Monday, November 30, 2015

Putin to the rescue

A lovely story fro the guardian.

This blog is now read across the Russian Federation. It has readers in over 20 cities, including Moscow, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, St Petersburg, Samara and Krasnodar. 

After 95 years in exile, the daughter of a Tsarist-era army general has been granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, before her 100th birthday on 15 December.

Irene de Dreier left Russia when she was just five. Her father, Vladimir von Dreier, was an imperial officer who fought for the White Army against the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war, which broke out after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

The family fled to Crimea, where the last stand of the Whites took place, and left the peninsula by ship in 1920. The Von Dreiers eventually settled in Paris where the former general opened a wine shop. Irene won second place in a 1936 Miss Russia beauty contest held in Paris among émigrés from the nobility. She was married three times – to a Frenchman, an Italian and an American – and has travelled widely, but always dreamed of returning to Russia.

De Dreier had appealed to Putin in recent weeks: “I want to meet the creator not as a foreigner but as a real citizen of Russia, as a Russian in my heart and soul.”

The myth of too few priests

The international Catholic press has given much attention to the German bishops' ad limina visit to Rome.

The usual suspects - decline in numbers attending the Sacraments, shortage of priests, fall-off in priestly vocations - are the topics of discussion.

The shortage of priests is also a topic in the Irish Catholic press.

Of course there are hard-working, efficient priests, who do outstanding work. But like everything else in the Catholic Church, time and work practices are simply poorly and badly managed.

The managers of the hierarchical Catholic Church would be well advised to employ a company to carry out an audit of work practice within the organisation.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tess's LUAS adventure

Tess took on a different type of walk yesterday.

She walked along the Dodder as far as Donnybrook and then to Sandymount DART Station, where she boarded a north-bound train - a first for her. Detrained at Tara Street and a short walk over to St Stephen's Green LUAS stop.

Just as LUAS was about to pull out Tess spots an incoming tram. She has a real problem with trams, trains and buses and at their sight gets agitated and barks to the high heavens. And even with her muzzle on she manages to bark. But it's easy to calm her. She is never a threat to anyone.

The driver hears the barking, gets out of his cab and tells the owner to take the dog off the tram. There's something of a set-to but off comes Tess.

Stranded? No. She walks to next LUAS stop at Harcourt and off she goes.

Berlin, probably with the best urban transport system in the world, allows dogs and cycles on all its trains and trams.

Magnificent Dublin and those managers who run the LUAS. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Francis on neurotic priests

The piece below is taken from the web. The story appears on a number of websites. Pope Francis is reported to have said it earlier in the month.

Obviously Pope Francis has his eyes open and  knows what he is talking about. But will anyone do anything about it?

In a candid moment, Pope Francis expresses his fear of neurotic, overly pious, fundamentalist priests.

Speaking at a conference on training for the priesthood on Friday, Pope Francis said he is instinctively suspicious of overly pious candidates. Francis said:
I will tell you sincerely, I’m scared of rigid priests. I keep away from them. They bite!
AFP reports Francis resorted to humour to make a serious point: some people that are drawn to a clerical career are fundamentally unstable — and they inevitably create problems for the church if they are not weeded out.
Francis said:
If you are sick, if you are neurotic, go and see a doctor, spiritual or physical. The doctor will give you pills. But, please, don’t let the faithful pay for neurotic priests.
Francis told his audience that as well as assessing the spiritual state of candidates, seminaries should also seek to judge their physical and psychological condition:
There are often young men who are psychologically unstable without knowing it and who look for strong structures to support them. For some it is the police or the army but for others it is the clergy.
Francis warned that such disorders inevitably resurface at a later date:
When a youngster is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I don’t feel confident (about him). Behind it there is something he himself does not understand. Keep your eyes open!
Given the history and teachings of the Catholic Church it should come as no surprise that some Catholic priests are scary and neurotic. And Francis is right to point out that unstable people are often drawn to careers in the clergy. The clerical sex abuse scandal is just one indicator of the deep and profound sickness that festers in the Catholic Church.
What is a surprise is the fact that the 78-year-old pontiff has the good sense to be suspicious and fearful of neurotic, overly pious, fundamentalist priests.

Friday, November 27, 2015

IFA behaviour is endemic across Irish organisations

Derek Deane, Chairman of Carlow Irish Farmers Association said about the executive council of his organisation:

"I believe we have not been kept fully informed by the president and general secretary of events and issues that are important to this executive council which is the overall decision making body of the association."

The quote appeared on RTE's Prime Time last evening.

How many organisations are kept in the dark about decisions made and decision making.

It's endemic in so many organisations, societies, communities.a

When will it all unravel? And unravel it will. Some day.

Someone commented this morning that an extra reason for such problems with IFA is because of the male dominance of the  national executive.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The €2m IFA handshake

Yesterday on RTE 1's Sean O'Rourke Show a retailer talking about the sales of large shopping centres said at one stage: "We go shopping for hedonic (sic) reasons."

He also spoke about shopping malls as being "destination centres".

But the breaking news has to be the €2 million deal the IFA president agreed with the outgoing chairman.

The arrogance of it. And that behaviour is not exclusive to the IFA.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Water bills

Anecdotal evidence usually has 'its' pulse on the siutation.

A Post Office in Dublin's South Inner City reports a large increase in the number of people paying their water bills using the Post Office service.

The IFA and all that stuff

Why should anyone be surprised at the current shenanigans going on at the Irish Farmers' Association?

Isn't that the norm in senior management? People who seek power are usually secretive, competitive, greedy.  And most of them do a good job of hiding their secretive, competitive and greedy attributes.

Of course there are times and places that break the norm but are they not usually the exception?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Being there to help people is what really matters most

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Research carried out by Trinity College Dublin's longitudinal study on ageing (Tilda) has found that lights at pedestrian crossings change too quickly for the majority of older people.

The study found that 31 per cent of people aged between 65 and 74 do not have enough time to cross the road while the green light is on. And for people over 75 this increases to 71 per cent.

I can imagine if you are under 65 it’s unlikely that you have any interest in Tilda’s findings. Why would you? Maybe you are looking after an elderly or infirm person in which case such a statistic might cause you to give it a fleeting glance.

I got the Travel Pass in April and since then I have become more aware about everything to do with age and infirmity.

But no matter how touchy I get there is nothing I can do about growing older. I have no intentions of saying ‘growing old’.

It would probably be frowned on by educationalists but my introductory remarks the first day to new pupils in class was that the only thing I knew for certain about everyone in the classroom was they we were all going to die.

It seems like yesterday since I started out teaching so when I meet people these days in their 50s whom I taught I simply can’t believe it.

It’s easy to moan and groan about so many things. Right now I have to stop in my step and realise that I am healthy. But what’s around the corner? I have no idea. Even to ask the question is a whole new reality. Up to recently I would never even have thought of such an eventuality.

In our 20s, 30s, 40s, even 50s it is beyond our little minds to think about mortality, that is, if we are in good health. What must it be like for people who suffer serious illness, people who are struck down in so many different ways and left paralysed for life?

What at all to say to people who are in insufferable pain? And it’s so easy to dole out clichés and niceties but surely it’s only when it touches ourselves do we ever get any idea what it must be like.

A man I know, who is in his early 50s had major surgery on his back last week. It is his third operation in an attempt to relieve him of chronic pain. The suffering he has been experiencing is unbearable. Imagine the nonsense it would be to tell him to ‘offer it up’?

When we are confronted with such pain and suffering surely we must be tempted to appreciate good health but also fight our damnedest to make sure that we all take good care of the sick and elderly.

Since getting the Travel Pass I find myself looking around the bus and observing those who are old and have difficulty getting on and off. Yes, in many ways we have made great strides. Buses now accommodate wheelchairs and buggies. 

Those green pedestrian lights are no problem for me. I’m not yet in Tilda’s 31 per cent. But in the meantime I could help make life more bearable for people who are old, sick and fragile.

I have had the good fortune to see how children can care for their elderly parents. Parents, who dedicate their lives to their children, especially when they are ill. It’s inspirational.

It’s easy to talk the talk but walking that road of pain and suffering is another matter. Being there to help is what counts.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cringe radio performance by Justice Minister Fitzgerald

On RTE's News at One today Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald was interviewed.

Well worth a listen on how not to perform on radio.

The minister was simply appalling: obfuscation, arrogance and simple incompetence, and more flashy arrogance.

Why could she have said she simply did not know when she was asked questions to which she did not have the answer?

It was cringe radio.

The topic was about how prepared Ireland is in the event of a terrorist attack.

Listening to Ms Fitzgerald the listener was left in now doubt how well prepared the State is.

Dominicans leave Athy

The Irish Dominicans moved out of their priory in Athy yesterday.

The modern design church was built in the mid-1960s. The priory, on the site of an older building, was built in the 1980s.

Forward planning?

A woman living in Athy commented that Athy has little or no industry and therefore has high unemployment.

Option for the poor?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wise words of journalist Nicholas Henin on Isis

French journalist Nicholas Henin, who was captured by Isis while working in Syria, spoke today on RTE 1's This Week.
Henin spent nine months in captivity being release in April. His interview on radio today is well worth a listen. It was aired at approximately 13.50. Wise words.
His main thesis - the violent response to 9/11 didn't work. Why should a similar respone to Paris have success?

The danger of roots

Dublin City Council is carrying out remedial work on Orwell Park at present, including Sunday work.

Tree roots have extended under the road. They have managed to penetrate steel manhols and subsequently block drains.

A relevant feastday

In the Catholic liturgy, today is the feast of Christ the King.

At first glance it might sound alientating. But there's more to it.

Pius Xl introduced the feast in 1925 in the aftermath of World War I. Maybe also conscious of the beginnings of the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany, fascism in Italy and the rise of communism in Russia.

Later in 1937 that same pope wrote the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, on the church and the German Reich, condemning the myth of race and blood.

It might be well worth have a second look at the encyclical in our times.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An age profile

The Irish Times today devotes a page to the pictures and details of the130 people who were killed in Paris last week.

Two of those killed were over 60 and five over 50.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Practical example of 'ethos' of the Christian school

A young boy, say 16, was overheard on a Dublin Bus vehicle yesterday using foul language. He also went on to talk to his friends how easy it is to steal from Aldi.

He was coming from school, a rugby-playing, private, Christian, fee-paying school.

A great ambassador for that magic word 'ethos'?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Young people speak out in favour of the world's poorest

Four hundred young people from post primary schools around the country attended a day-long seminar at the RDS today on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley, addressing the seminar, said that the Sustainable Development Goals were not really 'goals' but rather 'rights'. Rights to food, jobs, human rights.

Kevin Kelly from the Department of Foreign Affairs spoke about Ireland's history as members of the United Nations.

Ireland is a member of the 70-year-old UN 60 years.  The State joined on December 14, 1955. At the time there were 16 nations in the UN.

Among the photos that Kevin Kelly showed was one of a young Liam Cosgrave.

In 60 years Ireland has had 66,000 peace keepers working with the UN.

MEP Brian Hayes spoke about the important role Ireland plays in the world. He said that we should all be damanding the rights we have for people all over the world.

The seminar was hosted by The National Youth Council and Concern Worldwide.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nameless women in this week's 'Irish Catholic'

Is the default position of the Catholic Church simply right-wing, conservative and misogynist? 

The current issue of The Irish Catholic  on pages 12 and 13 has pictures of four priests. It mentions all their names. It naturally names the editor, whose picture also appears. And then it has a picture of women. The paper refers to them as attendees.

It's the same story on page 15. It has a picture on nine people. Five are men, all names mentioned. only one of the four women is given a name.

The simplistic, right-wing line right through the current paper makes for such sad reading. But maybe that is in reality what the church is peddling.

If anyone, especially a celebrity, hints at one nice word about the church, The Irish Catholic lauds the person. Say or hint at criticism of the Catholic Church, especially on any issue dealing with sexuality, then it is all doom and damnation.

What at all is it about right-wing religion? 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kindness skin-deep?

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On Saturday I was out walking with a friend. We were walking along a road heading for a turn-off, which would take us to a reservoir.

It seems we missed our turn and were heading further and further away from the reservoir. There was more traffic on the road than was comfortable, along with that I had my dog with me. It was raining too. The ingredients were not the best.

I was too lazy to take my map out of my bag so eventually John decided to call to a house and ask for directions. Externally it looked a well-kept house and the gardens were finely manicured.
Suddenly I heard loud screaming and roaring. Just as John opened the garden gate to go up to the house a man appeared, and shouting, warned John not to open his gate and told him in no uncertain terms to be off with himself.
John is a gentle person, far gentler than I am, so he simply explained he was looking for directions and closed the gate behind him.
The moment I heard the shouting and roaring I was about to shout back at the man and tell him to cop on to himself. Within milliseconds I found myself agitated and wanted to give this man a piece of my mind. How dare he shout and roar like that? And then I suddenly stopped and made a quick decision to say nothing. Not a word.
John crossed the road and we continued walking. We were both gob-smacked at the violent reaction of the man.
We eventually found the correct road, made our way down to the reservoir and had a most pleasant afternoon’s walk.
Of course we spent some time talking about the incident and we were both flabbergasted with the unprovoked verbal violence of the man. What made him behave in such a manner? Had he had some bad experience? Had his home been burgled?
What would have happened had I responded to him and shouted back?
Most mornings, especially after weekends, we hear on radio about acts of violence that happen around the country. People being stabbed, shot, mugged, people being beaten up and left for dead on the side of the street.
Much of it is drug related, more of it is drink inspired. Then there are the personal feuds. There are myriad reasons for people behaving in a violent manner.
On my first visit to New York I learned very quickly that it’s a bad idea to make eye contact with people on the street. It seems to be getting to that stage in Ireland. Something I never dreamed could happen. 
Certainly walking around any city in Ireland, especially late in the evening one needs to have their wits about them. A wrong look, a wrong move could lead one into serious trouble.
What at all is that stream or fissure of violence that can so easily come alive in the human psyche? It can happen at an individual level and it can occur within a community or a nation. It’s difficult to comprehend the violence and destruction the people of Syria are experiencing. On November 9, 1938 the Nazis unleashed their pogrom of violence on the Jews - something that continued for seven years.
How best to respond to violence? I’m inclined to think most times it’s best to do nothing. But there are occasions when it has to be met head-on.
Certainly on Saturday, for once I did the right thing. Said nothing and walked away.
How much of our niceness and kindness is skin deep?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nasty right-wing Catholic blog on Paris attack

The piece below appears on a blog called Rorate Caeli.

It is a right wing Catholic blog, which claims to have support from Catholic clergy, including cardinals, bishops and priests.

It is no friend of Pope Francis. In order to express its dilike for Pope Francis it is now calling him by his family name. 

It is in many ways typical of a right-wing currency, which is gaining a worrying momentum within the Catholic Church.

And typical of such material, many of its contributors hide behind their anonymity; a system or method often used within the Catholic Church.

The extract.

"For the second time in 2015, now much more violently, due to the betrayal of France and Europe by their own elites, due to decades of neglect by these same elites, the ancient enemy, the always aggressive and diabolical and bloodthirsty Islam, introduced in the very arteries of the ancient lands of Christendom, exploded in the streets of Paris.

France is under a state of urgency. Its borders are shut down. The body count is still not finished. 

Pray for France. At the end of this century it will be either Catholic or Muslim, there is no third option; but whatever the end result, the process will be painful and awful. God help the Eldest Daughter!"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Papal nuncio speaks on Catholic 'ethos' in schools

At a conference last week on Catholic education at Cistercian College, Roscrea the papal nuncio Charles Brown is reported to have said:

We should avoid a situation where students are unable to go to schools they want to go to, or are forced to go to schools they don't want to. We need to provide - as much as possible - a legitimate chioce.

Is the papal nunico, as an ambassador, not interfering in the internal affairs of the host State?

The papal nuncio is also reported to have said:

Schools have to be concerned about their Catholic character, and recognise that without a conscious effort to maintain their distinctly Catholic ethos, that ethos can dissolve to non-descript and vague spiritualism - or even disappear entirely.

What exactly is a Catholic ethos?

It would be interesting to know if former papal nuncios to Ireland ever said anything about the brutality that was part of life in Catholic-run schools up to the early 1980s when the State made corporal punishment illegal in school.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris, Beirut, Syria

God help the people of Paris.

On Thursday afternoon 30 people were killed in Beirut.

How many have been murdered in Syria on Thursday and Friday?

The Paris murders may well be a breeding ground for the far right and win them votes in the upcoming local elections in France.

The late Helmut Schmidt, who died on Tuesday, blamed clerics - Catholic, Protestant and Islamic for the intolerance he identified between Christianity and Islam.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Homily at funeral Mass of Michael Paul Gallagher

Click on homily to listen. Brilliant, inspiring words. They'd make you sit up and listen.

In the homily  at the funeral Mass of Michael Paul Gallagher Bruce Bradley SJ, spoke of the man he first met in 1962. He said he was someone who was gifted in “intuiting and imagining the horizons of others, inviting them in turn to share his”. 

He said the renowned author “did not take himself too seriously but he was aware and quietly proud of some of his own gifts and accomplishments”, adding with a smile, “Perhaps with just some of the small harmless vanity you occasionally meet with in an only child”. 

He said Michael Paul was impressive in how he faced his impending death with “clear-eyed courage and a lack of self-absorption”.

A day is a long time in .....

Yesterday in Dublin at 05.45 one could hear birds singing. Close to 09.00 people were cycling to work in their shirt sleeves. Later in the day the temperature reached 17 degrees Celsius.

At 09.00 today it was four degrees Celsius in the same city.

Climate change? Certainly rapid temperature change.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Catholic schools

Letters in today's Irish Times on Catholic schools.

Interesting what John A Murphy has to say.

Farage explains how Ireland has been crushed by the EU

The selected statistics, the absolute certainty of what's to happen in the future is surely a hint of how unhelpful and unwise Nigel Farage is.

The Englishman writes an opinion piece in today's Irish Times.

He writes: Ireland has a strongly Euro-sceptic (sic) people governed by a slavishly Europhile political class.

Is it anything other than jargon?

Elsewhere he writes: The transformative power of democracy in Ireland has been crushed by the iron fist of the EU.


Initiatives are new

Any chance RTE especially, but so many news outlets would or could use the word initiative without placing the adjective new before it.

Why the doubling up?

It's said that when the O'Reillys were in charge of INM they ran a campaign to remove the full point in all abbreviations - to save ink on the printing presses.

All the ink that could be saved by dropping the new? And the silliness that could be hidden?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dominican anniversaries

Today is the anniversary of the death of three Irish Dominicans.

Conleth Cronin was killed driving his Honda 50 on the Templeogue Road in Dublin in 1973. He was in his 20s

Raymond Farren died of old age in Cork in 2005.

Jerone Murphy-O'Connor died  in Jerusalem in 2013. He was short of 80 and had been ill for a number of years.

Palace in Ankara

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has built a 1,000 room presidential palace in Ankara.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Helmut Schmidt is dead

Helmut Schmidt is dead.

Born in Hamburg in 1918. He died in his home, five years after the death of his wife, Loki, the love of his life. They met when they were 10. They married while he was on leave from the Russian front. They were married for 68 years.

He said he did not want to be a 100 but there was nothing he could do about that.

He was a soldier, a publicist, a politician, a philosopher, an intellectual, a simple man, curious, a chess player,  an organist, a life-long social democrat, leader of the Spd, German Chancellor. An outstanding German of the Federal Republic.

He came to attention as a crisis manager in the disastrous floods in Hamburg in 1962.

On the occasion of the hijacking of the Lufthansa plane at Mogadishu, Chancellor Schmidt left a note that should he or his wife be kidnapped the State was not to change its policy.

Herbert Werner, Willi Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, the troika, the men who led the Spd in significant years of the Federal Republic.

But it is also so that he was never fully or greatly trusted in his own party.

Schmidt is the last of the three to die.

The end of an era.

The extract below is from today's Spiegel Online
Es gibt in diesem Land nur wenige, die bei allen Deutschen Respekt genießen, egal welcher politischen Richtung, egal welcher gesellschaftlichen Strömung. Sollte diese kleine Gruppe einen Anführer gehabt haben, dann war es Helmut Schmidt. Selbst wer anderer Ansicht war als er, früher zur Aufrüstung oder jüngst zum Umgang mit Russland, musste Schmidts Urteil respektieren, und teilte er es nicht, dann musste er schon genau begründen können, warum. Denn Schmidts Wort hatte Gewicht.

Meeting Jack in the porch is a lovely start to the day

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Jack is 62. He is a big strong man with a fabulous head of hair, something about which I am jealous.

He has a long shaggy beard too, which suits him.

Jack is not his birth name. I happen to know his birth name and age because some months ago I visited him in prison.

He’s out of jail now and most mornings of the week I chat with him in the porch of a Dublin church. 

He’s sitting either in the porch or on the steps of the church when I arrive in the morning.

He arrives on a woman's bike, which really is not meant for this big 1.88 metre-tall man.

About three weeks ago he was sitting on the steps and playing the tin whistle when I arrived.

He’s there most mornings but the odd morning that he is not there I miss our few minutes chat and laugh.

He calls me Michael and I’m back calling him Jack. On discovering his birth name I used it for a while until he told me that he prefers Jack.

There are one or two topics that greatly annoy him and if they are raised he gets very upset and tends to shout and scream. Naturally when he goes on like that some people get upset and even frightened. 

So it’s best to stay well away from those topics.

On occasion he can leave bits of paper and orange peel on the ground but when I suggest he refrain from leaving any rubbish behind him he smiles and promises it won’t happen again.

I have noticed a number of other people stop and chat with him. I think they also give him a few cent. 

One man gives him a fiver every day.

Jack’s an intelligent man. Whether or not he has formal education, I don’t know but I do know that he is learned. Some weeks ago I said something to him and he suggested it was a double entendre. 

I have tried in vain to find out where he lives. I get the impression that he lives somewhere in the Sandymount area of Dublin. Does he live ‘rough’? I’m inclined to think he does. Any attempt on my part to find out where he lives or an effort to make a suggestion that I call on someone who might be able to help is strenuously turned down. He’ll have none of it. 

On one occasion I did contact the Peter McVerry Trust. They were most helpful but as long as Jack does not want help there is little anyone can do.

Jack has a lovely smile, something really roguish about it. It’s clear he likes me and I certainly like him.

Some days I give him a few cent, never more than €5. On Thursdays he tells me: “no money today Michael”. It’s the day he gets his social welfare payment.

When he has a few bob to spare it seems he puts a euro on a horse. No more.

In the first days of his imprisonment I was wondering where he had gone. Eventually I tracked him down. I missed him when he was locked up.

Any morning there is no sign of his bicycle or of him I genuinely feel a little sad.

What at all is he going to do in the cold wet weather of winter?
Jack is a kind man.  And he’s so enjoying his tin whistle. He tells me he is teaching himself.

I’m saying it more and more: it’s a funny-old-world.

Meeting Jack is a lovely start to the day.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Today twenty six years ago the Berlin Wall was breached.

Earlier in the day at a press conference, Politburo member Günter Schabowski read from a slip of paper saying that people had permission to travel to the West. He looked at the piece of paper and said that now famous word sofort, immediately.

The people arrived at the Bornholmer Straße crossing, the crowds increased and up came the barrier.

Schabowski died last Monday in Berlin.

Novermber 9 also has sinister memories. On November 9, 1938 the Nazis carried out their pogrom on the Jewish community across Germany. Berlin was the epicentre of the violence.

Because of the memories of November 9, 1938 Germany was never in a position to make this day German Unification Day.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Colours at Bohernabreena

Tess did not make it to the hills yesterday. Instead a more gentle walk around Bohernabreena reservoir.

The trees were showing fabulous autumnal coour.

Michael Paul Gallagher SJ

Well-known and respected Jesuit priest Michael Paul Gallagher has died.

He had been suffering from cancer for the last two years and made a personal decision to stop treatment.

He is kindly remember by many of his students. He taught English at UCD and theology in Rome. He was also a noted lecturer on church matters.

More Jesuit news.

Ahmed Chalabi, who died on October 30, was an Iraqi politician who helped persuade the United States to invade Iraq in 2003 and then unsuccessfully tried to attain power as his country was town apart by sectarian violence.

The mathematician attended a Jesuit school in Baghdad.

The church and its systemic misuse of the widow's mite

BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme this morning cites shenanigans going on in the Vatican.

It recounts the story of a monsignor who was not happy with the size of his flat so he extended it into his neighbour's while he was in hospital. He was expecting the man not to return but alas he did.

It went on to talk about the 'saint making factory' and how monies have been misappropriated in the department.

Two arrests in the Vatican and two books about the Eternal City last week make it embarrassing times for Pope Francis.

If we are not able to look after our money properly, something which we can see, how are we ever going to look after the souls of the faithful, something we cannot see....

Transparency, that's what you have in the most humble business and we must have it too, words reputedly said by Pope Francis at a Vatican finance commission meeting.

Emiliano Fittipaldi in his book  Avarizia  details the accounts of Australian cardinal George Pell. Between July 2014 and January he 2015 spent €500,000 in his job as secretary for the economy.

It seems the cardinal often travels business class. Pell's accountant is paid €15,000 a month, while the secretariat authorised €90,000 worth of renovations to the accountant's rental apartment.

Pope Francis's comments about not being able to look after money and being so assured about how to look after 'souls' says so much about the behaviour of the church.

The money, the resources the church wastes is simply scandalous.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Is 'hypocrite footprint' stamped in our DNA?

Today's Irish Times 'Thinking Anew' column.

Michael Commane

Men in long robes walking about, expecting to be greeted respectfully in the market place. They take the front seats at banquets. And they blather on with long prayers. Their own glorification appears to be uppermost. 

Can't you imagine them? And here, I’m paraphrasing what Jesus tells his listeners. These days the majority don't wear flowing robes and they probably don't go on with long prayers. But does anything ever change?

People in power, people with control, people telling others how they should live their lives. So often it's done in the name of God, in the name of the people, in the name of the State. Details may vary but the story never changes.

In tomorrow's Gospel (Mk 12: 38 - 44) Mark tells us how Jesus cast scorn on the men in long robes, who pontificate with show-prayers. Jesus compares that nonsense with the poor widow who comes along quietly, no fuss, no fanfare, and puts her hard-earned few cent into the treasury box. Jesus is comparing the spoofer, the hypocrite with the genuine decent person. It's sad to see how she is fooled by the ruling elite.

When I taught Hamlet in post primary schools,  it was always interesting to see how the students could not abide any hints of hypocrisy in the play. They were appalled with anything and everything to do with double standards, dishonesty, saying one thing and then doing something else. All are aspects of the one thing - hypocrisy.

Is there something about the human psyche that there is a 'hypocrite' footprint stamped in our DNA? It would seem that younger people are far less inclined to be hypocritical than their older peers.

Take any aspect of modern living and one does not have to dig too deep to see hypocrisy at play.

In the current Syrian crisis there are more refugees living in Istanbul than there are in the entire European Union. And Europe is up in arms, screaming and roaring, saying that we can't cope with such numbers crossing EU borders. Has there been a word about the manufacturers of the bombs that are being daily dropped on the Syrian people? Who makes the guns and mortars? Some of those involved in the arms trade may well be criticising the world powers for not settling the crisis in Syria. And then all those who shout and scream in anger at the fleeing Syrians.

It's stomach-turning to hear the wealthy and elite classes advising the poor to tighten their belts - something that has left a deep mark on the Irish political landscape.

One might hope that hypocrisy would be anathema to ministers of religion in the various faith traditions. Not at all. Indeed, maybe they are the expert hypocrites. Isn't that exactly what Jesus is telling his listeners? Is it not hypocrisy that has annoyed so many ordinary people in the churches - people so similar to the widow who gives her few bob and then to discover all sorts of lies, double-dealing, hypocrisy, when it comes to the institutional churches?  

It might well be a good idea for all of us to read tomorrow's Gospel carefully and listen attentively to what is being said. It would appear none of us is immune to hypocrisy. Maybe if we had the good sense and –  indeed grace – to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person we would be far slower to say one thing and do another. 

And it seems that those with power and control are far more susceptible to acts of hypocrisy than the rest of society. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

At least so thought Jesus and Shakespeare.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Faulty seals - nothing done

Below is a sample of faulty cream/milk bottles.

All these containers have faulty seals on them. They have all been opened without breaking the seal.

The manufacturer has been informed - many times - nothing done. These bottles have been on shelves in Lidl and other outlets for over 10 years.

Spiegel reports abuse case of former German bishop

Spiegel Online reports today that Heinrich Maria Janssen, a former bishop of Hildesheim in Germany, has been accused of sexual abuse against a former altar boy.

Janssen was bishop in Hildesheim between 1957 and 1982.

The altar boy was given €10,000 by church authorities. It is alleged that Janssen began abusing the boy when he was 10 and the abuse continued for five years.

The former bishop died in 1988.

Can the Irish church be serious about its effforts in exorcising what has happened without making public the wrong-doing of its culpable ministers, including those who have died but may never have come to the attention of the Garda or appeared in a court of law?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shane Filan tees off Concern Worldwide 24-hour Fast

Shane Filan launched the Concern Fast in St Stephen's Green yesterday.

The world-famous singer is a keen golfer and plans to give up golf on the Concern Fast Day, November 26.

Bank of Ireland's new rules concerning cash transactions, which they announced yesterday, are no help to people donating to charities. But it appears, under pressure, including presure from the Finance Minister, the bank is having second thoughts.

For many years now AIB ATMs misspell Welcome in German.

What sort of management can behave in such a manner?

The banks and so many more corporations and organisations.

Illiberal theology

David Quinn writes in the current issue of The Irish Catholic on the 'dangers' of liberal theology.

It's unfortunate that he never explains what he means by 'liberal theology'.

The article does nothing to help people in their search of God. But it does seem to apportion blame to anyone who might be tempted to think outside the box or maybe disagree with David Quinn's particular brand of faith.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What at all is truth?

Patrick Cosgrave of Web Summit fame has had much radio exposure in the last few days.

On Morning Ireland yesterday he expressed his views in a clear and articulate manner. He also gave an account of certain events.

In today's Irish Times Kathy Sheridan in her column takes him to task.

How can one ever discover who is telling the truth and what is true?

Kathy Sheridan seems to make more sense. But who knows?

Thirteenth anniversary of the death of John O'Gorman

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the death of John O'Gorman.

This blog has been annually posting the below Irish Times appreciation.

Maybe it's time to stop it. So here it is, most likely for the last time.

John was a special person, and like all of us, complicated too. What would he have to say about Dominicans celebrating 800 years?

JOHN James O’Gorman was born in Blarney Street, Cork in 1945 and attended the North Monastery Christian Brothers School. He was one of their brilliant young men, obtaining a scholarship to UCC. But instead of going on to university he joined the Dominican Order in September 1962. He was professed the following year and ordained a priest in 1969.

John O’Gorman stood out as a shining light. Most of all he was a man of absolute integrity, but he was also endowed with brilliant intelligence. After priestly ordination he studied postgraduate theology in Rome and remained at the Irish Dominican community in San Clemente as bursar.

He spoke Italian like a Roman – or so said his neighbours on the Via Labicana. But he was not happy with Rome and the Roman scene. His first love was always science and mathematics. He began postgraduate work in maths while still in Rome. Father J.M. Heuston, a brother of John Heuston of 1916 fame, himself a fine mathematician, admitted that he had never before met someone with such mathematical talent. John came home to Ireland in 1976, moved to the Dominican Community at Newbridge and did his H.Dip at Maynooth. Without any formal degree in mathematics, he blazed a trail of brilliance through Newbridge College. Students seeming destined to produce average turned in spectacular performances.

By the time of his last year at the school, there were two streams in sixth year doing Higher Level Maths in the Leaving Cert. But John was also there for the not-so-clever. Anyone who sat at his feet in Newbridge will remember him as a brilliant and fair teacher. John was endowed with both a practical and speculative intelligence.

In the early 1980s he began to develop an interest in Computer Science and did a Ph.D, in computing at the University of Limerick. This led to a career in lecturing at the college, a job he greatly loved. He is the author of two books on computing and was in the process of publishing a third.

He was meticulous in everything he did. While mathematics and teaching were his first love there were other sides to this faithful son of St Dominick. He walked every by-road of Ireland, climbed to the top of every mountain and had a knowledge of roads, rivers and mountains that was simply breathtaking.

John also took his theology seriously, had a profound knowledge of the Bible, and was familiar with modern theological thinking. But he was never at home with his priesthood. In the mid-1980s he requested permission to resign from priesthood while remaining a Dominican. The Order granted his request.

Most of all John was a dear friend, someone who was always there to give the best of advice and help. He had absolutely no time for show or pretension and lived the simplest of lives. He never lost his Blarney Street accent. He carried his intelligence easily and never used it as a tool to lord it over anyone.

Above all, any signs of obfuscation annoyed him intensely. He had little time for people in authority who attempted to take short-cuts and he had no mercy for Dominican superiors whom he felt were not living up to their responsibility. He was a member of the provincial council of the Irish Dominicans and took his responsibility very seriously.

He was a true democrat, moulded by the constitutions of the Order, so when he felt superiors or communities were lack-lustre living out their calling to St Dominic, he had no hesitation in letting people know his views. He was in some ways a private man but was always there for his friends and he would go to any distance to help and support.

John was a physically fit man who could walk up to 20 miles a day. He took good care of himself. Yet he died in his room in the Dominican Community in Limerick on the evening of Sunday, November 3rd of a massive heart attack.

He is survived by his brother Andrew, sister-in-law Emer, niece Fiona, nephews Rory and Mark, and his Dominican brothers. I have lost a dear friend. May he rest in peace.
Michael Commane

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bertie charms his audience

Today, the feast of the Dominican saint, Martin dePorres is, the 13th anniversary of the death of John O'Gorman OP.

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

Michael Commane
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern launched Deaglán De Bréadún's ‘Power Play’ at Hodges Figgis on Tuesday, October 20. Deaglán spent 35 years working as a journalist with The Irish Times.

We were in the same year in Dublin’s CBS Synge Street. After school we never met again until 1998 in Belfast when he was Northern Ireland editor of The Irish Times and I was working with the Irish News.

Since then we are regularly in touch, indeed, I think I can say we have become good friends.

So it was only ‘right and proper’ that he should invite me to the launch.

It was scheduled to kick-off at 6.30pm but everyone knows book launches are never on time and to turn-up on or before the appointed time looks nerdy.

So I’d say I was there about 6.40pm and to my surprise, fast on my heels, were Vincent Browne and Bertie. They were deep in conversation and I was tempted to go up to them and ask them what they were talking  about. And you know what, I nearly had the cheek to do it. 

Loads of people arriving: journalists, politicians, Deaglán’s family, publishers, people from the NGO sector but very few of Sinn Féin top brass. That was sort of odd as the book is about the rise of modern Sinn Féin. But is has been said that the party bosses were not too happy about some of the publicity the book received the previous Saturday in ‘The Irish Times’.

Okay, Bertie’s weak on past participles and his TH pronunciations but I listened to every word he said. I was impressed.

He praised Deaglán for mentioning the Sinn Féin strategists and pointed out this was the first time for the men to be mentioned. Though he did say he had bumped into them in various corridors over a number of years and always spotted that what they said to him one day was exactly what Gerry 

Adams said to him a few days later. Very interesting.

Bertie also noted that Sinn Féin people were few on the ground on the night but observed that one of those mentioned strategists was at the launch.

He spoke about back in his day when he was fighting elections in his constituency 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.

Bertie was also funny. He alluded to the fact that had Enda called a November election the book launch would be no news. And he believed Deaglán must have had words with MI5 and the PSNI as the launch was on the same day that the Villier’s report was published on the activity of the IRA.

As soon as he was finished there was a media scrum around him. Bertie stood there, talking away, giving his words of wisdom. And back in that serious tone. Is it the eyes, what is it? Or is it that people, who hold or held ‘power’, always have ‘something’ about them? On the night Bertie was a celebrity. And that, after all the years of scandal, controversy, financial ruination. On the night in Hodges Figgis everyone wanted to talk  to Bertie. Rogue and celebrity.

Book launches are fun and usually there’s a glass of wine going with them – that’s if you imbibe. But why no soft drinks or a glass of tonic water? I gave up alcohol six years ago. Liberating. So I’d have enjoyed a tonic water. Didn’t spot Bertie with a glass in his hand.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Poor PR work at Volkswagen

 .... and you get so much more with Volkswagen.

So goes the Volkswagen radio ad.

One would imagine that its PR company would have changed it by now.

Anyone who hears this ad must immediately be reminded of 'what that extra is'.

Cheating of course.

Schabowski dies in Berlin

Günter Schabowski, the man responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, died in Berlin yesterday. He was 86.

On November 9, 1989, at, what had been up to that point a long boring press conference, Schabowski read from a note that he had just been handed, that GDR citizens would be granted permission to visit the Federal Republic.

He was asked again to repeat what he had said and this time he said the rule came into effect 'immediately'.

People began to arrive at the Berlin crossing at Bornholmer Straße, the crowds grew and eventually the man in charge on the night at Bornholmer Straße, Harald Jäger, instructed that the barrier be lifted. 

Shabowski was born in Anklam, Pomerania, now in Mecklenburg Vorpommern. By trade he was a journalist and was at one stage chief editor of Neues Deutschland - the official daily paper of the ruling SED. He was later a member of the Central Committee of the SED.

Writer and politicial activist Christa Wolf in 2009 said that Schabowski was one of the worst of the East German politicians.

After unification he denounced the GDR regime and communism.

The management class.

Jäger volunteered to work as a border guard and later attended the University of State Security in Potsdam. His final thesis to graduate before attaining the rank of major in 1981 had the following title: "The Education of specialist forces, security and counter-terrorism in the border customs offices of the Customs Administration of the GDR as a prerequisite for targeted and differentiated inclusion of the members of the customs administration of the GDR in the system of counter-terrorism at the border crossing points of the GDR."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

There's a freedom about being open and truthful

No organisation has a monopoly on inefficiency and poor behaviour.

When it comes to transparency it seems there is always the temptation within management teams to disseminate information of little consequence, while at the same time, make major decisions without any reference to the wider membership. 

Groups with poor leadership qualities are usually slow to invite open discussion.

Again, no organisation has a monopoly on all virtue or all vice.