’s readings that followers of Jesus, people who follow the Christian path above all else are called to be gentle and kind and maybe especially so with those who think differently than they do?

 Being powerful and strident may  have superficial attractions but in the long run being gentle and kind are virtues far more in keeping with the mission of Jesus Christ.

Take a look around you. It works.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mercy not sacrifice

In tomorrow's Gospel Jesus tells his followers that it is mercy he wants and not sacrifice (Matthew 12: 1 - 8)

And the nonsense that so often happens in churches/religions.

Do the leaders make up/interpret so many meaningless rules to keep themselves in jobs, to retain their positions of so-called 'importance'?

Saying hello and listening to the life stories of people

A week down.

I am 'working' here as a chaplain in a Caritas-run hospital in Berlin Hermsdorf.

The stories, the faces, the smiles, the people. It is a new experience for me. But it's all the different stories there are to hear that makes it so fascinating.

Standing at the end of a bed and listening to an 80-year old woman recall how she was force marched from East Prussian in 1944 another patient telling me that she has friends who live in Templemore.

An elderly Dominican sister visits patients, playing her mouth organ as she moves from ward to ward. And how the faces of the patients light up when she arrives.

How far a smile and kindness can go.

Church leaders seem to say little in these days of horror

That a second Malaysian Airlines plane should fall out of the sky in such a short time adds to the grief and shocking sadness of the event.

Some hours earlier yesterday  Israel and Hamas agreed to a break in trying to kill one another.  And then they get back at. This time with the Israel Defence Forces, IDF, invading Gaza. And it's as evil and as mad as that.

It now seems likely that MH 17 was shot down.

Yesterday 70 years ago the Red Army crossed into Poland on its way to Berlin to help in the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

The loss of one life is shocking and damages the entire community.

What would happen if all religious leaders in Ukraine today went to the sight of that disaster and told the authorities they were staying there until peace reigned in Ukraine?

Are religious leaders really interested in life and the lives of people or is it all just one fancy power game they play? Is there a single true prophet in any of the churches right now?

Imagine if cardinals from eastern Europe met in Donetsk these days and they too decided they were staying there until peace broke out.

Has there been much of an uproar from the churches over the death of so many people in these last days? Over 2,000 people have been seriously injured in Palestine.

And all the pious words we hear about life.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Angela Dorothea Merkel celebrates her 60th birthday

German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel is 60 today.

The Tagesspiegel newspaper gives over a full page, mainly of pictures but also positive text, to the Chancellor.

Too much? A German replied: "No, remember she is Germany's first woman Chancellor and she has been elected three times German Chancellor. And anyway, a 60th birthday is worth marking and celebrating".

When the German is told that an Irish paper would be most unlikely to so mark the 60th birthday of an Irish leader the reply is: "Look what England does on the Queen's birthday."

Angela Merkel likened to the Queen of England or a hankering after something else?

Probably not. The Germans are happy with their physicist Chancellor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spaniards, English, Chinese carrying the German flag

Pages and pages again today in the German newspapers on the World Champions.

Yesterday LH 2014 flew low over the Fanmile, with of course special permission.  The Lufthansa Boeing 747 - Potsdam had changed the name of the company to Fanhansa.

In today's Berlin's Tagesspiegel Lars Spannagel writes:

"Again and again people who are carrying the German flag are speaking Spanish, English or Chinese.

"Was there ever a time when so many people with different nationalities identified in such a way with Germany? Perhaps on this day they want to feel a little German.

"And anyway, what does it mean, to feel German"

And that's the theme right through the Germany media, a sense that the country has at last come of age. This is the first time that a 'united Germany' has won the World Cup.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

LH 2014 about to land at Berlin Tegel with the team

Berliners wait for their team. All German newspapers this morning write on what the team has done for Germany and the value of team work.

Tens of thousnads are heading for the Brandenburg Gate, at least those who are not already there.

The plane has been delayed due to a mishap at Rio airport.

Lufthansa has rebranded the plane and changed the Flight number to LH 2014.

The SPD Mayor of Berlin will officially welcome the team and intorduce them to the fans.

Written across the front of the bus bringing the team from Tegel to Brandenburger Tor is: "Weltmeister Fahren Mercedes Benz"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Berlin S Bahn decides to refurbish rather than scrap

Anyone who has taken the Dublin Bus 747 to the airport and sat on the upper deck will have seen Irish Rail carriages parked in sidings. The carriages are destined for the scrap heap. Already a number of out-of-sevice coaches have been broken up.

In Berlin the rail authority that runs the S Bahn has made a decision to refurbish carriages built in the 1970s. The company, Deutsche Bahn, has decided to rebuild/recycle, rather than purchase new coaches as it works out far cheaper.

The works are being carried out in Berlin but becasue so many coaches are being refurbished some of the work is being done in Leipzig.

Why did Irish Rail not think of doing something similar?

"Yessssssss we have it"

A headline on a German newspaper this morning:

"Jaaaaaa haben wir ihn"

The team arrives in Berlin's Fan Mile tomorrow at 09.00.

Mario Götze, the hero on the night, played for the Under 16 German team in 2008 in Listowel.

Kerry people say it's that experience that made him what he is.

Priests and their words

In recent days Irish newspapers have published exceprts from Catholic parish newsletters. Laughable material.

Does anyone in authority pass any comments on the material, which is absurd and insulting?

If these newsletters carried, for example, clear articulate pieces arguing in favour of the abolition of mandatory priestly celibacy would there be episcopal/provincial silence?

And then on Sunday Pope Francis is quoted as having spoken on the subject of mandatory priestly celibacy.

What at all will they do with the man? Already the spin doctors have been 'making clarifications'.

It's a funny old world. A funnier old church.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Two popes 'praying' for different results on Sunday

A clever picture in today's Berlin's 'Tagesspiegel' newspaper.

A full page photograph of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis side-by-side.

And it's clear who is 'praying' for which team.

Angela should bring both of them on her Luftwaffe flight to Rio for Sunday's game.

The everyday routine

It is so striking how we become accustomed to our surroundings.

Move away from the normal routine and fear can paralyse us.

What must it be like in war?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Priests and their nonsense

"Priest in Donegal had warned practising yoga will endanger your soul"

A story in today's papers.

Check out some parish newsletters.

And the institutional church wonders why.

One could not make it up. 'Fr Ted' material.

Word tautology?

On the midday news on RTE Radio 1 today the newscaster, when speaking about exports, said 'a new record' had been broken.

Are all records not new?

How to spot dictators

A wise person once observed that if the banknotes of a country display a picture of the current president/leader of the state then you can be certain that it is a dictatorship.

It's interesting to check out the websites of dioceses and religious congregations.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kilmoyley man closes the ledgers to work in Malawi

The piece below appears in today's Kerryman.

Michael Commane
Kilmoyley man Gearóid Loibheád is an accountant, who spent his early years working in Mallow advising people who were availing of the tax amnesty. He felt he could do more with his life and decided to change careers. These days he is working for Concern Worldwide in Malawi. He joined the aid agency in 1997.

“I felt I could put my skills to better use. I went off to Nicaragua for two months to follow my interest in liberation theology. I ended up picking coffee beans there but it was a life changing experience,” Gearóid says.

Last August Gearóid moved to Malawi where he is Concern’s country director. Concern employs 70 people in Malawi, all but seven are Malawians. Indeed, there is another Kerry person on the Concern team in the country, Yvonne Rohan from Tralee, who previously worked with Bank of Ireland in Dublin.

“My son Seán is called after his grandfather Seán Lovett, who was a great Kilmoyley hurler. Dad played both hurling and football. He won an All-Ireland football medal for Kerry in 1959 and he also won a junior All-Ireland hurling medal in 1961.

“My three children have done a Cúl Camp in hurling in Kilmoyley. Sara, 10, Joe is six and Sean is 12. Seán is a great soccer player!
“I met my wife, Mary Magwaza in 1998 while I was working with Concern in Tanzania and we married in 2000.

“She loves Kerry and there is a great connection between Mary and my Mum. At this stage Mary and I are colour-blind,” Gearóid laughs, quickly adding that his wife has never experienced any racial prejudice while in Ireland.

Gearóid has worked in Eritrea and in Kampala where he was Concern’s accountant for the whole of Africa.

“The work is interesting here in Malawi and Concern is making a difference for a large number of people and on a personal note I have to say Concern has afforded me great opportunities.

“We are involved in conservation agriculture, maternal and child health care and in making sure children receive nutrient-rich food. Yields have increased, more maize is being produced and we are now introducing more vegetables, including sweet potatoes. People are eating more nutritious food.

“Last year we directly supported 89,053 people through our programmes.

“We are also protecting girls from sexual violence. They are often forced to marry as young as 12 so we take up their case and are setting up structures to help them.

“Malawi has a population of 15 million and is one and a half times the size of Ireland.

“Irish Aid, the Scottish Government, United Nations and the World Bank and Merck for Mothers US are our main donors here in Malawi and of course the Irish public, who give us amazing support.

“We work in four rural districts and have our main office in the capital Lilongwe, Gearóid explains.
Gearóid’s sister Mrs Aine Crowe is the principal at Kilmoyley National School and his sister Eilín also teaches at the school and the school has made links with Gearóid’s three children in Malawi.

When I ask him what he misses most about Ireland he immediately replies, “My mother of course and attending GAA games but my sister sends me out videos and DVDs. Over the years I have managed to watch matches on Setanta Africa.

“But we are all coming home in July and I’m staying in Banna so I’ll be able to get in a good few games,” he assures me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Trashing the concept of a public service" - O'Toole

Fintan O'Toole in his column in today's Irish Times highlights the plight of Greyhound workers.

He writes: "I am being asked to collude as a 'customer' in the impoverishment of the men who collect my bins and their families."

The column is well worth a read. Will there be the slightest hint or reference to the right and wrong/morality of this dispute in any religious publication?

No. When was the life of a binman of interest to church personnel?

Breaking the law

What's this doing on a pole on Orwell Park today?

Joan Burton and Labour leadership - Sr Stanislaus

A clever letter in today's Irish Times
Sir, – I was touched and honoured to hear Joan Burton say again in recent days that I have had a role in the development of her political thinking and her commitment to social justice. I was especially pleased to hear her say that she plans to take on social housing as a priority in her new role, and I applaud her commitment to resolving this most distressing issue.
We are seeing homelessness increasing at the rate of a family a day in Dublin alone. Every day I encounter families with small children who are harassed, broken, their self-esteem trampled on, the parents distraught and the children traumatised. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years working with people who are homeless.
And the best that we as a society can offer such families is bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
This was initially intended as a stop-gap response, but it has become a way of life for some families, many of whom are confined to living in one room with no cooking facilities for periods as long as nine months or more, some for over two years or even longer. Now even this inadequate form of accommodation is in short supply. I have seen many families wait a whole day to see if a B&B can be found for them; within the past week I have seen families and sometimes pregnant women sleeping in their cars; I’ve seen parents trying to find someone to take their children for the night while they sleep rough themselves.
The Taoiseach has accepted that homelessness in this country is now at a crisis point. And yet we do not see any crisis response.
State-subsidised rents are set too low to be attractive to landlords, so people already in financial distress are having to top-up their rent allowance, and when they run into difficulties, they lose their homes. If Ms Burton raised the level of rent supplement in the next budget, there would be a direct and measurable effect – fewer people would lose their homes.
She also needs to regulate rents to provide better protection for tenants; this would also help to secure people in their homes. Regulations are needed to ensure that temporary accommodation for homeless families is adequate and appropriate. By committing sufficient resources now she could could end long-term homelessness by 2016.
But above all we urgently need major investment in a social housing building programme, in the order of 50,000 new homes within the next five years.
This would not only provide housing but would, as Ms Burton has pointed out, provide jobs, stimulate the economy and help to bring about conditions in which fewer people are in dire financial straits.
I believe Ms Burton has the leadership, political knowledge and ability to convince her Government colleagues to tackle homelessness and offer hope to families living in fear of letters from the bank or a knock on the door. – Yours, etc,
Focus Ireland,
9-10 High Street,

Monday, July 7, 2014

Can God really be as nasty and as insulting as this?

Can God really be as nasty and as insulting as is the tone and image in the July/August issue of the free-sheet 'Alive'?

There is a disclaimer on page one. But it is a pity there is any link between the free-sheet and the Dominican Order. 'Alive' has charitable status.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another side to the story of the slick PR drinks' industry

Strewn around a bench in Dartry Park at 06.45 today.

Dublin City Council makes great efforts to care for this park.

Remember, Ireland spends €50 million every week on alcohol.

It so happens that today the Catholic Church in Ireland gives special attention to Matt Talbot.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A solicitor, a court case and a planning refusal by dlr

The piece below appeared in The Irish Times on February, Tuesday 4.

The reference to solicitor Fintan Wallis is interesting in the context of  planning permission refusal to the development at 157 Orwell Road.
The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is pursuing businessman David Cullen at the Commercial Court, over alleged unlawful transfers of property.
Lawyers for the agency claim Mr Cullen transferred or charged more than 40 properties to his wife Mary in 2009 and 2010 to place the assets beyond the reach of his creditors.
It is also alleged that Mr Cullen leased the Turk’s Head bar and Paramount Hotel in Dublin’s Temple Bar to two companies in breach of security covenants in loans advanced by Bank of Ireland, since taken over by Nama.
Last March, a €29 million High Court judgment was obtained by Nama against Mr Cullen, now with an address at Iverna Gardens, London, arising out of unpaid loans from Bank of Ireland for properties including the Turk’s Head and Paramount Hotel.

Fast-trackedMartin Hayden SC, for the defence, opposed the case being fast-tracked on grounds including alleged culpable delay on the part of Nama in initiating the proceedings.
In court documents, Nama claimed to have obtained evidence by way of cross-examination from Mary Cullen in October last year and said a short period of time was required to assimilate the information before the agency issued proceedings on December 19th last year.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly said “a suspicion of fraud” had been articulated through correspondence and a response was sought by lawyers acting for Nama before proceedings were initiated. He said he did not find the eight-week analysis of evidence as unreasonable.

Creditors ‘circling’The judge said he would transfer the litigation to the Commercial Court given the number of properties involved and in the context of David Cullen being a judgment debtor of €29 million. The judge noted Nama had accused the businessman of transferring his assets “in circumstances where his creditors were circling”.
The action is brought by the National Asset Loan Management Limited, a subsidiary of Nama, against Mr Cullen, his wife Mary, Seafield Hotel Ltd, Paramount Hotel Ltd, Fintan Wallis and Stephen Cullen.
It is alleged Mr Wallis, a solicitor with an address at Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin, acted unlawfully in procuring a registration of a transfer to Mrs Cullen of certain lands secured to Bank of Ireland.
The claim against Stephen Cullen relates to how he, as beneficial owner of Seafield Hotel Ltd, acquired a leasehold interest in the company.
The defendants deny the claims.

An Bord Pleanála upholds dlr planning refusal

In 2013 Orwell Homes Development Limited applied to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to  demolish 157 Orwell Road and construct four three-storey five-bedroom houses.

In March of this year dlr refused planning permission and the developer appealed to An Bord Pleanála. 

Last week the Board announced that it had rejected the appeal.

It is a welcome decision by An Bord Pleanála as the proposed development would have been visually obtrusive and represent an overdevelopment of the site, contravening the zoning objective in the dlr development plan  2010  - 2016.

Orwell Homes Development Limited was set up on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in Dublin 6. The company's current directors Fintan Wallis and Roderic O'Beirne have been the directors of 22 other Irish companies between them; 12 of which are now closed.

A good day for planning laws in Ireland.

Friday, July 4, 2014

UPC and the words it uses

Phone, broadband and tv provider UPC is currently issuing hard copy bills to customers.

On the back of the envelope there is the letter 'g' and beside that is written 'guaranteed irish proud partner'.

What exactly does that mean?

UPC is not an Irish company, the envelope cannot have been produced in Ireland as there is no paper production in the country. So what exactly do the words mean?

RTE manages a cosy chat with HR Clinton on July 4

Surely a coup for RTE on July 4.

Hillary Clinton gave a 20-minute interview on the Sean O'Rourke Show this morning.

She spoke about her time as secretary of state, her losing the Democratic nomination, her relationship with Barack Obama.  Not really a word about her plans for the top job in the White House.

The former secretary of state also spoke briefly about Benghazi.

It was a gentle interview and Hillary kept calling her interviewer 'Sean'. No awkward questions.

Ms Clinton is in London selling her book.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

'The best' of the Germans

Germany's ZDF television station screened a programme last evening listing the 50 'best German men'.

Top of the list was Helmut Schmidt, who is a former SPD Chancellor. He is now in his 90s and lives in his home town of Hamburg.

This evening it was the turn of the women and, according to ZDF, Germany's 'best woman' is the current Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Ukip is not the first party to carry out a nasty trick

On Tuesday at the first session of the new European Parliament as Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' was being played, members of Ukip turned their back on the EU flag.

Something similar happened in another city in Europe in the 1930s when another nationalist party took their seats in a parliament they planned to destroy.

And their leader too pointed out all that had been meted out to his great country and promised them such a bright future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A little boy whose life has been changed forever

Some weeks ago six-year-old Seán Scully was shot while playing outside his house in Ballyfermot.

The little boy may never regain full mobility. His life has changed forever. Doctors are hopeful that he will be able to take a few steps but that could be five or six years down the line.

The Gardaí believe he was not the intended target.

The horror and pain for that little boy and his family. The anguish.

And the person who did it, what or how do they feel?

What makes a person do such a thing? How can anyone ever pull a trigger?

Perfect weather for swimming and sleeping too

Bird queue. Birds asleep on the Dodder.

Early July and water at Seapoint is unusally warm.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Threshold forces nasty landlord to return deposit

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

Michael Commane
There has been much talk about a growing shortage of accommodation in the State at present.

In the last few days a work colleague has told me a horrendous story about a tenancy contract. 

Indeed, she first mentioned it to me over two and a half years ago when the story began to unfold.

Mary, not her real name, was sharing an apartment in Dublin with her then partner, now her husband.

“We had been living in the apartment for over two years so we gave 60 days notice of our intention to leave. Our landlord would not meet us before we left so as to inspect the property and return our deposit of €1,100,” Mary explained.

He ignored their calls for over three months and when he did eventually get back to the couple he pointed out that he had to get the carpets cleaned, which cost him €600, so they would only be receiving €500.

Fortunately Mary was having none of this and contacted Threshold, who she points out, are simply brilliant. Along with that, Mary took over 30 pictures of the apartment before she left and to prove that the pictures were time relevant, she included newspapers with their dates in the pictures. That was a clever thing to do.

“Threshold advised me not to take the €500 the landlord was offering us and they prepared our submission to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. I also submitted phone records to and from the landlord with a copy of the lease plus the photographs,” Mary explained.

He counterclaimed, looking for compensation of €3,000. He also submitted photographs. But Mary’s husband, a computer techie, was able to spot that the pictures he submitted had been photoshopped and even one of the photos of a piece of furniture had never been in their apartment.

Eventually he was found guilty. He appealed the verdict. The whole process took ages. The PRTB issued a Determination Order, which he ignored. They then informed him that they would take the case to the Small Claims Court. He had eight weeks to make up his mind.

In the end he surrendered and last week, two and a half years later Mary received her €1,100 deposit plus €250 in compensation.

There certainly are lessons to be learned from her ordeal. She’s a feisty young woman, full of energy. 

It was so clever of her even to think of taking photographs of the apartment before she left. And who would think of making them date relevant. Certainly it was a clever move and a wise tip to anyone who is renting. You should even take photographs the day you move in to the apartment.

Mary is full of praise for Threshold and the PRTB.

Threshold can be contacted at or  at 01 – 678 6096, 021 – 427 8848 and the PRTB is at or 0818 – 30 30 37.

The PRTB was set up in 2004 to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. Threshold has offices in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that this story is typical of landlords. Of course, like in every walk of life, it takes all sorts. Nor are all tenants angels. But it is particularly annoying when someone finds themselves at the mercy of another person.

But for Mary’s tenacity and astuteness the landlord might well have got away with his behaviour.

Again, full marks to Threshold and the PRTB. Make sure to contact them if you are having difficulties with your landlord/landlady.

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