Monday, February 29, 2016

Cardinal George Pell

It was stomach-churning listening to Cardinal Pell this morning. BBC Radio 4 played an extract form his video link between Rome and Australia.

Does the man not even feel embarrassed? Breath-taking.

Merkel's performance on ARD's Anne Will Show

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a stellar perfomrance last evening.

She was interviewed for 60 minutes on ARD's Anne Will Show. Merkel, not a note in her hand, gave, what can only be called a brilliant performance.

She pointed out how just over a year ago the EU, including Greece stuggled to keep Greece above water and now the EU urgently needs to support Greece with the refugee crisis.

She was polished, pleasant and was in total control of all the facts.

Peddling irony

A classic example of top class irony.

It's doubtful either of the Healy-Raes cycles bicyles.

And then the 'sneering'.

It's funny. It appears in one of yesterday's Irish national newspapers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mandela and Merkel

Two quotes:

Forgiveness liberates the soul.
-Nelson Mandela.

If I could I would do everything the same again.
- Angela Merkel.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Forrest Gump, Eurovision and Election 2016

When the Eurovision Song Contest first appeared on our televisions everyone watched the singers and listend to their songs.

As time went on people lost more and more interest in the singers and the music and the attention switched to the voting.

The same seems to have happened with this general election. A three-week bore and today the fun begins.

What did 'Forrest Gump' say about life?

"My Momma always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get'."

Friday, February 26, 2016

All that roman gear

There has to be a mystery about the wearing of the roman collar and clerical clothing.

Yes, it is understandable that men who wear it all the time, then that's their mode of dress and no harm done.

But can someone explain how people can prance about in roman collars and clerical clothing one minute and then dress up in the latest fashion the next.

Of course it is understandable that people would wear clerical clothing at religious functions.

But it is baffling how people can dress up in clerical clothing, driving about in flash cars, flying from continent to continent, country to country, city to city. Then arrive at a smart city address, change into the latest haute couture and head down town to chic restaurants.

One does not need to be a social scientist to know that there is something wrong with what is going on among certain groups within the clerical classes.

Management at the BBC

There has been much discussion on the BBC and elsewhere since the publication yesterday of Dame Janet Smith's Report on the Jimmy Savile saga.

It is said that no one in senior management was aware of what was happening.

Poor managers?

And the same of course in the church.

It requires almost prophet-like people to challenge the management class. They develop or create an aura around them that is almost impossible to challenge.

They create their own cliques and then live within that world.

A scenario: someone seems to be causing trouble. The line manager/parish priest/prior reports it to the CEO/bishop/provincial.

Nine times out of ten the CEO/bishop/provinical will be more inclined to listen to her/his immediate underling.

The way of the world. The way of the church.

The management class of its nature has to be sly and cunning. How else could people get to such positions?

Yes, they may have talent but always dosed with large quantities of sycophancy.  They also have to be bullies.

Of course there are exceptions. The more intelligent, the more insightful leadership is, the better the chance of fairness and success. And goodness and happiness too.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Smith reports culture of 'reverence' at BBC

Dame Janet Smith's report on Jimmy Savile is published today.

It finds a culture of 'reverence' towards Savile at the BBC.

Three terms are use to catch the climate at the BBC: hierarchical, reverential, male dominated.

Exactly terms that can be used to sum up the culture in the Catholic Church.

'Reverential' is such a perfect word to use. Clerical child sex abusers and alleged abusers manage/d to create an aura about them, making them 'special', as if they were experts, untouchable people, who knew/know best.

It seems there are great similarities between the BBC and priesthood/religious life.

In total, Savile sexually assaulted 57 females and 15 boys from the late 1950s to the middle of the last decade. Three incidents of rape and attempted rape took place on BBC premises, Smith said, and the youngest victim to whom Smith spoke was eight years old at the time of the offence.
Figures below are from the Guardian.

A Redemptorist on Marianella

Below is yesterday's post from Fr Gerry Moloney's blog.

It's appearing here for a number of reasons. I succeeded Fr Gerry in his Three Patron's 'nixer' and I cycle by Marianella every day.

"The last Redemptorist left Marianella yesterday, bringing to an end the Congregation’s presence in Rathgar going back more than a century. It was a sad day, the culmination of a long process of debate and prayerful deliberation, and Irish Redemptorists felt it keenly.
I first visited Marianella in 1979, as a 17 year old. I went to Dublin by train to undergo a series of tests to determine if I was a suitable candidate for the Reds. Marianella seemed so large and bright to me, and full of life. I liked it. Needless to say, I passed the tests (they clearly didn’t check too deeply for mental stability) and four years later I ended up living in Marianella as a theology student. 
In the decades since, I have spent almost half my life in Marianella – three years as a student, 23 years in Redemptorist Communications. Marianella is where I was ordained to the priesthood; it is in many ways the place where I grew up.
I have never been a fan of the building itself. It was classic 1960s architecture – square and grey and without personality (it didn’t have a single en suite room). But the location was fantastic. I loved the gardens and I loved the neighbourhood. Walks by the Dodder river always comforted and invigorated me.
I loved Rathgar village, the eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, though for many years my favourite restaurant was Forte’s take-away. Marianella was close to the city, yet I could go for weeks without ever venturing into the centre of Dublin. Rathgar supplied everything I needed. 
And I loved my almost five years doing a nixer as parish chaplain in the local Three Patrons Parish. 
I joined the Redemptorists partly because I didn’t think I was cut out for parish ministry. I liked the idea of living with a band of brothers in a religious community. I appreciate it even more since my health failed, but there was something about my time in Three Patrons Parish that I found fulfilling and even exhilarating. I miss the people there, just as I miss those who worshipped in Marianella chapel. Leaving Rathgar has been as painful for many of them as it has been for the Redemptorists.
Marianella was built at the same time as the spirit of Vatican Two was washing over the Church. It was an optimistic time. All manner of things seemed possible. And vocations, though not on par with the 1950s, seemed as if they would continue to stream in. 
The grey, sad building we finally vacated yesterday reflects the state of the Irish Church now – grey, dated, half empty, not fit for purpose, requiring a re-build. 
Marianella is a sign of the times. 
I am grateful for all the years I spent there – the best years of my life, literally. I am grateful for the opportunities I was afforded there to develop and express my ministry of preaching and publishing. I am grateful, most of all, for the people I met there and in Three Patrons, who gave me support when I needed it, and who offered me a nugget of hope for the future of the church in Ireland."

Elites not better - just luckier

An extract from an article by Owen James in today's Guardian.

"Inequality runs through our society like a stick of rock. The elites are not better than everybody else – they’re just luckier, given helping hands while others are met with slammed doors. It is a waste of talent. And we all suffer for it.

"Over the last generation – and longer – there has been a shift in attitudes towards inequality. We’ve been encouraged to believe that those at the top deserve to be there, through their graft, determination and intelligence; and that, equally, those at the bottom are there because they are lazy and feckless.

"It is a convenient rationalisation of profound inequality perpetuated by a persistently negative media portrayal of those in poverty and a belief that what we once considered social problems are actually individual failings. But the truth is, the upper tiers of British society discriminate on the basis of wealth, not talent."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Doors close at Marianella

The last Redemptorist living in Marianella on Orwell Road leaves the building today.

It will be knocked in the next weeks and planning permission has been given for over 200 dwellings.

When it was opened in 1968, oil cost 6d a gallon.

A skip in the gorunds of Marianella on Monday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Four centenary medals from two Irish presidents

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
The daughter of friends of mine is doing her Leaving Cert in June. Over the years I have given her some little help in German so we know one another reasonably well. She is a fine young woman, intelligent, affable and articulate. 

Over the last few months we have chatted about what she intends doing after her Leaving Cert. She has filled out her CAO form and stated her options. I have suggested to her that she think again about what she is planning to do. But it's not my call and really none of my business.

It set me thinking how things have changed in the area of career guidance over my lifetime. I'm sure the term did not exist when I did my Leaving Cert.

My thoughts went on to think about vocation to the priesthood and what is it at all that 'calls' people to priesthood.

In many ways it is a real mystery to me. When people ask me why I joined the Dominicans I never really have the answer. I'm inclined to explain why I have stayed. And even there I'm on flimsy ground.

But there is one thing I know for sure. I have been so privileged to have had some remarkable experiences and met great people.

And here's such an experience.

On Shrove Tuesday before 07.30 Mass a man came into the sacristy and asked could someone come and anoint his mother. I said I would call to the house after Mass. Sometime around 8am I knocked at the door, the man answered and I went up to his mother's bedroom. 

She was frail and weak. We said our prayers and then the man and I had a chat. It turned out that the woman's husband and the man's father had died in the 1960s. He had been a GP on the Kilkenny Tipperary border. It so happens close to there I had spent all my summer holidays as a child on my granduncle's farm. We had a great chat.

The next day, Ash Wednesday, on a whim, I called to the house again. As I arrived the man was at the hall door with his mobile to his ear. He was looking for help to lift his mother. Perfect timing on my part.

As we went up the stairs a neighbour arrived. We helped the man lift his mother unto the bed and as we placed her gently on the bed she died. She died while we were holding her. What a privilege for that man, for his mother to die in his arms. I have heard from many people how he had cared for her over the years.

And for me too. What a privilege that I was asked to do what I did and then that this lady should die while we were lifting her. It's not something that I'll easily forget.

The woman was born in 1912. I saw her four medals from two Irish presidents. A medal for making the century and one for every year thereafter.

It makes little or no sense to look back in the past and wonder did we make the right or wrong choices. The past is done. It's over. All we have is the now. And it's up to us to make the best of it.

If I were not a priest, it is most unlikely that I would have been with that man to help him lift his mother to her bed on Ash Wednesday. I was glad I was there.

Good luck to my young friend doing the Leaving Cert.

Monday, February 22, 2016

We and us

It really is time to laugh or cry when people refer to themselves using the first person plural of the personal pronoun.

Clement Greenan OP, RIP

Dominican priest Clement Greenan died in a Dundrum nursing home on Sunday, February 21.

He was born in Newry on May 5, 1918. His brother, Lambert, who is 16 months older than he, is also a Dominican and lives in Irondale, Alabama, United States of America,

Before moving to the Dundrum nursing home within the last year, Clement had spent close to 40 years living at the Dominican Priory in Dublin's Dorset Street.

He was a tall man with an impish character. Always gracious but never slow to express his views, confident that the laws of the Order and Canon Law supported his argument.

Over the years he collected church memorabilia, including old Latin missals, bells and books with historical relevance.

He also ministered in Trinidad and the US.

On many occasions he put pen to paper, sending letters to national papers, even if it meant disagreeing or contradicting earlier newspaper articles written by fellow Dominicans.

But at least, in the case of one of those Dominicans, Clement became a close friend and just some weeks ago told the man, who visited him in the nursing home, that nothing gave him greater pleasure than the man's visit on that day.

May he rest in pease.

Bad Aibling mystery

What actually was the reason that caused the rail crash at Bad Aibling in Bavaria on Tuesday, February 9?

On Saturday, February 20 it was announced that the crash was the result of human error: a signal controller is alledged to have given a green aspect to one train when she/he should have stopped the train at red on a track-side signal.

Is that possible?

On all modern trains, driver-cabs are fitted with a device that informs them of the aspect of track signals in her/his section of track. And the train brakes automatically. Irish Rail calls this system CAWS, Continuous Automatic Warning System.

How was it possible for the train controller to have given two green aspects at the same time on a single running section of track?

When a train goes through a red aspect, alarm bells ring in a signal box/control room. When signals contradict one another it would make sense that all hell would break out in the control room.

And one of the drivers would have noticed that something unusual was happening, in which case he would automatically have phoned control. The driver(s) would be familiar with that section of track and the running order on that section, so the slightest change of what's 'usual' would have caused concern. The idea that both trains were travelling at the maximum speed of 100km/h only adds to the mystery of what happend on the morning of Tuesday, February 9 at Bad Aibling.

With great effort and planning it might be possible for a driver to override a signal safety device but for a signal controller to override the system would appear to be impossible.

Looking at the incident from a distance, it appears that the reason for the crash that has been made public is implausible.

Second anniversary of the death of Jim Harris

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Dominican Jim Harris. The piece below appeared in The Irish Times on March 17.

Michael Commane
Jim Harris was an original. But above all he was a kind man, who had a gift for supporting those on the margins, those who depended on the help of a wise companion.

James Harris was a Dominican priest, who died suddenly at 75, sitting in the Dominican church in Newbridge, on Saturday February 22.

He was born in Caragh, Co. Kildare in 1938. His father Tom was the first Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare, serving from 1927 to 1957. Jim’s mother was Hannah O'Sullivan from Aughacasla in Kerry.

Their son was a boarder at the Dominican-run Newbridge College and from there joined the Order, making his first profession in Cork in 1958. 

He studied philosophy and theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Tallaght, completing his theological studies in Rome. He did a BA and H.Dip in Education at UCG, before taking up a teaching post at Newbridge College, where he taught Latin, Geography and Religious Studies.

Jim had a mischievous sense of humour, often used to mock the status quo. On one occasion while teaching in Newbridge he set a Latin exam. On one side of the paper was a Latin text to be translated into English, on the reverse side another text, this time an English text to be translated into Latin. Not all the students realised it was the same text.

After Newbridge he moved to Galway, where as prior, he oversaw the building of a new priory. 

With the job completed he moved to Athy, again calling in the architects and builders to build a priory beside the Dominican church on the Barrow.

He spent 18 years in Waterford, where he rebuilt a new priory and was a loyal supporter of the St Vincent de Paul society. 

So much of his generosity was done in the greatest of confidentiality.

While he enjoyed his teaching and building projects, Jim excelled in his kindness and support of those he encountered. And that was a large number of people, whether past pupils, friends, family, but maybe above all, those who needed a shoulder on whom to cry.

The underdog, the person in trouble, knew they had his ear.

He was ordained a priest on July 12, 1964 but coming from a republican background he never admitted anything special about the day.

He had a wide interest in sport. His first love was rugby. Many of his contemporaries tell great stories of his adventures on the field. 

He is survived by his sisters Annie and Kitty, brothers Michael and Sean. His sister Betty, a nurse, sustained serious injuries in Nigeria while working as a lay missionary. Betty died in 2008. 

He is predeceased by his sister Mary, who died in 1994 and his brother Joe, who died in 1951. Jim's mother died in her 105th year.

Jim touched the lives of many people with his grace.

How we speak, like

The Irish Times ran an article on Saturday on how we Irish speak. It is written by Hugh Linehan.

He quotes Paul Howard, the creator of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly:

I think what the Celtic Tiger did was it took huge numbers of people like me and it processed them into people who speak with this total abdication of an accent. Which is nothing, it's a nowhere accent. I suppose my accent is nowhere at the moment, which reflects my own circumstances.

Surely it was not just the Celtic Tiger that leaves us in such circumstances?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bush dynasty is dead

The first paragraph in an article by Jeb Lund, which appears on today's Guardian online.

In announcing the suspension of his campaign, Jeb Bush couldn’t have found a more apt expression for his departure from a contest that was beyond his ken than “I congratulate my competitors who are remaining on the island”. The 2016 Republican presidential primary is a thing forged in madness; as befitting the functional illogic of a reality TV show, it doesn’t make a lick of damn sense beyond itself, but the results cannot be appealed. Jeb has been voted off the island; he is the weakest link; goodbye.

The march of the right-wing

What happens if Trump, Le Pen and Putin are presidents all at the same time?

And Pegida grows in popularity in Germany, the Poles and Hungarians stay with their right-wing governments, and nationalism becomes the 'style'?

Isis keeps marching to its music and fundamentalist ministers of religion have their way within the Christian churches?

Observing the mix of arrogance and smugness from Brexit supporters Farage and Gove certainly adds to the mood of depression and hopelessness.

Maybe all along the recent advent of right-wing thinking in the Catholic Church has been a precursor of what's happening now in the world of poltics? 

Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin, featuring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson, is showing at this week's Berlinale. A great book but the film, according to the reviewers, does not live up to the quality of the book.

God help us from the right-wing.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Trains in Bad Aibling

Eleven days after the rail accident at Bad Aibling in Bavaria, Bayerische Oberlandbahn resumed regular passenger service this morning on the section of track on which the accident happended. Railway personnel travelled on the trains to offer comfort and assurance to passengers. 

Tired Tess after intro-walk

Due to damage to a tendon, Tess has not had an opportunity to take to the hills for long walks.

Today was her first day back walking in the countryside after a long break. It was a sort of intro-walk. Still, after such a long lapse, she was tired this evening and enjoyed the comfort of her new sleeping arrangement.

Quick-pick election choice

A letter in today's Irish Times.

Sir, - For the undecided voters, perhaps a quick-pick option could feature on the ballot paper, Yours, etc,
Helen Noonan,
Dublin 6.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Unique to Transdev

Transdev Ireland, one of the the largest public transport providers in Europe, operates Dublin's Luas for the State.

The following sentence appears on its website:

It is VIRTUALLY UNIQUE in its involvement in every stage of public transport projects, including design, operation and maintenance.

It's small. But someone might whisper in the ear of management that you cannot qualifiy the word 'unique'.

It's always the 'little things' that give tell-tale signs.

Francis versus Donald

From yesterday's Guardian.

Donald Trump has called Pope Francis “disgraceful” over the pontiff’s suggestion the Republican presidential frontrunner was “not a Christian” for his plan to build a wall at the Mexican border.

Flying back to Rome from a trip to Mexico, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event in South Carolina, saying: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he told a packed room at a golf course resort. Trump then accused the Mexican government of “using the pope as a pawn”. 

“They should be ashamed of themselves, especially when so many lives are involved and illegal immigration is rampant and bad for the United States.”

During his in-flight press conference, the pope insisted he did not mean to sway any Americans with his comments. “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that,” he said.

“I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

In a press release timed to coincide with his rally, Trump suggested that the leader of the Catholic church would regret not supporting his candidacy. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by Isis, which as everyone knows is Isis’s ultimate trophy,” Trump said, “the pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Damian Byrne

Damian Byrne, who was master of the Dominican Order and earlier provinical of the Irish Dominican province, died 20 years ago today.

One of his characteristics was his apparent simplicity. He travelled the world with a small, shabby case, never expected to be met at airports or train stations.

He died in Dublin of a heart attack this day 20 years ago.

One of those impossible-to-answer-questions: What would Damian Byrne think of the current well-being of the Irish Dominicans, the direction the province seems to be taking?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Archbishop's response to BBC on JP II letters

In response to Monday night's BBC Panorma programme on Pope John Paul II's relationship with a Polish philosopher, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, who lived in the US, the Archbishop of Krakow, Stanizlaw Dziwisz, is reported to have said, that Pope John Paul II lived with no complexes.

How can someone say that about another person?

What is it about 'apparatchiks' in the Catholic Church? Do they actually believe these things that they say?

So similar to the sort of words one heard  from politburo officials.

And then they 'wonder' what is happening in the church.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stand back and enjoy the now - tóg go bog é

This week's Independent News and Media Irish newspapers' regional column.

Michael Commane
I was standing at the checkout at a Lidl store some weeks ago. A young man standing in front of me realised he had forgotten something so he left the queue and went off to get his forgotten grocery. It came to his turn to pay but no sign of him and then just as I was about to head to the till to pay for my goods my man returned. 

He payed for his goods and headed off. Not a word from him. No apology, no thank you, nothing. I couldn't resist it, so I did point out to him that at least he could have said sorry for the delay it caused me. We had a few words before he headed off.

On another occasion I stood at the grocery checkout as a woman spent, what seemed to me to be an age, to fumble in her purse for her money and then produced a handful of coins, spending another age to count them. Again I found myself getting annoyed, being impatient.

How long was I delayed on both occasions? I imagine less than a minute on each occasion.

How many minutes have I wasted in my life?

I'm recalling the two incidents because last week a friend called to my house and expressed her frustration at how impatient we are all becoming. Naturally, I told her of my two occasions of crass impatience and our conversation certainly set me thinking.

It seems we have no time for anything and where at all  are we going with all our rushing?

My mind went back almost 40 years when I heard a wise man comment on skips. At the time they were in their infancy and the wise man said that the skip was a real sign of the developing    throw-away society.

How accurate he was. We throw away so much and for all sorts of reasons but it seems one of the reasons is that we are too lazy or do not have the time to fix it. How easy it is to get into the rhythm of that mentality.

Up to a few years ago I would not have dreamed of leaving my bicycle into a bicycle shop to have a puncture repaired. These days I could not be bothered fixing it myself. And the bike shop simply fits a new tube and throws away the old one. 

The money-people will tell us it is simply not worth fixing things. It's cheaper and more efficient to replace them. Certainly that's what the man in the bicycle shop has said to me on many occasions. When I first started to get it fixed I politely asked to keep the old tube. But I never patched it, never used it again.

What happens when the Chinese workers start looking for the same pay as their western counterparts? Maybe I should be keeping those old tubes.

All the time running through our veins is that desire that whatever we want we have to have it now. We flit from one gadget to the next, all the time wanting to have the best and the newest. It's an insatiable desire. That urge is relentless.

Is it that we have simply been duped by the world of advertising?

When last did you take time out to look at that robin outside your back door? I'm inclined to think we are wasting far too much time chasing rainbows. Isn't it a lovely Irish expression tóg go bog é (take it easy). And why not? Stand back, observe people and things. Enjoy the now.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dresden prize for Ellsberg

Next Sunday Daniel Ellsberg will be awarded the International Dresden Peace Prize in the eastern German city.

Ellsberg released Pentagon Papers of US government decision-mking/wrong-doing during the Vietnam War. Under the 1917 Espionage Act he was arrested and sentenced to 115 years in jail. He won the subsequent legal battle when it was discovered that the US Government had broken the law.

At the time, the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, said that Ellsberg was a traitor and should be jailed for life.

The Chicago-born economist is a supporter of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The bombing of Dresden

In these nights 74 years ago the air forces of the UK and the US dropped thousands of tonnes of explosives on Dresden.

Between February 13 and 15, 1942 it is estimated that 25,000 people living in the eastern German city of Dresden lost their lives.

And all because of the man who promised he would make Germany 'great again'. A language that is currently being bandied about by a number of politicians.

Dominican 'Webite'

What is a 'Webite'?

On that same website one reads of 'Photo's', also there is 'deferent'. They are among the errors that are on the website for a long period of time. The website is seldom kept up to date.  Pictures appear with no captions. And many of the pictures simply show the back of people's heads. It is also almost impossible to navigate on it, at least on this machine.

What is it about ministers of religion, who seem to know so much about God and then talk about the topic, but when it comes to the 'small' things, the things with which lesser mortals are engaged, they seem to be at sea.

And it goes right across the spectrum, not just with words, but with work too.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mystery at Bad Aibling

The rail accident at Bad Aibling in Bavaria on Tuesday, which claimed 10 lives and left scores of people seriously injured, still remains a mystery.

The trains, not operated by Deutsche Bahn, are owned and run by the private rail company Meridian.

The trains were operating on a single line, which meant they passed one another at stations.

During the week there has been speculation that personnel switched off signalling on the line due to track work. That was part of the reason for the crash on Irish railways at Buttevant in the 1970s.

But such a procedure has now been denied by German investigators in respect to the crash at Bad Aibling.

All modern trains are fitted with devices, that should a train pass a signal, brakes are immediatley activated, as they are if the train travels too fast.

It is reported the trains were travelling at speeds of up to 100 km/h.

The system used by Irish Rail on the single line track between Mallow and Tralee involves axle counters at the beginning and end of each section. A device counts the number of axles that enters the system, which blocks the line for other trains until that same number of axles leave at the other end of the section.

Rail passengers using the Mallow Tralee service will have observed trains usually pass at Rathmore Station.

On the main double-line tracks, Dublin Belfast and Dublin Cork, the system uses a mix of automatic and manually operated signals. When a train enters a section it automatically causes the signal either to turn to red or orange, depending on whether it is a home or distant signal.

It so happens that the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) Germany's Intelligence Service operates the largest  listening post outside of Britain and the US in Bad Aibling.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thirty-one-year-old Thomas Davis's resting place

Plaques on walls and buildings provide great history lessons.

Do you know where Thomas Davis is buried?

In Dublin's Mount Jerome cemetery.

Died a young man, 31.

AA Roadwatch road chaos

Comment on AA Roadwatch on RTE 1's Morning Ireland today:

Delays are starting to improve.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bishop Eamon Walsh talks on mercy in Pope Francis

Bishop Eamon Walsh gave the first of Lenten lectures in Ballyboden Parish last evening.

He spoke on the topic of mercy in the thoughts of Pope Francis.

Three quotes.

When we cease to worship, God we worship everything.

If you distil mercy out of justice and right, you have self-destruction.

God's mercy is not a decree, more like a caress. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In the soup at Roly's

That redundant apostrophe turns up again. But why then did they not also put in the soup.

Difficult to understand the logic why they spell it 'Pasta's' but then get it right in 'Soups'.

So, is the cuisine better than the spelling at Roly's?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

First Sunday after first full moon after spring equinox

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane  
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has proposed a fixed date for Easter.

Anglican leaders plan to join with other church leaders to fix a date for the first time in 2,000 years.

At present the western churches celebrate Easter on a different date than the eastern churches,although in some years the date coincides. This year, we in the west celebrate the day on March 27, whereas Christians in the east will celebrate on May 1.

At present Easter Sunday in the west falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, Bishop Anba Angaelos said that fixing on a date would be a great demonstration of Christian unity.

Easter is at the centre of the Christian faith. It is about Resurrection. But what exactly is Resurrection? An answer to that is beyond my pay-grade.

As Easter Sunday this year falls on March 27 this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and for the next 40 days we are in the season of Lent.

Fadó, Fadó it was a tough period. It was a time of rules, regulations and strict observance. In Cork a genius of a baker managed to make biscuits that were really outside the limit but 'legally' were within the 'law'. They called them 'Connie Dodgers', named after the then Bishop of Cork Cornelius Lucey.

Have you planned to mark Lent with something special this year?

Last year in the parish where I live all the Christian churches came together and organised a 30-minute meditation. It took place Mondays to Fridays from 07.45 to 08.15.

It turned out a great success and people found it helpful. So, it's happening again this year.

Every morning the session is introduced by a person, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, and it's irrelevant to what faith the person belongs. There are a few minutes of explanation and guidance. 

The next 25 minutes is spent in Christian meditation, mindfulness and centering prayer.

I tried to attend most mornings last year and it certainly was a great way to start the day. No doubt it will be just as enriching this year.

It was also an eye-opener as to how Christians from different denominations can come together. The divisions among the Christian groupings is really something that has reached its sell-by-date and there is urgent need for church leaders to bang heads and fix their differences, which are mainly shrouded in history and power.

Shortly the Easter advertising campaigns will be rolled out and the shops will be a-flush with all things to do with Easter.

It seems a good idea to let our bodies in someway or other be guided by the seasons and the idea of jumping ahead, forgetting about any sense of waiting can't be good for us.

I came across the following line last week: "You can never get enough of what you really don't want." It set me thinking. All the things we 'must have' and so often they fade into dust as soon as we get them.

IKEA boss Steve Howard said last month: "We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff, peak home furnishings".

Maybe this Lent might be a moment for all of us, believer or non-believer, to ask some pertinent questions about ourselves, who we are, what's the purpose of our lives?

Although it is about Advent, Patrick Kavanagh's words: "We have tested and tasted too much, lover/Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder," are worth thinking about at the beginning of Lent.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mary Kenny's UK column versus her Irish writing

Mary Kenny in her column in this week's Irish Catholic writes about the film Spotlight:

The film is well done, technically: well acted and well directed. In terms of human psychology, or exploring the human psyche, I think it's rather shallow.

In the Catholic Herald, an English Catholic publication, she writes about the same film:

'Spotlight' shows what journalism can do very well: investigate a story, digging away at it until all is revealed. And it demonstrates what journalism should do, too, which is to question power.

But it also illustrates what journalism can seldom do: explain the deep well-springs of a human problem. The movie tells much, but explains little.

No mention of 'shallow' in her UK column. And a different tone too.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

John Moran's wise words

The former Secretary General of the Department of Finance John Moran was interviewed by Marian Finucane yesterday on her RTE Radio 1 show.

It's well worth a listen. Good radio.

He pointed out how a job is no longer 'for life'. And he stressed how unwise it is to stay in the one job for too long. 

Moran feels people tend to see things within their own circle and it becomes almost impossible for them to see things any other way.

Wise words from an interesting man.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Something timeless about Peter's sense of guilt

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times.

Michael Commane
It is an extremely dramatic gesture. Peter kneels down in front of Jesus and says: "Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man." (Luke 5: 8)

That's a line in tomorrow's Gospel.

The Gospel (Lk 5: 1 - 11) is the account of how the fishermen fill their boats almost to the point of sinking. No doubt many sermons tomorrow will be used to sell vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While that might well be a valid approach to take, such an extrapolation can easily give an over importance to the calling of sisters, priests and brothers within the church. 

Surely we are all called to live the Gospel and to talk about it in our daily lives. Too much 'them versus us' always leads to exaggeration and places an over-importance in one particular group.

Peter is disgusted with himself, annoyed with his lifestyle, indeed, so much is he ashamed of himself that he tells Jesus to leave him alone, go away, and let him live with his miserable self.

There is something about that sentiment of Peter's that carries a timeless truth about it. Something universal about it too and also something very 'Irish' about it.

Irish society has changed beyond recognition over the last 30, 40, 50 years. Philosophers, sociologists, theologians, politicians, people from all walks of life have been discussing how and why it has changed. When was that particular moment, what was that specific 'thing' that helped cause such a change in Irish society?

Gay Byrne's Late Late? Ready access to travel? The EU? It's been a myriad things and there is never one 'magic' moment that causes change.

But it would seem to be true that far more people in Ireland today carry a confidence with them that would not have been the case in former times. People, not all, are more articulate, better educated, more prosperous and better able to stand up for themselves than they were in past generations.

It's probably true to say that the ruling classes have less chance today to be patronising, to speak down to their 'subjects' as they did in the past. But, unfortunately it still happens.

Going with all that self-confidence, it is inevitable that we develop an air of self-importance, a belief that I am all-powerful and I can more than survive on my greatness and my own individual ability. It can lead to an arrogance and a sense of invincibility.

I don't need anyone. I can do this all on my own. I'm important. There are no limitations to what I can do and achieve. 

Not too long ago we doffed the hat and now we are masters of the human race.

Sometimes something happens, we get ill, lose friends, experience the death of people close to us and we do a rethink. We might not after all be as indestructible and all-powerful as we thought.

It's a far cry from when we lived in a state of guilt and were obsessed with how we must never get 'above our station'. 

Such an understanding of guilt was not and is not a 'Christian thing'. Read tomorrow's Gospel. Peter is full of guilt and sincerely believes he is not good enough to associate with Jesus. Quickly, Jesus the Lord, sets him right and insists that he is to be one of his followers.

Tomorrow's Gospel is a great story to remind us of our dependence on God but also a wake-up call, assuring us of how important we actually are.

Maybe a question of balance: ridding ourselves of a silly type of guilt and on the other hand never losing the run of ourselves. 

It seems we all give far too little importance to the great virtue of prudence.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pope's advice: listen, be in touch, and less gossip

The text below is from

Pope Francis was talking to sisters, priests and brothers on Monday, February 1.

Spelling has been changed to UK/Irish English.

The Pope met with about five-thousand consecrated and religious persons, who are in Rome for the end of the Year of Consecrated Life. As he does on many occasions, Pope Francis decided to improvise at the last moment.

"I gave the Cardinal Prefect the text because it is a bit boring to read.”

Pope Francis explained that the act of devoting your life to God does not mean excluding yourself from the world to live a comfortable life. They have to be close to both believers and nonbelievers.

"Be consecrated men and women, not for living away from people or having all of the comforts. No. Consecrate your life in order to reach out and understand the lives of both Christians and non-Christians, the sufferings, problems and many other things you can only understand if a man or woman becomes consecrated to a "neighbour.”

He warned against the damage that gossip can cause. He asked them not to give into the temptation of badmouthing one another and gave them a tip for when that happens.

"If you want to say something against a brother or sister, or launch 'gossip bomb'... Bite your tongue! Strong.”

The Pope warned of a practice that occurs when members of a congregation start to age; in an attempt to stay relevant they receive new members by applying the wrong criteria.

"Some congregations do  experiment with 'artificial insemination.' 'What do they do? They receive. They say, 'Yes, come, come.' And then there are problems from within. It must be received seriously.”

After analysing these challenges, Pope Francis thanked them for their commitment and dedication with some tender words.

"I want to emphasise to the consecrated religious ...What would the Church be like without nuns?"
Before ending the meeting, the Pope asked God to send more vocations to religious orders. As usual, he asked them not to forget to pray for him.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Words and their meaning

At a conference on the family organised by The Irish Catholic, the papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown said:

Merciful love and the truth of the family, these are the things that we have to hold together.

What exactly is 'merciful love' and how does it differ from 'love'?

What is the 'truth of the family'?

The quote is taken from this week's Irish Catholic.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Free sheet 'Alive' gives Freud extraordinary powers

Much has been written and said about Austrian neurologist and father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

But there is a sentence in the current issue of the free sheet Alive, which surely must throw a whole new light on Freud and his works.

Michael Kirke in 'Monthly Musings' writes: "Shamelessly he [Freud] destroyed the beauty of sexuality itself".

Freud is blamed for many things but Alive gives the psychoanalysist an extraordinary power.

Is this true?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More to us than an amalgam of molecules? A God?

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
It is too easy, too glib to say there is a God. But it is also on the other hand too easy and too glib to say there is no God.

Are we just an amalgam of molecules? Is that it or is there more to it?

On Monday I called to visit a woman in a geriatric ward in a Dublin teaching hospital.

On the last occasion I called to see her, her sister was with her so I spent most of my time talking to her sister. But on Monday I was on my own. The lady had little or nothing to say to me. It was clear that she was waiting for her sister to arrive.

Sitting at her bedside I was looking around the room. All elderly women. One woman was walking restlessly up and down the ward. She was looking for 'her chair'. 

I had earlier taken the chair beside her bed, so I left it back but as soon as I had left it back she was looking for another chair and on it went. She kept looking for chairs and then it dawned on me that the lady was suffering from dementia. 

A few minutes later a young nurse came into the room and how she handled the old woman. It really was inspirational. She was so kind and nice to her. No doubt she is dealing with that every day.

In another bed there was a woman with a tube in her nose. I got the impression she may have had a laryngectomy.  I have some knowledge in that area, as close to 40 years ago my mother developed cancer of the throat, subsequently had a laryngectomy and managed to live for 12 years after such a major operation.

So looking over at the woman my mind jumped back 40 years. The lady had paper and pencils at hand to write down her thoughts and requests. 

A laryngectomy involves the removal of the voice box and unless a mechanism is inserted it means the person never talks again. And even when a mechanism is inserted it is not done immediately after the operation.

All the time, the lady I was visiting was becoming more and more restless, awaiting the arrival of her sister. It was clear that my presence was of little or no importance to her.

Nurses were coming and going and they were so kind and gentle to all their patients. The lady looking for 'her chair' was becoming agitated and the nurses continued to be so kind to her.

And then my friend's sister arrived and we were able to chat and yes laugh about life on the ward. 

With the arrival of her sister, the lady I was visiting was suddenly calmed. It was really extraordinary to see how she had relaxed. She was a new woman. I found myself massaging her feet and all the while a great smile emanated from her face.

I left, walked along the corridor, took the lift down to the main entrance, walked along the footpath and jumped up on a Dublin City Bike and cycled across the city, all the time thinking of the hospital ward and the misery and pain that people experience.

Is there more to our lives than what we experience in the world about us? 

Is there a life after death? 

Is there a God?

I hope there is.

Do I believe there is? I hope I do. The more I see of the world about me the more I'm inclined to go for the God idea.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Those mystery doors on Dublin Bus vehicles

Can anyone solve the mystery of the back doors on Dublin's buses?

Last week Dublin Bus circulated a letter to all drivers instructing them that they were to open the back doors of the bus. Drivers are to open the doors and should a passenger request the back door to be opened then it is a must for the driver to accede to the request.

It's not happening.

This morning on a 122 the driver refused to open the back door. The passenger was told by the driver that the doors are only opened at certain stops.


Wise words from Kilgarvan born US union leader

If we, black an white, Catholic and non-Catholic, Jew and gentile, are good enough to slave and sweat together, then we are good enough to unite and fight together.

Michael Joseph Quill, established the Transport Workers Union of America to represent New York City's subway workers and later, other transit workers.

The Kilgarvan born union leader closed down New York's transport system for 12 days in 1966. Quill and his union secured a large pay rise.

Palpable arrogance of anti-austerity demonstrators

Yesterday at approximately 13.40 less than 30 people walked in Dublin's city centre in an anti-austerity march.

The small group managed to straddle the full width of Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street.
Never a chance of their allowing traffic to pass.

It was an extraordinary example of shocking arrogance.

Less than 30 people blocking traffic for a considerable period of time. Not a bother on them, not a care in ther world.

How not to get people support a 'cause'. How not to win friends.

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