Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lally Lawlor talks to Breda Joy in 'Kerry's Eye'

Below is an article on Lally Lawlor, which appears in this week's Kerry's Eye.

 It is written by Breda Joy, a friend and former colleague of mine at The Kerryman.

The interview with Lally Lawlor (100) is over. The casual chat is of her old home on Tralee’s Ashe Street where just two of the houses have resident families at this stage.
“He got a new roof,” Lally says, referring to one former neighbour.

 “How do you know that?” her son, Tom, asks in surprise. 

 “And he got new windows,” she continues, adding extra details. 

 The morning is misting over Tralee Bay on the other side of Lally’s bedroom window in Ocean View nursing home in Camp. 

 Cards from her 100th birthday on March 28th last are still arranged around the door. To one side are two framed letters of congratulations, one from Áras an Uachtaráin, the other from Buckingham Palace. 

 On the other side, there is an Irish Times article profiling her grandson, the actor,Tom Vaughan-Lawlor alias the infamous ‘Nidge’ of the RTE gangland drama series, ‘Love/Hate’. 

 She gives a wry smile when I mention the series. Though she is obviously proud of her grandson, she confesses that she didn’t watch the drama, preferring ‘At Your Service’, instead. 

 “I like the Brennans, “ she said with enthusiasm. “I love that fellow.”  

  There have been many twists and turns in this life set  against a backing track of the sea. The retired civil servant’s final job was as Secretary of the Fenit Harbour Board. 

 When she first moved to Ocean View, the Fenit pilot, Mr Moriarty, would ring her when any ship was being guided in so that she could follow the progress of the lights from the hillside home. 

 Born on March 28th, 1915, and christened Kathleen Duggan, Lally grew up beside the sea in Wicklow Town. She was the eldest of nine children born to Bridget (nee Butler), a Westmeath woman, and Timothy Duggan, an agent for the ship owners, Pimms, and, prior to that, an RIC policeman.  

 “Wicklow Bay, we all grew up looking at it,” she said. “It was described as being like the Bay of Naples.” 

 “In those days, before a young person could swim, a rope was put around their waist and they went out in the water,” she said. “When I got older, we used to watch the tides and we’d go in off the pier.” 

 Lally became a keen swimmer and won competitions as a young girl. 

 One of her most vivid memories of the War of Independence in Ireland is that of the shooting of a young RIC policeman near the sea in the Murrough area of her town.  He was aged 21 and had been walking with a colleague. 

“They were off-duty but they were in uniform,” she recalled. “Somebody came up on a bicycle and shot them. One of them died.”

 “And I remember because the next day he was laid out in the barracks and my mother sent flowers,” she said. “I brought the flowers down to the barracks. I was asked if I would like to see him and I said, ‘No’.” 

 After she left the local Dominican Convent school, she sat an examination to enter the Civil Service.  

 “I got fifteenth place in Ireland at that time,” she said. “I thought it was very good.”   

Her first workplace was Aldborough House, an original Georgian House in the Five Lamps area near Dublin’s Amiens Street Station. The large rooms were divided by screens and heated by turf fires. 
While she was in Dublin, she filled her free time with Irish language classes and An Óige walks, which were followed by a meal costing ‘two and six’. 

 An avid theatre-goer, she had the privilege of seeing the legendary duo, Dramatist and Actor Micheál Mac Liammóir and Director Hilton Edwards. She described them as ‘brilliant’. 

“Before I married, I had a flat in Fitzwilliam Square,” she said. “It was a lovely area, and still is.”

Lally’s heart was taken by a young Tralee medical student, Tom Lawlor, whose family owned Ballygarry House, now the hotel. She first met Tom, who was 10 years her senior, when she was 13-years-old and he was visiting relatives in Wicklow. 

 Did she like him from the start? “Yes, because he spoke to me like an adult,” she said. 

Years passed and they became a couple. They married in Westland Row Church, Dublin, at 7am on July 7th, 1943, and had their wedding breakfast at the Mont Clare Hotel on Merrion Square.

Directly afterwards, they caught a train to Tralee because Tom was working as a locum in Castlegregory. Her abiding memory of arriving in Tralee is the smell of turf smoke. 

 Lally often accompanied her husband in his Ford car on calls in the district stretching back to Clahane and Brandon. Petrol was rationed during the war years. 

 “You got eight gallons a month,” she said. “You had to go into Tralee for it. Tea was rationed as well. People would give you a bit of tea. If they were giving you a gift, they might have saved up their tea ration or something else that was rationed.”

 She often cycled in to Tralee and out again for shopping.   
One of the most dramatic calls Lally attended with Tom was the scene of a plane crash on Mount Brandon. 

 “It came from South Africa,” she said. “It was a civilian plane. It crashed and everyone was killed. We climbed Brandon. They were laid out there.” 

“They were bringing money from South Africa to England to help the war effort. One man – he was a Jew – was buried in Killiney outside Castlegregory. He was exhumed later to be buried in his own graveyard.” 

 As with other plane crashes in Kerry, some people who were first on the scene removed valuables but there was a macabre twist to this particular accident. A finger was cut from one corpse to get a ring. 

 “The parish priest condemned it at Mass,” Lally said. 

  She sets the story in the context of the extreme poverty that existed in the area at the time. 
 After the medical vacancy in Castlegregory was filled by a Dr Healy, whose brother was a TD, Tom and Lally bought the Ashe Street house, formerly owned by a vet. 

“The vet got a lift in a hearse on one of his calls,” Lally related. “He got into the back and fell asleep.” 

 In Ashe Street, Tom set up his medical practice and the couple’s four children, Tom, Fr Paul, John and Mary, were born there. The young family was out on Banna Strand ‘every chance we got’.

One golden summer in the 1950s, Lally and Tom  drove through  France, Switzerland and Italy .

 Life altered totally for the young mother in January, 1965, when her husband died and she became the sole provider for their four children who were aged from 18 years down to eight years. 

 Because female civil servants could not continue to work after marriage in that era, Lally had given up her job when she married. As a widow, she returned to work with the Land Commission in Tralee. 

 “It was on my file that consideration should be given to look after the children and that time off would be given if I had to look after them,” she said. 

 Was this a difficult time? “Everybody was helpful,” she replied simply. 

 Later again, she returned to work in the civil service in Dublin. She also found time to take a degree in Social Science from UCC. At the age of 65, retirement was compulsory but Lally was not ready to give up work. 

 A golden opportunity opened up  through a vacancy for the post of Fenit Harbour Secretary. By then, she had been living in a cottage in Ballyroe for some years, having sold the Ashe Street house to Tralee Credit Union giving them, she pointed out, six months ‘grace’ on the purchase because they didn’t have the money. 

 “My little office was at the sea end of the pier,” she said. “I would drive down the pier in between the waves crossing it.”

 Here, she was literally in her element with the ocean outside her office window and new challenges beckoning, among them the task of restoring a RNLI Lifeboat to Fenit. 

 “I wrote to Mr Clayton Love of the RNLI Committee in Cork and, the next thing, we got the lifeboat,” she said with relish. “It was a wonderful day when the lifeboat came back.” 

 To record the wonder of that day, Lally painted the scene – the painting was ultimately used as the RNLI Christmas Card. And when she celebrated her 100th birthday last March, her cake arrived in the shape of a lifeboat. 

 Lally gets the Irish Times delivered to her bedroom daily – it arrived just before I left her last Friday. She keeps up with current affairs and does crosswords. She is partial to a glass of the Italian liqueur, Limoncello.  

 And she knits. A tea cosy she recently finished is a gift destined for Iran where her son, Fr Paul, is a Dominican priest. They drink a lot of tea in Iran because of the alcohol ban, she explained.  

 Lally likes to keep up with the happenings in the lives of her children, her seven grandchildren and her seven great grandchildren. 

 In turn, the family members need to keep tabs on the matriarch who retains the ability to surprise. Just last year, she made her tv debut on a UTV special with Pat Kenny. 

 Finally, how does she account for her longevity. Lally shrugs her shoulders. If she has a theory, she is not divulging it. Hard work, enthusiam for life, the spell of the sea maybe? Limoncello, even. Who knows. Whatever the elixir, it has worked handsomely for Lally Lawlor. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

The EU works through negotiation and compromise

In Thursday's Gurdian Timothy Garton Ash wrote a piece on the new government in Poland.

On the EU he writes:

For all its faults, the European Union is the world's most effective exercise in politicial socialisation. Through these endless meetings, where the new ministers spend more time with their fellow EU ministers than they do with their own families, they discover that the way you advance your national interests in 21st-century Europe is through negotiation and compormise, not 19th century grandstanding. 

Finally we must understand the true meaning of Orbanisation. It's not that a single party governs for years with a good majority. Orbanisation means that this dominant party abuses that power to undermine the foundations of liberal constitutional democracy, which are theoretically a condition of EU membership

Thursday, October 29, 2015

'Unexpected bishops'

Would it be possible for this to happen in Ireland under the current dispensation? Highly unlikely.

Edited from the NCR.
Pope Francis named two new archbishops in Italy on Tuesday, seen as strategic appointments for the pope’s push to create a “poor church.”
Matteo Maria Zuppi will leave his position as an auxiliary bishop of Rome to take up his new post in Bologna, in central Italy. And Corrado Lorefice, a parish priest in the Sicilian city of Noto, has been named archbishop of Palermo.
Both are relatively young to receive such high office; Zuppi turned 60 this month, while Lorefice has just celebrated his 53rd birthday. But more importantly, the new archbishops have adhered to Pope Fanrcis's wish to prioritise caring for the poor.
Alberto Camplani, a professor of Christian history at Rome’s La Sapienza University, said this has been evident throughout their personal and professional lives. “For the church in Italy and globally, it’s the fact that they are two archbishops who have always been attentive to the poor,” he told RNS.
Camplani said Zuppi was noted for his work brokering peace in Mozambique, helping to secure an agreement to end the conflict in 1992, which was signed in Rome. Zuppi was made an honorary citizen of Mozambique for his efforts
The new archbishop of Bologna has also fostered relations with the Jewish community in Rome, earlier this month joining a procession to mark the anniversary of Jews being rounded up and sent to their deaths by the Nazis.
While Zuppi moves into the leftist stronghold of Bologna, Lorefice will likely face greater challenges in Palermo, the capital of one of Italy’s poorest regions, which has for decades suffered at the hands of the Mafia.
He is no stranger to such difficulties, having written about Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, a Palermo priest who was murdered after standing up to the Mafia. But as Camplani notes, Lorefice “is a man of the poor, not only against the Mafia.”
Pope Francis “wants to position unexpected people” in the two Italian dioceses, signaling a sea change in the higher realms of power within the Catholic Church, Camplani said.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ryanair Boeings replace Interflug Tupelovs

Ryanair open new hub at Berlin Schönefeld.

Berlin RBB televison featured a Ryanair story on its news last evening.

Ryanair are basing five Boeings at the airport. The company are also developing a new arrival/departure area for passengers.

There is an irony to the story as Schönefeld should have closed its doors by now.

The new Berlin - Brandenburg Airport was by this stage to be up and running but because of design errors, scandals and price over-runs the airport is not yet operational, which means the old run-down, passenger unfriendly Schönefeld thrives.

Schönefeld was the central airport in the former GDR capital. It was from here the SED functionaries flew to Moscow. And it was into this airport that Mikhail Gorbachev flew on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the former GDR.

Interflug and Aeroflot Tupelovs have been replaced by Ryanair Boeings.

Funny old world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wonderful technology - that is when it works!

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Technology is transforming our lives. It’s great, that is, when it works.

When it doesn’t work it is the worst of all pains. The frustration, the annoyance, the taut nerves. Rage, bad language. Everything. Last week I experienced a small dose of it. It ended up that I was rude to an innocent young woman. I did go back and apologise.

But technology cock-ups can also be a source of great fun. That is, when it happens to someone else and they see the lighter side to it all.

Some months ago a colleague bought a new smart phone. One of these super-duper machines that tell you everything. Nearly. It’s slim and it looks so chic.

However it happened, she doesn’t know, but the phone stopped charging. You know those tiny little apertures, it looked as if it was damaged and she was unable to plug in the charger.

A new phone would cost a fortune, so she began to shop around. Eventually she found one of these ‘huxter’ shops that sell all sorts of gadgets for phones and computers.

She came back to the office with a smile on her face. She had managed to buy an external charger for the phone battery. Things were looking up. Or so she thought. After a day-long of charging the battery remained as dead as a dodo.

What next? Would she go back with the external charger and give them a piece of her mind? No. She decided to cut her losses and buy a spanking new phone.

Another magnificent machine in her hand. She was delighted. She got it for ‘free’ and she would only have to pay so much a month. The dream phone. Or was it? We chatted about it and slowly but surely she realised that this was all going to work out quite expensive. The ‘free’ phone was a whopping €60 a month. She was having second thoughts about her gleaming new purchase.

What now? Off she goes, back to where she bought the spanking new phone.

“Oh, Michael, when I went to buy it they were all over me and so nice, full of smiles but when I went back asking them to change it, it was another story. All those wonderful smiles had disappeared. It’s not as if I had used it. The salesperson was now so snappy and unhelpful just 60 minutes after he waved me off. When I returned with the phone he was like a bulldog chewing wasps,” she smiles.
But actually, they did take it back. Good on them.

She goes back to the ‘huxter’ shop to explain that the external battery did not work.
The man behind the counter agreed, went to the back of the shop and brought out a brand-new made-in-China charger. The green light on the side of the charger began flashing. The battery is charging. It works. Magic. She can breathe again.

Phone is working. She can live again. Life is back on an even keel.
When I was her age, we had a phone at home and every small village in Ireland was crying for a public phone on the main street. When last did you step inside a public phone box? But a phone was a phone. Never a way of life.

It sure is a funny old world.

What made the phone story so funny was the attitude of my work colleague. She is simply a funny woman with a great attitude, and to add to all that, she has one of those Northern accents that simply makes you weak at the knees.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Syrian skies

In the last four weeks Russia has carried out 1,000 bombing raids in Syria. Russian bomb and rocket manufacturers are working to capacity.

Moscow has bought freighters in Turkey to transport the weaponry.

It so happens Turkey is a member of Nato.

The Russian Airforce is but one of many airforces dropping bombs in Syria.

Europe is in turmoil with so many migrants crossing borders.

Has there been a word spoken in anger about the manufacturers of weapons.

Stop the war and there will be no more Syrians forced to leave their country.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Attractions and distractions at Santa Sabina fest

The Dominicans invited journalists to Santa Sabina in Rome on Wednesday to announce details of how the Order plans to celebrate its 800th birthday.

Two interesting pictures. In the first one, what's caught the attention of the man dressed in white and in the second picture what at all has distracted the woman?

Pope Francis on today's Gospel and on the synod

At Mass this morning in St Peter's Pope Francis warned against a temptation to practise a “spirituality of illusion” that ignores people’s struggles or sees things only as we wish them to be.

He also warned the church against a “scheduled faith” where things are so planned out that we cannot stop for those in need or those who are crying out for our help.

The pope made his remarks in a reflection on the Gospel reading of the day, which sees Jesus give sight to a blind man named Bartimaeus who he has encountered on his journey to Jerusalem.
“Even though he has only begun his most important journey … he still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’cry,” said Francis. “Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him.”
“Jesus shows that he wants to hear our need,” said the pope. “He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from him.”
"None of the disciples stopped as Jesus did."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Deer, a caterpillar at 725m

One of the great plusses of Dublin must be the city's proximity to the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains.

Tallaght is within a 30-minute drive of the Featherbed and Glencree.

Another 30 minutes and you are at the beginning of a track that leads up to Djouce (725 metres). It takes you past the monument to walker and writer JB Malone. But approximately a kilometre beyond that spot one can go left, leaving the walk and head for Djouce crossing even more beautiful terrain.

It's a way from the 'beaten path'. Today there were between 40 and 50 deer grazing in the area.

High wind and just one cold shower. Four hours 45 minutes of extraordinary beauty.

Tess sometimes gives the impression she is tired and weary walking on footpaths around the city.  Not a hint of that today on Djouce, going up, there and coming down.

And even a caterpillar up there.

The meaning of words

Talking on RTE Radio 1 this morning about the meaning of words and phrases a professor of linguistics at Trinity College Dublin spoke about the importance of of words and phrases being understood. 

At one stage in the interview he said that words needed to be transparent. Do words not have meaning?

Friday, October 23, 2015

'Morning Ireland's' time warp

At the conclusion of today's Morning Ireland presenter Cathal Mac Coille advised listeners to put their clocks back this weekend because if they didn't they would miss Morning Ireland on Monday.

Surely he got that ever so wrong. Not changing your clock means you would be up an hour earlier.

Don't always believe what you hear ..... even if it's on Morning Ireland.

Since last night and through the early morning RTE journalists were saying two things: that there would be no trains rolling between 06.00 and 09.00 but that trains scheduled to start their journies before 06.00 would travel to their desinations.

For example did the 05.50 ex Kent Station, Cork operate today? Maybe it stopped at Rathpeacon at 06.00 and Rail Gourmet served breakfast until the train rolled again at 09.00. Hardly?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dublin's bad cyclists

Great piece in today's Irish Independent on bad cycling.

The author, Tanya Sweeney, is travelling to Malawi in November for Concern Worldwide.

A David Cameron profile

John Crace writing in yesterday's Guardian on the visit of President Xi Jinping.

.... The only exception was David Cameron. Dave is a natural wedding usher and is a master of the artificial smile and fluent smalltalk to people he isn't quite sure he doesn't know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Polish bishop sees worse than nazis and communists

Irish Times journalist Derek Scally is in Poland in the run-up to next Sunday's elections.

In today's paper he quotes from a Polish Catholic bishop who has said  that 'Gender ideology' is worse than nazism and communism.

And this said in Poland.

Ahern launches Deaglán De Breadún's 'Power Play'

Deaglán De Bréadún's Power Play was launched at Hodges Figgis yesterday evening by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Bertie launched the author's first book some 14 years ago and noted that this new book more or less took up where the last book left off.

He felt Deaglán must have had a word with MI5 and the PSNI so that they would issue their report on the same day. And in the same vein he pointed out that had the Government called an election for November there would be little publicity around this book.

Mr Ahern praised the book for the material it carries on Sinn Féin strategists. He told the large attendance in the bookshop that it was the first time he had seen the strategists mentioned by name. When he would listen to Gerry Admas everything he heard him say he had already heard from the 'lads' on the corridor.

He spoke about back in his day when he was fighting elections in his consituency Sinn Féin were getting between one and two per cent of the vote. "In the next election they will be disappointed if they don't get 25 per cent", he smiled.

Later int he evening Bertie was back in business, surrounded by journalists, listening to every word the man had to say.

Bertie Ahern chatting with Vincent Browne
in Hodges Figgis at last evening's launch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A shocking night in Dresden

At the Pegida rally in Dresden last night Akif Pirnçci addressed the crowd.

Below is the Wikipedia report on what he had to say. This report is substantiated by Spiegel Online.

He was born in Turkey, moved to Germany with his family in 1969 when he was 10.

He lamented that the concentration camps were closed ("KZs sind ja leider derzeit außer Betrieb")[2][3] and accused German politicians of being "Gauleiteragainst their own people", called Germany a "shit state" ("Scheißstaat") and female asylum seekers "fugitive whores" ("flüchtende Schlampen"). 

Further, according to Pirinçci, Muslims want to "pump infidels full of their Muslim juice" ("Ungläubige mit ihrem Moslemsaft vollpumpen") and Germany awaits a "Muslim garbage dump" ("Moslemmüllhalde"). He called the German Green Party a "Party of child fuckers" ("Kinderfickerpartei"), and the spokesperson for the mosque in Erfurt a "Muslim freak with a Taliban beard" ("Moslemfritzen mit Talibanbart"), who had as much to do with German culture as "my asshole with the production of perfume" ("wie mein Arschloch mit Parfümherstellung").[4] 

Volker Beck, member of parliament for the German Green Party, filed charges against Pirinçci for public incitement to criminal acts and incitement to hatred. A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor's office confirmed that an investigation is ongoing.

Red Army at the IFI

This week's INM Irish regional newspaper column. 

Michael Commane
I went to see Red Army at the IFI cinema in Dublin's Temple Bar. 

The film is about the Soviet Hockey Team, which was the best in the world in the years leading up to the demise of the Soviet Union.

It throws light on the transformation of Russia from Soviet times to its current status under Vladimir Putin.

The story centres on Viacheslav Fetisov, who was a star player and captain of the Soviet Hockey Team. With the introduction of Perestroika and Glasnost he went to the United States, where he continued his hockey career.

He leaves his homeland and then later returns to Russia, now a different country. He finds the new reality difficult to understand.

After the 2002 Winter Olympics Vladimir Putin appointed him Minister of Sport, a job he retained until 2008.

The film begins with Ronald Reagan warning people about the dangers of communism. Later, President Jimmy Carter is seen addressing US citizens about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan where he refers to the Soviet Union as an atheistic nation.  

I was at the cinema before my friend. On his arrival he went straight to the ticket desk. Minutes later I went over and bought my ticket. 

Heading for the cinema door he asked me what I had been doing at the ticket counter. I said I had bought a ticket and then he explained that he had booked two tickets in advance, including mine. I returned to the desk, explained my story. I was told that it was house policy not to give refunds. 

The only way I could get my money back was if someone happened to come along to whom I could offer to sell the ticket.

A minute or two later a woman arrived. I explained my story to her but was told by the staff member that as she was going to a different film in the complex I could not sell her my ticket.

Eventually a young man arrived, who was going to ‘Red Army’. I was able to get rid of the ticket.

I remonstrated with the staff but they insisted it was house policy that they did not offer refunds. The idea that I could not exchange my ticket to someone who was going to another film in the same complex is surely bizarre. 

I had arrived at the IFI complex ten minutes before the beginning of the film and decided to head to the toilet where I discovered the door was locked and one needed a password to gain entrance.

There are pros and cons for having such a system in place but when I experienced all the drama about trying to get a refund on my ticket I made the decision that I’d be slow to head back there to watch a film.

I suppose people might often accuse me of being somewhat brash, maybe cheeky even rude. At the ticket desk on Friday I did find myself sounding somewhat loud. It got me nowhere.

What must it be like for people who constantly feel they are being mistreated, and believe the odds are always stacked against them? They must end up feeling alienated.

Surely that plays a significant role in causing so many people to behave in an anti-social manner. I’m not trying to justify bad behaviour but if people feel well treated they will respond accordingly.

The world and its mother knew that the Soviet Union had no real interest in the individual. Is it any different in our system?  Seeing the film in the context of my ticket ordeal was an interesting juxtaposition. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sunday afternoon on Maulin

Even before the clocks go back next Sunday, autumn and the advent of winter are making shapes, at least in this part of the world.

Walking up Maulin (570 metres) yesterday, the brown leaves and mist were much in evidence. And even a 10-minute stop at the top turned out to be a cold break.

Enjoyable and Tess too was in her element.

Maulin is an easy two hour 40 minute walk from Crone Wood car park.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Worrying trends in Germany

The picture below is from this evening's Günther Jauch Show.

The gentleman on the left with the German flag on his char is Björn Höcke. He is a member of the far right AfD party and a parliamentarian in the State ofThuringia.

Carrying the flag on to the studio set is simply ridiculous.

He speaks about a 1,000 year Germany, about blond German women and how foreign men are more prone to rape German women than German men.

Henriette Reker was elected Mayor of Cologne today. She is an Independent politician. She lies in hospital today having been knifed yesterday by a young man, who objects to too many foreigners living in Germany.

In Switzerland the right wing SVP party, opposed to refugees coming to Switzerland, has won an election today.

It is shocking. It is worrying.

From left: Björn Höcke; German Justice Minister, Heiko Maas;
Guenther Jauch; and from NDR Television Anja Reschke.

Wexford venue exhibits works of three female artists

Wexford's South Main Street was the venue last evening for the launch of an exhibtion of the works of Patricia Keilthy, Mary Moloney and Kathleen Moroney.

The exhibition celebrates the work of the three female artists, all of whom are exploring a new phase in their creative lives.

The exhibition runs from today and will last for the three weeks of the Wexford Opera Festival

Patricia's Painted Ladies is a range of watercolour ilustrations focused on beguiling and glamorous fashion.

Mary's Elements is a display of work indulging in her fascination with mid-century art and design period.

Kathleen's Sea Change is an atmospheric series of abstract landscape paintings.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

German Ambassador knows it's better late than never

The German Ambassador to Ireland Matthias Höpfner and his wife Christina, held a reception yesterday at their residence at Danesfield, Seaview Terrace in celebration of 25 years of German unity.

October 3 is the Day of German Unity but the ambassador was unable to mark the day as he was back in Germany celebrating his mother's 100th birthday.

On display in the garden were pictures capturing the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of  the country.

There was also a collage of personalities and events which are considered 'typically German'.

German food and German wine was served.

Among the guests at the event were Minister for Communications and Dublin South TD Alex White, and the Papal Nuncio, Charles Brown.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Reaping the harvest of State's dental non-policy

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) issued a report yesterday decrying dental facilities in the State.

The IDA points out that up to 10,000 children under the age of 15 are being hospitalised for dental extractions under general anaesthetic every year in the State.

Thousands of children with chronic dental infection needing multiple extractions are waiting up to a year for treatment according to the IDA.

"Ninety-five per cent of these cases would have been avoided if they had been detected and treated earlier," said IDA president Anne Twomey.

Below is an extract from a blogpost which was on this blog in July 2012. The piece appeared in INM's Irish regional newspapers on July 24/25, 2012.

GMS  patients are entitled to one check up, two fillings and as many extractions as they want per calendar year. PRSI patients are entitled to one examination only per year. The self-employed are entitled to nothing.

Isn’t that really a wonderful State. PRSI patients are entiled to no corrective work and GMS patients are allowed two fillings per year.

Any dentist I have spoken to in recent times is most critical of Government dental policy. Well, that’s not really the correct way to say it as the Government has no dental policy outside extraction.

It seems this Government has no problem with a toothless society.

When the Minister for Health was in a hurry to get back to the Dáil from Cyprus to try to justify or explain, whatever, his financial situation regarding his ownership of a nursing home, he can summon the Government jet to get him home on time.

Just think of it, a Government that incentivises tooth extractions has the money to fly a Government minister home from Cyprus to talk in riddles in the Dáil.

GUBU has risen from the ashes.
I doubt if any of our politicians, top Civil Servants, the bankers who are paid loads of money, give a second thought about going to a dentist. They just pay.

That’s what I did last week. But I'm ashamed of the society in which I am a citizen.

Of course, it’s not just dental care – it’s right across the board. We give lip service to treating all the children of the nation equally. It’s quite clear we don’t.

Last week Social Justice Ireland issued a report which shows how the gap between rich and poor is widening.

We all know that we are in recession but isn’t it odd that the top earners are now in a better position than they were before the crisis hit. And isn’t that ironic as it’s the top earners who are the ladies and gentlemen, who nodded their heads to the gurus and nomenclature of the day and did nothing about stopping the disaster.

Were we not paying them such top salaries so as to do good jobs and ultimately improve the conditions of all the citizens of this little republic?

The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn keeps reminding us that we are in receivership and I understand that. But I don't understand how we can pay the salaries we do to Government ministers and the panoply of people around them and at the same time have not a care in the world in ripping out people's teeth.

What do GMS/PRSI patients with no spare cash do when they and their children need dental work?

It is shocking. And as long as the current Government 's 'extraction policy' is in place, every Government minister should walk about with his/her head bowed in shame.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Half the world's riches owned by one per cent

Global inequality is growing. Half the world's wealth is now owned by just one per cent of the population.

The middle class have been squeezed at the expense of the very rich.

There are 34 million US dollar millionaires.

And child poverty is rising.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brendan Hoban on church

Brendan Hoban's column in this week's Western People.
His intelligence and courage is admirable.

In most if not all areas of life, we’re witnessing the disintegration of a secure, unchanging world. As it was in the beginning is not how it is now and certainly not how it will be in the future. As Yeats suggested many moons ago: Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold.

The breaking up of our different worlds was already happening but sometimes we pretended not to notice. The tell-tale fissures were already evident but we conspired to camouflage them.

In terms of Catholicism it could be argued that the pontificates of John Paul and Benedict were Canute-like exercises, desperate attempts to turn back the prevailing tide. It ended in the nonsense of Catholics being told that there were some things they couldn’t talk about. Or even presumably, think about. Una duce, una voce. Now there’s a pope in Rome, who keeps telling bishops, priests and people (most recently again in America) to debate, debate, debate. Talk to each other, listen to each other, is his constant mantra. And, last October, in the first stage of the Synod on the Family, Francis encouraged a sometimes contentious debate, unprecedented in a synod of bishops..

Not that everyone is listening, of course, not least the Hungarian, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who last week (as chairman of the second stage of the Synod on the Family) informed delegates that nothing was going to change.

 What Fianna Fáil used to call, in simpler times, ‘defending core values’. It takes time, sometimes a long time, to realise that there’s a new show in town, and that everyone can join in the chorus. The plain, simple and difficult truth is that the Catholic Church is very divided.

While not yet at the level of, say, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael shaping up to each other in the run-up to a general election, the divide in the Church is now obvious and taken for granted. So Cardinal Edo, instead of everyone instinctively accepting the parameters he sought outrageously to lay down, is simply regarded as a proponent of one side.

Other voices will be there ‘to mark him’. Like the Canadian, Archbishop Durocher who wants women to be ordained as deacons.A timely article on the Boston Globe’s Crux website records the reality of a divided Church – in America. Dwight Longenecker, a parish priest, asks the question: ‘Is Catholicism (in America) about to break into three (parts)?

The article was inspired by a letter to the New York Times by theologian Daniel Maguire. It lays bare the very different ‘churches’ operating side-by-side in America, a society and a church of extremes, where recently Pope Francis had to pick his steps carefully and like a stray dog go a bit of the road with everyone.Generally the same fragmentation has occurred in Ireland.

But whereas Longenecker sees three strands in American Catholicism, I would identify four groups in Ireland operating in an uneasy alliance under the broad canvass of Catholicism: progressives; middle-of-the-road; traditionalists; and ultra-traditionalists.Progressives (or reformers) believe the Church should adapt to the modern age.

They are unhappy with the New Missal, tend to exert more freedom in worship, experiment in alternative spiritualities and work towards making the Catholic faith relevant, practical and real. They are particularly interested in peace and justice issues, are enthusiastic about serving the needs of those on the margins of the Church – resonate with Francis’ emphasis on ‘the smell of the sheep’– and work for reform and institutional change.

They live their lives accepting a clear distinction between what Catholic doctrines and moral precepts uphold as ideals and the ‘pastoral’ needs of the individual in a set of given circumstances. They are also interested in ecumenism and ecology.

 Middle-of-the-road Catholics are at ease with the principles of the Second Vatican Council, but would like them moderated a bit, would like ‘to reform the reform’. They would prefer the Mass before the New Missal, want the Church to relate to the modern world, to use modern media of communications, and to connect with the younger generation.

They uphold traditional Catholic teaching in faith and morals, are generally pro-life but want to communicate and live the truths of their faith in a modern and relevant way.

 Traditionalists support Church teachings before the Second Vatican Council, are interested in the Catechism and support the New Missal and old-style devotions. They prefer churches with altar rails and statues in the sanctuary and Gregorian Chant.

They are strongly pro-life, are in favour of celibacy for an all-male priesthood, pray for vocations to the enclosed religious life and adhere to traditional family structures.

 Ultra-traditionalists prefer the Mass in Latin, like women to wear mantillas on their heads in Church, kneel at every opportunity, want their priests to dress as priests, criticise religion programmes in schools as heretical, accept only the organ as a legitimate instrument in worship and have the support of a plethora of ‘Catholic’ newspapers that help to convince them that everyone is less Catholic than they are and that Satan is lurking everywhere. In the Synod in Rome at present Pope Francis is trying to keep all sides going.

 And that’s what he has to do because, whatever camp we might place ourselves in, we’re all Catholics – albeit with different attitudes and perspectives – but all entitled to our place in the sun.

But not so, it would seem, in Ireland where our leaders champion traditional Catholics and allow themselves to be bullied by ultra-traditionalists. Which is why the Catholic Church in Ireland is a cold place for both ‘progressive’ and ‘middle-of-the-road’ Catholics.A church quartered?"

A picture tells a story

The lead picture on this week's Irish Catholic.

But who is the woman?

Caption runs: 'The Irish Catholic' journalist Cathal Barry (centre) and Prof. Eamon Conway presenting a copy of their book, 'Praise Be To You', to Pope Francis in Rome last week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wexford art exhibition

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
When were you last in an art gallery or when did you last attend an art exhibition?

There are those who are regular visitors to galleries and there are those who have never been inside an art gallery. Others like me, who on occasion, make a visit.

No doubt people who paint, sketch and draw regularly visit galleries. Last year more than half a million people visited the National Gallery in Dublin.

Did you know it’s free to stroll around all municipal and State galleries. Can you imagine the uproar there would be if a decision were made that we had to pay?

There can be something ‘intimidating’ about art. If you know nothing about a work of art you might simply wonder what you are meant to be looking for, what’s special about it?

Did it ever cross your mind that if it pleases your eye then isn’t that great? You may not know much about forestry or agriculture yet you can enjoy the beauty of the fields, hills and forests.

Take any of the sculptures in the streets across Ireland. Look how they can enhance the place and you don’t have to be a sculptor or know anything about sculpture to appreciate the pieces of art.

The annual Culture Night, which took place last month, is a great way of opening doors for the uninitiated. I have also heard of someone organising an art gallery walk.

Some weeks ago I spotted a work of art in the home of a friend of mine. The moment I saw it my eyes lit up. It was a magic moment.

Mary explained to me what it is.

She is now about to exhibit her work in South Main Street in Wexford. It’s next door to Regency Gold Jewelers. It will be open to the public from 11am to 7pm from October 18 and will run for the three weeks of the Wexford Opera Festival.

It is a collection of hand-cut paper collage pieces, which explore patterns, colours and textures of mid-20th century art and design.

It is Mary’s first time to exhibit her art work. In a former life she was a noted dress designer.

She will be exhibiting with two other artists.

The three women, Mary Moloney from Tipperary, Wexford woman Patricia Keilthy and Kathleen Moroney, who lives in Clare, have all attended art college, been successful in their respective careers, and are now enjoying a freedom to explore new facets of their creativity.

Somehow or other it’s ingrained in us to believe that all forms of artistic creation are the preserve of a certain ‘elite’. It really is a crazy idea. Have you ever visited a jail and checked out the art works created by prisoners? And how it can change their lives?

Of course the great and the good spend millions on ‘works of art’.  Most of us can’t adorn our homes with Renoirs or Caravaggios but it is a great privilege to have originals in our homes. It’s lovely to surround ourselves with paintings and pieces of sculpture we like and are crafted by people we know and like.

Some years ago I found a print by Dutch painter Metsu.

My mother must have acquired it. I had it reframed and every time I look at it, it reminds me of my late mother. Curiosity got the better of me and I visited the National Gallery to see his work.

If this column spurs on one person to cross the door of a gallery or an exhibition for the first time then it has been worth writing.
Below is one of Mary Moloney's works.

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