Sunday, May 31, 2015

May hailstones

Tess taking a break while walking around the reservoir at Bohernabreena.

Far less strenuous than the usual weekend walk but this time, on the last day of May, there was rain, wind, cold and hailstones.

€1.2bn for Irish farmers

There has been an amount of publicity on making public the sums of money Irish farmers received in 2014 under the EU Common Agricultrual Policy (Cap).

Irish farmers received €1.2 billion last year.

France got the largest Cap amount in 2014, receiving more than €9 billion. Ireland was the 11th largest beneficiary.

The Cap was introduced after World War ll to guarantee food security. But its aims have broadened over the years.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

That apostrophe

What makes people do it?

Pizza shop in Rathgar.

Wisdom from elderly men

Comments from two wise elderly men.

1. "I would really like to do a study on the link between the libido and our journey in spiritual growth."

2. " When I was a young man the bishops in the Irish Catholic Church had far too much power and       we paid too much attention to them. Today it seems the media is playing the role of those bishops."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tess catches the sun

Not much sun about today but in those few moments when the sun did shine, Tess, as opportunistic as ever, managed to catch it.

But as soon as she was spotted she returned to her modest position.

Before she's spotted.

After she saw the camera

RTE's Bill O'Herlihy's Dominican connections

Much acclaimed RTE journalist Bill O'Herlihy will be buried today after Requiem Mass in Foxrock.

Bill had Dominican connections. His brother Jack joined the order and was ordained a priest in the early 1960s. After ordination he studied in the United States. Shortly after returning to Ireland he left the Dominicans and resigned from priesthood. He went on to work at the then Letterkenny RTC.

Bill's first cousin, Paul Patrick O'Leary, also joined the Dominicans. He was ordained a priest in 1968.

Paul was the kindest of men and a great teacher. He always looked out for those who were in difficulty or marginalised.

He died in 2005, aged 67.

His doctoral studies included some work on a Russian theologian. On one occasion he received a phone call from the Soviet Embassay on Orwell Road. The Soviet Ambassador had requested his presence at a luncheon to recognise his work on the Russian theologian.

A car from the embassy arrived at the priory in Tallaght to collect Paul. En route to the embassy the 'chauffeur' turned to Paul and explained to him it was April1.

Fellow Dominicans in Tallaght organised the prank.

Paul took it in his stride. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Why does the gear control on the bicycles opearted by dublinbikes work in reverse to the gear control on all conventional bicycles?

It seems the operator is grossing over €1.45 million annually.

Sale of Aer Lingus

What happens if the United Kingdom leaves the EU? IAG will no longer be within the EU. Where does that place Aer Lingus?

It would seem that selling the company for €1.3 billion is a bargain deal for IAG. Aer Lingus has 50 aircraft, an extensive property portfolio, cash reserves of €1bn. Then the famous Heathrow slots. Alone, the Aer Lingus brand is worth a small fortune.

There's seems something terribly wrong about this deal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Willie Walsh does not see result defeat for humanity

The piece below is from the online version of today's Irish Independent.

The bishop emeritus of Killaloe said he could not support comments by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who yesterday said the same-sex marriage referendum was not only "a defeat for Christian principles, but also a defeat for humanity."
“I was quite uncomfortable with that statement. I mean there has been lots of disasters in the world but I certainly would not support the belief that the referendum was among them.”
“To suggest that over a million people who went to the polls and voted yes were so false in their judgment that it was a disaster for humanity is not something I can accept,” he said.

Speaking on RTE Radio, the retired bishop said he “seriously doubted” that the sentiments expressed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin was shared by Pope Francis.
“It is an inappropriate statement… [and] not one I think that represents the mind of Pope Francis despite it coming from a very senior Church figure.”
“It is a very heavy judgement on the whole issue.”

Asked if he had supported the referendum, Bishop Walsh declined to answer but did say that "one could hardly look at the celebrations and say it didn’t increase the sum of human happiness [in Ireland]."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kindness at the Mater

Below is this week's INM Irish regional newspaper column

Michael Commane
On Thursday I went to visit a school friend, who is in hospital. He’s a patient in the Mater Public Hospital in Dublin.

It’s some time since I had been in the hospital so I took a bus to Dorset Street and walked up Eccles Street, passing the Mater Private Hospital and walked up the short entrance to the public hospital.

To my surprise there was no reception desk, at least I didn’t see one.

I was getting a little irritated. It’s a busy hospital with plenty of people coming and going. I saw a woman carrying a large bundle of files. I stopped her and asked her where the reception was. 

At times, even unbeknownst to myself I may sound a little harsh or abrasive. Once I asked the women, she then asked me where I wanted to go in the hospital. I told her I was visiting a patient. She politely brought me to a small office, turned on a computer, keyed in her password, asked me the name of the patient and gave me the information for which I was looking. And she did all that in the friendliest and politest manner. She then explained to me that the main reception area had moved to the new building on North Circular Road.

I was greatly taken with her kindness. She was a busy woman, carrying files. She could so easily have been as snooty as I was but instead she was friendly and kind.

That was not my only experience of kindness on my visit. Later I was looking for a toilet. Again I asked a member of staff and she duly directed me to the said place. I noticed there was no sign on the door designating it as a toilet. So when I was finished I went back to the lady and explained that it would be difficult to know that it was a toilet. Later passing the door I spotted a toilet sign had been placed on the door. On the hospital ward a nurse was extremely kind to me.

Impressive  experiences.

I’ve been thinking about the experiences. What it means when people are pleasant and friendly to us. It changes our whole attitude. At least it does mine. Indeed, I might well be a very subjective person but I have a sneaky suspicion we all are. Surely we are all influenced by how people treat us. If people are nice to us we will respond accordingly.

I have been telling people about my experience in the Mater and certainly I have a different attitude towards it now than I had before my visit on Thursday. And my God, does the opposite hold true too. When people are nasty and abusive to us it’s most likely we respond accordingly.i

The world needs a little bit more kindness.

It is estimated that worldwide there are about 600,000 violent deaths annually and 340,000 of these are thought to be at the end of a gun. It is estimated there are over one billion guns in the world and 12 billion bullets are produced every year.

Give me kindness over guns any day.

It turns out that the main reception for the Mater Public Hospital is now in the Whitty Building on North Circular Road. The new building is called after Mercy Sister, Mother Mary Vincent Whitty (1819 – 1892) and was opened in June 2012. Mother Mary Vincent worked with Catherine McAuley in Baggot Street and was later involved in the planning of the Mater Hospital. The new building is an expansive clean-cut and most attractive structure.

Monday, May 25, 2015

'When push comes to shove' wise to abandon the cliché

This week's Sunday Independent carries an interesting piece on buzzwords and clichés in the English language.

The writer of the article, Dr Declan Collinge, lists 25 words or phrases.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin described their divorce as uncoupling.

Collinge explains how whistleblower became fashionable.

"The American activist, Ralph Nader, reputedly coined the epithet whistleblower in the 1970s as a substitute for informer/snitch. Since this term carried a pejorative association before that time, it is surley as politically as correct to use the term informant."

But does Collinge not get it wrong? At least in this part of the world informant also has a pejorative sense to it?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost and silence

Yesterday Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that the Irish Cathoic Church needs to do a reality check.

The Irish Catholic Church has been in need of a reality check for a long time.

Today the feast of Pentecost, what is the church saying about the influence Jesus had on his disciples when he spoke to them? They had cowered away in fear behind closed doors. And then the change.

Has there been a a word, a letter from a provinical, from a bishop, about the great feast of Pentecost, a letter, written in a language that touches the hearts and minds of people?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland first on German news

The first item on the main ARD German news this evening was today's marriage referendum result in Ireland. Health Minister Leo Varadkar  featured on the clip. And then there was a short comment on the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The third item on that news was the beatification of Oscar Romero.

An interesting main evening news from ARD's Berlin studios.

On the Six O'Clock RTE news this evening Dr Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin said: " The Church needs to do a reality check." 

Letting go of our fears and opening doors wide

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

Michael Commane
A neighbour of mine once said that what we worry about or what causes us anxiety seldom if ever happens. Wise words. We can spend so much of our time worrying about issues. More than often they don't happen and then if they do we manage to cope. The world does not come to an end. At least it hasn't so far.

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday one of the most important feasts in the Christian calendar. We are celebrating our belief in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. We are reminding ourselves of the presence of God in our midst.

Since Easter Sunday there has been an emphasis on the communitarian aspect of God. Three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit living in perfect communion with each other.

In tomorrow's Gospel (John 20: 19 - 23) we see how the disciples of Jesus locked themselves behind closed doors.

“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” (20: 19)

Jesus appears to them and greets them: “Peace be with you.” Their immediate response is one of joy. Suddenly the idea of hiding behind closed doors makes no sense. Instead there is an atmosphere of joy and happiness. In this context Jesus tells them that they are to receive the Holy Spirit. Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras.

It's a central part of Christian teaching that the Holy Spirit represents the continuation of the life of Jesus in the world in which we live. We believe that through the Holy Spirit the Word of God is alive and vibrant in the world. It is a reassuring, indeed a powerful statement, giving us a confidence that we have the support of God guiding us in the lives we live.

Isn't it interesting that those, who were closest to Jesus, those who lived their lives with him and worked with him, were afraid when he left them? All they could do was go into a room and close the doors.

Jesus comes into their presence and introduces them to the Holy Spirit. He brings with him a sense of joy, a spirit of courage and excitement. In a world dominated by the Holy Spirit there can never be a sense of fear. It's contrary to everything God stands for to cower behind closed doors.

In all religions there are tensions and different opinions. There will be dogmatists, those who will suggest that they know exactly what God is thinking. Can that really be the way a God, whom we all accept as mystery, 'operates'? Of course there is a teaching authority, there is Scripture and tradition. But there is also the common sense of the wider Christian community. After all, we believe that the Holy Spirit is present in the world. It would seem strange in the extreme if the Holy Spirit limited her/his presence to a tiny minority of human kind. 

So often God's ways are not our ways. And that is so evidently clear in tomorrow's Gospel. The disciples, people like you and me, get it wrong and to counteract their fear they close the doors. 

They are afraid of the Jews. Does Jesus ever talk about closing doors? No, he disseminates an atmosphere of joy and openness.

The three persons  of God are a powerful sign of the importance of the community aspect of Christianity. And it is in that context, people working together, people in honesty and trust, respecting one another,  that the Holy Spirit thrives.

The feast of Pentecost is about the presence of God being alive and vibrant in the community.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Unclear ballot papers

When it comes to designing a voting paper the Irish State should employ new designers. Today's balott papers were unclear and confusing.

Surely the articles of the Constitution that citizens were being ask to amend or not amend should have been written in full and in bold.

Is that the best the Irish State can do?

Coming out

Whatever the result in today's marriage referendum it would seem that there is a more open and tolerant attitude towards people of homosexual orientation. The nasty 'jokes' the fear of being gay, hopefully will be something of the past.

It has been heart-warming and something good to see people open and honest about their sexual orientation.

Ursula Halligan's article in last Friday's Irish Times was an impressive piece of writing.

And yet hardly a whsiper from ministers of religion.

On a lighter note - at this stage many people must surely be suffering from 'referendumitis'.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gun culture

Eight years ago it was estimated that there were at least 875 million guns in the world. Today, if you include antique and homemade guns, that number is probably greater, fed by gun and ammunition industries across more than 100 countries.

Police forces worldwide are said to have about 260 million firearms. Armies are thought to hold about 200 million. Civilians, though claim the rest and are by far the biggest owners of guns. About 12 billion bullets are produced every year, almost enough to kill every person on the planet - twice.

Estimates suggest there are about 600,000 violent deaths annually - 340,000 of these are thought to be at the end of a gun. If you take into account that, at a bare minimum, for each person shot and killed, three will survive, about 1,360,000 people are shot by someone else every year.

The WHO estimates that more than 800,000 kill themsleves each year, and one commonly used way is with a firearm.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A page exclusive to men

On yesterday's page three of the Irish Times three men wrote on the  upcoming referendum. Fintan O'Toole and Patsy McGarry wrote in favour of a Yes vote and Diarmuid Martin argued for a No vote.

Below is an extract from McGarry's article.
"Still, it is possible to feel sympathy for the Catholic bishops and the bind they are in. Some of them. Generally, in a pastoral context, they are sensitive to gay people and groups, as are most priests. This also makes sense as few institutions have such a disproportionate number of gay men in their ranks. 
"Such sympathy has to be tempered, however, by a realisation of what the bishops have not told their congregations over recent weeks. They have not told them that they can, in conscience, vote Yes on Friday."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An argument to vote No and one to vote Yes on Friday

Below is an argument to vote No in Friday's marriage referendum. It is followed by a response to the piece. The reply is in favour of a Yes vote on Friday.

In support of a NO vote
1. From my experience of listening to and participating in the current debate during the past few weeks, I must acknowledge that people convinced that this referendum is about 'equality', as is your correspondent, will not be convinced by whatever is argued/suggested by people with a different view; likewise, those who are convinced that this referendum is about changing the 'definition/meaning' of marriage, will not be convinced by whatever is said by those with a different view.

2. I believe that marriage equality already exists here in Ireland - marriage between rich and poor, marriage between natives and foreigners, marriage between people of different races, marriage between people of different and/or no religious persuasion. What all of these 'equal' instances have in common, however, is that they understand marriage to be between a man and a woman. This assumes the basic biological difference between man and woman; in doing so, it acknowledges the NECESSARY 'complementarity' between the sexes. It seems to me that arguing for the irrelevance of gender in any discussion about marriage abstracts the discussion entirely from human biology. If there was no gender difference in our biological world, the world would quickly cease to exist.

3 I'm surprised that there is no difference between all the political parties on the perceived 'equality' issue. I'm not aware of any other issue which has not been a cause of dissent and different views among political parties. Surely, such difference of attitude/approach to any topical issue is a fundamental hallmark of a democratic society. Could it be that all the Irish political parties are clones? How can such a homogeneous view predominate in a democratic society that legitimately prides itself on being heterogeneous? 

4. Ironically, the Irish Government and most organisations INSIST on 'gender balance' in political elections and organisational structures. If gender balance is so important and necessary in such structures, then why is it not 'equally' important and necessary in marriage and the family - the basic structural unit in human society. Even in the non-human animal and plant kingdom (with the exception of asexual reproduction), the REAL difference between male and female - and the complementary nature of both sexes in a sine qua non in family structure and the survival of each species.

5. My final point, which could have been my first and only point, is that 'equality' does NOT men 'sameness'. Men and women are NOT the same. 'Uniformity', with which most people would disagree because it destroys creativity and spontaneity, tries to enforce 'sameness', whereas 'unity', which is achieved even with great 'diversity' respects the valid and legitimate differences that are present. That's why all of your correspondent's concerns about next-of-kin, a (non married) partner's contribution to/involvement in important decision-making, inheritance rights, tax situations, etc. are all adequately dealt with - and rightly so - in properly legislated civil partnerships

In support of a YES vote
He’s probably right in that I’m not going to be convinced otherwise. However, I do listen to opposing arguments.

On a couple of points though- “If there was no gender difference in our biological world, the world would quickly cease to exist.” Fine, but the argument is not about who can produce children and I have multiple choices around having children with my partner and this will exist regardless of the outcome of the referendum. All that necessary complementarity centres around producing children. But this is rigid thinking and doesn’t allow for the spectrum of sexualities and identities. Also gender is not a binary. It’s a social construct. 

Equality is not divisible- unless we take an Orwellian perspective. All are equal but some are more equal than others!! Equality should mean equal access regardless of whether you like/agree with those others.

Gender balance? when the church starts to entertain gender balance we can re-vist this argument.

Also, this is important- civil partnership does NOT cover inheritance rights, tax situations etc- (vital aspects of MY LIFE!) I know. I’ve looked into this. I’ve been involved in the legal research and there are 160 differences. I’d have no objection if civil partnership was for everyone but it is for gay people only. It is equivalent to having to sit at the back of the bus.

It may be difficult for others to understand but I love my partner in a real and committed way. We both treat each other with love and respect. People who use diversity in inverted commas have never been subjected to the tyranny of the majority.

Monday, May 18, 2015

RTE's Ray D'Arcy is one of the many who get it wrong

In An Irishman's Diary in Saturday's Irish Times Frank McNally writes a funny piece about the use of language, better said, its misuse. Well worth a read.

Ray D'Arcy on his show yesterday said: "... a gun could have went off..."

On a religious/Father Ted style blog: "Fr's X and Y"


Russian journalist writes on the Tsarnaev family

Award-winning Russian journalist Masha Geesen was interviewed by Andrew Marr on BBC Radio 4's 'Begin the Week' this morning.

Her book The Road to a Modern Tragedy will be published later this year.

It is the story of the Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.

She tells the story of the family moving from country to country. The Russian journalist gives an account of how and why the family fled Chechnya, looking for some sort of normality. After World War ll  the Chechnyians were brutalised and slaughtered by Stalin. She points out that at one stage the food rations of Chechnyians was less than that received by the inmates at Auschwitz.

Geesen points out how the Tsarnaevs came to the US looking for hope. A hope they never found, which ended in more slaughter.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Irish prisoner statistics

There are approximately 3,700 prisoners in the Irish State.

Each prisoner costs €60,000 annually.

The majority of prisoners were unemployed when they commit their crime and most of them left school before 16.

Feast of the Ascension

The Irish Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension today. The Irish bishops moved it from Thursday to this Sunday.

The Ascension is one of the great feasts of Christianity. It's our belief that Christ returns to the Father. Another pointer of the importance of community.

Surely it should be the theme for words spoken at Mass today.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Scarr on a spring day

Tess on the top of Scarr (641 metres) today.

Wicklow was looking exquisite. Cold and windy too but spring so evident everywhere. Skylarks and ravens in flight and seemingly enjoying themselves.

Wet underfoot.

Great views from the top of Scarr - Turlough Hill, Kippure, Mullaghcleevaun, Vartry Reservoir.

Tess on Kanturk Mountain on the descent.
Tess on top of Scarr Mountain.

Miriam Lord's King quote

Miriam Lord in her column in today's Irish Times quotes Martin Luther King. It was a quote Ursula Halligan used in the article she wrote in yesterday's Irish Times.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Dublin Bus card readers

Card readers on all Dublin Bus vehicles can now read the newly issued Public Services Card, which includes the Free Travel pass.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Profile of papal nuncio

The piece below is an extract from an article written by Brendan Hoban.
"There’s a lively sub-culture in Irish Catholicism of individuals and groups who encourage and reassure the leadership of our Church not to change anything. They feed the denial and the cognitive dissonance of distressed Catholics – from the mitre to the pew – and they criticise those who welcome change as dissident and disloyal. 
They write in newspapers they describe as ‘Catholic’ though they have little sense of the breadth of that term. They travel the country giving lectures and pep-up talks to the fearful and fragile who want to be convinced that keeping out the tide is a better strategy than learning how to swim. And some of them are clerics and theologians, wearing their naked ambition for promotion on their sleeves.
An example of this was a recent profile of the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Browne, on the American Catholic Crux website, by Michael Kelly. A report from ‘Dublin, Ireland’ and intended for mainly American consumption, presents a glowing report on the extraordinarily positive, almost miraculous effect on the Irish Church of the appointment of Archbishop Brown.
According to Kelly, Archbishop Brown is ‘saving the Irish Church’; he has had a huge influence on the Irish government re-establishing the Irish Embassy in Rome; his engaging personality has impressed politicians; his ‘normal-guy ethos and engaging style’ means he can share a joke even with people like Leo Varadkar; he’s reshaping the hierarchy with Pope Francis-style bishops; his accessibility is such that he probably knows the name of every parish priest in Ireland; and, for good measure, he jogs in the Phoenix Park. All that was missing from the Kelly profile was the mood music.
This sycophantic nonsense must embarrass Archbishop Brown. Because he knows that much if not most of the Kelly profile, though unintentionally entertaining, is very wide of the mark. He knows, for example, from the fall-out to his ill-judged 2013 sermon at a Mass in Mount Merrion at which he lectured Irish politicians on their responsibilities, that he’s far from being a poster-boy in Leinster House. 
He knows that, while he visits some priests in Ireland who conspicuously share his approach, he refuses to meet the Association of Catholic priests which represents almost a third of the priests on this island; and he has to know that his approach to the appointment of bishops hasn’t the confidence of most Irish priests and probably many bishops.
So, like the famous Reggie Perrin (‘I didn’t get where I am today without . . .’), shrewd man that he is, I have no doubt that he takes profiles like that of Michael Kelly with more than a grain of salt. I’m sure he knows better than most that such unambiguous flattery serves neither him nor his Church. He knows too, wise man that he is, what Pope Francis would think of such nonsense.
Fantasy is no help to the Irish Catholic Church."

Picasso and the 'absurd' price

Below is a quote from Jonathan Jones, writing in the Guradian on the sale of Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O). The painting was sold in 11 minutes for £114m.

Art collectors are fools who can be manipulated to spend fortunes with the same superficial curisosity about fashionable stuff that makes most of us buy a Bowie comeback album or go to see a film everyone's talking about. It's as trivial as that.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One hand on the wheel

Seen in Dublin this morning: a Dublin Bus driver with one hand on the steering wheel and a mobile phone in the other hand.

Afflicting the comfortable

Journalist Brendan Keenan writing on Derek Davis said he was a true journalist, who comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Winston Churchill's post war 'Eamon De Valera speech'

Below is a speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on this date 70 years ago.  The  paragraph that refers to Eamon  De  Valera is underlined  and in bold. Note the spelling of  Mr De Valera's  name.

It was five years ago on Thursday last that His Majesty the King commissioned me to form a National Government of all parties to carry on our affairs. Five years is a long time in human life, especially when there is no remission for good conduct. However, this National Government was sustained by Parliament and by the entire British nation at home and by all our fighting men abroad, and by the unswerving co-operation of the Dominions far across the oceans and of our Empire in every quarter of the globe. 

After various episodes had occurred it became clear last week that so far things have worked out pretty well, and that the British Commonwealth and Empire stands more united and more effectively powerful than at any time in its long romantic history. Certainly we are - this is what may well, I think, be admitted by any fair-minded person - in a far better state to cope with the problems and perils of the future than we were five years ago.
For a while our prime enemy, our mighty enemy, Germany, overran almost all Europe. France, who bore such a frightful strain in the last great war, was beaten to the ground and took some time to recover. The Low Countries, fighting to the best of their strength, were subjugated. Norway was overrun. Mussolini's Italy stabbed us in the back when we were, as he thought, at our last gasp. But for ourselves - our lot, I mean - the British Commonwealth and Empire, we were absolutely alone. In July, August and September 1940, forty or fifty squadrons of British fighter aircraft in the Battle of Britain broke the teeth of the German air fleet at odds of seven or eight to one. May I repeat again the words I used at that momentous hour: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.' The name of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding will always be linked with this splendid event. But conjoined with the Royal Air Force lay the Royal Navy, ever ready to tear to pieces the barges, gathered from the canals of Holland and Belgium, in which a German invading army could alone have been transported. I was never one to believe that the invasion of Britain, with the tackle that the enemy had at that time, was a very easy task to accomplish. With the autumn storms, the immediate danger of invasion in 1940 passed.
Then began the blitz, when Hitler said he would 'rub out our cities.' That's what he said 'rub out our cities.' This blitz was borne without a word of complaint or the slightest sign of flinching, while a very large number of people - honour to them all - proved that London could take it', and so could our other ravaged centres. But the dawn of 1941' revealed us still in jeopardy. The hostile aircraft could fly across the approaches to our Island, where forty-six millions of people had to import half their daily bread and all the materials they needed for peace or war: these hostile aircraft could fly across the approaches from Brest to Norway and back again in a single flight. They could observe all the movements of our shipping in and out of the Clyde and Mersey, and could direct upon our convoys the large and increasing numbers of U-boats with which the enemy be-spattered the Atlantic - the survivors or successors of which U-boats are now being collected in British harbours.
The sense of envelopment, which might at any moment turn to strangulation, lay heavy upon us. We had only the Northwestern approach between Ulster and Scotland through which to bring in the means of life and to send out the forces of war. Owing to the action of Mr de Valery, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of Southern Irishmen who hastened to the battle-front to prove their ancient valour, the approaches which the Southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valery or perish for ever from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I say, history will find few parallels, His Majesty's Government never laid a violent hand upon them though at times it would have been quite easy and quite natural, and we left the de Valery Government to frolic with the Germans and later with the Japanese representatives to their hearts content.
When I think of these days I think also of other episodes and personalities. I think of Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, VC, or Lance-Corporal Connally, VC, and Captain Fegen, VC, and other Irish heroes that I could easily recite, and then I must confess that bitterness by Britain against the Irish race dies in my heart. I can only pray that in years which I shall not see the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles as of the British Commonwealth of Nations will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness.
My friends, when our minds turn to the North-Western approaches, we will not forget the devotion of our merchant seamen, and our minesweepers out every night, and so rarely mentioned in the headlines. Nor will we forget the vast, inventive, adaptive, all-embracing and, in the end, all-controlling power of the Royal Navy, with its ever more potent new ally, the air. These have kept the life-line open. We were able to breathe; we were able to live; we were able to strike. Dire deeds we had to do. We had to destroy or capture the French fleet which, had it ever passed undamaged into German hands, would, together with the Italian fleet, have perhaps enabled the German Navy to face us on the high seas. This we did. We had to make the dispatch to General Wavily all round the Cape, at our darkest hour, of the tanks - practically all we had in the Island - and this enabled us as far back as November 1940, to defend Egypt against invasion and hurl back with the loss of a quarter of a million captives and with heavy slaughter the Italian armies at whose tail Mussolini had already planned to ride into Cairo or Alexandria.
Great anxiety was felt by President Roosevelt, and indeed by thinking men throughout the United States, about what would happen to us in the early part of 1941 The President felt to the depths of his being that the destruction of Britain would not only be an event fearful in itself, but that it would expose to mortal danger the vast and as yet largely unarmed potentialities and the future destiny of the United States. He feared greatly that we should be invaded in that spring of 1941, and no doubt he had behind him military advice as good as any that is known in the world, and he sent his recent Presidential opponent, the late Mr Wendell Willie, to me with a letter in which he had written in his own hand the famous lines of Longfellow which I quoted in the House of Commons the other day.
We were, however, in a fairly tough condition by the early months of 1941, and felt very much better about ourselves than in those months immediately after the collapse of France. Our Dun kirk army and field force troops in Britain, almost a million strong, were nearly all equipped or reequipped. We had ferried over the Atlantic a million rifles and a thousand cannon from the United States, with all their ammunition, since the previous June. In our munition works, which were becoming very powerful, men and women had worked at their machines till they dropped senseless from fatigue. Nearly one million of men, growing to two millions at the peak, although working all day, had been formed into the Home Guard. They were armed at least with rifles, and armed also with the spirit 'Conquer or Die". Later in 1941, when we were still alone, we sacrificed unwillingly, to some extent unwittingly, our conquests of the winter in Cyrenaica and Libya in order to stand by Greece; and Greece will never forget how much we gave, albeit unavailingly, of the little we had. We did this for honour. We repressed the German-instigated rising in Iraq. We defended Palestine. With the assistance of General de Gaulle's indomitable Free French we cleared Syria and the Lebanon of Vichyites and of German aviators and intriguers. And then in June, I941, another tremendous world event occurred. -
You have no doubt noticed in your reading of British history and I hope you will take pains to read it, for it is only from the past that one can judge the future, and it is only from reading the story of the British nation, of the British Empire, that you can feel a well-grounded sense of pride to dwell in these islands - you have sometimes noticed in your reading of British history that we have had to hold out from time to time all alone, or to be the mainspring of coalitions, against a continental tyrant or dictator, and we have had to hold out for quite a long time: against the Spanish Armada, against the might of Louis XIV, when we led Europe for nearly twenty-five years under William III and Marlborough, and I50 years ago, when Nelson, Pitt and Wellington broke Napoleon, not without assistance from the heroic Russians of I811. In all these world wars our Island kept the lead of Europe or else held out alone.
And if you hold out alone long enough, there always comes a time when the tyrant makes some ghastly mistake which alters the whole balance of the struggle. On June 22 1941, Hitler master as he thought himself of all Europe - nay, indeed, soon to be master of the world, so he thought - treacherously, without warning, without the slightest provocation, hurled himself on Russia and came face to face with Marshal Stalin and the numberless millions of the Russian people. And then at the end of the year Japan struck a felon blow at the United States at Pearl Harbour, and at the same time attacked us in Malaya and Singapore. Thereupon Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the Republic of the United States.
Years have passed since then. Indeed every year seems to me almost a decade. But never since the United States entered the war have I had the slightest doubt but that we should be saved, and that we only had to do our duty in order to win. 
We have played our part in all this process by which the evil-doers have been overthrown, and I hope I do not speak vain or boastful words, but from Alamein in October 1942, through the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa, of Sicily, of Italy, with the capture of Rome, we marched many miles and never knew defeat. And then last year, after two years' patient preparation and marvellous devices of amphibious warfare - and mark you, our scientists are not surpassed in any nation in the world, especially when their thought is applied to naval matters - last year on June 6th we seized a carefully selected little toe of German-occupied France and poured millions in from this Island and from across the Atlantic, until the Seine, the Somme and the Rhine all fell behind the advancing Anglo-American spearheads. France was liberated. She produced a fine army of gallant men to aid her own liberation. Germany lay open. Now from the other side the mighty military achievements of the Russian people, always holding many more German troops on their front than we could do, rolled forward to meet us in the heart and centre of Germany. 
At the same time, in Italy, Field-Marshal Alexander's army of so many nations, the largest part of which was British or British Empire, struck their final blow and compelled more than a million enemy troops to surrender. This Fifteenth Army Group, as we call it, British and Americans joined together in almost equal numbers, are now deep in Austria, joining their right hand with the Russians and their left with the United States armies of General Eisenhower's command. It happened, as you may remember - but memories are short - that in the space of three days we received the news of the unlamented departures of Mussolini and Hitler, and in three days also surrenders were made to Field-Marshal Alexander and Field-Marshal Montgomery of over 2,500,000 soldiers of this terrible warlike German army.
I shall make it clear at this moment that we never failed to recognise the immense superiority of the power used by the United States in the rescue of France and the defeat of Germany. For our part, British and Canadians, we have had about one-third as many men over there as the Americans, but we have taken our full share of the fighting, as the scale of our losses shows. Our Navy has borne incomparably the heaviest burden in the Atlantic Ocean, in the narrow seas and the Arctic convoys to Russia, while the United States Navy has had to use its immense strength mainly against Japan. We made a fair division of the labour, and we can each report that our work is either done or going to be done. It is right and natural that we should extol the virtues and glorious services of our own most famous Commanders, Alexander and Montgomery, neither of whom was ever defeated since they began together at Alamein. Both of them have conducted in Africa, in Italy, in Normandy and in Germany-many, battles of the first magnitude and of decisive consequence. At the same time we know how great is our debt to the combining and unifying command and high strategic direction of General Eisenhower.
And here is the moment when I pay my personal tribute to the British Chiefs of the Staff; with whom I worked in the closest intimacy throughout these heavy, stormy years. There have been very few changes in this small, powerful and capable body of men who, sinking all Service differences and judging the problems of the war as a whole, have worked together in perfect harmony with each other. In Field-Marshal Brooke, in Admiral Pound, succeeded after his death by Admiral Andrew Cunningham, and in Marshal of the Air Portal, a team was formed who deserved the highest honour in the direction of the whole British war strategy and in its relations with that of our Allies. It may well be said that our strategy was conducted so that the best combinations, the closest concert, were imparted into the operations by the combined staffs of Britain and the United States, with whom, from Teheran onwards, the war leaders of Russia were joined. And it may also be said that never have the forces of two nations fought side by side and intermingled in the lines of battle with so much unity, comradeship and brotherhood as in the great Anglo-American Armies. Some people say: Well, what would you expect, if both nations speak the same language, have the same laws, have a great part of their history in common, and have very much the same outlook upon life with all its hope and glory? Isn't it just the sort of thing that would happen? And others may say: It would be an ill day for all the world and for the pair of them if they did not go on working together and marching together and sailing together and flying together, whenever something has to be done for the sake of freedom and fair play all over the world. That is the great hope of the future.
There was one final danger from which the collapse of Germany has saved us. In London and the south eastern counties we have suffered for a year from various forms of flying-bombs - perhaps you have heard about this - and rockets, and our Air Force and our ack-ack batteries have done wonders against them. In particular the Air Force turned on in good time on what then seemed very slight and doubtful evidence, hampered and vastly delayed all German preparations. But it was only when our Armies cleaned up the coast and overran all the points of discharge, and when the Americans captured vast stores of rockets of all kinds near Leipzig, which only the other day added to the information we had, and when all the preparations being made on the coasts of France and Holland could be examined in detail, in scientific detail, that we knew how grave had been the peril, not only from rockets and flying-bombs but from multiple long range artillery which was being prepared against London. Only just in time did the Allied armies blast the viper in his nest. Otherwise the autumn of 1944, to say nothing of 1945, might well have seen London as shattered as Berlin.
For the same period the Germans had prepared a new U-boat fleet and novel tactics which, though we should have eventually destroyed them, might well have carried anti-U-boat warfare back to the high peak days of 1942. Therefore we must rejoice and give thanks, not only for our preservation when we were all alone, but for our timely deliverance from new suffering, new perils not easily to be measured.
I wish I could tell you tonight that all our toils and troubles were over. Then indeed I could end my five years' service happily, and if you thought that you had had enough of me and that I ought to be put out to grass, I tell you I would take it with the best of grace. But, on the contrary, I must warn you, as I did when I began this five years' task - and no one knew then that it would last so long - that there is still a lot to do, and that you must be prepared for further efforts of mind and body and further sacrifices to great causes if you are not to fall back into the rut of inertia, the confusion of aim, and the craven fear of being great. You must not weaken in any way in your alert and vigilant frame of mind. Though holiday rejoicing is necessary to the human spirit, yet it must add to the strength and resilience with which every man and woman turns again to the work they have to do, and also to the outlook and watch they have to keep on public affairs.
On the continent of Europe we have yet to make sure that the simple and honourable purposes for which we entered the war are not brushed aside or overlooked in the months following our success, and that the words 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'liberation' are not distorted from their true meaning as we have understood them. There wouldbe little use in punishing the Hitlerites for their crimes if law and justice did not rule, and if totalitarian or police governments were to take the place of the German invaders. We seek nothing for ourselves. But we must make sure that those causes which we fought for find recognition at the peace table in facts as well as words, and above all we must labour that the world organisation which the United Nations are creating at San Francisco does not become an idle name, does not become a shield for the strong and a mockery for the weak. It is the victors who must search their hearts in their glowing hours, and be worthy by their nobility of the immense forces that they wield.
We must never forget that beyond all lurks Japan, harassed and failing but still a people of a hundred millions, for whose warriors death has few terrors. I cannot tell you tonight how much time or exertions or what exertions will be required to compel the Japanese to make amends for their odious treachery and cruelty. We - like China, so long undaunted - have received horrible injuries from them ourselves, and we are bound by the ties of honour and fraternal loyalty to the United States to fight this great war at the other end of the world at their side without flagging or failing. We must remember that Australia and New Zealand and Canada were and are all directly menaced by this evil Power. They came to our aid in our dark times, and we must not leave unfinished any task which concerns their safety and their future. I told you hard things at the beginning of these last five years; you did not shrink, and I should be unworthy of your confidence and generosity if I did not still cry: Forward, unflinching, unswerving, indomitable, till the whole task is done and the whole world is safe and clean.

Nutter's the name

The Mayor of Philadelphia is Michael Nutter.

The dead

Why should we not speak badly of the dead if they have done terrible wrong?

Has it something to do with protetcting institutions and organisations? Something to do with control and power, as pathetic as it may be?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

RTE's DAB service

RTE Radio operates a DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) system in the Dublin, Cork and Limerick regions

The public broadcaster has dropped plans to roll out its DAB service nationwide.

And the DAB service it currently offers seems to have  technical problems.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Berlin rubble women

Lovely piece in Saturday's Irish Times Weekend Review about the work the women of Berlin, indeed, of all German cities, did after May 9, 1945. They were known as the rubble women.

It is estimated they cleared 500 million cubic metres of rubble from around Germany's cities. In Berlin they moved 75 million cubic metres.

Irish Times journalist Derek Scally visited a group of elderly women at a gym class in Berlin. One woman was a year old when the kaiser abdicated in 1918, 16 when Hitler came to power and 27 when the victorious Soviet Army arrived in the city.

None of the women in that gym that Scally visited ever remembers anyone ever saying thank you.

All institutions need careful supervision - no exceptions

In a report on the debacle at the HSE it has been pointed out that the overriding modus operandi has been 'self-preservation'.

Who is to blame? The management team?

Another clarion call that all organisations and institutions need careful and close supervision and no exceptions whatsoever.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

'Everyone we wanted to see was here' - Vladimir Putin

Today German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid a wreath in Moscow to honour the Soviet dead of World War ll.

An estimated 24 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the war. Hardly a single family was untouched by the terror of Nazi Germany.

Below is a piece from the Guardian.

Putin, meanwhile, who watched Saturday's parade seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, shrugged off the Western snub.

"Everyone we wanted to see was here," he said in televised remarks Saturday evening.
But he also thanked the Soviet Union's key WWII allies - the United States, Britain and France - for their "contribution" to victory as well as all those who battled against the Nazis in Germany.
Speaking on Saturday to Czech President Milos Zeman, one of the few European leaders who flew to Moscow for the festivities, Putin said a thaw in relations with the West was due.

"It was not us who initiated the chill in relations with Europe but I hope that thanks to politicians like you we will manage not only to revive them completely but to also move forward," Putin said.
The Czech leftist leader, for his part, said he was confident that "normal ties will replace that chill."
Saturday's festivities in Moscow were rife with nationalist pride  with people carrying portraits of soldiers through the streets.
Like Putin, many Russians shrugged off the Western no-show as they celebrated Victory Day well into the night, singing war-era songs and celebrating and honoring their veterans.
Earlier in the day, over half a million people marched through central Moscow with portraits of their relatives who fought in the war, in the biggest march during Putin's 15-year tenure as on-and-off president.

The 62-year-old joined the procession on Red Square, carrying a portrait of his veteran father Vladimir in his hand.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Remembering victory

Seventy years ago today, May 9, 1945 in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst German field marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed the act of surrender in the presence of Soviet field marshal General Georgii Zhukov.

Keitel had been head of OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - Supreme Command of the Army) for most of the war years.

It is generally accepted by historians and those thinking German soldiers that he was a sycophant. A colleague once said of him: "Keitel was an obedient lackey of his master. He was even called "Lackeitel", we only ever called him that."

Obviously a play of 'eitel' and Keitel but 'eitel' also means proud in German.

He was tried, found guilty and hanged at Nürnberg.

One of his daughters studied at Trinity College in Dublin in the 1930s.

Georgii Zhukov, who planned the encirclement of Paulus' Sixth Army on the Volga, went on to high office in the Soviet Union but his bosses were always afraid of him and in the end he was treated badly. Zhukov was no sycophant.

Tomorrow in Moscow German Chancellor Angela Merkel will lay a wreath to the fallen Soviet dead of World War ll. Because of the conflict in Ukraine she was unwilling to attend today's Moscow celebrations.

“We cannot close the book on our history,” Merkel said in her weekly video message on May 2. Despite deep differences with Russia over Ukraine, she said, “it is important for me to lay a wreath on May 10.
In the 'good days' Vladimir Putin addressed the Bundestag, speaking in German. Putin was KGB station chief in Dresden before the fall of the Wall.

Twelve million people took part in the celebrations across the Russian Federation today.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Goodbye Ed, we'll miss you

And that's the end of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party. As Enoch Powell said all politics ends in failure.

It was clear from the outset that Douglas Alexander was the wrong choice as the man in charge of the election. They should have also known that Ed Balls was not the person for the Treasury.

Did the royal birth influence the result?

Would David have won? We'll never know

One person's reasonableness is another's prejudice

A quote from an article by theologian Patrick Comerford on marriage in yesterday's Irish Times.

It can be argued that marriage is part of the natural order or conforming to natural law. But there is no one, accepted definition of what is natural or what is not natural, and no one accepted code of natural law. When appeal is made to reason, one person's reasonable approach becomes another person's prejudice.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recommended reading

Spirituality is a periodical published by Dominican Publications.

The May June issue includes an article by a former Irish Dominican priest, Damien Cronin.

The article is on clerical child sex abuse.

Damien writes how he was abused in Newbridge College when he was a small boy. He was abused by a Dominican priest.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Yes and No vote

Coverage of the upcoming marriage referendum is certainly building up a head of steam.

The Yes proponents and their No counterparts are in deep debate right now. Some are impresive, others have been less impressive.

On April 27, bookmakers Paddy Power were giving odds of 1/10 in favour of a Yes vote.

And a 21-year-old in the Áras? Seven years later she or he could be on a life-long pension of €125,000 per year.

With two referendums on the day you can honestly tell canvassers you are voting Yes and No.

Wilson's 1966 election

On April 1, 1966 Prime Minister Harold Wislon was returned to power in the United Kingdom.

The Labour Party won the election with an overall majority of 96 seats.

And tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The travel pass

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Last Wednesday, April 29 was my birthday and the clock hit 66. I can’t believe it but I have my birth cert to prove it. One or two other telltale signs as well.

On the previous Friday my Free Travel Pass arrived and all that was left for me to do was to go into the Dublin Bus office to get my photo ID. I did not even have to wait till Wednesday to use it. There and then I was on free wheels.

Full marks to the Department of Social Protection.  Then on the following Monday information concerning my Contributory Old Age Pension arrived in the post. It is now called State Pension (Contributory). Over the last few months I have phoned the Department on a number of occasions looking for information on social welfare benefits. On every occasion they have been most helpful, polite and efficient. Staff at the Department of Social Protection, thank you.

I have said it before in this column and it can’t be stressed enough. People should inform themselves about the intricacies of the State Pension (Contributory) long before they reach pension age. 

It is an extraordinarily complicated system and people can discover far too late in their lives that they have not enough credits to qualify for the full pension. Had they known in advance they could have paid voluntary contributions. The Department of Social Protection would be well advised to embark on an information campaign in an effort to publicise and explain how the pension works.

For weeks before the travel pass arrived I was looking forward to it. Some months ago I was on the verge of buying a 30 day Rambler Ticket when it dawned on me I would probably not get the full value for it as I’d have my travel pass before all the credit on it had been used up.

On Friday when I opened the envelope and held the travel pass card in my hand a profound sadness came over me. Sitting in the kitchen, looking at the pass I could clearly see the travel passes of both my late parents. There was something terribly sad about it. 

It also dawned on me how time is passing. When my parents received their passes I certainly did not consider them spring chickens. They were relatively young in outlook but they certainly had moved into another league. Has the same happened to me now? I can’t believe that. But I suppose I better. The few times I have so far used the travel pass, as soon as I showed it to the driver I quickly whipped it into my pocket. Do I want people to see that I am an old age pensioner?

Thankfully the Department is currently issuing new all-purpose PPS cards, which the card readers on the buses can read. How long will it be before some polite young person gives up their seat for me?

Or how long will it be before the upper saloon of a double decker bus will be a no go zone for me? It's probably all ahead of me.

It only seems like yesterday since I was taking part in athletic competitions or playing table tennis. Not that I can’t now run or play tennis but it’s different.

I’m as proud as hell that I’m still cycling my bicycle. Indeed, the day that stops will certainly be a crisis moment for me.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tess is back in the hills

Tess at the JB Malone stone on her way to Djouce and then at the top of the Wicklow mountain, which is 725 metres high.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Rail strike in Germany

The longest rail strike in the history of German Rail will begin on Tuesday at 02.00. The six-day strike will end on Sunday at 09.00.

Cargo trains will stop rolling tomorrow at 15.00.

€30 million Redemptorist Dublin property for sale

The Redemptorist property on Orwell Road is for sale. This is its second time to come on the market. It's being valued at €30 million. One estimate is that 280 houses will be built on the site.

The large mass-concrete structure was built in the early 1970s.

At the time it was considered an eyesore. It still is, indeed, it is a blight on Orwell Road.

It has been pointed out to this writer that the provinical of the Redemptorists at the time of the construction was not a man competent or capable of overseeing such a project.

A story of our time.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Irish Rail signage

The sign below is on the wall at an Irish Rail car park in Portlaoise. The car park is managed by Q-Park.

What manager, what person in authority sanctioned such a sign to be placed?

How must Irish Rail personnel feel when they read this sign. What must they think of the people who authorised it? What must they think of the management class at Irish Rail?

It's a small thing. But it's always the small things that tell the tale.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A scary wake-up call for the Irish telephone regulator

A 10-second call, made in error to 11890 directory enquiries costs €2.7642. And no information was given.

How can a telephone regulator allow that?

It's most likely that the majority of the people who use this service are from a lower socio economic grouping, people, who may not have an internet facility, older people, people who are not aware of the exorbitant pricing.

Surely there is only one word for it - stealing.

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