Thursday, March 31, 2016

Laois viewed at speed

County Laois from the window of a train travelling at 155km/h.

Since its introduction, the railway has posts every quarter mile. They are known as mileposts. Although Ireland has changed from imperial to metric measure, the railway continues to use the imperial system.

Faith profiles of 1916 leaders

A customer enquired at a well-known bookshop in Limerick requesting a copy of The End of All Things Earthly. He was told the shop had ordered three copies but that they had not yet arrived.

The book, with the sub title, Faith Profiles of the 1916 Leaders is a 95-page read about 16 of the men who were executed for their part in the 1916 Rising.

It is most informative and gives the reader a sense of the times that were in it.

It includes a biography of Seán Heuston.

David Bracken is editor, published by Veritas and sells for €9.99. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Birthday for a woman born before the 1916 Rising

On Easter Monday Mrs Lally Lawlor celebrated her 101st birthday.

To honour the event her extended family celebrated with her at Ocean View Nursing Home in Camp, West Kerry.

The woman is hale and hearty. But she is a lot more than that. Her smile is infectious. A woman of great grace. She reads the newspaper without glasses and knits.

Lally received her second birthday medal and letter from the President of Ireland.

A woman, who was a year-old baby in Wicklow, when the men of the Rising were executed in Kilmainham Gaol. 

Congrats Lally and a privilege to know you.

Presidential letter and medal.

Lally with her son Tom and daughter-in-law, Marianne, who is John's wife.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Better 'wishy-washy' liberal than principled fanatic

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Anyone who calls someone a 'wishy-washy' liberal does so with every intention of insulting the person.

It's an attempt at saying that the person stands for nothing, has no definite beliefs or principals. It is always said with derogatory intent.

Last Tuesday I spotted a reference to a speech that US Republican front-runner presidential candidate Donald Trump gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

What I have seen and heard of Trump up to now has been scary. The world and its mother is talking about the man and how preposterous it would be to elect this man president of the most powerful country in the world. It appears that his chances of ending up in the White House have been ratcheted up.

His speech to AIPAC was a moment in time. He read it from a teleprompter, so it was not a matter of he talking off the top of his head. It was a well-planned speech.

He spoke for 23 minutes, pandering to the crowd, who were roaring and screaming in praise of what he was saying.

Every word of his speech was hate-filled. Trump was looking for the Jewish vote and in doing so, was spitting out words of hate for everyone whom he sees as opposed to Israel. He also spoke most disparagingly about President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Listening to the speech I felt my bias towards the man was influencing how I was reacting. I could not believe my ears to what I was hearing. I strongly recommend you listen to it and watch the man.

He reminded me of another man. The 'other man' expressed great hatred for the Jewish community.

We are living in scary times. Last week we had Brussels. Every day misery and suffering is being inflicted on Syrians. Trouble in Ukraine continues to simmer.

And all the perpetrators of hatred and violence, all those who scream from the rooftops are certain in their views and opinions. The last thing any of these people is is a 'wishy-washy' liberal.When did a 'wishy-washy' liberal cause mayhem and savagery?

All sorts of doctrinaire thinking is dangerous. And the same applies within religions. Once people stand up on their high horses, claiming they are going to save the world and correct all the wrong that has been allowed to creep in, then it's time to batten down the hatches.

It's easy to think that 'fundamentalism' is some sort of disease that afflicts other peoples and religions.

It would seem that there is some sort of 'thing' imprinted deep down in our DNA that can be triggered into action when we find ourselves in particular situations.

And it occurs right across the spectrum of all reality. No religion, no race, no culture, no people, no time in history is exempt.

We have been silly enough to look back at Nazi Germany and that 'other man' and wonder how such a thing could happen. Or we look at the evil of the Inquisition and wonder why.

What are we doing to stop it happening right now?I for one, would much prefer to be a 'wish-washy' liberal than some sort of principled fanatic, who is willing to go to any lengths to reach the 'promised land'.

Unfortunately a 'wishy-washy' liberal is no match for a Bible-thumping fundamentalist.

I've seen too much hurt and savagery.

AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus has apologised for Trump's speech. Chemi Shalev, correspondent for Israel's Haaretz, left the Trump speech in shock and asked how fellow Jews could have applauded his speech.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Brussels politician stresses importance of integration

On BBC Radio 4's Today a politician from Brussels spoke about the importance of integrated accommodation in the city.

He went on to stress the importance of telling the story to women. He said that women have a far greater chance of spending more time with their children, whereas the men may be out and about.

The old adage educate a man and you educate a man, educate a woman and you educate a family.

The Catholic Church and the role of women. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Colm Toíbín recalls a church of brutality in Wexford

A blessed Easter.

Writer Colm Toíbín was guest on the Miriam O'Callaghan Show this morning.

He recalled his memories of growing up in Wexford and how the Catholic Church behaved. He gave examples of some of the nonsensical and bizarre behaviour. Would they be still doing it today if they got away with it>

It was an awful and terrible behaviour, according to Toíbín.

Shocking terror and nothing at all to do with God surely.

These days the church is simply reaping what it sowed.

Ministers of religion talk about living in secular times and criticising the 'secular world'. Wasn't it always a secular world? It's good to live in a secular world.

What is happening is that the church is losing its temporal power and to that the church should be crying from the rooftops on this Easter Day, Alleluia.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Xi Jinping, Putin and the squabbling US candidates

On March 26, 2000 Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia. He had been acting president before this date.

In the United States Republican presidential candidates Trump and Cruz are engaged in a row concerning the behaviour of their families.

While in China 20 people have been detained for calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping as general secretary of the Communist Party and head of state.

Russia, China  or the US?

Management classes in different guises.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Olivia O'Leary writes in 'The Guardian' about Irish women

Olivia O'Leary's article in today's Guardian online makes for an interesting read.

LUAS dispute

President of Siptu, Jack O'Connor on radio this morning explained in clear and precise terms the details of the dispute at Transdev.

The spin the public have been spun concerning the LUAS strike is simply shocking.

Yet another example of the behaviour of the management class. An examle too of lazy journalism from media outlets.

A cocktail of drink, military parades, water and trams

The annual 'row' as to whether pubs should be open today, Good Friday, is something of a pathetic game.

It's akin to the rumpus that is being waged as to whether we should pay for the water we use.

Today, Good Friday, from Aachen in the west to Dresden in the east and from Flensburg in the north to Rosenheim in the south, doors are closed in Germany, where it is a public holiday.

And then on Easter Sunday we are to have the biggest military parade ever in Dublin, where trams will not roll, due to industrial action.

North Korea showcased its biggest ever military parade some months ago.

According to Central Statistics Office figures 35,300  Irish people emigrated in the 12 months prior to April 2015. And that was a decrease from the previous year. 

A funny little country.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Brussels and Belfast bombs

Northern Ireland journalist Robert McLiam Wilson, now living in France, said on the Sean O'Rourke RTE programme this morning that the perpetrators of the bombings in Brussels and Paris give the likes of Gerry Kelly a Mahatma Gandhi-like status.

It's more rounding up than rounding down for the shops

It seems most likely that retailers are winning the 'war' when it comes to the new rounding down/rounding up dispensation.

Keep your receipts for one week and you will see that the advantage lies with the shop.

With the footfall that stores such as Aldi, Lidl, SuperValu and Dunnes have, a cent or two here and there adds up. Its numbers, stupid.

Universal prinicpal: the little person never wins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trump's AIPAC talk

Republican presidential candidate front-runner Donald Trump spoke for over 23 minutes at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday.

It's worth listening to in full.

It is scary. Trump reads from a prompter. The Republican presidential candidate has frightening similarities with another man. Trump roars and screams in favour of the Jewish community. The other man screamed and roared against the Jewish community. But their vitriol and marching to a 'promised land' are too similar for comfort.

Trump's certainty, his hatred for President Barack Obama, all his razzmatazz is shocking.

And to watch the crowd screaming with their applause makes it all even more worrying.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pain, suffering, death

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Some days back I went to Tralee to pay my respects to a former work colleague who had died. Indeed, he died too young and was the kindest of men. During my years working with him he was always kind to me. It was difficult to accept that he was dead. Dead at 61.

Maybe I have reached an age that makes me look around and observe 'older' people, people shuffling about, people having difficulty doing the simplest of things.

How fragile we all are. Those who are healthy and well take it all for granted. 

Last week when  the death of the Northern Ireland prison officer Adrian Ismay was announced I felt a great sense of horror. What must it be like for his wife and children, for all his family and friends? And all for what? Simple savagery. What is it about human beings that we have the potential to do such heinous acts?

We see it on our television screens every evening - people being killed and brutalised almost in every corner of the world. Watching the barbarity from our homes it can easily become 'entertainment'. A shocking thing to say but true.

There is no limit to the savagery that people inflict on their fellow human beings.

But away from all the badness and madness, there is the 'everyday' suffering and pain to which we are all prone. Some avoid it, some don't. Yes, it's wise and clever to look after ourselves, to live a healthy lifestyle. But even when we do everything according to the book there is no guarantee that we will not be struck down in some way or other.

Is it all a lottery? And there is always the question, why? Does anything about our pain and suffering make sense? I don't know.

I know a little boy who is wheelchair-bound. A neighbour of mine, just a few years older than I, had his foot amputated as a result of diabetes. 

Last week I found myself beside a man in a wheelchair. One of his legs was missing. For a few seconds I did not know where to look and then suddenly I felt a sense of revulsion, immediately followed by a terrible sense of guilt. How dare I react in such a way to a man who has had the misfortune to have lost a leg.

These last few days I have been listening to a talented man who, through his abuse of alcohol, is destroying his life and that of his family. Then there is the middle-aged man with chronic back pain. Would one dare suggest it is the will of God or advise people to offer up their pain? I certainly would not do that in a thousand years.

Some weeks ago I called on an old man who is totally blind. We exchanged a few words. I have been back to see him a number of times since. And every time, I have been flabbergasted by his good humour and smile. 

Of course we should all do our damnedest to avoid pain and suffering. It is a plague to be avoided. Yet I never cease to be amazed when I meet people who experience terrible suffering and how they seem to bear their pain with great dignity. 

Surely it's unwise to dismiss how fragile we are, but always making sure to take good care of those who have been laid low. It's the mark of a kind person. It also says much about society.

This is Holy Week. Sunday is Easter Sunday. Resurrection is about life over death.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Confusing the religious affiliation of US politician

In the current issue of The Irish Catholic  the 'WebWatch' column refers to US presidential candidate Ted Cruz as a Catholic.

Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brecht's prophetic words

Nick Cohen in his opinion piece in The Guardian quotes Bertolt Brecht:

"Do not rejoice in his [Hitler] defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

Saturday, March 19, 2016

'Madame de Markievicz On Trial' tours the country

The play 'Madame de Markievicz On Trial’, written by Ann Matthews and directed by Anthony Fox, is touring the country at present. Next week it is being staged in Newbridge, Kilkenny and Galway.

When it comes to the women, who took part in the Rebellion, Madame de Markievicz is the most well-known. 

A play never claims to be an accurate account of an historical event. A play, like a good teacher, makes one think about people, things and events. And certainly 'Madame de Markievicz On Trial' directed by Anthony Fox gives the audience an opportunity simply to ask themselves, who exactly is this Countess de Markievicz.

The Countess was tried by court martial in the aftermath of the Rebellion but this drama is set in a criminal court and is a fictional calling to account of the Countess for the death of police constable Michael Lahiff on Easter Monday 1916.  

There are seven characters in the drama, two men, and five women. The prosecutor William May is fictional and the other six, including the Countess, are based on real characters. 

The writer Ann Matthews and the The New Theatre with a superb cast has brought them to life on the stage, 

The witnesses are based on a mix of acquaintances and friends of Madame, such as Dr Kathleen Lynn, Helena Molony, Margaret Skinnider, and William O’Brien of the ITGWU, while two of the women are witnesses for the prosecution, one of whom is the aunt of Constable Lahiff. 

Was de Markievicz a fantasist, did she like dressing up in military fatigues for the fun of it, or had she thought all this through? Indeed, the prosecution does try to paint a picture of a silly woman, who is close to penury and is really something of a loose cannon.

The audience will be the jury as they will decide the verdict, innocent or guilty.

There are also interesting comments about class. Were people in awe of de Markievicz because of her background and do we still tug the forelock when her name is mentioned almost 90 years after her death?

For more information log on to

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Leads and alcohol at Bohernabreena

Tess takes a moment out for a swim while walking at the Bohernabreena Waterworks on St Patrick's Day.

The picture below is at the Waterworks. Does it mean alcohol must not be abused at the lakes or is it saying all alcohol is not allowed? Presumably the second meaning. But it's not clear.

According to the sign Tess should be on a lead.

Donald Trump is marching to the 'Promised Land'

A quote from Donald Trump.

Jeb Bush will never take us to the promised land. Hillary Clinton will never take us to the promised Land.

Does this mean that Mr Trump is promising to bring the US to the Promised Land?

Remind you of anyone? His was to last a 1,000 years. And the people believed him, a highly sophisticated country cheered him on, right to the banks of the Volga.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Signs of spring

In Dublin it's bright at 06.00. Fledglings to be seen along the banks of the Dodder. Buds on trees. Every reason to hope.

This has to be the best time of the year: everything ahead of us. And looking good too.

A St Patrick's blessing?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The polymath brother of Seán Heuston of 1916 fame

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
During the 50th commemoration of the 1916 Rising there was a standing joke that everyone alive at the time of the Rising was claiming to have been in the GPO on Easter Monday.

This, the 100th anniversary of the Rising, it's unlikely that there is anyone around who claims they were in situ on the famous day.

Of course there are many people who had relatives who were fighting on the day.

From what I know of my ancestry we had no one fighting on either side.

But I have a tangible link to the great day.

Seán or JJ Heuston, who worked with the railway was executed in Kilmainham Gaol on May 8, 1916.

My mother knew his brother, Fr John, so it is something that links me, ever so tenuously to the men of 1916.

Seán's brother was a Dominican priest. He was born in June 1897, took his first profession in the Order in 1915 and was ordained a priest on July 9, 1922.

I had the good fortune of living with him in Rome during my two years in the Italian capital.

Somewhere in storage is a lovely letter Fr John Heuston wrote to my mother. I'd say it was written in the early 1960.

Are you confused? Two brothers with the same Christian name? 

Before the Second Vatican Council when people joined religious orders they were usually given a new name, different from their baptismal name.

So the young Michael Heuston, who joined the Dominicans in Tallaght in 1914, was given the name John. And it so happens that was the name of his famous brother, although he was more commonly known as JJ. For the rest of his life he was known as Fr John Heuston.

The Dominican priest was a multi-talented man. He was a polymath. A top-class mathematician, a keen photographer, a historian. He also knew his theology and philosophy.

It was almost impossible to get the better of him in an argument. There was little he did not know. I'm aware of one of his books. Some of his pictures have been reproduced on facebook.

He played a significant role in the design and building of the Dominican priory in Limerick and while living in the Dominican priory at San Clemente in Rome he worked on a book on the famous world-renowned apse in the main church. It has often occurred to me whatever happened that project, was it ever published?

CIE consulted him when they were commissioning the bust of his brother, which was erected  at Kingsbridge Station to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The station was renamed Heuston Station in honour of his brother, who worked at Limerick and Kingsbridge stations.

Fr John was also a kind and gentle man but eccentric too. He had an aversion to noise and would go to great lengths to 'shut it out'.

If one managed to get through the man's eccentricity, a fount of knowledge, love and genuine fun was to be discovered.

I remember on one occasion saying to him that he was away ahead of his time. He looked at me and in a flash said: "Not at all, it's the Irish Dominicans who are behind the times." He smiled and slipped away.

It would make sense and indeed it would be an honour to the man to remember him this year on the 100th anniversary of the execution of his brother.

Fr John was granted special permission from the Dominicans to visit his condemned brother in Kilmainham Gaol.

He died in Rome on Mach 6, 1984.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sensational gains for Germany's right-wing

An interesting statistic from yesterday's election in the German state of Sachsen Anhalt.

How unemployed people voted.

38 per cent AfD (A new right-wing party); 16% The Left Party; 15% CDU (The party of Angela Merkel); 12% SPD (Social Democrats, who are part of the Grand Coalition); two per cent for the Greens and the Free Democrats.

And why Donald Trump?

It was reported yesterday that 95 per cent of people in the US, who have received wage increases over the last 10 years belong to the country's richest one per cent.

Yesterday the far-right German political party AfD, Alternative for Germany, made significant gains in the elections in three German federal states.

Weimar was the breeding ground that enabled Hitler.

Right now the entire world looks similar to Weimar.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Denis Enright RIP

Denis Enright died in Tralee on Friday. 

Denis, known as 'Dinny' spent his working life at The Kerryman. He was also a 'small farmer', who lived and farmed in Curraheen, which is a few short kilometres from Tralee on the road to Dingle.

I spent close to 10 years working with Denis at the newspaper, where he was a compositor/graphic designer.

He was always there to solve my problems. Late on Tuesday nights before the paper went to bed and I suddenly discovered that I had made a mistake on a page, Denis would smile, pretend to be annoyed and then accept my request and change the error on the page. He never refused. Not even when I had misplaced a picture or forgot to leave space for an ad.

He was not a company or establishment man. He saw beyond those sort of things.

Once the GAA season began but especially when the championship started Dinny enjoyed planning his trips to Dublin and Cork, or wherever Kerry was playing.

The trips to Dublin, the pretend chasing after that ticket, which he already had in his back pocket, gave a hint into the roguery of a delightful person.

He and his colleague friend Tommy Sweeney made a religion of planning the logistics of their special weekend to the capital for an All Ireland final. And all those stops en route and the rendezvouses in Dublin. At least we were given full accounts on Monday of the non-stop weekend. True or make-believe, did it matter? It was all part of the fun.

Approximately three years ago he collapsed while in Castleisland, the first telltale sign of a brain tumour, which was to kill him.

His funeral Mass takes place in Curraheen church today and burial at Annagh cemetery. 

A kind man with a great smile. A gentleman too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rise of German right-wing

There are elections in three states in Germany tomorrow - the eastern state of Sachsen Anhalt and the two western states of Rheinland Pfalz and Baden-Würtemberg.

It is likely that right-wing AfD - Alternative for Germany will make significant gains.

Derek Scally has an excellent piece in today's Irish Times on tomorrow's elections.

He quotes a professor Karl-Rudolf Korte: The AfD wants to be the political martyrs and see everything in friend-enemy constellations.
When they are caught with right-extreme positions  - such as a recent suggestion that police could shoot migrants entering Germany illegally - they trivialise it and say it was taken out of context.

More of Sean O'Casey's 'State of chassis'?

'Rust' in management at IR?

Rust on loco 220 of the Irish Rail fleet.

Is it not a perfect example of poor management?

This loco is not in a siding at Inchicore. It is hauling the 11.00 ex Heuston service to Cork.

The little things.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Chassis everywhere

Listening to the political classes talk at present it seems dysfunction reigns. But such is the case right across the world at present.

Tune in to any US radio station and quickly one will be flabbergasted by the political discord, even anger that is prevalent in the United States.

And a lot of it is out in the public square.

Have the churches been ahead of the posse? There has been a similar, even stronger discord within the churches for many years.

The difference might be that the story of the churches has stayed under the radar, never made it to the public place?

A state of chassis?

Then again, that's what Sean O'Casey thought many years ago.

'Transcendent' talk

It's far too easy, especially for the churches, to criticise 'materialism'. And anyway, what does the word actually mean?

It would seem that there is something duplicitous in so much of what the churches have to say about 'materialism'.

Has it simply to do with a power struggle whereby the churches no longer find themselves in positions of control and authority?

Sinn Féin/IRA were accused of a warped idea of democracy - a ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in the other.

Is it not the same with the churches - top of the range mobile phone in one hand and then 'preaching' about the evils of materialism?

The following sentence, referring to modern Ireland, appears on a religious website: Business prowess is emphasised to the exclusion of the transcendent.

Is there not an arrogance about such a sentiment and is it wise to simplify reality in such a way?

Surely Ireland is a better place to live in today than it was when people crowded into tenement buildings, had no toilet facilities and there was loads of talk about the 'transcendent'.

And better too than an Ireland before the mid-1960s when post primary education was for the rich?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

German export slowdown

German exports fell by 1.4 per cent in January compared to January 2015.

Last year's EU powerhouse exported goods to the value of €88.7 billion.

Exports to non-EU countries fell by five per cent, whereas the country's exports within the EU grew by one perc cent

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ireland's profligate use of water is a shocking scandal

There is an article in today's Irish Times in favour of water charges. It argues that water charges help us respect a scarce resource.

According to Eurostat figures from November 2015,  it would appear that each person living in Ireland used 400 litres of water each day or 146,000 litres a year.

Since the introduction of water charges, which is a half-hearted system, this writer has been monitoring water usage.

Water usage for a 92-day period was 5.020 cubic metres.

Below is a graphic from today's Irish Times.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A nation that pays lips service to a just society

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Does it ever cross your mind the number of buildings that you pass by on a daily basis and happen to know so little about them or their history?

Last Wednesday I was at a book launch in the Royal Irish Academy.  It's Number 19, Dawson Street, close to Dublin's Mansion House.

I regularly walk or cycle by the building, knowing nothing about it. The RIA, which was established in 1785, is an all-Ireland academic body that promotes study and excellence in the humanities and sciences.

Among its past members are Éamon de Valera, Sean Lemass, Garret the FitzGerald, James Gandon and Oscar Wilde's father, William Wilde, who was a polymath.

David Begg, whom I have known since the early 1990s invited me to the launch of his book, which took place in the Royal Irish Academy.

I don't know David that well. When I was doing my post grad in journalism he kindly allowed me interview him for a paper that I was writing. At the time he was the head of the Communications Workers' Union and one of his advisers was in school with me. And then later I worked with his daughter-in-law.

It's never a wise idea to go to a book launch on your own. You need someone with whom you can tag along. At such events it's easy to feel out of the loop, embarrassing too. At least, that's how I feel when I am in a gathering where I am not on first name terms with people in the room.

At such an event I certainly would not have the brass neck to introduce myself to public figures. But on the night I was lucky as there was someone present whom I know.

Former MEP Pronsias de Rossa and Siptu president Jack O'Connor were among the recognisable faces. There were a few faces I recognised but was unable to put names on them.

The book, 'Ireland, Small Open Economies and European Integration - Lost in Transition', published by Palgrave Macmillan was launched by Fergus Finlay.

It examines how four small open economies - Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland - have managed the stresses and strains of Europeanisation since the single market came into being.

Of course Fergus Finlay would only say nice things about David on the night. Fergus, who is CEO of Bernardos, spoke in glowing terms of the role David has played since becoming chairman of the children's organisaiton. But what did strike me listening to him and then later to David  is how as a nation we have paid lip service to the idea of creating a just society, free of inequality.

Both David and Fergus stressed the growing gap there is between rich and poor. In the book David calls for a return of social partnership, and that inequality should be put at the top of the agenda.

David in turn spoke of the work that Bernardos does and how it reaches out to people who would have no other lifeline.

Surely there is something about the message of the Gospel that should inspire us to battle on for equality and justice for all peoples.

Have we been doing that as well as we could? Doubt it.

Do the churches say enough about social justice? Their supporters will say they do but the media is not too interested in what they say on the topic.

I'm not sure the churches are as strident on social issues as they could be. They seem to show a hesitancy on such matters when compared to their forceful views on some other issues.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Something said at the funeral Mass of actor Frank Kelly

At the funeral Mass last week of actor Frank Kelly at Newtownpark Avenue church in Dublin, the presiding priest, Fr William Fortune made an interesting comment.

Paraphrasing it:

When we die all of what we have belongs to someone else. But what we are is ours for eternity.

Kelly died on the 18th anniversary of the death of Dermot Morgan.

Frank Kelly was 'Fr Jack' in Fr Ted  and Dermot Morgan was 'Fr Ted'.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Anniversary of the death of John Heuston's brother

Because of the year that's in it - the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising - it's worth mentioning that today is the anniversary of the death of Dominican priest John Michael Heuston. Fr Heuston is a brother of John Heuston, who was executed in Dublin in 1916.

He died in Rome in 1984.

To avoid confusion: before the Second Vatican Council there was a custom whereby people who joined religious orders were given a 'new' name. It meant that Fr Heuston, baptised, 'Michael', was given the name 'John', the same as his older brother.

Fr Heuston was an eccentric man, a highly intelligent man, a kind man. He excelled at mathematics and once said that his Dominican colleague, John James O'Gorman, who died in November 3, 2002, had the finest mathematical mind he had ever experiencend 

In winter 1975 someone commented to John Heuston that he was a man ahead of his times. He smiled and immediately quipped: "Not at all, the Irish Dominicans are way behind the times."

Dominican priest John Michael Heuston was a prophet too.

When CIE was commissioning the bust of John Heuston for Kingsbridge Station, now Hesuton Station, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Rising, they consulted Fr J M Heuston.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Mercy and the enduring story of the Prodigal Son

Today's Irish Times 'Thinking Anew' column.

Michael Commane
Today's Gospel is one of those passages that is familiar to most people. The story of the Prodigal Son.

It's been a topic for painters and writers: Rembrandt and Dürer,  Rilke, Kipling and Shakespeare, are inspired to paint and write about it. It's been a topic for painters and writers: Rembrandt and Dürer, Rilke, Kipling and Shakespeare, are inspired to paint and write about it.

In 'The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming', Henri Nouwen interprets Rembrandt's painting. He shows how in the hands of the father mercy becomes flesh.

It's a tale for every person. The reckless son who has had enough of life at home, probably bored and wants to see what the great world outside looks like. He wants to get some of the fun.

It's not long before he realises that it has gone pear-shaped and decides to eat humble pie and return home. His father never gives up on him and receives him back with open arms. All the time in the shadows is the 'faithful' son, who stays at home, works hard and then feels hard done when he sees how his father reacts to the return of his profligate brother.

It's easy to admire the magnanimous love of the father for his son. It's what good fathers do. And it's understandable that the son, who has stayed at home, is greatly peeved with the reaction of his father.

It's easy to romanticise and see the good aspects of stories far away in time and place. But when it comes to our own backyard it's different. And not to forget, it's easy to write and talk about things but living them out in our own lives is a different story.

How many of us bear grudges, how many of us are slow to forget hurts that have been done to us. We can list off litanies why we should never extend the hand of friendship.

"Why should I be the first to make a move? They were in the wrong and I'm tired of making a fool of myself. It's about time I looked after myself. No, let them make the first move and then I'll reconsider. Anyway, they have done terrible wrong to me."

The story of the Prodigal Son turns that sort of thinking on its head. It also turns so much of our accepted norms and standards upside down.

The world would tell us that the Prodigal Son does not deserve to be 'rewarded', that the father is being unwise to give him a second chance and that the 'sulky' brother has every reason to be annoyed with the 'nonsense' and 'tomfoolery' that is associated with his brother's return home. And anyway, he is only coming home because he has nowhere else to go.

As Christians we believe that our destiny, our goal is to be in friendship with God. And we believe that this God is all-merciful. There are no limits to that mercy and kindness. There is no limit to the distance God will go to embrace us with that all-consuming love.

If I really believe that, how can I not extend the hand of friendship to my enemy.

And just look at our world. In Europe we are busy building barbed wire fences. The talk in the US hovers around erecting walls. And all the time guns are blazing somewhere or other in the world.Imagine, if we all took the story of the Prodigal Son to our hearts.

Nelson Mandela said, "forgiveness liberates the soul.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Jesuit priest Michael Kelly on Cardinal George Pell

This link includes Jesuit priest Michael Kelly talking about Cardinal Pell.

North inner city news

The picture below is an extract from a newsletter in a north inner city parish in Dublin.

The piece goes on to report how Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser witnessed the apparitions.

In the same newsletter there is a story about the Prayer to St Michael the Archangel.

Kate Adie talks in Ennis

Renowned BBC journalist Kate Adie is talking at the Ennis Book Festival tomorrow.

A quote from the journalist:

What never runs out in a war zone is drink. I have seen Russian soldiers drink before going into battle and it is something mercenaries do too.

George Pell and narcissism

An Australian Jesuit priest, familiar with Cardinal George Pell, has described the cardinal in a radio interview in Australia, as the most narcissistic person he has ever met.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The shameless Irish

A comment this morning from a bearded man, who sits in the porch of the Three Patrons Church in Rathgar early in the morning.

The Irish are the only people who take pride in their shamelessness.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Michael Neenan OP, RIP

Apologies for no mention on this blog of the death and burial of Dominican Michael Neenan.

Michael came to the Dominicans in his 50s having spent most of his working life at sea.

He was a proud Kerryman and ever so protective of all his Kerry friends.

Donal Roche, prior at St Mary's Priory Tallaght, received the remains at the priory church on Monday evening.

He spoke of Michael's kindness and cited how Michael had cared for the late Paul O'Leary in his years of illness.

Donal's words at the service were inspiring. The words of an outstanding Dominican, who conveyed so clearly the Christian attributes of a fellow Dominican.

Faith and Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel grew up in Templin in the former GDR. Her father, Horst Kasner was a Lutheran priest, who moved from Hamburg to Templin in 1957. Templin is not too far away from Carwitz, where Hans Fallada, Rudolf Dietzen, spent many happy years.

Kasner was a Berliner who had been born into a Catholic family. Merkel's mother was born in Gdansk, which was then the German city of Danzig. She was a teacher of Latin and English.

While Merkel was in the FDJ, Free German Youth, it seems she may not have particiapted in 'Jugendweihe', which was a special 'passing-out ceremony for memebrs of the Free German Youth in the former GDR. There has been controversy over whether Merkel was or not a strong supporter of the FDJ.

She later studied in Leipzig and Berlin.

A quote from Merkel, which appeared in a Protestant Sunday newspaper.

"My Christianity gives me the courage and the strength to say what I think, not just in private circles but also in my work as a politician.

"Christianity is a compass for me." 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dogs being used to smell the early signs of cancer

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On one or two occasions I have mentioned Tess, my labrador dog, in this column. It's been a passing reference on how she has the ability to sense danger and keep an eye out for me.

But over the last few months I have been bamboozled by what she 'knows' or 'senses'.

Until the beginning of December I would open the garage door at 05.45 and take Tess for a walk. 

Every morning she would be waiting inside the door, tail wagging, all set to go for her walk. After our walk she went back into the garage. Then at 08.15 I'd go back to the garage to get my bicycle to cycle to work. But she knew she was going for no walk and remained lying down on her bed.

I was always amazed at how she was able to distinguish between the two events.

Then in early January my morning schedule changed. It meant my going to the garage for my bicycle at 07.00 and then taking Tess for a walk at the later time of 08.15. Maybe after the second day of the programme change Tess realised what was happening. It meant that when I went to the garage at 07.00 for my bike she did not stir out of her bed.

I have to say I have been amazed at how she 'senses' things.

But I'm writing this column because of what happened last Tuesday morning. The previous evening I rearranged my plans for the following morning. It meant that I would be taking Tess for her walk at 06.30 rather than the new regular time of 08.15. Guess what, when I opened the garage door there she was standing, wagging her tail and all set to go for her walk. How did she know that? Can she read my mind? Is it completely crazy of me to ask did she know from the previous evening that I had a change of plan for the next morning.

I'm not a vet, I know nothing about dogs but I am greatly puzzled at what my dog seems to know or sense.

There have been occasions when out walking she has gone off on her own merry way and then later managed to find her own way back home. Yes, dogs do that sort of thing. But exactly how much do they know and sense about us?

We are all aware of how dogs can be trained. Dogs play a pivotal role in the work police and custom officials do in finding illegal drugs.

But my rascal has never had a day's training.

Honestly, I don't want to lose the run of myself but sometimes I get the feeling she senses the people who don't like me and whom I in turn don't like, because there have been occasions when she has snarled at the dogs owned by these people. And that's most embarrassing.

A doctor told a cancer patient recently that the medical profession is currently in the process of training dogs to 'smell' telltale early signs of cancer in patients. 

And we think we're the 'masters of the human race'. 

What do we really know about the world around us. Yes, of course there is a reality: the car passes by, the radio is turned on. But when it comes to trying to get a handle on things, especially living things, how much do we know?

How often do we get it wrong? What do we know about other people or ourselves? All those silly hunches we have about people. About God, what can we say?

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

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