Sunday, January 31, 2016

A girl was not raped and an asylum seeker did not die

The Irish Times Berlin correspondent has an interesting article in yesterday's paper.

Did you hear? A 13-year-old girl in Berlin was abducted and gang-raped for 30 hours. And a 24-year-old Syrian man in Berlin died of exposure after waiting all night in the cold before the city's asylum authority.

The only reaction to such shocking news is: "You couldn't make it up." But twice this week Berliners learned that, actually, you can make it up.

The right wing and the neo-Nazi were quick to unfurl their banners outside the chancellery chanting 'Merkel must go'.

A mix of social media, alcohol, and right-wing/neo-Nazis nastiness fuelled the situation and the non-truths quickly became 'fact'.

Well worth a read.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Train view

So far little snow in Ireland this winter so even a hint of it makes for the 'unusual'

Snow on the Kerry mountains.

Un-democratic moves mixed with anti-German undertones

Foreign policy analyst Eugeniusz Smolar wrote an article in Wednesday's Irish Times where he talks of the new government in Poland and compares it to what is happening in Hungary.

Kaczynski, who is now the real leader in Poland, wants to control all levers of power: the parliament, the government, the judiciary, the public media and, through pressure, even private business.

In a recent parliamentary debate someone said, with the backing of the ruling PIS ruling party: "the good of the people comes before the law."

Smolar writes: "And just durng the bad communist days, those who criticise these changes are called traitors to Poland who serve foreign interests - often with clear anti-German undertones."

He points out that since 1989 Poland has enjoyed the most secure period in its history.

Trump in the US, Marie Le Pen in France, Farage in the UK and the AfD in Germany. With the passing of every day it is becoming more and more worrying. And all the time too the right wing inlfuence within the Catholic Church is becoming more influential.

What is it about institutional religion and its links with the right wing?

Friday, January 29, 2016

High wind heavy rain

Out walking with Tess at 06.45. Heavy rain and high wind. 

Back home 07.05. What to do? How to get to Heuston Station for 09.00 Cork service? Bicycle or bus?

Check Dublin Bus app at 07.30 next bus in four minutes, one after that in 24. Too late for first one and second one might be too late for Heuston.

What to do?

Decision made, eventaully. Cycle. Tog out. Two pairs of pull-ups, two rain coats, shoe covers, a hat and loads of lights.

Rain stops and it seems the wind has calmed. Not a drop of rain the entire journey.

Now sitting in pure pleasure, four seats to myself, just four other people in the leading coach. The raingear overhead.

It's always and ever the little things that make it worthwhile and fun too.

The loco driver has let off his two brakes and the train is moving.

Two minutes later passing Inchicore.

09.17, through Sallins. Irish Rail's mile posts are in MPH. But loco odometers calibrated in km/h

Sun shines and blue skies.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

'Losers' versus 'elites'

Below is an extract from an article in yesterday's Irish Times by Martin Wolf. The piece first appeared in The Financial Times.

"Losers have votes, too. 

"That is what democracy means – and rightly so. If they feel sufficiently cheated and humiliated, they will vote for Donald Trump, a candidate for the Republican party’s presidential nomination in the US, Marine Le Pen of the National Front in France or Nigel Farage of the UK Independence party. 

"There are those, particularly the native working class, who are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.

"Above all, they reject the elites that dominiate the economic and cultural lives of their countries: those assembled last week in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

"The potential consequences are frightening. Elites need to work out intelligent responses.

"It might already be too ate to do so."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remembering the Holocaust

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On January 27, 1945 the Soviet Army arrived at the gates of Auschwitz.

Germany and its collaborators killed an estimated six million Jews, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, two million Roma and 9,000 homosexual men.

And then the death of war. Twenty million Russians.

Every year the management of Mercedes Benz presented Hitler with a new car.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How people reacted to the death of David Bowie

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
David Bowie's death has received many column inches in newspapers around the world. Radio and television have given the man wall-to-wall coverage.

I have met rock artist and commentator BP Fallon on a few occasions so when he was talking on radio about David Bowie after his death I did sit up and listen.

It seems Madonna tweeted that she was 'devastated' to hear of the death of Bowie. Maybe they had met on a few occasions but it doesn't seem that they were close friends.

Facebook was deluged with lesser mortals expressing their 'devastation' at David's death.

His private cremation was interesting. All the famous people, who could have been there, complete with shades, never got a chance. Nor were any of his fans able to show their pain.

Maybe I have no heart, no soul, no feelings but I am confused about how people can get so upset about the death of someone they did not know.

I mention David Bowie because he is the most recent world famous person to die.

I admit that the death of a handful of people whom I might have followed on the world scene may have made me think for a moment but I have never been devastated or broken-hearted.

The death of former English politician Tony Benn in 2014 caught my attention as he was a man  I greatly admired but not for a moment was I 'devastated'.

Or when a pope dies why do people seem to get so upset? Since I don't have relationships with famous world figures how in heaven's name can I get upset about their deaths?

It is sad to see anyone, anywhere die. You turn on the radio and you hear of someone losing their life in a road accident.

Of course you are sad, it's terrible to hear such bad news. But how can you be 'devastated' by such news.

To watch people being killed as a result of war and famine certainly pulls on the heart strings and it is of course a scandal.

But again, how can I be devastated when I have never met the people or been in any sort of relationship with them.

When my mother and father died I was devastated, broken hearted.

I hope this does not sound horrible but I was also greatly upset when Jessie my labrador dog died. I had lost a soul companion. She knew me and I knew her.

Journalist Brendan O'Connor said that he cried when he heard of David Bowie's death.

Maybe it is that David Bowie's music built bonds between him and his fans. Music certainly brings people together, it builds bridges, so perhaps that could give some explanation to the outpouring of such grief.

But I'm not sure I'm convinced. Is it that the media plays tricks with our feelings? It's  more complicated than that. But it certainly is a puzzle for me. Has it something to do with how we use words?

Has it something to do with giving power to people? We are always talking about living in liberated times. But maybe we want to be slaves to our masters.  

Is there something in our psyche that wants us to look up to people? We like having someone to 'worship'?

Or maybe we simply admire talent and then lose the run of ourselves?

In preparing this column I discussed it with a friend. Her comment was: "I would agree with you - except about Bowie." She went on to say that Bowie was a 'spaceman', 'a separate life-form'.

It sure is a funny old world.

Monday, January 25, 2016

'Deutschland 83' no reason to say Germans are not happy

Tim Stanley writes a review of Deutschland 83 in this week's Catholic Herald.

Basing his argument on what he has so far seen of Deutschland 83, Stanley concludes that Germany will never be a happy place.

The series is currently running on RTE 2 and Channel 4, RTE being ahead of Channel 4.

It is the story of a young GDR soldier who is coaxed or forced to work for the Stasi in West Germany.

Very quickly, indeed far too quickly, Moritz Stamm finds himself working in the office of a Bundeswehr general, who deals directly with Nato.

The series seems implausible and far fetched. But whether or not it is, it is difficult to understand how Tim Stanley can conclude from the TV series that Germany has "reason to weep".

We all have reasons to 'weep'.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

'Spotlight' opens in Irish cinemas this coming Friday

The Spotlight film on the cover up by the Catholic Church of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston by priests comes to the Irish screen this week.

It was the work of an editorial team at the Boston Globe that unearthed the systematic and institutional cover up by the church. At the time Cardinal Bernard Law was archbishop in Boston.

The editor of the paper at the time, Marty Baron, now edits the Washington Post.

On the work they did at the Globe he says:

"I hope it causes the public to reflect on the necessity of holding powerful people and institutions accountable, and on the nature of investigative reporting and what's required to do it right.

"I hope it causes all of us, including people in the press, to listen to people who are at the margins of society, who have been routinely left voicless, who actually have something very powerful to say."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

German atrocity fuelled by Polish anti-semitism

Today's Irish Times carries a review of 'The Crime and Silence: A Quest for the Truth of a Wartime Massacre' by Anna Bikont.

The book is a study of a massacre that took place in summer 1941 in Jedwabne, which is a three-hour drive from Warsaw.

The book and a previous book on the subject 'Neighbours' unveil how this was no ordinary Nazi atrocity. "Half the population of a small east European town murdered the other half".

Both books created a great stir in Poland.

At a 60th commemoration of the massacre the then Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski begged the souls of the dead and their families for forgiveness.

According to Lawrence Douglas, who reviews the book, The Polish episcopate boycotted the commemoration.

'Miles' behind

Part of a headline in today's Irish Independent.

How many years ago did Ireland change from imperial to metric measure?

And this is no exception. Most Irish newspapers still use imperial measurement.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Worrying times

A US journalist said yesterday: "We need Trump to save the country". The same journalist went on to say that the US needs a president who thinks more about Americans than foreigners.

Think of the people about whom that was said. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

People with the least give the most - garda motorbiker

A garda detective on RTE's Tubridy Show this morning spoke about driving his motrobike in foreign parts. Ken stressed many times how he found that people with the least give the most.

He spoke of the extraordinary kindness of the Iranians. How true. Iranians must be the most hospitable people on earth.

Interested in information on driving a motorbike in foreign places then check out www.horizonsunlimited

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More 'baddies' in US than anywhere else in the world

The United States is home to five per cent of the world's population yet it houses 25 per cent of the world's prisoners.

It spends $80 billion every year on the prison service.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hard to know how to make sense of pain and suffering

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Betty has been in hospital since December 9 when she fell and broke her pelvis.

I first got to know Betty in the early 1990s. She was living in Dublin's Dominick Street. Her sister Violet came to Mass in the local Dominican church and it was there that I got to know her. Before that Betty had been involved in a road accident, which left her semi-invalided. She had difficulty walking, but with the aid of a wheel chair and a specially adapted car she was quite mobile. 

Before Christmas I discovered that she had had a fall and was in hospital. Recovery for a woman in her 80s is going to be slow. Even slower for someone who is already frail.

I have been to visit her twice in hospital and on both occasions her sister Violet has been at her bedside. She spends every afternoon with her.

On Monday when I visited her she was asleep. Her feet were visible at the bottom of the bed and her sister was massaging them.

"Michael, Betty has terrible pain in her feet," Violet told me as she continued to rub them.
A few minutes later Betty woke up, gave me a smile and fell back to sleep. But I imagine a sleep of sorts as it was clear to see from her face that she was in pain.

As a result of the road accident Betty damaged one of her feet and probably the pain she is now experiencing is made worse because of that accident many years ago.

Violet, while talking to me, was gently massaging her sister's feet. We were laughing with one another. None of us now lives on Dominick Street so we were talking about what life was like over 25 years ago on the street. Naturally there was plenty to laugh about, some things to sadden us but at the end of most paragraphs we were laughing. 

Violet had been part of a team that organised a family Mass in the parish. She with a number of other people put great work into the Sunday Mass.

On Monday I stayed less than 20 minutes at Betty's bedside, before heading off, and away from the world of pain that Betty lives. Travelling home on the bus it began to dawn on me. The suffering that Betty has been experiencing year-in-year-out and her sister has always been there to offer all the human comfort she can. She never goes away, she is always there in good times and bad to care for 
her sister.

Seldom if ever does she talk about theology or church rules. Nor have I ever heard her use words such as morality, justice, all the words that the commentariat use, all the words that ministers of religion trip from their tongue with such ease. And yet, I doubt if I have ever met someone who is such a kind and good person. None of the pious stuff, no sanctimonious words, no telling me what to do or how to vote. None of that, instead there she is massaging the feet of her sister.

It's difficult, even trite, ever to try to say anything about pain and suffering. It's all bad stuff and so easy for onlookers to use all the wrong words and give all the worst 'advice'. 

Watching Violet massaging her sister's feet is the closest I have ever seen to anyone make 'sense' of pain. Being there, being kind. Laughing too.

The line from John Milton's poem on his blindness comes to mind: "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tax dodgers cause mayhem

Oxfam in a report published today says that the 62 richest people in the world own wealth equivalent to the resources of the poorest 3.5 billion people.

The agency cites estimates that rich individuals have placed a total of $7.6tn in offshore accounts, adding that if tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190bn would be available to governments every year.

Oxfam goes on to say it intends to challenge the executives of multi-national corporations in Davos on their tax policies. It said nine out of 10 WEF corporate partners had a presence in at least one tax haven and it was estimated that tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries at least $100bn every year. Corporate investment in tax havens almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2014.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

'Patriot Radio' leaves Radio Moscow in halfpenny place

This blog has on previous occasions referred to the right-wing US radio station 'Patriot Radio'.

It is based in Phoenix, Arizona and some of the programmes are syndicated to other US stations.

It spends most of its time and energy attacking President Barack Obama. It blatantly and vulgarily supports the GOP.

Its presenters sneer and ridicule everything that is not right-wing. It is a loud supporter of the NRA and has criticised President Obama for his latest attempt to change the gun laws. One presenter last week jeerd at the president on how he speaks. Another presenter accused him of lying in his State of the Union address.

It opposes the current agreement with Iran.

When one thinks of 'Patriot Radio' the words vile and evil come to mind. In terms of blatant propaganda it leaves in the shade anything the former Soviet Union or the GDR ever tried to do.

This station is opposed to abortion and same sex marriage.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cancer Society faux pas

The current controversy surrounding The Irish Cancer Society is another example of the incompetence of the 'management class'.

Did management not realise that once they announced they were withdrawing a service there would be questions asked about the salaries of their top executives? 

That the CEO earns €146k sounds high. How many are employed at the Cancer Society? And then to reduce it by €10k. So now the CEO is earning €136k.

It is yet another clear example of the incompetence of those who manage and lead.

And so it is right across society.

A funny old world......

Friday, January 15, 2016

Irish Rail webpage

A page from the Irish Rail web booking page.

When booking a ticket, it appears only certain coaches are available. Why? On the Dublin Cork service, for example, there is only one coach that is left free for walk-ons, so what happens the other coaches? They don't seem to appear on the website.

On the screen shot below note the orange square beside the '1'. What does it mean?

Irish Rail urgently needs to redesign its booking page.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

John Paul II and Murdoch

In 1998 Pope John Paul II awarded a papal knighthood to Rupert Murdoch.

It was laughable and is laughable. Silly and embarrassing too.

All part of the making of saints?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

EU examines Polish law

In Brussels today the EU Commission has begun proceeedings to examine new laws concerning the media, enacted by the newly elected government in Poland.

Conference on the family

The Irish Catholic and The Iona Institute are hosting a conference, Pope Francis & the future of the family in Ireland.

Keynote speakers are Archbishop Eamon Martin, Papal Nuncio Charles Brown, columnists Nuala O'Loan, Bairbre Cahill, Breda O'Brien and David Quinn.

Will the conference be discussing the future of the family in Ireland or the Catholic family in Ireland?

Does it not make more sense to have people with different opinions talk at such a conference?

It is has been reported to this blog that the papal nunico to Ireland Charles Brown has on numerous occasions been invited to talk to the Association of Catholic Priests. The papal nuncio has so far accepted none of the invitations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tanzania in the limelight at Young Scientist Exhibition

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Just as this year's Young Scientist Exhibition opened its doors at the RDS on Thursday a much quieter event was taking place at Dublin's Mansion House.

Two students from Mzumbe Secondary School in Morogoro, Tanzania presented the Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh with gifts from their country, symbolising aspects of life in Tanzania.

Edwin Luguku and John Method, won the 2015 Young Scientists Exhibition Tanzania (YSET) and part of their prize included attending last week's Irish Young Scientist Exhibition. 

The project that won them the top prize was 'The Effects Of Plastic Bags On Morogoro And Reducing Their Use'.

The Lord Mayor pointed out how back in 2002 she was against the tax on plastic bags. She felt it was just another tax. But she admitted that she got it wrong. She explained how before the plastic bag tax each inhabitant in Ireland was annually acquiring 340 plastic bags and that has now dropped to 18.

Thursday's reception at the Mansion House gave expression to what Irish people are doing at home and around the world.

The YSET is the brainchild of Joe Clowry. Before moving to NUI Maynooth, where he was Education Officer with the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium, he taught science, biology and development education at Carlow CBS.

"Between 2008 and 2011 I worked with 40 researchers from east Africa in Maynooth and we visited Irish schools looking at projects the youngsters were preparing for the Young Scientist Exhibition. The African researchers could not believe how advanced the Irish youngsters were when it came to scientific matters.

"We were working on a probiotics for people living with HIV. I met Professor Michael Kelly SJ, who has spent most of his life working in Africa, and he suggested that we should take the project to Africa.

"And that's really the genesis of YSET. We picked Tanzania because it has the least developed scientific infrastructure in east Africa," Joe explains.

The first YSET was launched in 2011 and last year 130 schools in Tanzania exhibited their projects in Dar es Salaam. Up to 300 schools entered the competition but due to space restrictions there was only room for the top 130 exhibitors.

The exhibition has so captured the imagination of the youth in Tanzania that young people last year spent three days getting to the event and another three days travelling back home afterwards.

The project is funded by Irish Aid, BG Tanzania and other organisations such as Concern Worldwide. Joe Clowry explained to me how he happened to meet the then Concern CEO Tom Arnold at a function at the Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam.

"I was telling Tom about the project and he immediately realised its potential and offered me any help I needed. He allowed me use the Concern offices in Tanzania and anytime I ever mention that the project is supported by Concern, doors automatically open for me," he smiles.

Concern annually presents the Niall Weldon Award at the YSET. Niall was secretary at Aer Lingus, who were the original sponsors of the Young Scientist Exhibition and for over 25 years he was the chairman of the organising committee of the exhibition. 

For Edwin and John it's their first time to leave Tanzania. Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh told them they were visiting a great city and strongly advised them it was a special place to have some fun and 'craic'.

It's a project that offers great potential. Why not Irish schools set up partnerships with fellow exhibitors in Tanzania and other African countries? Working and learning together always makes sense.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

Comment made by a BBC journalist on its News at Ten:  "Bowie gave people permission to live their lives differently".

The German Government thanked him for helping bring down the Berlin Wall. 

Happenings in Poland

What is the Catholic Church saying about what is going on in Poland?

What are the views of the Polish Dominicans to what is happening?

Below is an extract from Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian.  

Poland, the pivotal power in post-communist central Europe, is in danger of being reduced by its recently elected ruling party to an illiberal democracy. 

Basic pillars of its still youthful liberal democracy, such as the constitutional court, public service broadcasters and a professional civil service, are suddenly under threat. 

The voices of all allied democracies, in Europe and across the Atlantic, must be raised to express their concern about a turn with grave implications for the whole democratic west.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Catholic Church devoid of communication skills

What is it about the Catholic Church and communications?

Last week literature was distributed dealing with Catholic Schools Week 2016.

It is an expensive package. Pages and pages on the subjct.

Guess what? It appears there is no mention telling the reader when the week takes place. And if there is it must be written in tiny font in some obscure place.

But it is so typical.

A religious congegration runs a website that writes 1970's and abbreviates the plural of brothers to Br's. Its general design and look is simply shocking. And the information it gives is generally a long time out of date. It's embarrassing.

Everything about it is unattractive. And to add to the nonsense of it all, there seems to be no shortage of money behind the website.

Has it something to do with the church thinking it knows best?

It's often joked that you can tell the status of a country from its banknotes: if the president's face is on the note then it's sure to be a dictatorship. In that context it's well worth checking out some Irish diocesan websites.

Below is what appears to be the welcome note to Catholic Schools Week 2016. Any mention of when it is taking place?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Baptism - an introduction to the Christian community

'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times

Michael Commane
Tomorrow is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus being baptised. It sounds a strange one. Why should Jesus  need to be baptised?   

Baptism in Ireland has become something of a political/social football. It's a subject for the commentariat to opine about. It evokes comments from bishops and the usual “talking heads” are discussing it with great passion.

Of course I am referring to how baptism is being linked to education. A child baptised in the Christian faith is on the inside track when it comes to obtaining a place in a local national school

Is this what baptism has become?

I have often stood at the back of a church before a baptism, observed those attending the sacrament and wondered what exactly was it all about. But then I also think of an older dispensation when children were baptised immediately after birth. 

The reason behind such a practice was that if the child died without baptism then it well might happen that their soul would not go straight to heaven.

Were those times, was that style of 'theology' any less absurd than what is being practised at present? For an answer maybe one should toss a coin.

A week ago I was at a funeral Mass in Tralee of a former newspaper colleague. 

The parish priest celebrated the Mass and everything about the sacrament on that day had an air of faith, a sense of the Divine about it. The Mass was – of course – in English and was said according to post Vatican II liturgy.

For the sacraments to convey a glimpse of what they signify and what they bring aboutall that is required is a genuine Christian faith shared by those who are presentIt was as clear that day  in Tralee  that the priest was a man of faith, a man of kindness too.

The seven sacraments might well be called the mission statement of the church. That will not stop latterdaypharisees and scribes who will give you chapter and verse on how they are to be celebrated and explain who is and who is not “worthy” to receive them.

At the baptism of Jesus, John explains he is not worthy to untie his sandal, and yet Jesus presents himself for baptism.

Baptism is above all, the sacrament that makes us members of the Christian community. You might say if gives us the fob to open the gate and allow us join with others in 'sharing' a common belief.

As to who should get baptised? Children are baptised in the name of their parents, more or less in the same way nationality is bestowed on someone at birth. Maybe the sacrament, all the sacraments, need to be divested of all the tricks of power and control that surround them.

If people come to church requiring baptism and give the impression that they know nothing whatsoever about the sacrament, whose fault is that? Why does that happen? 

Might it be that there is something dysfunctional right at the heart of the Christian community? Might it be that the men in 'blazers' have created a 'system' that is simply no longer fit for purpose?

Tomorrow's feast is at the heart of what it means to be a member of the Christian communion. If we are having problems with it and its administration, maybe it's time we sat down and had an open and honest conversation about what it means to be a Christian in the society in which we live.

Maybe much of the talk about this first sacrament is about power and control and nothing at all to do with Christian values. Baptism is all about becoming a member of the Christian community. Once baptised we become a participant in the life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The nasty games an army plays on poor soldiers

The story below appears in today's Guardian.

Doesn't it say something about an army and about the management class. And then the polite words of apology, the sophistication, all so articulate and 'kind'. All preposterous. And this is the barbarity meted out to 'their own'.

How must they treat their enemy? The British army has apologised to the family of a young soldier who died of heat illness after being subjected to an unlawful punishment known as “beasting” at a Wiltshire barracks.

Gavin Williams, a member of 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh Regiment, collapsed in 2006 after being forced to take part in vigorous marches and then work out in a gym on a searingly hot summer’s day.
After a six-week inquest, the coroner ruled on Friday that the “beasting” was unlawful and concluded that the “chain of command” knew – or at least should have known – the practice was taking place.
Alan Large also said he believed Williams, 22, who was punished for setting off a fire extinguisher during an officers’ ball, could have been saved had his fellow soldiers recognised he was suffering from heat illness.
Outside Salisbury coroner’s court an army spokesman said it accepted there was a “culture of unofficial punishments” at the time of Williams’ death. Army let all of us down, says mother of soldier who died after 'beasting'. Brigadier John Donnelly, the army’s head of personal services, said: “I apologise for the failings that led to Gavin’s death and accept responsibility for them.
“Our thoughts are with Gavin’s family and friends, particularly his mother, Debra, her partner, Adrian, and Gavin’s sister, Zeta. This inquest has been a difficult time for them and I pay tribute to the dignity that they have shown.
“We acknowledge that there was a culture of unofficial punishments within 2 R Welsh at the time of Gavin’s death. This is unacceptable, and was unacceptable. We have already conducted our own inquiry into the incident and made a number of improvements to try to ensure that it does not happen again, which the coroner has recognised.

“We will now study the coroner’s conclusion carefully to ensure we continue to do all that we can to prevent such a tragedy occurring in the future, for which we are truly sorry.”
Williams’ mother, who has campaigned for almost a decade to find out what happened to her son, said he had been the victim of “inhuman and degrading” treatment.
“What happened to Gavin was wrong, plain and simple. He was killed by the way in which his fellow soldiers chose to punish him unlawfully – to beast him – for nothing more than a silly prank. The nature of that beasting was so inhuman and degrading that it cannot be tolerated in any civilised world.  

“The coroner’s conclusions and findings demand urgent and. careful attention of the highest ranks within the army and I look. to them to act on those findings without delay. Described as a “gentle giant”, Williams found himself in trouble after setting off the extinguisher during a drunken night at Lucknow barracks in July 2006.
The battalion adjutant, Capt Mark Davis, ordered that Williams be brought before him “hot and sweaty”. On one of the hottest days of the year, Williams was “yakked” – forced to take part in vigorous exercise that involved him marching at quick pace and on the spot.
He was then taken to Davis, who stripped him of his regimental cap badge. Next he was marched to a gym where he was forced to do yet more exercise and taken back to a guardroom carrying a weighted bag.
He later died in hospital where tests showed that his temperature had soared to 41.7C, well above the norm of 37C. The coroner said Williams died from a combination of exertion, hyperthermia, restraint and use of ecstasy, traces of which were found in his body.
Large made it clear he had concluded “beasting” was an unlawful punishment. He said it involved no paperwork, no risk assessment and no chance for the subject to make representations.
During the inquest, officers including Capt Davis, who is now a lieutenant colonel, said they did not know “beasting” was taking place. But the coroner said there had been no attempt to hide the practice from superiors.
He said he was satisfied Davis did know informal punishments were happening, and it was “most unlikely” that other officers did not also know. He said he believed “beastings” took place around once a week.
Delivering a narrative conclusion, Large said: “Gavin died as the result of the imposition of unofficial physical punishment in the form of a marching drill and physical exercise conducted on a very hot day.
“This punishment was part of a system of such unofficial punishments operating in the battalion which the chain of command failed to identify or prevent.”
Large told the inquest that after Williams’ death there had been clarification over the sort of drills and gym sessions that soldiers could be ordered to take part in, and risk assessments must now be carried out. Changes had also been made to how soldiers were taught about heat illness.
The Williams inquest has re-focused attention on the British army’s understanding of the condition. The topic hit the headlines last year when an inquest heard how three highly fit SAS recruits had collapsed and died during a test on the Brecon Beacons on a hot day.
The issue of army culture will come to the fore again next month when a new inquest is held into the death of Pte Cheryl James, 18, who was one of four recruits who died of gunshot wounds at Deepcut barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse.

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The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.