Monday, December 18, 2017

Patrick Kavanagh's 'Advent'

On the Monday after Gaudete Sunday why not quote from Patrick Kavanagh's Advent.

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Eight kilometres of tram line in Chemnitz costs €31m

On the same day that the Luas Green line was extended to Broombridge in Dublin a new tram line was opened in Chemnitz in Saxony in Germany. Before the unification of Germany Chemnitz was called Karl Marx Stadt.

This is not comparing like with like, neverthelss some interesting facts.

The new tram line in Chemnitz runs for eight kilometres. 

It took 18 months to construct, four stops were built on the line, 80,000 cubic metres of soil was moved, 28,000 square metres was asphalted and 360 trees were planted.

The project cost approximately €31 million.

Different stats than the Dublin job.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Food waste in Ireland

Thirty per cent of food is wasted annually in Ireland.

That works out at one million tonnes of edible food thrown in the bin.

Last year a new Irish company, Food Cloud, prevented 23 million meals in Ireland and the UK being lost.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Gobbledegook at Mass

The Opening Prayer at today's Mass is unintelligible. It is a piece of absurd writing.

Shame on any bishops' conference that accepted this gobbledegook.

Surely it gives one some insight into the leadership of our poor church.

And then they wonder.

The size of the wine glass

Newly carried out research has found that wine glass capacity increased from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 even higher at 449ml.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In reply to Fr McMahon

Fr Andrew McMahon, a priest of the diocese of Dromore, writes an article in The Irish Catholic this week titled 'Church leaders shouldn't indulge media prejudices'

He talks about most mainstream journalists being little more than campaigners for pseudo-liberal agendas.

'Most journalists' surely is vague and what is a 'pseudo-liberal agenda'?

He writes that Catholic churchgoers are gratuitously denigrated. And blames it all on the 'Dublin media'

The Archbishop of Dublin comes in for criticism. It would seem he includes Diarmuid  Martin as one of those church leaders who indulges media prejudices and reinforces highly debatable stereotypes.

McMahon analyses an article about Ireland in the New York Times, which he accuses of using a familiar range of clichés.

But Fr McMahon's article is one long cliché. It's clear the author has issues with people who disagree with his view of Irish society.

His dismissal of journalists helps no-one.

The Catholic Church in Ireland was a conservative church. To use terms such as 'media-speak', 'agenda' and 'a sexually liberal and overwhelmingly bourgeois media' sounds nasty and helps no one, instead it pushes people into camps. There is a touch of Trump in the langage of the article.

He refers to an article written by Hilary Fannin, which appeared in The Irish Times on December 8, but he could also have mentioned numerous articles that appear in the media with a Catholic bias. The Irish Times regularly publishes artcles, letters, opinion pieces upholding Catholic thinking. Indeed, the paper has a regular weekly Chrisitan column.

That word 'bourgeois': who better identified the bourgeoise class in Ireland in most of the decades of the 20th century? Priests.

If McMahon is correct and the 'Dubln media' has an anti-Catholic agenda, why is that so?

As a journalist, I find the piece 'gratuitously' insulting and most unhelpful.

Unfortunately there is an aggressive tone to the piece, which most likely will bring none of us closer to the goodness and kindness of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Patriot Radio gets it so wrong as it does every day

At 03.45 Irish Time today right wing radio presenter Mark Levin on the US Patriot Radio said that Republican candidate for the Senate seat Roy Moore was shading it in Alabama.

He then went on to say whoever wins 'they will blame President Trump'.

At the same time BBC World Service announced that the Democrat candidate Doug Jones had won the seat.

Patriot Radio spews out day-in-day out nasty right-wing propaganda. It's rude, vulgar and truth seems far away for it.

Anyone who does not agree with its far right-wing thinking is the enemy.

This morning's antics of Mark Levin was a particularly clear example of how the station behaves.

Millions of Americans listen to the station.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The art of letter writing

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

Michael Commane 
An Post is advising children to post their letters early to Santa this year.

It’s been busy in the workshop, all the elves are working hard, helping Santa packing toys and gifts.
Provided Santa receives the letter in good time he promises to reply just before Christmas.

The Irish postal service works closely with Santa. It’s a great idea that Santa has agreed to use the postal service to send replies to all the children in Ireland.

When last did you receive a personal hand-written letter? Or when was the last time you sat down with a pen, ballpoint or pencil to write a letter to a friend?

Have you noticed that most letters we get these days from charities asking us to donate money to their organisation are typed in a handwriting font? No doubt the idea is to make the correspondence look personal.

RTE’s Ryan Tubridy has been talking about the art of letter writing over the last few weeks. Indeed, last Wednesday he read out a letter a woman wrote to her sister. She was 50 years late writing it. She was apologising to her sister for something she had done to her on Christmas Day 50 years ago.

It certainly caught my attention. It set me thinking of the power of a letter. And it might even be true to say that a handwritten letter carries far more authenticity than a printed one.

There’s a personal touch about a handwritten letter. It has that quality of being original, being real, unique too.

Is it at all possible to type a love letter? It sounds almost unimaginable. Love letters of their nature surely have to be written in longhand.

When we go through boxes of old family letters we stop and wonder at the person behind the hand that wrote the letter. Finding old letters is akin to finding a treasure trove.

The day after I started writing this column I received a handwritten letter from someone I met in September. I read it a number of times. The letter was so friendly and kind that I actually read it to a friend of mine. Yes, we answer text messages and emails but there’s a difference.

Typewriters were in general use in the 1960s and personal computers probably in the mid-1980s. 

Apple Computers was launched in 1976. Was that the beginning of the end of the old-fashioned handwritten letter? Is there something ironic about the start date of Apple? April Fool’s Day 1976.

Even with all our technology, our signature is still a vital component to all important documents and cards. Our electronic passports, driving licences, every piece of electronic data we carry around with us has our unique signature on it. And of course our signature is handwritten.

Signing the register at a wedding ceremony always gets a special place of importance.

Our signature puts the seal of approval on a document.

In an age when we are becoming ever so conscious of protecting our environment and keeping in touch with who and what we are I’m wondering might handwriting be on the verge of a renaissance.

A friend of mine, who is clued into design and fashion, pointed out to me the number of shop signs and other public signage that is currently being done in handwriting form.

It is much nicer to write to Santa than send him an SMS or an email.

The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says: ‘Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.’

And did you know Meghan Markle is an accomplished calligrapher?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Vladimir Putin in Siberia

President Vladimir Putin was in Arctic Siberia on Friday to celebrate the launch of a €23 billion liquefied natural gas development that will greatly expand Russia's dominant role on global energy markets.

The plant is at the most northern point on Siberia's Jamal peninusla at the port of Sabetta.

The temperature there on Friday evening was minus 28 degrees Celsius.

Russian oil giant Novatek is behind the project, supported by the French oil company Total and the Chinese National Petroleum Company.

It is the first of three planned 5.5 million tonnes a year processing facility.

Because of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 there were fears in the country that the Jamal project would be in difficulty.

Chinese banks have filled the breach and are now supplying the bulk of the project's external financing with Russian state lenders making up the balance.

When do sanctions work, do they cause more harm than good? Cause more antagonism between parties, drive people further apart?

When a nation's pride is damaged, history shows that the genie is let out of the bottle.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On track

The Cross City Luas rolled across Dublin city centre yesterday coming on stream on time and costing €368 million.

Also yesterday in Potsdam near Berlin an extension to the existing tramlines came into service.

But the big rail news in Europe last week was the opening on Friday of the new Berlin to Munich rail service.

It took 10 years to build and cost €10 billion.

The newly-built ICEs on mainly new track will take two hours off the up-to-now six-hour journey.

The train serves Leipzig, Kulmbach, Bamberg, Nurnberg, Munich with some trains serving Augsburg.

It travels at 300km/h, going through 22 tunnels, crossing 27 valleys. Between Berlin and Munich it travels through 63 kilometres of tunnel.

And on the opening day it made a stop at Lutherstadt Wittenberg. 

On Friday two special trains were used on the inaugural service. Among the VIP guests was Angela Merkel.

On the return journey to Munich the train broke down and the VIPs arrived over an hour late back in Munich.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A grace-filled privilege

The 'Thinkng Anew' column in The Irish Times on Saturday, December 9.

Michael Commane
Fr Pat Reynolds died in Our Lady's Hospice, in Dublin's Harold's Cross on Wednesday November 22. He was 78-years-of-age.

Before moving to the hospice, he was a patient for approximately six weeks in the Dublin hospital where I am chaplain.

My morning routine at the hospital begins with a newspaper delivery, handing out daily newspapers to patients. 

My first encounter with Pat was on one such morning when he asked me if I had 'The Irish Times'. 

He was in luck as I had one copy. We got chatting. Maybe during our chats in the next day or so I discovered he was a Redemptorist priest, or maybe it was a nurse or doctor who said it to me. During the following days and weeks we built up a friendship.

It is a grace-filled privilege to be a hospital chaplain. It affords one the possibility of seeing first-hand extraordinary acts of love and kindness every day. And it also allows you meet amazing people. 

And guess what, after 14 months in the job I'm inclined to think there are degrees of 'amazement' in every human being.

I took a particular shine to Pat. We had great conversations, moments of fabulous laughter. Our degree of acquaintance reached such a level where I found I was able to talk to him about priesthood and explain many of my frustrations with the 'priestly caste'.

Pat had that wonderful ability of listening to you. Every single time I spoke with him I felt he was genuinely interested in me. We shared our life-stories. He had been many years in the Philippines. 

He came home to Ireland at one stage and was appointed director of students. When he told me that, I was able to joke with him and tell him I had no time for clericalism. He smiled and told me that they had no-one else for the job and that his predecessor had left the congregation and priesthood to marry a woman.

On hearing of Pat's death, a nurse asked me when the funeral was as she would like to go to it and an other nurse was on the verge of tears.

Some days earlier, on the day he left our hospital, I saw a nurse express such sadness that he was leaving us. If I recall correctly, she said: "What a dote of a man, I'm going to miss him".

Remember, these are nurses, who deal with sick and dying people and yet they had been 'blown over' by the kindness of this man, who happened to be a priest.

I have no real difficulty saying it but I have major issues with the hierarchical church. I'm angry, bored, annoyed, saddened, enraged by the actions of some priests. I can't take the pomposity, the arrogance, the 'I-know-best' attitude that sits so easily with so many priests. 

And then the silent ones too, who hide behind anonymity. Maybe it has something to do with my DNA, but that's simply the sort of person I am. I think I understand why the institutional church is where it is today.

refuse to blame secularism or some raging enemy who is out to get the church. Instead people are sick to their back teeth with how the institutional church has behaved, and indeed still behaves. It seems to me the institutional church simply does not get it. But fortunately there is far more to the church than its clergy.

During the weeks Pat Reynolds was in our hospital, I never once heard him talk about the evils of secularism, nor about transubstantiation, canon law, gay marriage, Catholic schools, never once.

And yet he was a priest who has left an indelible mark on me. I feel certain there was not a member of staff he did not inspire. Why? Because he showed his love for God through his humanity. No stuff and nonsense, no posturing, no game-playing.

In tomorrow's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, God says:
“Console my people, console them”.

And in the Gospel, the first words from St Mark speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pat Reynolds consoled and brought good news to people.

 He lived the Gospel and people saw that.

Friday, December 8, 2017

More on OP truck driver

Below is a comment from a Dominican who knew the Dominican truck driver.

Yes, I knew that French Dominican. A truly extraordinary life in defense of the poor as a lawyer, in a fight against the big land owners. His life was in danger always. They killed that sister who was doing the same work.  He had a price on his head.  His comment was: 'I thought I was worth more than that!' 

A Dominican truck driver

This appears on the international website of the Dominican Order.

The man is dead but how lovely it is to read about a Dominican who lived this sort of life.

It's another world to prancing about in perfectly tailored habits, talking about angels and waking up thinking of the Immaculate Conception.

This man seems to have been a real, kind human being, who had no time for piosity, codology, humbug.

It's profoundly sad to observe what's happening the Dominican Order in some provinces.

It seems as if the Order in some countries is being influenced by a right-wing fundamentalism, which has its origins in the Unied States. Trump-style Christianity. Bizarre.

A chapter in international solidarity with Brazil’s embattled rural poor closed on Sunday 26 November with the death of Dominican priest and lawyer, Henri des Roziers.

Henri had worked in Brazil since 1978, using his skills as a lawyer to defend rural workers’ unions and to bring to justice the landowners who ordered the killing of so many of their leaders.

The tributes paid to Henri at his funeral in Paris on 1 December put his commitment into a broader context.  

Born into what the French call a family of the haute-bourgeoisie, Henri showed very early that he wanted to follow a different path by visiting poor families in Paris slums, an example of what was later called the ‘option for the poor’.

He studied philosophy and law at the Sorbonne and later in Cambridge.  In Cambridge, he met a French Dominican theologian, Yves Congar, who had been banned from speaking by the Vatican and was in a kind of exile in Britain.

Congar’s influence made Henri decide that the Dominican order would enable him to develop his Christian commitment to justice;  His first post was as a chaplain to students at the Centre Saint-Yves in Paris, the only student centre that did not close during the student revolts of the 1960s.

He later became a priest worker, a lorry-driver and a worker in a chemical factory in Besançon.

Later, in Annecy, he had a job inspecting and closing the squalid accommodation to which North African migrants were condemned, using his legal skill

Christine Keeler

A story in yesterday's Guardian about Christine Keeler, who died on Tuesday makes for interesting reading.

On this the feast of the Immaculate Conception there is a special resonance about this story.

“But for Keeler there was no legacy but shame; guilt clings to the victim, then as now. Her marriages failed, her money was lost, and she was fired from a menial job when her identity was exposed. 

She was mocked for losing the beauty that defined her; Christine Keeler looking rough became a tabloid staple, for what else was she for? 

She was mocked, too, for seeking to profit from the scandal with her memoirs; but if men can benefit from her story, why not she? The answer is simple, and eternal. She was the woman, and the woman bears the guilt.”

Iarnród Éireann introduces new timetable on Sunday

Iarnród Éireann introduces a new timetable on Sunday, December 10.

Among the changes are faster running times between Dublin and Cork. Up to seven minutes off some Dubin Cork, Cork Dublin services.

There is no faster running on the Dublin Tralee service, which means passengers will now be waiting longer at Mallow Station for their connecting train. 

On most Tralee Dublin services passengers will have an 11-minute wait. The 07.00 Dublin Tralee service means a 16-minute wait at Mallow. No change here as this wait existed on the current timetable but it is too long a wait. And this train arrives three minutes later in Tralee on the new timetable.

There are extra services on the Connolly Maynooth line to support the new Luas trams to and from   Broombridge.

On the new online timtable there is no indication that there is Luas Irish Rail interchange at Broombridge.

Two/three minutes faster running on some Dublin Rosslare Harbour trains.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tolstoy on God

Close to the end of Tolstory's Anna Karenin, Levin, who has been chatting with one of his workers, walking home, back to his wife and new-born child, is thinking about life and death.

He has never been interested in religion or talking about God. But in these last days he has been wondering what life is about.

He says:

We must live for something incomprehensible, for God, whom no one can know or define.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The German view on the UK

This appears on today's  Spiegel Online.

Theresa Mays Irland-Debakel zeigt auf brutale Art, warum die Brexit-Verhandlungen zu scheitern drohen: Die britische Regierung weiß noch immer nicht, dass sie nicht alles haben kann - oder sie ist zu mutlos, es dem Volk zu sagen.

Theresa May's Ireland-debacle shows in a brutal fashion why the Brexit negotiations are in danger of collapsing.

The British government still doesn't realise that they can't have everything - or else they are too weak to tell that to the people.

"Post-truth petulance'

Note the refernce to 'post-truth' in this piece in today's Guardian.

The world seems edgy.

"In London, the Jewish Board of Deputies president, Jonathan Arkush, welcomed Trump’s decision, saying it was bizarre that it should be seen as remarkable.

“Jerusalem has been the spiritual centre of Jewish life for 3,000 years, since the time of King David,” he said. “Given that Jerusalem is in fact historically, presently and legally Israel’s capital, the decision by many countries not to formally recognise this has been an act of post-truth petulance.”

Nasser Qudwa, a senior Palestinian official, said unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as the capital would be in breach of international law, and that the Palestinians would seek to challenge the move at the UN security council.”


'They are Irish'

The piece below, written by Simon Jenkins, is from yesterday's Guardian.

“It does not matter that the DUP is hypocritical. 

Decades of Westminster indulging its political primitivism have come home to roost. 

Unionists have demanded separatism on education, trade, corporate taxes, abortion, homosexuality and a host of pet issues, yet they want to call themselves “British”. 

They are Irish.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

'Science is the real deal'

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

Michael Commane
What about these two questions:
1, Where theoretically, are objects squeezed to an infinite density?
2, What is the name of the unit of energy used in nuclear physics?
More anon.

On Saturday November 25 I went along to the Trinity College Biomedical Sciences Institute building on Dublin’s Pearse Street to attend the national final of the Irish Science Teachers' Association Senior Science Quiz.

The regional rounds took place in 14 venues during National Science Week.

One-hundred-and-fifty final year post-primary students gathered in the Trinity College building to vie for the top prize.

Each team was made up of three students.

I was there because a team from Meán Scoil Nua an Leith Triúigh, Castelgregory, Co. Kerry had won a place in the finals. I spent a number of years teaching in the school. I know a brother and a cousin of two of the team and also I taught with one of the science teachers, who brought it to my attention.

It was the 25th anniversary of the quiz, which was started by the late Dr Shea Mullally.

To start the ball rolling Professor Luke O'Neill of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College gave a feisty and humorous introduction to the event. He gave an outline of what happens at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, how they are involved in medical research and ‘cracking diseases’. It was clear the man was excited about the project housed in this €120 million tax-funded building.

“On any given day there are 1,043 undergraduates in the building and in the last four years 136 students have obtained PhDs.”

He went on to tell the students: “Science is the real deal. Humanities are boring. Don’t work for a crappy bank, come, do science. Join us and be a scientist. The best thing you can do.”

An impressive man. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke. And all this as the students were about to begin the quiz.

There were eight rounds with six questions in each round. Dr Jennifer Cleary of the RTE Insiders’ programme asked the questions.

It was simply fascinating to sit there and watch proceedings.

It was all way above my head but I did get some idea of how incredibly knowledgeable the students were. The attitude, the atmosphere in this large lecture hall was so impressive. The students meant business, they were there to win. But there was far more to it than that. They had gathered in the name of knowledge, fun too and of course they wanted to bring back a prize to their school.

These young people were away from their own familiar places and yet here they were at home in a lofty university environment. For many of them it may have been their first time in the building, their first time inside a university.

To pick the winning team it went to a tie breaker. In many ways it was similar to a penalty shoot-out at one of those international soccer games.

The overall winners on the day were the team from Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork.
‘My’ team did not win. It’s a small 138-pupil school. They did the school proud, as did every team there on that Saturday.

Besides their knowledge, skills and intelligence there was such a sense of simple good manners and fun about the day.

The answer to question one above is the black hole, and electron volt is the name of the unit of energy used in nuclear physics.

An impressive afternoon. The future of Ireland is in safe hands with these young people.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Episcopal nonsense

There has been much discussion about the current translation of the Roman Missal since the publication of Pope Francis' motu proprio Magnum Principium restoring responsibility for liturgical translations to local churches.

The bishops of England and Wales have announced there will be no new Missal.

They argue that future liturgical translations cannot be applied retrocatively.

It sounds nonsense and of course it is nonsense.

And then they wonder why things are as they are.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Diplomat dismisses Johnson

Former British diplomat, Sir Ivor Roberts, who was UK ambassador to Ireland, said on RTE's Marian Finucane show this morning:

I can't remember a worse foreign secretary.

Roberts was talking about current UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Has a British diplomat ever been so scathing of a Tory government minister?

Living in the now

Nice idea of St Mark's in today's Gospel about staying awake.

No doubt that means being in touch, in touch with ourselves, the people around us, knowing what's going on.

Surely it means living in the now, living the Gospel in the world in which we find ourselves.

Lovely idea. Thank you Mark.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Month of peace

A letter to all Dominicans around the world from Rome HQ in dedicating the month of December to peace.

Respect for workers

General Secretary of the UK'sTrades Union Council Frances O'Grady addressing a Vatican conference said:

We believe that every worker should be respected as a human being, not treated as mere human resources.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The wrong answer

Book published giving students' incorrect but clever answers to examnation questions, this for example:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Clinton in Belfast

On this date, November 30, 1995 President Bill Clinton gave his now famous speech at Belfast's City Hall.

He spoke to a large crowd in support of the Northern Ireland peace process and referred to all the men of violence as 'yesterday's men'.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Kavanagh's idea of God

This is the 50th anniversary of the death of poet Patrick Kavanagh.

On RTE's Nationwide on Tuesday Oliver Callan looked back on the life and work of the poet.

Kavanagh died in Dublin on November 30, 1967.

Below is an excerpt from one of his poems.

I met God the Father in the street
And the adjectives by which I would describe him are these: 
Irresponsible - 
About frivolous things 
He was not a man who would be appointed to a Board 
Nor impress a bishop 
Or gathering of art-lovers.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Delivering bad news

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

Michael Commane
I have been working 14 months as a hospital chaplain. It's been a life-changing experience. In the midst of pain and suffering I have had the great good fortune to see and experience first-hand extraordinary acts of kindness and goodness. All done under the radar, no fanfares, people doing amazing things.

I have had the privilege to see kindness, generosity and love being lived out with no strings attached.

Any time we are dealing with people, our behaviour and attitude are extremely important. But when it comes to engaging with people in hospital, the sick, their families and friends, it is extremely important that we are sensitive to their situation.

My mother died in 1988 and I can still remember the hospital chaplain as I stood at the bedside of my dead mother. He did not impress me. It has been a lesson to me in how not to behave.

Has it ever dawned on you what we remember from significant events in our lives, the words and actions that stay with us?

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) is currently rolling out a four-hour workshop, titled ‘Delivering Bad News’, to help staff develop their communication skills. Its purpose is to give confidence and competence to staff when they are dealing with patients and families at times of bad news.

While the emphasis is on delivering bad news, the workshop gives excellent guidelines and tips to anyone who has anything to do with communications. And that surely means all of us.

The NCCP asked The Irish Hospice Foundation to design the programme, which is now being made available to all HSE staff.

I had the good fortune to attend one of the workshops.

We were a small group of six from various disciplines guided by our tutor. That it was a small group made for an ideal condition of learning, asking questions and carrying out role-play.

The workshop places great emphasis on how staff communicate with patients and families. Our tutor, who did an excellent job on the day, highlighted that at times of bad news, patients are simply incapable of taking in too much information. Naturally all clichés and jargon are out of the question. 

Kindness, gentleness and honesty reign supreme.

When someone is conveying bad news to a patient and to relatives and friends it is scientifically established that non-verbal communication has the most penetrating impact. Words account for seven per cent of what we communicate, tone of voice 38 per cent and our physical demeanour is 55 per cent.

Our behaviour, our physical deportment and our tone of voice play a far more significant role than the words we use when communicating bad news.

It makes perfect sense. Being sympathetic and empathetic, showing genuine concern and kindness is so important.

When people are hit with bad news, the words they hear are just a blur as their minds race backwards and forwards in their state of panic and fear.

When people are frightened and scared, words are usually the last thing they notice.

A day seldom passes without our health services being criticised for something or other. But guess what, there are many things they get right and very often we hear nothing about what they do well.

This workshop was excellent in every respect and I learned so much from it. Full marks to all involved.

CP Scott who became editor of the 'Manchester Guardian' when he was 25 in 1872 and spent 57 years editing the newspaper, once famously said: 'Comment is free but facts are sacred'. Wise words in the era of social media.


A scoundrel's piety

Dr Johnson had some insight when he said:

A scoundrel will beat you all in piety.

Sacrificing for poorer people

But the notion that we (and he gestures around his elegant townhouse kitchen) should want more [for our chidren] is shocking and appalling.

We shouldn't think in those terms. We've actually got to think: maybe we should make some sacrifices and be a bit poorer. Because if we don't make  those sacrifices and become a bit poorer, so that those lower down the scale have better lives, we may end up facing utter chaos.

- ITV's political editor Robert Peston talking to Decca Aitkenhead  in the Guardian.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Blair addresses Oireachtas

On November 26, 1998 Tony Blair addresed the Oireachtas.

He was the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to do so.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Vatican diplomacy

Pope Francis has set up a new department to oversee the work of the Vatican diplomatic service.

It will include a new HR role, including recruitment, career development, training and working conditions.

The Holy See has relations with 183 countries. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Another woman leader in German politics?

What's going to happen in Germany?

SPD leader Martin Schulz went yesterday to Schloss Bellevue where he met German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, who is a former foreign minister and also a former member of the SPD.

The German President is currently meeting all the political leaders.

Schulz has insisted that the SPD will not form part of a Grand Coalition with the CDU/CSU.

But there are mutterings taking place within the SPD and yesterday a leading member of the party Andrea Nahles seemed not to rule out going back into government with Angela Merkel.

The SPD will never win an election with Martin Schulz as leader. Andrea Nahles could well improve the poor poll ratings of the SPD, as indeed could Sigmar Gabriel. And what about the former premier of North Rhine Westfalia, Hannelore Kraft?

Another option is to copy Ireland and for the SPD do a Confidence and Supply arrangement with the CDU/CSU government.

Come Christmas it's most likely Germany will be goverened by the CDU/CSU and SPD either in a Grand Coalition or a Confidence and Supply arrangement.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Ireland scores badly

Ireland is Europe's worst performing country in combating climate change.

The country is in 49th place according to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index.

Sweden, Lithuania and Morocco are top of the class with the Republic of Korea, Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia bottom of the class.

The Index studied climate change in 60 countries.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'I fear a German Trump'

The Guardian's Kate Connolly talks to people in Berlin on the current political crisis.

An interesting and informative piece.

Catholic priesthood

The paragraph below is taken from the 'Rite and Reason' column in The Irish Times of yesterday.

The Catholic priesthood relies on hugely disproportionate numbers for the sharing of its sacramental life on the very individuals whose sexual orientation the Holy See in Rome would describe as 'intrisically disordered'.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The antics of a bullying pensioner on a Dublin bus

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

Michael Commane
There was a breeze coming from somewhere on the upper deck of a Dublin Bus vehicle. I noticed there was a window open on the other side of the bus.

Suddenly I heard a loud bang. It sounded aggressive. The man sitting in front of me had got up, gone over to the window and closed it with significant force and then sat down on the seat at the window he had closed.

After a few seconds I noticed a conversation between the man and the young woman sitting in the seat in front of him.

Voices had risen and naturally I got interested.

The woman asked him to re-open the window as she had some time earlier opened it. She explained she wanted some fresh air. He was having none of it and told her he was cold and he would not open the window. He got very angry. She expressed her opinion in forthright terms. 

He told her he was a 77-year old man, was cold, and the window was staying shut. No bad language between the two of them but at one stage he did say he did not give 'a damn' how she felt. Eventually she said something about his inappropriate behaviour, turned around to her correct position and the altercation was over.

I was a neutral bystander observing proceedings. If I were asked to judge the event I would have said she won hands down. She expressed her view in a clear and authoritative way. He was rude and aggressive. 

When it was all over it was clear to see that he was still angry and upset about it all. Indeed, he bullied her, she  stood up for herself but the window remained closed.

Somewhere near O'Connell Bridge she moved downstairs. I followed her and when we were on the lower deck I complimented her for how she handled the situation. She was gracious and thanked me. 

As she was getting off the bus she told the driver what had happened. He listened to her. He sounded attentive and sympathetic but I could not exactly hear what he said to her.

The bus stopped, the young woman got off and the bus pulled out. I was now closer to the driver and heard him phoning control and reporting the incident. As he was talking to his colleague the offending passenger came down the stairs and was standing near the driver as he reported the complaint.

He said nothing but I did notice his head moving in some sort of derisory fashion. Can a head move in a derisory direction?

He got off the bus. Now it was my chance to talk to the driver. I explained how I saw it all develop and did take the side of the young woman.

We had a chat about it all and he explained how he sees all human life on his bus every day. We both agreed how people can get so annoyed and angry and so often it begins with something small and incidental.

Of course that man should not have closed the window as he did and also, he should have asked the woman passenger if it was okay if he could close it. But as I observed him during the encounter and then afterwards it was clear he had an 'attitude'.

He bullied her. It was impressive to observe her behaviour. And yet,  he forced his will on her. 

An elderly man bullying a young woman and he with his Travel Pass. Women far too often put up with too much at the hands of men.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Oranges at Lidl

In May 2016 a 1.5kg bag of oranges purchased in Lidl cost €1.49.

Today the same quantity of oranges in the same Lidl shop cost €1.79.

Indeed great value but what Irish worker has had a 20 per cent increase in the last 18 months?

What is it that Irish Rail locomotive drivers are looking for? Imagine the uproar there would be if they stopped the trains because they were refused a 20 per cent pay increase

'Comment is free but facts are sacred' - CP Scott

Eidtor-in-chief of the Guardian, Katharine Viner writes about her paper and journalism.

'A mission for journalism in a time of crisis' is an informative and fascinating read.

The Nuremberg Trials

On ths date in 1945 the Nuremberg trials began. Twenty-four senior Nazis were before the International Military Tribunal charged with war crimes.

In Anna Karenin Leo Tolstoy writes:

There are no conditions of life to which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone about him.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Buses with USB ports

The USB port on Dublin Bus vehicles certainly can prove the old adage - 'a stitch in time saves nine'.

A fine addition to the Dublin Bus fleet.

It is currently on the 172-D-XXXX SG fleet.

Has the company any plans to retrofit older buses?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The time for another reformation is long overdue

Chris Fitzpatrick, a former Master at the Coombe writes in 'The Irish Times'.

The page-article is a forthright account of why the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist lost his faith in Catholicism.

The piece is on page six in the 'Weekend Review'.

A quote from the article: Male hegemony is not some God-given right; I have never seen it written on any tablets of stone.

The title of the piece is: 'The priest who shattered my faith'.

Obligatory reading in every seminary and studentate. But guess what, it will not get a mention. Indeed recommended reading for every priest in the country.

Congrats Cardinal Cupich

I don't think people are scandalised by the Pope. I think they're being told to be scandalised.

Cardinal Blase Cupich speaking in a public conversation at the University of Chicago last week.

Perfect. So apposite.

Thomas Crean, a member of the English Dominican province, one of the signatories of the letter of 'filial correction', gave a talk in the Dominican Priory, St Saviour's, Dublin earlier this month.

Surely someone, who has publicly opposed the Pope in such a manner, giving a public talk in a Dominican priory, is embarrassing to the Master of the Dominican Order, and indeed to the Archbishop of Dublin.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Poland last Saturday

Stopping the advance of the far right.

Something weird about protecting adults from ideas

Francis Hunt commented on the Legionaries of Christ post, which appeared on this blog on Sunday November  12.

His comment is attached to the relevant blogpost.

It is appearing here also. It certainly is worth a read. 

Thank you Francis.

I find the very concept of "bad influence" very strange. "Formation" in the sense used for preparation for the religious life or the priesthood is something for adults. 

There's something weird about the idea that you have to protect adults from ideas, or models of thinking or life, which are different from those you are propagating. It seems more like a kind of fixation on control. 

Surely if you are convinced of your vision, you don't need to be afraid of exposure to alternatives. Or even, perhaps, learning something new, which would help those in formation to grow and develop themselves ... 

The Blasket Islands

On this day, November 17, 1953, the last people living on the Blasket Islands in Co Kerry left for the mainland.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trump in Putin's web

The 'Long Read' in yesterday's Guardian is simply sensational.

If this be true then the President of the United States of America is in the hands of The Russian Federation.

The performance that Mr Trump gave yesterday from the White House was embarrassing. It was 'cringe' material.

And the result to yeseterday's question: a, 55 per cent; b, 38 per cent; c, seven per cent.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Football analysts

Really, can Eamon Dunphy lose?

Had Ireland won last evening Eamon would be talking this morning about the resilience, hard work, determination, the warrior quality of the Irish team.

Ireland lost so Eamon can talk about the shambolic tactics and skill of the manager.

It's a no-lose and well paid job.

But maybe that's the way of the world - about everything.

Communication skills

The HSE in conjunction with the National Cancer Control Programme is currently rolling out an education module for staff on 'Enhancing Communication Skills in Cancer Care'.

It is about 'Delivering Bad News'. 

There is an accompanying booklet with the module.

Among the questions participants are asked is the following: In communicating with a patient, what impact would you give to a, Physical; b, Tone of Voice; c, Words? The total is 100 per cent.

For anyone who is involved with people at any level this is an invaluable exercie.

The answer will be given in tomorrow's blogpost.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Surely the NBRU can do a better job than this leaflet

This week's Independent News & Media Irish Regionals newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
It's a relief that the rail stoppages have been suspended.

I can remember when Tom Darby set up the National Busmen’s Union in 1963, which later expanded to include rail workers and is now the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU).

Over the years I have got to know a number of locomotive driver.

There is a long and proud history in Ireland of the men, and now women, who drive our trains. In the days of steam they did tough and dirty jobs. Train drivers work hard. Today their jobs are cleaner and the conditions have much improved.Maybe because I’m a bit of a rail anorak, I’m inclined to think that there is a nobility about a locomotive driver.

Sometimes the wars that are waged between the drivers’ unions and the company give the impression that HR is not Irish Rail’s strongest quality. As an outsider looking in, one can’t help but guess that there is far too much ‘them versus us’ at Irish Rail.

On Monday, November 6 on a return service from Connolly to Dunboyne I found myself losing some of my sympathy for the NBRU.

Lying on a seat was an eight-page leaflet, titled: ‘Another 24 Hours of Rail Strikes'. It is an attempt by the NBRU to explain their case to the travelling public.

It’s in the format of a dialogue between an Irish Rail worker and his neighbour. The conversation takes place in their local pub. It is fictional.

Eight pages of the most annoying and boring writing I have had the misfortune to read.

When a railway union cannot spell the plural form of ‘train’ correctly, then I’m wondering who these people really are.

This is a direct copy of a sentence on page seven: “Customer service Staff on train’s, Attendence programme, Vehicle management system (Irish Rail has big fleet of cars/vans), etc.”  

What on earth does that mean? Note how they spell ‘attendance’.

The leaflet spells ‘pantomime’ as ‘Pantomine’ and for some reason beyond me they spell it with a capital ‘P’. Right through the leaflet they seem to have a penchant for capital letters for the first letter of common nouns.

That a trade union would spell the person who presides over court proceedings ‘Judge’ rather than the correct way, ‘judge’, must be a Freudian slip?

The NBRU think the world population is six billion. It’s over seven billion.Almost on every paragraph there are grammatical and or syntactical errors.

In this eight-page leaflet one is subjected to read the words: ‘pissed’, ‘Christ’, ‘feck’.

I take great exception at the use of such profanities and vulgarities.

Is it, that the author thinks that he or she has some sort of literary talent that allows she/he to write in such a style? Make no mistake about it, this is not written by the pen of a Joyce, a Beckett or a Doyle.

It tries to explain why the unions are in dispute with Irish Rail. It could not be less effective and confusing. It is convoluted and almost impossible to follow in any sort of coherent fashion. It’s silly too.

For a while I thought it might be a clever Machiavellian trick by Irish Rail and they had written it to paint the NBRU in a bad light.

If the NBRU’s negotiating skills are anything like this document, then is it any wonder we have had rail stoppages?

It demeans every train driver in the country.

But I’m still a friend of locomotive drivers.
Maybe the next time, NBRU management decide to publish a leaflet, they should ask a locomotive driver to do the writing.

Monday, November 13, 2017