Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Irish Rail locomotives left to rot and rust at Inchicore

Anyone who is a regular rail user in and out of Heuston Station will notice a line of locomotives lying idle in Inchicore.

It seems the locos have been left to disintegrate, while some of them are being canablised. It seems there are more than 10 of these locomotives no longer in service.

The first of these locos went into service in 1994. Indeed, the first one arrived at Dublin Airport from Canada in a Russian built Anantov.

That this is happening these locos seems nothing less than a scandal.

Yesterday the Comptroller and Auditor General published his annual report on State spending.

Will the C&AG ever have anything to say on the waste at Irish Rail?

The locos are the 200 class series and are the locomotive class used to operate the Mark lV Dublin Cork trains and the Enterprise service.

Has there been anything in the media about it?

It would seem to be a matter of chronic waste? Mismanagement too?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Harvest in Baltinglass

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On Sunday, September 20 the Church of Ireland community in Baltinglass in Co. Wicklow celebrated its annual harvest festival. It’s an important date in the Anglican calendar. Some Catholic communities mark the occasion but it’s not widespread.

There is no special date for it except to say that it takes place this time of the year. As it suggests, it takes place to mark the gathering of the harvest.

And according to all the experts this has been a great grain harvest with farmers experiencing higher yields than in many years.

Does that mean that our bread and porridge will be cheaper this winter? I doubt it.

Máirt Hanley is the Church of Ireland rector in Baltinglass and he invited me to talk in church on the Sunday they were celebrating the harvest festival.

I know Máirt since my days working and living in Kerry when he was ministering in Tralee and then later in Camp in West Kerry.

It was my second time to talk in a Protestant church so naturally I was somewhat more nervous than usual when getting up to speak.

It all worked out fine. The church seemed full and Ireland being the small place that it is, a number of people present knew people I know. That's Ireland.

The theme of my talk was based on my recent trip with Concern Worldwide to Lebanon, which was relevant to the first reading from the prophet Joel, who lived approximately 400 BC/BCE.

Máirt, his wife Una and their three children Sadhbh, Oscar and Cathal live in the manse, which is on the grounds of the church.

I arrived early so there was plenty of time for a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Even if there was an element of panic when I arrived, I immediately felt at home. Within seconds toast and coffee was served. Just what I needed. The reason for the panic was that Una and Máirt were in the throes of putting the finishing touches to the preparations for the food, fun and games that were being served up after the church service.

At one stage little nine-year-old Sadhbh began to explain to me what she missed from living in Kerry but quickly added that she was enjoying life in Wicklow and was happy in her new school. She even went on to tell me what secondary school she expects to attend.

I know little or nothing about Máirt’s family but sitting down in Máirt and Una’s kitchen on that Sunday morning I was conscious of the warmth and ‘normality’ of family life. A man and a woman with their three young children doing what nature, love and life suggests.

I felt at home in the short hour I spent in their kitchen.

On the few occasions I have been in the house/home of a Catholic priest I have to say I have found myself wondering what to say and how to behave. There is always something pained about it, there is something odd about it all. There’s something missing. I’d go as far as saying, in most cases, there seems to be something not right about it.

Driving back from Baltinglass I was wondering is Máirt Hanley any less a priest than his Catholic counterpart? I doubt it. I wonder what God thinks about it all?

Has it all to do with holiness and theology or more to do with history, turf wars and power?

Of course there is place for different types of priesthood within the Catholic Church: religious congregations and diocesan priesthood. Why not married priests? Why not women priests?

Just asking.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Francis stresses importance of being close to people

On his flight back to Italy Pope Francis was asked about the primary task facing the church in the United States: "The challenge of the church is to be what it always was -- close to the people, not detached," he said.

"It's the little gestures..."

In Philadelphia yesterday Pope Francis spoke of those important little things that make us feel at home.
Just how many religious communities make people feel at home?

He's been worth waiting for even if it has taken years of horror.

When did an Irish bishop, an Irish provincial say anything remotely like this? Do anything remotely like this. Genuinely making people feel at home?

In Sunday's homily, Francis reflected on the Gospel reading of the day that sees the disciples ask Jesus whether they should rebuke others who are healing in his name. Jesus replies: "There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me."
The pope said that just like happiness, holiness is "tied to little gestures."
"These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different," he said. "They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children."
"Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love," said the pope. "That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Children of the GDR

New VW boss, Matthias Müller was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) in Saxony in 1953 in the former German Democratic Republic.

His family moved to Bavaria when he was still at school. After finishing school in Ingolstadt Müller started an apprenticeship as a toolmaker at Audi, which he completed in 1977.

He then went on to study computer engineering science in Munich.

So the German President, Chancellor and now the boss of the world's largest car maker are from the former German Democratic Republic.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Life on the Dodder

On the Dodder today near Rathfarnham Bridge.

Fishing season closes on the river on Wednesday.

Pope from another America, showing up deep divisions

Two extracts from the editorial comment in yesterday's Guardian newsapaper.

It can sometimes seem as if there are few creatures on earth more pompous than a rightwing American Catholic. During the conservative papacies of John Paul ll and Benedict XVl, Republican pundits preached papal authoritiy at the liberals. Now they have pontificated themselves into a frenzy about how wrong Pope Francis is.

Later in the editorial.

The extreme detachment of Catholic sexual teaching from Catholic sexual practice, and the importance the hierarchy has attached to fighting this doomed battle, has produced a more extremely conservative (and increasingly gay) priesthood, which still further alienates the mainstream.

A great editorial.

And Ireland?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Making money in Syria

An estimated 250,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war. Another seven million people are displaced within Syria and 4.1 million have left the country.

In the meantime the four big arms exporters are United States, Russia, China and Germany.

Last year the German government gave licences to the value of €3.94 billion to companies exporting arms.

In the last few days Russia has deployed fighter jets, Sukhoi SU-24s and SU-25s in Syria. 

Pope in tiny car and his man in Dublin is 'Excellency'

It becomes ever so confusing.

While Pope Francis insists on being driven about in the US in a small car, some church people in Ireland refer to his ambassador to the State as "His Excellency".

And to add to the confusion there are also spelling issues when it comes to the man's name.

Tough times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A perfect example of patronising church arrogance

In this week's Irish Catholic newspaper Benedictine Martin Browne writes:

"The journalistic comic-book mentality cannot cope with theological or conceptual complexity and so reduces all thought in the Church (sic) to basically two positions, each with its own leader."

Elsewhere in the article he writes:

"In the kind of comic-book caricaturing that passes for journalism in many quarters these days........"

How at all do newspapers report on CERN or EU budgetary policy?

The churches are slow to let go of their patronising arrogance.

A perfect example of how to alienate the reader.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stop Syrian slaughter

This week's INM Irish regional newspaper column

Michael Commane
Within the last fortnight Aldi opened a new megastore in Dublin’s Terenure.  In the immediate days before Aldi opened and in the first days of the new store, nearby Lidl offered a 20 per cent reduction on all its groceries. 

On Saturday, September 12, I returned from Lebanon to Dublin and on the Sunday I went up to Lidl to buy some groceries.

The shop was mobbed. One store assistant said to me that he had never seen anything like it. It was the last day of the promotion.

It was bedlam and Dublin’s south side shoppers were close to panic. And were they showing it.

The previous week I was in northern Lebanon, visiting Syrian refugees. They are living in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tents and being supported by Concern Worldwide. I work in the Concern press office so that’s why I was there.

There are approximately 50 to 60 tents on each encampment and every tent holds roughly 30 people or five families.

Lebanon was in the throes of one of its worst ever sandstorms. The temperature was close to 40 degrees Celsius. It was new territory for me.

In Bebnine, a 30-minute drive from the city of Halba, I met Abdullah Al-Hamad, who lives in one of these tents with his family. He explained why they had left Syria and come to Lebanon. They pay $50 a month to live in the tent supplied by the UNHCR. While he was talking someone brought a tray into the tent with small cups of tea for the visitors. In the midst of such turmoil, such pain and suffering our Syrian hosts had the grace to offer us freshly brewed tea.

Scrambling around the Lidl store in Terenure that Sunday my mind went back to my Syrian hosts in Lebanon.

Not for a moment am I saying that Lidl shoppers, Irish people, are any different from Syrian refugees. 

Maybe it has something to do with wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we cope in what we think is an appropriate fashion.

Seeing with my own eyes how Syrian refugees are forced to live, I keep saying how fortunate I am.

Talking to someone about the Syrian refugee crisis, she immediately reminded me of the number of homeless people living in Dublin.

Where to start, what to do? It’s easy to say I have no answers but I don’t.

For the life of me I can’t understand why the powerful and influential, the great world political leaders can’t sit down and stop this current war in Syria, indeed, sit down and stop all wars.

According to a report in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper last week, Russia proposed back in 2012 that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad cede power at some time after peace talks had taken place between the Assad government and the opposition.

The former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari said that the US, France and Britain ignored the Russian proposal as they were convinced the Syrian dictator was about to fall.

Who’s supplying all the weaponry for this barbarism? It’s certainly not the refugees I met.

I can only imagine the profits from all the weaponry, the soldiers’ boots and uniforms flow back to wealthy people. It allows them live in great style and opulence.

I’m inclined to think that Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the British Labour Party is saying some prophetic things. He has spent his life campaigning against the madness of war.

Jeremy and I have a few things in common. One being we are the same age.

Monday, September 21, 2015

When is it okay to criticise and poke fun at people?

Last Saturday this blog posted a one-liner on recently appointed Irish Catholic bishops.

It was intended to be funny, with a certain element of criticism attached to it.

A reader felt that it was disrespectful and that on occasion this blog posts material which is offensive. The reader also expressed the opinion that the blog can be tedious in its criticism of aspects of insititutional church life.

Someone else wrote to say it was an excellent post.

Subsequently the one-liner was removed.

Is it not important that we have the sense (of humour) to laugh at ourselves?

Is it not a real failing with the churches that they take themselves far too seriously?

It's interesting to note those organisations that refuse to tolerate criticism.

Someone once commented you can always spot a dictatorship - it's those countries which print a photo of their leader on their currency. Not perfectly so as the Queen of England is on UK notes.

Would the churches not be in a healthier place today if they were not tied to strict and serious straitjackets?

The church has a long tradition of 'not giving scandal'. There are cons and pros on that line of thinking.

On the other hand one can never beat good taste.

Everyone is entitled to their good name but in an open and free society it's imortant that public figures, people in positions of 'authority' be criticised and indeed, praised too.

There's plenty to criticise about leaders within the Irish Catholic Church. Surely a balance is needed to counteract the sycophancy that's so evident.

Well placed

Tess finds the perfect spot to keep an eye on things.

Pope Franics will know well about who's who in the US

Six of the nine US Supreme Court justices are Catholic, and more than six of the 2016 presidential candidates claim it as their faith. When the pope goes to Capitol Hill this week nearly a third of his Congressional audience will be Catholic.

Baltinglass harvest festival

Baltinglass Church of Ireland parish celebrated its annual harvest festival yesterday.

The church was filled for the morning service at 11.00 and then after prayers there was food, fun and games for the community.

Rector Máirt Hanley kindly invited me to talk at the liturgy. Before prayers there was freshly brewed coffee with his wife and three children.

Máirt Hanley, rector at Church of Ireland parish
in Baltinglass, outside the  parish church.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pope Francis in Cuba

BBC Radio this morning reported on Pope Francis' arrival in Cuba and his first address in the country.

In the course of his talk he spoke of being in the atmosphere of a third world war.

Worrying words. Worrying times.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

US Catholics

Between 2007 and 2014 the number of Catholics in the US fell from 24 to 21 per cent.

Pope Francis will visit the US from next Tuesday to Sunday having spent the previous four days in Cuba.

Will the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), William Levada be invited to papal events during the visit of Pope Francis to the US?

The excerpt below is from words spoken by Cardinal William Levada.

A wise Dominican was once overheard saying that he wondered would the Catholic Church be in such a 'frenzy' about abortion if it was not linked to sexuality.

When Cardinal Levada sat behind the wheel of his car having consumed too much alcohol was he aware that he could take innocent life as a result of his behaviour?
"The individual politician, like any Catholic, who is at odds with the teaching of the Church about the principle involved, i.e., that abortion constitutes the killing of innocent human life and is always gravely immoral (cf. Evangelium Vitae, nn. 57–62), has an obligation to reflect more deeply on the issue, in the hope of allowing the persuasive character of this infallibly taught teaching to become part of his belief and value system. I say infallibly taught not because Pope John Paul II has assumed in Evangelium Vitae the special prerogative recognized for individual papal teachings in the First Vatican Council, but rather because he has called attention explicitly to the fact that Catholic teaching on abortion has been an infallible doctrine of the Church by virtue of the universal ordinary Magisterium, recognized for the teachings of the Pope and worldwide college of bishops together by the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal William Levada, Ms Elaine Mahon, Veritas and Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh at a Year of Faith event in November 2013 on the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Arguments over power and sex in Christian churches

"The archbishop of Canterbury is proposing to disolve the fractious and bitterly divided worldwide Anglican communion and replace it with with a much loser grouping - after conceding it has become impossible to hold together due to arguments over power and sexuality."

That's the opening paragraph in the lead story on the front page of yesterday's Guardian newspaper.

Archbishop Justin Welby said that the Anglican communion has for the last 20 years been completely dysfunctional.

An honest man. No doubt when he compares what he sees in the world of industry, where he has spent most of his working life, with what goes on in the church, he sees with sharp eyes what's going on.

Of course it is the same story in the Catholic Church, right across dioceses and within religious congregations.

Dysfunctional is a good word to describe the situation.

"Spending vast amounts of time trying to keep people in the boat and never actually rowing it anywhere," said a Lambeth Palace source.

It makes for good reading to compare what Justin Welby says with what papal nunico to Irealnd, Charles Brown was quoted as saying some weeks ago in The Irish Times.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Life changing experience

From this week's Kerryman newspaper.



  • The Kerryman (North Kerry)
  • 16 Sep 2015

Michael Commane at a school in Talhayat, which is supported by Concern.

LAST week I was in Halba in northern Lebanon where Concern Worldwide is based. Concern employs close to 90 people in the city, including two Irish engineers, Cork man Patrick O’Halloran from Templemartin and Charlie Donnelly from Rathgar in Dublin. Pat has been in Lebanon with Concern since April of last year and Charlie is ‘ brand new’ as he only arrived last week.

It’s only when you visit a place like this and see with your own eyes what’s going on that one can appreciate the work that is being done.

Last Thursday I visited a UNHCR settlement in Bebnine, which is approximately a 30 minute-drive from the Concern office in Halba.

Syrian refugees are here since 2013 living under plastic sheeting. Originally there were no toilets. Patrick O’Halloran explains that Concern has now installed toilets, water and waste water systems.

There are four families or 30 people to each tent.

This week Concern is beginning a project to enlarge a culvert in a nearby stream so that there will be a better flow of water.

The day I was there Concern was discussing the matter with an official from the local municipality.
Concern is also involved in cleaning river beds.

I called to one of the tents where I met Abdullah and his family. They have all fled from Homs in Syria and are here in Bebnine two years.

There was a number of young children in the tent, none of them attending school. Their mother had been killed in a bombing raid in Syria.

Before fleeing Syria they were moving from city to city.

Later that same day I visited a makeshift school near Bebnine in Talhayat. Here Concern is supporting Unicef.

The education manager, Farah El Omar, explains how Concern is organising training for teachers.
They are teaching children in two groups, four to sevenyear-olds and eight to 14-yearolds.

It was great to be back in a classroom and the smiles on the children’s facing made the journey all so worthwhile. Fortunately the children are able to smile. They are not fully aware of what is going on. 

But it is a different story with the adults.

Abdullah explains how difficult life is.

They have to pay $50 a month for the UNHCRtent and they are finding it next to impossible to manage. The UNHCR rents land from local farmers and that’s why the refugees have to pay the monthly rent.

Abdullah’s elderly mother had earlier been living in a garage but the owner raised the rent so she had to leave.

Concern is doing its damnedest to make life better and more pleasant for these people, who have fled, scared of their lives, from Syria. Every person with whom I spoke knew the exact day they left their home in Syria. It was always the day their home was bombed from the sky.

Any chance the world powers could be made bang heads together and stop the fighting?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tea from our Syrian hosts

Within minutes of arrival in this tent in northern Lebanon a man came around with a cup of tea for everyone.

Every person with whom I spoke, has one wish, one hope, for the war to stop and to go back to their homes in Syria.

Last week Lebanon experienced on of its wost ever sandstorms and temperatures were in the high 30s.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So-called tamper-proof cartons still on Irish shelves

This week's INM Irish regional newspaper column.

Michael Commane
Has it ever crossed your mind how safe or unsafe the food is that you buy in a shop. These days it’s a long chain that gets the food from the producer to the shop. One break on that tenuous link and we all could be in trouble.

When working at The Kerryman I was tasked with going out and about in the county, writing stories on people and things I met in my travels.

On one occasion I came across a plastic bottle of milk which I was able to open without breaking the seal. I wrote a story about the faulty milk top.

The Co-Op that sold the milk was not too happy with my ‘find’ and as far as I can remember they had words with the editor about the story.

That must have been more than 10 years ago.

Lo and behold, on holidays during a rain-drenched week in Kerry in early August this year once again I came upon a plastic container I could open without breaking its seal. Since then I have managed to open another two keeping the seal intact. I have them safely put away at home.

This time the containers were bought in Lidl stores in Kerry and Dublin. The original container bought “back in the days” came from a different milk supplier and was bought in a different shop.
Since I wrote the original story I often check milk/cream tops to see can I open them without breaking the seal. Over the years I have found a number. On one occasion I contacted the store where I bought the milk/cream. I was assured by the store and the supplier that the matter had been resolved.

The matter has not been resolved.

Okay, I can see you say I have little to worry or annoy me. That’s not the point. The point is that there are so-called tamper-proof milk/cream containers on Irish shelves which are not ‘tamper-proof’ and they have been on Irish shelves for over 10 years now.

It means that it is possible for someone to get one of these containers, put something in it and then replace it on the shelf. An unsuspecting shopper picks it up, buys it, drinks it and something happens. 

All hell would break loose. Public enquiries would be held. We might even hear that the product manufacturer had no idea such a faulty product was on a shelf anywhere in the country.

What is most annoying is that it appears the voice of the small man/woman is seldom if ever heard.

This saga has been going on a long time. Imagine if that had been discovered by some personality, some person with clout, of course heads would roll: the manufacturing process would change and the problem would be solved. End of story.

This sort of thing happens far too often in Irish society and most times it is only after the horse has bolted is something done about it.

It is simply not good enough.

Over the years I had kept a few of the faulty tops, just in case. But eventually some time back I threw them out. I simply couldn’t be bothered.

But now I am bothered. I am annoyed that this is still going on and I want someone, somewhere to make sure that it is not possible to buy a product in Ireland which is potentially dangerous and is also misleading the customer.

Too late to close the door after the horse has bolted. Fix it now please.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This war is far too cruel for these little Syrian children

These children are living in Bebnine in northern Lebanon. They are innocent little Syrians, who have had to flee their homes becasue of the war that is destroying their country.

They are lving in tents supplied by UNCHR. Concern Worldwide is supplying water and sanitation in the tents.

These children fled Syria when their homes were bombed in Hommes.

The father of the baby in the arms of the little girl is seriously ill.

Every Syrian with whom I spoke has one wish and that is to return to their homes in Syria. But first the war has to stop.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A priest who seems not to 'mind' his language

Fr Andrew McMahon has a two-page spread in this week's Irish Catholic. The piece is titled: Minding our language.... Church communication and the referendum debate.

On the second page of the article he writes: "Amidst the propaganda which masqueraded as journalism in the wake of the result, the fact that 37.4% of the registered electorate had voted for same-sex marriage was generally underplayed, with emphasis on the "yes" figure of 62.1%.

"The latter figure was endlessly trumpetd........."

Might Fr McMahon 'mind his language'?

Bishop Peter Ball

BBC's Sunday programme this morning reported on retired Anglican bishop, Peter Ball.

He has evaded prosecution for over 22 years for child sex abuse crimes.

A woman who knew him said: "He was greatly respected and was a man with a great sense of holiness."

A Jeremy Corbyn-like leader

With the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party one is reminded on the 1988 TV series A Very British Coup, where Harry Perkins is elected prime minister.

From the beginning the establishment set out to destroy him.

Imagine an Irish Catholic diocese, an Irish religious congregation having a Jeremy Corbyn-like 'leader'.

No, impossible to imagine. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Brendan McBride never once mentioned religion

Today's Irish Times 'Thinking Anew' column.

Michael Commane
It was one of those moments when, half listening to the radio, I suddenly sat up and paid attention to what was going on. It was great radio.

Ray was interviewing Fr Brendan McBride. I had never heard of the man before but suddenly I was listening to every word he said. He was so engaging, something about him that it was impossible not to listen to him.

Brendan is a Catholic chaplain in San Francisco. And for many Irish living in the city the chaplaincy in Geary Street in Richmond is a place they call home.

The 72-year-old Donegal man came to attention in Ireland in the aftermath of the tragedy in Berkeley where five Irish J-1 students and an Irish American were killed, and seven others were seriously injured.

Fr McBride spoke to Ray how events unfolded immediately after the balcony collapsed. He got to the site at 6am and then went to the different hospitals. As he was visiting the hospitals it struck him how the students' parents would react back in Ireland as they heard of the disaster on radio and television.

And then within hours parents began to arrive in Berkeley and Brendan was on hand to meet them.

"These were the most fantastic group of parents. Everything is good with Ireland because these parents were phenomenal. I was so impressed. The love and care they had. You could see it was something built up over years," Fr McBride said. He added, how often we hear that things are not like they used to be. "People are like they used to be," he insisted.

In the interview Brendan spoke slowly, maybe even hesitatingly but every word he said had profound meaning and was uttered with palpable sensitivity. He spoke of the hospital staff as being absolutely amazing.  

In the second reading at Mass tomorrow, St James in his letter writes: " If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty', without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead." (James 2: 15 - 16)

During the entire interview with Ray Darcy Brendan McBride never once mentioned the words faith, God or religion. And yet it was as clear as day that this man from Donegal was a man of deep faith in God.

It’s  obvious that Fr McBride has taken to himself the words of St James. Faith without good deeds is a non-runner, it doesn't work. Might it be that our Christian churches in their current dispensation have concentrated too much on the 'theoretical side of things' and have placed too little emphasis on 'doing Christianity'? 

Ask any young person about which is more important - to have a strong belief in the idea that there are three persons in God or whether or not we should help our neighbour. Of course it's not a matter of either or. Faith and good works go hand-in-hand but as St James is clearly telling us today faith without good works is 'quite dead', to use James's exact words. 

Surely every time we do good we are behaving in a God-like way. After all, the word goodness has a touch of God about it. And that goodness was all over the Ray Darcy interview with Fr Brendan McBride.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Syrian refugees in Bebnine

Yesterday I visited a family living in a UNCHR shelter in Bebnine, northern Lebanon.

Again, Concern is working here. Pat O'Halloran, an engineer from Cork, explains how they were designing and building pipe systems for clean water and also for waste. He showed me a culvert they are rebuilding. 

It's when you see it with your own eyes that it hits home what Concern is doing.

Abdullah says at least they are safe here but the rent of $50 a month is too much for him and his family. One man said he wants to leave here, go to Turkey and then on to anywhere in Europe.

Abduallah's mother explains that she had been living in a garage but the rent was too high so she had to come to this shelter.

The family had lost five of their relatives in Syria when their house was bombed.

One in four people living in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The popes and cardinals who had "no idea" about things

This man gets it in one.

But you will recall what 'they' did to him,

Reading something like this on the Lebanon Syrian border, all it can do is make one angry. And one thinks too of Cardinal William Levada.

"Dying of cancer, Bishop Emeritus Geoffrey Robinson appeared Aug. 24 before the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to testify to the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the church.

"He painted a sad picture of a brave and lonely Sisyphus with his band of bishops in tow, pushing a boulder with a reasoned response to the crisis up the Vatican Hill, only to have it pushed back by popes and cardinals who had no idea about the issue and a blindness about the incapacity of canon law to deal with it."

Back in the classroom, this time in northern Lebanon

Syrian refugee children at a school supported by Concern in Talhayat, northern Lebanon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dust in Beirut

Concern Worldwide is working in Halba in northern Lebanon supporting refugees who have come over the border from Syria.

In 2014 14, 522 people benefited  from Concern's Lebanon shelter assistance programme.

I flew into Beirut today and tomorow travel to northern Lebanon to visit Concern shelters and protection sites.

In the last days Beirut has experienced a severe sandstorm and temperatures are set to soar tomorrow.

Cars all over the city are covered in dust. In the dark, the dust could be mistaken for light snow.

And along with the dust, there was a bin workers' strike in the city today followed by a large demonstration against the government.

It's rubbish in one country, water in another.

Google tomorrow's weather for Beirut one word comes up - Dust.

Depression loneliness

The Irish Times carries a story today about a young woman who came from Nigeria to live with her father after the death of her mother.

Zeenie Summers writes: "Like depression, loneliness where I am from is not acknowledged. It's seen as boredom and expected to pass in a while. So I thought my pain would pass until I realised it had eaten deep into the core of my being."

Powerful and true.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not a good idea for bishop to prohibit priest from talking

Below is this week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Jeremy Corbyn's battle to become the next leader of the British Labour Party has ruffled feathers among the establishment. And it seems the more the heavyweights come out to attack him the more support he garners.
There is something new and fresh about him and he seems to have nothing to do with political speak. He talks in ordinary everyday language.
When last has there been so much excitement about the election of a leader of the British Labour Party?
Jeremy boxes clever. After Tony Blair savaged him he calmly and cleverly said that he never does ‘personal’. It was a brilliant putdown. There’s no comeback to such a knockout punch as that.
But is it as simple as that? I’m not at all sure. Of course we fight and disagree over so many issues of policy and beliefs but is it not true to say that most of our ‘scrapping’ is with people we don’t like?
Just imagine if by some quirky circumstances Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama were friends, enjoyed one another’s company, say they enjoyed playing chess with each other, surely it would be most likely there would be peace in Ukraine. Or is that nonsense?
Do we get on with people because they share our views or has it something to do with chemistry, laughing with one another?

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago a parish in east Cork hit the headlines. The pastoral council in Killeagh invited Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery to give a talk at a festival they were organising.Some years back Tony Flannery expressed views that did not sit easily with the men in Rome. 

At the time the man in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) was an American cardinal, William Levada. Rome did not like Tony’s views so he was in the doghouse in Ireland and still is. Meanwhile William Levada has retired and it so happens last week he was arrested for drink driving in Hawaii. That’s by the way.

When the Bishop of Cloyne heard about Tony Flannery coming to Killeagh, which is in the Diocese of Cloyne, he was having none of it and the outcome is that Tony will not be talking at the festival.
The bishop issued a statement on August 21 pointing out that "Father Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry....."
Had the bishop let Tony talk would it have received a whit of attention?
My view is that, not allowing someone to express their views is simply not healthy.
Back to Jeremy Corbyn and his not doing ‘personal’.
I met Tony Flannery at the launch of his book, ‘A Question of Conscience’ 
I’m not sure I agree with everything Tony says but I liked him. That suggests that I do ‘personal’. But guess what, I think if most of us were honest, we all do ‘personal’.

The older I get the more surprised I am how it all holds together.
Maybe we shouldn’t take things and ourselves too seriously.
I wonder what God thinks about it all?
It sure is a funny old world. And a funny old church too. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Planning to visit Hungary? Besuchen Sie Ungarn?

Francis Hunt, an Irish man living in Germany, posted this comment on his Facebook page.

A good example to follow.

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, has made it very clear that foreigners are not welcome in his country. Let’s take him at his word. Hungary earns about €4 billion annually from tourism. Until attitudes in Hungary change, I will not be visiting the country.
Der ungarische Ministerpräsident, Viktor Orbán, hat es ganz klar gemacht, dass Ausländer in seinem Land nicht willkommen sind. Lasst uns ihn beim Wort nehmen. Ungarn verdient rund €4 Milliarden jährlich durch Tourismus. Bis die Einstellungen in Ungarn sich ändern, werde ich dieses Land nicht besuchen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Distant glimmer of Turlough Hill from top of Tonelagee

It has to be one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

Tonelagee in Wicklow, off the Military Road, stands at 817 metres.

Unfortunately, it's clear to see that autumn is here. The colours yesterday were startling. But its was cold. Surprisingly cold for early September.

So close to Dublin and yet another world. You can't get much closer to paradise than here.

Turlough Hill was switched in to the National Grid in 1974 having taken six years to build. It's a 290MW station. During off-peak time water is pumped from the lower lake up to the reservoir and then at peak time  turbines are swithced on and electricity is generated. It means electricity can come on stream quickly and cheaply.

In the distance the reservoir at Turlough Hill.

Tess at the top of Tonelagee.

Passing Lough Ouler on way to Tonelagee.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cloyne official resigns in dispute with bishop

From yesterday's Irish Times digital version.

Official disagreed with prelate’s inaction over defrocked priest who continued to say Mass 

Bishop of Cloyne William Crean. File photograph: Catholic Communications Office/PA Wire
Bishop of Cloyne William Crean. File photograph: Catholic Communications Office/PA Wire
The child protection officer in Cloyne diocese has resigned, in a dispute with Bishop of Cloyne William Crean
Bill Meagher, who held the position, disagreed with the bishop’s inaction in allowing a man laicised from the priesthood last January to continue saying Mass privately, while it was established whether the former priest had a right to appeal the decision to defrock him to Rome for a second time. 
When Bishop Crean did not immediately stop the man saying Mass, Mr Meagher resigned.
In a statement late on Friday evening, Bishop Crean said the case involved “a former priest of the diocese who, after a trial and appeal under canon law, was dismissed from the clerical state with effect from January 2015”. 
This meant that the former cleric could not act as a priest in any way.
The bishop said that when Mr Meagher met the former priest last June as part of his duties, he discovered that the man was still celebrating Mass at his home. 
The former priest said he was acting on the advice of a canon lawyer who, unknown to Bishop Crean, “had further appealed the penalty of dismissal from the priesthood to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome”.
‘Not legitimate’
In his statement, Bishop Crean said he believed “this recourse was not legitimate. 
“However, I believed that no further action by me was possible until I received notification from the CDF. This led to Mr Meagher resigning, as he did not agree with my position.”
The bishop was subsequently assured that no further appeal was possible in the case. 
He contacted the man and told him he could not act as a priest “in any manner whatsoever”.
Mr Meagher’s deputy, Fr Patrick Winkle, accompanied him to the meeting with the former priest last June. 
Fr Winkle has been appointed as Cloyne’s new child protection officer on an interim basis, Bishop Crean said.
Ger Crowley, director of safeguarding in Limerick diocese, has been appointed to support him. 
Two weeks ago, it emerged that Bishop Crean advised the parish pastoral council of Killeagh parish in Cloyne to withdraw an invitation to Fr Tony Flannery to speak at a local community hall later this month. 
Fr Flannery is currently under suspension from public ministry in a dispute with the CDF in Rome.
Cloyne diocese covers east Co Cork.

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